i like 'em both
Louisiana DB Daren Kitchen just told me that Fred Jackson, his recruiter, extended him a verbal offer. Rich Rodriguez is on vacation, so the written offer won't be in the mail until he gets back. Kitchen has been long saying that he wanted an offer from Michigan, and would commit once he gets one.
That is the same feeling he has today. He said, "I'll probably just commit right away, because that's the one I've been waiting for." Kitchen is a 3 star according to Rivals, and stands at 6-foot-1, and 172-pounds. He holds offers from Kansas, Memphis, Nebraska, and Stanford, as well.
I'm not sure the exact date of when RR gets back from vacation, but it will be soon. Look for his commitment to drop shortly after. I like Kitchen, I think he's a good addition to the class. He will be the third defensive back already, so we'll see how that plays out for the other recruits we're after, like Kyshoen Jarrett.
I can't find his highlight tape on YouTube, but you can go to his profile on one of the recruiting sites to watch it. I'm just trying to fill up the two hundred word minimum now, I don't really have anything else to say about him.
Just found out that baseball recruit Michael O'Neill, nephew of former Yankee Paul O'Neill and 42nd round draft pick of the Yankees in this year's draft, will be missing this summer with a torn labrum.
He had surgery in June from the sounds of it (article dated June 16, emphasis mine):
"(My uncle Paul) told me that it was an honor to be selected as a 17-year-old as one of the top (1,525) players in the country or however many were selected," said Michael, an outfielder who hit .570 with 11 home runs, 24 RBI and 20 stolen bases. "I was kind of surprised that the Yankees took me. I kind of thought San Diego was interested, but I have always been a (Yankees) fan, so that was great."
"They were at the tournament and asked me if I want to sign, but right now it's based on money," O'Neill said. "Coming out of the 42nd round, you don't know what to expect. For now, we know it's New York and they have all the money in the world. If they want to give us what we want to go play for them, they will. Right now, I think [Yankee draftee Dezse and I] expect to go to college."
Both players have surgery scheduled this month. O'Neill will be having his torn left labrum repaired on Friday
It should take 8-12 weeks for the labrum to heal and be back at full strength. That puts him back healthy in time for fall ball. O'Neill is very likely to take over one of the spots in the outfield next season and I don't think this set back should affect that likelihood very much.
(HT: Chris Webb of Buckeye State Baseball)
I have gotten this question a few times on what ND's depth chart looks like. Problem is Kelly doesn't release a "depth chart" and you have to draw conclusions based on who you see there during scrimmage. So at the end of spring this is the picture I had in mind, if you have any questions, I will do my best to answer them.
Also don't confuse the lack of a starter as a sign of a weak position group.
QB: Behind Crist is Montana and then 3 freshmen, Hendrix Massa and Rees
RB: Allen should be #1 but he isn't an every down back, Cierre Wood would be his backup for the speedy back and then Robert Hughes and Jonas Gray could both be the big back. Cameron Roberson is a freshman and unlikely to see playing time but Kelly really liked his film, more so maybe than anyone from the last recruiting class
WR: Obviously floyd will start but who knows from there. Goodman, Walker and Shaq evans have all played outside and all bring different things to the table. In the slot Shaq evans is again an option, Theo Riddick just changed to this position, Kamara would be the veteran in the corp, and then Tailer Jones another freshman who played a lot in the spring game seems to be right there for playing time too. Behind all that is Bennett Jackson, Austin Collinsworth and Dan Smith who are freshman and unlikely to be seen on the field any time soon.
TE: Rudolph is #1 without a doubt, and probably followed by a combination of Bobby Burger and Ragone. Eifert and Golic are probably situational guys but otherwise may only be ST players this year. 2 more behind them in freshmen Alex Welch and Derek Roback
On the oline : I think Wenger will probably get the nod at center but Braxton Cave is named by others so not entirely positive; Jordan Cowert is likely in third and may only be a special teams long snapper
OG: Stewart and Trevor robinson should be almost guaranteed to be filling out the interior. Behind them is Chris Watt, another Golic, and lane Clelland
OT: After spring conditioning Zach Martin and Taylor Dever seemed to be the consensus starters but it will be a battle again in the fall. Besides them Matt Romine, Lane Clelland, Alex Bullard are options, with Christian Lombard and Tate Nichols incoming freshman this year. There is also a chance that either of the above guards could get bumped outside to a tackle.
