I was curious about what the UFR numbers said about how much the offensive line had improved from last year to this year, so I tabulated the numbers through 9 games to see what observations could be gleaned. I've attached the workbook I put together to check this out (if the upload works) if you care to explore this further.
For each of the five offensive line positions, I tabulated the totals for the position as a whole, including the starter and any non-garbage time snaps. So for example, the right tackle position for 2017 includes both Ulizio, who started the first several games, plus Bushell-Beatty after he took over. The totals also include any in-game substitutions that were made before garbage time (e.g. Stueber taking over for Bushell-Beatty in the MSU game because of a minor injury).
Without further ado, here is what the UFRs say:
- Bushell-Beatty has matched Cole's run blocking with fewer pass pro minuses: Through 9 games, Cole and Bushell-Beatty were the highest graded run blocking OL in 2017 and 2018, respectively, both coming in around a ridiculous 82%. In addition, Bushell-Beatty has had fewer pass pro minuses than Cole, and they have been much more concentrated within a few games. While Cole had 15 pass pro minuses, with 1 to 3 in most games, JBB has just 12, with 8 of them coming against Notre Dame or MSU. This all feels pretty intuitive: JBB is more tackle-shaped and only struggles against top end talent, while Cole was playing out of position and was much more likely to get beat by an average DE.
- OL pass pro minuses have nearly been cut in half: OL pass pro minuses have fallen from 93 to 47, and the entire offensive line has just 6 more pass pro minuses than just the right tackle spot last year. A lot of the 2017 right tackle minuses were attributed to Ulizio, but Bushell-Beatty also got regularly worked after taking over for Ulizio halfway through the MSU game. The interior OL has also cut down on pass pro minuses by about 40%, mostly due to improvement at the RG spot; Onwenu has been fantastic at pass protection this year and has just 3 minuses through 9 games.
- Team pass protection has only fallen below 70% in one game this year (Notre Dame), compared to 6 such games in 2017: The team pass protection numbers include efforts by the running backs and tight ends, but I wanted to include it because it speaks to the general improvement in organization this year. The 2018 team got absolutely worked against Notre Dame, coming in at 55%, but have been solid the rest of the year. Meanwhile, the 2017 team was regularly under 70% and showed no clear signs of improvement, with two of their worst efforts coming in their 7th (56% against Penn State) and 9th (55% against Minnesota) games.
- Last year, the OL was right at the Mendoza line for run blocking. This year, they're about 6% above it. As discussed earlier, there wasn't really room for improvement on Mason Cole's performance (and I know I'm comparing RT to LT when I compare JBB to Cole), but there's been improvement at every other position on the line. The biggest improvement is at the center spot, where Kugler graded out at just 58% last year, while Ruiz is just over 70% this year. There have been notable gains at both of the guard spots as well.
- Runyan was a big problem...then we hit the revenge tour: I'm not talking about pass blocking here, where the numbers don't tell you anything you didn't already know. Runyan was a smoldering ruin against Notre Dame with 9 pass blocking minuses, but has come in for just -5 in the other 8 games. For a 6'4" guy, his pass blocking has been incredible. But he was really struggling in the run blocking department, grading out at just 54% through 6 games, with negative plus/minuses against Western Michigan, Northwestern, and Maryland. However, since the beginning of the revenge tour, Runyan has improved to an incredible (albeit with small sample size) 86%, with good days against all three of Wisconsin, MSU, and Penn State. His numbers likely can't stay quite that high, but it appears that he's turned a bit of a corner.