Forever the optimist, I feel duty-bound to mention that eight of Cole McDonald’s 14 interceptions from his junior year came in the first three weeks of the season, while he’s playing tougher out of conference opponents (all from the PAC-12) and shaking off the rust.
But that said… 14 interceptions in one season is not a pretty number to look at. Just like how his touchdown and passing yard numbers ranked towards the top of the NCAA in 2019, so to did his interception numbers, which were tied for sixth-most in all of the FBS.
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The poor decision making on McDonald’s end from his junior season is hard to write off as a fluke either. With 10 the year before, McDonald’s only other season as a starter, the quarterback has made enough poor decisions to be classified as “turnover-prone,” even in a high-volume passing offense with an emphasis on difficult deep passes.
Speaking of difficulty, the heavy focus on deep passing didn’t help McDonald’s numbers in regards to accuracy. With a “gunslinger” type quarterback asked to throw as many passes as McDonald was, completion percentage numbers can have a tendency to dip– but McDonald wasn’t helping himself much here either.
McDonald showed some mechanical issues in college, from poor timing on throws to overshooting receivers with his arm strength, to more concerning issues like struggles to read opposing defenses. All these ended up as factors to McDonald’s high turnover rate, but also hurt his accuracy numbers as well, ending his career as a 61.4% passer.
Neither of these is a death sentence for a quarterback, but they’re definitely concerns, especially for a player that spent most of his career going against Mountain West defenses. But does it hinder McDonald’s potential as an NFL quarterback, or will those issues get coached out of his system?