A popular series from last draft cycle is returning yet again at Stampede Blue. Last offseason, I interviewed over 40 prospects that could eventually be fits for the Indianapolis Colts in the 2019 NFL Draft. As a result, we were able to find out a lot about two Colts who went on to eventually be drafted by the team in Marvell Tell III and Khari Willis. This year I hope to interview even more prospects so you all can get an inside look at these player’s accomplishments and mindsets going into this next draft.
Our next prospect is quarterback Nick Tiano from Chattanooga. Tiano is a former Mississippi State transfer who had a good career at the FCS level and really stood out all week at the NFLPA practices. We had a great talk about how he balances playing aggressive vs playing passive, his coaches at Chattanooga, and what he’ll bring to the NFL.
6’5” 240 pounds
Two Time SoCon Honor Roll Student
Top 5 All Time in Attempts and Completions in Chattanooga school history
NFLPA Bowl MVP
174-329 (53.4%) passing for 2,242 yards, with 14 TDs and 10 INTs. 85 carries for 384 yards and nine TDs.
Fit with the Colts:
The Colts may be in the market for their quarterback of the future but the could also be in the market for a young UDFA type to develop on their practice squad as well. Last offseason, the Colts nearly signed UDFA Jacob Dolegala before electing to go with Chad Kelly as their preseason/practice squad QB. If the Colts want to right that mistake from a year ago and go with a young quarterback with actual upside on the practice squad, a player like Tiano would be a good fit. He has the arm, size, and mobility that can develop in the NFL. Sit him on the practice squad for a year or two and maybe he can develop into a nice backup quarterback for the future.
Here it is, folks. @NickTiano's 12-yard touchdown that sealed the deal for @GoMocsFB's third largest 4th quarter comeback win in history! What a way to end his career in Finley. pic.twitter.com/iNKmEodlI5— Angela Moryan (@SidelineStormer) November 17, 2019
Chattanooga quarterback Nick Tiano (@NickTiano) is such a huge get for the NFLPA Bowl. One of the most talented arms in the class, Tiano has every tool you could want in a signal caller. Former Mississippi State transfer, look for him to be a big riser during the cycle. pic.twitter.com/paREnYBQzH— Ryan Roberts (@RiseNDraft) December 11, 2019
ZH: Why did you end up transferring to Chattanooga from Mississippi State and what was the biggest difference going from the SEC to FCS?
NT: Yeah so Mississippi State was a great opportunity for me. I got to sit and learn for a year behind Dak Prescott which was an unbelievable experience that I took so much away from. They gave me an opportunity to compete for a starting job the following year under a great head coach in Dan Mullen and unfortunately the competition didn’t go my way. The other guy (Nick Fitzgerald) was a better athlete than me and was what they wanted in their offense. He was only one year older than me and I just felt like I wanted to play.
Football is what I wanted to do and I felt like I worked too hard to sit and watch somebody else play. As much as I hated to leave, I felt it was the best option. Transferring is tough because you could go FBS and sit a year or go FCS and I felt that the FCS option to play immediately was my best option. Chattanooga being my hometown and UTC having a great program made it all seem like the perfect fit. It made a lot of sense and obviously it was very different going from the SEC to the FCS but it is still good football with talented players.
ZH: One thing I’m curious about is that transition in the locker room. How did you approach having to walk in that door at Chattanooga and be the guy at quarterback over p;ayers you hardly knew?
NT: Coming to a new team as a quarterback, you obviously have to establish yourself as a leader. I felt for me that it was very important to ease my way into that role by earning the respect of everybody by showing everyone how hard I worked and what I brought to the table. The most important thing though was building relationships with everybody on the team. Get to know everybody and build those relationships and those are the things that show up on the field once you’ve earned the respect of those guys.
ZH: Let’s talk about the coaching staff at Chattanooga. How did they help you grow from the player you were as a Freshman to the quarterback that you are today?
NT: So for two years, I had Tom Arth as my Head Coach. He played quarterback in the NFL for a little bit, played for the Colts with Peyton Manning for a few years, so we ran a true pro style system. I had complete freedom in the offense with protection checks, run game checks, changing routes, and such. The game plan was very extensive and we were very prepared for every week and I felt like we had answers for every coverage. I feel like he taught me a ton of football from watching NFL film together and it was a great experience to learn from him. A new staff came in my Senior season and they went to a spread, up-tempo system. I didn’t adjust well at first as the spread, read-option type offense wasn’t much of my game but it was good to learn the new system and we battled through the tough stretches and finished strong last year.
