I sent my piece, “Tebow vs. Daniel: Passing” to the Orlando Sentinel‘s and SunSports’ Mike Bianchi, and I got a reply back (thanks for the input, Mike!). Along the same lines of thinking as in the passing piece, he asked: is Tebow really a better runner, or just a guy who runs more?
Well, this is a tricky question, but I decided to tackle it. A lot depends on your definition of “runner” – are you talking speed and elusiveness, or are you talking effectiveness as someone attempting to gain yards on the football field to a specific end? Noel Devine and Jovorskie Lane are both running backs, but they have wildly different styles and are used for entirely different purposes. Devine can have highlight reel long runs, but he can’t pick up tough ground on short yardage situations like Lane can. Can you really say one is better than the other when they do completely different things?
I cover the discrepancy between Tebow’s style (sometimes as a battering ram) and Daniel’s (as an open field scrambler) below while still finding enough common ground between the two to come out with a conclusion, even if it is more tenuous than the conclusion about them as passers. It’s just the nature of the question. I’d say the fact that Tebow was even used as a running back while Daniel was not should be enough for anyone, but if that’s not enough for you, I give you my response to Mike Bianchi:
For all of these stats, I subtracted sacks out of the carry totals and added the lost yards on sacks back to the net yardage total because sacks don’t have much to do with how a guy does at running.
1. Is the guy a running QB, or just a mobile QB?
I’d define a running quarterback as a guy whose coaches plan on having him do designed runs or option reads, while a mobile quarterback is someone who can move around but seldom does designed runs or option reads. I’ve watched every Florida game start to finish, and I can tell you that Tim Tebow is a running QB. I haven’t seen as much of Mizzou as I’d liked to, but they’ve been on Gainesville TV a couple times and from what I’ve seen, Chase Daniel is a mobile QB.
2. The Offenses
Florida runs the ball 58% of the time to Missouri’s 47%, but the rush/pass mix is determined by a lot of things, mostly the head coach’s personal preference for either. Those figures don’t tell you much, but the percentage of the time that the QB rushes out of total rushes does tell you something. Tim Tebow’s rushes have accounted for 40% of his team’s carries; Chase Daniel’s rushes account for 17% of his team’s carries. Neither team has a dominant tailback, and both teams have at least 7 players (in Missouri’s case, 8 ) with at least 10 carries. With Tebow’s rushing stats ( 5.29 yards/carry, 22 TDs) being better than Missouri’s top rusher Tony Temple’s stats (4.9 yards/carry, 8 TDs), it would appear that Tebow is the best rusher on either team which by definition, makes him a better rusher than Daniel. Other players have better yards/carry numbers (for instance, Percy Harvin for Florida and Jeremy Maclin for Missouri), but they lack Tebow’s durability as a rusher, as evidenced by their having fewer carries.
3. The Numbers
These are actually somewhat inconclusive. Their yards per carry are similar (T: 5.29, D: 5.23), but there’s the issue of them being completely different runners – Tebow is used frequently in short yardage situations, whereas Daniel has picked up some longer runs off of busted pass plays since no one puts a spy on him. Tebow wins the carries per TD battle ( 8.27 versus 25.67) and the carries per first down battle (3.57 versus 4.81), but Tebow is often used for short yardage situations that naturally lead to first downs, as opposed to Daniel’s less planned, more opportunistic rushing style. After all, a greater percentage of Tebow’s first downs have come on rushes of 3 yards or less than have Daniel’s (18% versus 12.5%).
4. The Schedule
I have to put the sacks back in this time, because the NCAA doesn’t provide rush defense stats that don’t include sacks.
Tebow rushed for 4.63 yards per attempt, 13% higher than the 4.09 his opposition gave up on average. Tebow rushed for 1.83 TDs per game, 31% higher than the 1.4 his opposition gave up on average. In other words, Tebow was more effective both at picking up yards and scoring on the ground than anyone, running backs included, would have been expected to be given the same exact schedule. Think about that for a second.
Daniel was not used as his team’s primary running option, and he lost a lot more yards on sacks (9.06 per sack, versus Tebow’s 5.33), so his numbers in this regard don’t match up well. Daniel rushed for 2.77 yards per attempt, 29% lower than the 3.93 his opposition gave up on average. Daniel rushed for 0.25 TDs per game, 86% lower than the 1.52 his opposition gave up on average.
Again, due to the different running styles, these numbers don’t do much for comparing the two, other than signaling that Tebow was used like a running back whereas Daniel was not. However, Tebow still wins points here because he was a better than average rusher given his schedule. The fact that Tebow even could be used as a running back signals that he’s most likely a better rusher than Daniel is.
Because of how different the player’s styles are, it’s difficult to compare them as rushers. After all, when 3 yards out of the endzone, Tebow rushes up the middle thanks to his bruising style, whereas Daniel is more likely to throw a screen to the tight end thanks to him not having a smash mouth running style. Plus, defenses key on Tebow running even in passing formations, so he doesn’t have as many opportunities to run free on broken pass plays as Daniel does.
If there’s one thing that sets them apart it’s this – Tim Tebow can do an effective one-man play action pass. Other’s have tried it periodically (Ryan Perrilloux at LSU, for one) and as easy as it would be for any quarterback to implement (just take a step and lean forward before dropping back to throw in the shotgun), no one else can do it as well as Tebow can. That high amount of respect given to him by defenses run by very good defensive coordinators (Chavis, Pelini, Andrews, et. al.) signals that he is a serious running threat. There is no evidence as of yet to suggest the same about Daniel, so that’s why I’d say in the end that Tebow is a better runner than Daniel is.