In December, I put up a post on the top Heisman candidates and my thoughts on them. With the emergence of Ndamukong Suh and locally with Brandon Graham, I wondered the best way to evaluate defensive players strictly from the stat sheet. Defense is made is more for the UFR, not for stat comparisons. The problem is, with over 800 games played in the FBS every year, it would take an army to break down the film for all the players in all the games. My stats based approach has the advantage of being able to quickly look at every game played last year.
There is no way to evaluate from the play by play who is responsible for a bad play on defense, but you can get a decent idea of who is responsible for a good one. Sure someone else could have opened up the hole, taken on extra blockers or forced a cutback, but over the course of a season, if you you made a lot key tackles, chances are you did a lot of work on those plays.
I took all of the plays from the season and immediately cut out all the plays from the second half where one team led by more than 2 TDs, no garbage time stat padding (same goes for any games against Baby Seal U opponents, always excluded from all my work). I then reduced the list of plays to ones that put the offense in a worse position than were they started the play. This doesn’t just mean TFL plays. A 2nd and 8 is worse than a 1st and 10 for an offense, so a tackle on a 2 yard gain on first down counts. Any third down stop counts, and often these are the biggest plays a defender can make. Turnovers are obviously the holy grail, stop the offense, create field position for your offense. The players are measured by two metrics, number of plays and magnitude of plays. A defensive tackle might make a lot of plays but most of them for relatively small values. A cornerback probably doesn’t get the chance to make many plays on a down by down basis, but each interception is huge, and has a very high value.
I then compared each players production versus what the average player at his position accomplishes to get a sort of VOAP, Value Over Average Player. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get good enough roster data to split all positions, so everyone is either DL, LB or DB, not perfect but better than nothing. I assumed that the average team would split the majority of the playing time between 6 DL, 4 LB and 5 DB. From the best I can tell, there isn’t much variation between the safeties and the corners, but DE’s get a bit of a benefit being compared to DT’s and DT’s get a slight hit compared to DE’s.
Top National Players
All player data is available here. It is easier to work with if you download into Excel since G Docs doesn’t like pages with a lot of rows. There are some slight changes to the numbers from my Heisman post as I reloaded the 2009 data and tweaked the expected value formulas.
I don’t have all the historical data but I would be shocked if a defensive tackle has ever had a better season than Ndamukong Suh did in 2009. He made 52 plays more and was nearly 5 TDs better than the average d-lineman and that includes defensive ends. No player in the country had a VOAP within a touchdown of him.
The closest, none other than Michigan’s Brandon Graham. Graham produced 27 extra plays and over 27 points of value more than the average defensive lineman. This made him the top value adding defensive end in the country and second to Suh overall.
In fact, the Big 10 had four of the top 6 defensive lineman in the country. O’Brien Schofield, Ryan Kerrigan and Adrian Clayborn all managed at least 23 points per page above replacement.
Luke Kuechly of Boston College led all linebackers with 57 plays and 25 points above average. Kuechly produced a ridiculous 87 negative plays on the season, 10 more than any other player at any position and 17 more than anyone else from a BCS a conference. Navorro Bowman, Nate Triplett and Brian Smith all cracked the bottom half of the top 10 linebackers at 17-18 points above average each.
Defensive backs were highly unproductive in the Big 10 relative to other conferences. Tyler Sash of Iowa came in at +12, 15th nationally and Donovan Warren was second best in the conference, but his +9 barely cracked the Top 40 nationally. Walter McFadden of Auburn was the top producing defensive back nationally, providing a +22 for the season.
Reviewing All-American Teams
I was curious to see how the national All-American team selections would compare with this metric. For positions like defensive end, linebacker and safety I would hope quite well because these positions are very output oriented and most of the value is in making plays. For defensive tackles and corner backs, I wasn’t as confident. A good defensive tackle will often add value by making plays for others. A good cover corner will often see the action go away from him and might not get many opportunities.
There were five players that were selected as defensive ends on the All-American teams, four of them stack up very well in my ratings, one does not. Brandon Graham was rated 1st and was +27. Derrick Morgan of Georgia Tech was 7th and +18. Von Miller of Texas A&M and Jason Pierre-Paul were 12th and 13th at about +15.5 for the season.
