BYU has seen its share of changes at quarterback over the past 3 seasons, with 4 different QBs getting at least 1 start during that span. A question that is often raised is just how much does a change at QB affect the distribution of passes to the receivers? In other words, do different QBs have different “favorites” they like to throw the ball?
Below is a heat map showing how often receivers were targeted (i.e. were recorded as the intended receiver, regardless if the pass was actually completed) by different BYU QBs over the past 2 seasons. The heat map shows that there were definitely some receivers that benefited/suffered by the change in who was throwing the ball to them.
Conventional wisdom was that in 2011, Jake Heaps favored Apo more than Hoffman and it was vice versa when Riley Nelson took over as the starter. It turns out in this case that conventional wisdom was actually correct. Heaps threw to Apo 19.1% and Hoffman 17.8% of the time, but Nelson only looked to Apo 14.0% and Hoffman 25.9% of the time. That’s a pretty pronounced swing in receiver preference.
Something that appears to have gone largely unnoticed is that McKay Jacobson suffered even more by Nelson’s playing time, having his targeting percentage cut nearly in half, from 14.8% to 7.8%.
In 2012, the distribution of the ball was a little more consistent between QBs. The biggest differences were that JD Falslev was targeted much more frequently (7.1% increase) and Kaneakua Friel much less (6.9% decrease) by James Lark, compared to Riley Nelson.
All 3 QBs in 2012 relied equally heavily on Cody Hoffman, targeting him between 30.3% and 33.8% of the time. With most of the receivers from 2012 returning in 2013, it will be interesting to see if the ball distribution will be a little more even than it was last year.