Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Stats show Nelson was clearly a better passer than Heaps

By John Ahlander, 

Quick -- name some of the top 10 college quarterbacks this season.  You'd be right if you said any of the following: Robert Griffin III (Baylor),  Russell Wilson (Wisconsin), Case Keenum (Houston), Kellen Moore (Boise St.), Andrew Luck (Stanford), or Matt Barkley (USC).

Wait, you missed one.  Riley Nelson (BYU).  Yep, you heard right.  Riley Nelson had the 7th best pass efficiency of all QBs in college football this season.  Unfortunately, he didn't show in the official rankings, since he didn't play in 75% of the games.  However, his 163.6 puts him in the top 10.  Right where a BYU quarterback should be.

What about Heaps?  His 111.0 rating ranks him 106th in the nation, just above the QBs from Idaho and Idaho St.

That's just this season.  Let's take the last couple seasons put together, to get the whole picture.  Here are their BYU career passing stats:

Heaps: 363-635, 3768 yds, 24 TDs, 17 Ints
Nelson: 126-212, 1771 yds, 19 TDs, 6 Ints

Looking at the total yards, it appears Heaps clearly was a better passer...until you look at the averages.

QB ratingComp. %Yds/AttTDs/Att ratioINTs/Att ratio

Heaps only has more games and more attempts, but Nelson is vastly more efficient in yards and TDs.

Well, Nelson may have been more consistent, but Heaps had more highs, showing his potential...right?

Actually, Nelson had the best single game passing performance among the two.  His 363 yards vs. Hawaii bested Heaps' 305 yards vs. Utah.

Here's how their pass efficiency ratings game totals break down:

QB ratingHeapsNelson
Great: 175+23
Good: 140-17534
Average: 100-14081
Awful: < 10071

Nelson performed good to great in 78% of his games.  Heaps in 25% in his.

Could this be a true reflection?  Didn't Heaps play better competition?  Heaps clearly is the better passer, so this can't be right, can it?

Here are the combined winning percentages of the opponents that each has played against in the last two years:

Heaps' opponents: 50%
Nelson's opponents: 49%

So, how is this possible?  How could Nelson actually be a better passer than Jake Heaps?  Three reasons:
  1. Using the middle of the field

    How many times did you see Jake Heaps throw a 5 yard out pattern (many times on 3rd and 6)?  Did you wonder why the tight ends did almost nothing last year and the beginning of this year?  Jake Heaps can't see the middle of the field.  His default throw was always the out pattern.  Once Riley took over this year, all of a sudden BYU was getting passes to tight ends and slot receivers in the middle of the field.
  2. Athletic ability and toughness

    Nelson's ability to extend a play, and his willingness to take a hit gives receivers an extra second to get open.  This has led to more completions and bigger plays. I probably don't need to remind you about Heaps lack of prowess in these areas.
  3. Leadership

    When you trust your leader will do anything to succeed, you follow his lead.  Running backs fight for extra yards.  Receivers make hard catches.  Offensive lineman block longer.  Leadership is the most important skill of a QB.  Just look at Tim Tebow.
The most telling statistic is 3rd down pass efficiency.

Heaps: 91.3
Nelson: 166.8

The three reasons above are all critical on 3rd downs.  Nelson had it, Heaps didn't.

When you watch the two, it's impossible not to be impressed with Heaps throwing potential, but when you look at the results (stats), we've all learned a lesson.  Beautiful rocket spirals on 5-yard out patterns don't make a great QB.

12/7 Follow-up:

Some of the comments below have contended that Heaps played much more difficult defenses or the change in offensive coordinators or running game explains the statistical differences. Since it's very difficult to guess how a player would perform against a team he hasn't played, there will always be room for dispute.

So, let's compare the performances in the 5 games that both QBs played in together in the last two seasons. Same teams, same defenses, same offensive coordinators, same running backs. Here you have it:

Heaps: 56-105, 552 yds, 3 TDs, 2 Ints, 103.1 rating
Nelson: 34-61, 405 yds, 5 TDs, 1 Int, 135.3 rating

You decide.

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  1. This was the most retarded thing I have read in a long long time.

  2. There were failures at all levels (coaching, players, media, fan-base) why Heaps did not succeed. This article is a great continuation of those failures. I like both Riley and Heaps, Riley is undoubtedly the better leader and thus better starter but to claim he's a better passer is ridiculous.

