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What Does Bailey Zappe Have To Prove In Boca Raton Bowl?

  • The Draft Network
  • December 16, 2021
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Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe put the nation on notice with quite the stat line this season—one that saw him break multiple records and finish the season as the FBS passing yards leader. Zappe finished out the year with a 69.2% completion percentage, 5,545 passing yards, 56 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, nearly leading his team to victory in the C-USA title game as he completed 36-of-59 passes for 577 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.

Next up, Zappe and the rest of the WKU team will face the Appalachian State Mountaineers in the Boca Raton Bowl—one that is expected to be a high-scoring affair for both teams that each feature defenses that could stand to improve.

Things will look a bit different on the sidelines with former Hilltoppers offensive coordinator Zach Kittley off to Texas Tech to run his high-powered offense alongside new head coach Joey McGuire. But given what Zappe has shown this year and how much he has been praised by head coach Tyson Helon for what he brings to the table mentally and as a pure passer in a way that is not paralleled by any other quarterback he has ever worked with, the young quarterback shouldn’t miss a beat.

So, what’s next for Zappe and his already-high draft stock and what does this bowl game mean for that?

Given the aforementioned defensive inconsistencies noted about both teams, this is another opportunity for Zappe to continue to air it out—which is exactly what he does best. It will be interesting to watch exactly how the App State defense tries to manage this offense, with the Mountaineers defense largely focused on stopping the run. But his opportunities to continue rising through the ranks don’t stop there—Zappe has already shown plenty enough in terms of understanding protections, knowing what is going to happen before the ball is ever snapped, and maintaining a high level of accuracy at all levels of the field with an especially impressive deep ball.

The only hang-up is that there have been—and will inevitably continue to be—scouts and analysts who knock him for the level of competition he has posted high numbers against. That’s not going to change even if he trounces App State.

But the next thing on the horizon for Zappe is the Senior Bowl, which has a solid crop of quarterbacks (several of which are currently projected to go higher than him) and plenty of supporting cast players he’ll show he can play with for the first time of his career—plus defensive players he’ll be facing for the first time ever. It will be interesting to get an up-close look at just how all of these prospects compare, and you get the sense that Zappe will only continue to gain more respect as the pre-draft process begins for him.

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