Time is a Flat Football: Quarterbacks

Submitted by MilkSteak on June 29th, 2015 at 11:43 PM

"Time is a Flat Football" is a series of posts which will explore players from Michigan football history members of the 2015 team resembles the most. Tackled in these posts will be the offensive "skill" position groups: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, and Receivers/Tight Ends. My apologies go out to the offensive line, but it's very difficult to get o-line statistics, and more difficult to compare the groups.


Disclaimer: Obviously caveats do apply here. These are namely the effects of other position groups, coaching, and style of offense on the players being analyzed. I plan to deal with these issues by completely ignoring them. It's the off season, people.


This year's QB race appears to be between RS Sr transfer Jake Rudock and true Jr Shane Morris. We've watched Morris for the last few years and have become acquainted with Rudock's work thanks to a number of front page and board posts on the newly minted Wolverine. Let's take a look at their stats, gathered from sports-reference.com.  


Yr Player Cls Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate
2013 Shane Morris 1 29 47 61.7 261 5.6 3.6 0 2 99.8
2014 Shane Morris 2 14 40 35.0 128 3.2 -0.2 0 3 46.9
2014 Jake Rudock 4 213 345 61.7 2436 7.1 7.3 16 5 133.5

  Before we get going, here's a list of a few of explanations for statistics shown above (and a few that are included later).

  • Cls - Class (1 - Freshman, 2 - Sophomore, etc)
  • Pct - Completion Percentage (Cmp/Att)
  • Y/A - Passing Yards per Attempt
  • AY/A - Adjusted Yards per Attempt ( [Yds + 20 * TD - 45 * Int] / Att)
  • Rate - QB Rating ( [8.4 * Yds + 330 * TD - 200 * Int + 100 * Cmp] / Att)
  • TD/Int - (TD - Int)

  Rudock is the more experienced of the two, with a full season's worth of starter snaps to look at. Let's fire up the time machine and see who looks similar statistically.  


Jake Rudock

(Rudock and Kirk Ferentz, whose right hand is reserved for things other than high fives.)

Yr Player Cls Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate TD/Int
1979 John Wangler 4 78 130 60.0 1431 11.0 9.8 8 7 162.0 1
1985 Jim Harbaugh 4 145 227 63.9 1976 8.7 9.1 18 6 157.9 12
1988 Michael Taylor 4 76 122 62.3 957 7.8 7.9 5 2 138.4 3
1993 Todd Collins 4 189 296 63.9 2509 8.5 8.6 17 7 149.3 10
1998 Tom Brady 4 200 323 61.9 2427 7.5 7.0 14 10 133.1 4
2002 John Navarre 4 248 448 55.4 2905 6.5 6.7 21 7 122.2 14
2013 Devin Gardner 4 208 345 60.3 2960 8.6 8.4 21 11 146.1 10
2014 Jake Rudock 4 213 345 61.7 2436 7.1 7.3 16 5 133.5 11

  Like Rudock, each of these players completed their RS Jr season and stuck around for their RS Sr year. As has been covered by others, an apt comparison for RS Junior Rudock is RS Junior Gardner from the 2013 season. Attempts, completion percentages, and TD/Int ratio are very similar. The major difference between 2013 Gardner and 2014 Rudock is in the yardage, where Gardner averaged about 1.5 more Yds/Att and 1.1 more Adjusted Yds/Att. This can be interpreted in two ways: either Gardner threw downfield more often or Rudock's receivers were lousy at picking up yards after the catch.  


Beyond the Gardner comparisons, Rudock appears to be a less turnover prone version of 1998 RS Junior Tom Brady, which is nice. Rudock had 22 more attempts than Brady and 5 less INTs with a TD/Int ratio of +11 to Brady's +4. The Y/Att and Adjusted Y/Att are very similar, and the QB Ratings are damn near identical. Let's see how these RS Junior QBs (and more specifically Brady) progressed between their final years.


