The early 2015 Heisman Trophy lists are out now, and Villanova quarterback John Robertson isn't quite in the national discussion just yet. He was the best player in the FCS last season, and even if some media punditry this season is focused on claiming other quarterbacks are better than him, he is one of the favorites to take home the Payton Award again this season. Sometimes the top player in FCS ends up being one hell of a player on the next level as well, of course -- Jerry Rice being one of the most legendary examples.
We think that John Robertson is a future professional quarterback (though, his fallback plan of a career on Wall Street surely won't be too bad either), and we think he's one of the best players in ALL of college football. So, as your official headquarters of the John Robertson for Heisman Campaign, we'll track the Villanova quarterback throughout the season (barring injury) against the top Heisman candidates -- as determined by ESPN's Heisman Watch.
Let's kick things off...
Robertson vs. Top-5 Heisman Quarterbacks - Passing:
|Trevone Boykin, TCU||13||492||301||0.612||3901||300.1||145.9||33||10|
|Cody Kessler, USC||13||452||315||0.697||3826||294.3||167.1||39||5|
|JT Barrett, Ohio State||11||314||203||0.647||2834||257.6||169.8||34||10|
|Deshaun Watson, Clemson||8||137||93||0.679||1466||183.3||188.6*||14||2|
|Connor Cook, Mich State||13||365||212||0.581||3214||247.2||149.4||24||8|
*note: Did not play/pass enough to qualify for NCAA ranking in passing efficiency.
Against the group of top-five passers, it appears that Robertson has some work to do. He was near the bottom in pass attempts last year, which certainly hurt his cumulative numbers. He is fourth in the group for total yardage despite this (and if I had included it, he would be second for yards-per-attempt), but close to last on yardage per game. He was second in touchdowns and interceptions (and really, with Watson only playing 8 games, he might as well be first in interceptions). He was third in the group for completion percentage and first for efficiency, if you discount Watson's short-season like the NCAA does -- and by a large margin by that measure.
Robertson isn't necessarily the shining star of the group, but his numbers show that he belongs. Sure, he played against FCS defenses, but the CAA isn't any slouch in that category, and the Wildcats played a tough schedule that included a Syracuse defense that was just outside the top-25 in FBS last season.
Robertson vs. Top-5 Heisman Quarterbacks - Rushing:
|Trevone Boykin, TCU||13||152||707||4.7||34||8||54.4|
|Cody Kessler, USC||13||55||-152||-2.8||13||2||-11.7|
|JT Barrett, Ohio State||11||171||938||5.5||86||11||85.3|
|Deshaun Watson, Clemson||8||63||200||3.2||17||5||25.0|
|Connor Cook, Mich State||13||51||80||1.6||13||2||6.2|
Robertson compares very favorably against this group in the running game, of course. His critics and fans alike will remind you that the Villanova QB is a true Dual-Threat and in Villanova's run-first offense, the Wildcat signal-caller has plenty of opportunity to call his own signal.
Robertson was first or second against the group of Heisman-hopeful QBs in every category listed above. He tied Barrett for first with 11 rushing scores, but had a solid handle on overall yardage and, of course, on attempts. If the Heisman trophy were a quarterback-only competition, Robertson's rushing stats would certainly keep him in the picture among this group. Sadly, Robertson has a couple of running backs, a wide receiver or two and probably a linebacker to worry about as well.
So, if Robertson is going to rely on his legs to win the hearts and minds of Heisman voters this season, he probably ought to run as well as some of the top Heisman Candidate running backs, right?
Robertson vs. Top-5 Heisman Running Backs:
|Ezekiel Elliot, Ohio State||14||273||1878||6.9||85||18||134.1|
|Nick Chubb, Georgia||13||219||1547||7.1||83||14||119.0|
|Leonard Fournette, LSU||13||187||1034||5.5||89||10||79.5|
|Derrick Henry, Alabama||13||172||990||5.8||49||11||76.2|
|James Conner, Pitt||13||298||1765||5.9||75||26||135.8|
Robertson was third in this group for rushing attempts, but only comes in fourth for total rushing yards. It doesn't help him that sacks count against his numbers in the college game -- but rules are rules, and 4.7 yards per attempt is the worst of this bunch. While over 1000-yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns really is nothing to sneeze at, Robertson just doesn't compare to the group of elite running backs based on last year's stats.
In 2013, Robertson carried 217 times for 1405 yards (6.5 per attempt) and 20 touchdowns in 11 games (127.7 yards/game). Those numbers still aren't at the top of the pack, but they're certainly more likely to get Robertson into the Heisman picture as a runner.
Realistically though, Robertson's running is a plus-factor to his quarterback ability. Though it was his legs that earned him the nickname "Pinball" (because he bounces off defenders like he's playing pinball), he'll need to earn it with his throwing arm this season.
Robertson vs. 2015 Heisman Winner Johnny Manziel - Passing:
|Johnny Manziel 2012||13||434||300||0.691||3706||285.1||155.3||26||9|
Johnny Manziel is the Heisman-winning NFL quarterback that most resembles John Robertson in terms of quarterback style. Both are somewhat undersized quarterbacks who like to take off on runs, but also have a good arm and can make plays in the passing game. So, just for fun, lets take a look at the 2012 season when Manziel won the Heisman Trophy, and compare that to Robertson.
As a passer, Manziel was certainly more prolific in 2012 than Robertson was last season. He easily beats Robertson in attempts, completions, completion percentage, and yardage. Differences in offense may account for a lot of that, but Manziel threw the ball a lot and it usually was caught by someone. Robertson threw the ball less, and a few more of them hit the turf.
While Manziel was pretty efficient as a passer in 2012, his nine interceptions were six more than Robertson threw and his pass efficiency rating suffered, leaving him well behind Robertson in that category.
Overall, Robertson has some work to do to catch up to 2012 Manziel as a passer, but he's on the right track.
Robertson vs. 2015 Heisman Winner Johnny Manziel - Rushing:
|Johnny Manziel 2012||13||201||1410||7.0||21||108.5|
Manziel was a machine on the ground in 2012. He might have been able to win the Heisman on his rushing ability alone, in fact. Averaging 7 yards per attempt, Manziel put up 1410 yards on the ground, and scored 21 times as a runner. Robertson did well as a runner, but 2014 Robertson just can't match what 2012 Manziel did on the ground.
If 2015 Robertson wants to compare favorably to 2012 Manziel in the running game, he may need to run more like 2013 Robertson did:
|Johnny Manziel 2012||13||201||1410||7.0||21||108.5|