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Statistically Speaking: Similarity Scores: Stephen Garcia and Robert Griffin

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Similarity Scores: Stephen Garcia and Robert Griffin

With the season nigh upon us, I wanted to use my most recent little toy, similarity scores, to project what the future may hold for two sophomore quarterbacks. I chose these two quarterbacks because they are both interesting and are likely to occupy a lot of my viewing attention in Week 1. As a Columbia resident, I will be watching with great interest to see if Stephen Garcia is finally the quarterback Steve Spurrier needs to run his offense with great success at South Carolina. And as a Wake Forest fan, I will be watching Robert Griffin, hoping against hope, that the rebuilt Deacon defense can contain him enough to give the team a shot to win. To find out how I determined similarity scores, take a look at last week's entry.

We'll begin with the supposed offense gem of Steve Spurrier's efforts thus far at South Carolina. Garcia got into a little trouble in his first year with the Gamecocks and did not see action until his redshirt freshman season. His play was, at best erratic, and at worst putrid. Splitting time with Chris Smelley, Garcia threw 6 touchdowns and 8 interceptions while rushing for almost 200 yards. The 5 most similar freshman quarterbacks since 2004 are:

1. Riley Nelson, Utah State, 2006, 92.1
2. Blake Szymanski, Baylor, 2006, 88.7
3. Julian Foster, Troy. 2005, 86.8
4. Ben Mauk, Wake Forest, 2005, 86.8
5. Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech, 2007, 86.4

How did those 5 quarterbacks perform as sophomores? To answer that question, we'll have to find two more quarterbacks as Nelson did not play for Utah State again and Foster threw only 6 passes as a sophomore (and for the rest of his career at Troy). Taking their place amongst Garcia's similar freshman are:

6. Donovan Porterie, New Mexico, 2006, 85.4
7. Kyle McMahon, Eastern Michigan, 2007, 84.6

Collectively, those players put up the following average stat line as sophomores.

There is not exactly a whole lot to like here. Mauk and Taylor struggled mightily as passers, throwing a combined 3 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Szymanski and Porterie posted the best passing numbers, combining for 37 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. McMahon saw very limited action, throwing only 73 passes all season. No quarterback enjoyed a great season, but then again, none besides possibly Taylor, were as sought after as Garcia was out of high school. Maybe Garcia will 'get it' in his first season as 'the guy', but for Gamecock fans, it may be best to curb your enthusiasm.

On the other end of the freshman spectrum is Robert Griffin. Griffin started almost immediately as a true freshman and enjoyed a stellar season. His quarterback rating of 142.0 ranked 27th in the nation, and his three interceptions tied him for the second fewest among qualifying quarterbacks. He also added 13 scores and rushed for over 800 yards on the ground. The 5 most similar freshman quarterbacks to Robert Griffin since 2004 are:

1. Matt Grothe, South Florida, 2006, 80.4
2. Colin Kaepernick, Nevada, 2007, 73.6
3. Shaun Carney, Air Force, 2004, 73.0
4. Case Keenum, Houston, 2007, 69.6
5. Pat White, West Virginia, 2005, 67.9

As you can see, the scores for Griffin's comps are much lower than those for Garcia. That's not extremely surprising, as Griffin is a very unique player, particularly as a freshman. It's also interesting that another player coached by Art Briles (Griffin's coach at Baylor) appears on this list (Keenum was coached by Briles at Houston). Here's how those 5 gentlemen performed collectively on average as sophomores.

Overall, they stayed pretty good. The numbers are inflated a little by Keenum's ridiculous sophomore campaign that saw him toss 44 touchdowns and throw for over 5000 yards. Griffin won't come close to touching those numbers, primarily because he won't throw nearly as many passes as Keenum did (587). Still, I think its safe to assume Griffin will not fall victim to a sophomore slump. His interception total will likely increase from the miniscule 3 he tossed as a freshman, but he will continue to be a nightmare for defensive players to deal with.

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