Pax Stoneburna And Balance Revisited

By Johnny Ginter on September 30, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Sometimes it's easy to look smart, especially in sportswriting. You make an obvious prediction that any doufus could make, attempt to word said prediction in a clever way, and then sit back and wait. It's a pretty simple way to appear a lot more insightful than you actually are, because if you end up being correct you now have carte blanche to gloat forever and ever and if you're wrong, chances are that no one will remember what you said in the first place. I personally have a pretty long memory when it comes to sportswriting, however (I am going to rag on Brian Cook until the end of time for this), and am not going to let myself off the hook either.

Back in June I wrote what many of you (none of you) might consider to be my magnum opus. I called it Pax Stoneburna, and in it I predicted that Jake Stoneburner would be the third leading receiver on the team, and would catch between 25 and 35 passes for 500 yards. I also implied that the tight end would now be an integral part of the OSU offense in a manner which hadn't been seen before. Thus far into the season, Stoney has 9 catches for 110 yards and is indeed the third leading receiver. This puts him on pace for 30ish catches and around 350 yards. What's more, OSU TEs have 12 catches total for 149 yards.

All of which looks good for me (assuming Stoney comes back from his injury against Indiana on the 9th and not later), and going into Big Ten season it appears that my prediction will be more or less correct.

But not technically correct. And that's the best kind of correct. CHARTS FOLLOW!


Total completions/attempts Completions to TE % of completions to TE
2005 196/302 17 8.6
2006 221/340 15 6.7
2007 202/330 32 15.8
2008 160/267 19 11.8
2009 174/316 16 9
2010 (so far) 82/124 12 14.6

The above chart details exactly how often Ohio State TEs have gotten the ball in the past 5 seasons. Nothing particularly surprising here, OSU doesn't pass to the tight ends a lot. Duh.

Two points to make with this chart, though. One, though there is an obvious uptick in the percentage of completions made to TEs,  it is not dramatically higher than what we've seen in previous years and is in fact not even the highest in the 5 prior seasons. Stoneburner might get some publicity because he is certainly a different kind of athlete than most of the previous OSU TEs, but in truth the production from him so far is roughly the same as in previous years.

"Now wait," you may be saying, "Jake is on pace for 30-35 receptions, depending on when he gets back from his injury. That's way more than those other guys." Which is true! Except; I was wrong again. In August I wrote an article called Balance, where I was immensely skeptical of the idea that OSU could maintain the 43/57 pass/run split they had in the Rose Bowl and wrote:

...if Ohio State is throwing the ball 30 to 35 times a game this season, something way, way more unprecedented than a QB throwing the ball a lot has happened with our offense.

Guess what? 4 games into the season, and this has happened. Ohio State is on pace for 403 passing attempts and 266 completions. The pass/run split sits at 42/58. TE's overall are on pace for 39 receptions. In other words, TEs having more receptions is mostly a result of more passing attempts overall.

Secondly, 14.6% of completions to TEs is peanuts compared to other Big Ten teams:

Team Total completions/attempts in 2009 Completions to TE in 2009 % of completions to TE in 2009
218/340 86 39.4
251/423 56 22.3
241/397 53 21.9
213/392 45 21.1
199/385 38 19
272/449 45 16.5
342/531 50 14.6
184/331 24 13
189/329 21 11.1
174/316 16 9
272/440 24 8.8

Even OSU's best year throwing to the TEs in the last five seasons would only be good for 6th in the conference last year. If we're talking about the TE being an integral part of the offense, you would probably expect somewhere around 20% of completions going their way, at least. This is clearly not going to happen anytime soon in a Jim Tressel offense.

Conclusions: I was probably pretty close to the amount of receptions that Stoneburner will get this year and there's a decent chance he'll be the 3rd leading receiver. But it won't be because TEs have suddenly become a huge part of the Jim Tressel offense. Rather, the major change that has happened here is that OSU is throwing way, way more than they have previously, and a team that generally throws far less than most of the Big Ten conference is now on pace to be 4th or 5th in passing attempts. Which is crazy. Furthermore, as long as OSU has two good WRs, it is unlikely that we'll ever see a true Wisconsin-eque TE a la Travis Beckum emerge as an offensive threat. Sorry guys.

I'll probably revisit this at the end of the regular season, and maybe by then I'll be a little more correct than I am now. So thanks for spending 5 minutes reading about why I would make a bad bureaucrat in the year 3000; hopefully this will encourage you guys to hold some of us accountable for the goofy stuff we write on a pretty regular basis.

Of course, by us, I mostly mean other sites. Eleven Warriors is awesome (although I do continue to thoroughly enjoy people correcting my grammar).

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