Mobile QB Injury Study

Submitted by mrlmichael on September 7th, 2010 at 3:10 PM

All the talk about Denard Robinson getting injured in the near future got me wondering how other mobile QB's have been handled, and how frequent injuries occur. These are my findings:

Michael Vick - Virginia Tech(1999,2000)

Carries: 262 Yards: 1,318 TD: 18

Michael Vick averaged about 12 carries per game and missed 2 games out of 22 possible career games due to injury. He carried the ball over 20 times on 1 occasion(23)

Vince Young - Texas(2004,2005)

Carries: 322 Yards: 2,129 TD: 26

Vince Young Averaged 13 Carries per game and did not miss any games due to injury. He also carried the ball over 20 times on 4 occasions (20,21,21,25)

Troy Smith - Ohio State(2003,2004,2005,2006)

Carries: 293 Yards: 1,168 TD: 14

Troy Smith averaged about 8 carries per game and did not miss any games due to injury. He never carried the ball over 20 times.

Josh Nesbitt - Georgia Tech(2007,2008,2009)

Carries: 504 Yards: 2,069 TD: 25

Josh Nesbitt averaged about 14 carries per game and missed 3 games out of a possible 38 due to injury. He carried the ball over 20 times on 10 occasions (32,28,27,26,23,23,22,21,21,20). He played all 14 games of the 2009 season despite carrying the ball an average of 20 times per game.

Tim Tebow - Florida(2006,2007,2008,2009)

Carries: 692 Yards: 2,947 TD: 57

Tim Tebow Averaged about 12 carries per game and never missed a game due to injury. He carried the ball over 20 times on 7 different occasions (27,27,26,24,22,22,20)

The most significant QB's to this study are QB's that played under Rich Rodriguez in his spread option system:

Rasheed Marshall - West Virginia(2001,2002,2003,2004)

Carries: 491 Yards: 2,040 TD: 24

Rasheed Marshall averaged about 11 carries per game and missed 1 game due to injury. He carried the ball over 20 times on 2 occasions (21,20).

Pat White - West Virginia(2005,2006,2007,2008)

Carries: 684 Yards: 4,480 TD: 47

Pat White averaged about 14 carries per game and missed 2 games as a 4 year starter. He also carried the ball over 20 times on 13 different occasions (27,24,24,23,23,22,22,22,21,21,21,20). I think it is also of note that Pat White is around the same height and weight as Denard Robinson.


You can be a mobile Quarterback and get a lot of carries without being sidelined with injuries. It does not matter what conference you play in. Mobile QB's will get dinged up in a similar fashion to running backs but there is no reason to believe because a mobile QB carries the ball a lot he will fall victim to massive injuries and die.

It is also of note that a QB who is mobile is less likely to be injured as seriously as a pocket passer. Pocket passers are prone to injuries, especially on blitzes where they do not see the hit coming, get taken out at the legs, or are not mobile enough to elude a blitz. Mobile QB's get out in space, and are able to elude blitzes, they take more head on hits, but are less prone to devastating blind side hits that plauge pocket passers.

How this applies to Denard Robinson:

Obviously Denard should not carry the ball 29 times a game. Rich Rodriguez has already stated that this will usually be lower. However, having a couple games where he carries the ball a lot does not guarentee doom. If anything a game like this early in the season will be good for the entire offense. Teams will prepare for Denard with his feet, and play action should open up, as well as running lanes for the running backs. The beauty of the spread offense is, one day your QB can carry the ball 29 times for 200 yards, and the next week, burn you in the air with play action and read option hand-offs.



September 7th, 2010 at 3:13 PM ^

I think a lot of the reason that these mobile quarterbacks do not get injured as much is because they are generally so illusive and hard to get a good angle on.  The other thing is speed, Denards speed allows him to often initiate the first contact instead of the first contact finding him.  The fact that Denard will continue to put on muscle throughout his career bodes well for very few if at all any games missed during the next 2 years.  Thanks for the blog.

