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Senior Bowl exec: Cooper Bateman, Brandon Harris have issues

Cooper Bateman
ROBERT SUTTON/UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA

LSU’s Brandon Harris and Alabama’s Cooper Bateman were just two of the college quarterbacks who were invited to attend the Manning Passing Academy this past weekend, and Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage – a former Cleveland Browns general manager – doesn’t seem overly impressed with either player.

In addition to his Senior Bowl duties, Savage is the color analyst for Alabama’s radio network. He joined WJOX-FM in Birmingham on Monday and the discussion turned to the Manning Passing Academy.

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“He’s got size and a ton of arm strength,” Savage said of Harris. “He can really rocket the ball out there. But the accuracy is the big question.

Brandon Harris completed just 53.6 percent of his passes last season, his first as the Tigers' full-time starter. STEVE FRANZ/LSU ATHLETICS

Brandon Harris completed just 53.6 percent of his passes last season, his first as the Tigers’ full-time starter. STEVE FRANZ/LSU ATHLETICS

“This whole competition, you’re either throwing on air to basically high school/college receivers during that phase, and then you’re basically throwing to golf carts. But you can still see some degree of accuracy. I walked away Saturday saying, ‘Wow, this kid’s got a lot of talent, but he just does not have control of the ball.’ I mean, he missed a number of passes on Saturday that were just pitch-and-catch-type situations.”

Harris struggled with accuracy last season, completing just 53.6 percent of his passes. He completed 50 percent or fewer of his passes in four games last season, including a 6-of-19 performance in a loss to Alabama.

As for Bateman, a fourth-year junior, Savage said he has some shortcomings.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that he’s an athletic player,” Savage said. “He … dabbled at wide receiver for a spell at Alabama. The short to intermediate (throws), he seems to be pretty good at. Anything beyond 25 yards, the ball seems to come apart on him for whatever reason. I don’t know technically why that would happen. I’ve never worked closely enough with him to know.”

Bateman competed with Jake Coker for the starting job last season and started one game, the loss to Ole Miss. Savage says Bateman’s inability to consistently spread the field vertically is what ended up costing him.

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Bateman again is battling for the starting job, with redshirt freshman Blake Barnett, third-year sophomore David Cornwell and true freshman Jalen Hurts.

“This year, it is going to be a lot about (receivers) Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart,” Savage said. “I think (Bateman) can get the ball to them very quickly on those lateral screens and lateral throws. But can he get the football down the field to those guys on a consistent basis? To me, that’s the number one question on Cooper.”

(You can follow Dan Mathews on Twitter @DanMathewsATL)

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