The outlier was TCU’s Jerry Hughes who came in 60th at +6 and was actually selected to the most All-American teams as any d-lineman. The large is probably due to the fact that 5 of his 11 sacks (10th nationally) came during garbage time.
Top non-selections were O’Brien Schofield, Wisconsin (2nd, +27), Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma (3rd, +25), Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue (4th, +25) and Adrian Clayborn, Iowa (5th, +23)
Again five players were picked to All-American teams as defensive tackles. Three had elite level production and 2 did not. Not to say that they were undeserving as discussed earlier, defensive tackles value can be difficult to attribute.
Suh was an obvious selection, and both Brian Price of UCLA (3rd, +20) and Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma (7th, +9) were well-deserved. The two potentially questionable selections, Mount Cody had the reputation and the highlight but did not have the direct productio, 79th nationally and 1.4 points below average. The other low production selection was Penn State’s Jared Odrick who just made the top 50 and was only 1.7 points above average.
Other top non-selections were Nate Collins, Virignia (2nd, +21), Lamarr Houston (4th, +16), Jared Crick, Nebraska (5th, +15) and Corey Peters, Kentucky (6th, +14).
There wasn’t much consensus among the All-American teams on the linebacker position. A total of 10 different selections were made. It appears the selections are more weighted on quantity of plays instead of quality of plays. This makes sense because most linebackers don’t make a lot of big stat sheet plays like interceptions or sacks and so the good old tackle stat is the most used.
When looking at the top values for linebackers, Luke Kuechly at #1 is the only player from the top 14 to receive any All-American honors. When you look at the play quantity, Kuechly and 3 others are in the top 8. The three are Rennie Curran from Georgia (+13), Pat Angerer, Iowa (+8) and Greg Jones from Michigan State (+12). Consensus pick Rolando McClain of Alabama is in the top 50 in both quantity and quality, and played for the top defense in the country.
There was one player who seemed to make the team purely on reputation and team success alone, because his production was dramatically less than the rest of the group. In defense of the selections, I won’t even name this individual for he might be the scariest man alive that played for the 2008 Florida National Championship game. He only produced 2 more plays and was just below average (-.1) in point production versus average player, and still received recognition from three different groups.
Of the five cornerbacks named to an All-American team in 2009, four landed in the Top 11 of my rankings. Joe Haden, Florida (3rd, +18), Javier Arenas (4th, +15), Alterruan Verner, UCLA (8th, +13) and Patrick Peterson from LSU (11th, +11) all produced very highly. The only exception was Perrish Cox from Oklahoma State who still managed to make the top 40 with a +6 for the season.
Walter McFadden from Auburn and Brandon Brinkley from Houston were the top two rated cornerback and both produced over +20 for the season.
It took seven selections to cover all of the picks for safeties. Five of the seven fit nicely at the top, including the top 3. DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson (1st, +20), Earl Thomas, Texas (2nd, +17), Rahim Moore, UCLA (3rd, +17), Tyler Sash, Iowa (7th, +12) and Eric Berry, Tennessee (11th, +10).
The two outliers were Kurt Coleman from Ohio State (44th, +1) and another apparent reputation selection, Taylor Mays, USC (77th, –3).
|Player||Position||Group||Plays||Value||Adj Plays||Adj Value|
|Ryan Van Bergen||DE||DL||23||16.1||5||6.5|
Michigan’s top two producers, Brandon Graham and Donovan Warren were covered above. After those two, only two players managed to be above +3 on the season. Ryan Van Bergen was +6.5 on the season on the defensive line and should have the potential for a big season this year. Stevie Brown was next at +6 (if you count him as a safety, +4 as a LB).
Jonas Mouton, Mike Martin, Obi Ezeh, Jordan Kovacs and Craig Roh all sit around the average mark for their positions. The most glaring point for me is that Michigan’s top linebacker, Mouton, barely makes the top 150 linebackers nationally in production. If Michigan’s defense is going to turn things around there is going to have be some new playmakers step up and there has to be more production from the linebackers.
Michigan had two recruits sign about a month ago, but being in the middle of the season, I hadn't had a ton of time to do the research and otherwise on the guys. But over the last few weeks, a couple of local paper articles brought the two players back into the forefront.
