While many of us at Tomahawk Nation like to look at advanced metrics of performance, and the QB position is no exception, many Heisman trophy voters have never even heard of a statistic like yards per attempt. When considering quarterback performance, their vote is going to be based upon several things: hype/highlight reel type plays, team record, school stature, passing yards, touchdowns, and td/int ratio.
There is little dispute that Ponder has the tools to become Florida State's third Heisman Trophy winning quarterback.
Christian Ponder Highlights (via bzotheman)
Florida State finished the 2009 season with 3523 receiving yards, an improvement of over 1,000 yards from 2008 on just 50 more attempts. While much of this increased production can be attributed to the explosive, accurate play of Christian Ponder (pre-injury), the experience and depth of the 2009 receivers far surpassed what Ponder had to work with in 2008.
With the dismissal of Jarmon Fortson, and the departures of Rod Owens and Richard Goodman, certain parallels have emerged between the 2010 Seminole receivers and the 2008 group. Will this drag down Ponder's Heisman campaign?
Come explore, starting with the conclusion of the 2007 season, after the jump...
2007 FSU Receiving Statistics (courtesy of www.cfbstats.com)
With the departure of Fagg,
De'Cody Fagg Highlights (via Qpsijoker3)
dismissal of McDaniel, graduation of Shaw, and medical redshirt for Goodman, questions about the depth of the receiving corps abounded following the 2007 season. Popular speculation at the time posited that Preston Parker and Greg Carr were poised to pick up the slack and break out to have dual 1,000 yard seasons.
As it turned out, neither Carr nor Parker matched their 2007 levels of productivity. For Carr, perhaps it was the transition away from the jump ball passing attack favored by Jeff Bowden. For Parker, maybe he was too busy with the sticky icky. Whatever the reasons, their production totals declined substantially, with Carr amassing roughly 300 yards less in 2008, and with Parker on pace for a similar 300+ yard drop in production (had he played a complete season). Had FSU fans known that the production would drop from Carr and Parker, their cause for concern would have even been greater.
Fortunately, the 2008 season was one which saw significant contribution from true freshman, Bert Reed (322) and Taiwan Easterling (295), and to a lesser extent, Jarmon Fortson (137). Newcommer and JuCo Transfer Corey Surrency pitched in with 237 yards.
2008 FSU Receiving Statistics (courtesy of www. cfbstats.com) (significant newcommer contributions in bold).
However, between the extremely young offensive line, the lack of experienced playmakers (and seeming regression of Carr and Parker), and a switch to the more mobile but less experienced Ponder, FSU for the first time in recent memory became a team whose yards were spread nearly evenly between the run and the pass. FSU's receiving yards dropped below 3,000 for the first time since 2004.
If you've been following along at home, you've probably started to notice some parallel story lines at the wide receiver position.
The 2008 FSU squad lost Fagg (758) to graduation, Goodman to injury (184), and got substantially reduced production from Carr/Parker and Antone Smith (700 fewer yards combined), for a total of 1,642 yards "lost". The 2008 WR's returned approximately 130 yds/game of receiving. Despite meaningful contributions from Reed, Easterling, Fortson and Surrency, FSU's passing attempts dropped off (from 466 to 387), and FSU was only able to replace roughly 1,000 of those "lost" receiving yards.
For this season, FSU loses Owens (729) Goodman (355) and Piurowski (182) to graduation (although he was gone most of last season anyway due to injury), and Fortson (610) for repeated violations team rules, Sharia law, and basic human decency. Between those four, that makes 1,876 receiving yards "lost." The 2010 receivers return approximately 90 receiving yards/game.
2009 FSU Receiving Statistics (courtesy of www. cfbstats.com).
More jarring, FSU's returning receivers combined for just 2 touchdown catches all of last season (Easterling had both). By comparison, FSU's returning receivers in 2008 combined for 7 touchdown passes (Carr 4, Parker 3). For an offense that put up 3500+ receiving yards to have only posted 16 receiving touchdowns (and only be returning WR's/TE's with 4 combined touchdown catches) seems low. Checking the stats, that speculation appears to be confirmed.
Here is a list of teams who accumulated between 3300 and 3700 yards (an arbitrary sweet spot based upon the Noles' performance) passing in 2009. Number of passing touchdowns is in bold. As you can see, FSU was dead last in passing touchdowns among this group. The average was 25.5 passing touchdowns. If this chart had been sorted by passing touchdowns, FSU would have ranked 71st nationally (FSU was 20th nationally in rushing TD's with 27).
Rank by total passing yards Passing TD's (courtesty of www.cfbstats.com)
Whether it was a philosophical issue, whether it was memories of Fortson dropping the game winning TD against Miami in the endzone (we can all stop pretending it wasn't his fault entirely), whether it was confidence in the running game, or whether it was simply a case of guys getting tackled inside the five yard line, FSU's productive passing attack did not amass touchdowns the way one might have otherwise expected.
To sum up, FSU by at least two very common (albeit statistically simple and somewhat imprecise) measures of returning receiving productivity (yards lost to attrition and returning touchdowns), is arguably worse off than they were headed into 2008. On a team that projects to be between 7-9 regular season wins, 3,000 yards passing and a handful of touchdown passes isn't going to dazzle the Heisman voters.
However, don't switch your kool-aid out for a K-Man approved, sugar-free beverage just yet. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the receivers, and by extension, Ponder's candidacy.
First, all reasonable expectations have the quarterback play (and the offensive line play) as strengths of this team. There is no need to rehash in this article the expectations for Ponder and Manuel, or for the offensive line. This could not be said about the 2008 squad, when FSU broke in both a young quarterback and an equally young line, getting away from the passing game in the process. The yardage regression is perhaps explainable by these factors alone.
Second, FSU's sophomore receivers, Haulstead and Smith, appear to be showing as much or greater promise than their 2008 dopplegangers (true freshman Fortson, RS freshman Reed & Easterling). Their measurables alone suggest there is no doubt they are physically ready to contribute.
Third, expectations for FSU's incoming freshman wide receiver class are high. Even with De'Joshua Johnson failing to qualify, the 2010 class has the most talent and depth in years. Reports out of camp include significant weight gain by Kenny Shaw, a player who many people believe would be capable of seeing significant playing time if he could add the requisite good weight.
So, will FSU experience a drop in productivity similar to the one experienced in the 2008 season (derailing Ponder's nascent Heisman hopes in the process), or is the comparison unwarranted? Share your reactions in the comments section.