Tom Savage has size, big arm, but there are some negatives

A bruised kidney caused Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage to miss the second half of his final college game and to turn down an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game. But he says he is healthy now and looking to impress observers at the NFL Scouting Combine.

In a draft with numerous draftable quarterbacks, the well-traveled Savage still stands out because of his size -- he was listed at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds by Pitt -- and his arm strength. While those are positives, there are some negatives, too, like his immobility, presence in the pocket and decision-making.

He told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review he has been working out with former NFL quarterback Travis Brown to get ready for the combine and for Pitt's March 3 pro day. A major emphasis is improving his footwork.

"I want to quicken up my feet, quicken my game up in general," he told the Tribune-Review.

Savage also said he has learned that a quarterback needs much more than a strong arm.

"A lot of guys in the NFL can throw the ball 70 yards," he said. "The tough thing is doing it with people in your face."

That is one area in which Savage has struggled. When there is a clean pocket, he can be deadly. But when there is pressure or he has to move around, his mechanics frequently go awry and he makes bad decisions.

In November, NFL Media senior draft analyst Gil Brandt wrote that "I'm not saying [Savage] is a first-round guy, but he will show well in the draft process, and I can guarantee he'll show up at the NFL Scouting Combine and impress."

While he was a fifth-year senior in 2013, Savage remains relatively inexperienced, and that relative inexperience should intrigue scouts because he appears to have a big upside.

Savage was a consensus national top-15 quarterback prospect in the 2009 recruiting class out of Springfield (Pa.) Cardinal O'Hara High, behind players such as Matt Barkley, Tajh Boyd, AJ McCarron, Zach Mettenberger and Garrett Gilbert. Savage signed with Rutgers and was seen as a recruiting coup for then-Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano.

Savage started 10 games that fall as a true freshman and had an up-and-down season, throwing for 2,211 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions but completing only 52.3 percent of his passes. Savage began the 2010 season as the starter but lost his job early that fall to lightly regarded true freshman Chas Dodd. Savage finished with 521 passing yards and transferred to Arizona after the season.

He sat out the 2011 season under NCAA rules, then hit the road again after Rich Rodriguez took over as Arizona's coach following that fall because he was ill-suited for Rodriguez's spread offense. Savage transferred to Pitt and again sat out as a transfer in 2012.

He threw for 2,958 yards, 21 TDs and nine interceptions, completing 61.9 percent of his passes, in 2013. Six of his TD passes came in one game, a wild 59-56 victory over Duke, and six of his picks came in the first four games of the season. Savage played well in an upset of Notre Dame, throwing for 243 yards, two TDs and no interceptions.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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