Cole Martin has been a lifelong Wolverine fan, and a pretty solid athlete to boot. At John Glenn, he's caught, pitched, and played short stop.
"When I was 10 years old, we were walking around (Ray Fisher Stadium, Michigan's baseball field) and I told my dad, 'One day you will watch me play on this field,'" said Martin.
Martin plans to major in chemical engineering and go on to medical school to become a surgeon.
Last spring, Martin batted .414 as he led the Bobcats to a 32-8 record, and into the Division 2 regional final, where they lost to Mount Pleasant 4-3. With Berryhill last summer, Martin was named Great Lakes Region Most Valuable Player before the team went on to win the American Legion World Series.
The picture above, by Michael K Photography, was taken 2 years ago, but does hint that Martin is in fact a switch hitting catcher. Martin is probably an immediate redshirt at just 5'11" 160lb, plus he's highly unlikely to take Crank's spot unless his defense is spectacular.
Also worth noting is Cole's involvement in his school's hockey team. Maloney has had some success with former hockey players including current star Ryan LaMarre. Maloney's take:
"Cole Martin is a really good athlete. He's got a good arm and could potentially fill in as a utility player, but he's a catcher with a decent bat. Just the makings of a good all-around athlete, and we want to have as many athletes in our program as possible. We think if you're really athletic you have a chance to find your niche," said Maloney. "He's also a hockey goalie, and I like that toughness. We've had success with guys who have been multi-sport guys, especially hockey players at both Ball State and at Michigan. Cole will fit into that really well."
Pitcher, Royal Oak/University of Detroit Jesuit
Perry is a right hander from the Detroit area who's put up some impressive numbers at a solid program. From MGoBlue and Rich Maloney:
Perry, a prep standout from the University of Detroit Jesuit, led his team in earned run average, innings pitched, wins and strikeouts as a junior last spring. He is a big game pitcher, owning a one-hitter in the 2008 regional semifinal and a two-hit complete game to clinch a 2009 regional championship.
"We think [Perry] is very projectable, has a nice loose arm, the makings of a good breaking pitch and comes from an outstanding school and a good baseball program. We are really excited about his upside and him participating in our program,"
Not bad for a guy they just happened across:
“[A Michigan scout] was there (at the CABA nationals) to see another team, but I said: ‘You ought to stick around and see this kid who will be pitching for us. His name is Jay Perry,'” Meisner recalled.
“It wasn't his best game, but it was a very, very good game and his stuff was electric. From that day on, Michigan had an interest in him and saw him pitch a bunch of times.”
The Michigan coaches liked what they saw in Perry […] So much so they offered the 6-foot-1, 165-pound right-hander a scholarship to pitch for the Wolverines next year.
From that same article, we see we've got a flame thrower:
“One of the U-M coaches told me I don't have any stop in my motion; it's a nice, smooth motion,” Perry said. “It's loose, not herky-jerky. I guess that's the key to longevity and throwing well.”
Perry said he likes to throw hard, adding it was instilled in him at a young age.
“I always thought that puts you a step ahead,” he said. “If you're not hitting the spots perfectly, there's a little less time for hitters to react. I like to throw hard; I think it looks cool.”
That's cool. So too, supposedly, is his change up, giving him two plus pitches. Something tells me we won't see Perry for at least two years as he redshirts and works on creating another plus pitch.
Michigan now has a class with 7 members thus far. I don't think we see much in the way of scholarship additions from this point out, but we could see a couple of preferred walk-ons pop up over the next month and a half. Michigan has signed 4 right handed pitchers, two outfielders, one infielder, and one catcher in this class, addressing their two biggest needs (outfield and pitching).
With Nick Urban graduating and Ryan LaMarre probably leaving, the two outfielders have an outside shot of both starting next year. As we've seen during LaMarre's injury, we're a bit thin on outfielders with Kittle, Krantz, and Stephens all sliding from the infield to the outfield this season. The only current underclassmen on the roster listed as potential outfielders is only Biondi, Mills (a pitcher, but has played a few innings in left this season), and Ben Ballantine, a potential starting pitcher next year.
Michigan should be full at catcher for the time being. Crank and Safara will both be back next year, as well as preferred walk-on John DiLaura who is red shirting this season. That depth is probably why Martin is considered a potential utility player a la Tim Kalczynski in 2008.
