"I know they caught a lot of grief, but they've been more productive this year than they were last year. They've got 10 more catches as a group and one more touchdown as a group. A lot of people don't realize that. They want to see what they want to see. I'm proud of those guys because as a group, they've become more productive with a team that didn't throw the ball as much as we did last year. That's nice to see, that those kids have played above the level they did last year and scored more touchdowns than they did last year."This sounds like a valid defense, on the surface. Upon closer examination, it is full of holes. To start, let's lay out all the numbers. To help with comparisions, I have bolded the year that was better for each statistical category. (Note: This quote was made before the New Mexico Bowl. The stats below include the New Mexico Bowl.)
2009: 28 rec., 387 yards, 4 TD
2010: 32 rec., 368 yards, 7 TD
2009: 23 rec., 556 yards, 4 TD
2010: 37 rec., 410 yards, 1 TD
2009: 32 rec., 376 yards, 1 TD
2010: 5 rec., 48 yards
2009: 16 rec., 155 yards, 1 TD
2010: 5 rec., 40 yards
2009: 6 rec., 95 yards
2010: 42 rec., 527 yards, 7 TD
2010: 2 rec., 11 yards
2009: 105 receptions, 1,569 yards, 10 TD
2010: 123 receptions, 1,404 yards, 15 TD
As for that claim that BYU did not throw the ball as much in 2010, BYU attempted 419 passes in 2009 compared to 428 attempts in 2010.
The bottom line is that the BYU wide receivers caught more passes for less yards, but they did get into the end zone five more times for an average of once every 8.2 receptions (compared to once every 10.5 receptions a year ago). Is that really being “more productive” and playing “above the level” of a year ago?
Coach Higgins is using a slippery slope to defend the receivers. He wants to focus on the collective rather than the individual comparisons. That's okay, football is a team game, after all. The problem is he is using an exclusive collective—the collective receiving corps—as opposed to the collective passing game. The 2009 passing game was built around BYU's two talented, senior tight ends, who combined for 92 receptions, 1,237 yards, and 13 touchdowns. With only inexperienced freshmen to fill the void left at tight end, BYU needed the receivers to do more, much more, for the collective team than match their unit's totals from last year. Just like the passing game leaned on the tight ends in 2009, it needed to lean on the wide receivers in 2010.
The receivers fell flat on their faces when just a little pressure was applied. All four receivers who returned from 2009 had less receiving yards in 2010, and all of them, except Ashworth, had fewer touchdown receptions. What saved the receiving units collective numbers was Cody Hoffman's contributions. He filled the void in receiver production. As explained, however, the team needed Hoffman to help fill the void in tight end production.
Coach Higgins' argument gets really spotty when it is applied consistently from year to year, and not in isolated years that the receivers are being criticized. In 2008, wide receivers accounted for 172 receptions, 2,324 yards, and 18 touchdowns. That is a 67 reception, 755 yard, and 8 TD drop off from 2008 to 2009. What is the excuse for that? Wait, I know, BYU didn't throw the ball as much in 2009 as 2008. This time, that is actually a true statement. BYU attempted 75 more passes in 2008. Problem solved, right? Wrong. In 2008, the wide receivers accounted for a little over half of the receptions, half of the passing yards, and half of the touchdowns. Sixty-seven is 89% of 75. Not only would Max Hall not have completed 67 more passes with 75 more attempts, he would not have thrown all of those passes to wide receivers.
Besides being a slippery slope, Coach Higgins' comments reflect a selfish attitude that doesn't care about the team and what the team needed from his unit. When his unit lost playmakers Austin Collie and Michael Reed, the tight ends and running backs stepped up to fill the void. Now, when the tight ends need the receivers to return the favor, Higgins is advocating that all his boys needed to do was match their contributions from a year ago.
The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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