Cissoko v. Sophomore Starters of Michigan Yore

Submitted by Seth on September 17th, 2009 at 3:08 PM
or

YMRBoubacarCissokoFSFPA

or

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Todd Howard

For Boubacar, 'disguising coverage' is simply a matter of crouching.NOTE: Major edits made 9/18 to fix statistical errors -- used the opportunity to do a little clarification, and add some context for the "you knocked on boobie -- die mthrfkr!" contingent, which I realize I kind of brought on myself by not adding any context.

ALSO NOTE: This is e-pinion, not empirical fact.

Alas, again, I have begun to write a long Misopo-reply, only to upgrade mid-writing to a Diary.

This one goes out to MGoHero jg2112's "Support Boubacar Cissoko this Saturday" post, in which 'jg' posited that Boubacar Cissoko is this year's Martavious Odoms, i.e. a great player who gets the general M fan negbang beyond his actual faults.*

Cissoko is not Odoms.

For one, "Tay" is your vintage Rich-Rod slot ninja, a guy recruited for a system position. Cornerback, however, doesn't change much from Hermann to Robinson -- coverage, at the college level at least, is coverage, and every system puts cornerbacks in multiple roles during a game. In other words, Cissoko's size or jet-engine-ness are not something to get used to because of the coaching shift; he's a Carr recruit playing a position that fundamentally requires the same skill set.

His problems in the Notre Dame game, as noted in Brian's UFR, were not just size. He was bailing and leaving large cushions. This could be underclassman-y stuff from a true sophomore left out to dry with no safety help, but the mental mistakes, I think, were not what you expect from a lock-down corner. Or more importantly, not what you'd expect from a guy you might expect to join the ranks of the post-Bo pantheon of great corners.

Hey, Misopogon. It's Brian's bolded subconscious. Guess what I'm here for?

Um...chart?

You know me too well...

NameHeightWeightYearsTacklesPBUsInt
Boubacar Cissoko5.831802008-?2451

That's Boubacar's stats through two games into his sophomore season. Now lets compare with other Michigan cornerbacks who started played extensively (subsequent edits) earned a fair share of playing time their respedtive freshman years before starting as sophomores (all stats through 2nd game of true sophomore season):

Stars:
NameHeightWeightYearsTacklesPBUsInt
Ty Law6.001891992-945460
Charles Woodson6.081971995-975576
Marlin Jackson6.081902001-0461124
Leon Hall6.001912003-063353
Donovan Warren6.001802007-?6271

True freshmen who became serviceable-to-good late in their careers:
NameHeightWeightYearsTacklesPBUsInt
Deon Johnson6.172101991-941110
Andre Weathers6.081841994-981810
Markus Curry5.921832001-042101

The Late-'90s/Early '00s Backfield of Horrors
NameHeightWeightYearsTacklesPBUsInt
James Whitley5.921881997-003731
Todd Howard5.831781998-0119
3
0

And just so they don't feel left out, here's the stats after 2 games of true sophomores or redshirt freshmen who didn't start until their second years:

NameHeightWeightYearsTacklesPBUsInt
Morgan Trent6.001852004-08311
Woody Hankins5.751881992-96300
Jeremy LeSueur6.082001999-03310
Dwayne Ware5.921901988-92500

So what does this tell us? Well, it's not good, but it's also not much. Among the stars, the only one close to Cissoko's numbers (but still better by a solid margin) was Leon Hall. Hall, like Cissoko, was mostly a nickelback his freshman year, but Leon beat out upperclassman versions of 5-stars Markus Curry and Jeremy LeSueur for the starting gig as a sophomore. Without similar talent to compare Cissoko against, it has to be assumed that Cissoko's playing time wasn't as hard to earn as Hall's.

I think at this point, Cissoko has not demonstrated that he belongs with that group, who all:
  • Were 6 feet or taller
  • Earned starts as freshmen over returning starters
  • Showed an early aptitude for generating tackles.
Why tackles? That was a surprise to me, but it seems to check out career-wise as well. I don't think this is some anomaly; if I had to hazard a guess, I would say that cornerback is a position that relies a lot on pure talent and instinct, meaning strong talent will generally show up early in stats and playing time.

