WTFL;DR: Narduzzi coaches an aggressive take on the now en vogue Quarters defense that's still formidable even if State isn't quite what it was last year.
We got to the point where, this is the reason that we do this, when everybody started going spread we couldn’t play 3 deep zone. This started with the Cleveland Browns, I was the defensive coordinator in the early 90s and Pittsburgh would run 'Seattle' on us , four streaks. Then they would run two streaks and two out routes, what I call ‘pole’ route from 2x2. So we got to where could NOT play 3-deep zone because we rerouted the seams and played zone, and what I call “Country Cover 3” [drop to your spot reroute the seams, break on the ball]. Well , when Marino is throwing it, that old break on the ball shit don’t work.So because we could not defend this, we could not play 3 deep, so when you can’t play zone, what do you do next? You play Man [cover 1], but if their mens are better than your mens, you can’t play cover 1 .We got to where we couldn’t run cover 1 - So now we can’t play an 8 man front. The 1994 Browns went 13-5 , we lost to Steelers 3 times, lost 5 games total [twice in the regular season, once in the playoffs]. We gave up the 5th fewest points in the history of the NFL, and lost to Steelers because we could not play 8-man fronts to stop the run because they would wear us out throwing it
For example, if the offense splits out two wide receivers to the same side of the field, and both run straight up the field on deep routes, the safety plays man on the inside guy and the cornerback plays man on the outside guy. If, however, the inside receiver were to run immediately to the flat -- say, on a bubble screen -- while the outside receiver ran upfield, the corner and the safety would actually double team the deep man, defending him from both the inside and the outside. This type of read-and-react is great against the spread's multiplicity, as it can allow some very short completions but lead to lots of interceptions and few downfield passing windows.
I more or less c/p'd this from the comments of MCal's most recent post. Read it if you haven't, because it's great. He's great.
Anyway, I was just idly thinking about how Troy Woolfolk's injury in an instant dashed our Motor City Bowl dreams, worrying that 3 wins would be more humiliating than 4. But unless my method sucks, it looks like most college football starters simply can't do that much* to affect their team's chances.
Let's say on average the worst team in college football wins 1 game. Call that replacement level. Every school in college football has at least the talent level this worst team does. That means an average team has 5 wins above replacement. Football Outsiders breaks wins down using a 40/40/20 rule. That is, 40% of wins are attributable to defense, 40 to offense, 20 to special teams. So an average defense will be worth 2 WAR (40% times 5 WAR). If each player is about as important as the other (probably true on defense), then an average defense will feature a unit of ~.2 WAR players (2/11, rounded). Average defensive players are worth just 1/5 of a win above the talent of the worst college football team.
To round out that scale, we should still try to get some idea of how good the best players are. The approximate range for defense yards per game allowed is about 200 ypg to 500, with 350 about average. The difference between best and worst is twice as much as the difference between average and worst. As long as we assume that yards convert linearly to wins, it looks like the best defense (4 wins better than the worst team) would have on average ~.4 WAR players. Even the very best defenders are going to max out in all likelihood around 1 win above the worst players.
So Woolfolk in himself won't mean the end of the season...unless we can't supply replacement level players. And given our depth, maybe that could be problematic? On the other hand, as MCal pointed out, are we really going to be worse than various other terrible outfits around the country? Northwestern and Indiana are always dealing with these kinds of problems. Achieving replacement level should not be a significant hurdle.
On the other hand, let's look at what we can expect from the defense this year given what we now know. The offense last year was about average. Special teams were above. Exactly how bad was the defense? Wholly average teams get 2 WAR from defense, 2 from offense and 1 from special teams. So let's say we got a full 2 WAR from offense and 1.25 ST wins. If we were a true talent 5 win team (i.e. Michigan won 5 games because they weren't unduly lucky either way), that means 1.75 wins from the defense. I think we can probably assume BG was worth .75 wins in himself. Martin, RVB, Roh, Brown, Woolfolk, Warren were varying degrees of not horrifying. Kovacs, Floyd, Ezeh and Mouton were all near replacement level. In fact, let's run with that. 1 win split among the actual contributors (Martin et al.) still means slightly below average talent in that group. If BG's dominance was not so great, they'd come out better of course. This isn't the most robust analysis ever, but I think most observers would paint BG's season as seriously that good.