DE: Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore are the favorites after spring practice but Hafis Williams and Emeka Nwankwo are just as interchangeable as is Sean Cwynar. Behind those 5 is 3 freshman Kona Schwenke, Justin Utupo and Bruce Heggie
DT: Ian Williams should be starting here in september but Brandon Newman isn't far off, behind them is Tyler Stockton and freshman Louis Nix
OLB: It will be 2 of the following, Kerry Neal Brian Smith, Steve Filer or Darius Fleming. I expect Smith and Fleming will get the most time but both Neal and Filer have gotten just as much praise and more at times. Behind them is Dan Fox and freshen Prince Shembo and Danny Spond
MLB: Teo will start he will be ND field general on defense, beside him will probably be Anthony McDonald or David Posluszny. Steve Paskorz recently switched back to MLB after being a FB last season so he may make an impact as well, just not sure yet. Calabrese and freshman Kendall Moore round out the unit
CB: Its a group of 3, Darrin Walls, Gary Gray, and Robert Blanton. Pick any 2 you want I am sure they will all see a lot of time. Behind them are EJ Banks and freshman Lo Wood.
S: Probably the weakest unit on the team tbh just based on all the questions to be answered. Harrison Smith and Jamoris Slaughter are the 2 most likely to be back there but I wont be sleeping on Dan McCarthy or Zeke Motta either. Freshman Chris Badger hits like a truck but I don't expect to see him this year.
P/K Tausch and Turk are likely to split the duties like last year, Brandon Walker is still on the team but has some back issues holding him back from really competing. There is also a walkon kicker that is the more likely backup FG kicker (ahead of walker) but I can't remember his name....
Jordan Walsh, out of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, is one of the top offensive line prospects in the country. He's the sixth best offensive guard, according to Rivals. Walsh has had interest in Michigan since his visit for Junior Day, and that interest is still growing. Here's his sophomore film (his junior film isn't on YouTube), then our conversation.
TOM: Let's start with where your interest in Michigan started from.
JORDAN: I was getting some mail from them, and then I got a junior day invite. I went up there, and they saw my film somewhere, and that's how they offered me. They offered me when I was up there. It was just amazing there, too. The trophy cases, the championships, the coaches were awesome, and Ann Arbor, the town was awesome. I really felt a lot of interest being there.
TOM: Was that where all of this stemmed from? Just from a visit?
JORDAN: Well, my mom always liked Michigan. She was a big Michigan football fan, and she told me when I was younger that I should go to Michigan. When we went there, I really liked it. She loved the junior day visit, too. When Coach Rodriguez offered me, she started crying. I guess my mom saying that all those years really got me interested initially. She's a fan of everybody now, though. She wants me to make my own decision, so she's a fan of everybody.
TOM: So is your Mom coming with you on any other visits then?
JORDAN: We might be coming back up to Michigan on the 13th (Tuesday). I really want to see the academic side and the support system they have. I want to check if I went there, if they would help me out. I have around a 3.7 GPA right now, so that's important to me. I'm not 100% sure if we're coming because I was talking with one of the (Michigan) coaches, and he gave us two dates. I'm not sure which date me and my mom are going to choose yet.
TOM: Do you have a top list right now, or are you looking to narrow it down?
JORDAN: I have a top eight. It's (in no order) Michigan, Iowa, MSU, Northwestern, LSU, USC, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee. To summarize them all, I felt comfortable with all of them. I'm interested in all of them, and I like all the coaches.
TOM: Do you know when you're going to make your decision then?
