Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Look at Young QBs in the SEC

Kevin Sumlin gave us our first chance to second guess him, naming redshirt freshmen Johnny Manziel starting QB for week 1 against a sneaky good Louisiana Tech team. Much to the surprise of just about everyone, Sumlin chose the freshman over redshirt sophomore Jameill Showers, who saw limited action in mop up duty last year.

The words “freshman QB” always sound better to the opposing fanbase, but Manziel does have the benefit of being on campus for over 18 months now, benefitting from an early enrollment in December 2010 and a redshirt year in 2011. Unfortunately, half of that time was spent learning Mike Sherman’s west coast offense, giving him just 8 months to pick up all the reads and progressions of Sumlin & Kingsbury’s air raid attack.

So does naming a 2nd year QB guarantee doomed offense? Or can a young guy survive against SEC defenses?

Since 2003, 18 QBs 2 (or less) years removed from graduating high school have seen significant playing time (75+ PA). Here's a chart of the numbers put up by each QB (click to enlarge)


Average stat line: 205 pass attempts, 57% comp, 11 TD, 7 INT, 7.2 YPA….not too bad.

Here’s a breakdown of all 18 QBs.

True Sophomore: 7
Redshirt Freshmen: 4
True Freshmen: 7
Recruit Rank
5-Star: 3
4-Star: 10
3-Star: 4
2-Star: 1
Yards Per Pass Attempt
>7.0: 8
<7.0: 10
>60%: 5
<60%: 13
>1.5: 9
>1.0: 12
<1.0: 6
Yards per Rush Attempt
>3.0: 5
<0.0: 8
Offensive Rank in SEC
Top 1/3: 3
Mid 1/3: 9
Bottom 1/3: 6
5 or more: 7
3-4: 4
2 or less: 6
Role the following year
Starter: 7
Split snaps: 5
Backup: 3
Move Positions: 2
Transfer: 1


What can we learn?


I think the bottom 3 categories are the most telling.
  • Only 3/18 were able to lead top-4 offenses, and a third resulted in bottom-4 offenses. The Air Raid is meant to put up huge yards, so Manziel has a great opportunity to end up near the top.
  • 7/18 were able to reach 5 wins, while 6/18 couldn’t get more than 2. While .500 in the SEC seems like a tough task for an inexperienced QB, it is doable. But Manziel is going to need a big assist from the defense to help him through inevitable growing pains.
  • Just 7/18 QBs ended up seizing the starting spot the following year. The second Sumlin named Manziel the starter, speculation began about the future of Showers (and true freshmen Matt Davis and 2013 commits Kohl Stewart and Kenny Hill). Well, this should show just how premature those prognostications are. More QBs ended up splitting snaps or becoming the clear backup the following year than did become the primary starter.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Review the Hell Outta….Idaho

Not going to go into a whole lot of detail. Just want to hit the high (and low) notes.

  • Sherman opened up the offense against Idaho relative to the SMU game, and Tannehill responded with another great day. For the second consecutive week, Ryan set a new personal high for downfield success rate.
  • Ryan was perfect with respect to bad plays. I struggled with whether to ding him for either of the 2 middle screens that were batted (and picked on the first throw). Ultimately, I decided that the first was just a great play by the defense, and the second was the result of a failed cut block by Jake Matthews. It’s a quick hitting play that may not allow Ryan sufficient time to adjust based on the defense, although it would be great for Ryan to come off his main target if a defender is in the way.
  • Showers looked pretty good in his first action. Was nice to see Sherman give him a chance to throw the ball downfield, instead of forcing him to hand it off every snap.
  • OL was good again. Cyrus had some trouble with pass protection; Patrick was pushed back into the QB; and Joeckel was beat once on a speed rush on the outside. Otherwise, the line was solid when they had enough hats to account for all the blitzers.
  • Fuller (what?) and EZ (yup) each had a drop.
  • Welcome to college football, Nate Askew. For the first time since stepping onto campus, #9 had a ball thrown in his direction.
  • Lamothe seems to be separating himself from Hutson and Nehemiah as the favorite TE target.
  • For not having a great game, Cyrus got way too many carries compared to Christine (29 vs. 5). I understand that Sherman was trying to allow Cyrus to continue his 100 yard streak, so I won’t get too upset.

On to the numbers…


Offensive Line

mouse over for OL Legend



mouse over for QB Legend



mouse over for WR Legend


Running Backs

mouse over for RB Legend

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review the Hell Outta….SMU

It feels sooo good to be back!

With a full offseason to prepare and a bye week following the SMU game, one would expect this review to come out in a timely manner. And I was able to review the game tape right away. But as I’m sure you can empathize, I was swept away in SECession, Part Duex: Attack of Baylor Lawyers and this post just kept getting pushed back.

But I’m fresh out of excuses, hopped up on Coke Zero, and ready to get this season started. If you’re wondering what you’re getting yourself into by scrolling down this ridiculously long post, the purpose of RTHO is to go beyond the box score and get a better idea of just how well individuals are performing on a game-by-game basis.

So without any more delay, here is the inaugural 2011 Review the Hell Outta for your Fightin’ Texas Aggies. (For reference, here are the final 2010 RTHO numbers.)

Offensive Line

The old adage goes, “It all starts up front”, and if this blog is nothing else, it is one that strictly adheres to old adages. When looking at how the line does in pass protection, each dropback is charted into one of the following categories…

Clean. The QB is provided ample time to go through his reads without the pass rush affecting his timing. (Screens to the RBs or WRs, which require much less in the way of pass protection, are shown in parentheses).

Pressure. The O-line does not hold up and the pass rush affects the decision making of the QB. Not all pressure results in a sack or knockdown, and the QB can still make good throws facing pressure.

