A couple weeks back, quarterbacking guru Patrick Johnston of InTheBleachers.net informed us that contrary to conventional wisdom, college quarterbacks generally don't improve as they get older. Based on Pat's innovative Positive Impact Factor (PIF) measure for evaluating QB performance, he concludes that what you see early on is likely what you're going to get.
Had the Oklahoma Sooners seen the same Landry Jones in 2010 as the one who took the field a year before, Bob Stoops might have had more to think about when Florida came calling in January. Fortunately for Sooner Nation, The 'Stache proved to be the exception to the rule.
|Comp. %||Yds/Att||INTs/Att||Passing Efficiency|
Another promising sign: Jones made those strides playing against some tough defenses. Brian Fremeau of Football Outsiders noted recently that when adjusting for quality of competition, Jones' passer efficiency ranking for 2010 climbs from 24th nationally to 13th. (I followed up with Brian, who told me that Jones ranked sixth among quarterbacks returning in 2011, behind (in order): Kellen Moore, Andrew Luck, Brandon Weeden, Terrelle Pryor and Aaron Murray.)
So, how high can 'Stache fly?
One possibility is that Patrick's original conclusion is correct and the guy we all watched last year is the real Landry Jones. Fate thrust Jones into a difficult spot in 2009. The Sooners were all in with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and there's no way Jones was prepared mentally to be the full-time QB when Sam Bradford got hurt in the first game of the season. With a full offseason to rep as a first stringer, 2010 simply could provide a better representation of No. 12's true capabilities.
If Jones hit his ceiling in 2010, he showed that, at the very least, he can keep the Sooners' big hairy winning machine clicking. OU may not be good enough to win a national championship with that level of performance, but it's clearly good enough to win the Big 12.
Jones dropped plenty of hints last season that he has room to grow, though. He still demonstrated a bad habit of locking on to receivers. His progressions need work. Although there weren't as many as the year before, Jones continued to give OU fans more than his fair share of "what the hell" moments. The 'Stache also has room to improve away from Norman, as his play has seen a noticeable dip outside the friendly confines of Owen Field in the last two years.
At the end of the day, though, Sooner Nation can take heart in knowing that Jones played with some big stones in 2010. He shephered the Crimson and Cream through some tight spots, including six wins by eight points or fewer. When the Sooners went down 17-0 to Nebraska in the conference championship game, Jones didn't fold.
|Comp. %||Yds/Att||TDs||INTs||Passing Efficiency|
*Based on change from 2009 to 2010.
And, from a numbers standpoint, Jones really isn't that far off from playing at an elite level. If – yes, this is a major "if" – his stats improve at the same rate as they did between 2009 and 2010, we're talking about Heisman-worthy production.
Jones entered 2010 as the big question facing OU in its quest to bounce back from the disappointment of the previous. Now, for a team with hopes of winning an eighth national championship, the big question facing Jones is, just how good can he get?