If there are any other preferred walk-ons coming, I have to think there might be an outfielder or two, as well as a second baseman. Michigan has 2 more years with Lorenz at third and Dennis at short (I'm not holding my breath on 3 more), and 2-3 years of Stephens and Luther at first. Of course, pitching is always and option as a team can never have enough of it.
I'll post the rankings weekly in the diaries, and frontpage it occasionally (i.e. when Michigan gets commitments). The team rankings are very rough estimates until the services have released more full individual grades.
Action since last rankings (aside from Scout releasing a new Top 300 list):
4-5-10 Indiana gains commitment from Jake Reed.
4-10-10 Indiana gains commitment from Tre Roberson.
4-11-10 Michigan State gains commitment from Connor Cook.
|Big Ten Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# of Commits||Rivals 250||Scout Average||ESPN 150|
I'll only make charts for the teams that currently have commits. Rivals 250 means that a given prospect is on the Rivals 250 to Watch, and ESPN 150 means that a prospect is on the Watch List for the ESPNU 150. Scout ratings are on the 5-star scale.
|#1 Ohio State - 8 Commits|
Several future Buckeyes get lofty rating from Scout.
|#2 Michigan State - 4 Commits|
Spartans pick up Connor Cook from Ohio.
|#3 Michigan - 3 Commits|
Brown and Conway pick up 3-star ratings.
|#4 Notre Dame - 2 Commits|
Jordan Prestwood joins the fold for Notre Dame.
|#5 Minnesota - 2 Commits|
Still just two for the Gophers, who dropped Calvin Phillips a couple weeks back.
|#6 Indiana - 4 Commits|
The Hoosiers pick up a couple pieces, including a good TE in Jake Reed.
|#7 Wisconsin - 1 Commit|
Just one for Wisconsin.
|#8 Illinois - 1 Commit|
Zook has got to be recruiting for his life this year.
|#8 Northwestern - 1 Commit|
Northwestern holds steady with one prospect.
Michigan moved to 18-11 and 4-2 in Big Ten play this weekend with a series win over Purdue at Ray Fisher Stadium, 2 games to 1. Ryan LaMarre was the big story of the weekend exploding for a 9/13 batting average in the 3-hole for your Wolverines.
UPDATE: Ryan even earned POTW honors in the Big Ten:
LaMarre earns his second career Player of the Week honor and his first this season after leading Michigan to a series win against Purdue over the weekend. The outfielder hit .692 and slugged 1.077 on the strength of three doubles and a triple vs. the Boilermakers. He also recorded three hits in every conference game, extending his hitting streak to 10 games dating back to last season. Against Central Michigan on Wednesday, LaMarre made his first start since suffering an injury at Texas Tech on Feb. 20. He went 1-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI in a 13-7 win. In eight appearances this season, LaMarre has four multi-hit games and is hitting .519 with a .704 slugging percentage.
Full recaps and series thoughts after the jump:
[Ed: couple of first-hand observations posted on the message board that jive with those of a couple sources of mine who were also there. Those will be coming early next week.]
I was at today's scrimmage and noticed a couple of things:
-the final score was 59-53 offense... it was 53-42 when they went to a segment called last play from the 3 yard line with the defense up by 4. defense stuffed the offense twice then Denard ran in for the win.
-everyone played. walk on slot receiver #10 (not gallon) i think his name is Jordan Barpal had a terrific catch in the back of the endzone for a touchdown from Jack Lennedy.
-John McColgan looked good at FB.. even had a td reception.
-Stephen Hopkins is the real deal. He was running with the 1s has the "big back" and had some really tough runs. I love the way he finishes his runs and really punishes defenders.
-the QB competition is WIDE OPEN. All 3 played with all the lineman and WRs. ( it seemed like they were rotating the QBs with no regard as to which offensive teams were going in.)
-Taylor Lewan looked very good. he played LT with the first team and the second
-the defense looked phenomenal. There tackling was like night and day from last season. There was only one missed tackle that I saw, and it was on a great move by Mike Cox who looped back around and ended up being tackled for a loss by Thomas Gordon.
I was very impressed by today. The team seems to really be coming along.
