Action since last rankings:
6-1-10 Purdue gains commitment from Russell Bellomy.
6-3-10 Ohio State gains commitment from Braxton Miller.
6-4-10 Minnesota gains commitment from Jephete Matilus.
6-5-10 Ohio State gains commitment from Evan Spencer. Illinois gains commitment from Marquise Mosley.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg|
Rivals, Scout, and ESPN all have their Top-X (X is 250, 300, and 150, respectively) lists released now. In the tables, Rivals' and Scout's rankings are on the 5-star scale (unranked = 1-star), and ESPN's will now be shown as their numerical rating (unranked = 45).
|#1 Ohio State - 13 Commits|
Buckeyes pick up a huge (though expected) commitment in QB Braxton Miller, and also add legacy WR Evan Spencer.
|#2 Notre Dame - 9 Commits|
No change for ND. The Rivals250 was not nearly as kind to them as was the Watchlist.
|#3 Michigan - 5 Commits|
Nothing new for Michigan. Will their Elite camp net them a commit?
|#4 Michigan State - 5 Commits|
The Spartans could move up once ESPN ranks Jones and Miller.
|#5 Indiana - 8 Commits|
The Hoosiers already have a 4-star Rivals prospect in Zack Shaw.
|#6 Wisconsin - 4 Commits|
Wisconsin can look for a big move up once more complete rankings come out.
|#7 Iowa - 3 Commits|
The Hawkeyes are right on Wisconsin's heels.
|#8 Purdue - 2 Commits|
Signal-caller Russell Bellomy pledges to Purdue, bolting them up the rankings.
|#9 Northwestern - 2 Commits|
No change, though ESPN's rankings helped them pass Minnesota.
|#10 Minnesota - 3 Commits|
Gophers pick up improbably-named Jephete Matilus.
|#11 Illinois - 3 Commits|
Marquise Mosley picks the Illini.
|#12 Penn State - 1 Commit|
Still ho-hum for PSU.
Pat Flavin is a 6-foot-7, 260-pound offensive tackle prospect from Benet Academy in Illinois. He was at Michigan's one day camp today working out, and trying to earn an offer from the Wolverines. I caught up with him once he took off, here's what he had to say.
TOM: Tell me about the day, how did it go?
PAT: I was a little dehydrated in the beginning, I've been working out a lot lately, but haven't really done a lot of actual football stuff. The morning was kind of shaking the rust off for me, and getting myself situated. Once I get everything under control, I performed a lot better. There were two sessions; the morning was more agility and run blocking stuff. I've done most of that before, but Coach Frey gave us great perspective on everything, and taught us a lot. The second session was mostly pass set. The one thing I need to work on, and that they were helping me with, is my punch, so we worked on that a lot. I worked on the left tackle spot mostly, but also worked some in the guard position.
TOM: You mention Coach Frey helping out, what is your relationship with him like?
PAT: I really like Coach Frey. I first met him in December, and then he came to my school in May. He's a really good guy, he's kind of younger, so he relates really well to everyone. I like his attitude, and how he gets everyone to work.
TOM: Getting to know him as a person, is different than him as a coach. Did this give you a better perspective of how he'd coach you at Michigan?
PAT: Definitely. That was the one thing I was anxious to see, and the best part for me. I got to see how he coaches, and what kind of style he uses. I really like his approach, and the way he teaches. He doesn't yell too much, and gets you going positively.
TOM: Were there any other athletes out there that impressed you, or that you noticed?
PAT: I don't really remember names that well, but yeah there were a lot of good players out there. I've seen the guys from Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio because they're local, too. There was a guy from Chicago, Michael Rouse (EDIT:TOM: Keep an eye on him</edit>Homewood Flossmoor, 6'4, 315 lb. DT). Donte Phillips (DT, Wisconsin) did really well, too. He's quick off the edge. There were a ton of good defensive ends there. It was great to go up against some guys like that.
TOM: Where does Michigan stand with you right now, and what did the coaches say about what's next for you?