Blue in Seattle

September 7th, 2010 at 6:35 PM ^

MCalibur's QB Fragility

what's cool is he compares mobile QB's to non-mobile QB's to find that all QB's statistically get injured about the same amount.

The human mind is great at justifying a specific event with some reason for why it happened, even if that reason has no foundation at all.

Mobile QB gets's injured? easy it's because he's mobile.

Pocket Passer QB get's injured? easy he was blind sided, the OL didn't protect him.

either way, you've lost your QB, and the team is in trouble.

So while I don't find the continuing debate interesting any longer, I do find it interesting that Coach Rodriguez has stated several times through the off season that he would like to have two people ready to play at the top of their game at every position.

Old School thinking is that you have a Junior/Senior starting and a Redshirt Soph/Freshman backing him up.  I think Coach Rodriguez wants 2 Junior/Seniors/sophomores ready to go, competing against each other and getting equal reps in practice.  That way when inevitably the injury happens (like to Molk, who I'm more frightened of losing than Denard, because I can't name the backup center) there's a nearly equal replacement, instead of a green practice with the second string replacement.

That's why Devin will not redshirt.  That's why Will Campbell, despite his pad level, will not redshirt.  And anyone else who puts in the effort to prepare their body and mind to play, will be playing.

Because there is no experience like game experience, and odds are people will be injured in this game we call football.

Next time do a search on your topic.  After-all, you might have some valuable insight to add to the great work that's already been done and posted.

Go Blue!


September 7th, 2010 at 3:18 PM ^

Nice analysis IMO. I think Denard and other "mobile" quarterbacks are less likely to get injured because when they get hit, they are more able to anticipate the hit because they are on the move more than pocket passing quarterbacks. But I also agree that Denard can not and will not average that many carries as this season and his career progresses.


September 7th, 2010 at 3:38 PM ^

Thanks for the great post. I am always surprised by the quality of diary posts here - this is almost like a multi-centre prospective study (which well, this season, Denard is the subject). Incredible evidence and then conclusion. Doesn't get any better than this. Pure scientific method.

Great job and agreed with conclusion.


September 7th, 2010 at 3:39 PM ^ really just thinly-disguised wishful thinking.  They are scared shitless of Denard, and rightfully so.  Since RR was hired, I have said that the Big Ten's worst nightmare is RR having Michigan-caliber talent to run his offense.  The less-sportsmanlike fans of other teams want to see Denard injured and want to see RR fired, because they don't want to sustain yearly beatings at the hands of Michigan.

As for Denard, mobile QB's, etc, it is harder to get a direct hit on a hyper-mobile QB than a pocket passer.  Also, though Denard isn't quite Pat White in this department yet, a mobile QB can often be the hitter instead of the hittee. 

Denard will be just fine.  If he needs to take a few plays off, there are a couple of other QB's on the team who, while no Denard, are definitely competent and have their own strong points.


September 8th, 2010 at 8:34 AM ^

Guys like SI's Mandel have printed lots of letters from opposing fans.  It's always someone like "Kyle from Iowa" wondering whether "Michigan will continue to put up with RichRod's losing."  There have also been quite a few from "lifelong fans" from states other than Michigan.


September 7th, 2010 at 3:44 PM ^

Tebow having more issues with concussions his senior year. I can't remember how many games he missed because of that, but he was at least severely limited in his availability wasn't he?  I might be wrong.


September 7th, 2010 at 4:10 PM ^

I thought he missed at least one game from his concussion too, but ESPN shows that he played every game. I know his playtime was at least a gametime decision. However, he sustained that injury on a passing play and that is more likely to happen to a guy who sits in the pocket every down than a guy running and rolling out on most plays.


September 7th, 2010 at 4:23 PM ^

I wonder if there's a correlation between a quarterback's size and the amount of injury time they're forced to take.  Guys like Vince Young and Tebow are much bigger than Denard.