  3. That says it all! The hype (Heaps)doesn't produce touchdowns, leadership, toughness and using the whole field (including tight ends) does!

  4. Great article! I agree wholeheartedly with this assessment and don't see how people can disagree since it is a numbers-based analysis.

  5. Could you outline the quality of teams each QB played against and then analyze stats? That would be responsible reporting.

  6. @Brett, explain to me how Heaps is a better passer. I'd really like to read how you back up your conclusion. And I hope it is much more than "because Heaps can throw a tight spiral really far..."

  7. Why would hard data be the most retarded thing you have read for a long time? The post is spot on. Since Riley took over, the ball is going all over the field to all different options, just like it did when Max and John were quarterbacking. Jake never got there. I hope he does well wherever he goes, but I'm not particularly disappointed that he's chosen to leave.

  8. The stats are very telling. Anyone who doesn't see it, has their head in the sand. In the end, the most important stat is wins. Heaps clearly was an obstacle to BYU wins (See Ols Miss, Texas & Utah game film!) & the coaches finally had to admit it. Why Heaps' team of advisors thinks it benefits him to transfer is beyond me. He could clearly be The Man @ BYU his Jr & Sr years if he redshirted next year with a chance at the Heisman & being a #1 NFL draft pick.

    One of the best arms of all time in college and the NFL was Jeff George. He had a GUN! However, he was a lousy leader and therefore a lousy QB who never achieved his potential. Heaps reminds me a lot of him...great potential, but full of himself and no leadership skills. His teammates at the Y saw this.

    How can Heaps expect to gain his new teammate's respect if he wasn't able to earn it on BYU's? You can tell this by how BYU's offense AND defense responded when Heaps left the game and Nelson entered. The energy level went up exponantially.

  9. I don't know how these stats can be ignored. And as far as failures at all levels, Brett. Don't forget Heaps' own failures as well. Sure, it's a combination of many things, but his performance on the field is what counts MOST in a game. And in that regard, he failed himself and his teammates.

  10. Versatility is everything in a QB! How many games did Heaps show lackluster two yard gains while Nelson improvised and made first downs! From the entertainment factor alone Nelson gets my vote. Enjoyed the post.

  11. Here's the difference: Heaps can't take a hit, and it shows. Also, Heaps overthrows often, and won't turn it upfield.

  12. Very solid, by the numbers analysis. A person can whine and complain all he wants, and point fingers at other people, just like our current US president...but the bottom line is that leaders fight through adversity and win. Losers blame other people and run away. It would have said a lot for Heaps if he had stayed and battled for respect. Instead, at the first test of honor, he bails out. Hopefully, a Ben Olson debacle is not in his future, but at this point, odds are that Heaps will never be a great leader on the field.

  13. to Guest and Brett: I guess you think the sky is not blue either. These stats were not munipulated to prove a point, they are the point. When it was time for Heaps to produce he couldn't. You tell me when Heaps was facing 3rd down or we were in the red zone early in the year, you were not hoping they would put in Nelson becuase even then we all knew he had a better chance of converting? Be true to yourself.

  14. If Riley was 6 feet 2-4 inches, everyone would have been on his side from the start. So what if he is Ty Detmers height with 30 lbs more muscle?! The guy is a true leader and winner. I watched him account for more than 85 TD's his senior year in high school. 85! In 1 year! Now look who is on the Riley band wagon, most of those who were calling for Jake last season, remember? Each time Jake would over throw an open receiver, which was frequent, I was wondering when he would magically become who everyone says he was, and it never happened! Good riddance to the prima donna.

  15. You gotta be kidding me. Give credit where credit is due. Nelson obviously did excite his teammates more, but stop trying to diminish Heaps so that everyone feels better about him leaving. Heaps clearly played against better competition. You're telling me Heaps wouldn't have torched Idaho and the like even more so than Nelson? Did you really compare 363 against Hawaii to 305 against Utah? Here I can do it too: Tulsa has an 8-4 record, Texas and Utah had 7-5 records. Clearly Tulsa must be a better football team than Texas and Utah. That's by the numbers. It must be true right?

  16. I've wondered exactly what was wrong when Jake was in at QB. This article really helped in that area. Thanks

  17. The problem here is we can't say if Riley could have done better against Texas or Utah, but I'm pretty sure he did not lose to Utah State, which Heaps was doing that all by himself. I do believe that Riley would have preformed better then Heaps in all three of those games.