The stars-are-big-and-get-lots-of-playing-time-and-tackles-early lesson is the only relatively solid (and that has been questioned) thing I found in the statistics available (if anyone has access to better stats for corners, I'm all ears!)

So What Have We Here?

We've established that Cissoko isn't likely to be Woodson or Law (which, like, it's not like it's a sin to not be a Heisman winner or an NFL All-Pro). So then what is he?

As for the guys who became serviceable/good later in their careers, they generated those stats in a lot fewer snaps (e.g. Weathers didn't start playing regularly in '94 until late in the season; M.Curry was mostly a backup his freshman year).

Markus Curry is a possibility. Like Cissoko, he was a kick/punt returner his freshman year. A well-hyped recruit, he played early his freshman year but lost playing time to classmate Marlin Jackson's emergence early in the Big Ten season. Curry was a starter early his sophomore year, but then fell behind LeSeuer and Zia Combs (until that horrible injury -- G-d bless him wherever he is today).

The big difference between Cissoko and Curry the Younger, I think, is size, which has a big effect on either player's game. Curry was hyped as fast, but on the field his speed and agility turned out to be overrated, while after what we've seen of Cissoko, he definitely has the quicks and flat-out speed to keep up with anyone. Boubacar, however, is probably a good inch shorter than his listed height of 5'9", while Curry was just under 6.

Overall, Curry is a good comparison, but not great. Curry was bigger, and when he finally broke into the depth chart as a junior, the major difference IIRC was that he played "bigger," i.e. he was at his best when leaving a cushion, closing the gap, and popping the ball out, as opposed to pressing at the line, staying between the receiver and the ball, then trying to get his hands in the way.

Cissoko is never going to play, act, or be a big cornerback. He's a cover guy. In gauging his career arc, then, I would think that he will become exactly what he wasn't in the Notre Dame game. I can't fault him for giving Floyd a cushion (and there was only one fade which was pretty undefendable). But that's never going to be Boubacar's bread and butter.

The guys that Boubacar charts out closest to: I hate myself for doing this, but it's Whitley and Howard. Both are short (like Boubacar). Both were highly regarded recruits. Both were forced into lots of early playing time. Both were labeled Future Stars of the XFL by their sophomore years.

Of these two guys, Cissoko's early numbers are more like Whitley, but he strikes me as more Howard-esque than Whitley-esque. Todd was the smaller of the two, but also the faster, and more effective. He was owned early his sophomore year Future Star of the XFL James Whitleyagainst Plaxico Burress, mirroring Cissoko's game against Floyd, when Todd was forced to give a cushion and keep the big guy underneath. Eventually that game, Howard was moved over for David Terrell, who had the height and ups to run with Plaxico in man.

By his (Todd Howard's) senior year, he was a poor man's Morgan Trent, necessitating early starting time for freshmen Markus Curry, Jeremy LeSueur (RS) and Marlin Jackson. But he was world's more effective than he had been as a sophomore.

Howard, I remember vividly, also probably was more overrated than any other Wolverine -- every year -- in progressive versions of EA Sports's NCAA Football Series.

Unlike Whitley, Todd Howard was fast, and wasn't relegated to the short side. He was out-manned against top talent, but help up pretty well against receivers who weren't 6'8" or could leap small buildings in a single bound, or ran NFL routes, or scurried around in free space underneath thanks to Northwestern's spread, or had Drew Brees bullseyes coming at them, or were named Charles Rogers.

That's not to say that his career potential is lifelong bomb threat. Remember, after all, Whitley was the one who generated the bulk of M fan ire. Howard, on the other hand, covered the wide side, made the occasional great play (especially against Ohio State -- that photo below was a key PBU in the '01 game) and fared well when he wasn't going against future NFL talent. Like you, I was hoping for a lot more. But Todd Howard isn't all that bad.

It's perfectly okay to be Todd Howard -- so long as the guy opposite him isn't Whitley. And fortunately for us, barring early NFL, Donovan Warren is probably only just past the half-way mark of his career, and between Turner and the guys we look pretty good for next year, I think M's chances of scoring another one of those top-end guys ain't too shabby.

What's in Store?