PAT: They videotaped everyone, so they said they're going to go back and watch the film, then they'll go from there with handing out offers. I guess I should know in a couple days. This was my third time up to Michigan, though. They have the best facilities of anywhere I've been, The indoor facilities, the weight room, the Big house, everything is just awesome. I don't have a list yet, but Michigan would definitely be right up there. I'm hoping they offer me, and I am very high on them. I know the coaches are going to do a great job, and they're going to start taking off soon.
TOM: When do you want to start narrowing a list down then?
PAT: I'll probably narrow it down at the end of June. I'm still waiting to hear from some schools, like I am with Michigan. I'm hoping I get offers from Notre Dame and Miami. I really like UCLA and Cal. It's a different culture out there in the Pac 10, so that would be pretty cool. Illinois is also a school, being in my home state, that grabs my attention. I have a lot of familiarity there, so they would be in there. Once the end of June comes around, I should know more.
There have been plenty of rumors and guesses about Big Ten expansion, ever since commissioner Jim Delaney announced that the conference was studying the issue. But this week offered the first concrete clues from school officials who are actually in the position to know.
First was the rumor first floated on the University of Texas rivals.com site, that the Pac 10 was prepared to offer invitations to Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado. The Colorado athletic director later said that he believed the report was true.
Second was an email from Ohio State University president Gordon Gee, in which he encouraged Delaney to get in touch with Texas president Bill Powers, “who would welcome a call to say they have a ‘Tech’ problem.” The email was among several obtained by the Columbus Dispatch in a freedom-of-information request, and Gee acknowledged it was genuine.
Gee wouldn't say what he meant by a “‘Tech’ problem,” and several newspapers were at a loss to explain it, but it is not difficult to figure out. ‘Tech’ clearly refers to Texas Tech, the “little sister” of three Texas state schools in the Big XII—Texas and Texas A&M being the other two. Naturally, all three play each other in football every year.
It is likely that wherever Texas goes, A&M will go with it. The Longhorns have played A&M in football every year since 1915. They've also played Oklahoma nearly every year since 1902 (they skipped a few seasons in the early party of the 20th century). It is highly doubtful that Texas would want to give up either rivalry. But it is equally doubtful that the Longhorns would agree to play in another conference, while being locked into two annual rivalry games with BCS-level opponents. If the Longhorns and the Aggies move together, presumably that would leave the Sooners as their only annually contested non-conference rivalry.
The Texas–Texas Tech rivalry does not have the same pedigree as the others. The two schools have played annually only since 1960. It is also a lopsided rivalry, with the Longhorns winning nearly 75 percent of the time.
So, what is the “‘Tech’ problem”? If Texas and Texas A&M join the Big Ten, it would probably spell the end of the Bix XII as we have known it. The more prominent football schools in the conference would not have trouble finding homes elsewhere. Nebraska and Missouri, for instance, could very well join the Big Ten, as well; the Pac Ten would probably take Oklahoma and Colorado. But “little sister” Tech would likely find itself in a non-BCS league, like Conference USA. That wouldn't sit well with Texas politicians, especially if Tech had the double blow of losing its annual rivalry games with both the Longhorns and the Aggies.
Here, then, is the significance of the Pac Ten's allegedly forthcoming invitation to six schools, including Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, which has a similar “little sister” status in its home state. It's a scenario that would make Texas and Oklahoma politicians smile, as in any other plausible expansion scenario, both would be at risk of finding themselves in lesser conferences. But would the notoriously conservative Pac Ten, which treasures its academic reputation and requires unanimous agreement to add a new member, really welcome all six of these institutions? Several of them, particularly Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, are not in the same academic league as the rest of the Pac Ten.
But if the Big Ten is willing to at least entertain adding Texas and Texas A&M, both of which are in the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), it would under no circumstances accept Texas Tech, which is not. That, in a nutshell, is Bill Powers’s “‘Tech’ problem.”
Most schools claim publicly they are loyal to the conference they are in—whatever they may be saying behind the scenes. But when the University of Texas says it is committed to the Big XII, they just might mean it. The Longhorns have been toying with the idea of creating their own cable television network. They are, perhaps, the only school in the nation that could do this. With their own network, plus the disproportionate share of Big XII television revenue that they already get, the Longhorns would be sitting pretty. But if the Big Ten nabs Nebraska and Missouri, and Colorado goes to the Pac Ten (with or without Oklahoma), Big XII membership might be a lot less attractive.
