After the Oklahoma Sooners’ 24-19 defeat to Kansas State on Saturday, I got to briefly revel in the awesomeness that is Collin Klein before finding myself in the position of defending OU quarterback Landry Jones. Midwest Sports Fans’ Jerod Morris took himself a road trip to Norman to watch the game and mentioned how some OU fans were calling for four-year starting senior Jones to be benched.
One can understand the fans’ frustration, though it’s a little extreme since losing to Bill Snyder and The Power That Is Collin Klein is, some might say, inevitable. But calling for Jones’ benching in favor of back up Blake Bell? That’s more than a little extreme.
Against Kansas State, Jones was 28 for 43 passing for 298 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also averaged 6.9 yards per attempt. Definitely not a bad game, for most quarterbacks, but these numbers were more or less on average with Jones’ career too. It was a bad game to be sure, but there is no statistical proof that Jones is playing any worse than years past. You know, the years that made him a Heisman candidate.
In 2012, Jones is averaging 7.2 yards per attempt and is completing 63.6 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and two interceptions. Both the yards per attempt and completion percentages are almost exactly matching his stats from the Kansas State game. Granted, he’s only three games into the season, but still the Kansas State game was hardly an anomaly, and that includes a 69-13 win over Florida A&M.
The 2011 season is what got Jones Heisman hype heading into this year in the first place, though it was the second of his back to back 4,000+ passing yard seasons. He averaged 7.9 yards per attempt, just slightly more than this year, and completed 63.2 percent of his passes, which is basically the same as this year. He also threw more interceptions (15) than games played (13), so it isn’t like he doesn’t have a small case of the turnover bug. A 29/15 touchdown to interception ratio isn’t that great anyway.
In Jones’ sophomore season (2010), he set career highs in completions (405), attempts (617), yards (4,718), and touchdowns (38). 2010 is when Jones looked very much to not just be the quarterback who followed Sam Bradford, but succeed him in the pantheon of great Sooners quarterbacks. However, he averaged 7.6 yards per attempt that year, which is actually a little less than his 2011 average and only slightly more than his 2012 average.
So why the decline in regular production from 2010 to 2012? Easy. DeMarco Murray was the starting running back in 2010. Murray scored 15 touchdowns and ran for 1,218 yards. The next season saw Dominique Whaley and Roy Finch share carries, but combined they carried far less than Murray did in 2010 despite running for essentially the same amount of combined yards. Whaley is back in 2012, but is splitting carries with junior Damien Williams.
However, Jones was the focus of the offense in 2011 and teams knew it. The Sooners were no longer a running team, or really even a balanced team offensively. They were pass-first in the offense-happy Big XII. That year was also Jones’ first without former offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who is now the head coach at Indiana. His replacement, former OU passer Josh Heupel, understands Wilson’s system, but while the statistical dropoff has only been slight, it’s still noticeable enough.
With Landry Jones as the focus of Oklahoma’s offense the last two years, and with teams knowing the Sooners are going to live and die with his arm, Jones has still produced pretty darn well. More to the point, exactly who would be the go-to guy on Oklahoma’s offense should Jones be benched? Blake Bell seems physically talented, but he has thrown all of nine passes in his college career. He and Jones spent the offseason competing for the starting job (at least nominally) and head coach Bob Stoops has made it clear that Bell didn’t do anything to push Jones for the job.
While Jones’ career stats don’t match up well with Sam Bradford’s, they are comparable to Josh Heupel and Jason White’s, though White threw for more touchdowns his final two seasons. And White had Adrian freaking Peterson in the backfield.
So calm the f**k down, Oklahoma fans. Benching a proven producer will land you in 5-7 or 4-8 rebuilding territory, and you obviously don’t want that. Besides, you’d probably just demand that Bob Stoops be fired too even though he’s solely responsible for saving Oklahoma football.