FanPost

Why Your Preseason Heisman Frontrunner is Wrong: The Terrelle Pryor Edition

This is the first entry in a series of posts on why your favorite players will not win the Heisman Trophy.  Given that only one player wins the Heisman every year I have a high probability of being right.

Ever since January 7th I've done very little but think about Football. I admit it it's an obsession. On Saturdays I watch UT, on Sundays I watch Dallas, and weekends in the off-season MAKE ME NUTS!

In an attempt to pass the time, my fellow fans have tried to compile a list of preseason picks to be Heisman finalists. These picks are silly. I'm aware of their purpose; hell, that's why I read these lists. However it is way too early to predict a Heisman winner, or even a list of finalists. I'm not going to show you which players will be finalists, but instead show you why it's too soon to call the front runners out.

Look at any sort of list and the names start appearing. Terrelle Pryor, Noel Devine, Jake Locker, Case Keenum, Kellen Moore, Mark Ingram, Ryan Mallet, even Landry Jones is mentioned as a possible Heisman contender. What do we have to base any of these claims on? How Jones, Locker, Mallet, and Ingram did last season is no indication of future success. What's even worse is basing all of Pryor's ability upon his Rose Bowl MVP performance. That is the subject of today's piece.

Terrelle Pryor is the Starting Quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Currently recognized as the #1 team in the Big 10, Ohio State has a good chance of making it to the 2011 BCS National Championship game. As such every single player on the team is being analyzed position-by-position. No player has been more analyzed than Terrelle Pryor who is recognized as the team's Heisman contender going forward. Pryor's stats from last year are not exactly legendary. What makes Pryor such an interesting player is that his playing style and ability seems remarkably similar to Vince Young. Both players had fairly standard, but not spectacular Sophomore seasons, and both players turned in performances in the Rose Bowl that were hailed as turning points in their respective careers. So it stands to reason that Pryor will have a spectacular season like Young, right? We'll let's do some research into statistics. Since we know nothing about Pryor's 2010 season yet, instead we will evaluate the two player's Sophomore season statistics. Let's see how close these two players really are.

Here are Vince Young's 2004-2005 Season Statistics:

2004-2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vs.

Date

Score

             Rushing

                              Passing

 

 

 

Rushes

Net

TDs

Att

Comp

Int

Yards

TDs

North Texas

9/4/2004

65-0

8

49

0

21

14

0

153

1

Arkansas

9/11/2004

22-20

14

56

0

22

11

0

150

2

Rice

9/25/2004

35-13

8

64

0

18

11

2

161

3

Baylor

10/2/2004

44-14

5

55

0

20

15

0

189

2

Oklahoma

10/9/2004

0-12

16

54

0

23

8

0

86

0

Missouri

10/16/2004

28-20

5

53

1

9

3

2

19

0

Texas Tech

10/23/2004

51-21

25

158

4

15

10

0

142

1

Colorado

10/30/2004

31-7

15

68

2

15

8

2

71

0

Oklahoma St.

11/6/2004

56-35

12

123

1

21

18

2

278

1

Kansas

11/13/2004

27-23

19

114

1

40

22

2

289

1

Texas A&M

11/26/2004

26-13

19

93

1

18

12

0

131

0

Michigan

1/1/2005

38-37

21

192

4

28

16

1

180

1

Totals

2004-2005

 

167

1079

14

250

148

11

1849

12

 

Here are Pryor's 2009 Stats:

2009-2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vs.

Date

Score

          Rushing

              Passing

 

 

 

Rushes

Gain

TDs

Att

Comp

Int

Yards

TDs

Navy

9/5/2009

 31-27

6

30

1

21

14

1

174

1

USC

9/12/2009

15-18

10

36

0

25

11

1

177

0

Toledo

9/19/2009

38-0

12

110

1

28

17

2

262

3

Illinois

9/26/2009

30-0

11

59

0

13

8

0

82

1

Indiana

10/3/2009

33-14

16

63

1

28

17

1

166

3

Wisconsin

10/10/2009

31-13

10

35

0

13

5

1

87

1

Purdue

10/17/2009

26-18

21

34

1

31

17

2

221

1

Minnesota

10/24/2009

38-7

15

104

1

25

13

1

239

2

New Mexico St.

10/31/2009

45-0

9

83

1

23

11

0

135

1

Penn State

11/7/2009

24-7

5

50

1

17

8

0

125

2

Iowa

11/14/2009

27-24

8

29

0

17

14

0

93

0

Michigan

11/21/2009

21-10

19

74

0

17

9

1

67

1

Oregon

1/1/2010

26-17

20

72

0

37

23

1

266

2

Totals

2009-2010

 

162

779

7

295

167

11

2094

18

Taken from ESPN.com: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/player/profile?playerId=379070

The first thing to discern from these stats is that there is something deficient in Pryor's ability to run the football. In 2004 Vince Young rushed 167 times and ran the ball for a total of 1079 yards. By the same token Pryor ran it 162 times and managed only 779, 300 yards less than Young did with only 5 more carries. Yes some may argue, that Pryor had better passing yards than Young, but one needs to remember that Pryor had one extra game in which he could prove himself.

