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Ohio State has talent at the skill positions, but advanced stats also raise questions

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The potential is there. Will the production follow?

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Ohio State v Clemson Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Bill C has expanded his skill player advanced stat coverage this offseason, looking at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver advanced stats. Here we’ll take a look at Ohio State’s returning players from Bill’s data.

The numbers

Quarterbacks

Offense Player Height Weight Class Completions Attempts Comp Rt Yards TD Int Int Rt Sacks Sack Rt Yards/Att Rushes Yards Rush TD OppRate Hlt/Opp Fumbles Pass-to-Rush
Offense Player Height Weight Class Completions Attempts Comp Rt Yards TD Int Int Rt Sacks Sack Rt Yards/Att Rushes Yards Rush TD OppRate Hlt/Opp Fumbles Pass-to-Rush
Quarterback J.T. Barrett 6'2 222 JR 233 379 61.50% 2555 24 7 1.80% 27 6.70% 5.94 178 990 9 46.10% 4.02 4 2.3
Quarterback Joe Burrow 6'3 218 FR 22 28 78.60% 226 2 0 0.00% 1 3.40% 7.62 11 63 1 54.50% 2.85 1 2.6
  • The quarterback stats are going to largely conform to your expectations: J.T.’s year was so-so and Joe Burrow looked good in his limited time. It’s worth pointing out that these numbers aren’t opponent-adjusted, so while you could look at these advanced stats and argue for Burrow starting over Barrett, Burrow’s yards came in complete blowouts — 77-10 against Bowling Green, 58-0 over Rutgers, and 62-3 over both Nebraska and Maryland in consecutive games.
  • Even still, Burrow was accurate (78.6% completion rate) and efficient running the ball (54.5% opportunity rate). Those are incredible numbers, even if his playtime was essentially a glorified practice.
  • Bill classified QBs by type using a stat weighting system he details here. Barrett was classified as a “runner” (as opposed to a statue or dual-threat), and rated as the 32nd-best runner. The running quarterback list gets weird fast, but Bill’s top-5 Power 5 running QBs is pretty solid: Josh Dobbs, Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, Jerrod Evans, and Justin Thomas.

Wide receivers

Position Player Height Weight 2016 Class Attempts Completions Yards Catch Rate Yards Per Tgt Target % Yards Per Catch Target No. Success Rate TDs %SD Type PERCENTILE
Position Player Height Weight 2016 Class Attempts Completions Yards Catch Rate Yards Per Tgt Target % Yards Per Catch Target No. Success Rate TDs %SD Type PERCENTILE
WR K.J. Hill 72 200 FR 24 18 262 75.00% 10.9 6.10% 14.6 7 75.00% 1 54.20% Basic (small) 91%
WR Terry McLaurin 72 204 SO 22 11 114 50.00% 5.2 5.60% 10.4 8 45.50% 2 45.50% Possession man 32%
WR Parris Campbell 73 208 SO 26 13 121 50.00% 4.7 6.60% 9.3 6 46.20% 0 76.90% Possession man 27%
WR Johnnie Dixon 71 198 SO 11 6 26 54.50% 2.4 2.80% 4.3 10 27.30% 0 81.80% Possession man 2%
  • Ohio State’s leading receivers next season may be totally different from our list here, but if there’s one guy on paper that looks like he’ll be at the top of the rotation, it’s KJ Hill. Hill had a 75% catch rate, 14.6 yards per catch, and 75% catch and success rates. His overall profile put him in the 91st percentile of wide receivers. For comparison, in 2015 Michael Thomas averaged 14 yards per catch, had a 66.7% catch rate, and a 59.5% success rate on 84 targets compared to Hill’s 24.
  • There aren’t many reasons for optimism from the other returning receivers. As a group, they all average less than a 54.5% catch rate (high from Johnnie Dixon), 10.4 yards per catch (from Terry McLaurin), and a 46.2% success rate (from Parris Campbell). It’s probably also not great that a different receiver is best in each of those three stats. Note that these numbers exclude players like Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack, who many expect to be the receiving leaders in 2017. At least there are opportunities!
  • The big buzz out of spring practice was around Parris Campbell, who was looking like the most explosive player on offense after his move to the slot. The position switch and another year in the system might be enough to break out, but I’d put money on KJ Hill if I were betting just based on last season’s advanced stats.

Running backs

Position Player Height Weight Class Rushes Yards Rush TD Hlt/Opp OppRate Rushing fumbles Rushing fumbles lost Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yards Per Tgt Target % Yards Per Catch Success Rate TDs Total Intended touches Total yards Yards/Touch
Position Player Height Weight Class Rushes Yards Rush TD Hlt/Opp OppRate Rushing fumbles Rushing fumbles lost Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yards Per Tgt Target % Yards Per Catch Success Rate TDs Total Intended touches Total yards Yards/Touch
RB Mike Weber 70 212 FR 182 1096 9 5.59 42.90% 4 2 31 23 91 74.20% 2.9 7.80% 4 16.10% 0 213 1187 5.6
RB Demario McCall 69 182 FR 49 270 3 4.18 40.80% 0 0 5 4 84 80.00% 16.8 1.30% 21 60.00% 1 54 354 6.6
RB Antonio Williams 71 210 FR 6 28 0 1.13 66.70% 0 0 6 28 4.7
  • I’ve already done a deep dive into Mike Weber’s advanced stats from last year. The takeaway? Based on Weber’s first year, he was between Hyde and Zeke in explosiveness, but less efficient than either one. He was also lighter for his height than either. Generally only elite running backs have top-line efficiency and explosiveness — they tend to maximize one style of running versus the other. Zeke, though he didn’t look like it when he first got to Columbus, managed to be do both.
  • The advanced stats also weren’t kind to Demario McCall, who theoretically should have been firmly on the explosive > efficient side of the spectrum. But he averaged just 4.18 highlight yards per opportunity and a 40.8% opportunity rate. On 49 attempts, he had 6 10+ yard runs and 2 20+ yard runs, almost exclusively in garbage time. That’s a 12% rate of 10+ yard runs and a 4% rate of 20+ yard runs. For comparison, Mike Weber had a 17% 10+ yard run rate and a 6% 20+ yard run rate. Again — he probably had some backup linemen blocking for him, and there were a few plays where he looked electric, but the overall stats on his freshman season weren’t as explosive as you’d imagine. It’ll be interesting to compare J.K. Dobbins this season with McCall, who will likely spend more time at H-Back. McCall showed promise as a receiver, catching four of his five targets and averaging an extremely explosive 21 yards per catch on limited data.
  • Somewhat lost in the conversation is Antonio Williams, who is comparable to Weber size-wise and got just six carries last season. It’s impossible to make anything resembling a definitive analysis based on such limited data, but he showed a tendency towards efficiency over explosiveness, averaging just 1.13 highlight yards per opportunity, but managing a 66.7% opportunity rate.