Matthew Stafford (Rivals #6 overall, 2006) and Mitch Mustain (Rivals #10 overall, 2006)
With the ESPN150 hot off of the presses yesterday, all four major sites now have an updated Top 150/247/250/300 list available for the 2013 class. I wanted to dive in and look at how each service has performed over the years. Would any site stand out as doing a better job of predicting success? Do allegations of regional bias play out for any specific services?
Typically considered the gold standard (unless another site has the player you like rated higher), Rivals online archives are available back to 2002. They have produced a ranked Top 250 since 2008 (Terrelle Pryor was the original #1 recruit) and an unranked Top 250 list in 2006-2007. Since 2002 they have classified between 25 and 33 players as five stars and typically have about 300 four-stars per class.
Like Rivals, online archives go back to 2002. They're a bit more generous on the five-stars, extending the honor to exactly 50 high school seniors per class since 2008. The larger group of five-stars is offset by smaller group of four-stars that round out the rest of the Scout 300 ranking that has been available since 2005.
The Worldwide Leader joined the recruiting party in 2006. No one is stingier with the fifth star than ESPN, offering up between 11 and 18 each season since they went crazy with 42 in their first year. The ESPN four-star threshold is also a bit tougher. Last year the number peaked at 238 but prior to that the total was closer to 200 per class.
The newest service is 247 Sports, which did a barebones review of the 2010 class before jumping in head first for the last two completed classes. Their best-of list ranks the top 247 players (just like their name, get it?) and is in line with Rivals in terms of number of five- and four-star rated players. Their later entry into the group has allowed them to provide what is, in my opinion, the best website in terms of navigation and ease of use. For the most part they are excluded from these evaluations since the first class they fully rated were only freshman last season.
This is where it gets tricky. Do you evaluate on hits or misses or both? Based on available, accessible information I decided that hits would be easier to quantify and really what you want to know about a service. Who does a better job of predicting future stars? By stars I defined them as players who earned all-conference or AP All-American status for a BCS conference school. First team all-conference honors were weighted double and AP All-Americans were weighted triple. If a player earned awards for multiple years, their value was weighted for each season depending on their level.
Each recruit was given an overall ranking for each service in each season. If there was a formal ranking, I used my method to complete the rankings behind them. I used star values and position rankings to approximate a ranking. All five-stars were ranked first, then four-stars and finally three-stars. Each player was ranked in position order and the positions were allocated based on total quantity in each group. This way the #4 fullback wasn’t rated the same way as the #4 wide receiver. Kickers and punters were excluded.
The square root of the rank was then used to further accentuate the differences at the top end of the rankings. Ratings were capped at 1000 and any unranked player was given that value. ESPN was evaluated solely based on the 2006 and later classes.
Who Rates the Best (at Rating)
Overall, Rivals gave the highest average rating to a future star. The weighted average ranking of a player to earn post-season honors from Rivals was #268. Scout wasn’t far behind at 281 and ESPN lagged further back at 329. Here is how each service did by recruiting class (lower is better):
Rivals dominated from 2002-2006 before Scout picked up a couple seasons in 2007 and 2008. With plenty of eligibility left for the 2009 class it’s still anyone’s game. Rivals has jumped out to an early lead for the 2010 class and the 2011 class is 60% comprised of Sammy Watkins and generally pointless at this point in its lifecycle. ESPN has failed to come close for any completed classes, although the 2009 class to date has been neck-and-neck between all three services with probably two-thirds of the results still outstanding.
Offensive Ratings-Weighted Average National Rank of Post-Season Honorees
ESPN finally picks up a win in the tightly contested quarterback evaluations. As you can see by the lower numbers, picking future all-conference quarterbacks has proved to be one of the easier tasks among rating services. ESPN’s average rank of 135 puts them ahead of both Rivals and Scout.
Scout does the best at wide receiver with Rivals a bit back. ESPN is not very close to the leaders at any offensive positions other than quarterback. Their results for both offensive linemen and running backs are particularly lacking.
Defensive Ratings-Weighted Average National Rank of Post-Season Honorees
It’s a clean sweep for Rivals on the defensive side of the ball. Scout is never far from, but still consistently behind, Rivals. ESPN is a distant third across all position groups, at least 20% higher than Rivals in every category and nearly 25% overall.
Conference Ratings-Weighted Average National Rank of Post-Season Honorees
The criticism of ESPN having an SEC bias and west coast neglect certainly shows up in the evaluations. SEC is the conference ESPN clearly wins and the ACC is a narrow win. All the other conferences are just carnage for ESPN while Rivals again takes a majority of wins. Scout is virtually tied for the Big Ten, Big XII and Pac-12 while lapping the field for the always crucial Big East rankings. It is difficult to tell whether the ESPN success is due to better rankings on players ultimately landing at ACC and SEC schools or if they are just giving a flat lift to those conferences. The fact that 1 in 3 players on the 2013 Top 150 are from Florida or Georgia probably indicates that at least some of the success comes from allocating preferential spots to players from the SEC footprint.
