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What are the expectations for Francois and Henry?

Photo by Logan Stanford

One of the favorite pastimes of fans and analysts alike during the offseason is to predict the stat lines that their college’s players will put up in the following season. While we all know Dalvin Cook will continue to put up video game numbers, the more interesting question at hand concerns the freshmen quarterbacks that Florida State will have on the roster in 2016.

Redshirt freshman Deondre Francois and true freshman Malik Henry each had impressive performances in the annual Garnet and Gold spring game. With Sean Maguire still sidelined with the ankle injury he suffered in the Peach Bowl, Francois and Henry are expected to push Maguire for the starting job in 2016. Even if Maguire comes back healthy for fall camp, the early word out of Tallahassee is that Francois has all the makings of the next great Jimbo Fisher quarterback.

But what kind of season can we expect from either freshman?

To come up with a reasonable prediction, it will take a little dive into some data.

For this data set, I collected passing statistics from every blue-chip quarterback recruit dating back to 2010. This data set does not include rushing statistics, but that should not be a concern because Jimbo Fisher very rarely calls for designed quarterback runs.

Since 2010, there have been 134 blue-chip (four or five star) quarterback recruits per the 247 Composite. Of those 134, only 39 attempted passes as true freshman at their college. As expected, the majority of freshman quarterbacks redshirt during their first year on campus.

However of those 39 quarterbacks, 18 threw for more than 1,000 yards during their first year and 21 threw at least 100 passes. This list includes several 3,000 yard passers such as Josh Rosen, Brad Kaaya and Jared Goff.

Below are the most productive years by blue-chip true freshman quarterbacks since 2010, as sorted by passing yards.

[table id=11 /]

Josh Rosen had perhaps the best true freshman season in NCAA history last year, but there are also some notable names a bit further down that list. Christian Hackenberg came very close to the 3,000 yard mark during his impressive true freshman season at Penn State. Teddy Bridgewater passed for over 2,000 yards in his first year at Louisville en route to a collegiate career that made him a first-round draft pick.

On the flip side, there have been significantly less redshirt freshmen quarterbacks who have encountered immediate success. Only 11 blue-chip redshirt freshman quarterbacks since 2010 have passed for over 1,000 yards and only 13 attempted at least 100 passes. Of those 11, two passed for over 3,000 yards: Florida State’s own Jameis Winston and UCLA’s Brett Hundley.

Below are the most productive years by blue-chip redshirt freshman quarterbacks since 2010, as sorted by passing yards.

[table id=12 /]

Jameis Winston is the obvious outlier here. His 4,000 yard/40 touchdown season screws with the entire data set and sets an unrealistic expectation for redshirt freshman quarterbacks. Other than the five names above, there were no impressive seasons by redshirt freshman quarterbacks. Names such as Cody Kessler and Chad Kelly eventually turned into All-Conference passers, but not in their first year. Will Grier was on track to have a great redshirt freshman season until he was suspended by the NCAA for taking performance enhancing drugs.

So how does this relate to Deondre Francois and Malik Henry?

By taking a look at the data, we can get a reasonable estimation of what kind of stat line each quarterback should put up in their first season. This, of course, assumes that the individual quarterback starts all 12 (or more) games in the season.

A reasonable expectation for Francois would be a stat line of 3,200 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. This is taking into account the average stat line of major redshirt freshman starters since 2010. Of course, this data set includes Jameis Winston’s record-breaking season, which is an unreasonable expectation for any quarterback to live up to. By taking Winston’s data out, we get an average of 2,900 yards, 24 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. So, not that much different but a slightly less touchdown total.

On the other hand, a stat line for Henry would look something along the lines of 3,000 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Only five blue-chip true freshman quarterbacks since 2010 have passed for over 20 touchdowns, three of which came just last year. Although redshirt and true freshman have similar passing yards, redshirt quarterbacks consistently have more touchdown passes.

Although more true freshman have achieved immediate success, the few redshirt freshman quarterbacks that have earned starter roles have put up more touchdowns at a slightly less interception rate. Assuming that one, if not both, of the freshman outplays Maguire in the spring, Jimbo Fisher will be tasked with the difficult decision of choosing a proven starter (Maguire) or a player that might have a higher upside (Francois or Henry). If he does decide to go with a freshman, then expect him to throw for around 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.

 


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