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Who needs big plays and wide receivers?

Kevin Hogan has thrived by using his tight ends, fullbacks and running backs in the passing game. In the future, he should probably look to get his wide receivers more involved.

Steve Dykes

Darius Tahir (@dariustahir) says an over-reliance on short passes could handicap the Stanford offense.

A funny thing happened on the way to passing game improvement: the wideouts got left behind. Compare nearly every top-line category of Hogan’s to Nunes’, and the former is superior -- better yards per attempt, better rushing threat, better accuracy. (There are a couple of areas in which Nunes is better -- he throws a better deep ball and takes fewer sacks. But, as I’m sure we all agree, these areas don’t outweigh the "duh" take that Hogan is much better than Nunes now, and has significantly more upside also.)

The Oregon game made this trend obvious -- every time there was a play to be made in the passing game, it was Hogan to Ertz (and sometimes to Hewitt, and sometimes to Taylor and sometimes to Toilolo). Ertz’s 106 yards accounted for the majority of Hogan’s 211 passing yards.

But it wasn’t just that game, it’s been all the games. If you compare Nunes’ last three games plus Colorado (i.e. Notre Dame, Cal, Washington State, the two series against Colorado), he averaged 53.3% of his passing yardage to running backs, tight ends and fullbacks versus, well, 46.7 to wideouts.

Hogan, on the other hand, has directed 68.8% of his passing yardage of TE/RB/FBs versus 31.12% to wideouts.

This may or may not end up being a problem. It’s possible it’s temporary -- that Hogan, not unlike a foreign exchange student seeking out the lone McDonald’s in a strange land with stranger food -- is seeking out the comfort, familiarity and security of his tight ends, running backs and fullbacks. If you were just starting out, wouldn’t you want to throw to Zach Ertz a ton? I would too.

However, over the long term, it’s hard to say the arrangement is sustainable. For one, if you think Zach Ertz is coming back next year, you are...highly idealistic. (And I wouldn’t be shocked to see Toilolo leave also.) For two, it does hint at a big play problem for the offense. Coby Fleener of sainted memory aside, big passing play tight ends, running backs and fullbacks are generally in short supply. And Hogan’s outrageously high 74% completion rate (paired with a 7.32 YPA) suggests that short, safe passes are being called for. That’s fine for the moment, but will only handicap the offense in the future -- I would, if anything, advocate a lower pass completion percentage (with more explosiveness leading to a higher yards per attempt.)

(And while we’re on this vein, Hogan’s deep throws have been a bit worrisome this year -- he missed an open wideout, Devon Cajuste, against Oregon State and against Oregon he was also a bit wayward. It’s nothing to panic about...yet. But, if you’re like me, and you like to eagerly anticipate the things you will worry about in the near future -- supervolcanoes, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the dwindling supply of phosphates, for other possibilities -- then "Hogan’s Deep Throws" is an excellent thing to get the neurotics in the audience fired up and ready to go.)

But enough of that: a date with destiny and/or pratfalls awaits at the Rose Bowl.