And if there's one thing we're sure of, it's that losing one dynamic player isn't that big a deal. Depth can absolutely make up for a lack of stars at the top end if all you're trying to achieve is competence. I happen to think the offense will be well above average and ST will be fine. The question, I think, comes down to how dominant the DL can be and, after that, finding guys who can do a couple things who maybe have some flaws in their game. Moundrous may have trouble walling off a slot receiver on a vertical, but if he can stuff the run he'll have value over Ezeh last season. And then maybe Demens can do the pass drops/blitzes on passing downs. Piece by piece, use everybody. That's the way we'll have to do it. And just maybe we'll see a bowl game this year.
*Exceptions granted for quarterbacks and, in case Brandon Graham is reading, Brandon Graham.
Those are the five stars. Fours:
|Jeremy Van Alstyne||LB||4||2002||0||1|
And now the 3's:
For the record, that's
In the very least, under Lloyd, it's pretty clear that your star ranking mattered. My understanding is that the recruitniks who end up rating the recruits have plenty of contact with the best coaches, so I'm not surprised that the best programs have useful results. Past the top 25, it may well be a crap shoot. So it would seem the question is: do the recruitniks still give Michigan that kind of credence? I doubt they lost it in two seasons (not like Rich was an under the radar hire either), so I'm guessing we should probably care about recruiting rankings.
In taking on this particular brouhaha, Dr. Saturday mentions perhaps the most relevant bit of context for the Freep article. As he says:
"A survey of Division I athletes last year revealed the reality: Time limits or not, big-time football everywhere is a full-time job that consumes vastly more hours than the NCAA officially sanctions -- and has to be, if the competition is putting in the same work. That players will "voluntarily" go above and beyond the proscribed limits is taken for granted."
Now quoting the linked survey:
"Football players in the NCAA's Division I Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A) said they spent an average of 44.8 hours a week on their sport — playing games, practicing, training and in the training room — compared with a little less than 40 hours on academics."
So we should in fact be able to determine exactly how far above and beyond the average Michigan footballers train under Rodriguez. According to the Freep article, Michigan footballers played in excess of the NCAA maximum (20 hours) in the following manner:
"With three hours on Saturday and a full day on Sunday, players tallied about 12 hours on those two days. They were off Monday. Players said they would spend an additional three to four hours with the team on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, bringing the weekly total to 21- 24 hours."
Which brings the absolute total to 20 + 24 = 44 hours per week. And from the USA Today survey, we know the average is ~45 hours per week. While this doesn't exactly settle the question of whether this is right or why Michigan players are going to the press, it's clear the Freep didn't do its job. The proper frame for this is would absolutely be to cite prior investigations, like SEMO and SDSU and, if it existed, a massive survey of D-1A college football players. Clearly, the Freep would have no way of knowing if these things existed.
The major issue is settled. The real questions now are
A) Why are our players going to the media and anonymously at that?
B) Is there a legitimate concern here? Are these kids suffering as a result?
As to the latter question, Dr. Saturday helpfully reminds us of the incentives:
"Coaches follow the letter of the law at the peril of their records and their jobs."
True this. If the NCAA is going to allow the average to be what it is, new coaches with something to prove are obviously, in the very least, going to have to be at that average. Honestly, I'm very surprised that Rodriguez isn't well over the average. This potentially reflects far more on Carr than it does on Rodriguez assuming there really isn't a quality of life issue here. Mr. Hinton makes just that point:
"In that sense, assuming that Carr's staff really were the sticklers they're widely reputed to be (an assumption backed up by the Free Press' reports), the exuberance of their successors is just another case of Rodriguez and Barwis bringing the program into the 21st Century. The fact that they're being singled out may only be because they're doing it at one of the very few places that knows the difference."