Yr Player Cls Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate TD/Int
1980 John Wangler 5 +39 +82 -4.8 +91 -3.8 -3.0 +8 +2 -30.1 +6
1986 Jim Harbaugh 5 +35 +50 +1.1 +753 +1.2 -0.3 -8 +5 -6.2 -13
1989 Michael Taylor 5 -2 -1 -1.1 +124 +1.1 +1.7 +6 +1 +22.8 +5
1994 Todd Collins 5 -3 -8 +0.7 +9 +0.2 -0.5 -4 +3 -3.3 -7
1999 Tom Brady 5 -20 -28 -0.9 -210 0.0 +0.7 +2 -4 +4.9 +6
2003 John Navarre 5 +22 +8 +3.8 +426 +0.8 +0.7 +3 +3 +11.4 0
2014 Devin Gardner 5 -34 -62 +1.2 -1064 -1.9 -3.4 -11 +4 -27.3 -15
  Mean 5 +5.28 +5.86 +2.03 +18.4 -0.34 -0.59 -0.57 +2.00 -3.97 -2.57

  The overwhelming evidence here suggests that Michigan quarterbacks have already reached their full potential by the 4 year mark. There are a few major outliers here, with guys like Jim Harbaugh and Devin Gardner taking a major step back in their TD/Int ratio. Generally fifth year senior QBs have higher completion percentages compared to their RS junior years, while also throwing a few more interceptions.    


As far as what we can expect from Rudock based on this data, we should see him remain largely the same. If he is Tom Brady 2.0 he might see a bump in his TD/Int ratio, but given that Tom Brady was operating at a much less efficient pace than Rudock, I wouldn't expect much change there. Insert the mitigating factors such as a new school, new coach, and new system, and I'd expect Rudock to operate at a lower level this year, perhaps only due to a limited playbook and increased reliance on a running game I expect Harbaugh to be pretty stubborn on getting to work.  


Bottom Line: Jake Rudock should have a season similar to RS Sr Tom Brady (1999).  

  Yr Rk Player Cls Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate
  1999 1 Tom Brady 5 180 295 61 2217 7.5 7.7 16 6 138


The 1999 team went 10-2 and most notably beat OSU and Alabama. Brady had help in the form of Anthony Thomas and David Terrell, both of which compare very favorably to guys on the 2015 roster. If you're a glass half full kinda guy Rudock will be drafted in the sixth round by the Patriots and should ditch Tinder for a Victoria's Secret catalog. If you're like me you might be worried about Rudock's supporting cast. Still, a guy like Rudock should be able to come in and Alabama QB the 2015 Michigan squad to a decent offensive season.  



Shane Morris 

(from @umichfootball, for some reason)  


Now let's say Shane Morris wins the starting job come September. In this case we'll want to compare him to other players with limited playing experience. Below is a list of Michigan QBs who took on either the starting role or a significant portion of the QB snaps after seeing a similar amount of game experience to Shane Morris. Note that many of these QBs have a little more experience in terms of Attempts. Also, keep in mind that these comparisons have only been made for QBs who started or played significant portions of their upperclassmen careers. Morris may become one of these guys or he could spend the season as the backup and get another chance at the starting gig next year.  


Yr Player Cls Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate TD/Int
1975 Rick Leach 1 32 100 32.0 680 6.8 2.0 3 12 75.0 -9
1976 Rick Leach 2 50 105 47.6 973 9.3 8.3 13 8 151.1 5
1991 Todd Collins 2 16 26 61.5 138 5.3 5.3 0 0 106.1 0
1992 Todd Collins 3 66 101 65.3 693 6.9 6.9 7 3 139.9 4
1995 Scott Dreisbach 2 56 106 52.8 850 8.0 7.3 3 3 123.9 0
1998 Drew Henson 1 19 45 42.2 233 5.2 5.5 3 1 103.3 2
1999 Drew Henson 2 46 89 51.7 546 6.1 5.8 3 2 109.8 1
2000 John Navarre 2 40 77 51.9 583 7.6 9.1 8 1 147.2 7
2009 Denard Robinson 1 14 31 45.2 188 6.1 1.5 2 4 91.6 -2
2011 Devin Gardner 2 11 23 47.8 176 7.7 6.6 1 1 117.8 0
2013 Shane Morris 1 29 47 61.7 261 5.6 3.6 0 2 99.8 -2
2014 Shane Morris 2 14 40 35.0 128 3.2 -0.2 0 3 46.9 -3

  At this point Morris has seen two seasons of limited action. His stats from last year look...rough, so I'll mostly be using his 2013 stats in comparisons. I believe (hope) his 2013 stats more accurately represent what he's capable of doing. The table above also shows other Michigan QBs since 1975 with similar experience who went on to start as upperclassmen. I made the cutoff at no more than 110 Attempts in a season and no less than 20, which did include starter Rick Leach who showed up just as the forward pass was gaining traction.  


