"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
After yesterday's 235 yard rushing performance, Denard's path to breaking Pat White's QB rushing record has become a bit clearer. To break the record in the seven guaranteed games we have left, #16 must average 82.14 yards per game on the ground.
Pat White- 4,480 yards
Denard Robinson- 3,905 yards
EDIT: If we get to a bowl game, the average drops to: 72 yards/game. If we make it to the Big Ten championship game (and a bowl), it drops to 64 yards/game.
During the game last night, Denard had 90 yards of rushing, bringing his season total up to 441 after 4 games. At this point in his career he trails Pat White (4,480) by 810 yards with 8 games to go.
So Denard needs to average 101.25 yards on the ground for the remainder of the season to break the record
[please tell me if you think that these stats need to be manipulated better. I’m still working on the ideas behind these concepts, and any ideas are welcome. This is meant to be a look to his likely stats next year through stats and deduction. I will continue to try and do this with other players and units as the off-season starts. Any ideas for further analysis helps.]
He’s already set the record for most rushing yards in a season, on a 6.8 yards/attempt average. Let’s admit that he’s most likely not going to do that again, although I’d bet his average will stay around the same. Because he’s a more athletic version of Pat White, I’ll use those stats to try and show what I think Denard will do on the ground.
Pat White had 197 attempts for 1335 yards at 6.8 YPC his junior year. I would imagine that Denard would have about the same stats. So, we’ll get a drop in yardage by about 100 yards, but this will be made up by his throwing stats I’d assume.
Other things to note:
- Denard still does not scramble very often. Vince Young, Pat White, and others did this much more and were able to get a lot of yards of scrambles. As Denard gets another year under his belt, I’d expect much more scrambling and bigger gains. This will, of course, help open the passing lanes.
- Denard runs the iso and zone read a lot. I don’t know how many times White ran it, or V. Young, but I think Denard has many more designed runs than any other QB has had. This will most likely get cut down because of his injuries this year, Dee Hart coming in, and his passing game getting better. With that being said, on to the…
(I wanted to take passing stats from players who are like Denard. I believe these are the closest guys to him.)
THE LONG BALL:
As most of us know, Denard doesn't throw the long ball as well as we'd like him to. He does not use much touch yet, and this is something that we can expect growth on in the off-season. He throws the short passes decently, but without the deep ball threat he's still not 100% effective. There have been great throws, but they are too few. The long ball will be one development, but along with throwing the ball deep, we get a much higher chance of INTs. Based on this, I wanted to try and predict Denard's INT totals for next year from other prolific running QBs. Below are the stats and their significance.
Int thrown/100 passes by year in the league:
Denard is at 4.3 INT/100 attempts
If you look at the stats you’ll see that Denard’s average is about where V. Young was in his sophomore year. Young then made an impressive downswing of one less interception thrown every 100 passes. However, when you look at the total averages there isn’t much of a jump from sophomore to junior year.
Dixon’s stats are the ones which screw this up, so if you throw out that outlier you do get a decent jump in INT/100 passes.
WHAT THIS MEANS:
Assuming Dixon’s stats are a outlier, we can expect Denard to throw about 1 less interception per 100 attempts. He’s going to have about 250 attempts this season so that’s 2.5 less interceptions next year. Assuming he throws 300 passes, that’s 9 interceptions next year. (Vince Young had 10 the season he won his Heisman.)
Denard should have around 1400 rushing yards at about 7 YPC. I believe he will have less designed runs, but more sneaks. He will also throw about 9 INTs next year, when I believe he'll have just shy of 300 attempts.
Denard and the current UM offense is most often compared with Pat White's WVU days, for obvious reasons. When Mark Dantonio was as Cinci, he coached against WVU twice and Pat White had typical Pat White games both times.
2005 passed for 100 yards, 1td, rushed for 111 yards in a 38-0 wvu win - http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/boxscores/2005-11-09-cincinnati.html
2006 passed for 98 yards, 1td, rushed for 93 yards 2 td in a 42-24 wvu win - http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/boxscores/2006-11-11-west-virginia.html
Not claiming that this means Denard does the same thing, just some facts, some history, something to gnaw on this morning.
I posted this a couple of days ago as a comment in a thread, but it got buried pretty quickly, so now that I can post diaries I thought I'd post it again.
I wanted to look at the breakdown of Rich Rodriguez's previous offenses, and in particular the main QB's run-pass balance and the fraction of runs by the QB. I'm only looking at RR in Div 1A (so Tulane OC, Clemson OC, WVU and Michigan), and I'm skipping the mess that was the 2008 offense. Data comes from the year-end statbooks for each team.