September 7th, 2010 at 4:24 PM ^

I think this was posted elsewhere, but beyond just the excellent blocking by the O-line, RR and crew have obviously spent a lot of time with all the skill position guys to make some key down field blocks.  Making and holding blocks will also reduce the number of hits he will take (maybe one guy takes him down instead of two). I loved to see everyone get into the blocking (especially the boys from Pahokee, who block way above their size, must be something in the water).


September 7th, 2010 at 7:38 PM ^

yours and the reply to me above are really ill-considered responses. OF COURSE the odds increase with more runs. Statistical probability of ANY event increases the more you do it, for Christ's sakes!

And examine the stats on offer--not ONE of the QBs EVER ran as many times as Denard ran on Saturday. I'm not doubting his sturdiness (see my posts elsewhere); I'm saying that 29 times a week raises the odds he DOES get hurt. I'll bet that if you think about this for more than another nanosecond you'll get it.


September 7th, 2010 at 8:18 PM ^

It’s called the gambler's fallacy. The odds of getting injured on a given play stay constant, regardless of the number of carries (or touches) a guy has. Denard is as likely to get injured on his 1st carry as he is on his 11th or 30th. It’s like flipping a coin, the odds of getting 5 heads is a row is 1 in 32 but the odds of getting heads on the next flip is always 1 in 2 regardless of how many heads have come before. In order for the preceding to be not true we’d have to establish that carries are not independent trials…good luck doing that.


Preemptively, the Justin Fargas fiasco it a very, very rare situation. So are Navy and GT style running games where the D is keying on the QB and he's getting straight up HAMMERED on play after play by lineman and linebackers. In these cases the R/P ratio is way over 1, usually above 2. Denard would not last in a situation like that.

Thankfully this is not a situation like that. Saturday's game was a rare occurrence, he shouldn't be running the ball that many times, unless it makes sense to do so. It made sense on Saturday. Ifthe O-line is doing its job and  Denard is making the right decision , he should only be getting hit by defensive backs or take glancing blows from linebackers.


September 7th, 2010 at 8:37 PM ^

any given play, but an ADDITIONAL play, in which case--you introduce the POTENTIAL for a hit. This is NOT a case of the gambler's fallacy, sorry. What's more, the HERD mentality is strong here tonight, on several threads. If we all wanted to march in lockstep, we wouldn't have come to Michigan.


September 7th, 2010 at 9:11 PM ^

And each additional coin flip is not any given coin flip, but an additional coin doesn't matter, the odds don't change. You can deny that this is a case of the gambler's fallacy as much as you want, but until you can demonstrate that carries are not independent trials, you're spitting into a hurricane of data.

You could spin your exact same reasoning into an argument that you should limit how many snaps your QB takes (regardless of system). Each additional play introduces the potential to get hit. By this logic a pocket QB is even more frail than an option QB because their "injuries per hit" rate is much higher. 

Pointing to objective fact is not a herd mentality, man. It took a long time for people to believe that the Earth wasn't flat and that mice weren't spawned from hay. Believe what you want to; it's your rorschach.


September 7th, 2010 at 9:27 PM ^

I don't need to understand the gambler's fallacy to know that the chances that a player who runs 5 times gets hurt are less than the chances that a player who runs 500 times gets hurt. We can argue about the numbers, but at the end of the day, more plays means more chances to get hurt. Looking at one run and saying the odds a player gets hurt on that run are the same as the odds he gets hurt on the next run doesn't really address the issue - namely, that the odds he gets hurt during two runs is greater than the odds he gets hurt during just one run.

I think that's the point he's trying to make.


September 7th, 2010 at 10:38 PM ^

I also know that it's false. The chance of a QB, any QB, getting hurt are exactly the same on each and every snap. Remember how many runs Colt McCoy took before getting injured in the BCS Championship Game (hint: the answer is 0)? How about Sam Bradford? How many runs did he make? Ricky Stanzi? Matt Barkley? Tony Pike? Kirk Cousins? Taylor Potts? Zach Frazer? Andrew Luck?