As to the former question, the disconnect between what the players were doing and what they must now do to see the field may very well be the difference maker here. If Lloyd truly was running his program differently than anybody in the country toward the end, this kind of reporting would only come out here, about Michigan football. This is perhaps less the Freep's doing (outside of their inability to contextualize anything at all) than fall out from an iconoclast leaving the program.
One of the most lamentable aspects of being a college football fan as far as I'm concerned has long been the lack of quality stat keeping, as well as analysis. Matt Hinton (currently Dr. Saturday) and Chris at Smart Football are great, and if CFB Stats didn't exist, this post wouldn't exist, but it ain't no Fangraphs and those fellas ain't quite Tom Tango, who literally wrote The Book on baseball. Not that it's a fair comparison.
I bring Tango up because his stat wOBA inspired this post. wOBA (weighted On Base Average) is basically on base percentage gone plaid. Instead of dividing times on base (1B+2B+3B+HR+BB+HBP+ROE) by plate appearances, you decide how valuable in terms of runs each of those individual events are and then proceed (hence weighted). OBP is transformed into runs per plate appearance. Multiply times total PAs and you have the runs that batter was responsible for in that season. And scoring (or preventing) runs are the bottom line in baseball. In sum: bases get you runs get you wins. In football, it looks like this:
Yards - Turnovers = Points
This isn't exactly groundbreaking. It's a fundamental assumption behind Dr. Saturday's Life on the Margins, iirc, and I'm pretty sure this is what I'm going to find in Pete Palmer's Hidden Game of Football if and when it eventually ships to a2. And it's sorta-kinda what David Romer did, though not nearly exhaustive. The theory is good. The actual arithmetic is kind of annoying and is summarized in the following paragraph. Feel free to skip to the part where we find out just how crippling the impact of Nick Sheridan was and how much worse it could have been.
The key to being able to do this yourself is to figure out yards and turnovers in terms of points. I ripped the drive logs of every Big Ten conference game in 2008 from Yahoo. That'll give you yards/point, which came out to about 15. Then I plotted, in buckets of 10 yards, the percent of drives that resulted in a TD or FG based on the drive starting field position, except the last 30 yards which I averaged at the opponent's 15 due to relatively few samples.* This gives you average expected points based on field position. That plus average field position equals the average value of a possession, which is what you lose in a turnover. Not only that, but you give expected points to your opposition. According to my math, an INT was worth about -4 points. Thus points per throw is (Yds/15 + INTs*4)/attempts.
Feel free to comment
I Am Not An Expert. If my math is off, then suggest different constants/methods. They pass the sniff test to me; I ran assorted regressions on excel to test assumptions and it looked right. I'd be glad to share the drive chart database. Onward...
The Part Where We Find Out Just How Crippling The Impact Of Nick Sheridan Was
It's sorted by pts/attempt, the relevant measure. Average was .33. Mr. Sheridan was dead last with those over 50 attempts with .15 points per attempt. An all around average team wins 4 games. The results indicate that an all around average team that replaced its average quarterback with Nick Sheridan would win 2 (converting to wins over average is easy enough). But it would also have tremendous team chemistry and at least one valedictorian. Wins aren't everything.
Also, check out Terrelle Pryor's numbers. Remember, this is just per throw. Rushing and sack yards are not included, nor is it defense adjusted. Having rewatched the Texas and Michigan games in HD (being able to see the d-backs helps), I was impressed. Tressel used the threat of Wells inside and Pryor's skills when bootlegged on the edge to great effect. The playbook seemed cut down, but his athleticism made it work. The sack numbers (scroll right in the g-doc) and somewhat inconsistent mechanics are the most glaring issues, but they were exaggerated by a bad pass blocking unit in front of him. In conclusion: barring injury, Pryor is going to be a terror. Surprise! Rivals #1 overall prospect in 2008 is projected to dominate. At least he'll probably be gone after his junior year.
*It's a shortcut and it probably understates how valuable possessions that start inside the 15 are. I actually think inside the 15 the function is probably no longer linear. I'm also sorry that this is isn't the most thorough or transparent presentation. It's a start though.