Jake Bentley vs 1st-Year Rival Quarterbacks of the Past Decade

A few days ago I took a look at 1st-year South Carolina quarterbacks over the past 25 seasons, with the main focus being to see how Jake Bentley's 2016 stats stack up against those of the Gamecock field generals of yesteryear. I thought it would be interesting to expand that look to include quarterbacks of USC's main rivals as well. I define 'rivals' as Clemson and the traditional 'Big 3' in the SEC East: Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee. As before, I'm only looking at the first year of significant experience, with that being defined as a minimum of 100 attempts. Also, the view isn't exactly one decade, as I added a year so I could get Matt Stafford in there. Take a look at the data in the table below:

It's difficult to see any kind of pattern given the large amount of numbers to sort through. Here's some comments though:

  • Out of the 27 QBs listed, only 10 had their first significant season while classified as a Freshman. The only True Freshmen to see significant time were Bentley, Matt Stafford, Deshaun Watson, Jacob Eason, Treon Harris, Tyler Bray, and Joshua Dobbs.
  • Jake Bentley's QBR of 140.0 was the 10th best out of all QBs. It was 4th best among the True Freshmen.
  • Of the four rival teams, Clemson has the best average performance by QBs in their first year. Bentley's stats are better than the average for any of the four teams over the past 10-11 years.
  • Tim Tebow's stats are easily the best of the bunch. He won the Heisman Trophy that year, and was the first Sophomore to ever do so.

Given the amount of data here, I thought I'd try to organize it with some bubble charts. Let's see if we can get a clearer picture with those. I'll put some comments beneath each chart.

Completion % vs Pass Ratio (Pass Attempts / All Touches). Bubble size is relative to TD / INT ratio.

  • This chart clearly show three distinct groups: the dual-threat guys who pass less than 70% of the time, the statues who throw well over 90%, and the 'standard' QBs in between. Keep in mind that sacks count as rushes, so all of the bubbles would shift to the right to varying degrees if adjusted for that.
  • Bentley has the best Completion % among the standard QBs, up there with Will Grier and Cullen Harper.
  • I find it interesting that the 'statues' all had about the same level of success on their throws, with the five guys here only connecting on about 55% of their throw. Perhaps this illustrates a higher propensity to throw the ball away rather than tuck and run when nobody is open, as a result of a lack of athleticism?
  • Bentley's TD / INT ratio is just above the average for the group.

Adjusted Yards / Attempt vs Completion %. Bubble size is relative to Yards / Game.

  • If you're not familiar with the Adjusted Yards / Attempt stat, just know that Adjusted Yards are Passing Yards plus 20 yards for each TD and -45 yards for each interception.
  • Looking at this one, you can see that Bentley both connected on a lot of attempts, and was fairly explosive on his completions, as his Adjusted Yards / Attempt was 0.7 yards / attempt above average for this group.
  • In terms of Yards / Game Bentley is again above average here, in this case by about 14%.
  • Will Grier's stats are very comparable to Bentley's here. His first season was of course cut short after he tested positive for PEDs.

TDs / Attempt vs Interceptions / Attempt. Bubble size is relative to QBR.

  • Here's a different look comparing TDs and Interceptions, with this one putting both in terms of % of completions. The higher and more to the left on this chart, the better.
  • Tennessee seems to have a knack for having guys hover right around the 1:1 line, which would bisect the chart diagonally from the bottom corner to the upper right.
  • Bentley is right there in the group with Driskel and Eason, with him having the better QBR.
  • Man, did Matt Stafford and Josh Dobbs throw a lot of picks, or what? Each were good for at least one per game.

I'm not sure how many strong conclusions can be made by looking at this data, if any. There's some great QBs on this list, along with some not-so-great ones. Some of the great QBs were terrible early in their careers (Stafford, Dobbs), while others started really hot and stayed there (Tebow, Watson). I think the only thing that can be said with certainty is that Jake Bentley was an above average 1st-year QB with stats comparable to a lot guys who went on to have outstanding college careers.