Photo by Christine Troyke
There are many ways to gauge the success of a quarterback, with wins and losses being the ultimate measuring stick, of course.
However, with as many statistics as there are for signal callers, the National Football League and NCAA have the process down to a simple science.
OK, maybe it’s not so simple, but the scientific method that is the quarterback rating — or passing efficiency — has become arguably one of the most scrutinized and studied statistics by players, coaches, fans and fantasy football team owners alike.
Yet, it is not necessarily one that has been applied much to the high school game.
“We look at completion percentage, what our yards per catch are, our yards after catch — stuff like that,” Collins Hill coach Kevin Reach said. “But you can get so precise with your formulas. So, we really don’t get into it that much.”
However, with as many offenses geared towards an aerial attack as there are in Gwinnett County this season — the area has a dozen quarterbacks who have thrown for more than 1,000 yards this season, compared to just two 1,000-yard rushers — quarterback ratings seem relevant.
“There are a lot of things I look for when you throw it as much as we do,” Central Gwinnett coach Todd Wofford said. “You look at (your quarterback) having a completion percentage over 60 percent all season. Last week, (sophomore starter Eman Westmoreland) was over 80 percent, which is outstanding.”
Completion percentage is an important element of a quarterback rating, but it is only one of many.
Both the NFL and NCAA utilize the same four main criteria in their respective QB rating formulas — completion percentage, yards per attempt, interceptions per attempt and touchdowns per attempt — with points awarded for each phase and added and subtracted together to come up with a number.
The two main differences in the respective formulas are that the NFL awards roughly half as many points for yards per attempt as the NCAA and also has upper and lower limits for each criterium, while the NCAA does not.
It’s a lot to keep up with, and perhaps why few high school statisticians — who have limited resources and many time constraints — even attempt it.
But some Gwinnett programs do, including North Gwinnett, though with a caveat.
Coach Bob Sphire and his staff give it no more scrutiny than any other statistic and he admits, “Our stat guy does have a quarterback rating, but I don’t know what formula (the pro or college formula) he uses.”
Still, as complicated and rare as it is, some county coaches find the quarterback rating a useful teaching tool for their offensive field generals.
“It’s an important number to look at because even if you’re gaining just one or two yards, every completion is important,” said North’s C.J. Uzomah, who shares quarterback duties with Scotty Hosch. “I think it’s one of the most important numbers — not necessarily yards and touchdowns.”
So, who are Gwinnett’s most efficient passers? The answer depends on several factors, such as which formula (college or pro) is being used, and of course, determining the quarterbacks who get the lion’s share of their teams’ snaps as opposed to reserves who come in toward the ends of games.
All that said, it’s no coincidence many of the highest-rated quarterbacks come from some of the county’s most successful teams this season.
But it may seem surprising the No. 1 quarterback in the county in passing efficiency under both the NCAA and NFL formulas — Grayson’s Nick Schuessler (210.13 and 138.77 respectively) — comes from a program known more for its running game.
North’s tandem of Uzomah (second in NFL formula at 134.6 and fourth in NCAA at 184.6) and Hosch (sixth in both formulas at 117.64 and 161.67) are both among the leaders, with each owning high completion percentages (64.4 for Hosch and a whopping 82.3 for Uzomah) and having combined for just one interception all season.
“If you look around, mine and Scotty’s are probably among the highest just because of what Coach Sphire does (in his system), which is teaching us to take what the defense gives us,” Uzomah said.
Other leaders include yardage and touchdown leader Taylor Heinicke of Collins Hill, plus Andrew Frerking of Wesleyan, Alex Ross of Buford, John Russ of Mill Creek, Kent Rollins of South Gwinnett and Ben McLane of Brookwood — all quarterbacks of teams headed to the postseason next week.
For some quarterbacks, having that high rating is a point of pride, though as Heinicke points out, it doesn’t supersede the big picture.
“Aside from the stats, the team winning is still the most important thing,” said Heinicke, who leads the county with 199 completions, 2,775 yards and 32 TDs on the season. “If you’re winning, the stats are fun to look at.”