Inside the Numbers: James Mitchell, Hendon Hooker Against the Blitz, and More

James Mitchell, Virginia tech
James Mitchell has arguably been the biggest beneficiary of Hendon Hooker starting at quarterback. (Ivan Morozov)

It’s time for another Inside the Numbers article.  This week we look at James Mitchell’s increased production with Hendon Hooker as the starting quarterback, as well as Pitt’s blitzing and press coverage habits.

James Mitchell and Hendon Hooker

It’s no big secret that Hendon Hooker has helped Virginia Tech’s offense be more productive, but he’s especially helped true sophomore tight end James Mitchell.  Mitchell’s grades in the passing game have been like night and day.  Here they are in games that Hendon Hooker didn’t start…

BC: 56.3
ODU: 60.2
Furman: 61.1
Duke: 52.4
Notre Dame: 52.7

And now here are his passing game grades when Hendon Hooker was the starting quarterback…

Miami: 83.1
Rhode Island: 61.9
UNC: 60.1
Wake: 93.0
GT: 91.6

Big difference, huh?  And even that UNC game should be taken with a grain of salt, considering he played over half of it with either Ryan Willis or Quincy Patterson.  He did catch a touchdown from Hooker before Hooker was hurt.

We had heard so much about Mitchell before the season began that when he did virtually nothing over the first month, we all wondered where that hype came from.  Now we can see that it wasn’t misguided.

Hendon Hooker, Virginia Tech
Hendon Hooker and the Tech offense have torched the blitz. (Jon Fleming)

Handling Pitt’s Blitz

Pitt has one of the top defenses in the country, and they particularly like to get after the quarterback.  They can shut down the running game, put offenses in long yardage situations, and then pin their ears back on third down.  As a result, they lead the nation in sacks (45) and sacks per game (4.5). 

The Panthers don’t necessarily blitz a lot.  They blitz on 41.5% of their plays, which is slightly above the ACC average of 40.2%.  As a comparison, Virginia Tech blitzes just 30.9% of the time.  However, the Panthers lead the ACC in quick pressures with 142, and their average time to get pressure is just 2.29 seconds, which ranks second in the league.

Pitt’s blitz rate has varied by game.  They blitzed on 81% of downs against UCF, but only 23.4% of downs against Duke.  I guess it depends on matchups, down and distance, etc.  If I were the Panthers, I’m not sure how much I’d blitz the Hokies.  Check out Hendon Hooker’s passing grades…

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