My hands-down favorite Wolverine of the 21st Century has always been Jason Avant. (No pun intended.) For reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with receiving stats. Anybody think that Junior Hemingway can be an NFL Jason Avant? Stats seem to say maybe so...
Six Years of Crazy Detailed Michigan Receiving Stats
Recently, Football Study Hall provided a spreadsheet of epic length to anyone who wanted it detailing not only catches and yards for the 2005-2011 seasons, but "targets"—ie, the number of times a guy had the ball tossed in his direction. FSH did this for all of D-I. I sliced out the other 119 teams to focus on Michigan.
This data spans a fascinating period in Michigan history:
- 2005-2007 are the last three years of the Henne era, except 2007 is a third Henne, a third Mallett, and a third injured Henne who shouldn't be playing but Mallett is insane.
- 2008 is the Threet-Sheridan disaster.
- 2009 is mostly Forcier.
- 2010 and 2011 are mostly Denard, with 2010 RR's best shot at a great offense and 2011 the first year of Borges.
Here's the interesting stuff that came out.
YARDS PER TARGET
The top 20 (min 10 targets). Bet yourself a dollar you can guess #1:
|11||2007||Carson Butler Jr.||25||20||9.8||12.3|
You win a dollar from yourself. Junior Hemingway is the king of yards per target. Not only does he share the #1 spot with Martavious Odoms, he also finishes #6 and #8. It's too bad this data doesn't go a couple seasons further back, allowing us to have a YPT battle royale between Hemingway and Braylon Edwards.
The other thing that jumps off the page is the impact of the spread. The only pro-style WR to crack the top ten was Mario Manningham's 2006 season. Tyler Ecker also made the top ten but on just 15 targets; he made his hay by catching 80% of his limited opportunities. Also, Roundtree does very well to show up at #18 despite being the target of dozens of screens. That target number is off the charts.
This is expected, since the spread came with a huge shift towards running the ball. Passes are naturally more likely to go far when you run 70% of the time.
The bottom 20:
|48||2006||Carson Butler Jr.||32||19||5.4||9.1|
This is mostly sparsely-used tight ends and tailbacks with the notable exception of the top three receivers in 2008 and their 200 targets between them. Also I would like to note the presence of Tim Massaquoi towards the bottom of the list. This is not his fault. Massaquoi broke his hand in 2005. Michigan kept throwing the ball at him.
Note that two of the worst yards-per-target guys—the 2008 versions of Odoms and Mathews—show up in the top 10 here. Guys, I'm beginning to think that Michigan's 2008 offense wasn't very good.
Manningham's 2007 year is a clear winner here, with Jason Avant's 2005 a distant second yet distant from the #3. In context, Avant's stats scream "guy who will be a possession receiver for 20 years in the NFL": Michigan went to him all the time, never threw him screens, and he still checks in with a terrific catch rate.
Also catch Roundtree's 2011: bad. His production fell off not only because he was targeted less frequently but because his catch percentage plummeted from 67% to 39%. No screens, no easy TDs, a lot of doubt about whether he can take over Hemingway's downfield duties.
[NOTE: The spreadsheet erroneously listed Sam McGuffie as the #1 player here with 39 catches on 39 attempts… in 2010. The spreadsheet is right, in a way: those are McGuffie's numbers from his 2010 season at Rice. McGuffie still finishes #1 for his 2008 season, a 19 of 22 campaign.]
Unfiltered, these are of debatable utility since all of the guys at the top are small-sample size guys. Tailbacks, tight ends, and slots dominate. Let's limit it to players with at least 30 targets in a season and see what we get. The "rank" is rank amongst everyone. There are 59 seasons in the DB.
|33||2006||Carson Butler Jr.||32||19||59.4%||9.1|
I highlighted it this time. Roundtree's regression from 2010 to 2011 was enormous. He went from the #5 player in this sample to second-worst.
In other news, Adrian Arrington's 2006 was secretly great. And when you combine the catch rates with the yards you have a dead heat between Mario Manningham '06 and Junior Hemingway '11 as the best season in this time frame, with Avant's '05 drawing an honorable mention for moving the chains.
