Let’s go back to the 2012 NFL Draft. Big 12 quarterbacks dominated the first round. The Redskins took Baylor’s Robert Griffin second. The Dolphins took Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill No. 8. The Browns took OSU’s Brandon Weeden 22nd.
Two program-changing quarterbacks in RG3 and Weeden. An athletic whiz in Tannehill who seemingly in 15 minutes went from college wide receiver to AFC East quarterback. Lose those kinds of quarterbacks, and retooling is in order. Wouldn’t be a shock to see any of those programs take a little dip, or a big one, as it tries to replace such quarterbacking talent.
But look what’s happpened. Baylor’s offense hasn’t dipped under Nick Florence. OSU’s offense hasn’t dipped under appreciably under Wes Lunt, J.W. Walsh or Clint Chelf. A&M’s offense, though in another galaxy, hasn’t dipped at all under Johnny Manziel.
Raw numbers can be misleading, but they are a decent guidepost for generalizations. So let’s look at the raw numbers.
OSU: In 2011, the Cowboys were second nationally in scoring offense (48.7) and third in total offense (545.9). This year, the Cowboys are third nationally in scoring offense (45.6) and fifth in total offense (547.9). So very close to the same. The Savannah State debacle skews the stats a little, but that evens out over 11 games.
Baylor: In 2011, the Bears were fourth nationally in scoring offense (45.3) and second in total offense (587.1). This year, the Bears are fifth nationally in scoring offense (44.4) and second in total offense (575.5). Griffin was a once-a-century player, but Baylor’s offense in 2012 is at least the equal of the 2011 Baylor offense. Baylor ended OU’s national title hopes in November 2011 with an amazing offensive performance, a 45-38 victory. Baylor ended Kansas State’s national title hopes in November 2012 with an amazing offensive performance, a 52-24 rout.
Texas A&M: In 2011, the Aggies were 11th nationally in scoring offense (39.1) and seventh in total offense (490.2). This year, having moved to the SEC, where the Ags played tougher defenses but more pushovers with four non-conference games, A&M is fourth nationally in scoring (44.8) and third in total offense 552.3).
There is a clear lesson here. Sometimes it’s not just the quarterbacks. Sometimes it’s the offense in totality. Not to disparage Griffin, Tannehill and Weeden, who were excellent quarterbacks and are NFL starters today, but sometimes the scheme and the talent base and the commitment to a system goes a long way, too.
Which is good news for the next wave of Big 12 programs that will switch out quarterbacks. OU, West Virginia, Baylor again with Florence a senior. Perhaps even Kansas State, though the Collin Klein story is a little different.
OU’s Landry Jones and West Virginia’s Geno Smith will go high in the draft. How easily will they be replaced? The Sooners seem to reload at quarterback, though OU has had just two quarterbacks the last six seasons, thanks to Landry’s longevity. West Virginia’s hopes have to buoyed by what’s happened at OSU, where Dana Holgorsen’s offense remains in place and which hummed along not just with Lunt replacing Weeden, but with Walsh and Chelf after at least three injuries struck the OSU quarterback corps.
The truth is, the offensive culture of college football in general, the Big 12 in particular, makes reloading much easier. Big numbers tend to follow big numbers, regardless of quarterback change. That’s good news for any Big 12 school that needs to change quarterbacks, be it in the off-season or mid-season.