Yes I used this pic even tho someone might whine about politicz
Al Borges has been a football coach since 1975. That's 38 years. He's been an offensive coordinator since 1985. That's 28 years. He's been an OC at the D1-A level since 1995. That's 18 years. So there is a lot of data.
But before we get to the fun part (the data...yes, I'm a nerd), it's important to look at some of the factors that may have skewed the data. I freely admit that I have not considered all of the potential bias sources, but here are a few:
Perhaps the most influential factor on an OC's performance is the Head Coach. Borges has worked for six HC's since coming to D1-A football--three of the them have been winners, and three have been not as good.
Borges' first season as an OC at the D1-A level was at Oregon with Mike Bellotti. Bellotti is a 63% career winner and an offensively-minded HC. In fact, he's sort of the godfather of Oregon's rise, and is considered an innovator and a an offensive genius. Since Bellotti took the helm at Oregon at 1995 (and subsequently Chip Kelly), the Ducks have gone to a bowl game 16 out of 18 years. They had only been to four bowl games in the previous 31 years. It's worth noting that the 1995 season was the most pass-heavy (as a % of plays called) in Borges' career. Bellotti averaged 8.3 wins per season as the Oregon HC, and won 9 games with Al as his OC. Bellotti averaged 7.2 wins/season over his career.
Bob Toledo has been coaching for a long, long time. His first college season was at UC Riverside in 1974. He is an ex-QB and an offensively-minded HC. He's averaged 5.2 wins/season over his career, and his best two years were at UCLA in 1997 and 1998, when Borges was his OC. He averaged 7 wins/season at UCLA, and averaged 7 wins/season with Al. He is now the OC at San Diego State.
This is Tom Holmoe. You didn't need to know that.
Tom Holmoe played safety at BYU and professionally. He is a defensively-minded HC and had success as a DB coach at the pro level. He was not a good coach. He averaged 2.4 wins/season at Cal (his only college HC job) and won one game with Borges in 2001, his last season. He has been the Athletic Director at BYU since 2005.
Gerry DiNardo was the last in a string of three losing HC's. At Vanderbilt, LSU, and Indiana, DiNardo averaged 4.9 wins/season. In three years at Indiana, he averaged 2.7 wins/season, winning five games in two years with Borges as his OC.
Tommy Tuberville is a bit of an enigma. He played safety at Southern Arkansas in college and is known to be a very defensively-focused HC. There have been reports of him fighting with his OC's in the past, and he generally prefers a more conservative offense, as he believes defense wins games. In 2003, when he was on the hot seat, he fired his OC and hired Al Borges. In 2007, when Auburn tried to organize a coup (not kidding) to fire Tuberville, he had Borges resign and hired a new OC. It seems this guy likes to pass the buck. He has been successful, averaging 7.6 wins/season as a HC, and averaged 8.5 wins/season at Auburn. With Borges running his offense, he averaged 10.5 wins/season. They were his best years at Auburn. FWIW and based on my limited observations, the Auburn faithful still seem to have a lot of love for Borges.
And, of course, there's Brady Hoke (54% career winner as HC). I'm not going to compare average wins/season here, since Ball State and SDSU don't really compare to Michigan. But Brady is a defensively-minded HC who appears to give Borges a lot of autonomy--learning about Al's story, I have to wonder if that's one of the big reasons he agreed to coach for Brady, having been burned at Auburn by what appears to have been a meddling HC.
It's darn near impossible to know how good the O-lines have been that Borges has coached. There are very few stats for the O-line, and they are hard to find before the last 6 years or so. What does appear to be clear from Al's record is that his teams with strong O-lines seem to perform well regardless of who is playing QB, RB, WR, or TE. More sacks have generally corollated with fewer wins. His two years at Michigan certainly correlate with that, but it's just an observation.
Defenses can skew stats in all kinds of ways. A great defense will probably give you more plays as an offense, but will also encourage more conservative play-calling and a run-heavy offense, since less risk is required to win. Bad defenses can force mistakes and risk-taking by an offense, and would certainly tend to force an OC into a more pass-heavy offense.
It's the HC's job to make sure a team is getting the talent it needs to win. That said, coordinators and the coaching staff obviously have a responsibility to identify and recruit talent. Since we really only have recruiting data since 2001, Borges' performance relative to his talent is hard to determine (since the '01 class really didn't start having a significant impact until '04, his first year at Auburn). The recruiting data has improved exponentially in the last few years, and the first years were not as reliable.
That said, Borges does not appear to be a strong recruiter. His greatest success at Auburn came with players he inherited, as it did at Oregon, UCLA and SDSU. Again, it's hard to know who's to blame, but I would be very concerned if Borges was our recruiting coordinator. His track record doesn't seem to be strong there.
The counterpoint to that argument is his early success at lower levels of football. At Portland State, his best offensive seasons were his last two, when he was coaching a team composed entirely of "his" players.
Al Borges has called almost 14,000 plays at the D1-A level. His cumulative averages suggest that he very much believes in a balanced offense. He has averaged 28.0 ppg and 7.3 wins against an average SOS (strength of schedule) of 33.8 (roughly equivalent to the 34th toughest schedule in the country; U-M's 2012 SOS was 33).
