Using UFR to Quantify 2017 to 2018 OL Improvement

Submitted by sundaybluedysunday on November 11th, 2018 at 8:46 AM

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.



November 11th, 2018 at 10:07 AM ^

Great diary.  Thanks for putting this together.

I have an embarrassingly simple question, but how do you determine the percentages for individual players?  Is it the % of snaps on which the player did not get a minus?  



November 11th, 2018 at 10:42 AM ^

Very nice. If you want to look at numbers even further back, you can visualize plots and get raw numbers in tables at the url below:

The RPS, Protection and stuff are living in the "Single Player" Tab under the postition "Team"

Numbers should be up to date as of whatever is the latest UFR after you read this (it checks for new UFRs and scrapes the data automatically whenever someome accesses the page)

I've attached a couple plots supporting your points:

JBB v Cole Run Blocking:


Runyan improvement on the revenge tour:


Fewer Pass Protection Minuses:



November 11th, 2018 at 12:59 PM ^

Great work! I swear I would like this diary even if it didn't support my proclamation that Onwenu deserves a dangerman star more than anyone on the OL. Don't get me wrong: I'm as excited as anyone about Runyan's mid-season improvement, and the whole line's progress should be celebrated (hail Warinner), but I think Onwenu has been our best lineman this year. He corrects mistakes from fellow linemates and TEs on his pulls, almost invariably picks up twists and stunts, has been excellent in pass pro, and regularly deposits DTs 3 yards downfield. He's All B1G, in my meaningless opinion.



November 11th, 2018 at 2:33 PM ^

As I was reading this, I was thinking about how not only the OL is passing the eye test, but how many times Patterson has made the OL look good too.


Amazing that the guy we were all hoping and praying would be healthy to face OSU last year was up until 8 days ago the 3rd, perhaps 4th best option. 

Ali G Bomaye

November 13th, 2018 at 11:40 AM ^

Offensive line might be the unit that's most dependent on coaching. A good OL coach can make almost any collection of talent into a good unit. The NFL has had longtime coaches like Alex Gibbs, Dante Sarnecchia, and Howard Mudd that routinely shaped mid-round talent into the best lines in the league. It's possible that Warriner is the college version of that.