A couple things stick out right away here: Morris looks similar to a number of QBs who were fairly successful. Rick Leach (who started both the 1975 and 1976 seasons) had one similarly uninspiring season to Morris' 2014, as far as Completion Percentage goes, and also a tough time with turnovers. The best comparison to Morris' freshman season might actually be Todd Collins' 1991 sophomore campaign. The completion percentages are nearly identical, as are the Yards/Attempt. Sample sizes are obviously small, but these are guys who were primarily coming off the bench at that point in their career.  


The more troubling thing that sticks out here is that Morris' sophomore season was significantly less promising than his freshman season. Every important stat went in the wrong direction. His TD/Int ratio is similar to Denard's 2009 freshman campaign. Morris may be mobile for a quarterback who isn't known for his speed, but he does not have Robinson's running ability to make up for his passing. What does this mean? I don't know exactly. Let's see how each of these guys turned out the next season.  


Yr Player Cls Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate TD/Int
1977 Rick Leach 3 76 147 51.7 1109 7.5 7.2 13 7 134.7 6
1993 Todd Collins 4 189 296 63.9 2509 8.5 8.6 17 7 149.3 10
1996 Scott Dreisbach 3 149 269 55.4 2025 7.5 6.9 12 9 126.7 3
2000 Drew Henson 3 131 217 60.4 1852 8.5 9.2 16 4 152.7 12
2001 John Navarre 3 186 346 53.8 2195 6.3 5.8 17 12 116.3 5
2010 Denard Robinson 2 182 291 62.5 2570 8.8 8.4 18 11 149.6 7
2012 Denard Robinson 4 89 167 53.3 1319 7.9 6.6 9 9 126.6 0
2012 Devin Gardner 3 75 126 59.5 1219 9.7 9.6 11 5 161.7 6


Yr Rk Player Cls Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate TD/Int
1977 1 Rick Leach 3 +26.00 +42.00 +4.10 +136.00 -1.80 -1.10 0.00 -1.00 -16.40 +1
1993 1 Todd Collins 4 +123.00 +195.00 -1.4 +1816.00 +1.60 +1.70 +10.00 +4.00 +9.40 +6
1996 1 Scott Dreisbach 3 +93.00 +163.00 +2.60 +1175.00 -0.50 -0.40 +9.00 +6.00 +2.80 +3
2000 1 Drew Henson 3 +85.00 +128.00 +8.70 +1306.00 +2.40 +3.40 +13.00 +2.00 +42.90 +11
2001 1 John Navarre 3 +146.00 +269.00 +1.90 +1612.00 -1.30 -3.30 +9.00 +11.00 -30.90 -2
2011 1 Denard Robinson 3 -40.00 -33.00 -7.50 -397.00 -0.40 -1.00 +2.00 +4.00 -9.90 -2
2012 2 Devin Gardner 3 +64.00 +103.00 +11.70 +1043.00 +2.00 +3.00 +10.00 +4.00 +43.90 +6
NaN NaN Mean NaN +71.00 +123.86 +2.87 +955.86 +0.29 +0.33 +7.57 +4.29 +5.97 +3.29


Todd Collins, arguably the most similar QB to Morris, put up the most impressive next season. After seeing a moderate number of snaps during his Sophomore and Junior years, he made an important leap from his to his Senior year in Adjusted Y/Att, jumping from 6.9 to 8.6. Morris is in a similar situation this year, after seeing limited action his Freshman and Sophomore years.  


Based on the rest of these seasons, it appears that we should expect a small degree of improvement in nearly all important statistics if we see a JR Shane Morris starting this season. A "Todd Collins"-like jump is best case scenario, and at that point we'd be looking at a relatively efficient and effective QB.  


However, if we apply the average improvement numbers for newly minted starting QBs entering their third year of play to Morris' freshman (best) season, we're looking at a guy averaging about 5.9 Y/A and 4.0 AY/A, which is most comparable to a RS Sophomore John Navarre (6.3 Y/A, 5.8 AY/A). Morris' numbers are obviously significantly lower, which is in part due to Ints making up a decent proportion of his Attempts. Hopefully he's a victim of a small sample size and not poor decision making.  