If you remove the dismal years at Cal and Indiana, his averages jump to 30.1 ppg and 8.4 wins/season. That is a lot of success at major programs. Here is what his play chart looks like without the three years at Cal and Indiana:
Interestingly, his play-call bias is identical, and so is his yardage bias. Relatively, his passing offense is much more efficient than his rushing offense: his 4.09 ypp on the ground would have ranked 78th in the country in 2012*, while his 7.93 ypp in the passing game would have been good for 25th. The 5.76 ypp total average would have ranked 54th--one slot above the #55 ranking he would earn for ppg.
*Please note that using 2012 as a benchmark is not a valid comparison given how much the game has changed over time, but it does provide a decent benchmark for relative strength
This data clearly communicates what we already know: Borges uses the run to set-up the pass, and even uses the pass to set-up the pass, calling on the running game and short passing routes to get defenses off balance before throwing deep. It is a very traditional, pro-style play-call bias and it relies more on execution than scheme to defeat an opponent.
This is Devin Gardner. He is good at football.
Borges has doubled as the QB coach at every stop where he's been OC except for...San Diego State. So how has Borges done with the QB's he's coached? Here's a chart:
The average rating for his QBs is 131.0. Take out the Cal/Indiana years and that average jumps to 135.8. Perhaps more telling, the average change in rating (delta) for a QB from his previous year is 10.2. That number jumps to 14.6 when you take Denard out of the equation. To put that in perspective, a 14.6 rating increase would move a QB up about 25 spots on the ranking chart.
Obviously, he's had some rough years. Aside from Denard, whose rating dropped for two consecutive seasons under Borges, Brandon Cox and Cade McNown each saw their rating drop. Cox was part of the 2007 Auburn offense that got Borges
fired resigned, and McNown saw his rating drop from astronomical to very, very good--good enough to have him finish 3rd in Heisman voting.
Another fun fact: only Jason Campbell's undefeated season at Auburn in 2004 and Cade McNown's junior year at UCLA had higher ratings than DG's five games as a starter in 2012. Just sayin'.
Rushing and Receiving
Gallon's head appears to be about two feet higher than this poor DB's
In 17 seasons as an OC, Borges has had nine RB's with over 1,000 rushing yards, and four more with over 900. Ronnie Hillman's 1,532 yard season in 2010 leads the way, as does his 5.8 ypc. Second place for ypc goes to Fitz Toussaint in 2011 at 5.6. His teams have been over 1,500 rushing yards 11 times, and over 2,000 yards on six occasions. It is also interesting to note that some of his best rushers--Hillman, Toussaint, Irons, Foster--had regressive seasons as starting RBs, which suggests that the blocking means as much or more than the running in a Borges offense.
Being a receiver in a Borges offense means learning to share. No receiver (this term includes all pass-catchers, including backs and TEs) has ever caught 70 passes in Borges' offense, and there have been only 5 seasons with 60-plus catches (all WRs). Two of those came in 2010, when Vincent Brown and Demarco Sampson caught 69 and 67 balls, respectively, at SDSU.
But a lack of catches does NOT equal a lack of yards. Borges has coached six receivers to 1,000-plus yards, and 26 to 500-plus yards. This means a high yds/rec, which correlates with the "big play" goal of his passing game. Borges has coached 15 players (with at least 20 catches) that have averaged over 17 yards/rec. Gallon averaged 16.9 last year.
So...Who is Al Borges?
Al Borges has had some amazing success and some pretty terrible failures as an OC. While his play-call bias has varied from year-to-year, it does seem clear he strives for balance while attempting to use the best weapons at his disposal. Here is an interesting chart:
Since a higher SOS means an easier schedule, this chart should show a steady incline in wins and ppg. But Borges has had nine wins or more in 9 of his 17 seasons as an OC, and five of those years had a SOS ranked 33 or tougher, and three of those seasons had a top-15 SOS. He has had success against top competition, and he has failed against lousy competition. His performance seems to depend much more heavily on the talent and execution of his team than that of his opponent.
In the five seasons Borges posted double-digit wins, his teams averaged at least 4.0 ypp on the ground and 7.99 ypp through the air. The key actually seems to be more based on the passing game, which averaged 9.2 ypp in those five years. Again, this suggests that Borges' success is largely dependent upon his team to create big plays through air that have been set-up by the running and short passing games.
What all this means is that I would expect our 2013 offense to be around a 55/45 run/pass mix, with about 60% of the yards coming through the air. Based on his history of using freshman RBs and even if Fitz is healthy, I would expect Green to have a prominent role in the offense (100+ carries), primarily on first and second down. This makes it less likely that we'll have a 1,000 yard rusher.
Gallon should have a good year with big plays, but I doubt he'll maintain the torrid pace he was on at the end of last year. 60 catches and 1,000 yards (16.7 ypr) seems to fit Borges' patterns. It is also likely that a second pass-catcher--probably Amara Darboh--will have at least 30 catches, and Funchess could have similar numbers. For all of the talk of backfield passing in the West Coast Offense, only five primary backs have had over 20 catches for Borges, and only two of those had more than 22.
As for DG, I would anticipate that he is an improved QB, even if the rating doesn't show it. He was in rarified air last year 161.66, but I do believe a rating of 150-plus (top 25 in the country) is probable. Borges has only had four seasons of QB ratings above 149, and those seasons averaged 10.5 wins.
