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Film Study: Colorado State redshirt junior QB Nick Stevens

Andre Simone Avatar
May 28, 2016


After having gone through the tape of incumbent quarterback Faton Bauta, in his one start against Florida last year, it’s time to look at Colorado State football’s returning starter from last season; Nick Stevens. Stevens started his first season as the signal caller for the Rams in 2015 with a new offensive system. Not an easy set of circumstances to start off your career, yet, he earned second-team All-Mountain West honors in the process.

On the surface, his 21 touchdowns to 12 interception ratio, while also leading CSU to a bowl game, are successful achievements for the redshirt junior. Despite that, Ram fans still aren’t sold on Stevens, and neither is the coaching staff with the addition of Bauta. Given all that, it seemed only appropriate to go through the film and see what Stevens has done right and what he needs to improve on to keep his job and excel in 2016.

Scouting report:


  • If Stevens is not required to throw with strength (Ex. having to add zip over the middle or having to unleash a pass to the sideline) his accuracy and touch flashed high-level ability. He especially shows flashes of excellent ball placement, whether it be in the end zone on a fade or leading a receiver over the middle on a crossing route; he throws with great anticipation. (While Bauta, by comparison, was often throwing behind receivers, this is the one skill that sets Stevens apart from the former Georgia quarterback).
  • Stevens has shown an aptitude to throw with touch on 20-yard passes to the left sideline (made some big plays on these passes). He also shows a willingness to throw down the seam against single coverage; he’s able to lead receivers to the inside in these situations. Accuracy and touch make him particularly successful on fades in the end zone as well as back shoulder throws.
  • Footwork on drops needs to be smoother, but he shows nimble feet, can change his throwing platform easily, and can flip his hips on play action to quickly get in position to throw. Definite lower body potential to work with. Plants foot quickly to throw the ball after the play-action fake, hips transition from fake to downfield throwing position in a hurry.
  • Stevens is a good athlete, with the ability to take off and make plays on the run if the pocket breaks down. He’s also shown flashes when it comes to being able to throw on the run.
  • He did a lot of damage on play-action passes, where his quick feet and athleticism shine the most. Windows open up a bit on play-action and he’s able to lead receivers in bigger windows this way.


  • Stevens’ arm strength is questionable. He’ll struggle when needing a bit more zip on short to intermediate passes, often throwing the ball low. He will overcompensate on tight sideline throws and sail passes as he tries to put too much under a toss. Lacks easy arm strength. His deep ball accuracy is also incredibly inconsistent, as he almost always overthrows go-routes. He hasn’t shown the arm to hurt defenses that cheat up.
  • In 2015, he struggled terribly when having to throw in tight windows or situations with several defenders around the receiver. The pinpoint accuracy, mixed with arm strength and necessary zip, gives him immense trouble. He has squeezed some passes in, but he is wildly inconsistent in this area and will need to work quite a bit more.
  • His footwork is a little tentative or lackadaisical. Not asked to perform many three and five step drops (considering the pro-style offense he plays in). He threw quite a bit out of shotgun and play action formations. Needs to get his weight under him better to gain more power on his throws.
  • Stevens really struggled with pressure and doesn’t feel the pass rush naturally. You don’t see him navigate the pocket with pressure while keeping his eyes downfield. His fundamentals break down when he’s under pressure, footwork becomes very sloppy. His accuracy and decision making also suffer terribly when under duress. His worst games were against teams like Utah State and Nevada who made him uncomfortable all game.
  • In general, his biggest issue is with consistency, which can be very maddening for fans, coaches, and teammates alike. While there are tons of flashes, there are very few skills that Stevens consistently exhibits the ability to do at a high level.
  • Struggles mightily to throw to his right side, looks like the issues teams from him not getting his front foot out front. He’s incredibly inaccurate going to that sideline.
  • Also holds onto the ball too long at times, needing to progress through reads more quickly to find the open receiver. While he’s done better in this area, he could still improve if he wants to start in 2016.


While his statistics were impressive for a first-year starter under a new offensive scheme, it’s evident why Rams fans remain unconvinced by their reigning starting QB. Stevens shows all the tools that allow him to be an above average quarterback (think of an Aaron Murray type QB in Bobo’s offense as the peak of his ceiling). Yet, he’s missing some high-end qualities and still needs to iron out several aspects of his game, especially his inconsistent throws, footwork and his improvisational skills against the pass rush.

There’s no denying that Stevens at his best is better than Bauta was in limited playing time at Georgia. But there are several worrisome aspects that need to be dealt with or at least demonstrate significant improvements as he’s simply too unreliable right now.

When looking closer at the 2015 stats, Stevens’ touchdown to interception numbers would be 16 to 12 if not for the five-TD game against Savannah State in week one. Take away the UTSA game and the 3 TD performance he had, and his ratio is 13 to 12. Once you strip away the lower conference opponents against which Stevens played his best, his numbers are far from impressive. He also seemed to benefit quite a bit from Rashard Higgins and Joe Hansley’s ability to get open and create space. Specifically, “Hollywood” bailed him out with great routes and receptions on countless occasions. The quarterback will need to step up without his veteran receivers, and that will certainly prove to be an important test.

Maybe one of the greatest worries with Stevens is that he showed relatively little improvement throughout the season. Of the five games I went back to study, his performance against Colorado might have been his best, while the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl game against Nevada might have been his worst (not a good progression). There was also little to get excited about during Stevens’ Spring Game performance.

While Stevens has the higher end talent, being more athletic, showing much better accuracy/ball placement and striving on play action passes, he’s hard to trust. Bauta won’t scramble with the same ease nor does he have the same high-level throws on his tape, but he’s much better against pressure, has better footwork and can simply be relied on more at this point in their careers.

Much will be decided in the following three months before the season kicks off, but there’s still tons of work for both quarterbacks to do before we can consider either one the starter. Consider this quarterback competition wide open!


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