What's the explanation for those guys getting hurt?

There's no meaningful difference in injury rates regardless of style of play, guys. It's football, players get hurt.


September 8th, 2010 at 12:16 AM ^

the error in your thinking. If Denard STOPS playing tomorrow, his odds of getting hurt DECLINE, right? Couple that with the fact that you are MORE TIRED at some point (note that none of the players above ever went above 27 plays, and that was Tebow.) Like I said, he's not a deck of cards. I'll give up after this, but I am familiar with the gambler's fallacy; I still think you are working odds rather than logic and human beings here. 


September 8th, 2010 at 12:37 AM ^

Denard won't get hurt if he doesn't play. When he does play, his chances of getting injured are the same as any other QB no matter what plays are called.

Aren't pocket passers human animals, subject to stress, too? That's my point. All QBs are subject to injury at the same rate. For whatever reason, you wont acknowledge. Like I said, that's your business. Fret if you must.

Until next time.


September 7th, 2010 at 10:07 PM ^

you're assuming that Denard is a cold integer operating in some statistical realm that exists only on paper. (This is more a matter of logic than probability.) As for the herd, I was not referring to your thoughtful post, with which I just disagreed. It's when people read and then neg out of emotion or prejudice rather than respecting people's attempts to reason--right or wrong--that I start longing for the old days around here. Sorry I was not more explicit about that. 


September 7th, 2010 at 7:06 PM ^

...head for the sidelines or slide after a short gain to avoid injury. DRob was fighting for every yard (maybe to his potential detriment). 

Memo to DRob:  After picking up a nice gain, there's nothing wrong with sidelines and slides.


September 7th, 2010 at 7:09 PM ^

I was considering Denard getting injured while reading this. I was in the camp that wanted him to be the starter first of all. However, am I one of few who would not be overly concerned if went down with a minor injury or just a 1 game injury? I do think he works the best in RR's system right now, however I think it is great having a 12 game starter behind him who looked really good as a freshman with more mobility then many qb's out there. If the need were there for Tate to play a game I would not lose hope and would still have as much faith in almost every game on the schedule than if Robinson were playing.

I find it suprising that qb is the one position I am not overly concerned with an injury at (granting that it is minor, and the rest of the game or something). In that first game I was far more concerned about the other players going down, Johnson and Molk.


September 7th, 2010 at 7:10 PM ^

I was considering Denard getting injured while reading this. I was in the camp that wanted him to be the starter first of all. However, am I one of few who would not be overly concerned if went down with a minor injury or just a 1 game injury? I do think he works the best in RR's system right now, however I think it is great having a 12 game starter behind him who looked really good as a freshman with more mobility then many qb's out there. If the need were there for Tate to play a game I would not lose hope and would still have as much faith in almost every game on the schedule than if Robinson were playing.

I find it suprising that qb is the one position I am not overly concerned with an injury at (granting that it is minor, and the rest of the game or something). In that first game I was far more concerned about the other players going down, Johnson and Molk.


September 7th, 2010 at 9:42 PM ^

Someone with less explosiveness wouldn't have gained 197 yds through the seams that DRob got to/through.  If an injured DRob is that someone, then we lose a lot of the 197 yds, plus the defense can focus more on defending the pass.

I doubt *any* of the teams cited above were as soley dependent on the QB as we were on our one-man show last Saturday.


September 7th, 2010 at 7:53 PM ^

Great study and research, the one point that is important to this is how many of these qb's have a similar build to Robinson's. This could play a major role in how frequently he could get injured. Bigger size could help in decreasing the possibility I'm guessing. I hope nothing happens to our guy..


