Third-and-Lang: A deep-dive into FSU's task vs. Miami QB Tyler Van Dyke
When the calendar turned the page from September to October, things weren’t looking so hot for the Miami Hurricanes. Quarterback D’Eriq King had been playing hurt and bowed out after a 38-17 loss to Michigan State. The defense looked listless. Head coach Manny Diaz figured to be in line for a buyout, or if Miami couldn't afford it, a profitable severance and settlement.
But as the page was peeled at the start of November? What once was a ragingly hot seat for Diaz suddenly cooled a bit. Hope emerged in the last place outsiders might expect -- at quarterback. Enter freshman Tyler Van Dyke.
As Florida State and Miami engage in another chapter of their storied -- albeit national implication-less of late -- rivalry, Miami’s backup quarterback may be a worse proposition for the Seminoles than King ever was.
Profile: Tyler Van Dyke
A native of Glastonbury, Conn., the 6-foot-4 Van Dyke has been nothing if not aggressive in his time as the Hurricanes’ starter. Unless the game plan stresses caution (more on that in a moment), Van Dyke cares not for timidity. Much like his freshman counterpart in running back Jaylon Knighton, Van Dyke’s instincts live in fifth gear.
To say Van Dyke loves his arm would be like saying Miami fans exaggerate their importance to college football in the 21st century; it becomes self-evident pretty quickly. The problem for Adam Fuller and the FSU defense is the freshman has every reason to feel as he does. Take just a few examples from the past six weeks:
Notice that Miami's offense runs almost exclusively out of the shotgun. The Canes will use motion and load up the backfield with as many as three players at a time, but Van Dyke is almost always operating out of the 'gun.
Before we get to some numbers from our friends at Pro Football Focus, the following is a profile I've whipped up after watching every snap of Van Dyke's, dating back to the 'Canes' loss to Virginia on Sept. 30.
*Arm. If Van Dyke were a pitcher, he would be in the "power arm" and fastball-loving category. He flashes some hand talent at times, but if we continue the baseball analogy, he really likes to throw number one. The freshman's arm strength puts immense pressure on defenses, not just to cover the deep ball, but every part of the field. For example, take this throw against Pitt:
Granted, it doesn't look like much initially. This is a screen pass to the far side of the field, delivered with a quick release and max velocity. Even though it's not perfect placement to his receiver, this type of throw gets to its target quick enough that, if a defense isn't playing honest, it will get torched.
There are quarterbacks on the schedule a defense can cheat against because the ball will take a while to get to a spot on the far side of the formation. This is not one of those opponents.
*Mobility. Though Van Dyke isn't a true running quarterback, when forced to break the pocket, he can motor. Within the tackle box, Van Dyke is not afraid to bounce around in order to find a spot to make the play. His eyes often stay downfield, more often than should be expected for someone with so little game experience. If necessary, this is a player capable of picking up third-and-long with his legs if a defense sleeps on him.
*No Conscience. If Van Dyke misses on a deep shot on first down, he has no problem chucking it 40 yards downfield on the next throw. Sometimes you see quarterbacks who have a sort of morality click in if too many downfield throws don't connect. Not this guy. No matter what happened on the previous play, Van Dyke is unafraid to throw it anywhere at any time. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee clearly calls plays at times where there is no option to heave it deep, just to keep his quarterback grounded.
*Greedy. The second side of the remorseless coin. Though this is something the Miami staff has to love about Van Dyke, the freshman at times will fall in love with a read and throw it into coverage. A key for the FSU secondary this weekend is to be prepared for the ball to be there for the taking at any moment. Remember Jarvis Brownlee's dropped interception against UMass (the one that preceded his pick-six)? The corner seemed shocked to turn and find the ball coming right at him. Van Dyke will offer a gimme like this at times, so alertness will be key.
*Unpolished pocket presence. Again, this isn't a deal-breaker of a weakness, but Van Dyke can run himself into a sack at times instead of settling into his drop and making an easy delivery. Twist games show up often in these moments, where Van Dyke sees an inside move by an edge rusher and breaks the pocket, only to find the waiting arms of an interior lineman. We have seen the Seminoles' Keir Thomas and Jermaine Johnson line up next to one another enough this season to know that Adam Fuller is not afraid to run some games in the front-four. How Van Dyke handles that on the road will be interesting to watch.
Here is a look at Tyler Van Dyke's passing depth chart, according to Pro Football Focus:
*Notice all of the deep shots? When throwing outside left, for example, Van Dyke has more attempts of 20 yards or more than he has intermediate or short passes beyond the line of scrimmage combined. For the season, Van Dyke's average depth of target (essentially air yards per attempt) is 10.6 yards downfield. I waited long enough to use the cliche', but this is watertight evidence of a gunslinger.
*Per PFF, when Van Dyke is pressured, his completion percentage drops from 67-percent to 45-percent. But what's interesting is in facing pressure, the freshman's average depth of target goes up three full yards and his turnover-worthy pass percentage drops two full percentage points. Translation: Van Dyke escapes trouble with bombs downfield that are out of bounds or out of defenders' reach.
According to PFF, Florida State has a far better chance of intercepting passes through good coverage (and freshman QB arrogance) than goading mistakes through pressure.
Whatever the result is this weekend, the Seminoles have to be ready for an opposing quarterback who is willing to go all-in at any time.
Contact director of original content Tom Lang at Tom@warchant.com and follow him on twitter @_TomLang.