The stats that matter

Tom Herman could make it more complicated if he wanted.

Certainly anybody with an IQ that meets the requirements for a MENSA membership can handle some statistical measurements that require more than basic addition or calculating a percentage.

But the Ohio State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach doesn't need complex statistics to figure out if his passers have had a productive game, and he's not going to make things any harder than they need to be.

Simple, traditional numbers will work just fine for Herman as he goes to work evaluating the Buckeyes and starter Braxton Miller during his first season with the program.

"Individually, it's turnovers and completion percentage," Herman said in a phone interview last month. "For us, the protection of the football and managing the game is really big.

"Obviously a lot of that comes down to completion percentage when you talk about managing the game, so those two are the biggest things if you are evaluating whether or not a guy had a great Saturday."

Herman throws in one more if he's evaluating whether his offense collectively had a productive weekend, checking to see which team turned in the most plays of 20 yards or more to win the battle for explosive plays.

Of course, the scoreboard trumps them all, but Herman largely can predict how that will read based on his other trusty numbers. And when training camp opens, he and Miller figure to be going straight to work trying to boost the completion percentage of 54.1 he had as a true freshman last season to help tilt the odds in Ohio State's favor.

"I think the biggest thing [in the spring] that we wanted to find out was first and foremost if these guys could throw," Herman said. "Obviously it was very apparent that they could, especially Braxton. He had a knock on him that he wasn't [accurate] for whatever reason, I guess his percentage wasn't great last year or whatever. He had a little bit of a knock publicly that he wasn't the greatest of throwers, but I'm telling you the kid can throw the football.

"I mean, a smooth, quick release coupled with a strong arm. It is a joy to watch."

Herman and coach Urban Meyer wanted to see it as much as possible throughout the spring as they tried to renovate one of the worst passing attacks in the nation, wrapping up the workouts by letting Miller air it out 31 times in the closing exhibition game.

The sophomore completed more than 77 percent of those attempts and racked up 258 yards, certainly looking comfortable with the new system and appearing plenty capable of making the throws the Buckeyes need him to down the road.

Of course, that performance doesn't really count for anything and the schemes will definitely change when Miller is more free to run and turn his multipurpose skills loose down the field. But either way, Miller still put one other number on the stats sheet that would have significance if the game mattered more -- an interception that would get Herman's attention right away.

"Obviously in the turnovers, you know, he can't turn the ball over, whether it's interceptions or fumbles," Herman said. "That's probably the biggest thing. If a kid throws the football 25 times a game throughout the course of a 12- or 14-game season -- and this is pie in the sky -- but he never threw an interception, you wouldn't have to look at completion percentage or touchdowns thrown or anything.

"If he played and threw that many passes throughout the course of a season and never threw an interception, you'd say that dude is a really good quarterback."

But if that doesn't happen, Herman has other easy-to-crunch numbers ready to figure out how good his quarterbacks are playing.