Here is how each service allocated their ranking slots to geographies. Higher rankings are weighted heavier and each player’s home state was allocated to one of the five major conferences (sorry Big East) based on their geography.
Players from ACC territory were the most consistently allocated across all four services. ESPN and 247 allocate fewer prime slots to the Big Ten versus Rivals and Scout. ESPN is a major outlier out west as the Pac-12 footprint garners much lower rankings there than at any of the other three. The SEC evaluations pick up about 40% from 247 and ESPN versus 35% and below from Rivals and Scout. This gap has narrowed some in more recent years, but there is still a strong bias from 247 and ESPN towards players from the SEC footprint.
In terms of ability to predict future success, Rivals stands out as the clear winner among all of the services. Scout is not significantly behind and has closed the gap in recent seasons. Rivals predictions proved more accurate at five of the seven position groups and overall for both sides of the ball. ESPN is a distant third in almost every sub-category with the exception being quarterback where they lead the most closely contested position group.
The services appear to be mirrored in their regional biases. ESPN and 247 slant to the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions with a clear sub valuation of the West Coast. Rivals and Scout don’t have dramatic swings to any one region but do give less value to the Southeast with the extra spread across the rest of the country.
While Michigan’s 11 [players in the...] Top 150 showing is absolutely a good thing, ESPN has proven to be the least reliable of the three established services. Historically, 30.5% of the weighted post-season honorees originally appeared in the ESPN 150 while Scout and Rivals have each had at least 34% in their Top 150’s. The differences aren’t massive and all sites have had their misses, but overall there is clear evidence that Rivals is the most consistently correct and that Scout is a strong #2. Although the individual players fluctuate, the overall ratings for Michigan’s class to date are essentially identical between Rivals, Scout and ESPN with 247 being lower on it than any other service.
Bonus: Protecting Conference Turf
Not looking at recruiting services but conferences now, I wanted to see which conferences did the best job of keeping the best players from their region in-house. Each state was split between conferences based on number of schools in a given state. States without BCS conference teams were excluded. This isn’t perfect because there is no way Cincinnati and the Big East have the same share of Ohio as the Big Ten and its school in Ohio. But it makes each school among the Big Six theoretically even and provides a good starting point.
|Conference||Total FP Pts||Split FP Pts||Signed FP Pts||Signed/ Total||Signed/ Split|
The Pts are an estimate of the total value of the recruits within a footprint. The total includes points for all players to any conference with a school in that region. The split is an allocation based on number of BCS conference schools in that state in each conference. Not surprisingly, the conferences with the smallest geographic competition, the Big XII and the Pac-12 signed the highest percentages of their available recruits. After splitting up the states, the SEC actually signs more than their allocation of the footprint. The Big Ten is close behind but work from a much smaller pool. If the SEC is able to make make gains in Texas (they currently have a 12% “share”) with the addition of A&M, the talent gap between the SEC and the rest of the conferences could widen.
Notre Dame has another player transfer. Mike Ragone is leaving for Kansas to be with former coach Weis. Former players Dayne Crist and linebacker Anthony McDonald are both former Notre Dame football players to join Chalie Weis at Kansas. Although Ragone was awarded a 6th year of eligibility, just shows these guys are just not buying into Kelly's system and would rather leave. I know there are other players who chose to stay for their teammates and not for Kelly like Manti Te'o. I think if Kelly has another bad year you can chalk him up as another bad hire for the Irish.
On Michigan getting a lot of good press this off season after a BCS win and very good recruiting:
"We're laying in the weeds," Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio says with a half smile. "We've beat Michigan the last four years. So where's the threat?"
A sad update on this kid. His dorm roommate was arrested for manufacturing and delivering narcotics, possession of narcotics and maintaining a drug house, so I can't imagine his charges are much better. Had some promise coming into UM, but flamed out here and looks like he will likely not be on CMU's team for long.
FF 210 - Screen Package
FF 400 - Drag and Follow
FF410: 2012 Spring Game Breakdown - DG Pass Plays - Day 1
There are several goals to this diary. First, it will analyze Devin Gardner, but I hope it will do more than that. I will also hope to dissect the intentions of the offensive play pass plays, including the reads, the reasoning behind the routes, and how the other players are performing. There will also be some discussion about the defense, as is necessary to understand what the offense is supposed to do.