Howard broke this up, BTW.In Year 2, Game 3 of Todd Howard's career, he had a breakout game at Syracuse minus McNabb, with 10 tackles, 1 sack for 15 yards, 2 PBUs and a forced fumble. Eastern Michigan isn't Syracuse '99, but hey, if Cissoko is all over the field on Saturday, remember you heard it here first.

There's a lot of time left in Cissoko's career. This is just an early analysis, and I think only made possible because he plays a position which, at least at Michigan, has tended to show its cards early.

Still, provided the other side of the field has Day 1 Draft Pick caliber guy opposite him, another Todd Howard isn't that bad of a prospect, really. What did Brian say in his secondary preview:
My go-to (and now rapidly aging) comparison was Arkansas corner Chris Houston, who I once saw battle the South Carolina star receiver before Kenny McKinley (his name escapes me) in a pitched Thursday night battle. Houston lined up two inches from his cover's grill and rode him into fades all night, some of which the opponent brought in spectacularly. That's life with feisty dwarves.
Word.

P.S. If Cissoko is Howard, this only adds fuel to the "Justin Turner is Jeremy LeSueur" contingent, which does not yet exist, and thus probably can't use fuel. But now it's out there.


* The whole "folks tend to knock on Odoms" thing is played out, IMHO, as evidenced by every show of Odoms support being met with a cascade of "I've always liked the guy" posts. I don't remember ever wanting to knock him, except to yell "take your gloves off!" into a couple of monsoons.

Comments

Blue in Yarmouth

September 17th, 2009 at 3:19 PM ^

Just like the ND game last year, stats don't always tell the whole story, and I think this may be another one of those cases. First off, UM was just plain bad last year so Booboo was not alone in his subpar performance and couple that with being a true freshman on a bad defense.

His first game he looked good against decent competition and last game he looked terrible (IME) against great competition whilst injured. I don't think we can draw any conclusions just yet.

SFBayAreaBlue

September 17th, 2009 at 3:19 PM ^

when I look at those numbers, they seem similar to leon hall's (especially if he holds onto the interception this week). The size will be a problem going forward. There's no way around that. But I'd feel pretty comfortable putting him on 6'0" WR. Much taller than that, and there's going to be jump ball problems. I don't think booboo is anywhere near as bad as todd howard.

jg2112

September 17th, 2009 at 3:25 PM ^

... former starters, with a half of starting experience, then had to defend an NFL wide receiver being passed to by a consensus 5 star QB with no pressure, with that starter getting no safety help, playing with a bad arm, giving up 6 inches and 60 pounds?

I don't get these arguments against Cissoko at all. 90 minutes of game time and he's not good enough? How defeatist is that?

And as for bailing and leaving large cushions, right. It would've been way better for him to play press coverage on Floyd with one arm. The game would have ended 58-38 Notre Dame.

We've turned into the Chicago Bears' fanbase, which is essentially looking to cut Jay Cutler after one game.

If you think JT Floyd, JT Turner or Teric Jones would be better right now (heck, even Adrian Witty), you've got the right. But I don't think you're right, and I'm not right. Why? Because after 90 minutes of playing time, we do not know how good Cissoko is. If he gets repeatedly torched this weekend we've got a problem. I'm just asking for a little perspective here - I know the Notre Dame fanbase thought Clausen stunk after his second game as a starter as well, and look how that's turned out. Experience and knowledge helps football players quite a bit.

The arguments against Ezeh's performance, now, are justified. Those against Cissoko's, are not, not yet.

Seth

September 17th, 2009 at 3:34 PM ^

Did I say cut?

Did I say boo booboo?

I said his stats and recruiting guru-ishness, and his mite-with-great-quicks profile thus far in his career are exquisitely Todd Howard-like.

And I said I learned to stop worrying and love Todd Howard. He was a serviceable cornerback who got beat against top-end talent. Floyd may have been Cissoko's Plaxico; keep in mind Howard never again went up against a receiver as tough as Buress (seeing as the Big Ten's best two receivers from then on wore 1 and 4 for Howard's team).

TripleLindy

September 17th, 2009 at 4:19 PM ^

RichRod acknowleged in his presser that Boubacar had a bad day. Hopefully they can coach him up to being a functional/above average corner.