Success is likely to depend on a strong O-line and successful downfield passing. The running game needs to be reliable, but not spectacular. Stronger success corollaries seem to be completion percentage, yards per attempt, and the TD/INT ratio.
I have tried to keep my bias out of this diary as much as possible. FWIW, my opinion is that Borges is a very capable, if not spectacular, OC. His success seems much more dependent on his team than his opposition, which bodes well for the future given our successful recruiting as of late. I believe his weaknesses include recruiting, spread concepts (duh), and imaginative running plays. I believe his strengths include play action passes, fundamental attacking concepts (how to identify and exploit a defense's weaknesses), and the downfield passing game. This research has given me neither comfort nor concern about our upcoming season. I still believe the O-line play will be the key to our offense's success, as I believe DG will be an effective QB if given time and Borges has run the ball effectively with decent blocking, regardless of who is in his backfield.
In the future, I would expect our first-year starting QBs to struggle, and our success to pattern the effectiveness of our O-line. RBs and WRs will rarely have spectacular years under Borges, but the overall offense should be strong and diverse.
247 and ESPN have both updated their rankings since the last edition, and with several new commitments around the conference there are plenty of changes in this week's recruiting rankings. Most notably, Nebraska finally kick-started their 2014 class with seven commits in the last two weeks after having just two previously, moving them up into the MSU-Iowa-Wisconsin tier where they belong.
Changes since last rankings:
5-31-13: Purdue picks up Greg Phillips.
6-6-13: Iowa picks up C.J. Hilliard
6-7-13: Nebraska picks up Drew Brown.
6-8-13: Penn State picks up Michael O'Connor. Indiana picks up DeAndre Herron.
6-11-13: Ohio State picks up Sam Nuernberger. Nebraska picks up Tanner Farmer.
6-12-13: Indiana picks up Alexander Diamont.
6-13-13: Illinois picks up Austin Roberts.
6-14-13: Rutgers picks up George Behr and Robert Martin. Nebraska picks up Trai Mosley and Zack Darlington. Iowa picks up Jyaz Jones.
6-15-13: Nebraska picks up D.J. Foster, Demornay Pierson-El, and and Mick Stoltenberg. Maryland picks up Andrew Gray. Purdue picks up Kirk Barron and David Blough.
6-16-13: Rutgers picks up Logan Lister. Michigan State picks up Vayante Copeland. Minnesota picks up Gaelin Elmore.
6-17-13: Northwestern picks up Nate Hall. Minnesota picks up Connor Mayes. Indiana picks up Wes Martin.
6-18-13: Illinois picks up Henry McGrew.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|247 Comp. Rank* (Nat'l Rank)||School||# Commits||5*||4*||3*||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||247 Avg||ESPN Avg||Avg Avg^|
|2 (16)||Ohio State||10||0||7||2||3.40||3.60||3.70||3.50||3.55|
|3 (19) +1||Penn State||11||0||4||7||3.18||3.27||3.36||3.36||3.30|
|4 (20) -1||Northwestern||12||0||2||10||3.17||3.08||3.33||3.25||3.21|
|6 (28)||Michigan State||9||0||0||9||3.22||3.33||3.44||3.22||3.31|
|7 (36) +5||Nebraska||9||0||0||7||2.78||2.67||2.67||2.67||2.69|
|8 (39) -1||Wisconsin||6||0||3||3||3.16||3.67||3.50||3.17||3.38|
|9 (41) -1||Iowa||6||0||1||5||3.17||3.17||3.50||3.00||3.21|
|10 (58) +1||Minnesota||5||0||1||4||3.00||3.40||3.20||2.80||3.10|
|11 (60) -2||Illinois||6||0||0||5||2.67||2.67||2.67||2.67||2.67|
|12 (63) -2||Maryland||5||0||1||3||3.00||2.60||2.80||3.00||2.85|
*Full rankings and explanation here.
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
NOTE: Unranked recruits are counted as two-star players.
On to the full data after the jump.
APR AND BIG TEN FOOTBALL: A HIGH LEVEL SURVEY
SOME NOTES FIRST…
A few threads lately have touched on the subject of the Academic Progress Rate (APR) and where Michigan has been at in the recent past, but I thought it would be even more interesting to take a look at the entire Big Ten over the last several years. As it might garner the most interest, I chose to compare football programs.
I will first say that there was an interesting quandary that presented itself in collecting this data. It is simple enough to look up the rolling averages for the past eight years, but the reports published by the NCAA only had the individual team APR for four years prior, so I had to recreate the formula for finding the individual APRs using the rolling averages and I went back as far as 2004-05. I double checked my results and they seem reasonable.
ACADEMIC PROGRESS RATE:
Here is what we’re measuring when we talk about the Academic Progress Rate of a team.
For a given team, each student receiving aid will receive one point for retention (staying in school) and one point for remaining eligible to play. So, for a football team in Division I that is fielding the full complement of 85 scholarship athletes, there are a possible 170 points. If you have in a given year, for example, four players who drop out and are ineligible (subtract 8 points), and two players who remain but are merely ineligible (subtract 2 points), you would have (160 / 170)*1000 or an APR of 941.
