THIBODAUX, La. -- For the past 17 years, the Manning Passing Academy has played host to high school quarterbacks, receivers and running backs from across the country. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to serve as a counselor at the camp. The other counselors consisted of a handful of NFL position coaches, dozens of high school coaches and 40 current college quarterbacks.
Peyton and Eli Manning organized and participated in two throwing sessions with the college quarterbacks. The group went through a private, one-hour workout on Thursday, and then put on a throwing exhibition for all of the campers Saturday night. (Side note: Cooper Manning served as the play-by-play man during the Saturday session, providing humorous comments throughout. The folks at Saturday Night Live might consider getting a third Manning to host the show.)
I was able to attend both throwing sessions. Here are 11 observations:
1) Peyton and Eli Manning led and participated in both workouts with the college quarterbacks. Peyton threw the ball very well. He went through the entire passing tree and was very accurate on every route. His velocity was solid, but he never fully let it rip on the deep ball. On the post and take-off routes, his ball traveled 45 yards in the air. He didn't have to strain to get the ball out there, but you could tell he is being a little cautious at this point in time. Eli was excellent. He consistently threw with good velocity, accuracy and touch.
2) USC QB Matt Barkley is right around 6-foot-2 and has a very thick build. I've seen Barkley play live several times during his college career and I noticed one big difference last week: His arm has gotten much stronger. He was able to drive the ball with more authority than he has in the past three years. He has always had great footwork and touch as a passer, but there were concerns about his ability to squeeze the ball into tight windows down the field. I was pleasantly surprised to watch him crank up the velocity on the deep comebacks during the workout on Saturday.
3) Tennessee QB Tyler Bray is much taller than I anticipated. The junior signal-caller is at least 6-5 with a very lanky build. He is natural and smooth in his drops and throws the ball free and easy. He is able to generate plenty of velocity to make all the necessary throws. Bray's body type and laid-back personality are reminiscent of Matt Leinart, but he can spin the ball much better.
4) Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson is exactly the same height as Barkley, but his build isn't nearly as thick as that of his fellow senior. He threw the ball very well on underneath and intermediate routes. He has polished footwork and the ball jumps out of his hand. Wilson spins it tight and has plenty of arm strength to drive the ball into small windows. An issue with deep-ball accuracy was the only flaw I saw during the sessions. Arm strength isn't to blame -- he just needs to get more air under the ball. That's a very correctable problem.
5) West Virginia QB Geno Smith was very impressive during the week. He is right around 6-3 and he has the frame to carry 225 pounds. The senior boasts a very live arm and his footwork was much better than I anticipated. Off the field, Smith has a great personality and he's very focused on taking his play to a new level in 2012.
6) LSU QB Zach Mettenberger is a very big man. He is at least 6-5 and he could easily carry 240 pounds on his frame. His delivery can get long at times, but he has outstanding arm strength. Mettenberger threw a beautiful deep ball during Saturday's workout. His accuracy and touch underneath are both works in progress entering his junior season.
7) Georgia QB Aaron Murray was shorter than I anticipated, but he was outstanding during Saturday night's throwing session. This junior is a good inch shorter than senior counterparts Barkley and Wilson, but he matched them throw for throw. He has very clean footwork in his drops, as well as a compact delivery. Murray can generate a lot of velocity and his accuracy was excellent at all three levels. I was surprised at how powerfully he threw the deep ball. Murray had as much range as any quarterback at the camp.
8) Washington State QB Jeff Tuel is going to be a perfect fit in new coach Mike Leach's offense. He is around 6-3 with a thick frame. He doesn't have a powerful arm, but he possesses excellent touch and accuracy. Tuel will thrive in a timing offense during his senior season.
9) Washington QB Keith Price is smaller than I expected. He's about the same height as Murray, but isn't nearly as thick. He doesn't have any characteristics as a thrower that wow you, but he's above average in all areas. Entering his junior campaign, Price has enough arm strength to make all the throws and can change ball speeds for underneath routes. It was very easy to like this guy after spending some time with him on Saturday afternoon. He has a fun personality and is very passionate about the game.
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10) Oregon QB Bryan Bennett is around 6-2 with a very lean, muscular frame. The group did a conditioning run after Thursday's throwing session and it was easy to spot Bennett; he was about 15 yards ahead of everyone else. He has a long stride and can gain ground very quickly with minimal effort. During throwing sessions, the sophomore showcased one of the strongest arms in camp. His footwork is raw and his delivery can get a little long, but the ball just explodes out of his hand. Bennett has a lot of tools to work with and I'm anxious to see how the position battle shakes out in Eugene.
11) N.C. State QB Mike Glennon was a pleasant surprise during the weekend. He has outstanding size and arm strength. With a compact delivery, he effortlessly drives the ball on comebacks, curls and digs. He does need to work on deep-ball accuracy, but he has plenty of arm strength to get it out there. This is a player on the rise heading into his senior season with the Wolfpack.