From the small sample size, he appears to have the same stone hands that whitley and howard possessed. Whitley terrified me returning punts. If he makes that pick that hit him directly in the numbers, the game is probably over at that point.

chitownblue2

September 17th, 2009 at 4:09 PM ^

this entire thing relies on the somewhat weak assertion that a Cornerback's stats accurately reflect their performance, and leans extremely heavily on one single performance (against Michael Floyd) due to extreme tiny sample-size. In other words, this is utter nonsense - no sugarcoat.

Seth

September 17th, 2009 at 5:40 PM ^

Going in, I thought that too. But from this sample, no -- lots of tackles has a high correlation with how good the guy is.

Here's the Top 10 Michigan leaders in tackles per season among cornerbacks since 1990:

# Name TK per season
1 Ty Law 42.7
2 Charles Woodson 40.0
3 Marlin Jackson 36.8
4 Leon Hall 36.5
5 James Whitley 36.3
6 Jeremy LeSueur 32.8
7 Todd Howard 31.0
8 Morgan Trent 30.0
9 Markus Curry 24.3
10 Andre Weathers 21.0

Top is better, eh?

Here's PBUs, same guys:

# Name PBUs per season
1 Charles Woodson 8.3
2 Todd Howard 8.3
3 Leon Hall 7.8
4 James Whitley 6.8
5 Marlin Jackson 6.3
6 Ty Law 6.0
7 Jeremy LeSueur 5.8
8 Markus Curry 4.5
9 Morgan Trent 4.0
10 Andre Weathers 2.3

Not as correlative at all. At best, it suggests that Howard was a good cover guy, but memory serves different.

wishitwas97

September 17th, 2009 at 11:50 PM ^

never tells a story of how good of a CB is. For example, Nnamdi Asomugha is widely considered to be the best CB in the league, yet only recorded on INT and few PBU. Does it mean that he sucks? No, it's because no one throws to his side if any at all. You have to pretty much go by what you see on gametape(not on tv that is) to determine if a CB is good or not.

chitownblue2

September 18th, 2009 at 9:54 AM ^

But, Misopogon - I don't need to quote the hackneyed premise of "Correlation does not imply causation" - just because, in your sample of 10 players, the better players had more tackles doesn't mean THAT'S WHY THEY WERE BETTER PLAYERS. In this case, think about it: Why would a CB have lots of tackles? I can think of two reasons.

1) The guy they are covering catches lots of passes. I'd say that this would not suggest they're doing a great job.

2) They're deployed in a way that gives them more responsibility in the running game. This has less to do with skill, and more to do with defensive scheme.

You use of statistics, frankly, is somewhat disinenuous. You accurately quote Woodson as having a hefty seasonal tackle total, but hidden in the average is a nugget of truth that damns your point:

IN 1997 (WOODSON'S BEST YEAR) HE HAD SIGNIFICANTLY FEWER TACKLES THAN HIS AVERAGE

If tackles indicate elite perfomance, why was his best season the year in which he had the fewest? Leon Hall's lowest tackle total as a starter came in his senior year - his best. So again, do tackles imply better peformance?

Or, is it possible that you're missing something? Woodson and Jackson started as freshmen, Hall and Law started as sophomores. Is it possible that Woodson posted higher tackle totals as a freshman and sophomore because he wasn't quite as good as he'd become, and thus allowed more completions?

Upon further research, your use of averages hide lots of problmes with your conclusions:

James Whitley holds the Michigan single-season record for tackles by a CB with 65 - we can agree Whitley was a poor player. His AVERAGE falls below Law because Law started every single game of his Michigan career, and Whitley hardly got off the bench as a freshman - his 13 tackles that year hurt his average.

In other words - the guys at the top of your list are there because they started a disproportionately large percentage of their college games (Law, Woodson, Jackson, Hall), while those at the bottom had at least one season of virtually no playing time. In other words - it's saying that the guys good enough to start as freshmen were better players than those who weren't. Which - no shit.

Seth

September 18th, 2009 at 12:10 PM ^

I think the value of tackles as an indication of good cornerback play is regressive as that player's career progresses.

Where I disagree with you is in the thinking that LESS playing time should count FOR a player.

Hell yes tackles indicate more playing time. More playing time also indicates, A BETTER PLAYER.