MOVING THE CHAINS
There are two subsets provided in the data, with attempts split into "standard downs" and "passing downs." Passing downs can come on second and long but using them as a proxy for third and let's-not-run isn't going to introduce too many distortions. The top 20 security blankets:
|19||2006||Carson Butler Jr.||19||12||63.2%||12.4%||19.6|
You get a dollar for betting that you should throw it to Jason Avant on third and medium, too. Only low-usage versions of Arrington and Roundtree bested him on catch percentage and they were far less-frequently targeted; Arrington's 7.4 YPC further implies that some of those completions were well short of the first down.
Avant has a combination of catching the ball and maintaining a great YPC that makes it totally unsurprising that he's a solid NFL player and a little wistfully sad whenever I compare yet another incoming WR to him when I know deep in the soul of my heart that there's no way Freshman X will be half as good.
BONUS: Steve Breaston would like you to take your criticisms about his hands and shove them up where Bill Hancock's head is.
Avant is among my all-time fave WR's. Of all the great things he did in a Michigan uniform, though, the haunting memory of him dropping a wide open key 1st down conversion against Wisconsin in Madison (forget what year) still haunts me because, well, he ALWAYS CAUGHT THE BALL! It was so un-Avant-like, and I guess that's why it's forever etched in my mind. The dude was a beast, though. Tough SOB who did the dirty work across the middle. I'm glad these stats shine the light brightly on his great UM career.
I don't like in-depth looks at Michigan football either. And where is today's post about Kim Kardashian?!
I didn't realize he was targeted that much. This makes me a bit nervous when thinking about the depth at WR for this season. Now I know why DG's name had been floated around at WR.
If you hadn't noticed Roy's propensity for dropping the ball A LOT you must not have been watching. He is a wolverine so I am a fan, but I can't say I am ever confident when he gets the ball thrown his way.
My guess is that Gallon becomes Michigan's top receiver this year, at least in terms of yards. I think his quickness gives him an edge over Roundtree.
his catch rate of 73.8% was pretty impressive, I think he should get more thrown at him.
What was shown in the spring game and these stats from 2011-Borges system seem to indicate his hands are pretty good too. Now that Denard has practiced that step up into the pocket, I think we have a close approximation of QB-oh Noes! coming back into the system.
Denard's ability to make his progression faster is going to result in more scrambles, which will force more LB's into Denard run coverage during passing, which should allow someone to separate.
For the Manningham pic.
I'm completely ok with that. That and poking holes in some of the retroactive Breaston complaining are always good things.
I do miss the typo correct though. I though Avant was even more amazing when he was future boy from the year 20005.
It's nice to have more stats to truly give Junior Hemingway his due. I'm still holding out hope the Browns will take him in one of the late rounds. Being that the biggest knock on our new QB (outside of age which, whatever) is his accuracy when pressure is in his face, it would be nice to have a downfield safety net.
Truth be told I'm a little wistful for the pro-style offenses of yesteryear; Henne, Hart, Mannigham, Arrington.... I miss those guys. Nostalgia
This may come as a shock, but Avant is my favorite Wolverine of all time. Great physical receiver who got all the tough yards and a great person to boot. You know they crazy thing about that 2005 Avant season? That was the year Taco Pants walked on to the team. What would those numbers look like if Dantonio had been around to offer him a last second scholarship instead of giving Henne an extra receiver every play?
Sam McGuffie never had a drop?
Your post and breakdowns are amazing. I am always impressed. Thank You
Roundtree is going to step it up this year. This is his year!
While Roundtree picked up with most yards per catch, it came with a hefty Interceptions Thrown percentage. Michigan Ranked 119th /120 in 2011. If you overlay the stats from 2005 - 2011, the Yard Per Catch increase success has come with a price.
Jerald Robinson, like popeye's chicken, is the shiznit.
Oh, and Darryl Stonum, I would've dropped you off if you needed a ride.