When 'Average' Equals Excellence - Examining Urban Meyer's Quarterback History
By Tony Gerdeman
In Urban Meyer's ten seasons as a head coach he has had, essentially, eleven starting quarterbacks. In 2001 he started out with Andy Sahm, a dropback passer, who went 5-3 as a starter before giving way to Josh Harris for the final three games of the season.
Harris, a sophomore who had done much more running than passing in his career, was finally given the keys to the car to end Meyer's first season. He responded by leading the Falcons to a 3-0 finish, rushing for 356 yards with four touchdowns, and throwing for 275 yards per game with another eight touchdowns.
He gave Meyer a clear vision of what he wanted from a quarterback, and the two of them cranked things up a bit in 2002 when Harris rushed for 737 yards and 20 touchdowns and threw for 2,425 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Meyer then left Harris and Bowling Green for Utah. When he got there, the Utes were returning a pair of quarterbacks who combined for nearly 2,300 yards passing the year before. He also had a little-used sophomore quarterback by the name of Alex Smith who had only played in two games the season prior.
Smith ended up winning the job and threw for 2,247 yards and fifteen touchdowns in eleven games while only throwing three interceptions. He also rushed for 452 yards and five touchdowns. He carried the ball at least ten times in each of his final ten games that season.
Much like 2002, Meyer had a starting quarterback returning in 2004, and it showed. Smith threw for 2,952 yards and 32 touchdowns and rushed for 631 yards and ten more touchdowns, despite having fewer carries than the year before.
Smith then parlayed his junior season into an early entry into the NFL Draft and was the number one overall draft pick.
Figuring two years was enough time spent in Utah, Meyer took the Florida job and inherited Chris Leak at quarterback, who had thrown for 3,197 yards the season before.
However, Leak wasn't the running threat that Meyer had grown accustomed to, and even though he tried to run him a little bit, Leak would only manage to rush for 81 yards on the season (he ran for 79 the year before without even trying).
Along with the 81 yards rushing, Leak's first season under Meyer in 2005 resulted in 2,639 yards passing and 20 touchdowns.
Year Two of Meyer in Florida saw Leak throw for 2,942 yards and 23 touchdowns, while rushing for just 30 yards. Meyer got his quarterback rushing yards that year from a freshman Tim Tebow, who rushed for 469 yards and eight touchdowns.
In 2007, the sophomore Tebow ran for 895 yards and 23 touchdowns and threw for 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns. It was one of the greatest individual seasons in college football history and resulted in a Heisman trophy.
Tebow had a "down year" in 2008, throwing for just 2,746 yards and 30 touchdowns, while rushing for 673 yards and twelve touchdowns.
The Gators had four different players rush for over 600 yards that season, explaining Tebow's decline in productivity. It's not a coincidence that Florida won the BCS National Championship this season either.
In 2009, Tebow threw for 2,895 yards and 21 touchdowns, though 482 yards of that came in the Gators' bowl game against Cincinnati. He also rushed for 910 yards and fourteen touchdowns.
2010 was Meyer's first post-Tebow season, and it was not good. John Brantley only threw for 2,061 yards and rushed for -111 yards. Like 2006, Meyer had to rely on a freshman quarterback for his quarterback carries. Unlike 2006, however, he didn't have Tim Tebow. Instead he had Jordan Reed and Trey Burton, who combined to rush for 677 yards and 16 touchdowns.
It's clear, Urban Meyer loves a running quarterback, and if his starter can't run the ball, he will find somebody who can.
Fortunately for him, that's not something that he will have to worry about in 2012 as Braxton Miller proved himself to be one of the more dynamic runners in all of college football as a freshman. For instance, his 81-yard carry against Indiana was the longest rush for any quarterback in 2011.
But before we can project Miller's production level in 2012, let's first take a look at what a quarterback can expect to do in an Urban Meyer offense.
Since he took over Bowling Green in 2001, here is what the "average season" looks like for his quarterbacks: 2,627 yards passing with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and 468 yards rushing and ten touchdowns.
In 2006, Troy Smith won the Heisman for the Buckeyes throwing for 2,542 yards and rushing for 204 yards.
If we remove the seasons where Meyer didn't have a running quarterback in his starting lineup, the averages jump to 2,758 yards passing with 25 touchdowns, and 716 yards rushing with fourteen touchdowns.
Last season Terrelle Pryor set the all-time Ohio State record for total offense with a season of 2,772 yards passing and 754 yards rushing.
In other words, Pryor bested the previous Ohio State record by 236 yards, and yet that output is only 52 yards better than the average output for an Urban Meyer quarterback with a running skill set.
Are you taking note, Braxton Miller fans?
The Ohio State offense looks to be in for big things next season, and it would appear that Meyer has the perfect quarterback to make those things happen.
And while projecting what the Buckeye offense might look like in 2012 with an average performance at quarterback, ask yourself this--does Braxton Miller look 'average' to you?
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