Because a player does most of his job competition early on, this metric has the greatest effect EARLY in a player's career -- so how many tackles a guy has wracked up by his 14th game of eligibility says something about his overall talent versus the overall talent of the guys he's competing with. Since in both cases we know the values of the second variables (overall DB talent), we can thus assume a value for the first (our guy's talent).

Early tackling proficiency demonstrates the coach's willingness to play said cornerback, and not just in deep coverage.

As to Woodson's best year being his worst-tackling year, I think that's the exception that proves the rule. We know from watching 1997 EXACTLY why his tackles went down: opponents wouldn't throw the ball his way.

Note that his TOTAL TACKLES goes from 55 his freshman year, to 63 as a sophomore, and then 44 as a junior. But yet his assisted tackles goes up, from 10, to 15, to 17. This looks like a clear sign that the talent is still there, but that the ball is purposely being kept away from him.

Also note how this effect was specific only to very late in his career. After the Immaculate Interception at Michigan State, he gets 3 solo tackles against the Gophers, then 1 solo tackle the rest of the season (4 games through the bowl game) with 8 assists.

This can be extrapolated as further evidence for specifically EARLY tackling numbers to be a measure of a cornerback's proficiency -- because there's no way for a player at that point in his career to have earned a reputation to such a degree that it drastically changes opponents' offensive tendencies.

It also may demonstrate something that I touched on in the re-write, which is a difference in the style of cornerbacking. Granted, all corners are expected to cover, play bump-and-run, or keep the play in front of them within a given game. But some corners are better or worse at those various aspects, and there are plenty of opportunities within a game, I think, in which with one cornerback you may want to keep the play in front of him, but play a tight press with another corner.

I think a big guy can play with more of a cushion, because he can come in and make a hit, but may not have the speed to keep up if the ball goes deep. This generates tackles, because receivers are running more hitches and stop routes. A smaller, quicker guy like Cissoko, though, would negate the hitch, so long as he's playing tight. The plays he would be in on, then, would be more along the lines of reacting to and knocking down out patterns, slants, and especially all forms of deep routes. That generates fewer tackles.

Which style is better? I think it's pretty clear that the "shut-down" style is preferable to the "cover", but it's only available if you can come by a guy with that kind of size who can still react to the ball. As we've seen, when Michigan has found such a guy, he has been inserted in the lineup early, and except for a guy like Hall who was under a very deep depth chart his freshman year, they have wracked up upwards of 50 tackles by the 2nd game of their sophomore years. Cissoko isn't one of those guys.

dankbrogoblue

September 18th, 2009 at 12:48 PM ^

I think you're really missing the point here. If you want to use tackles as an indication for playing time then why not use playing time?
Think back to last week, for example. IIRC, Cissoko never gave up many YAC which, kudos, his tackling was there. But, the reason he had to tackle is because his coverage was poor. So his tackles are actually indicating bad play.
That + Chitown's point about scheme = no significance
Cornerback is one of the only positions that statistics do very little to measure quality.
Other than that, great write up.

chitownblue2

September 18th, 2009 at 1:03 PM ^

Hell yes tackles indicate more playing time. More playing time also indicates, A BETTER PLAYER.

Because a player does most of his job competition early on, this metric has the greatest effect EARLY in a player's career -- so how many tackles a guy has wracked up by his 14th game of eligibility says something about his overall talent versus the overall talent of the guys he's competing with. Since in both cases we know the values of the second variables (overall DB talent), we can thus assume a value for the first (our guy's talent).

Early tackling proficiency demonstrates the coach's willingness to play said cornerback, and not just in deep coverage.

TACKLING has nothing to do with their quality - the early playing time does. # of tackles isn't indicative of shit - it's indicative of playing time.

The players' tackling #'s are higher because they're on the field to accrue more tackles - not because they're better tacklers.

Your argument boils down to the blindingly obvious conclusion of "players good enough to start as freshmen are better than players who are not". But you should probably examine WHY that may be the case, right?

Ty Law won the competition to be CB opposite Ware in 1992, but the previous year's other starter, Dottin was gone - the spot was open.

Woodson, in 1995, came into a situation where BOTH CB positions had been vacated by the previous year's starters (Law and Deon Johnson).

