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CFF Targets - Guess who's back, back, back... back again
Reunited and it feels so good...
Cause it feels so empty without me…
- Eminem, Musician
Yea, that’s right—everyone’s favourite redheaded lefty QB is back and ready for action in 2023. Armstrong truthers took it in the teeth last season, as he struggled in the absence of QB whisperer Robert Anae, who left Virginia for Syracuse to OC the Orange. However, those stans need not worry any longer as we head into the 2023 season.
Anae — known as a QB savant in the northeast — has done some magic in his time with dual threat QBs. CFF managers took notice after Armstrong’s meteoric rise to CFF stardom in 2021, and promptly hoarded shares of Syracuse QB Garrett Shrader in the 2022 offseason. Unfortunately for Armstrong, he looked like a shell of himself in 2022, perhaps exemplifying Anae’s prowess as a playcaller and developer more than anything. Things just felt so empty in the CFF space without the powerful lefty in the fold last year.
Well, headed into 2023 we can simply rinse and repeat the draft Anae’s QB strategy. Anae has taken his talents to NC State, and his old QB—Brennan Armstrong, is joining him.
Coaching & System
The Wolfpack head coach—Dave Doeren, applies his trade on the defensive side of the ball, so his track record isn’t of the highest relevance as it relates to Armstrong’s CFF profile. His quotes from this spring suggest that he won’t be involved with the playcalling:
As a head coach, it's hard to be a play-caller, in my opinion, and run the organization the way it needs to be run. I also have a tremendous staff. I have such a great group of guys that coach under me. I feel like I need to be that. I can be more of a recruiter, more of a motivator, more involved in the players on a day-to-day [basis] and making sure that people around me have what they need to be successful.
The star of the show here is OC Robert Anae. Anae spent last season as the OC at Syracuse, before that he spent the previous six seasons as the OC/inside WRs coach at UVA, and all the way back to 2013-2015 he OC’d BYU.
We know that Anae worked magic with both Shrader and Armstrong the past three seasons. In 2022, Shrader averaged 23.8 FPG (4pt passing TD). The average doesn’t tell the full story though. He had two horrendous games vs. Notre Dame (3.95) and Florida State (3.05) in which he played injured, only attempting 14 and 16 passes in each. In total, he finished the year with 2640 passing yards and 17 TDs to 7 INTs, plus 453 rushing yards and 9 more TDs.
The year prior (2021), UVA QB Armstrong averaged a monstrous 37.1 FPG with Anae overseeing the offence. Armstrong also put together a strong season in 2020, averaging 26.8 FPG. This production was in large part due to sheer volume. In 2021, Armstrong attempted 506 passes over 11 games (46/game) and ran 97 times (8.8 attempts/game). That’s a sinister 54 plays a game in which Armstrong was eligible for points. Fucking hell.
Prior to Armstrong, Anae’s protege was one Bryce Perkins. Perk had a strong year in 2019, in which he passed for 3538 yards and 22 TDs to 12 INTs. He also rushed 227 (!) times for 769 yards and 11 TDs in 14 games (16.2 rush attempts per game). The year prior might have even been better for Perk: he passed for 2680 yards and threw 25 TDs to only 9 INTs. Again, his rushing volume was absurd, he carried the rock 212 times for 923 yards and 9 TDs.
Anae’s dual threat-centric system kicked off in the 2013 season when he had ultra-versatile athlete Taysom Hill (recognize that name?). That season, Hill rushed 246 times for 1344 yards and 10 TDs in 12 games (20.5 attempts/game). Oh, he also did some things passing: 2934 yards and 19 TDs to 14 INTs.
Now Anae reunites with his old dual threat Cavalier once again. The patterns point towards extended rushing usage for Armstrong once again in 2023, as well as an improved passing efficiency on what should be a very strong squad in the ACC.
QB Brennan Armstrong — 6’2, 215
Armstrong enters his sixth year of college football in 2023. The former three-star out of Ohio began his career under Robert Anae’s tutelage at UVA in 2018. He studied behind Bryce Perkins for his first two seasons before emerging in 2020, when he accounted for over 2600 total yards and 23 TDs in 9 games (26.8 FPG).
The 2021 season was Armstrong’s coming out party on the national scene, and even more so within the CFF community. I’d assert that Armstrong is a classic example of elite CFF QB poor actual QB. That matters not for our purposes as CFF players, we’ll let Mel Kiper and the rest figure it out themselves next spring.
He was horrendous both as an actual player and as a CFF asset in 2022, though. The reasoning as to why wasn’t hard to track for those paying attention to the coaching changes that offseason. Armstrong likely would have been dead as a CFF asset had he stayed at UVA, but thankfully, he answered all of our prayers and transferred with his old mentor Anae to NC State.
It’s unfortunate that his transfer comes at the expense of rising star MJ Morris, but such is life. I’m just going to assume that he’ll be the starter.
Here’s head coach Doeren on Armstrong’s progress this spring:
Today, I know there's some plays he wishes he had back. One of them wasn't on him. The running back was supposed to sit but he kept running so he threw it to a guy that wasn't in the right spot, but the other one was on him. The spring for him has been very consistent. He's really good with the guys. He's an encourager, he's confident, he's able to tell everybody what to do. When play calls come in, he knows the entire ins and outs. There are some new things in the offense from Coach [Robert] Anae's year away from. That piece has been a learning piece, but it's been fun to see him in the offense. I like how he's taken to the guys and how they've taken to him.
Armstrong is a limited passer. Even with Anae, he’s likely not going to threaten many of his opponents with his arm. His rushing is imperative to this CFF value, hopefully Anae and Co. keep that train rolling in 2023.
NC State doesn’t have the same inventory of weapons on the outside that those UVA teams did when Armstrong was at his peak power. This is more speaking to the fact that it’s probably not reasonable to expect 35+ FPG again from BA, but 30 should still be within range.
A wiseman from Texas once told me: drafting red-headed QBs is always a dubious proposition. He meant that with regards to drafting in the NFL draft, but I think the principle can still apply to CFF.
Armstrong is kind of like the Michael Trigg of QBs this class, in the sense that so many people were burned on him last year that the value proposition now is pretty good. In this case, it’s even better, as the formula for mucho points from BA is back in effect, making him a pretty decent lock for at least average CFF QB play (24+ FPG) in 2023.
Would I draft him? Of course, he’s a guy I think I’ll be looking for around the eighth or ninth rounds. With Armstrong reuniting with Anae, we’re back like we never left—so let’s ride (cue the Eminem music).
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