Finding good QBs in a sea of run-heavy college teams

Finding good QBs in a sea of run-heavy college teams

Postby RyanChristiansen » Tue Jun 16, 2020 1:04 am

I’ve been looking at college football stats for the 1961 season, and the vast majority of teams were run-heavy to the point where fewer than maybe 10 college teams even had a quarterback who attempted more than 14 passes per game. Curiously the Southern Conference, with smaller private colleges, had teams with significant passing offenses. How in the world did NFL and AFL teams find good quarterbacks when passing was so marginalized? The Big Ten did have three QBs who stood out, but only Ron Miller from Wisconsin made an NFL team, but his career was a blip. Sandy Stephens from Minnesota did play in the CFL, but his career was also a blip. Outside the Big Ten, the only standout college quarterback, Roman Gabriel, seemed to have much success as a pro. Yes, there were successful QBs from the 1961 draft class (e.g. Fran Tarkenton) but his production as a college QB was not in a passing-focused offense.
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Re: Finding good QBs in a sea of run-heavy college teams

Postby Bryan » Tue Jun 16, 2020 11:57 am

I've often wondered the same thing. It was normal for college QBs to have less than 1000 passing yards, so how could you accurately scout players with such a small sample size? In 1961, the consensus All American at QB was Sandy Stephens of Minnesota. Roman Gabriel and John Hadl received some mention as well, but is there really any reason that Sandy Stephens didn't get a shot in the NFL or AFL? There weren't any QBs throwing the ball in college at that time, then you'd get some outlier like Gary Tensi at FSU or Jerry Rhome at Tulsa, and those guys would be busts in the NFL/AFL.

In something that is probably only interesting to me, at separate times I've worked with two former 1960's Big 8 starting QBs...one guy played at Kansas and handed off to Gale Sayers, the other guy played at Missouri under Dan Devine. Both guys were my size and averaged about 400 yards passing per season. It was definitely a different game back then.
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Re: Finding good QBs in a sea of run-heavy college teams

Postby Jay Z » Tue Jun 16, 2020 2:00 pm

Sandy Stephens was African American, which meant at the time he was disqualified from playing quarterback in the NFL. Even if he went to a Big Ten School.

It depended on the era and situation. Johnny Unitas did throw a lot in college, as U of Louisville was not very good.

Also, college players played both ways through the early 1960s. The pros had to take what they could get. Ron Vander Kelen of Wisconsin was not a starter there, but played a few years in the pros based on his Rose Bowl performance.

Even if the colleges did pass, the passing game maybe wasn't too sophisticated. Jack Clancy caught 76 passes for the 1966 Michigan Wolverines; next highest on the team was 9 receptions!

By the late 1960s you had schools like San Diego State emerging. At that point even some of the white QBs at the run heavy school would get switched off QB in the pros, like Jack Mildren and Rex Kern.
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Re: Finding good QBs in a sea of run-heavy college teams

Postby Bryan » Tue Jun 16, 2020 2:50 pm

Jay Z wrote:Sandy Stephens was African American, which meant at the time he was disqualified from playing quarterback in the NFL. Even if he went to a Big Ten School.


Yeah, but its not like there was a plethora of qualified white QBs to choose from. If NFL teams were OK with using a top 10 draft pick on a QB with 700 yards passing like John Hadl, then you'd think Sandy Stephens would have gotten more of an opportunity and the wheels would have been turning quicker prior to the James Harris/Joe Gilliam 'break throughs'.
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Re: Finding good QBs in a sea of run-heavy college teams

Postby BD Sullivan » Tue Jun 16, 2020 10:59 pm

Pete Beathard and Bill Nelsen shared the Southern Cal QB position in 1961-62.

Daryle Lamonica didn't really get a shot to start until his senior year at Notre Dame, which may explain why he decided not to back up Starr in GB.

Charley Johnson was presumably not highly-thought of when the Cardinals picked him in the 10th round, but he obviously made his mark.

It seems like a lot of the starting QB's from the 50's had some unusual career longevity through most of the 60's.
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Re: Finding good QBs in a sea of run-heavy college teams

Postby RyanChristiansen » Wed Jun 17, 2020 9:20 am

There are no sources listed for the information on this web page, but a site called Helmet Hut has a write-up about Stephens on a page that displays what is said to be his Kansas City Chiefs helmet.

http://www.helmethut.com/Chiefs/Stephens.html

The site says that after the CFL, and after rehabilitating from a "near-fatal" car accident, Stephens played in the preseason for Kansas City (alongside former teammate Bobby Bell), but Stephens was the last player cut before the regular season.

Here's a clipping I found that shows Stephens in KC uniform.

img.jpg
img.jpg (75.84 KiB) Viewed 3063 times
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Re: Finding good QBs in a sea of run-heavy college teams

Postby SixtiesFan » Wed Jun 17, 2020 3:50 pm

Bryan wrote:
Jay Z wrote:Sandy Stephens was African American, which meant at the time he was disqualified from playing quarterback in the NFL. Even if he went to a Big Ten School.


Yeah, but its not like there was a plethora of qualified white QBs to choose from. If NFL teams were OK with using a top 10 draft pick on a QB with 700 yards passing like John Hadl, then you'd think Sandy Stephens would have gotten more of an opportunity and the wheels would have been turning quicker prior to the James Harris/Joe Gilliam 'break throughs'.


I saw Sandy Stephens play on TV in the 1961 Rose Bowl, age 10, an upset loss to Washington. I saw him play the next year's Rose Bowl when Minnesota beat UCLA. My memory of Stephens is he was an excellent runner who didn't throw very well.

I checked his Minnesota 1960-61 stats at Sport Reference. In 1960, Sandy Stephen passing stats were 22-62, 35.4 %, with 2 TDs. In 1961, he had more yardage and TDs but still completed only 35 %.
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Re: Finding good QBs in a sea of run-heavy college teams

Postby RyanChristiansen » Wed Jun 17, 2020 6:15 pm

SixtiesFan wrote:I saw Sandy Stephens play on TV in the 1961 Rose Bowl, age 10, an upset loss to Washington. I saw him play the next year's Rose Bowl when Minnesota beat UCLA. My memory of Stephens is he was an excellent runner who didn't throw very well.

I checked his Minnesota 1960-61 stats at Sport Reference. In 1960, Sandy Stephen passing stats were 22-62, 35.4 %, with 2 TDs. In 1961, he had more yardage and TDs but still completed only 35 %.


He actually improved quite a bit while playing in the CFL with a 48.5% completion percentage.

https://www.statscrew.com/football/stats/p-stephsan002
"Five seconds to go... A field goal could win it. Up in the air! Going deep! Tipped! Caught! Touchdown! The Vikings! They win it! Time has run out!" - Vikings 28, Browns 23, December 14, 1980, Metropolitan Stadium
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Re: Finding good QBs in a sea of run-heavy college teams

Postby sluggermatt15 » Tue Jun 23, 2020 3:20 pm

Pitt during the mid-70s was a run heavy offense with Tony Dorsett, Elliott Walker, and Freddy Jacobs.

QB Matt Cavanaugh attempted 65 passes in 1975, 110 in 1976, and 187 in 1977.

https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/pl ... ugh-1.html
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Re: Finding good QBs in a sea of run-heavy college teams

Postby vikingsfan1963 » Tue Jun 23, 2020 4:59 pm

Montreal did not play in the 62 or 63 Grey Cup games when Stephens was in the CFL.
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