It is also important to note that, when we enter the new championship structure, teams must earn a 930 four-year minimum average or a 940 for last two seasons to be eligible to participate in the championships. In 2015-16, it will simply be the 930 rolling average as the benchmark for participation. So, if you look at this from the perspective of how many “points” do you lose to get to 930, 93% of 170 is 158.1, so say, 159 or 11 points.
Of course, it is a metric, and the manner in which teams keep players in school and eligible can always be debated. It isn’t perfect by any means, but it is an interesting measure as it stands.
First, here is the table with the rolling averages (thumbnail is due to size of original):
There’s not a lot to say other than the general trend is towards improvement for almost everyone. As it is a rolling average, it does hide some intriguing variations between individual years, but you can see that the conference as a whole is generally getting better.
In the table below, you’ll see the individual team APRs, some of which were found algebraically as I mentioned.
The average of the individual APRs for football for the conference (including Nebraska when appropriate) is 957, but I have shaded in this table the instance of APRs below 957 so you can see which teams have missed that mark and how often. Northwestern, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin would come out as APR winners in this analysis if there were such a prize.
Here’s another way to look at it, however. This table shows team performance (by way of cool shading) the performance of individual teams against the yearly conference average of those individual APRs. The far right column is the conference average, and the bottom row is the school average in that period.
The one that should immediately grab attention is Minnesota, of course, followed to a lesser extent by Purdue, Illinois and Michigan State. These schools seemed spend a majority of this period at or below the conference average for individual APR in a given year. Michigan had a bad stretch there but you can see the tremendous improvement in recent years. Northwestern should not shock anyone really. Ohio State does well in this analysis as well.
ANOTHER VIEW OF IT:
Here is a cleaner view of individual team performance versus the average:
Again, part of the analysis was actually trying to extract information through algebraic means, so if I did all that right and I am not just deluding myself with regards to my math skills, you should now have a somewhat clear view of where the Big Ten has been and where it is headed when it comes to the measure. Whatever you may think of it as a tool, there has been a net increase of 5.06% in the Big Ten’s average yearly score over these last eight years. When you think of how many more student-athletes that may very well mean are completing their education, the effort inside the Big Ten to drive achievement is yielding results.
OH, AND OF COURSE...
I normally come to MGoBlog to avoid “College Confidential” type discussions, but the thread the other day about Michigan versus Harvard got me thinking about a few topics that might be of interest to some people here, as Michigan alumni (and maybe some people as non-alumni). In a previous lifetime, I had serious interest in university development and fundraising, and so I actually know a decent amount about some Michigan-specific issues.
People don’t really think about this, but Michigan’s endowment is actually relatively small, despite being big in absolute terms. For example, people see we have an endowment of somewhere around $8 billion these days, which is certainly huge, and better than pretty much every public school in the country save UVA on a per student basis. However, consider that a fairly comparable institution such as Northwestern has an endowment of roughly $7 billion, and only half the total students as Michigan. So, the endowment per student is basically twice as much at a place like Northwestern. Endowment pays for all kinds of things, such as professors’ salaries and financial aid. However, the returns on this diminish at a certain point. For example, a place like Princeton has something like $10 million in endowment per student, but at a certain point there just isn’t anything new to spend that on that they don’t already have. There are only so many professors they will hire, so many buildings to build, etc. Also, endowment funds are earmarked for specific things generally, and it’s hard to reallocate them. This leads me to my second point.
Financial aid: A school like Stanford gets about 20% of their operating budget from tuition. Michigan gets roughly 70%. We all know that the state has been cutting back on their funding for the school, and as a result Michigan has been jacking up tuition for both in-state and OOS students, with OOS students paying roughly 150% of their educational costs (as an aside, from what I hear, OOS students are now pushing 45% of incoming classes, mostly for reasons of tuition). This isn’t a knock on either student group, but it also disincentivizes generous aid, as tuition is so crucial to our budget. However, this also brings me to my next point.
Yield - the number of admitted students who then choose to attend the school. In general, Michigan gets about 40%, which is similar to Chicago, for example. However, due to the fairly low financial aid offered, a student accepted to Michigan might be considering a couple of fairly similar schools (say NYU and USC) and then due to personal preference, pick one of the other schools as the prices are fairly comparable. Or, they might be accepted to Michigan and a slightly lower-rated school (say Pitt), and want to go to Michigan, but get merit aid from Pitt but not Michigan. Basically, less aid decreases yield, and in turn increases:
Acceptance rate - This year, Michigan accepted roughly 15,000 people out of an applicant pool of 47,000, for an acceptance rate of roughly 33%. This has gone down a ton in recent years, as when I applied it was 50%. The lower the rate gets, the more perceived prestige an acceptance has. However, due to fairly low yield, acceptance rates stay fairly high relative to peers to fill spots. If yield even bumped up to say 50% due to better aid, we’d only have to accept 12,000 students to fill a class of 6,000 (ideally class size would go down due to the financial model changing from filling spots to get money to having cost of attendance and tuition being more equal, and therefore less incentive to fill more spots as it’s a financial wash). Even so, if within the next couple years applications bump up to 60,000, which is not unreasonable given the rise in recent years, acceptance rates would go down to 20%, which is just slightly lower than Berkeley now, and pretty dang competitive. In theory, this could be another “momentum” situation where lower acceptance rates and higher yields begets even lower acceptance rates and higher yields.
