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Breaking down LSU QB JaMarcus Russell
Posted Oct 19, 2006

Breaking down LSU Quarterback JaMarcus Russell by the Numbers.

Statistically, JaMarcus Russell has improved dramatically from 2005 to 2006 adding 34 yards per game to his average and upping his completion percentage from 61 to 69%.  He has improved his game to such an extent that he can now consistently dominate the weaker opponents on the schedule, as he should.  However, it's when you break the overall numbers down that you realize the inadequacy of his performance in certain key areas. 


When playing against elite SEC opponents1 in 2005 and 2006 he has averaged 204 yds/game and a mediocre 55% completion percentage averaging less than a touchdown per game while also averaging one interception per game.  Those two stats alone will not win you many ball games.  Should LSU expect to see a W in an SEC game against an elite opponent when the quarterback averages less than a touchdown, one interception, 205 yards, and only a 55% completion percentage for the game? 


For those of you saying right now, “what about Alabama, Auburn, and Florida a year ago”?  LSU won those games in spite of Russell, not because of him.  .


In 2005, Russell had two interceptions against Florida.  Against Auburn he had 190 yds passing and only one touchdown.  Against Alabama, he only completed 53% of his passes and threw one touchdown.  His salvation at Alabama came when he heaved up a prayer to help win the game, but up until that point his performance was lacking.  As for this year, his performance this year against Auburn (zero touchdowns) and Florida (three interceptions) weren’t stellar, either.


While one might argue that Russell’s performance against the SEC overall is good and struggling against the elite conference teams is to be expected, his performance against all of the SEC opponents on his schedule in 2005 and 2006, is not significantly better.  He averages only three more yards per game, his touchdown average climbs from 0.86 to 1.25 per game, while his interception rate drops from 1.0 to 0.92.   Better, but still nothing to write home about. 


Probably the most important statistic a QB can have is the ability to win on the road, a characteristic marking your program as one of the best.  Unfortunately for Russell and for LSU, this is where he has had his worst performances.  He averages only 212 yds/game and 0.5 touchdowns per game to go with one interception per game in these elite SEC games on the road.  You won’t consistently win games on the road against top SEC opponents when you are putting up a pick, 212 yards and < 1 touchdown.  Against all SEC opponents on the road, Russell’s statistics are equally pedestrian.  He averages 214 yds/game and 1.1 touchdowns per game and slightly less than one interception per game.


Comparing Russell’s SEC statistics to those of the last three SEC championship winning quarterbacks: Matt Mauck, Jason Campbell, and DJ Shockley. 
While facing all SEC competition Russell has averaged 206.9 yds/game, 0.92 int’s/game, 1.25 td/game, and a 59% completion rate.  By way of comparison, the three championship quarterbacks averaged 206.4 yds/game, 0.77 int’s/game, 1.73 td/game and a 62% completion rate.  What sticks out with this comparison of quarterbacks is that against the SEC overall JaMarcus Russell’s numbers are pretty comparable to previous championship quarterbacks.  Where the numbers diverge is in games against the elite SEC teams. 


In games against elite SEC opponents Russell has averaged 204.3 yds/game, one int/game, 0.86 td/game, and a 55% completion rate.  The three championship quarterbacks averaged 218.4 yds/game, one int/game, 1.5 td/game, and a 63% completion rate.    


What does all this mean?  It means Russell, while possessing exceptional talent, still has a lot of room to improve.  To date, he has been either a neutral contributor or even a liability against top SEC opponents.


1Includes 2005 - Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, at AL, at GA and 2006 at Florida, at Auburn - Ten had down year in 2005, but still had top SEC talent.