Nate Davis could be the next MAC quarterback to make it big in the NFL.
He was the first player in school history to produce back-to-back 3,000-yard passing seasons and compiled a 17-5 record as a starter vs. MAC competition, leading the Cardinals to a 12-2 mark, including an 8-1 record vs. league opponents in his final season.
A finalist for the 2008 Manning Award (nation’s top passer) and the MAC’s Offensive Player of the Year, Davis was twice the recipient of the John Magnabosco Award, given to the team’s Most Valuable Player. In just three seasons, he rewrote the team record books. He left as the all-time leader in touchdown passes (74), passing yards (9,233), pass attempts (1,124), pass completions (678), 250-yard passing games (20) and 300-yard games (nine).
At Bellaire High School, the same school that produced NFL receiver Joey Galloway, Davis lettered three times in football. He earned All-State and All-Conference honors as a senior, helping lead the Big Reds to a 10-0 conference record and a state semifinal appearance, finishing with a 13-1 overall mark. He completed 125-of-207 passes for 2,932 yards and 42 touchdowns.
For his prep career, Davis compiled a 21-8 record as a starter. He set the school all-time record with 113 total touchdowns, and school all-time marks with 7,348 yards and 81 touchdowns passing.
Davis also excelled in basketball at Bellaire High, earning four letters. He eclipsed the school’s 50-year-old career scoring record, amassing over 1,800 points. As a senior, he helped the hoops team to a 15-0 start.
Davis made an impact as a true freshman at Ball State in 2006, earning the John Hodge Award as the squad’s Most Outstanding Freshman. He started seven games, tying the school season-record with 18 touchdown passes. His 1,975 aerial yards were the fourth-best season total in BSU annals, as he connected on 150-of-245 chances (61.22%).
As a sophomore, Davis shattered the school season-record of 2,377 yards passing by Neil Britt in 1983, registering 3,667 yards on 270-of-478 tries (56.49%). His 30 touchdown passes also established a new team record, as he was intercepted just six times. He also began to show more confidence in his running ability, as the team MVP tallied 235 yards and five scores on the ground, finishing 15th in the nation with an average of 300.31 yards per game in total offense.
Davis was named the league Offensive Player of the Year in 2008. The Manning Award finalist generated 3,591 yards and 26 touchdowns on 258-of-401 throws (64.34%), as he was picked off only eight times. His 3,591 yards ranked 11th in the nation, as he also placed 19th with an average of 278.79 yards per game in total offense.
Prior to the 2008 GMAC Bowl, Ball State head coach Brady Hoke left the team to take over at San Diego State University. Davis decided to bypass his final season of eligibility and applied for the 2009 NFL Draft.
Positives: Not tall, but has all other physical tools scouts want in a quarterback. Quick setup and delivery. Over-the-top throwing motion with an efficient release. Very good arm strength. Legitimate NFL accuracy to all levels of the field. Sets his feet and can drive the deep out from the opposite hash with ease. Good touch in the intermediate and deep. Throws a catchable ball with enough loft to allow his receivers to catch it in space and create yardage after the catch. Good mobility in the pocket to buy time and keep plays alive.
Negatives: Shorter than scouts would like. Big numbers were byproduct of spread system. Will have to adjust to taking traditional snaps under center. Struggled against non-MAC foes, including Tulsa in the GMAC Bowl. Plays with gloves on both hands and throws the ball without the laces. Has resisted coaches’ attempts to change how he throws the ball. Documented learning disability and might struggle with a complicated NFL playbook.
Compares To: ALEX SMITH, San Francisco — Davis is a combination of Alex Smith and — because of his athletic skills — Baltimore’s Troy Smith, undersized passers who rely on their quickness, balance and feet to make big plays on the move. Davis is in the same situation as Alex Smith in that he would’ve greatly benefited from an additional year in college. If he is drafted into a rebuilding situation without a standout receiver or offensive line, Davis could quickly regress as Alex Smith did. How teams choose to handle Davis in his early NFL career will be critical. He could be devoured by unfriendly media and some are concerned that his last three performances, with Ball State aiming for an undefeated season and Davis looking to the NFL, showed he can’t handle immense pressure.
2009: Davis suffered a severe bruise to his right throwing hand vs. Tulsa in the GMAC Bowl (1/06), but an MRI revealed no bone fractures.