Among the three conferences the Longhorns could plausibly join, the Big Ten is the most attractive. The average Big Ten school is 1,022 miles from Austin, whereas the average Pac Ten school is 1,377 miles away. Six Pac ten schools are farther than any in the Big Ten. Except for Penn State, every Big Ten school is under 1,200 miles from Austin. Except for the two Arizona schools, every Pac Ten institution is over 1,200 miles and two time zones away. While the SEC might be closer geographically for the Longhorns, the SEC does not have the academic reputation of either the Big Ten or the Pac Ten.
I think there is very little doubt that Texas is the big fish that Jim Delaney and Gordon Gee would love to hook. Whether they can depends on how big a “problem” the “‘Tech’ problem” really is.
In football the QB position is the lynchpin for the whole offense. They touch the ball on every play, read the defense, and choose the best course of action based on what they see in the moment. So, naturally, the outlook of an offense depends in large part on the outlook of the QB who will be flying the plane. The goal of this diary is to see if there are any reliable trends in how a generic QB progresses from one year to the next and to investigate if there are factors that can be identified and quantified that will aid or hinder his on field success. I'm actually very surprised about how clear the data is.
To do this I have accumulated information for 226 quarterbacks that have played in BCS conferences since 2003. The pool was restricted to BCS schools so that some level of control was applied to the level of talent surrounding and opposing the quarterback; the presumption being that players in BCS conferences will be playing with and against talent that is on par with their own.
If a player did not average at least 10 passing attempts per game he played in a given year, the data point was not considered because the number is highly unreliable (small sample size). This shuts out some interesting pieces of data (Tim Tebow 2006) but improves the overall conclusions significantly. In Tebow’s case, his second year as a regular player was his first year as a regular passer so his sophomore season was placed in the Year 1 group. There are a few other, more obscure anomalies that were given the same treatment. The large number of data points make the impact of those anomalies negligible.
The metric I used for this study is NCAA Passer Rating. Unfortunately, Passer Rating isn’t perfect when it comes to evaluating QBs; there are many disses available on that topic (Advanced NFL Stats, Football Outsiders, Fifth Down). I leave the detailed explanation to the articles I’ve linked. However, though it’s imperfect, passer rating is still a familiar number for most football fans and it does provide significant and reasonable insight into the relative performance of QBs. On with the show.
The following chart shows the average NCAA QB Rating by year of experience for all QBs included in this study.The chart includes the standard error of the averages for those that know what that means (or are good guessers). The chart shows a couple of interesting things: more experience is better, which…duh, and the average QB rating seems to improve by approximately equal amounts going into year 2 and into year 3 but then tails off a little going into year 4.
Now, the second point goes against conventional wisdom somewhat; QBs are supposed to improve a lot more after their first year than after subsequent years. The fly in the ointment is that, in order to track improvement, the data should be evaluated as matched pairs. This means that we should take each specific QB’s improvement over the preceding year and then average the deltas to understand the average improvement from one year to the next. Doing that yields this chart.
This chart shows what we expect to see, the change after the year 1 is much bigger than the change after years 2 and 3. But, now there’s the apparent negative improvement between years 3 and 4. What’s up with that?
Need … more … charts …
What I did here is plot average improvement versus the previous year’s rating. To clear out the inherent noise in the data, I lumped QB Ratings near each other together (i.e: ratings from 115.0 to 124.9 treated as 120 and so on). The trends are clear and strong, and they demonstrate that mean reversion is in full effect—the higher a QB’s rating is in a given year, the more likely he is to have a lower score in the next year and vice versa. It’s very difficult to have 2 really good or really bad years in a row (unless the QB is awesome or terrible).