Well, Cissoko came in against a two year incumbant starter, and a 5-star, all-everything returning starter. The situation wasn't quite the same.

The recruiting class of '97 had 4 corners who would get significant PT in their careers - Howard, Whitley, Brandon Williams, and Will Peterson. As freshmen, UM returned the previous season's #1 CB (Woodson), the #3 (Chuckie Winters), and the #4 (Andre Weathers). Weathers won the #2 job (vacated by Woodrow Hankins), and Whitley, Williams, and Peterson all split time as the nickelback.

Your argument is like claiming that Hank Aaron is better than Pujols because he has more homers. Your premise (Aaron is better) isn't neccsarily wrong, but the information you're using to back it up (he has more home runs) doesn't accurately lead to that conclusion, because of course Aaron hit more home-runs - his career, to this point was a decade longer.

Seth

September 18th, 2009 at 1:30 PM ^

You (and dankrogoblue) both seem to have missed the second half of that.

Early playing time doesn't say it as strongly as early playing time AND tackles. And I posit this because the tackles

a) show a strong correlation to general awesomeness
b) are demonstrative of quickness to the ball and general awareness that seem to be hallmarks of young great cornerbacks
c) are demonstrative of the style of cornerback that can play off and close the gap, which has been the most effective for us.

In other words, the guys who became stars, early on, had the talent not just to start, but to play a style that wracks up high tackle numbers for that position. I seriously doubt all of those tackles are stop patterns that Cissoko would have knocked away. If they had, it would have been something that all of us who watched those games would have noticed, right? I remember all of these guys but Law as freshmen (that was before high school for me), and I succinctly remember all of them, particularly Woodson, Jackson and Warren, making excellent tackles against the run, or passes that weren't on them. That's just memory, though. But are yours any different?

My second argument, I think you misportrayed as:

"players good enough to start as freshmen are better than players who are not".

It's "players good enough to start as freshmen are better than those they start over."

Since we now have a decent concept of how good the guys are that were beaten for these jobs (except like Justin Turner), we can use that to put a young CB's play in context.

As a freshman, Boubacar Cissoko could not replace Morgan Trent. This is useful in placing him against Leon Hall, who is the most Cissoko-like of the star CBs. Hall as a freshman beat out 5th Year Senior LeSeuer, and Junior Markus Curry. Since Trent Cissoko.

Another: Marlin Jackson by the end of his freshman year was the No. 1 CB over senior Todd Howard. Since SR. Trent ≈ SR. Howard, we can say that Jackson as a freshman > Cissoko as a freshman.

That was the point of that metric.

chitownblue2

September 18th, 2009 at 2:56 PM ^

Because Jackson was better than Howard, Jackson is better than Cissoko? That doesn't follow. At all. You're relying on your statement of "Trent = Howard", which is hardly gospel. It's fine if you want to write all this and claim it "opinion", it's just frustrating for me to see you cloak sheer conjecture as "research" and "empirical evidence".

And look - just because global warming has increased while sea-Piracy had descreased doesn't mean Pirates don't like the heat - playing-time correlates with "being good" and "number of tackles" - that doesn't mean that "number of tackles" and "being good" are related. It's an incidental, non-causal relationship.

Additionally - Leon Hall never beat out LeSueur - LeSueur and Curry were are starting corners in 2003 - Hall was our nickel. Marlin Jackson was playing safety. Hall beat out the illustrious Willis Barringer.

Finally - you can't treat every "competition" the same. Cissoko was a freshman in a year that we returned the previous year's top 3 CB's (Trent, Warren, Harrison). Woodson was a freshman in a year in which we returned NONE of the previous year's top 3 CB's.

Seth

September 18th, 2009 at 3:08 PM ^

The horizontal allotment for this argument is growing slim, so I will try to come to some consensus.

You raise a very good point: I need to show a causal relationship between MORE TACKLES and AWESOME CORNERBACK PLAY beyond "every awesome cornerback had lots of tackles at this point in his career and every non-awesome guy didn't."

I think I know the way to do this with Mgoblue's stat database, but it'll take more stat-work than I have time for this weekend (holiday).