Another Report Pulled From Lower In the Thread
I was there too and concur with the OP and was pleasantly surprised.
I would add:
Fitzy had a nice run. He was solid. Stephen looked the best on this particular day though.
Thomas Gordon seems to be the best fit for the Stevie Brown Spur/Bandit position for now. I would be curious to see if he will beat out Marvin, or even Cam, or JT Turner.I think they will have to move JT Turner to one of the safety spots when the other frosh get in. That young lad had himself a growth spurt. He is a big kid. It will be interesting to see what they do with him once they get depth this summer at CB
The LB's or secondary didn't suck. I was pleasantly surprised. Troy is pretty good at that CB spot. The defense as a whole was better against the run than I ever would have thought based on last year.
Devin was owning the 2 and 3rd team D. He is the real deal, I don't care what string he was playing against. He seems to have the best shot of us having a vertical game whenever he takes the reins. Denard has a cannon, but doesn't have the touch that Devin has. Devin had a long gainer to Gallon. When Devin played with the 1's he threw a TD to Roundtree.
Denard seemed to have the most success moving the ball against the first team D. He was carving up the D when running the zone read, has a cannon, lacks a little touch on the short and intermediate stuff. If they want to stay true to the West Virginia style O, then Denard has to be the guy this year. He reads it pretty well, and has the explosiveness necessary to get around the corner obviously.
Tate was pretty decent. Didn't get as much time with the 1's as Denard. Tate is Tate. Pretty accurate on the short and intermediate stuff, not as explosive as the others when running the zone read. He did okay though. He can win football games, they just have to tailor the play calling to his strengths.
I would guess that we see more of a rotation this year as opposed to last year when Tate was getting the majority of the snaps. Devin is the real deal, I would hate to be the coaches if they wanted to keep a redshirt on that kid. I wouldn't be able to do it.
Either way. Denard has to be on the field somewhere. You can tell he is putting it together. He is way too explosive to spend as much time on the sidelines as he did last year.
The Oline seems to be a lot better too. Taylor Lewan was getting a lot of time at LT and did really well. It wouldn't surprise me if he just didn't let that spot go.
Cam is a ball hawk. He is very much a see ball, hit ball kind of player, and seems to be just fine at that deep safety if he has to stay there. They tested him a little bit.
It wouldn't surprise me though that when the fall frosh comes in to see them work JT Turner in back there, and move Cam up to a Spur/Bandit position to get the best 11 out there. You can see the talent in JT, the sky is not falling with him, but he has outgrown corner and in my opinion is only there this spring because they don't have depth to move him. JT is big enough now to work into a spur/bandit type roll too.He looks to be in the 210-215ish range.
One fumble, but no turnovers up until the point I left. I had to jet a little early.
All in all I came out actually more impressed with the defense than the offense. Logic tells me that is a good thing, but with this team....who knows?
In Which Your Editor Provides A Short Addendum
I also heard that Hopkins was killing people today in a fashion similar to a squatter Minor, although I'm guessing with less speed since a 230-pound running back who's as fast as Minor is not a generic three star recruit. The quarterback situation seems utterly confused; depending on who you talk to any of the three is the likely starter against UConn. Running back is also a jumble.
One thing that is becoming more and more certain: Taylor Lewan is locking down the left tackle spot, which is great news.
It is never too early to begin planning for your NCAA purchase and with the announcement of this year’s cover boy ringing in our ears and the Spring Game one week away I figured the time was right for a pre-preview of the upcoming NCAA Football 11.
This year’s cover athlete will be none other than Tim Tebow (Angel choir sings in background at just the mention of his name). He will be the cover athlete on all systems, unifying the title for the first time since 2008 when undrafted Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky received that honor. With this announcement, made this week by EA, Tebow has been making the rounds and this is what he had to say:
Best part of being cover athlete – “I've been playing this game since I was 6. But they made so many big changes this year, I needed to find out the secrets before it came out."
Reaction to yourself first time on a video game – “First thing I thought was, I'm faster than that. [laughs] I wanted to call some people and get my speed rating bumped up a little bit.”