We know from the first chart in the series that ratings go up as your years of experience goes up, hence, by the fourth year as starter, the net expected change is negative. The guys above 130 are likely to fall back and the guys below 130 are likely to move up. This effect allows us to infer that there is an expected upper bound for a seasoned QB, probably in the 130 to 140 range. One possible explanation for this phenomenon, is that a QB is unlikely to have the same group of players around him for all four years. The team around him might be out of phase with his development and that will have an effect on the numbers he puts up.
The familiar example around here is Chad Henne. Chad had Braylon Edwards and a veteran offensive line in his first year. So any improvement he may have developed in between 2004 and 2005 was partially offset by the loss of Edwards and other changes around him. However, as the team around him developed and he continued to develop, he saw a big jump in performance in his third year. Then, going into 2007, there were many losses on the offensive line in addition to Steve Breaston, and Henne’s numbers fell back to the 130-ish level. Overall it looks like Henne never really improved, but the reality is that his development made up for and was masked by the changes in the team around him in all likelihood. I think this is a more plausible explanation than “he was always sweet and he never got better.”
Finally, it’s worth taking a look at the dependency of first year performance vs. Seniority. The question being: is it better to have a redshirt junior making his first start instead of a true freshman?
Once again I’ve plotted the averages and their corresponding standard error and included sample size along the axis for reference. The responsible conclusion is that seniority is not a significant factor in first year success for Redshirt Sophomores or younger. Players older than that seem to perform better. However, you could just as easily conclude that since the averages overlap so much, especially in non-adjacent points, the trend is pretty weak and that no trend exists. It seems that other factors, such as supporting cast and the overall talent of the player, matter more than the age of the QB when he makes his first collegiate start. The team thing is difficult to assess but talent is easy; Rivals.com, be my guide.
Same thing as before, lumped averages with standard error and sample sizes shown. This time, I think the trend is real because: A) it makes sense and B) there is no overlap between 2-stars and 5-stars. Also, a 5-star QB is more likely to have a good team around him than a 2-star player is. All of these things support the trend despite the uncertainty in the data. There’s another reason, let’s zoom in on 5-stars; this time with a table.
|Reggie McNeal||Texas A&M||2003||124.5|
|Trent Edwards||Stanford||2003||79.5||4 new OL; 2 new WR; new RB|
|Kyle Wright||Miami (FL)||2005||137.2|
|Marcus Vick||Virginia Tech||2005||143.3|
|Anthony Morelli||Penn State||2006||111.9||4 new OL|
|Matthew Stafford||Georgia||2006||109||3 new OL; 2 new WR;|
|Xavier Lee||Florida State||2006||123.5|
|Jimmy Clausen||Notre Dame||2007||103.9||3 new OL; 1 new WR|
|Tyrod Taylor||Virginia Tech||2007||119.7|
|Terrelle Pryor||Ohio State||2008||146.5|
When you strip out the four guys that had extenuating circumstances (Mallett stays in), the average is about 131. That’s approaching the theoretical upper limit right away, on average.
I’m currently working an a project that tries to use this information to see what we can expect out of the QBs on our upcoming schedule. I’ll also try to use the dataset to try and tease out what we can expect out of our guys based on QBs similar to themselves.
If we thought the Big Ten speculation was crazy, all we had to do was wait until the Big12 conference meetings. Suddenly the whole world is the Chicago Sun Times with the Pac-10/Big12 sniping or merging conversation. While I am sure everyone at Baylor and Iowa State and Kansas is freaking out, I think the most internal pressure today has to be on Jack Swarbrick and John Jenkins, the AD and President of Notre Dame, respectively. I think Swarbrick's public comments about the Big Ten-fueled expansion landscape were really a test of constituent reaction, just like the 96-team March Madness leak. Deep down, I think both men know that they will have to make a move if the entire landscape of college football changes. However, they also now know that all of ND Nation would excommunicate them if they pulled the trigger. As Delaney quashed fire after fire from media speculators, the ND brain trusts seats got cooler and cooler. We all thought that the Big Ten's deliberate approach would allow things to play out more slowly. This would allow the landscape to change in front of the nation and if ND joined a conference in the aftermath, their fan base would have already seen the writing on the wall. Suddenly all hell is breaking loose at break neck speed and the landscape may be completely different before Touchdown Jesus can turn the independent water into conference wine.