- So, this is wonderful and shiny and nice in theory, but you are saying “Hey, maizonblueaction, how would be go about increasing available financial aid, as that seems to be the premise behind your entire argument?” I’m glad you asked. First, let me premise this by saying that I am really and truly not affiliated with Michigan in any other capacity than that of a concerned alumnus. In her last move as president, MSC and co. are actually starting a rumored $5 billion capital campaign that will probably go mostly towards endowed funds that will increase financial aid, especially for undergrads, and I would imagine the success or failure of that will largely determine the fate of both need-based, and merit-based (someone gets accepted to HYPSM) and is given money to come here instead, and to some extent, perceived Michigan prestige. There is a football analogy here, for anyone interested in finding it.
[Ed-S: This series has now reached the Bump Stage. Part I is here.]
"I have never considered leaving Oregon a mistake," [Borges] says. "I consider going to Cal a mistake."
That is a quote from a November 2004 Seattle Times article about former Bellotti assistants. The article is largely about Borges, and is a pretty good read.
Al Borges left UCLA for a $50,000 raise, a two-year contract, and the opportunity to be the OC for the first D1-A program that gave him a shot as an assistant (1982 season). Born in Salinas, CA, Cal is pretty close to home for Al and must have had a special place in his heart. That special place led him down a deep, dark tunnel.
Whatever his reasons, Borges headed back to Cal...but it didn't last long. Tom Holmoe had been the HC at Cal since 1997. He had been a pro football player, and had coached under Bill Walsh and George Seifert, winning a superbowl as the DB coach for the 49ers in 1994. In 1996, he became the DC for Cal under HC Steve Mariucci. Quite a coaching tree, that.
When Mariucci left for the 49ers in 1997, Holmoe got the HC job. It appeared to be a perfect match. But the Bears were bad news, and went 3-8, 5-6, 4-7*, and 3-8 the next four years, and won a total of nine Pac-10 games during that span. And oh, the asterisk. It turns out that in 1999 a teacher retroactively added football players to a class to keep them eligible, and the athletic department knew it. Cal forfeited all four of their wins from the '99 season, got hit with five years probation, and lost nine scholarships over four years.
This was the mess Borges walked into. This is where you have to wonder if $50,000 is enough.
The schedule was brutal--ranked 4th in SOS--and the team was bad. Holmoe, a defensive coach, allowed a brutal 39.2 pts/gm (6th worst) and resigned after eight games--all losses. The offense wasn't much better under Borges:
|Plays||%||Yards||% of Yds||Yds/Play|
Those numbers equated to 18.3 pts/gm (#90 nationally) and exactly one win in eleven attempts. It is notable that the QB that season was third-year starter Kyle Boller, who posted a 110.3 rating and a 49.1% completion rate. Tedford would turn Boller into a winner in 2002, but Borges was fired with the rest of the Cal staff.
Jobless, Borges was also obviously desperate, since he accepted an offer from Gerry DiNardo to be Indiana's OC in 2002. Bellotti interviewed Borges for the Oregon OC job, but Borges took the offer from DiNardo, and left the west coast for the first time in his D1-A coaching career.
This is a long way from UCLA
After a stint at Vanderbilt, Gerry Dinardo turned around LSU. Before DiNardo's hire in 1995, the Tigers had suffered six straight losing seasons and had not been ranked in the AP Poll since 1989. DiNardo had immediate success, going to a bowl game in his first season where he beat Michigan State--coached by Nick Saban. '96 was even better--LSU finished the season ranked #12--and 1997 was magical, beating #1 Florida and thumping Notre Dame (after losing to them during the season) in the Independence Bowl. But then he sucked ('98-99), and Saban took over. We know how that ended.
After a year in the XFL as the HC of the Birmingham Thunderbolts, DiNardo took the HC job at Indiana in 2002, and he snapped-up Al Borges. DiNardo was an offensive-minded coach, having been a QB, and an OC at Colorado (including when they won the National Championship in 1990). He had been in college football coaching since 1975 when he got his start at the University of Maine. But, Indiana.
The Hoosiers were bad, and Borges could do nothing about it. In his first season as OC under DiNardo, Borges led the offense to 21.5 pts/gm (95th nationally) despite a pretty easy schedule (#52 SOS). Here's the breakdown:
|Plays||%||Yards||% of Yds||Yds/Play|
Actually, one could make a good argument that Indiana's passing offense was better than it should have been. The O-line was bad, and QB Gibran Hamdan--who had the unenviable task of replacing Antwaan Randle-El--spent a good chunk of the season on the turf. Despite that, the Hoosiers managed over 3,000 passing yards and had two WRs with over 50 catches. Courtney Roby had 59 recs and 1039 yards.
