Ben Hicks has been placed into the starting job at SMU a year or more ahead of schedule. So how has Hicks done? We looked at Hicks' game against Baylor earlier this year. Let's take a look at his development through four games.
|@North Texas||W 34-21||5||9||145||56%||1||0|
When we look at the five areas of quarterback production that indicate both efficiency and explosiveness. Those areas are completion percentage, yards per attempt, interception rate, sack rate, and yards per play. If you're an efficient quarterback you're going to complete passes at above 60%, (that number or mean keeps rising) your going to be able to have a high yardage to attempt average and yardage per play average. Those last two stats both go directly to how prolific a quarterback is in moving his team downfield, regardless of system. Lastly you won't do two things that kill drives and get you beat i.e. get sacked and throw picks. We got this idea from the guru of college football advanced stats, the venerable Bill Connelly of SB Nation, Football Study Hall, et al. Read him.
We're visual learners so we like to reduce those numbers to radar or area graph and to do so we take all passers with 14 or more attempts per game and then assign a percentile ranking to each in each of the five previously discussed categories. The higher percentile, the more effect the quarterback. As for the area graph we're looking for a wider area across all categories, a large blanket if you will.
Let's compare Ben Hicks' area graph to another young signal caller Shane Beuchele from Texas.
Beuchele is a true freshman, who's started three games for the Longhorns. Beuchele has looked the part early on for the Horns, impressive numbers for a true freshman, let alone one playing against Notre Dame and a good Cal team on the road. Ok, well, Cal isn't a good defensive team but whatever, he did what he was supposed to do to Cal. That's a pretty good area graph for a young player.
Now onto another young player in Hicks. Again, a redshirt freshman who's played North Texas, Bayor, Liberty, and now TCU. That's a decently tough schedule.
Let's look at what stands out...
- Sack rate or rather sack avoidance is something a lot of young players will struggle with and Hicks is no different. Sacks aren't always the quarterbacks fault, but they aren't always pinned on the line's play either. Hicks will need to avoid those negative plays at a better rate. He'll need to develop an internal clock, one that's a tick or two faster than he's accustomed to as the game speeds up.
- Completion percentage is an issue, Hicks is hitting right at 50%. If you take away Hicks' 39% completion game against Baylor, he's actually at a fairly respectable 57%. We don't like taking away stats, but his first start might be an outlier in particular given Baylor's defensive abilities. Matt Davis struggled with completion percentage as well.
- SMU has closed the gap talent-wise at the skill positions. Courtland Sutton is player who can crack the lineup for a lot of Power 5 schools and Proche has been a real find as well. If SMU can find a quarterback who can get the ball to the play makers at a higher rate, they'll instantly be more competitive.
- Spread teams struggle near the redzone as the field shrinks and space becomes limited. Execution and accuracy are key for getting seven points rather than three. With Hicks at quarterback, SMU has struggled to score touchdowns in the redzone. This is the area where they miss Matt Davis the most.
- Sacks and interceptions are game killers and Hicks struggles with both. 5% of his throws end in an interception, that's in the 9th percentile of qualified quarterbacks.
Hicks wasn't expected to start this season but with the injury to Matt Davis, he's been thrown into some tough spots. Baylor on the road and Gary Patterson are never easy situations to deal with. We'll see how Hicks improves as AAC play kicks up.