Breaking down the 2013 Pac-12 pass game

May, 12, 2014
May 12
5:30
PM ET
The Pac-12 has a pretty good stock of some of the best quarterbacks in the nation in 2013. Thanks to Marcus Mariota, Sean Mannion, Kevin Hogan, Brett Hundley, Taylor Kelly and Keith Price, the Pac-12 had several guys who were known nationwide for their arms.

That got the Pac-12 blog thinking about where exactly all of those passes were going. Mannion had a terrific receiver in Brandin Cooks, but he also had a pretty great tight end in Connor Hamlett. Mariota had great receivers, but also had De’Anthony Thomas involved in the pass game. USC and Arizona State seemed to get their running backs and tight ends more involved, but how much more involved?

Well, the Pac-12 blog found answers to those questions and more.

As a whole, the conference's running backs were more involved in the pass game than its tight ends. Running backs accounted for an average of 21.8 percent of the receptions conference-wide. The low end of the conference was Colorado, whose backs made just 32 of its 235 receptions (13.6 percent). The high end was Arizona State, whose running backs accounted for 124 of its 309 receptions (40.1 percent).

But the running backs didn’t always turn those catches into yards. Though the position group accounted for 21.8 percent of the receptions, it only accounted for 16 percent of the total receiving yardage. With the Sun Devils throwing so often to their running backs, it seems pretty natural that they would have the highest percentage of their team’s yardage, which they did (32.3 percent). However, they weren’t the most efficient running backs in the conference -- that award goes to the USC running backs, who accounted for 27.2 percent of their team’s catches and 31 percent of their team’s receiving yardage.

The teams that were the closest to the Pac-12 average were Oregon State, UCLA and Washington State. Of these running backs, UCLA’s were the most efficient, accounting for 18 percent of the teams receiving yardage. Washington State’s running backs tallied 13.5 percent of the receiving yardage while Stanford’s backs picked up just 9.2 percent of their receiving yardage despite accounting for 21.1 percent of the team catches.

Conference-wide, tight ends were targeted about half as much as the running backs. On average, they picked up 9.5 percent of the catches, but were efficient as a group, tallying 10.5 percent of the Pac-12’s yardage.

Oregon State and Washington targeted tight ends the most. Beavers tight ends had 22.0 percent of the team's catches and Huskies TEs had 15.2 percent. The tight ends from those teams also gained the most yardage, though they flipped spots. Washington’s tight ends accounted for 20.2 percent of its team’s receiving yardage and Oregon State’s accounted for 19.1 percent of its team’s receiving yardage.

The least-involved tight ends can be found on the Arizona, UCLA and Washington State rosters. Those tight ends were either rarely or never involved in the passing game, which makes sense considering the offenses and how deep their respective receiver groups were in 2013.

So where exactly does that leave the wide receivers in this conference? If it’s good to be a running back at Arizona State, does that mean it’s not great to be a receiver there? Or if it’s great to be a tight end at Oregon State, does that mean it’s not great if you’re a receiver? (Answer to that last question: If you’re a receiver not named Brandin Cooks, then yes.)

On average, receivers accounted for 68.5 percent of the receptions in the league. The low end in this statistic would be Arizona State (47 percent), Oregon State (55.2 percent) and USC (59.6 percent). The high end is Arizona (84.1 percent), and then a few schools in the high 70s -- Washington State, UCLA and Colorado.

It comes as no surprise that this is where the biggest jump is in yardage. It’s a lot easier to pick up major yards on a post than a pitch. Because of that, the wide receivers accounted for 75.2 percent of the receiving yardage. Again, Arizona holds the high spot here with 90.2 percent of its team’s receiving yardage from the receivers. And again, Arizona State is on the low end, with just 51.6 percent of its receiving yardage coming from the receivers.

It’s good to be a quarterback in the Pac-12, which means it’s good to be a receiver here, too. But, if you look deeper at the numbers, how good it is really depends on who you are and where you go.

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