2003 brought in a new QB. Matt LoVecchio had transferred from Notre Dame, and had to sit out in 2002. As it turns out, there's a reason he left ND: he wasn't very good (he had actually transferred after a disastrous performance against Oregon State in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl). LoVecchio threw 3 TDs and 9 INTs. No, I did not get that backwards. The Hoosiers would sink to 14.8 pts/gm and manage only two wins. Here is the evidence, and it is damning:
|Plays||%||Yards||% of Yds||Yds/Play|
I'll go into more statistical analysis in Part III, but this was Borges' most run-heavy offense to date both in terms of percentage of plays and percetage of yards. I guess that's what you do when your QB throws more INTs than TDs by a 3:1 ratio. Courtney Roby's amazing-ness wasn't even enough to get the passing offense going, and he did not have a single TD catch (there were only four by anyone). BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the starting RB, but split carries with two other guys, all of whom averaged over 4 yards/carry. DiNardo would last one more season at Indiana. Borges wouldn't stick around for it.
Tuberville, I'm going to mind-trick you into hiring me from Indiana
How that performance gets you a job at Auburn, I'm really not sure. But that's what happened. In 2004, Tommy Tuberville had to replace Hugh Nall. After nearly being replaeced by Bobby Petrino in a secret coup (no joke, this is the SEC, after all), Tuberville had to make some changes, and Borges won the job. Auburn was coming off a disappointing 8-5 season, and Tuberville was definitely in a win-or-go-home situation.
Well, 2004 was a magical season for the Tigers. Scoring 32.1 pts/gm (#18 nationally, #1 SEC) in the SEC is a good accomplishment. Coaching a QB to a 172.9 rating the year after he posted a 132.6? WOW. Jason Campbell was a talented player, and Borges seemed to get the best out of him. Averaging an absurd 10.0 yds/att with a 69.6% completion rate and 20/7 TD/INT, Jason Campbell earned himself a first-round trip to the NFL. Numbers:
|Plays||%||Yards||% of Yds||Yds/Play|
The Tigers went undefeated and beat VaTech in the Sugar Bowl, but that wasn't the National Championship game. Unbeatens USC and Oklahoma played a boring game in which the Trojans dimantled the Sooners, and Auburn fans will forever bitch (I don't blame them).
Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown split carries and produced a combined 2,078 yards on the ground, and also pulled-in 55 catches for another 465 yards through the air. The leading WR--Courtney Taylor--had just 43 catches for 737 yards. It was Borges' most run-heavy offense (beating his 2003 total) by percetage of plays (not yards) and with good reason: he had two of the best RBs in the game.
The famed "Gulf Coast Offense" had the country buzzing about Borges, and his name was being thrown around for head coaching positions, including at San Diege State. Yes, 2004 truly was a magical season for Auburn and Al. The magic would never be repeated.
The 2005 Tigers had lost their QB and two starting RBs. Their 2002 recruiting class had been strong (one 5* and nine 4*), but their fortune had been steadily declining since then, and the '04 class brought just four 4* players and 15 players with 2* or less. There was still talent at Auburn, but Tuberville wasn't recruiting as well, and the talent was trending downward.
Starting QB Brandon Cox was a four-star recruit and had some skills. Kenny Irons had transferred from South Carolina after growing frustrated with his role in Lou Holtz's offense, taking his four-star talent to Auburn. Five-star Ben Obomanu was in his senior season. And, while the offense took a step back, it wasn't bad at all--32.2 pts/gm actually bested the previous season's average (though the rank dropped to #30, still #1 SEC) and the Tigers went 9-3, with a shocking opening season loss to Georgia Tech, a 3-point squeaker to LSU, and a tough loss to Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl. Here are the numbers:
|Plays||%||Yards||% of Yds||Yds/Play|
This was an extremely successful running game. In fact, it was a half-yard better per carry than the 2004 version, and Kenny Irons did most of the work, racking-up 1,293 yards and 13 TDs on 256 carries. Brandon Cox finished with a 132.6 rating, and no receiver had more than 33 catches or 494 yards. This was a good, balanced offense, but it didn't have Campbell, Williams, and Brown. It was, for the second consecutive year, the #1 scoring offense in the SEC. And for his good work without the departed stars, Borges was named the Rivals 2005 OC of the Year.
For whatever reason, things started to head south in 2006. Certainly, recruiting was part of the problem, as Auburn's 2004 class was pretty thin (but the 2006 class would be very, very good). Also, the strength of schedule jumped to #22 from #55. There is no doubt that the O-line play suffered, but that alone doesn't explain a drop to 24.8 pts/gm (#56) when you are returning your starting QB and RB. Here are the numbers:
|Plays||%||Yards||% of Yds||Yds/Play|
Brandon Cox did see his rating rise a bit to 138.7, and passing game improved in yards/att. But the running game was not as strong, and three RBs got at least 50 carries, including freshman Ben Tate. Courtney Taylor reprised his role as leading receiver with 54 catches for 704 yards and 2 TDs.