JORDAN: I don't really have a timeline set. I really just want to see everything I'm looking for. If I see and hear the stuff that I need to, then after that I'll make my decision. I don't really know when that will be.
TOM: For the fans that don't know too much about you, tell us who you are as a football player.
JORDAN: Some coaches say that I finish my blocks, and I'm nasty on the field. To be honest, I just love the game of football. I'll do anything a coach ask me to do. I block, so I obviously can't ask for the ball, or anything. The offensive line is a cool position. You don't really get the glory, or praise, but you get to hit a lot of people.
In the loosely adapted ways of Dante, I present to you the fourth canto of Formerly's Football Inferno. I promise nothing when it comes to grammar, punctuation, logical plots, or anything that normally goes into story writing.
For those of you unfamiliar, Dante walks through each region of hell to learn the sins and punishment by talking to those souls trapped. In the third circle of Dante's hell, home to those committing Gluttony, the souls here must endure endless rain of sludge from the monster Cerberus.
After another endless walk, we finally climbed down into the third circle of hell. In this circle of hell, the windstorms of the second circle turned to a freezing storm of black snow. Temperatures were easily below freezing. Luckily I took my jacket with me to the Michigan game I last left, oh so long ago. Michigan weather is tricky like that. It changes on a whim.
As we pushed on through the circle, we could see large hills all around us, however, people weren't to be seen. As we slid between hills, zigzagging through the valleys that channeled through, you'd occasionally hear a person yell, but not often. After a few yells, I had to ask Davy Crockett just what that horrid screaming was.
"Kid, this is the realm of hell for all those who never once made it to Michigan Stadium. It's a sacred pilgrimage that every Michigan fan must complete at least once in their life. For those that don't they are doomed to spend eternity sitting in a replica of Michigan Stadium, except there is no game.
"They must sit and endure the cold of a night game in December. A black snow blots out the light as their souls must freeze. Each of these hills are actually stadiums built into the ground, filled with twice the normal capacity so the damned will have to feel an even bigger squeeze on space. On top of that, they blast RAWK MUZIK into their ears. It's diabolical."
"That's a harsh penalty," I replied. "Is there exemptions for poor people, those who never visit America, or otherwise?"
"Alas, they do not. If you never make a game, you are damned to hell. It used to be worse though. It used to be if you didn't make an Ohio State game. Hell eventually had to change that. The ADA got wind and claimed there just weren't enough handicapped seats in Michigan Stadium to get all the crippled people of the world into Ohio State games. So Hell sent their lawyer-types, of which there are plenty, and sent them to orchestrate a renovation of Michigan Stadium. The requirement to see an Ohio State game should be mandatory again by 2012."
"Huh," I shrugged. "I guess I take back all those nasty accusations I made about the handicapped ruining the Big House."
"Yeah," agreed Crockett. "They had nothing to do with it. Hell doesn't discriminate. The handicapped are just as worthy of punishment."
"So that screaming I heard, that was the RAWK MUZIK?" I asked.
"Yeah, that's the RAWK MUZIK. Horrible stuff."
"So is there a spirit around I can talk to?"
"Nah, most of the people in these stadiums are losers who never went to a game. You know, like that stereotypical Asian kid who went to the UgLi instead of games. That and ugly girls who are pasty. They have no interest in those around them in life, nor do they have any interest in each other in hell. You don't want to be associated with them do you?"
"Davy, you're a horrible soul. I don't even know if you'd made it into Christian heaven with views like that. That said, I don't want to be associated with those type of people at all. I find they normally smell funny, too. Let's hurry and get out of this damn cold. May we never play night games in November or December ever."
As we walked on, I caught a glimpse of the godzillatron in the sky. Michigan just came back against Wisconsin to win. Ha, what the hell did that Domer loving Grantland Rice know about Michigan's future. The Rodriguez Era has begun. Sucker.