Thank you for the fair critique and discussion. When the time comes time for the great purge of all Che posters from Ann Arbor, your house will be spared.

cfaller96

September 18th, 2009 at 5:37 PM ^

Early playing time doesn't say it as strongly as early playing time AND tackles. And I posit this because the tackles...

Precisely where are the numbers that show this assertion? Where is your proof that "Early playing time AND tackles" is a stronger predictor of CB quality than "Early playing time" alone?

I don't see it here. And it seems to be pretty important to your argument- otherwise, why look at tackling at all?

Seth

September 17th, 2009 at 5:07 PM ^

I don't think anything here is conclusive. We're still deep in the "what have we here?" stage of this guy's career.

However, though a cornerback's stats aren't perfect indicators of performance, I was surprised at how strong the correlation was between early stats and meta-human production at corner.

Of all of our NFL-ready CBs, the lowest amount of tackles by Game 2 sophomore year was Leon Hall's 33. After that you have Ty Law at 54, Woodson at 55, and Jackson and Warren in the 60s.

If I showed you the stats without the names and asked you to pick out the five best cornerbacks -- only based on statistics provided through Game 2 of each player's sophomore season -- you'd most likely grab all five! That's some good correlation.

I thought about the snap problem, but figure this: just to earn playing time as a true freshman, you have to be X good, or the cornerback depth has to be Y bad. That was another similarity between Cissoko and Howard -- they wracked up playing time when the position was weak.

I could have written this same post last week, and gotten virtually the same stats -- Cissoko's bad day against ND barely registered in the stats I chose to highlight. So that's unfair to say this analysis rests heavily on last week's game. If anything, it's unfair to Howard, since he had a 75 percent jump in tackles in Year 2 Game 2.

Seth

September 17th, 2009 at 6:55 PM ^

Woodson had 7 tackles and 2 interceptions covering Terry Glenn his freshman year.

Ty Law basically wore Brian Stabelein but then got torched most of the Rose Bowl by Mario Bailey.

Marlin Jackson was glued to Donte Stallworth during that Citrus blowout (which mostly happened on the ground).

Leon Hall was one of many guys tasked with tracking down Charles Rogers, though I think Marlin bore the brunt of that one. As for the Rose Bowl and USC -- pick one -- we played zone all day to contain those guys.

Donovan Warren wasn't on Ted Ginn in '07, and everyone thought that was a mistake. UFRs are available from that season if you want to compare.

August West

September 17th, 2009 at 8:56 PM ^

I'm not sure how you can say the Citrus blowout mostly happened on the ground... Casey Clausen threw for more than 400 yards in that game. Stallworth had 119 yards on 8 catches.

Also, Ted Ginn left OSU after the 2006 season. Warren and Ginn never played against each other.

petered0518

September 17th, 2009 at 5:24 PM ^

because that sums them up pretty well.

In addition, you only compare height and weight, excluding 40 times(fake though they may be) and agility drill times(forget the name of that one). I would argue that those stats are almost as important as height in comparing the potential physical abilities of a corner.

We also have no idea of the coverage types. Cissoko was left on his own for much of the game. If a corner has safety help over the top he is free to be more aggressive leading to more pbu's and interceptions.

Blue in Yarmouth

September 18th, 2009 at 8:52 AM ^

I am not entirely sure what we are trying to do here...Find a player from our past that has similarities to Cissoko i guess. What is the significance?

Now people are talking about the need for 40 times and other agility drills? For what?

The bottom line is Cissoko is our CB today, not Woodson, not Law or Jackson....Cissoko. So how he compares to any of these is irrelevant.

It doesn't matter if he is 4'3" and runs a 5.3 40, he is our 2nd CB and will be asked to cover most teams 2nd WR. Nothing else matters at this point and none of this idle chatter will change anything.

To me, the only certainty is that it is far too early to judge Cissoko and trying to gauge his future by looking at our past CB's stats after he has played 2 games is beyond useless. Give him a shot and re-evaluate after some significant playing time.

I will say again, he looked good against Western IME.

petered0518

September 18th, 2009 at 10:48 AM ^

The original poster was matching physical characteristics and stats to extrapolate the career of Cissoko. This is very common practice.
I was just pointing out why I thought his comparisons are not valid or useful for determining the potential of a cornerback.