2007 would be Al's last at Auburn. His fall from grace would include bad QB play (Cox's rating dropped to 116.0, mostly due to a 9/13 TD/INT). With Kenny Irons gone to the NFL, Ben Tate took over as the lead RB. Courtney Taylor had also been drafted. The schedule got even tougher, moving up to #13. It's worth noting that SOS probably underrates SEC teams, since they beat each other up so badly. That said, a loss to USF in week two followed by a stunner against unranked Mississippi State were unforgiveable, even though the Tigers upset #4 Florida and beat hated rival Alabama. Borges would resign before the Chick-Fil-A Bowl victory over Clemson.
|Plays||%||Yards||% of Yds||Yds/Play|
The problem for Borges wasn't just the drop in efficiency--the offense scored 24.2 pts/gm (#85)--but also the great defense. Auburn allowed just 16.9 pts/gm, good for #6 in the country, and their defense kept them in every game save a 25 point loss to Georgia. The offense had almost 900 plays and sputtered along at just 4.90 yds/play. That is not good. The ground game had four rushers with over 200 yards, but limped along in yards/carry. Rodgeriqus Smith led the receivers with 52 catches for 705 yards and 5 TDs, but there was no Robin to his Batman.
In short: Borges probably deserved to be fired. He wouldn't be hired again until a guy named Brady Hoke called from San Diego State.
The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan. You must learn its discipline. For no one - no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts. [Points to sword]. This you can trust.
-Conan’s Father, Conan the Barbarian
I loves me some prognosticationatin. Sure, Its imperfect and makes you look like a daggum moran when you’re wrong which is the majority of the time. Even when you’re right, folks will just ask you to do it again, and then again before they even consider listening to you next time. Heads: you’re wrong; Tails: you’re lucky. And its nowhere near a fair coin. Bloody infidels. You’re left with the choice of making peace with being considered either a fool or a crackpot. Its almost all downside. The prudent thing to do is just wait for things to play out and slap hands when things go well.
Maybe so, left brain, maybe so… But [screw] that. This is the internet for Pete’s sake. If you cant be wrong here, then what is it good for??? And everyone thinks we’re a crackpot already. Oh noes, another jerk I’ve never met thinks I’m an idiot. Woe is us. I pray my fragile psyche will some day recover from the indignation that is internet shame.
Aren’t we here to have fun? Isn’t it more fun to invest internet cache in a prophecy and see if you’re right. Its a simple social contract pick a side and to victors go the spoils of watching the losers eat crow. Even those who aren’t as in-your-face about it all…they know. They know they were right and the others were wrong. There is nothing sweeter than being able to say “I told you so” even when you choose not to say it. Its about that which is best in life: to crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their bloggers. Indeed.
Last week my man Ron Utah had the onions to put out a diary that set the stage for Devin Gardner to the best QB in history next season. Damn near guaranteed it. Relax Ronnie; I keed, I keed. Devin put up a 160 passer rating against solid competition over a 5 game stretch. I think its safe to assume he could up good or better performances against Air Force, UMass, Purdue, and Illinois. Five games of data isn’t exactly nothing but it’s not a whole lot either.
This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Prior to the 2010 season I spent a lot of time studying Quarterback statistics and progression in an effort to get some insight into what would be reasonable and maybe not so reasonable to expect to see that coming season. Over the course of those writings I made a bunch of prognostications on various QBs relevant to Michigan that year. I’ll suppress the desire to assess each statement player by player in this space but I’m pretty proud of those pretty specific predictions. I was wrong about Ricky Stanzi, but I claim everyone else as a prediction of reasonable to uncanny accuracy or uncallable. I’m claiming a 10 right, 1 wrong, and 5 no calls. Word. /appeal for authority
White Rainbow Reprised
Anyway, I’ll get back to Devin in a minute but I need to lay some groundwork down first. Gots to hit ‘em with a…
Chart. Actually, four charts. These are the components of Passer Rating. The data is compiled from 951 QB seasons from 2003 to 2012. The point is to show the relationship between each factor and the overall rating. The interception rate chart is interesting because the slope hooks up when you start dropping below 100. That makes sense because sometimes when you suck, you really really suck and your foes all go hyuk ‘cause they hate you…or something like that. Just remember to switch lines down there.
The the high quality fits present here are no surprise: passer rating is a linear mathematical equation. But, these fits are useful because we can use them to evaluate how “legitimate” a given player’s performance was. For example, Denard Robinson’s 2010 Passer Rating was 149. Typical components for that rating are shown in the second line of the table below, his actual values are shown in the first line. Denard’s Completion percentage was inline with his final rating but everything else was either slightly out of whack (TD%) or WAAAY out of whack (YPA, INT%).
|Denard Robinson 2010||Cmp %||YPA||TD%||INT%|
|Single Factor Rating||146.09||160.00||141.72||105.37|
A reasonable cynic would say: so what; it counts. Indeed and we should make no apologies. But understanding these gaps helps us understand if there are any areas of improvement or if a guy is overly dependant on big plays and such. This was exactly the case with Denard in 2010. Remember all those “Oh, wide open” seam throws he made to Roundtree that year? Those big plays were generated by the offensive scheme and the threat he posed as a runner, not by the threat he posed as a passer. So, when the scheme went away, so did his performance. When an opponent was able to neuter his running threat, the offense sputtered. Capice?
What’s Your Rainbow Got To Do With Me?