Here is the overall production chart. QB is the main QB (from what I could tell) - in 1999 Brandon Streeter got a lot of playing time (mostly passing), and in 2001 Rasheed Marshall got a decent amout of playing time.
|Year||Team||QB||Pass Plays||Pass Yards||Rush Plays||Rush Yards||Total Plays||Total Offense|
|2001||West Virginia||Brad Lewis||357||1811||475||1992||832||3803|
|2002||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||279||1753||714||3687||993||5440|
|2003||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||252||2034||600||2762||852||4796|
|2004||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||259||1993||590||3034||849||5027|
|2005||West Virginia||Pat White||193||1398||625||3269||818||4667|
|2006||West Virginia||Pat White||233||2059||590||3939||823||5998|
|2007||West Virginia||Pat White||265||2067||628||3864||893||5931|
|2010 Proj||Michigan||Denard Robinson||285.6||2887.2||547.2||3892.8||832.8||6780|
|Year||Team||QB||QB Pass||QB Pass Yards||QB Rushes||QB Rush Yards||QB Total Offense|
|2001||West Virginia||Brad Lewis||237||1339||54||41||1380|
|2002||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||259||1616||173||666||2282|
|2003||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||215||1729||101||303||2032|
|2004||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||171||1426||130||684||2110|
|2005||West Virginia||Pat White||114||828||131||952||1780|
|2006||West Virginia||Pat White||179||1655||165||1219||2874|
|2007||West Virginia||Pat White||216||1724||197||1335||3059|
|2010 Proj||Michigan||Denard Robinson||230.4||2419.2||235.2||2172||4591.2|
Denard has already had more passing yards and almost as many rushing yards as 2005-era Pat White. If he averages just over 100 yards passing per game for the rest of the season he'll have more passing yards than any of RR's QBs other than Shaun King. If he kept on his current pace (unlikely), he'd end up with almost as many yards as 1997-era Shaun King. If he averages just over 60 yards rushing per game for the rest of the season he'll have more rushing yards than 2007 era Pat White. For total offense he would need to average just over 160 yards per game to best Pat White's best season, and just over 315 to match Shaun King. At this point it looks like Denard is the best all-around QB Rodriguez has had to date: almost as good a passer as King and as good/better a runner as Pat White.
Next I want to look at the breakdown of plays and yards between run and pass, and in particular the QB's share of production.
|Year||Team||QB||% Rush Plays||% Rush Yards||% of Runs by QB||% of Rush Yards by QB||% of Total Plays by QB||% of Total Offense by QB||QB % Rush Plays||QB % Rush Yards|
|2001||West Virginia||Brad Lewis||57%||52%||11%||2%||35%||36%||19%||3%|
|2002||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||72%||68%||24%||18%||44%||42%||40%||29%|
|2003||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||70%||58%||17%||11%||37%||42%||32%||15%|
|2004||West Virginia||Rasheed Marshall||69%||60%||22%||23%||35%||42%||43%||32%|
|2005||West Virginia||Pat White||76%||70%||21%||29%||30%||38%||53%||53%|
|2006||West Virginia||Pat White||72%||66%||28%||31%||42%||48%||48%||42%|
|2007||West Virginia||Pat White||70%||65%||31%||35%||46%||52%||48%||44%|
|2010 Proj||Michigan||Denard Robinson||66%||57%||43%||56%||56%||68%||51%||47%|
The first two data columns are the percent of all plays and all yards that come from all runs. The third and fourth are the percent of all runs and rush yards that come from the QB. The fifth and sixth are the percent of all plays and all yards that come from the QB. The seventh and eight are the percent of the QB's total plays and yards that come from his runs.
RR has historically varied a fair amount in how much of his offense comes from running the ball - this year we're about average for what he's done in the past, and less run-oriented than for example 2005 West Virginia. However, our rush offense is by far the most QB-based of any previous offense, far outstripping the one-man show of 2000 Woody Dantzler, and 2007 Pat White. If we look at total offense, this year's team is more QB-focused than any of the Clemson or WVU teams, but actually on par with the Tulane teams. Looking at Denard's run-pass balance he's actually right around Pat White's typical split, though he is certainly more run-focused in his production than any of RR's other quarterbacks.
This is just a high-level overview. I can't break down the kinds of running or passing plays RR is using from this data. The offense certainly feels very different than the Pat White-era WVU teams in formation and play style, and the YouTube highlights of Woody Dantzler I've seen have the QB iso type feel that we're seeing a lot from this year's team. I think the main message is that even within his system RR will adapt his style, both at a high level and at the formation/play level, to match his talent - which is what he should do.
Spread Quarterback Rankings
A few games into this season, it really became clear to me that this “Spread and Shred” offense is massively quarterback dependent. So much so, that I began to believe that the performance of the defense is almost irrelevant. Now, starting in the second half of the Illinois game it became pretty obvious that the defense needs to be at least competent to make this all work, but I still feel that this offense is so quarterback dependent that the team’s fate lies almost exclusively with the play of the quarterback. The main metric to measure quarterbacks currently in use is the quarterback passer rating system. This system completely ignores a QB’s rushing stats and is therefore not particularly relevant to this offense. So, I set out to design a “spread quarterback rating” and correlate it to winning football games.