This is by no means meant to replace a UFR. I will not look at individual players so much as assignments based on positions. There will be no +1/-1 or anything of that nature. It is purely to analyze what I’m seeing on film. While I do believe what I am “coaching” here, it is important to have a small grain of salt. I am by no means a coach at Michigan. I do not breakdown film for Michigan or have any connection with their football program, so I don’t know exactly what the coaches are coaching. What I do know is what I’m seeing on film, and what I believe that means. Other coaches on here may have other opinions, and that happens often in football. I may not be seeing something properly (though I hope not), it does happen, especially when only one person is looking at the film alone.
Anyway, today we will look at the first 5 pass plays from DG. I will definitely get to all the DG pass plays, and I won’t promise more beyond that (though I would like to dissect at least all the pass plays, but we’ll see).
Here is the film that I am basing this on, with the time stamps the time when the play begins.
Pass Play 1 – Time 0:00
Can’t really tell much from this play based on the quick pressure. The play action should probably be better, but that comes with a lot of practice. This play should look fairly familiar to Michigan fans during the Carr era, it is very similar to what Michigan used to attempt to get big chunks with.
The read is going to be the free safety. It is clear even from the pre-snap motion and alignment of the defense that it will be cover 1 or cover 3. The goal is to get him flowing towards the action. The post needs to get behind, which will essentially be behind the coverage as the SS will be expecting deep help. If this isn’t open, the second option is the sideline go route, if he beats his man then DG would go there. The third route, or the hot route, is the TE coming across. He’s pretty blanketed though as the PA wasn’t very convincing.
Pass Play 2 – Time 0:08
Defense is in fairly basic cover 2 and this should be an easy read for DG. The goal on the left side (near side) is to do a High/Low on the field corner, because it is believed that the SAM won’t be able to cover the entire flat. On the right side (far side) you have a hot route in case of a quick blitz. Blitz would typically mean the corner doesn’t have deep help and is forced to play more off and tentative. This is why the dig route is set there.
DG’s footwork is pretty good here. It’s a 3 step drop and he gains depth with his first step. His next two steps are shorter and more compact to gather his body. His shoulder look good and his eyes are down field. He steps into the pocket, but seems to relax and doesn’t use his legs in his throw (even though he steps into it a little). This is why it looks like he is just playing catch in the back yard. The ball goes where his shoulders are pointing, and thus the result. Let’s break it down a bit further.
DG’s first read will be the safeties to read the coverage type. First, Gallon is wide open above. DG doesn’t even give the X receiver a chance, but this is probably the correct read as he isn’t getting pressured. Second, he has the Y receiver. The problem is the placement of the ball with the position of the corner due to the coverage 2. The corner is going to undercut routes, he isn’t worried about the receiver beating him deep and to the middle because he has help there, so he is breaking heavily on everything and won’t let anything short and to the inside. One or two things went wrong on this play. DG needs to put the ball towards the outside and up. It needs to take the receiver deep and to the corner. The second problem may have been the Z receivers fault, though I don’t think so. I don’t think he has an option route here, one in which to read the defense and take the corner route. Either way, DG needs to put the ball toward the outside and deep due to the cover 2 and the corners position. The offensive line and TE need to work on selling run a little more (they come up high a little too quickly in my opinion) and the TE needs to work on his route, as he is fairly unconvincing in his fake pass block, doesn’t threaten the inside at all, doesn’t press into the SAM, and so the SAM covers him relatively well.
Pass Play 3 – 1:12
The premise appears to be a similar premise as the last play (high/low the corner). This time the defense is in cover 4 (you can tell by the quick bale by the corners and the SS attacking the PA). This time you have a drag route coming across with the idea that the slot will be able to beat the LB covering him, especially with the assistance of the PA flow. The problem is that the PA is extremely unconvincing from the O-line, meaning the drag route is essentially bracketed. This is the primary option and it’s now gone. The biggest problem comes from the TE though. He needs to hook the end. He needs to let DG threaten the edge so that the drag route can’t be double covered. Due to the defense, the route from the other receivers are going to be fairly easily covered. DG does a nice job side stepping the pressure and stepping up, but then his footwork goes to hell. He doesn’t step into his throw, his shoulders aren’t faced the correct direction, and he throws with only his arm. Otherwise they still may have been able to pull something out from this play.
In the end though, once the PA doesn’t work and once the TE doesn’t hook his man, this is a tough play for DG to make, even with correct footwork.
Pass Play 4 – 1:21
Michigan is in a 3-4 here. That’s right, a 3-4. The blitz just completely overloads the right side of the O-line and the O-line does not adjust well at all. I understand a new center and all, but this is getting ridiculous with these types of blitzes. Michigan has been getting killed on inside stunts going back to the MSU game. Once a team gets penetration up the middle they are a decent contain man away from a huge loss with very little chance of the play ending in anything other than a sack (the QB can’t step up and can’t get out of the pocket to throw it away, it’s almost a sure blitz). If this blitz is actually communicated and picked up it’s relatively easy pickings. This needs to get figured out please! (/rant).
