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The Gunslingers vs The Other Guys

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Based on what we’ve seen so far, how much should we fear future QBs against our secondary?

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

When asked at the beginning of the season what position group would be the most concern for State going into the 2018 season, you would hear RBs, DL, K, LBs and the secondary. 2/3 of the season in we have seen our RBs emerge as solid, our DL potentially outperforming last years unit, a reliable kicking game and Germaine Pratt’s sidekicks hold their own. So, there is no question that for the last 3 weeks our secondary has been what we’d thought it’d be. Whether that is due to schemes, coaching, injuries, youth or combination of all is up for debate. What is not up for debate is the possibility of drastically improving that unit’s performances this year. 8 games in we are who we are, so while we should expect this position group to continue taking steps forward, the next 5 games won’t likely give us time to turn a weakness into a strength.

All that being said NC State wants to win 10 regular season games this year. So due to the liability of the secondary we should hope not to face teams that could exploit our biggest deficit. And with the news that dangerous young Sam Hartman is missing our Thursday game against Wake, let’s look at the QBs we believe we will be facing the rest of the season and see if there’s optimism for our secondary to get a bit of a break.

First, State’s secondary was really exposed against Clemson, Syracuse and somewhat FSU. So let’s set up a overall profile for those QBs for comparison’s sake (Note: explanations for metrics are linked in the table).

Trevor Lawrence

Class School Completion % TDs/INTs Passing Efficiency QBR
Class School Completion % TDs/INTs Passing Efficiency QBR
Freshman Clemson 65.4 18/3 163 77

Eric Dungey

Class School Completion % TDs/INTs Passing Efficiency QBR
Class School Completion % TDs/INTs Passing Efficiency QBR
Senior Syracuse 61.2 13/4 134.8 65.5

James Blackman (2017*)

Class School Completion % TDs/INTs Passing Efficiency QBR
Class School Completion % TDs/INTs Passing Efficiency QBR
Freshman Florida State 58.2 19/11 135 44.5

(*Now feel free to throw James Blackman out if you’d like considering these were last year’s stats under a completely different staff. Only included because they may be somewhat relevant when comparing his past numbers to what he did to us this year.)

Looking at who we have left to face…

Sam Hartman (INJ)

Class School Completion % TDs/INTs Passing Efficiency QBR
Class School Completion % TDs/INTs Passing Efficiency QBR
Freshman Wake Forest 55.3 16/8 125.2 60.4

Jawon Pass

Class School Completion % TDs/INTs Passing Efficiency QBR
Class School Completion % TDs/INTs Passing Efficiency QBR
Sophomore Louisville 54.5 7/10 109.7 43.5

Nathan Elliot

Class School Completion % TDs/INTs Passing Efficiency QBR
Class School Completion % TDs/INTs Passing Efficiency QBR
Junior UNC-Chapel Hill 60 8/7 117.8 55.7

Holton Ahlers

Class School Completion % TDs/INTs Passing Efficiency QBR
Class School Completion % TDs/INTs Passing Efficiency QBR
Freshman East Carolina 53.1 5/1 122 44.5

Excluding Blackman, and strictly looking at the two QBs who torched us:

The Gunslingers

Avg Completion % TDs/INTs Ratio Avg Passing Efficiency Avg QBR
Avg Completion % TDs/INTs Ratio Avg Passing Efficiency Avg QBR
63.3 4.2:1 148.9 71.3

And now looking at the last 3 QBs we will face:

The Other Guys

Avg Completion % TDs/INTs Ratio Avg Passing Efficiency Avg QBR
Avg Completion % TDs/INTs Ratio Avg Passing Efficiency Avg QBR
55.9 1.1:1 116.5 47.9

On average, the three quarterbacks we will likely face are significantly worse than the two we saw during our losses. Even if the secondary is our primary weakness, then those three QBs shouldn’t be able to exploit it. Of course, this comes with a number of caveats...

This analysis does not account for OL or WR talent that could make up for some of the issues these QBs have. Though without doing much research in that area, I’d imagine there aren’t glowing reviews for those position groups either. As for individual teams, Nathan Elliot is only a reluctant starter for UNC-CH. Throughout the season, Fedora has attempted to move on to Chazz Surrett, Cade Fortin and Jace Ruder (if those aren’t three of the most Tar Heel-ish names ever…) and all have suffered injuries or been ineffective...so he still may slide over a walk-on in our game just for spite. Extreme Carolina’s QB has only started the last three games and looked better than injured starter Reid Herring (or is he a misdirect???), but depending on how their last 3 weeks go anything could change. Even “Puma” Pass has been pulled a couple of times for Malik Cunningham in spots for Louisville this year. There is no guarantee we will face any of these QBs come game-time.

The other caveat is Wake Forest this Thursday night. Hartman would’ve been the best QB we played during this stretch. Frankly, we don’t know what to expect from his backups. We’ve seen RS Junior Kendell Hinton in the past but RS Sophomore Jamie Newman is likely getting the start and there’s virtually no college tape on him. Oh we’ve definitely been in this position with a little known new starter coming to Carter-Finley so its possible Newman comes out swinging and surprises us. Yet there is some comfort that after 2 years in the program, it’s curious Newman could not beat out Sam Hartman for the starting gig. Also we should note that Hinton may have lost favor with the WF staff due to discipline issues and injuries this season. The point is it’d be unlikely for one of those guys to match Hartman’s numbers and even if they did, his numbers pale in comparison to Lawrence and Dungey’s.

There’s no such thing as a worry-free Wolfpack fan (SSUPO is the mantra) but this really feels like a situation where NC State will have to beat itself on special teams, with turnovers, or curious playcalling to lose any of our 4 remaining games. All three can happen, and I’ll bet we will see each of them rear their ugly head at least one more time before the year ends. But if the strategy for these teams is to sink NC State through attacking our secondary in the passing game, they just don’t seem have the personnel...I think they’re gonna need a bigger boat.