With the help of FormerlyAnonymous and a few other posters, I compiled a list of teams that run a pretty similar offense to UM’s current system and used ESPN.com to collect quarterback stats for all of these teams. I ended up with a sample of 222 games played in similar systems. I’d be happy to email the excel sheet to anyone that is interested (or hopefully can do better than I did with the data). I classified the results of each game into four categories. 1 = loss by more than 10, 2 = loss by 10 or less, 3 = win by 10 or less, 4 = win by more than 10. I basically then just played with the numbers as much as I could to come up with a metric that had the highest possible R-Squared value correlating spread quarterback rating (SQBR) to game result. The final formula came out to be…
SQBR = (Pass Yds / Attempts ^ 0.5) + (Rush Yds / Attempts ^0.5) + PassTD *5 + RushTD * 4 – INT*11 – Sacks*7
Please realize this was done 100% empirically, so that’s why it seems weird. But serious, look at the passer rating formula and this is nothing.
As stated above, this was all manipulated to fit the data. The following graph plots game result vs SQBR.
The trendline shows an r-squared value of 0.3901. Obviously this is far short of the perfect correlation of 1, but as the following data will show, it’s better than anything out there. Below is the same data set plotted against conventional passer rating.
The conventional passer rating system correlates approximately half as well as the SQBR for game results.
For a little comparison, the following graph shows how the SQBR and passer rating systems perform for pro-style quarterbacks.
The SQBR actually performs better at predicting the winner with a pro-style quarterback than the conventional passer rating system does. This isn’t particularly surprising given that the SQBR was designed to predict outcome while the passer rating system wasn’t, but I think it’s interesting nonetheless. All in all, the highest correlation between outcome and rating is for the SQBR for spread quarterbacks.
Finally, some numbers. The mean SQBR for spread quarterbacks was 36.93. For quarterbacks that scored more than one standard deviation above the mean, they won 97.2% of the time while winning only 18.1% of the time when scoring more than one standard deviation BELOW the mean.
So what does it all mean? It means the better your quarterback plays, the better chance you have of winning. This obviously isn’t groundbreaking, but I think it’s interesting to see how much bigger a difference it makes in this system. Keep in mind that all of this is calculated completely independent of defense. The extremes are very extreme here. Only one game was lost with a SQBR more than one standard deviation above the mean and that was a shootout loss by Pat White and WVU to Louisville at the peak of their Petrino era in 2006. On the other side, only 18% of the games were won with a SQBR more than one standard deviation below. Contrast that with the fact that in pro-style systems, teams were able to win 32% of the time with a poor SBQR and 48%(!) of the time with a passer rating more than one standard deviation below the mean. Close to twice as likely to win with a bad QB performance in the pro-style system.
Let’s see some numbers from the guys we know and love.
And finally, what I think most can agree is where we want to be.
The discrepancy between White’s last season with Rodriguez and where we are now is honestly mind boggling. In 23 games, we’ve seen a total of five above average games, and no games more than one standard deviation above the mean. The good performances basically line up with on field results. Forcier against WMU, ND, and Illinois*, Sheridan against Minnesota, and Threet against Notre Dame. White on the other hand had nine out of twelve games above average and eight out of twelve exceptional games. Unsurprisingly, WVU lost two of the three games where White’s numbers were below average.
What can our guys do better to emulate White? I think looking at these tables, it’s pretty obvious. One, be more of a running threat. White ran often and he ran well, our guys generally do neither. Two, limit the negatives. White only threw three INTs the entire season and was sacked less than once a game. Needless to say, our guys don’t exactly live up to this standard.
A big positive? Forcier is definitely doing better than last year’s guys. He is a true freshman, and I think we can expect a big jump from him next year (or else…). At the same time, I would also argue that Gardner should be given every possible chance to compete for the job next year. It’s clear to me that you need the best QB play possible for this to succeed and I think it’s only sensible to explore all of your options. With the current trends and feelings out there, I don’t think Rodriguez can worry about getting space between Forcier and Gardner, he needs to win as soon as humanly possible.
So basically, I guess I’m saying we need to continue to get better quarterback play if we’re going to succeed in this system. Looking at this, I’m starting to feel like Gardner is really the key to success, not Forcier. If Rodriguez needs to win next year to save his job, he should stick with Forcier. If he has the 4-5 years we think he does, I’d throw Gardner in there next year and get it rolling. Secondly, I really don’t think defense is all that important. Obviously the last two and a half games have made that statement sound kind of ridiculous, but I believe with good quarterback play in this system, the defense needs to achieve only competency.
Please let me know of any suggestions you can think of to make this better. Again, I’d be happy to give anyone the raw data that is a better statistician or is interested.
*I realized right at the end of this that I don’t have fumbles in the equation. For whatever reason, it wasn’t in the ESPN data I got. Crap… I think it would only be better though with fumbles included.