Tebow’s burn on the rest of us in answer to how he likes playing himself – “To be honest, I don't actually play as Florida a lot. Even the last four years I haven't played as them too often because they're really good in the game and it's too much of an advantage for whoever is playing as them. Usually we pick lesser teams.” (I wish I had that same issue playing Michigan, but no one ever complains)
Weirdest combine question – “Whether I'd rather be the quarterback for their team or the governor of Florida”
Video game QB vs. the real thing – “You can always find those plays in every game that work for a touchdown or a big gain all the time and no matter what the defense tries, they can't stop you. Only downfall is sometimes you might cramp up a little on the thumbs.”
Madden 11 designer Donny Moore on Tebow’s upcoming stats – “"Tebow will be the best trucking quarterback in 'Madden' this year, He's not the most elusive, but in terms of breaking tackles and power, he will be able to put down his shoulder and run over a few defenders. A lot of this is fluid, but right now in 'Madden 11,' we have Tebow at 80 speed and 92 acceleration. Trucking, carrying the ball, like I said, he's going to be better than any quarterback coming into the league."
For those whose heart goes paddy pat at the mere mention of Tim Tebow here is the link to the full interview - http://espn.go.com/espn/page2/index?id=5073043
EA has released few details as of yet, but there is enough information out there to get excited about what we can expect:
Graphic Jump – First screen shots look so good that EA had to come out with a statement confirming that they in no way touched up the pics, and that they were indeed real in-game shots. You will also notice something that has been glaringly missing in the background. Pinstripes! That is right, referees are making a comeback in NCAA ’11.
Improved Realism – Ever complained that this year’s NCAA looks just like last years? That shouldn’t be the complaint this year. With linear lighting the feel and look of the fields and players should be a huge upgrade to Madden like quality. What does it mean? It means the game will now have shading dynamics based on the time of day. If it is night the skin, jerseys, and helmets will be shaded appropriately and in the day time have that spring fresh look to them. It is hard to put into words, but my hope is we get rid of that plastic, shiny, pasty player graphic, and the result is a more believable player look.
Locomotion – Can I get a Whoo Woooo! I am ready for this train to leave the station and excited to see its inclusion into the new NCAA. What it means in short is that 99 Acceleration now means as much as 99 Speed. If you noticed in years past it was all about running a straight line faster than the defender, (no an occasional zigzag to overcome a faster defender diving does not count). With the addition of locomotion NCAA will get the power of the burst. Players with fast acceleration will close on ball carriers and make tackles with their quick acceleration. Dynamic Short Yardage players ala Forcier against ND - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gDv0HMTJEY&feature=related, will be able to make the quick move to fool the over pursuing DE and then turn on the afterburners to outrun safeties.
Team Playbooks – How frustrating has it been playing NCAA for Michigan fan the last few years? 2 years ago we had a pro-style offense playbook, that didn’t resemble the product on the field in any way, and then last year we had 1 bubble screen and an option playbook that again didn’t resemble anything Michigan was running on the field. This year is supposed to be improved with Team specific playbooks that closely resemble the on the field product. Florida has been getting this for years, but finally the rest of us may have it.
Formation Subs – Remember back in the olden days, when the PS on your gaming platform had a 2 that followed it? There was this little feature that made football just plain better, where you could customize any formation including kick-off teams to maximize your team’s competitive edge. Well that is finally back after a long hiatus, and no team will benefit more than Michigan. That means you can set up Denard Robinson to come in automatically anytime you run the Ace-Big formation, or bring in Focier for the Shotgun formation. It means you can customize your DL to get Campbell and Martin on the field at the same time when you need run stoppage against the dive in a 3-3-5 set. It means good stuff.
NCAA Football 11 will be hitting the store July 13th. While it still seems too far away I know, the date has steadily been creeping earlier and earlier in the last few years. In fact EA has moved the release date earlier in July every year since 2007 when it released on July 18th. Maybe it only takes 364 days to make a new issue of NCAA hence the change.
I know that many of you, like myself, celebrate the release of NCAA like a national holiday. We work diligently in the months of July and August, while others haven’t even thought of cleaning out their coolers yet, as we put together “The Game Plan.” I’m not making any guarantees, but if the coaching staff would just glance at “The Game Plan” this year it might just make Michigan a surefire Three-Peat National Championship team. The plan works, and I can show you my NCAA trophy case if you don’t believe it. Keep playing, and I’ll see you online.