Superlatives for the 2015 college football season
With the college football regular season all wrapped up, we’re ready to dish out some superlatives. But of course, this is PFF, so we’re going to dive in deep. Take a look at what we found in data from the last few months:
Most dominant tackler
Most defensive stops: Kentrell Brothers (Missouri Tigers), 78
Missouri linebacker Kentrell Brothers forced more defensive stops than any other player in football, with 78. A defensive stop isn’t simply a tackle, it’s a tackle that causes an offensive failure and puts the defense in a more favorable situation. And that’s precisely what Brothers did in 2015, by frequently stopping opponents for little or no gain. Brother’s had six or more defensive stops in nine games, including the 14 he recorded in the Tigers season opener. TCU LB Paul Dawson led the nation in 2014 with 94 stops.
Most likely to breakaway
Highest breakaway percentage: Stanley Williams (Kentucky Wildcats), 66.3 percent
No back gained more of his rushing yardage on big plays than Kentucky RB Stanley Williams, who gained 66.3 percent of his yards on breakaways (15+ yard runs) — living up to his “Boom” nickname. We often hear that chunk plays are crucial in modern football, and Williams ability to turn a gap into a large gain is definitely a source of chunk plays. Florida State RB Dalvin Cook led the nation with 1066 yards gained on breakaways, but on a per run basis even the explosive Cook had to take a back seat to Williams. New Mexico RB Jhurell Pressley claimed top place in 2014 with a 71.0 breakaway percentage.
Highest run stop percentage (ID): Ronald Blair (Appalachian State Mountaineers), 14.5 percent
Appalachian State defensive end led all interior defenders (defensive tackles and 3-4 defensive ends) with a 14.5 percent run stop percentage, thanks to making 39 stops against the run. Blair racked up four or more run stops on seven occasions, and a season-high six run stops in the Mountaineers Week 2 game against Clemson. It’s no great surprise that he finished the season as the highest-graded interior defender in the Sun Belt. In 2014 it was UConn DT Mikal Myers who led the way, with a 15.3 run stop percentage.
Most likely to throw it long
Most deep passing yards: Matt Johnson (Bowling Green Falcons), 1577 yards
No quarterback gained more yards on deep passes (those that travel 20+ yards downfield in the air) than Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson, who gained 1577 yards and 18 touchdowns on such throws. Johnson connected with his receivers on 37 deep throws, which means almost half his deep completions went for touchdowns. Seven different Falcons WRs caught deep passes from Johnson, with Roger Lewis his favorite deep target. Marshall QB Rakeem Cato was top in 2014 with 1495 yards.
Most likely to bring the heat
Highest pass-rushing productivity (ED): Joe Schobert (Wisconsin Badgers), 21.1
For the second consecutive season, Wisconsin’s Joe Schobert proved himself to be the most productive pass rusher in the nation, leading all edge defenders (4-3 DEs and 3-4 OLBs) with a 21.1 pass-rushing productivity. Schobert racked up nine sacks and 44 total pressures in just 167 pass rush snaps. Schobert wasn’t simply a pass rush specialist brought on in obvious passing situations, he was an every down defender, grading positively in run defense and coverage, as well as rushing the passer. In 2014 Schobert was joined atop the chart by Rutgers Kemoko Turay, both recorded a 19.4 pass-rushing productivity.
Quickest time to throw
Time to throw: Deshaun Watson (Clemson Tigers), 2.01 seconds
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson got the ball out of his hands faster than any other QB in the nation, averaging 2.01 seconds before throwing the ball. Of course the speed with which a quarterback uses the ball is a function of the offense. Clemson employed a fair number of screens and other quick developing plays, and didn’t ask their QB to stand in the pocket for extended periods. Troy QB Brandon Silvers was the quickest in 2014 taking just 1.97 seconds to throw, and was fifth-quickest this season with 2.13 seconds.
Most likely to play it safe
Highest throwaway rate: Treon Harris (Florida Gators), 12.1 percent
With 26 throwaways from 214 pass attempts, 12.1 percent of all passes Treon Harris attempted were throwaways — one other QB had a rate above 10 percent. That’s in stark contrast to the man he replaced, Will Grier. Grier had four throwaways from 163 attempts, so 2.5 percent of his passes were thrown away. Harris didn’t throw the ball away the most, Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson, and Colorado’s Sefu Liufau share the lead with 27 throwaways, but also threw the ball more often. UConn’s Chandler Whitmer had the highest rate in 2014, with 9.8 percent of his passes being thrown away.
Most likely to elude tacklers
Highest elusive rating: Saquon Barkley (Penn State Nittany Lions), 127.8
Saquon Barkley, Penn State’s freshman running back, proved tougher to tackle than any other back in the nation. He forced 59 missed tackles on 179 touches, and averaged 3.88 yards after contact. In seven of his nine games, Barkley forced at least five missed tackles on seven occasions, particularly impressive when you consider he only touched the ball in ten games. One such occasion was in Week 4 against San Diego State when he forced seven missed tackles on just nine touches. Louisiana-Lafayette RB Elijah McGuire led the way in 2014, with an elusive rating of 127.5, very similar to Barkley’s 2015 mark.
Most likely to drop the ball
Highest drop rate (WR): Jovon Durante (West Virginia Mountaineers), 25.81 percent
With eight drops from just 31 catchable passes, the Mountaineers Jovon Durante had the highest drop rate in the nation. It’s not a record anyone wants to hold. Fortunately for the freshman he still managed to make a positive impact, he averaged 15.8 yards per reception, and scored five touchdowns. San Diego State WR Lloyd Mills led the way in 2014 with a drop rate of 24.1 percent.
Most likely to keep his QB upright
Highest pass-blocking efficiency (OT): Spencer Drango (Baylor Bears), 99.2 percent
Baylor left tackle Spencer Drango allowed just one QB hit, and three hurries all season, giving him a nation-leading 99.2 pass blocking efficiency. Only three other tackles gave up four or less total pressures, but Drango took almost twice as many snaps in pas protection as any of them. The one QB hit he did give up came against Oklahoma State DE Emmanuel Ogbah, one of the very best edge rushers in the nation. Three players tied for the lead in 2014 with 99.0 percent pass-blocking efficiency, but LSU La’el Collins wore the crown as he didn’t allow a single sack or QB hit.
Most likely to miss a tackle
Most missed tackles: Blake Dees (South Alabama Jaguars), 34
South Alabama linebacker Blake Dees missed more tackles in 2015 than any other player, with 34. That’s an average of 3.1 missed tackles per game (Dees played 11), and the low point came against Arkansas State with seven missed tackles. It wasn’t all bad for Dees, he forced 56 defensive stops, which tied for 13th-best among all linebackers, and had 19 defensive stops in a two game spell mid-season. Southern Miss safety Emmanuel Johnson claimed this dubious honor in 2014 with 32 missed tackles.
Most likely to break up a pass
Most interceptions and pass breakups combined: Desmond king (Iowa Hawkeyes), 20
With eight interceptions (one of which was returned for an 88-yard touchdown) and 12 further passes defensed, Iowa CB Desmond King got his hands on the ball more than any other defender. King got his hands on the ball so often that there were only two games where he had neither a pick, nor a pass breakup. Given his penchant for making plays, it’s hardly surprising that King finished the regular season as our fourth-ranked corner. In 2014 the defender with the most combined interceptions and pass breakups was Western Michigan CB Donald Celiscar, who got his hands on the ball 19 times.