  18. How did Heaps do against Ole Miss (2-10), UCF (5-7) and Utah St (7-5)? Neither one of those teams are great teams. If it wasn't for a turnover and touchdown against Ole Miss, Cody Hoffman's kick return TD against UCF, and Riley Nelson coming in against Utah St. we very well would have lost each of those games and we would be 6-6. Where was this great Jake Heaps in those games. I'm sorry but great defenses don't cause QBs to throw balls 5 ft over the heads of open receivers. I wanted Heaps to be good, but his high school talent hasn't translated to college (this happens a lot). Now imagine if Nelson had come in against Texas - there is a good chance that we win that game and beat Utah the next week.

  19. I am not too concerned about BYU's future without Heaps. We have Nelson and Lark for next year and we will be getting Elite 11 MVP Mangum, I have a feeling that he will be what Heaps wasn't. Does anybody know if Mangum plans on serving a mission (I hope he does)?

  20. So Oneill Chambers was right? Remember, he basically quit if Heaps got the starting job, he didn't believe in him. Probably not the best approach, but maybe he saw something early that we were too blind to see.

  21. I'm with the first post. Most retarded article I have ever read. Do everyone a favor and stop trying to analyze football. You obviously don't get it

  22. I don't think anybody's saying Heaps won't develop into a great QB. He just wasn't ready to be a starter at BYU, maybe for a number of reasons, some of which was beyond his control. There are number of other stats, if they could be assembled, that would also show that Heaps still hasn't learned how to throw a catchable pass in short and medium patterns...throws bullets, hard to catch...while Riley throws lame ducks right where they need to be. I think the most telling stat, though would be to look at what happens when Heaps throws an Int or fumbles, as compared to Riley. I watch Riley fight to make the tackle or recovery, while Heaps tries not to get caught in the fray. Heaps doesn't yet have the "It" that he needs to be a BYU QB. I wish he had decided to stay, redshirt, and lead the team his JR and SR years. QBs that transfer from BYU seem to crash and burn at other D1 schools.

  23. A couple of other things to keep in mind that muddy what could otherwise be a clear(er) comparison of the Nelson and Heaps:

    - 2 QB rotation last year under Anae
    - Rookie OC this year in Doman

    Bottom line--in Anae's absence BYU is searching for and trying to establish an offensive identity. You can successfully argue that the new coaching staff favor a balanced attack (run/pass) and that Riley fits better with that style. (Does that style represent a return to the BYU offensive of old as Doman intimated when he took the offensive reigns? Doesn't seem like it, but it is what it is.)

    If Anae were still at BYU, the comparison would be clear, but with all the changes and Doman cutting his teeth (still very much a work in progress), stat comparisons are suspect. But the leadership question is not. Riley has it. Jake still needs to develop it (best of luck to him elsewhere). That's something that everyone, with the possible exception of those advising Jake, can agree on.

    I'm excited to learn more about Lark--hopefully he's ready to step out of the shadows. Because if there's one thing we've learned about Nelson--he's a play away from the ER.

    Go Cougs!

  24. Brett said, "Riley is undoubtedly the better leader and thus better starter but to claim he's a better passer is ridiculous."

    What has Heaps shown us about his abilities to pass the ball? Good mechanics? Who cares???? A rifle of an arm? Who cares????

    The better passer is the one who does more with his passes and wins games.

    To even hint that Heaps is a better passer than Nelson is ridiculous.

    I think a better way of saying it is to say that Heaps has a higher ceiling with much more potential.

  25. Please Brad, expound on what he doesn't get. Bless us with your genius. It doesn't take stats to know who the better quarterback is for BYU, but I'd love to hear where this analysis went wrong.

  26. Riley played against much weaker defenses, period. He also benefited from starting a few games into the season after the offense had been simplified greatly (according to Doman), and the running game had finally showed up. It is not very helpful to compare the stats when Jake had to play a road game in the SEC, a road game at Texas (top 10 defense), Utah (top 25 defense), and UCF (top ten passing defense at that time, #11 in points allowed for the season) the first four games.

    In contrast, Riley got SJSU, ISU, and OSU to start off. Jake played solid against comparable teams Idaho and NMSU, with QB ratings of 175 and 145 respectively. The only decent defense Riley started against was TCU, and although he was effective at times his refusal to give up a sack killed two crucial drives in the red zone.