If I were Delaney, I would call Swarbrick today, just to see how he is doing.
Then again, this could be another case of MSM running with unnamed sources and everything could be back to normal by Wednesday. Weren't we supposed to see USC's sanctions today? Oh that's right. ESPN's "sources familiar with the situation" were wrong.
[Editor's note: frontpaged for obvious reasons. A scheduling mix-up with Brian caused this to get buried earlier, so I'm bringing it back near the top. [How much] Will Michigan rue the loss of Brandon Graham? - Tim]
[Note: I have 2006 fully loaded into the database now and will be included in all future multi-year studies along with 2007-2009.]
We can all agree that sacks and interceptions are good things for the defense and bad things for the offense. But how does a viable pass rush or a ball-hawking secondary affect the performance of the opposing offense on plays where there isn’t a sack or a pick. Likewise, what is the correlation between an offensive line that gives up sacks regularly or a mistake prone quarterback?
Sacks and interceptions have very similar direct impacts on games. From 2006-2009 in games between two D1 teams in competitive game situations (the “universe” for this and most of my analysis) the average defensive unit produced 2.3 ppg worth of sacks and 2.0 ppg worth of interceptions. Sacks have a slightly higher direct value than interceptions (interceptions returns and fumble returns on sacks are not included) but does either of these correlate to a better defensive performance overall.
Chart time? Let’s make it a double.
Not entirely surprisingly, the better a defense is at producing sacks and interceptions, the better it is on downs where neither occur.
For every point per game that a defense generates due to sacks, the overall pass rush generates 1.2 ppg of additional value. Interceptions are also powerful, but not as much so. Each ppg of value a defense generates through interceptions is worth 0.9 ppg of additional value.
This analysis serves to confirm what most football fans already know. Teams that can create interceptions and sacks are good going to be better defensive teams. Whether a strong pass rush/secondary creates pressure on other downs or if strong pass rushes and secondaries are a common occurrence on great defenses is irrelevant. As most of you probably know, defenses that are good at these two things are also good on other downs. So why is this interesting…
The story becomes very different when you look at offenses. The conventional wisdom that was supported for defenses is largely blown up on the offensive side of the ball. Sacks and interceptions may be indicators of great defenses, but they are not symptoms of bad offenses.
The slope of these two charts are about 20% of the gradient of the corresponding defensive charts and virtually flat. On offense, the amount of sacks and interceptions are largely independent of performance. There is obviously the immediate negative effect of the play, but giving up sacks or throwing interceptions show virtually no correlation to success or failure on other downs.
What it means?
For one of side of the ball it merely quantifies conventional wisdom. Good pass defenses get interceptions and sack the quarterback and teams that get interceptions and sack the quarterback are often good pass defenses, even on other plays. The value they create is roughly equal to value created by the big plays.
On offense, it’s a very different story. Interceptions and sacks will always be bad plays for an offense, but their rate of incidence is not strongly correlated to performance on other downs. In fact, if given the choice between a quarterback who threw a lot of picks the prior year but was generally successful otherwise and a quarterback who was very safe but not all that productive, my guess is you will be better of going for the quarterback with the picks.
Special thanks goes to Ty and The Lions in Winter who has been working on a similar line of reasoning for the Lions revamped defensive line.
Potential Future Diaries
Just some ideas I am kicking around or have half started. Let me know what you think about these or any other things you would like to see.
- A follow-up piece on fourth downs digging deeper into how the decision making changes based on the relative strengths of the offense and the opponents defense
- A broader look at “luck”, looking back over the last four years.
- When are extra yards not worth it. The secret dead zones of football.
- Probably not for several months, but a big season preview is in the works.
- Something Carr vs. Rodriguez, now that I have 2006-2007 seasons of data I have two years to compare the two more directly.
- How the best players of the last four years (TEBOW!!!) progressed over the years. Maybe a companion piece on Michigan defenders.
- Any other suggestions? An article a week means I need all the ideas I can get, I’m not afraid to beg!