Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Top 25 Players: #2

Almost as quickly as the Bowden miracle happened, it ended even quicker.

Not capriciously, of course. But the advantages fell away quickly. Bowden’s offense and methodology were quickly copied (Dave Ragone was a 1999 recruit), ending a brief interlude of tactical superiority. There were some good players, notably at quarterback, but Bowden’s approach was a huge part of this success. And it was over.

The last vestiges of the latent advantage of regional independent recruiting slipped away- as bottom feeding C-USA talent procurement took hold. And, as frequently happens, an exceptional season features an exceptional talent concentration- and most key actors simply left, hastening the talent decline. Two quick coaching changes meant lost recruiting focus two years in three- and Bowden didn’t do much recruiting anyway.

So a lot of talent chickens came home to roost in 1999 as Chris Scelfo took the reins.

#2. Patrick Ramsey, QB (1998-2001)

Patrick Ramsey came to Tulane in 1997 as an odd recruit. He was a track and field star- already by 18, one the great javelin throwers in the history of US track-and-field, the holder of an actual medal at the Pan Am Games. He played football as an afterthought- and it took personal lobbying by Louisiana State great Bert Jones to get Ramsey into Tulane very late.

So he had that great arm- the only Tulane quarterback with a true “plus” NFL arm of the past 25 years. But he was not real quick, and certainly not accurate in high school. It seemed a shame to waste that rocket in a spread the ball, check down C-USA offense. If there was a guy who screamed drop back passer, protect me and I’ll get you big plays down field, it was Ramsey. Add in the incumbent Shaun King, and he was an easy red-shirt.

Yet, the buzz was there. There was zero speculation, even during the Perfect Season, who was the heir apparent at quarterback. Coaches adored his arm. And he turned out to have the same high football IQ as Shaun King- but with an actual NFL skill set to go with it. Scelfo made the decision to shoehorn Ramsey into a distribution offense.

As a sophomore, Ramsey was sensational right out of the gate – setting the school record with 3410 passing yards as a first year starting quarterback. He immediately set 20 Tulane passing records, including single season records for passing yards, attempts, and completions- shattering the season passing records set the year before.

He was simply a wonderful three year quarterback at Tulane. After setting all the season records as a sophomore, Ramsey left as a first round draft pick with nearly all of the school’s career passing records, including yardage, touchdowns, completions and attempts. Records he still holds today and in many cases, not by a little.

Ultimately, for all the noise and evaluation, playing quarterback in C-USA is about throwing the football, completing many passes and piling up totals. And Ramsey was the best.

Does it surprise you that the big-armed, big play Ramsey has the highest career completion percentage in Tulane history? He lost a few points on that percentage, and threw some picks, because that big arm had to be utilized outside the context of dink-and-dunk- but in the rote possession offense, he had no equal. He never played with more than one great receiving option at a time, the o-line was spotty, the defense a sieve (particularly in 2001)- and he just kept completing passes, generating crazy C-USA numbers.

The three-year starter made 32 career starts- all three of those years are still listed in Tulane’s top five total passing seasons. He threw a TD in an astounding 31 of those 32 starts (72 TDs total). He threw for 200+ yards in 24 starts, 300+ in 16 and 400+ in four. There is an unreal consistency there passing the football- particularly in light of some of the real game day talent disparities Tulane suffered through.

That 300+ yard number is a big one for the C-USA quarterback. It is where you start impacting the point totals in a big way, getting your team into the 30’s. (Both King and Ricard have more total starts- but only eight 300+ yards passing days each). Ramsey was the best production passer Tulane has produced- the C-USA consistent number generator, yardage producer, touchdown maker. He literally more than doubled your chances of a 300+ passing day over his immediate Tulane contemporaries.

And ultimately, quarterback is first about consistently generating the extreme C-USA passing game- the rest falls out of that (particularly in C-USA). So I give the nod to Ramsey over a talented bunch. Ramsey produced three outstanding years. Again, he produced three of top five totals in season passing yards- no one else managed it more than once. Consistent, huge numbers- over three years.

Ramsey is still going a decade later in the NFL. Drafted into a horrible situation (the Redskins under Spurrier and his pet Danny Wuerffel), he has managed to find employment because he has "straight" quarterback skills.