DRAFT PROFILE- MICHAEL O’CONNOR
There are dozens of quarterback prospects here in the United States. Whether it is Power 5 conference, mid major, FCS, Division II or III there are plenty of quarterbacks looking for the chance to play on Sundays. There is one place you do not always here of draft prospect and that is Canada. That is about to change as University of British Columbia quarterback Michael O’Connor is making that push. The young quarterback has been looked at not only by Canadian Football League teams, but there are NFL teams looking into him as well. He has been training in Florida getting ready for the CFL combine as he looks to break into the National Football League.
O’Connor started out here in the U.S. playing his high school football at Baylor School in Tennessee and his senior year at IMG Academy in Florida. He was selected to the Under Armour High School All American Game in 2013. Then Penn State Head Coach Bill O’Brien would convince the young passer to enroll at Penn State. His time at Penn State was short lived. Coach O’Brien would soon depart for the Houston Texans leaving Michael with a choice. Stay at Penn State or look for another option. He decided to stay there and played one year under new Head Coach James Franklin.
In 2015, Michael decided it was time to move on. He would consider several options before deciding to travel north of the border to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. “I wanted to not only play football, but I also wanted to ,make sure I had a plan for after football” Michael told me. “I wanted my Business degree to matter. I wanted it to set me up for success when I’m done playing the game.” He would be very successful on the football field. O’Connor was a Day 1 starter and led the Thunderbirds to the 2015 Canadian University National Championship. Michael would be named the Offensive MVP of the Championship game. As the starting quarterback he led the Thunderbirds to three Hardy Cup Finals. His numbers were stellar in his 44 games played. He would pass for 13,886 yards with 87 touchdowns. Michael averaged 315.5 passing yards per game.
I had the chance to watch him in Daytona last December at FCS National Bowl Weekend. The FCS Bowl is a college all-star showcase that allows scouts to get a look at small school talent from all over the country. In Michael’s case all over the continent. He threw the ball very well in practice. Michael drove the ball outside the numbers when he needed to. He also displayed some touch.
When he played in the game he led the offense to a score on his first drive. He sucked the defense in on a screen and lofted the ball to his waiting running back who had a wall of blockers to pave the way for a 75 yard touchdown. His film is full of great throws. O’Connor consistently makes tight window passes from the pocket and on the move. He drops deep balls in the bucket hitting his receiver in stride. His ability to anticipate in cuts with accurate passes is extraordinary. Michael is a natural passer that is highly underrated.
I wondered if the adjustment from the Canadian game would cause him to struggle with concepts and reads as he tries to learn pro offenses. I sat down with him recently as scouts do to see how he handles pro concepts and how fast he picks up schemes. Michael is very intelligent and has the ability to pick things up quickly. He was not only able to pick up what I threw at him, but he also was able to recognize some of the details in the schemes I didn’t mention. When I asked him to show me his favorite play for third down and long he was able to break down the play based on coverage.
Teams looking for a true pocket passer will need to look at him seriously. The film shows a player that would have been talked about by national pundits had he stayed at Penn State or Vanderbilt. Once he gets used to the complex coverages he will see at the next level. I came away from my meeting even more impressed with Michael. I know scouts are equally impressed with him.