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Just The Sports: 2008-01-13

Just The Sports

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What About Erik Ainge?

As I am writing this post, NFL Draft Scout has seven draft eligible quarterbacks ranked ahead of Erik Ainge in terms of which round they are projected to be drafted. Five of these quarterbacks (Matt Ryan, Brian Brohm, Andre Woodson, Chad Henne, and John David Booty) I will discuss here and the other two (Colt Brennan and Joe Flacco) I have already written about and do not want to rehash their quarterback statistics. Now, I do not think Ainge is a particularly exceptional quarterback and would not draft him if I were in charge of an NFL team's personnel acquisitions, but I am going to use him as an example to demonstrate there is so little difference between the quarterbacks in this draft, only one or maybe two quarterbacks even deserve to be drafted in the first or second round.

During his tenure at the University of Tennessee, in games where he either threw the most pass attempts or threw for the most passing yards for his team, Ainge completed 61.7% of his passes and 7.3 yards per pass attempt. These numbers are neither exceptional nor spectacular nor extraordinary nor even eye-opening, but for all the statistics' ordinary behavior, only one quarterback has numbers that are significantly better. That quarterback is Brian Brohm, who at Louisville, completed 65.8% of his passes for 9.2 yards per pass attempt and is really the only one of the quarterbacks I looked at who is worthy of a high draft pick. If Ainge has matched the other quarterbacks' production while not garnering any special attention for his exploits on the field, NFL teams would be wise to not spend large amounts of money to sign the other players.

After looking through the career statistics for the aforementioned quarterbacks, two stood out as being particularly unworthy of a high draft choice: Matt Ryan and Chad Henne. What scouts and the like see in Matt Ryan that makes him look like a first rounder confusticates me to no end. It surely cannot be his accuracy because his 59.6% is not indicative of any great talent in that department so it must be his intangibles, which are basically worthless outside of the mind of a scout or typical, cliche-loving sports analyst person. Chad Henne is equally inaccurate (59.7% completion percentage) and really his only distinction over the other quarterbacks is similar to the one Brady Quinn had, another quarterback with a career college completion percentage under 60%, which is he started for four years.

The only quarterback besides Brohm who even completed over 63.0% of his pass attempts is John David Booty (63.2%) and even the shine off that completion percentage dulls when it is taken into account he only really threw 766 significant pass attempts at the University of Southern California, making him the only quarterback of the six who did not even attempt 1,000 passes during his college football days.

Projections mean very little at this time of year as no one can really be 100% certain a player will be drafted in a certain position, but one thing is for sure, and that is the fact this is a very weak quarterback class so teams would do well to avoid these quarterbacks unless the quarterback's name is Brian Brohm or Colt Brennan or Joe Flacco.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wayne Ellington and Gerald Henderson, Jr.

High school teammates at the Episcopal Academy located in Merion, PA, Wayne Ellington and Gerald Henderson, Jr. are now plying their basketball trade at rival colleges, the University of North Carolina and Duke University respectively. Since they have separated and no longer compete on the same team, they have adopted differing roles and exhibited differing talents while each is still successful in his own way.

As soon as Wayne Ellington stepped on the UNC campus with his much heralded fellow classmates, he was given an important role in the offense, averaging ten field goal attempts per game in his freshman season and rewarding Roy Williams's confidence with a 54.8 TS% and 1.10 points per shot attempt on the way to 11.7 points per contest. In this, Ellington's sophomore season, he has upped the ante in a big way, taking more shots per game (13.1), averaging more points per game (17.8), and at the same time being more efficient with his shots (61.3 TS% and 1.23 points per shot attempt), establishing himself as one of the more prolific scorers in college basketball.

Henderson's collegiate career, meanwhile, got off to a less sparkling offensive start as he was not of the main cogs of Duke's offense in his freshman season. He has taken more shots this year, but he has not made the leap in his rate statistics that Ellington has. Henderson was a 50.0 TS% and 1.00 points per shot attempt shooter in his freshman year while taking only six shots per game and as a sophomore, he is a 52.4 TS% and 1.05 points per shot attempt shooter on 10.9 field goal attempts per contest.

To his credit, Henderson is more proficient than Ellington in two facets of the game. The first is in getting to the free throw line more frequently. For his collegiate career, for every 3.2 shots he takes, Henderson has shot one free throw. Ellington, although he has a free throw percentage of 87.1% over his fifty-five games at UNC, has had to shoot the ball 5.2 times for one trip to the free throw line. In fact, Ellington has so far made one more three-pointer than he has free throw (102 to 101). However, Henderson's low free throw percentage (63.9%) makes him a liability when he does get to the charity stripe.

The second aspect of the game where Henderson is superior to Ellington is in the rebounding department. Of course, this makes sense when one realizes Henderson is a better athlete (read: can jump higher) than Ellington so his 10.5 rebound rate to Ellington's paltry 7.0 rebound rate should surprise no one.

If these two players' trends continue, at their twenty-five year high school reunion, provided they even show up, Ellington will be able to say he had the more productive college career. As for who has bragging rights for any NBA career, that is still to be determined.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Mike Leach QBs

In the left-handed Mike Leach, college football has one of the most creative offensive minds, who has become both famous and successful for his passing-laden attack as an offensive coordinator and now head coach for the Texas Tech Red Raiders, a system that has turned almost every quarterback he's had under him into a prolific passing machine. Under Mike Leach's tenure in college football since 1997, he has had two kinds of quarterbacks. There are those quarterbacks who experienced only one season as a starter (Josh Heupel, B.J. Symons, Sonny Cumbie, and Cody Hodges) and then the college quarterbacks who spent at least two seasons under the tutelage of Mike Leach (Tim Couch, Kliff Kingsbury, and Graham Harrell).

Of the four players who only quarterbacked one season for Mike Leach, Cody Hodges edged out B.J. Symons and Sonny Cumbie for the most prolific passers. Hodges completed 66.5% of his 4,238 pass attempts in the 2005 season for 8.0 yards per pass attempt. He also receives the distinction of throwing the fewest pass attempts per game of any Mike Leach quarterback (44.3). Symons completed 65.4% of his passes for 7.8 yards per pass attempt and Cumbie completed 65.5% of his passes for 7.4 yards per pass attempt, which means Symons has the slight advantage to place second among the one-season starters. Surprisingly, it was Josh Heupel, who later quarterbacked the Oklahoma Sooners to a national championship, who proved himself least proficient in the Mike Leach system. Heupel only completed 63.0% of his passes for 7.0 yards per pass attempt.

As for the three quarterbacks who spent more than one year starting, it is the latest one, Graham Harrell who has been most prolific. In Harrell's two years as starter with a third on the way, he has completed an astounding 70.0% of his 10,260 pass attempts with 7.8 yards per pass attempt, superior to Tim Couch's 69.1% completion percentage for 7.4 yards per pass attempt and far surpassing Kliff Kingsbury's 65.8% completion percentage and 6.6 yards per pass attempt. Fortunately for Tim Couch, as the first Division I-A quarterback under Mike Leach, he was able to trick the Cleveland Browns into paying him at least $20 million dollars before everyone found out he was a product of the college system in which he played.

Like Aaron Rodgers of the Tedford quarterbacks and Colt Brennan over Timmy Chang, both Cody Hodges and Graham Harrell, provided Harrell maintains the Playstation-type numbers he has already put it, should feel proud of themselves for being the best of the Mike Leach quarterbacks in their respective categories as one-year starters and more than one-year starters.