Anyway, behind the blitz appears to be a man cover 1. This was intended to be some sort of slant and go combination. We will disregard the complete confusion by the O-line and the heavy pressure so we can actually look at the play, though it’s hard to see what’s really going on.
The goal of this play is to match up the quicker and faster slot on a slower LB or safety and beat him deep. The slot runs a pour route and convinces no one he is running the slant. Because of this the first read is that FS. If he bites, the next thing to look at is the right side corner, who will now be showing either man or cover 3. If man, he will be up on the X receiver, and the SLUGO (slant and go) will be open behind the FS. If the corner is dropping off, it is cover 3, and the X receiver running the hitch will be open. Essentially another high/low concept.
Pass Play 5 – 1:34
One of the most common plays in the game today, and one of the most successful and difficult to defend. This play has picks (or as offensive coaches like to say “rubs”) all over the place. The goal is actually to get Gallon open. The defense again appears to be in a 3-3-5, and this time drops into a cover 3 look. Everyone save the FS is up towards the line, meaning there is a good chance you are getting a zone blitz. The offensive line actually picks it up pretty well, though the tackle needs to take the DE deeper.
Again, let’s look at DG’s footwork, because it’s pretty bad again. His drop is sloppy. It looks like it is supposed to be a 5 step drop, and he does a decent job gaining depth, but the outside pressure doesn’t allow him to finish his drop properly. When he steps up his shoulders are fine, but then he again only throws with his arm and almost shot puts it out there. He actually looks like he puts the ball where he wants it, and that’s another problem we will discuss in a bit.
DG is locked in on his primary receiver (the W here) and misses a wide open Y TE. The reason the Y is open is because the Free is probably bracketing the X receiver. The near-side corner is making sure nothing gets outside of him.
The Z receiver is attempting to take bodies with him while the W receiver delays and reads the defense. Finally, the W receiver goes and rubs off of the Z receiver. If this is man, the linebacker, nickel, or safety attempting to cover the W receiver will be picked and the W receiver will get big, big yards as he drags across the field. It’s not man coverage though, but this play is still set up to work. The W receiver drags across the field and has two options based on what he sees. He can see that the near-side corner hasn’t gone with the TE, and thus is still playing outside and shallow or he can see that the near-side corner has gone with the TE and the flat is wide open. The W receiver reads correctly that the corner has maintained the outside coverage, and settles in the zone. DG doesn’t make this read and tries to lead him into a big hit.
The progression is to read the FS to see the coverage type (cover 3), then the Nickel. Regardless the coverage, reading the Nickel will tell DG where to put the football, as the Nickel is essentially being forced to play inside or outside and gives away who the open man will be. In fact, even if it’s man, if DG reads the Nickel following, he will know his W receiver is going to be open on the drag.
This was probably DGs worst play that I’ve broken down so far. He had good protection, two open targets, and relatively easy reads and failed to make them.
By the way, checking to a veer play could potentially go for big yards here.
So the coverages from the defense have been fairly straight forward so far. The 3-4 front was a nice touch, but we aren’t really seeing much from the defense that we haven’t before. You can already see common themes in Borges offense. He is going to put a defender in a lose/lose situation, and if the defense plays it correctly the QB is usually going to be hitting short and intermediate routes.
The key is, and the reason defenses allow this sort of thing, is because the QB still needs to make the play. He still needs to make the right read and right throw all while being pressures on the fifth play dissected here. That is no easy task. And then even when they make the play it’s probably a 5 yard gain and as a defense you’ve forced them into a third down and have a chance to get off the field. I didn’t go into many defensive concepts (Mattison has left them fairly basic at this point), but hopefully you can read into what the goals are for them by this breakdown. If not, then understand that Mattison has a few basic ideas: be gap sound, don’t allow big plays, and put pressure on the QB. This often leads to relatively open short and intermediate routes, but again, forces the QB to make the reads under distress.
DG had a rough start to the day, he struggled to make reads, he struggled with footwork, and he struggled with PA, but it isn’t all on him. The O-line didn’t sell PA well. The TEs have a lot of work to do (this will probably become a common theme). I have actually rarely been disappointed in the receivers at this point. While the separation hasn’t been great (particularly on the interception), but they did a sufficient job for what they were tasked to do.
I will continue to break down the next group of plays when I have time, for now, read, dissect, and enjoy.
Penciled in MSU starting QB this fall Andrew Maxwell sprained his knee in a scrimmage and will possibly miss the spring game. The really ironic part for all you people who were pissed we didnt take a QB in the 2012 class, is the fact that MSU only has one other scholarship QB on the roster Freshman Connor Cook. This is really scary depth as neither of these guys have ever taken meaningful snaps . . . ever! Iknow Sparty isreally high on their chances this year again but man, I didnt realize how thin they are at the most important position on the field.