To get an idea of how these two QBs rack up against one another, we should look at their statistics per game. We'll start with Rushing Stats. In 2004 Vince Young played 12 games and had a total of 1079 rushing yards. Pryor had 13 games and 779 yards rushing.  This means that per game, Young had 89.91 YPG and Pryor had 59.92 YPG. That's nearly 30 yards less per game. To hammer in the point even further Young had a 6.46 YPC average, while Pryor had a 4.8 YPC average. This tells us that although Pryor is a good threat at running the ball, he lacks the vision and athleticism that Young had. Furthermore Young had 1.16 rushing TDs per game and Pryor had .53. That means that every game you could statistically expect Young to rush for at least one touchdown while you could only expect that about half the time from Pryor. By far Young was the more efficient runner of the two, as his ability to run could kill you, while from Pryor you might expect at most a 15 yd rush. Pryor as a rusher reminds me much of more of Colt McCoy than he does Vince Young.

We can also apply this formula to Passing Yards. In 2004 Young passed for 1849 yards and Pryor passed for 2094 yards. That means that Young passed for 154 YPG and Pryor passed for 161 yards per game. It's doubtful 6 yards would have allowed Young and the Longhorns to beat Oklahoma in 2004, so the difference is negligible. This is where Pryor's candidacy increases the most. Between 2004 and 2005, Young increased his throwing yards by more than 1200 yards. If Pryor can do the same he would have a shot at greatness. However, before assuming Pryor could jump those yards let's examine the reasons why Young's yards shot up so much.

 What was it that made Young's season so great? The first thing that pops into my mind is the zone read offense. In this system the Halfback lines up next to the Quarterback in the shotgun like so: Zone-read_medium

via footballxos.files.wordpress.com

When the quarterback takes the snap the halfback runs in front of the quarterback and has the choice of handing off the ball or keeping it. If he decides to keep it he then has two options. He can either pass the ball to a receiver, or if the receivers are blocked he can run the ball. This gave the defenses facing Texas 3 different ways they would have to defend the play: the halfback and quarterback could both rush and the QB could also  throw the football if he picked up the blitz. It was a system designed for Young. No one has executed it quite as well since Young, because no other quarterback has had the speed, the perception, and the arm to pull it off. It is essential that the QB run and throw equally well and consistently, or the defense will catch on and there will be no point to running the zone-read. To put it another way, running the ball is essential to throwing the ball. If we are going to compare Pryor to Young we must admit that Pryor cannot run the ball, and therefore cannot throw the ball in the zone-read.

I'll admit that I'm being harsh when it comes to the playing ability of Terrelle Pryor. He is a good quarterback, with a good set of feet and his performance in the Rose Bowl was stellar. Furthermore, Ohio State does not run the Zone Read offense as a primary aspect of the game, so to expect Pryor's stats to reflect that would be stupid. However, we are comparing Pryor to the greatest College Quarterback of all time. That is contentious in itself.

It has long been tradition that the Heisman is given to the player in college football who was both the best and represented a necessary element of a team's offense. That means that for someone to win the Heisman, if he didn't play for his team, his team's offense would lack a necessary element for success. We just can't say that of Pryor. If you look at the regular season games of Pryor before the Rose Bowl there is not much to speak of. For the last three games of division play Pryor passed for 285 yards on 51 attempts compared to his Rose Bowl performance of  266 yards on 37 attempts. Let's break this down. In 2009 Ohio State scored 385 points. In 2009 Pryor had 18 Passing Touchdowns and 7 Rushing Touchdowns. That totals 175 points for Pryor in 2009. That is a respectable number but represents only 45% of the team's scoring ability. This is a team where the Running Backs are scoring more than the Pre-Season Heisman contender. To make matters worse neither Brandon Saine nor Daniel Herron is even being considered for a Heisman trophy.

Looking at Young's 2004 stats we see a different story.  Young amassed 182 points which is similar to Pryor's stats and yet the statistics sheet shows us something different. With the exception of the Missouri game, whenever Young was good, the team was good, and whenever Young stumbled the team stumbled. Texas amassed 485 points in 2004 and Young amassed 26 Touchdowns with notable backfield partner, Cedric Benson. Benson amassed 1850 yards and 19 Touchdowns by himself, enough to earn himself the Doak Walker award for best running back. Young's ability increased because Benson left and there was a gap in the running game.  This shows what an elite Running Back can do to a team. In some ways having an elite running game, or running back can take away a quarterback's TDs and Yards. I'm not insulting Pryor's ability; I am merely stating that Young got a huge chance to shine because Benson moved on to the NFL in the previous draft and the backfield lacked the elite Running Back it had had the year before. Since Ohio State has made no effort to lessen its focus upon the run game, or put more focus upon the passing game, it seems that Pryor's stats will not skyrocket like Young's did.

To conclude, Terrelle Pryor has little chance of winning the Heisman given the information we have right now. Everyone thinks he will be the next Vince Young, but all we have to go on are his stat sheets and the similarities of their careers, e.g. the Rose Bowl MVP spot at the end of their Sophomore years. However, Pryor does not run the Zone Read. Even if he did, his YPG show that he does not have the elite Vision or Athleticism to be able to break away with the big run. If he cannot break away with the big run no one will take his Play Action very seriously and he won't have the ability to amass the amazing Passing and Rushing yards that Young had.  Furthermore it is evident to me that Jim Tressel is more focused upon winning a National Championship with a well balanced team than trying to prove that one of his players is an elite player deserving of a Heisman. I wish Pryor, Tressel and the entire team luck in winning the National Championship, but unless the entire dynamic of the team changes, Pryor should not and will not win a Heisman.

I'll conclude with some highlights of the Rose Bowls that "sky-rocketed" the careers of Young and Pryor. Is Pryor the next Young? You be the judge.

 

Texas Vs. Michigan 2005 Rose Bowl(04-05 season) (via Cbling713)

2010 Rose Bowl Highlights - Ohio State vs Oregon (via LeBrownsTown)

 

 

 

 

 

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