    So what is this comparison really accomplish? Not much. It definitely does not "prove" that Riley is a better "passer" than Jake. Frankly, it does not even prove he is a more effective quarterback. Unless we could see his numbers had he started the first five games of the season we will never know.

  27. What do the stats say about Brandon Doman as an offensive coordinator and QB coach? Why would Jake look better at the end of his freshman year than he did as a soph?

  28. With all this mess, I find it appealing that no one is blaming Bronco. As a head coach, who preaches about how he doesnt care about your "stars" attached to your online Prep Scouting Report; the coach who wants hard working, "pay your dues" and you will play-kinda approach to recruiting, he really let Jake and his "Posse"(Parents/HS Coaches/Family) pull him out of control on the whole situation.

    He should of forced him to red-shirt, like every other true-freshman in college football. Give him time to learn the very things that caused his demise-reads, check-downs, progressions, defensive packages/schemes, decision making, etc. Talent was never Jake's issue, but execution on a high level, a faster level, is something all the talent in the world cant overcome. Another issue is BYU's horid scheduling. Jake started coming on the latter part of last year to the bottom of the FBS pool. We go from playing really good to really bad teams, every year. Cupcakes make us think we are progressing but we really arent. BYU's run with Bronco has been this exactly, somewhat of a pattern that mimiced Jake's development, too; we lose early in the year to good teams and cupcake slam the UNLV, New Mexicos, Wyomings of the world- andall is well and we are back to domination and greatness-FALSE. Always losing to the big programs, on the big stage. Losing to Texas, TCU(every year), Florida State, UCLA, even Boston College.

    Sorry, just venting. I think Bronco has some responsibility to claim. No doubt, that Jake was unliked but some teamates(upper classmen) for his entitlement, attitude, pride and flashy entrance.

    I dont see how Jake's situation will be any different in a new city, new team, new program. Does he think he can just walk on a team and be given his last two years as a starter? He will battle the same issues and maybe be hated more for coming from BYU, too.

    We will see. He should of redshirted next year and played his Junior or Senior year out. Steve Young only had one good, full year.

  29. Riley is obviously the better quarterback. look at the stats and completions....... If you need to see it to believe it then there you go! Go cougs!!!

  30. This blog post is a joke. Did Nelson's mom write it?

  31. There are people who look at statistics and see nothing but numbers. I make a living out of using statistics to drive real value for my clients.

    These numbers don'l lie. Nelson IS a better QB than Heaps is today. If Nelson had started all the games this year, we might have a very different story to tell. He's a gamer and the stats show it.

    Most telling is the simple fact that Heaps felt entitled to start, and when he didn't he took his ball and went home.

    Sad story.

  32. How dare you post performance numbers that oppose my world view! This is an outrage!! Everyone should share my opinion of BYU quarterbacks, even if the facts say otherwise. What's become of the internet??!!

  33. You missed one: longest pass in each game. Again Nelson wins and it's not remotely close. And that was the one factor we heard Heaps was so good at.

  34. Ryan said......."This blog post is a joke. Did Nelson's mom write it?"

    Brad said....."I'm with the first post. Most retarded article I have ever read. Do everyone a favor and stop trying to analyze football. You obviously don't get it"

    Guest said......."This was the most retarded thing I have read in a long long time"

    robo said......"You gotta be kidding me. Give credit where credit is due. Nelson obviously did excite his teammates more, but stop trying to diminish Heaps so that everyone feels better about him leaving. Heaps clearly played against better competition. You're telling me Heaps wouldn't have torched Idaho and the like even more so than Nelson? Did you really compare 363 against Hawaii to 305 against Utah? Here I can do it too: Tulsa has an 8-4 record, Texas and Utah had 7-5 records. Clearly Tulsa must be a better football team than Texas and Utah. That's by the numbers. It must be true right?"

    Hey look Jake's brothers and sister are here to convince all of us that our eyes lied to us and Jake is by far the best QB and was never given a fair chance to prove himself.... alrighty then.

  35. Great post. Read the first two comments and you two are idiots. The facts are right there in front of you yet you still don't want to admit that Nelson is a better passer. Why is this a "retarded post?" Because the writer actually did some research and came up with facts? Grow up and realize that just because Heaps has a great arm doesn't make him a better quarterback. Heaps can't even read a defense effectively at this point.

  36. your last update is good except the point about the offensive coordinator was that domans playcalling doesn't suite jake, but it does suit riley so saying it's the same coordinator doesn't exactly take that into account