Don’t get too excited about new Badger QB Russell Wilson

The State of Wisconsin is busting with joy because former NC State QB Russell Wilson committed to play next season for the Badgers. Finally, Badgerland is saying, we have a high octane quarterback. We will be unstoppable.  To those who assume that, I say, check yourself. There’s a reason his former coach let him out of his scholarship committment.

By my QBER quarterback metric (the formula, plus a 2010 reference chart, are at the bottom of this post), former Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien was twice the quarterback Wilson was at NC State.  Tolzien scored a QBER of 28.33 last season, Wilson’s QBER was a pedestrian 14.54.

Wilson’s major eye-popping statistic is his touchdowns: 28. Touchdowns do not count in QBER, because I consider touchdowns the “RBIs” of football statistics. They are purely situational; the by-product of accumulated passing yardage. There is no special skill applied to touchdown passes that can be distinguished from any skill applied on every other pass. It just so happens that on a touchdown pass, the receiver puts his feet on the other side of the end zone barrier.

So disregard that statistic. QBER considers five statistics: incompletions, interceptions, sacks, passing yardage, and rushing yardage.  The idea behind QBER is the quarterback who can keep and advance the football the furthest per “dead play” (sack or incompletion) will be the most successful quarterback. By that standard, Wilson has been mediocre.

Wilson’s weaknesses are he completes a poor percentage of his throws (58%), he throws way too many interceptions (14), and he really isn’t a great running quarterback (3.0 yds/att).

By comparison, Denard Robinson of Michigan is a great running quarterback, and is actually a more accurate passer.  Robinson gained 6.11 yds/att last season and he completed 63% of his passes with 11 interceptions.  Robinson’s QBER was a sterling 29.57.

The returning Nebraska QB, Taylor Martinez, who has his limitations (my friend the Nebraska fan said “he sucks… we have no quarterback!”) had a QBER last season that was better than Wilson’s at 18.88. Martinez is generally considered a running/non-passing quarterback, and yet his completion percentage (59.2) surpassed Wilson’s at NC State.

So, while Wilson has a major league arm, he needs a lot of work on his accuracy and his discipline. The Badgers offense is predicated on running the ball, controlling the ball, and POSSESSING the ball. A scatter-armed QB would not fit into that scheme. Either Wilson must mend his ways, or I’ll bet Bielema will not have a long leech on his new recruit. 

QBER = Yards Passing + Yards Rushing – Yards lost on Sacks – (Interceptions * 30 yards) / (Incompletions + Interceptions + Sacks)

Footnote: For reference purposes, I did a quick chart listing the QBER’s of some of the more prominent college quarterbacks from last season, including some of those who were selected in the 2011 NFL Draft. Notice the very low QBERs recorded by first round selections FSU’s Christian Ponder and Washington’s Jake Locker. Notice also how high Scott Polzien ranked.  Polzien was special. He was very efficient and very successful. Denard Robinson is the only high QBER quarterback who did not play on a very successful team, which speaks to the extreme weakness of Michigan’s 2010 defense.

2010 QB School QBER Record
Cam Newton Aub 31.72 14_0
Den Robnson Mich 29.95 7_6
K Moore Boise St 28.54 12_1
An Luck Stan 28.48 12_1
Sc Tolzien Wis 28.33 11_2
An Dalton TCU 24.98 13_0
T Pryor Ohio St 21.13 12_1
Dar Thomas Oregon 19.76 12_1
Rus Wilson NC St 14.54 9_4
Jak Locker Wash 12.35 7_6
Ch Ponder FSU 12.21 10_4
Jac Harris Mia 8.19 7_6
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