(Special thanks to chunkums for the gif)
[Ed: MCalibur, apparenly an economist found himself collateral damage on today's shotgun blast at "X is stupid" sports economists. Maybe I should have come up with a label like "freakonomists" so as to not implicate people who are just interested in the numbers without the look at me pub. Anyway, here's an excellent diary on what your goals should be on second and third down. Implications for a second and medium are interesting.]
A while back The Mathlete sent out a Thundercat signal for some help shucking data for his database; at least that’s how I remember it. Any un-lame kid of the 80’s knows that when you see the Thundercat Crest you put on your spiked suspenders, pick up your laser shooting panther paw nun chucks, jump into the tank you built singlehandedly, and you roll; that’s all there is to it. I had no choice.
Anyway, we voltroned* our abilities together and came up with something pretty sweet. I have put together my own database, with Mathlete’s help, and can now do some of the same tricks he can. I’ve focused onto BCS-BCS matchups extending the thought of excluding mismatches; Michigan v. Eastern Michigan is still a significant mismatch.
*Oops, wrong cartoon but, then again, you simply cannot over-reference 80’s cartoons/shows. I pity the fool that disagrees. I feel bad for youngins that don’t know the glory of 80’s children’s programming. Also, am I the only one who thinks that Voltron and Zoltan might be related?
When I’m not eliciting unreasonable responses from otherwise reasonable people, I’m usually crunching numbers of some kind as if they were a motley band of mutants and aliens led by a grody and ancient mummy demon priest. Very often the numbers have something to do with football in general and, most often, Michigan football specifically. This time I wondered “how do we know if a play was successful or not?” This question has been asked and answered by some smart people before, but being the curious little twit that I am, I wanted to gauge it on my own.
One way to go about it is Mathlete Style: Expected Points, a good but abstract method. One potential problem with focusing on EP is that doing so can drive you to scoring points where as the real goal is to win. It’s a subtle but important distinction. Depending on the situation, maximizing EP might not be the same as maximizing the probability that you will win. Maybe you would rather not score if doing so means giving Peyton Manning the ball back with 25 seconds left and less than a 1 score deficit. Besides, The Mathlete has this beat covered.
Another method is to use 1st Down Probability, the likelihood that a team will convert a new set of downs given the current down and distance. I think this is more appropriate to the microcosm of a play because the goal of a play is not necessarily to score it is to keep the ball and move it forward, in that order. Scoring is the goal of an entire drive. To calculate 1DP, you do the same thing you would to derive EP, except you keep track of first downs instead of points.
Whenever you have a mountain of data, you need a way to focus your attention on what matters while still maintaining the value of having so much data in the first place. For this study, I’ve filtered on the following criterion:
- Exclude plays involving a penalty of any kind.
- The game must be close. My arbitrary definition is: all plays in the first and second quarter, third quarter plays where the lead is less than 17, and fourth quarter plays where the lead is less than 10. These values are arbitrary, but there are so many plays available that the sample sizes are still large enough that any additional precision is of negligible value. Also, any unimportant plays are swarmed by a large number of plays that are important, then math deals with the noise.
- Results of the play are limited to –10 and +25 yards. The logic here is two fold. On the negative side, the average sack is good for about 6 to 8 yards, anything bigger than that is a fluke play (botched snap for example). On the positive side, most plays aren’t designed to go for huge gains. However, there are instances when an OC calls a play like that in order to exploit an advantage and not necessarily as part of a base strategy. Though relatively infrequent, both types of plays happen with enough regularity that they significantly shift the averages even though they are vastly outnumbered by more typical gains. This filter only excludes about 0.5% of all plays to the negative side and about 5.3% to the positive side.
Each play in the database has been assigned a 0 or 1 depending on whether or not it was part of a first down series, touchdowns are counted as first downs in this survey. Essentially, every play in a four down sequence is counted as a being part of a 1st down unless a punt or turnover occurs before a new set of downs is achieved. Filtering the plays that made the cut (over 105k) by down results in the following scatter plot:
Every point on the chart above has at least 15 samples, most have several hundred, some have several thousand, and 1st and 10 has almost 42,000 samples. The trends are self evident and really, really, strong. A few comments on other decisions I’ve needed to make here:
- The small black dots represent 4th down plays. They are essentially overlaid with the 3rd down plays which makes sense, the objectives in both cases is the same, convert to a 1st Down. If you’re in a 4th down decision, use the 3rd down line.