Finally we get to Devin. Devin posted an overall passer rating of 161.7 in the 5 games he played QB in last year. His stats illustrate the “White Rainbow” Effect of the Passer Rating formula beautifully. None of the components were typical of that passer rating, the great cancels out the terrible and we end up with a number that doesn’t quite mean anything in and of itself.
|Devin Gardner 2012||Cmp %||YPA||TD%||INT%|
|Single Factor Rating||132.84||176.28||176.97||98.33|
Devin’s completion percentage was fine, but nothing special really. His INT rate was flat out terrible, better than Denard’s but that's not saying a whole lot. This isn't a surprise given the fact the Devin had never seen significant PT at QB and then spent spring, summer, and damn near two thirds of the season practicing at WR. Those numbers are inline with reasonable expectations given his circumstances. Actually, he probably out performed reasonable expectations given those circumstances and the inferable information that comes along with a position switch.
On the other hand the TD rate and YPA numbers are both ridiculous. In fact, they’re so ridiculous that given the context of the other two components, they reek of unrepeatability. AhOOOOga! Dive! Dive! Dive! [Everything starts shaking.] WHAT THE [HECK] IS HAPPENING!?!?
Relax, that’s just the mean reversion alarm. I’m reprising a chart I’ve previously discussed in this space which shows the mean reversion effect in a forecast able format. This chart suggests that we should look for Devin to register a legit 145 in passer rating next year. Uh, that’s a damn fine rating, folks. Here’s a stat line about your QB that you just might like:
|Devin Gardner, 2013||360||225||2900||23||10|
Sure, that’s not the 3600 yds and 33 TDs Ronnie promised but its not 15 INTs either. That level of performance is typical of a seasoned veteran QB and given Devin’s performance last season it’s totally reasonable to expect him to perform at this level. If he were to underperform that expectation the world would not end but I’d be disappointed. If he over performs then gravy. This is the reasonable and prudent outlook for Devin Gardner’s performance for this coming season.
Reasonable. Prudent. Pfft, those words suck. They aren’t sexy at all. They aren’t fun. They’re words Brady Hoke would use to describe Notre Dame. A seasoned veteran QB will do in a pinch but I want to plan on hearing the lamentations of all of those that oppose us. No, to lay those plans we need a monster. We need an expectation that we’ll have a performer at QB that will dominate. We need what Ron Utah has promised us. Surely there must be a way to construct a plausible expectation for domination given the data available. Indeed, but we need some abstract thinking. Shamalong to the right side of knowledge.
What if those numbers for YPA and TD rate weren’t an accident and are actually evidence of elite playmaking ability. Numbers like those are characteristic of system, support, or flat out skillz; usually a combination of the three.
System: We’ve seen what system can do for a player. We need look no further than Denard Robinson. In RichRod’s system Denard rated out at about 150, in a more typical system he rated out 20 points lower. In Devin’s case, he’ll be playing in a familiar system with more time to learn and refine his understanding. Borges will be able to game plan around a playing style he’s more experienced with and I see no threat to Devin’s performance being affected because of system factors next year.
Support: A quarterback can benefit from the players around him. I submit freshman Chad Henne. Having Braylon Edwards to throw to and Mike Hart around certainly helped his numbers. That O-line wasn’t too shabby either. So the question is: did Devin’s numbers get a boost from the players around him that will suddenly not be there anymore? The receiving corps returns mostly intact and as much as I enjoyed Roy Roundtree as a player, I don't think he was a transcendent talent that cant be replaced by Chesson and/or Darboh. Who is to say that they wont be better?
As to support from the running game, again I don't think there was anything there that made opposing defenses think twice. Michigan was aiight running the ball last season. Fitz’s production seemed to pick up when Devin stepped in for Denard but then he got injured so its tough to say if that's a trend or not. Here again, support from the running game should at the very least stay where it was and maybe it picks up a bit.
Finally, the offensive line. Michigan loses some solid players but retains its best player. Also, some high powered recruits from Hoke first few recruiting classes may finally be ready to contribute even if its just to add depth. It’s possible that the o-line could be touch weaker with the addition of new blood but I have no idea how to gauge that. I’m not going to worry about it.
In terms of support, Devin should have everything he needs and maybe even have an overall better receiving corps and stronger running game.
Skillz: Everyone around these parts know Devin Gardner was a high high level recruit. Once he got to campus and we saw him in Spring Games it was like, well, not that great and when he got moved to wide receiver last year I, for one, kind of convinced myself that maybe he was just another talented athlete with poorly developed QB skills. But, the numbers he put up when given extended playing time, while rusty, against not to be scoffed at defenses…jeepers. Maybe Scout was onto something when they gave him that 5th Star.
Its not crazy to think that Devin Gardner is that good. He might just be a monster. The only thing that prevents anyone from saying that confidently is sample size. So, as is my way, I try to look into the future by looking into the past. What does Devin Gardner the Monster look like?
|Devin Gardner, 2013||360||235||3200||27||8|
Yeah, baby. Lather up. Dennis Dixon. Troy Smith. Vince Young. What’s up with all those guys wearing #10 anyway? What’s up with all those guys murdering my team? Whatevs, Devin Gardner the monster looks like Michigan’s Revenge.
See, the only thing that makes this a difficult thing to believe is that posting a 160 passer rating is a difficult thing to do. But, its possible and what fundamental reason is there to say that Devin lacks the wherewithal to post that type of performance in the coming season? Depending on which set of assumptions hold, Devin will be either a really good QB or a devastating one.
If Al Borges says Devin plays like RGIII, I believe him.