Bottom Line: Should he start, Shane Morris could have a season similar to RS Sophomore John Navarre (2001).

  Yr Rk Player Cls Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate
  2001 1 John Navarre 3 186 346 53.8 2195 6.3 5.8 17 12 116.3


While Navarre was not the most efficient QB in terms of Completion Percentage (just 53.8%), he was asked to shoulder a lot of the offensive load that year, attempting 346(!) passes on a team with both B.J. Askew and Chris Perry on the roster. Somehow this team didn't have a 1,000 yd rusher. The 2001 team went 8-4, which seems like a reasonable expectation for this year. The major caveat to this comparison is that John Navarre's supporting cast included All-American WR Marquise Walker, a luxury Morris will have to do without.  


 What Does It All Mean?


Whether Rudock or Morris wins the starting spot, we're probably going to be looking at a borderline competent starter at worst and a pretty damn good one at best. Not very comforting, I know. Let me know what you guys think, and what I missed!


Honk if Ufer M…

June 30th, 2015 at 3:33 AM ^

I don't think any of this is predictive of anything, sorry.

There is no reason to make comparisons to previous Michigan qb's as opposed to the same number of random comparisons to qb's from wherever. If abstract averages like these are useful at all to apply to any one individual's particular circumstances then you'd need a much bigger sample size to be meaningful. The game, the coaching, the training methods & other factors have changed so much over time that the older stats probably don't translate that well.

When you look at a bunch of case studies and see how qb's progressed or didn't, it's not like a qb with a certain amount of experience who becomes a starter  in year 3 or 4 is or isn't going to play a certain way according to odds and averages.

The averages come from guys who do well and guys who don't, but not because they are rolling dice with fixed mathematical odds, it's because one guy works really hard over the off season and studies more film and doesn't party too much and gets enough sleep and another one doesn't put in the effort.

It's because one guy only has to work on one thing to make the difference and another guy has multiple problems, or one guys issues were with his teammates or coaching and another guy's were his own mental block. One guy can actually improve 30% but his recievers drop too many balls, run bad routes, are poor after the catch, the wrong plays are called by the coaches and his stats and results end up not reflecting his play, while another guy doesn't really improve much but all the surrounding factors do and his stats end up much better. 

We don't know how hard Shane is working, we don't know how well he's learning the playbook, we don't know how much he's working on specific things or how that's going, we don't know how his confidence is, we don't know how much chemistry he's building in 7 on 7 etc. etc. All that stuff & more will determine how his case study will affect your averages or where he fits in, but none of the previous averages or case studies affect his case one bit as far as I can see.



June 30th, 2015 at 9:12 AM ^

I don't disagree with any of that. It'd be one thing if I did a regression analysis on all QBs (not just Michigan) and plugged their numbers into the model. I meant it to be more of a fun exploration of the guys on the roster now compared to guys from history, not a scientific prediction. Obviously it's ridiculous to predict future performance off of only past Michigan quarterbacks who had different offensive styles, coaches, and supporting casts. It's just fun to look back and see where other QBs were at similar stages of their careers to our guys now.

Honk if Ufer M…

July 4th, 2015 at 9:27 AM ^

That's cool, I didn't mean to rag on you. I just think since we haven't seen Morris ever have any real extended playing time with a chance to get into a rhythm or working in an offense that isn't a chicken with its head cut off. He's mostly come in for a play here or a series there with long stretches inbetweenm, and usually in a crisis situation. He hasn't been groomed at all. He's had a lot of dropped passes & some tips off our guys into bad guy hands.

If you judged Kam Chatman by most of the year you'd say he stunk, highly overrated, maybe he's a bust, but in the last few games he found his confidence and his game, something clicked. It wasn't incremental improvement, it was drastic. The same for Mitch's freshman year, except his light switch click lasted a few games longer and was much more dramatic. We know Shane has the physical tools to be great and if he clicks, finds his confidence and learns what he needs to it could be a dramatic improvement, not just an incremental one, whereas I thought you were essentially speculating that modest improvement is all that we should expect.