- The curves for 1st and 2nd Down were both pegged to 100% probability of converting a new set of downs at zero yards to go; pretty obvious as to why, it’s the rules. On 3rd Down however, I opted not to peg it to y3 = 1 at x = 0 because even though the R-squared value doesn’t suffer by much (0.005 lower), the resulting curve significantly over estimates 3rd down success inside of 3rd and 5. Also, I think the gap could be real; how much error is there in spotting the ball (especially on QB sneak type plays)? To me this data implies that the ball is mis-spotted to deny a 1st Down conversion approximately 9% of the time. The incremental error of spotting the ball doesn't matter until you end up at 4th and inches.
- For 1st down plays, I intervened on behalf of noise reduction by only including plays where the distance was in multiples of 5. The reason is that the rules say you start at 1st and 10 and the only way you end up with 1st and something other than a multiple of 5 is A) you’re inside the opponents 10, and B) multiple penalties or 1st down repeats after spot fouls. Plays that were rejected are largely noise; the legitimate plays (ex. 1st and X inside the opp. 10) act like 2nd down plays, so use that in those cases.
Generating Hard Targets
Now that we have a survey, we can use the information to answer the question I asked “what makes a successful play”? The question has been tackled before in the seminal tome The Hidden Game of Football. The DVOA system developed by Football Outsiders is based in concepts discussed in Hidden Game. Hidden Game presents the following goal schedule:
On first down, a play is considered a success if it gains 45 percent of needed yards; on second down, a play needs to gain 60 percent of needed yards; on third or fourth down, only gaining a new first down is considered success.
So, the goal schedule by down should be 4-ish yards on 1st Down10, 3 yards on 2nd and 6, and 3 yards on 3rd and 3. I haven’t read Hidden Game but this doesn’t look right, particularly in short yardage situations. For example, 2nd and 1 is a failure if you do not convert a new set of downs. Sure, the consequences of that failure are small because you are virtually guaranteed another chance to convert but gaining zero yards (we only have whole yard resolution) is failure by definition.
Brian Brown of Advanced NFL Stats fame has a better definition: a play is a success as long as your chances to convert a new set of downs are not hurt by the result of a play. The great thing about this definition is that it considers the opportunity cost of running a play. This simple idea probably explains why a lot of OC’s call conservative plays on 1st and 10, if you don’t advance the ball by about 4 yards, you’re worse off than you started. Brown focuses his work on the NFL and has done this work for the League but he stopped at the first chart leaving the answer to the question abstract-don’t hurt your chances of getting a new set of downs. OK, but how do you avoid that?
Running an optimization routine on our curves gives us the concrete answer, a goal schedule by down and distance in chart form.
- 3rd down is obvious, you need to gain all of the yards remaining or you’ve failed. Fourth down decisions should be avoided.
- The 1st down requirement is virtually flat at a 37% yield, lower than what Hidden Game suggested.
- The 2nd down requirement is asymptotic to 65% yield but reaches a requirement of 80% yield by 5 yards to go. Essentially, you need at least 4 yards on 2nd and 5 to not have wasted the down.
First down is all business, you must move the ball 37% of the way or you’re screwing yourself. Third down is also all business, you need to convert or risk deciding which poison tastes the best. Second down however, depending in the situation, that’s a down you can get jiggy with.
On a generic 1st and 10, there’s a 64% chance of converting a new set of downs. So, as long as you end up with about a 64% chance of converting on 3rd down, you can do whatever you want on second down as long as you don’t lose yards or give the ball away. That means, you need to end up at 3rd and 3 or better. On 2nd and 3 or better call in the B2s and Outkast, baby, ‘cause it’s time to drop bombs (over Baghdad).