A quick glance at the numbers of Baylor Bears quarterback Bryce Petty quickly illustrates why he’s strongly being considered a Heisman Trophy front-runner for the 2014 college football season. In 2013, he threw for 4,200 yards with 32 touchdown passes to just three interceptions.
Add in the 14 rushing touchdowns, and the only thing that explains his absence from the Heisman Ceremony in 2013 would be the late-season bludgeoning Baylor took from Oklahoma State (which was certainly no fault of Petty’s, as he threw 359 yards and a pair of TDs).
However, as we preview the 2014 college football season, exploring which four teams will crack the code and find themselves competing in the tournament–the inaugural College Football Playoff–and hypothesizing who, as players, are destined to burst onto the scene, be weary of the fact that Petty could be MUCH better.
Those substantial numbers are eye-popping, but given the offense he’s in and the talent he possesses, Bryce Petty has the potential to be the single most dynamic talent in the sport.
Art Briles’ offense has become something to behold in college football. You’ve read the Chris Brown articles (not THAT Chris Brown) and you’ve seen the analysts diagram and dissect exactly what it is that makes his offenses so great.
It’s simple in theory, yet it requires such a consuming knowledge of the technical aspects of the game to truly understand.
However, when you boil it down to its most simplistic terms its about two things: explosiveness and putting the quarterback in a position to make simple decisions. He does this by isolating defenders and making two and three-option reads based on how they react.
Since taking the reins at Houston in 2003 and then again when he became the head coach at Baylor in 2008, Briles’ ability to put quarterbacks in a position to succeed has paid enormous dividends.
Three of his last four regular starters (excluding names like Blake Syzmanski and Joseph Blake, who each started several games but never played a full season as The Man) at quarterback have gone on to play in the National Football League. Those names: Kevin Kolb, Case Keenum and Robert Griffin III.
The fourth, Nick Florence, spent a year (2012) seguing between Bryce Petty and RG III, and he didn’t put up shabby numbers by any means, tossing for 4,309 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Interestingly, Art Briles quarterbacks have now thrown for a minimum of 4,000 yards with 30+ touchdown passes and 10 or more rushing touchdowns for three straight years.
In other words, Petty’s numbers in 2013 weren’t some gaudy, impossible to replicate one-off.
Quite to the contrary, Petty’s somewhat pedestrian 62.0 percent completion rating means that his passing numbers are likely to increase dramatically, if anything.
Over the past five season, Art Briles quarterbacks have completed, on average, 65.6 percent of their passes. If Bryce Petty were to progress to that mean, it’d mean an even bigger year in 2014.
But it could be even more than that. Briles’ signal-callers have historically shown marked improvement in their senior seasons. His last two notable full-time, multi-year starters at quarterback were RGIII (a four-year starter at Baylor) and Kevin Kolb (a four-year starter at Houston).
Robert Griffin III went from great as a junior to historically good as a senior when he won the Heisman Trophy. He threw for nearly 800 more yards, 15 more touchdowns and went from completing 67% of his passes in 2010 to completing 72.4 percent of them in 2011.
Similarly, Kolb’s numbers ballooned as a senior and his completion percentage jumped by more than seven percentage points from 60.5 to 67.6 from ’05 to ’06.
Petty, now a fifth-year senior has only known the Art Briles way in his career, and even with the attrition at Baylor from 2013 to 2014, we should see those passing numbers improve this season.
However, that development alone isn’t what could make Petty a Heisman-caliber player. It’s been his development as an athlete.
FoxSports.com’s Bruce Feldman recently ranked Bryce Petty as the sixth most freakish athlete in college football. The 6-3, 238 lb. QB runs an astonishing 4.62 second 40-yard dash and verticals 38 inches with incredible weight room numbers to boot.
He’s got the build of a Tim Tebow or a Blake Bell, and we saw that Petty could be an effective goalline runner in 2013. However, that consistently improving speed (he reportedly ran in the high 4.8s coming out of high school) makes him a constant threat in an offense that’s proven it knows how to utilize a mobile threat at the quarterback position.
The pressure on Bryce Petty is going to be immense given everything that the Baylor Bears lost from 2013, but Petty has put himself in a position to be even more successful this year. He’s got room to improve as a passer and he’s going to have more opportunities than ever to showcase his “freakish” athleticism.
When it’s all said and done, I like Petty to win the Heisman Trophy, becoming Art Briles’ fourth NFL quarterback and making Baylor impossible to ignore if you’re an elite QB prospect.