On Wednesday, I compared Tate Forcier’s final freshman numbers with those of several notable true freshmen starters from the recent past. However, 2009 is done and over with, and I think every Michigan fan is more interested in how 2010 will shape up than looking back on this past season. So, I decided to see how the same freshmen I compared Forcier to fared in their sophomore seasons, and used that data to project how Forcier’s numbers might look in 2010. First, here are the stats from the freshmen seasons of the players I compared Forcier to (with the exception of Robert Griffin III, who was taken out because he missed most of the 2009 season due to injury):
[table id=30 /]
*Win-loss record reflects only games in which the quarterback participated. ^Average passer efficiency is calculated using the players' average stats, instead of averaging the players' passer efficiencies, if that makes any sense whatsoever.
And now, those same players’ statistics from their sophomore seasons:
[table id=29 /]
Now, I took the average stat lines from the freshmen and sophomores and adjusted them each to a 300-attempt season, for the sake of making them easier to compare, and also because it will come in useful when projecting Forcier’s 2010 stats (he had 281 attempts in 2009, so 300 is as good a figure as any to project for next year).
[table id=33 /]
And now, using the figures from the above chart, I took Forcier’s freshman year, adjusted it to a 300-attempt season, and then used those numbers to project how he will do in 2010. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results:
[table id=31 /]
For context, Tate’s projected passer efficiency would place him 12th in the country this year, just behind Pitt’s Bill Stull and ahead of players like Tyrod Taylor (who I was shocked to see rated so high), Riley Skinner, Christian Ponder, Colt McCoy, Darryl Clark, Kirk Cousins, and, well, pretty much the entire rest of the country. Will this actually happen? I’ll go ahead and preempt the laundry-list of errors with this experiment with a few bullet points:
- First, and most importantly, this is an extremely small sample size consisting of mostly elite players. I have no idea how to calculate margin of error, but I’m sure it’s astronomical for something like this. So, please keep in mind this is based on the performance of just seven players, and seven extremely talented players at that (potshots at Juice Williams aside, it’s tough to argue that he wasn’t a very talented player).
- The largest jumps in improvement for the above players were from the quarterbacks who had very poor freshman campaigns (Clausen, Williams, Stafford, and Quinn), while the quarterbacks who performed very well in their first season (Henne, Pryor, and Leak) exhibited far less statistical gains (or even regression) in their sophomore seasons. Since Forcier’s true freshman numbers fall much closer to the latter category than the former, and no sophomore on the list put up the numbers that I’ve projected for Tate’s 2010 campaign, it looks pretty unlikely that he’ll improve quite as much as the numbers show.
- I have no idea how to factor in that Forcier enrolled early for his freshman year — the extra experience almost certainly helped his freshman numbers, but how will that affect his sophomore improvement? Will he improve less than average, because some of the learning curve was taken out in Year One? Will he improve more than average, because he is already ahead of where most sophomores are at his age? That’s a whole other study, and I enjoy going outside every once in a while.
Now that you’ve taken this entire study with a grain of salt the size of Jake Long, here are the things that jumped out at me from the above numbers:
- Even if you scale back your expectations drastically from what I’ve projected, Forcier’s numbers still look very good. If nothing else, this has really convinced me that Forcier needs to be the starter next season — the improvement from freshman to sophomore seasons is too much to risk starting over with another true freshman, and I think most everyone can agree that Denard Robinson is not a viable option as a full-time quarterback from what he showed in 2009.
- It was very interesting to see that, while completion percentage and yards per attempt both improved around 15%, touchdown passes went up an astonishing 42.6%. Despite all the statistical flaws this study has, that number has to be significant. It’s also very encouraging. Think about the freshman mistakes Forcier made — many of them came in the red zone, when the field is shortened and poor decisions cost the team, and the quarterback, what should be easy touchdowns. I think that one of the biggest differences between a true freshman and sophomore quarterback is the ability to make the right read in tight spaces, and not to force a pass into the end zone. There will still be mistakes — just take a look at the interception rate, which barely moved — but they will likely be of the less back-breaking variety. I’d be willing to bet that Michigan’s red zone efficiency — 116th in the country at 67% — improves drastically next season, and much of that improvement will be the direct result of Forcier’s maturation as a quarterback.
- I know this post is about Michigan and Tate Forcier, but take a look at Pryor’s strange numbers — his passer efficiency went from a tremendous 146.50 as a freshman to a respectable, but worse, 128.04 as a sophomore. Much of this has to do with how he was deployed as a freshman — mostly as a runner, with few passing plays and easy reads that were set up by the threat of him running. As a full-time quarterback, he couldn’t be sheltered like that, and it showed. Unfortunately (for us Michigan fans), I don’t think you can point to those numbers and say he regressed. He simply wasn’t a normal true freshman starter, and was more adversely affected by the transition to full-time starter, with a full playbook and the full attention of opposing defenses, than the other players listed above.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. I had no idea how this would turn out when I started crunching the numbers, but I found it very informative. I personally don’t think Forcier will hit the above projected stats (and even if I did, I wouldn’t want to sound like a raving lunatic homer by predicting such), but even if he falls well short of those numbers, we should see a good deal of improvement out of the quarterback position next season.