September 7th, 2010 at 8:04 PM ^

I'm really bad at all things statistics, but doesn't selecting example QBS that were all extremely successful kind of taint your information.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it may be possible that for every one of the guys you listed above, there is a QB that got injured so often from running the ball that he hardly played and therefore never accumulated many carries and we have never heard of him.

I'm not saying this is the case. But it could be.

All of the guys you listed were great because they never got injured. If Troy Smith had gone down with an ACL injury (man that would have helped us out) (not that I wish injury on anyone) his freshman or sophomore year, and rarely played after, I doubt he would have made this list. But in reality he went on to become a great 4 year QB for the nuts.

Does what I'm saying make any sense? If not, I apologize. Only slept 4 hours last night. 


September 7th, 2010 at 8:09 PM ^

I understand exactly what you mean. The basic point I am trying to make here, is being a mobile QB and getting a lot of carries does not exactly imply certian death. I then went on to list examples of why that is the case. I have also read other studies that takes almost every QB in college football into account in breaks it down.

Gulo Gulo Luscus

September 7th, 2010 at 8:30 PM ^

anyone done any number crunching on NFL QBs who run?  sample size is a lot smaller, but i would be curious to see if the sheer size and speed of NFL defensive players at all positions truly makes the QB as rusher more likely to go down than prototypical pocket passers.  theoretically, the idea that mobile QBs take fewer blindside/stationary/direct hits should apply at the next level. 

"pro-style" offenses trend towards QBs under center, whereas most of the college QBs mentioned above played in the shotgun.  while Rodriguez has pioneered the base shotgun spread as a run-oriented offense, using shotgun in the NFL is typically a passing look.  coaches turning to the "wildcat" as a run/pass wrinkle rather than mobile QBs providing a true dual threat.

great college QBs end up switching positions just to get drafted because the NFL has no place for a QB of their type.  of the players listed above, only Vick and Young have seen significant time at QB in their pro careers, and neither was ever fully embraced by the NFL.  just curious if a higher threat of injury is a justifiable reason to avoid systems more similar to Rodriguez and college QBs who run the ball in general.


September 8th, 2010 at 12:37 AM ^

that mobile QB's get hurt more.  Denard is ready to run all over ND, and there's nothing they can do about it. Daydream about not having to face him is fine, but reality is that he will make their D look silly on Sat. Go Blue!


September 8th, 2010 at 9:16 AM ^

Not to nitpick, but, I thought that Tebow got a concussion his final year at Florida.  I could be wrong (and probably am) mainly because I couldn't care less about Tim Tebow.

Also, Denard was hurt in his first game.  So much so that he had to leave the field.  

It would behoove UM coaches to get the RBs more involved.  Flare passes, screens, actual hand offs, pitches.  This would (obviously) lessen the load on DR and keep him safe(r). These guys can coach, they'll make the adjustments I'm sure.


September 8th, 2010 at 10:27 AM ^

And that is in the coming years we should have a couple of very capable QB's on the roster incase an injury does happen. Mainly my biggest worry playing this offense is that when injuries do happen to these mobile QB's who dominate the offense in situations like that of Pat White & Dennis Dixon the year Oregon beat us badly -2007- is the circumstances where both programs were very much headed toward National Championship runs and because of injuries both programs suffered badly when a lack of talent in their depth stuck their teams in mud. I think Michigan in 2011 & 12 will be very capable of maintaining their offensive firepower with the depth they have. Especially if Tate does stay. 


September 8th, 2010 at 6:52 PM ^

Thanks for the research, but... Dennis Dixon? Matt Grothe? ... Antonio Bass? (injured practicing as QB)

There are plenty of guys out there who missed significant time with injuries.


September 9th, 2010 at 5:05 AM ^

I am aware that running QB's have been sidelined before. The point of my post wasn't to say they wont get injured. The point of my post is to show examples that you can carry the ball a lot as a QB, and not face certian doom. Obviously some mobile QB's have went down to injury. However, so do many pocket passers.