TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 24: Marquis Maze #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide fails to pull in this reception against Eric Bennett #14 of the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Earlier this week Bill Connelly made available a huge database of information concerning passers through his SB Nation site Football Study Hall. The data examines this season's targets-and-catches or, more simply, how many times given players are being thrown to, how often they catch those passes and what yardage they earn once they do. The good folks over at the Pac 12 blog, Pacific Takes, has already used this data for a fantastic analysis of wideouts in their conference and I thought it might be helpful to look at the numbers for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
|Targets = Catches + INCs targeting the given receiver
Catch Rate = Catches / Targets
Team Targets = Sum of all targets for a given team
Target Rate = Player Targets / Team Targets
There is no question that Marquis Maze has become the bell cow of the wide receiver corps. That, in and of itself, is not a surprise but the degree of it is. He's been targeted more than the next two Crimson Tide players combined - Trent Richardson and Brad Smelly - and 65% more than the next wide receiver. And having a running back and tight end doth not a power passing offense make
A further concern is the relatively mediocre catch-rate for the No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers Maze and Hanks. Connelly also notes that the 6.6 yards per target is "a very low total for a No. 1 target."
The prominence of the Tide tight ends on this list underscore the careful approach Offensive Coordinator is taking with McCarron. The dump-off options are there and he's taking them rather than taking the high reward/high risk plays down the field. The one number this analysis doesn't include is interceptions and McCarron has had ZERO since his first game as a starter.
Also, it should be noted, Michael Williams is having one hell of a season thus far.
These numbers dovetail with the data examined by Team Speed Kills yesterday. They argue that however positive McCarron's performance has been thus far, he's simply has been unable to get the ball to his two best receivers. And while he has the luxury of the Alabama running game to hold him over while he gains confidence as a passer, the transition needs to happen soon.
Coach Saban said this week that Alabama is looking for balance and wants to pass in situations that present McCarron an advantage, specifically first downs when the opposition is in some "safety down, middle-of-the-field closed" defense: i.e. expecting Trent to barrel through the tackles.
Yet those receptions have consistently been short gainers - often to running backs and tight ends - instead of lengthen-the-field passes to the wide receiver corps. As OTS has pointed out this season and in season's past, the lack of a vertical passing threat will give a top-flight defense (like LSU's) all the leeway they need to focus on stopping the Crimson Tide running game.