The 2021 season promises to be a big year for quarterbacks to make a statement. Phil Jurkovec happens to be in a pro-style system that can boost his progression into an NFL quarterback.
The Boston College Golden Eagles started a new era in 2020, the era of headman Jeff Hafley. The much-needed change came following a lackluster 2019 season. The Golden Eagles failed to play up to their potential, and head coach Steve Addazio took to the road. Hafley came from a season at Ohio State as the co-defensive coordinator and previously had three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. With his hiring came Notre Dame transfer quarterback Phil Jurkovec.
The 2021 season has a deep quarterbacks class lacking top-tier talent entering the season. Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler is currently the best prospect at the position. He could be the fourth Oklahoma quarterback selected in the top two rounds of the NFL Draft over the last five classes. Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray were both selected first in consecutive seasons, while Jalen Hurts was taken in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Jurkovec has the tools to develop into a special talent in the NFL, yet needs some work. He is a little rough around the edges. Having little offseason work with the team certainly impacted his immediate readiness, but, clearly, he progressed tremendously as the season wore on. I took a good look into the system that Boston College runs this weekend. To be clear, there is a lot there to really like.
Phil Jurkovec the player
#5 | Redshirt Junior | HT: 6’4″ | WT: 220 lbs | High School: Pine-Richland (Pittsburgh, PA) | 10 career starts
Phil Jurkovec has the prototypical NFL size that franchises crave. At 6’4″ and 220 pounds, he shows the ability to shake off defenders in the pocket. Jurkovec throws a good, catchable football. He displays good touch, can layer the football well. He flashes the ability to throw with incredible accuracy, making some very tight throws throughout his career.
Consistency, so far, has been Jurkovec’s main issue. He hasn’t been the most accurate throwing the football, sometimes underthrowing receivers or placing the ball behind them. His am strength is adequate but not ideal for the NFL level. Part of this is to be expected. He took over a team last season without a start on his belt in college and with a limited offseason. The growth throughout the season, however, is what should catch people’s attention.
Let’s start talking about the scheme
Boston College under offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti has a tremendous amount of NFL experience. He’s been an offensive coordinator at the professional level but mostly served as a quarterbacks coach. His stops have included the New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Green Bay Packers, and the New York Giants. Cignetti elects to run a more pro-style offense and complete field reads with options for Phil Jurkovec to work with.
The base philosophy with the Boston College offense is to use various schemes and elements to keep defenses guessing at all times. They incorporate west coast philosophies with spread elements and prefer to run the football with power. This blend of schematic elements creates a challenge for defenses to read while opening the playbook for Jurkovec consistently. One of the biggest factors at this point is that Boston College returns all five starting offensive linemen and the core of receivers from last year. The only two notable losses were tight end Hunter Long (NFL Draft) and running back David Bailey (Colorado State). Long was replaced by star transfer Trae Barry from Jacksonville State. Barry may be better than Long was last season.
Let’s start getting into some of the schemes shown on tape.
Borrowing a page from Kyle Shanahan
Boston College is familiar with keeping up with the times. This design is an inside wheel route that the offense uses to open the field for a big play tight end.
Let’s start with the play action element of the play. The tight end motions from right to left, creating a strong side to the formation. With the snap coming from under center, this oftentimes signifies run – especially in college football. It’s a play action, however, and a deep drop.
The read progression is simple. Phil Jurkovec will go from left to right, reading the go, then the deep in by Zay Flowers. If the defense covers that up, you have the deep wheel route that sneaks inside and through the defense who’s been pushed and pulled by the play action and the movement to the left.
This is a great NFL-level read for multiple reasons. First, Jurkovec is working from under center. Not many quarterbacks in college do that consistently anymore. Two, it’s a full field read that requires Jurkovec to make a good pre-snap read as well as post-snap. Lastly, it’s literally a concept becoming popular at the NFL level.
Bootleg Levels concept
The next play that I’m showing from Jurkovec is a bootleg levels concept. Levels are particularly effective against a zone defense. It moves the play in the direction of the field while allowing the quarterback to figure which “level” is open, offering multiple targets in a straightforward read progression. Boston College runs this concept with a bootleg action, allowing Jurkovec to move along with the play.
Zay Flowers takes the underneath level and serves as the check down, getting a step on any defender with his motion. The in-line tight end fakes a drag across the formation and falls behind Flowers moving from left to right. The off-line tight end runs a 5-yard out. Lastly, the receiver working from the slot to the left will cross on an 8-yard in-route.
The routes are designed to allow Jurkovec to stop, if time allows, and read the progressions from bottom to top. Flowers crossed the formation first, then the tight ends, and lastly, the slot receiver. Jurkovec takes the first available option open. The NFL will like this because now we know that Jurkovec can be effective as a bootleg quarterback. He’s run from these types of play calls, too, leaving options endless.
Phil Jurkovec is capable of full field reads from under center
We made a big deal out of the first play that we went over because Jurkovec is working from under center. He does it a lot in this Boston College scheme. That’s important to the pros, who know that he has experience taking snaps under center and isn’t afraid of it.
Phil Jurkovec has displayed the ability to read through concepts that work down the field from under center as well. This is a simple three-read progression. Jurkovec, again, just has to make a good post-snap read.
The first read is the tight end which sits in the middle of the field. The hope is to get the safety to bite underneath the concept, freeing Flowers up top for the post in a one-on-one matchup. If the safety doesn’t bite and the middle of the field is open, Jurkovec throws this to the tight end. If the linebackers bite on the tight end, his running back is open in the flat as a check down.
Boston College clear out concepts
Now, Boston College incorporates some spread-style schemes into the offense. This time, Jurkovec is working from the shotgun and a 13 personnel package. The outside receivers are trying to stretch the field, pulling safeties and clearing the flats. The tight end, Hunter Long, in this instance, runs the out from up top. He’s the first read on this play. Next, Jurkovec will work to the middle of the field where the slot receiver is crossing. He’s faked an out and turned back inside. Lastly, Jurkovec works down to his running back, who is the check down if that’s taken away.
This is a fun concept because of the slot receiver’s role. Using the goes to stretch the field vertically, the hope is that the linebackers vacate the middle of the field. If they play the flats trying to take away the outs, the slot will be wide open inside. The look is to make it appear as an out concept, which typically mirrors the same concept on both sides of the field. It’s a common concept, so defensive backs are generally quick to bite.
What we have learned about Phil Jurkovec from tape
What we have learned about Phil Jurkovec is that he flashes the tools and placement ability to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. He progressed well through his first season as a starter, another important factor. From a schematic standpoint, Jurkovec is capable of playing multiple sets and scheme philosophies. He can play from under center, bootleg, spread style schemes, and the west coast. There is a versatility to what Jurkovec is capable of performing.
Another season of improvement could make Jurkovec a coveted prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. He has two years of eligibility remaining as a redshirt junior, which means he could wait a year if his development is slow. I think with a full offseason of work and the bulk of his offense returning from last year; it’s hard to imagine his season going anywhere but up. He is surrounded by NFL-level coaches running a pro-style scheme.
Don’t sleep on him or Boston College. They will be dangerous in 2021.