Friday, August 19, 2011
What's the best QB-WR combo in Big 12?
By Sharon Katz
AP Photo/Matt Strasen
The best QB-WR combo might not be decided until Dec. 3 in Stillwater when OSU hosts OU.
The Big 12 is stacked with talented quarterback-wide receiver combinations. Last season, five of the top 20 passing offenses played in the Big 12, and four of them – the Baylor Bears, Texas A&M Aggies, Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys -- return their starting quarterback and top wide receiver.
But which quarterback-wide receiver duo is the best in the Big 12? With all due respect to Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright and Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill and Jeff Fuller, this conversation should not leave the borders of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have arguably the two best QB-WR tandems in the nation. In fact, all four players -- Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles, Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon -– have a serious chance at winning the Heisman based on their numbers last season.
Jones and Broyles thrive in Oklahoma’s quick pass, high-octane offense. Jones attempted more passes than any other quarterback in the country in 2010 and Broyles averaged an FBS-best 9.4 receptions per game.
Oklahoma was at its best when throwing quick screens and allowing its receivers to make plays in space. Of Broyles' 131 receptions last season, 51 were thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage. He averaged 10.0 yards after the catch on passes thrown that distance and did not drop a pass.
At Oklahoma State, Weeden and Blackmon did not connect on as many wide receiver screen passes, but they showed a similar propensity to turn short passes into long plays. When targeted at or behind the line, Weeden averaged 10.5 yards after the catch and 7.9 yards per reception. Those short passes added up, helping Blackmon to gain 100 or more receiving yards in every game he played last season.
Weeden and Blackmon were difficult to stop in the downfield attack as well. They combined for 12 touchdowns on plays of 20 or more yards (best of any QB-WR duo in the country) and averaged 32.1 yards per TD reception. On throws of 20 yards or more, Weeden completed 20 of 33 passes (60.6 percent) to Blackmon for 10 touchdowns.
Comparatively, when targeting Broyles on throws of 20 or more yards, Jones completed 11 of 23 pass attempts for five touchdowns in 2010. Broyles averaged 23.1 yards per TD reception and five of his 14 touchdowns were 20 yards or longer.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State excel in different areas of the passing game. Oklahoma’s Jones and Broyles are efficient, completing passes that move the chains and lead to touchdowns. No other duo had more touchdowns the past two seasons. The Cowboys’ Weeden and Blackmon are more dynamic, converting more big plays downfield at a higher rate than any other duo in the country. No other duo had more touchdown plays of 10 or more yards last season.
Maybe the verdict on this one won’t be decided until the Sooners travel to Stillwater on Dec. 3 to meet the Cowboys.
For exclusive video, stories and blogs about quarterbacks from every level of competition, check out ESPN’s “Year of the Quarterback” page.