Still, I think that the original poster is correct in trying to make correlations with past players. For example, if it is a consistent trend that small slow cornerbacks don't perform well, then it would be reasonable to assume that if we currently had a small slow cornerback he probably won't be very good.

So yes, it does matter if he is 4'3" and runs a 5.3 40, because then we better be seeing JT Floyd pretty soon.

AC1997

September 17th, 2009 at 4:20 PM ^

I agree 100% that you can't draw any conclusions based on sample size. But let me through some thoughts at you:

-- I remember both Howard and Whitley being able to run stride for stride with WR but never having any ball skills or awareness that would allow them to do anything other than tackle after the catch.
-- To me, Whitley and Howard were both the perfect #2 CB. They didn't have that extra ability to make them a shut-down #1, but they could hold their own against most other WR.
-- What sunk their careers perhaps as much as anything was that they were on the field at the same time. Look at those "studs" and which years they did not overlap. The one gap was when Whitley turned out to be something other than a stud.

So maybe what we're seeing here is that Cissoko isn't going to be a stud, but I'm not sure who thought he would be. I think we have to hope that either Warren stays one more year or Turner becomes that stud CB so that Cissoko can be a solid #2.

What is interesting is that this year you might not see as many 3-CB sets with Brown in his role. Will that help Turner's development or slow it down?

wolfman81

September 17th, 2009 at 4:35 PM ^

What is interesting is that this year you might not see as many 3-CB sets with Brown in his role. Will that help Turner's development or slow it down?

This new defensive scheme may be the end of the nickel package, but there are plenty of opponents that Michigan should be blowing up pretty good (like EMU). So Turner should see time, even quasi-meaningful time against those teams. When they are up 14-0, they should run the #2 defense out there, trying to develop some depth. (I also envision alot of Denard out there throwing the ball Saturday.)

jmblue

September 17th, 2009 at 9:02 PM ^

To me, Whitley and Howard were both the perfect #2 CB.

Howard developed into a halfway decent player by the time he was an upperclassman, but Whitley quite frankly shouldn't have been more than a nickelback. He was not a good cover guy. He was small and slow - a killer combination. We always put Whitley on the short side of the field, where there was more safety help, and he still was a huge liability.

umchicago

September 17th, 2009 at 9:38 PM ^

at 5-11 i wouldn't call whitley short. that's probably close to avg for a CB. also, i believe he played 3 years in the nfl. would the NFL draft a slow short corner?

imho, i think we went through a stretch where we didn't coach-up our CBs. i remember tons of plays where guys like howard, whitley, hall and lesuer would be running with the WRs but not look back for the ball. thus, giving up the catch.

warren's play against ND was text book. i think he's going to reach the potential we all hoped. let's hope boobie does the same. he surely has the speed and showed flashes last year.

jmblue

September 18th, 2009 at 7:56 AM ^

Whitley was more like 5'8" or 5'9" in real life. And he wasn't very fast. He had decent hip flexibility, which is important, but he was a serious liability on deep routes, which is why we always put him on the short side of the field, where he had more help. He did make the NFL, but it was mostly as a special-teams guy.

I do agree that Teryl Austin wasn't a very good DB coach.

Kilgore Trout

September 17th, 2009 at 4:48 PM ^

I'd buy into this a little more if there were some numbers on how many snaps all of these people played. I try to block last season out as much as possible, but I don't think he played all that much last year as a true freshman. I think labeling him a true freshman starter is being a bit liberal.

Durham Blue

September 17th, 2009 at 5:03 PM ^

but, where is the stat that shows the total playing time of each player? Did Hall, Woodson, Law and Jackson have twice the amount of PT through game 2 of their sophomore years than Cissoko? If so, that would factor big time into those stats. I have a hunch that those five studs had more PT than Cissoko through game 2 of their sophomore years.

Lordfoul

September 17th, 2009 at 8:07 PM ^

Good stuff, but too early IME. BooBoo will be better than Howard I think, but always struggle with receivers he gives up a foot to. Let him develop before judging him.

umchicago

September 17th, 2009 at 9:55 PM ^

i don't know if they exist, but i think the best stat for a CB would be to compile a QB rating for passes thrown in that CB's direction. i'm not sure tackles and pbus tell the whole story.