ZH: You really helped your stock in the All Star Game circuit, earning NFLPA Game MVP. How was that whole experience for you?
NT: It was an incredible experience. Everything is first class with NFLPA from where we stayed to the coaches with a ton of Hall of Famers.... everything we did, it was just an incredible week. For me to have the chance to learn from those coaches and players who were in the league for a long time and perform well in front of those scouts was big. Especially for small school guys not being on National TV every week, we don’t have 30 scouts at every game so having those practices and the game to show what you can do was a huge opportunity for me.
ZH: So let’s talk a bit about the quarterback position overall. It is a tough position to understand and fully know. So I’m curious about a few aspects of the position. One question I have is being passive vs being aggressive. As a quarterback, when do you know when the right time is to take the easy completion vs when to take a shot downfield?
NT: I think playing situational football is huge for a quarterback. Sometimes being passive and taking those easy completions is the best play. You see with guys like Brees and Brady and those guys that they make a lot of those smart plays over the years to move the chains and score points. There are definitely opportunities to be aggressive though. Whether it is early or late in a game and you have a match-up you like, you have to take those shots and make those plays. In the NFL there are talented guys to throw the ball to and sometimes you have to take advantage of those match-ups and trust your player to make a play. For me though it is all situational with match-ups and where we are in the game whether I can play passive or aggressive from play to play.
ZH: What goes into preparation for an opponent from a quarterback? Is it tendencies on certain downs, certain players to exploit, or something else entirely?
NT: I always liked to break it up by down and distance and also by formation. So I like to see what their base coverage is when you are in 11 or 12 personnel or whatever it may be to see what their base coverage is on defense. I like to see what their adjustments are too so like when they roll down the strong or bring the SAM off the edge or if they are bringing cover three behind the play. Whatever their little wrinkle is and their base adjustment, I want to find that. Then when you look at third down, teams like to do tricky things. I like to break it down in terms of 3rd and 11+, 3rd and 7-10, 3rd and 4-6, and 3rd and 1-5. I like to break down what they do in each of those scenarios that way I know what’s coming before the play is even called during the game.
Defensive coordinators usually have things they like and I think if you can find those and be prepared then you have a good idea of what you are facing. I think breaking it down by down and distance and by tendency really helps quarterback play.
ZH: You mentioned earlier that you had control at the line of scrimmage your first two years at Chattanooga. So if you diagnose a blitz before the snap—for example— how would you go about finding your hot route or calling one if one is not already in the called play?
NT: Some plays are going to have that hot route built in so if they are bringing pressure there will be a quick slant or something like that to get the ball out of your hands quick. Most of the time you don’t have that so, for me, I think it is important to recognize if it is man or zone. If it is man, you obviously have to change the protection and make sure you have a sight line to wherever your best option may be. If it’s man, you find your best match-up. If you have press on the outside, maybe that is a good time to take a shot in that one on one coverage. If it is off, you want to hit a quick slant or option to get the ball out quick.
If it’s zone, it’s just finding the softest zone and the softest cushion for me. If the slot guy has a lot of cushion then a five yard hitch could be an easy play in the pressure. It is all about seeing what they are in and then finding your easiest match-ups to get the ball out of your hands quickly.
ZH: Everyone has their NFL players that they study and model their game after. Who in the NFL do you really study to nail down aspects of quarterback play?
NT: Playing with Dak obviously gave me an up close and personal view of him and I love the way he plays with his passion and his leadership. Obviously you can take away a lot from how (Tom) Brady plays the game. Before he retired though, Andrew Luck was a guy that I loved. He’s a bigger guy but he was athletic and he played with such a cerebral approach and was very smart and always knew what he was doing with the ball. He was always athletic enough to go and pick up yards with his legs and you know he would lower his shoulder at times when it was needed and I think a quarterback showing a team that toughness goes a long way. I really loved the way he played the game.
ZH: Final question for you. What is my team getting if they spend a draft pick on Nick Tiano?
NT: I truly believe that I am everything an NFL team is looking for. I’m not cocky by any means but I mean off the field, I’m going to be the first one in at practice and the last one out. Hardest worker on the team kind of guy and on the field I can do everything you would want me to do. There are a ton of strong arm guys in this class and talented guys but the guys who stick are the ones who are the smartest guys and the guys who prepare the best. I think mentally I know the game and I’m gonna prepare better than anybody else.