One of the biggest surprises of last Fall centered upon Mike McCoy. Everyone just knew that either Keith Brown or Nikita Stover was going to start opposite D.J. Hall, but once the season rolled around, surprisingly enough, it was Mike McCoy who was starting. The coaching staff loved his size and aggressiveness, and particularly his blocking ability in the running game.
A few months ago I decided to look a bit closer at McCoy. On the whole he had 28 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown. But, of course, we're going to go much deeper than that. In particular, let's go in-depth on his performance in conference games.
McCoy technically didn't get the start against Vanderbilt, but that's a bit misleading. If you recall in that game, our first offensive snap came after the big Javier Arenas punt return that put us down inside the one, so we went to a goal line formation and hence McCoy wasn't in the game. Nevertheless, he effectively started that day, and started all of the way through the LSU game. All told, he started the first six conference games, which is really something no one expected.
The problem with McCoy, however, was that he was simply not a receiving threat in any way. If you look at his play in the eight conference games, he had 35 passes thrown his way, and nabbed only 18 receptions. That's barely a 50% catch percentage, which isn't very good anyway, but making matters even worse was his inability to stretch the field. McCoy was never a threat down the field, and was nothing more than the recipient of a bunch of dink and dunks. Of his 18 receptions in conference play, 15 of them went for 9 yards or less. Only three of his catches went for 10 yards or more, and the longest reception he had was a mere 14 yards. Moreover, only 44% of his catches went for a first down, and he failed to convert on six of nine attempts on third down.
If you look at his yards per completion, it's only 6.67 yards per catch, but as we all know the truly important statistic in that regard is yards per attempt, and in that case it is even worse. All told, in conference play, we netted an average of 3.43 yards every time we threw the football to McCoy. To say that's bad is to put a very pretty face on the situation. By comparison, we averaged 5.0 yards every time we handed the ball to Terry Grant, 4.7 yards every time we handed the ball to Roy Upchurch, 4.2 yards every time we handed the ball to Glen Coffee, 4.1 yards every time we handed the ball to Jonathon Lowe, 4.1 yards every time we handed the ball to Jimmy Johns... and yet we averaged only 3.43 yards every time we threw the ball to Mike McCoy. Obviously, any time you are averaging significantly more yards per run than yards per pass, you've got a problem.
McCoy's struggles eventually resulted in the ball being thrown in a different direction. In the first three conference games, McCoy had 25 passes thrown to him, but in the final five games he had only 10 passes thrown his way. His playing time seemingly dwindled each week. In the final two conference games against Mississippi State and Auburn, he had only one pass thrown in his direction.
Coming into the Spring, the outlook for McCoy looked pretty bleak. Everyone was talking about Nikita Stover, Earl Alexander, and Darius Hanks, and with guys like Julio Jones and Burton Scott on the way, the future didn't look positive for McCoy. I, for one, barely even mentioned him in the Spring preview.
And then a funny thing happened... He had a great Spring where he was arguably our best receiver, and he suddenly became a great down field threat. The aggressive and physical receiver was still there, and he was still a great blocker in the running game, but now he suddenly augmented his skill set by turning into a legitimate receiving threat as well.
The talent has always been there with McCoy. He has great size, aggression, and speed. Moreover, he's a workout warrior, and he will out-hustle just about anyone on the field. It's really a shame that he's a junior now -- you can thank Shula for a wasted redshirt year in 2006 -- but it is what it is. The physical tools are all there for McCoy, and he is certainly one to keep your eye on in 2008. We shall see if he can finally develop those raw tools into the dangerous receiving threat that he has had the potential to be all along.