June 30th, 2015 at 7:25 AM ^

Anyone remember that  2013 MSU football team. Their offense struggled early on against a bad South Florida team and lost to ND with Cook being benched for Maxwell, By the end of that season they were rolling and now Cook is considered to be a 1st round NFL draft pick. Their offensive coordinator is Jim Bollman, yes that Jim Bollman. We have to be patient early on. Whether it's Morris or Rudock, I have full confidence in Harbaugh being able to develop one into a very good QB.

Everyone Murders

June 30th, 2015 at 5:47 PM ^

I'm not sure whether I'm right about this, but I think we were laughing at the prospect of Connor Cook as a college quarterback at the beginning of that season.  He sure wasn't recognized as a likely NFL prospect during their fall practices and at the beginning of MSU's season.

So it may not be such a bad comparison after all.  I think we have decent talent now at QB - it just needs to be developed.

(At least those are the thoughts that keep me warm at night ... .)


July 1st, 2015 at 12:13 AM ^

From what I've been hearing about Rudock is they consider him a UDFA. They're not high on Morris but they said if Michigan wants to have the best chance of winning, they're better off with Morris or other QBs instead of Rudock.

Also, Connor Cook was a redshirt freshman to begin with which is a big difference between him and two QBs who are JR and RS SR.  One has room to grow as a QB and the other two are likely to max out as a QB.

Honk if Ufer M…

July 4th, 2015 at 8:59 AM ^

M4life, who are "they" and what are they basing that on? Opining on Rudock's draft potential sounds like something NFL people would be talking about not Michigan people in regards to our season. I also doubt NFL people have been watching the summer workouts of either guy trying to run Harbaugh's plays.

So is this up to date word from Michigan people or others that are commenting on the actual early competition between them since Rudock hit town what they've seen from Shane since the spring game, or just general thoughts based on the past?


July 5th, 2015 at 12:43 AM ^

By they, I mean NFL scouts. I know a couple who have scouted the Midwest region. They said Rudock isn't a good QB and likely will give him a UDFA based on Iowa tapes. They also saw a lot of Michigan games in which they thought Morris sucked. This is their evaluations to prepare for 2016 draft. They haven't put together final grades until mid January.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad


July 3rd, 2015 at 9:14 PM ^

In the season opener against Western, for instance, Cook was just 6 of 16 and MSU managed exactly one offensive touchdown (link) in a 26-13 win. In their next game against South Florida, they again managed only one offensive touchdown in a 21-6 win (link).

So yes, we were laughing at both Cook and the MSU offense. They started to turn it around after they lost to Notre Dame and although they still struggled occasionally (like in the 14-0 win over 1-11 Purdue) they nonetheless managed to put together a run I think any Michigan fan would have been happy with, culminating in a Rose Bowl win over Stanford. 

Ghost of Fritz…

July 5th, 2015 at 11:39 AM ^

...is a fair model for Michigan in 2015. 

MSU in 2013:  Very bad offense at the start of the season, but competent at the end.  Very strong defense all season long.  That is a reasonable expectation/formula for M in 2015.    

O.k., why might this formular be wrong and M in 2015 actually be very different than MSU in 2013?

1.  M may end up with a very good D in 2015, but not quite as good as MSU's D in 2013.  Not sure that I envsion M's D-line in 2015 being as disruptive as was MSU's in 2013. 

2.  M might actually have a better offense than MSU in 2013 because (a) Ruddock will likely be better than Cook was in 2013, and/or (b) M has some weapons at WR and/or RB that underperformed due to poor coaching/developmen/system under Hoke, and Harbaugh will maximize them quickly.  (I am assuming the the M o-line in 2015 will match or exceed the M o-line from November 2014, which was decent and no longer the disater of 2013 or early 2014.)

At any rate, based on experience and past performance, I would expect Ruddock to be better in September of 2015 than Cook was in September of 2013. Cook was not good at all in September of 2013. 

If Shane Morris starts, I do not think he will be any worse in September 2015 than was Cook in September 2013.  And over the course of the season maybe Harbaugh will delevop Morris to his maximum potential, which is probably higher than Cook's. 






July 2nd, 2015 at 2:28 AM ^

Rudock will not be great but will be a competent BiG QB who will be able to run JH's offense with less turnovers. The competition will be great for Shane, and will boost his game. Plus, we may need Shane to take over in case of an injury. Before the Rudock transfer I was thinking 7 or 8 wins, now I'm thinking 8 or 9 wins!