Sacks. Durr.

Using these different categories, two metrics are then calculated.

Protect Rate. This is the percentage of dropbacks, not including screens, for which the QB is given sufficient time.

Protect Rate = (Clean – Scrn)
(Total – Scrn)

Sack Rate. Percentage of dropbacks that result in a sack. = (Sacks) / (Total)

Sack Rate = (Sacks)

The opposing team’s Defensive Rank, based on sacks per game, is also shown for context.

In what turned out to be a slow-paced game with not a lot of throwing, the o-line was only asked to protect on 21 full dropbacks. They protected at an amazing clip of 95%, with TE Hutson Prioleau having the lone failed blocking assignment, and turned in a flawless night’s work in the sack department against a front 7 that ranked in the top half of the nation last year in sacks per game.

Looking at the SMU game relative to last year, we see that the O-line did it’s best job in my short time keeping tabs on their performance. And to make it even more impressive, last year the oline was given credit for screen plays as well. So the same performance in 2010 and 2011 would appear slightly lower in 2011.


When you get such a great performance from the oline, you hope that the QB can make good use of that clean pocket. Looking at each dropback by the QB, I chart every play into one of the following categories.

Dead On (DO). A big-time throw, with the ball being delivered exactly where it needs to be. This will be reserved for plays downfield, threading the needle, completions under heavy duress, and other exceptional plays by the QB.

Catchable (CA). This is the garden variety pass play that doesn't require anything exceptional, other than good timing and accuracy. Also, well-executed screens, quick slants, flares and other quick-hitting plays will top out here. (Screens and throws to the flat at or behind the line of scrimmage are shown in parentheses).

50/50 (50). Somewhere between a catchable ball and an inaccurate ball, usually a jump ball or ball thrown low or behind the receiver. A lot of deep balls thrown to a covered receiver end up in this category.

Inaccurate (IN). The QB doesn't give the receiver a good chance to catch the ball, or puts him in a bad spot. Some of these balls are still caught.

Bad Play (BP). The QB makes a bad decision. This could include throwing into double coverage or directly at a DB, not reading a LB dropping back in coverage, leaving the pocket too early, holding the ball too long and taking a sack, throwing the ball away when you shouldn't (4th down or end of game situations where you have to give the WR a chance to make a play), and such. (INTs/sacks shown in parentheses).

Pressure (PR). The o-line lets the defense get pressure on the QB and the play breaks down, resulting in a sack or throwaway.

Batted (BA). Pass knocked down at line of scrimmage. This will generally not be held against the QB, assuming it happens infrequently. If it happens multiple times every game, it may be time to examine the QB’s throwing motion and ability to find holes in the defensive front to pass through.

Scramble (SCR). The QB takes off running.

Mixup (MIX). QB and WR are not on the same page. Since I am not privy to the play call, no fault is assumed. As with batted balls, this is something that becomes alarming as frequency increases.

The first four categories (Dead On; Catchable; 50/50; Inaccurate) are used on a sliding scale as the depth of the pass downfield increases. Where as a ball thrown just beyond a WR’s reach 30 yards downfield might be considered 50/50, a ball thrown beyond a WR’s reach 6 yards down the field will result in an Inaccurate rating. Once every dropback is charted, two metrics are calculated.

Downfield Success Rate (DSR). A modified completion percentage independent of receiver effects. This gives us a good idea of how well the QB is able to threaten the defense through the air. Screens to the RBs and WRs are removed, since these types of passes require much less from the QB and can often lead to inflated passing stats.

DSR = (DO+CA(non-screen)+0.5*50)

Bad Play Rate (BPR). What percentage of plays does the QB make a bad decision. Obviously, the lower the better.

BPR = ____________(BP)___________

The O-line Protect Rate and Defensive Rank (based on Yards-per-attempt allowed) are also shown for context.

Hope all of that makes sense. So here is the modified stat line for senior QB Ryan Tannehill against the SMU defense.

As previously stated, this was a game with little passing and a heavy emphasis on the short and safe passing game. The single play that was identified as Dead On was the pass down the seam to Hutson, as the ball was perfectly thrown over the trailing linebacker, hitting him perfectly in stride.

The lone Bad Play was the play-action pass where Ryan got lazy with his fake hand-off and held the ball out too long, causing a fumble. While this play did hurt the team in this specific instance, such a play could result in a damaging turnover under different circumstances. But otherwise, a near flawless performance for Ryan in a game where he was not asked to do too much.

Looking at his performance relative to last season, we see that Ryan continues to do an exceptional job of delivering the ball downfield, notching his highest DSR ever.

And it is no coincidence that the highest Downfield Success Rate to date occurred in the same game that the highest Protect Rate to date occurred. As anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of dropback passing realizes, the safer the QB feels in the pocket, the more confidence he has to go through his progressions and find the open man. And conversely, a QB who faces constant pressure will often rush through his drop and reads, resulting in accurate throws and bad decisions.


Moving on the the final portion of the passing game, we take a look at the receivers. Each passing target is charted in one of the following categories: (note that not all balls actually make it to the receiver, due either to a ball being batted down or being extremely inaccurate).

0 (No play). The WR has no chance to catch this ball. It's either been batted down, thrown out of bounds or out of range, or the WR was interfered during the play. Noted for target count.

1 (Inaccurate). Poorly delivered ball that requires extraordinary effort on the part of the WR. If the WR does catch one of these, feel free to voice your approval. Incompletions are not held against the WR. (catches/total)

2 (Marginal). Low, high, behind, into coverage - this ball was not delivered well but the WR still has a chance. Hopefully the receiver can pull in 50-75% of these opportunities. (Catches/total)

3 (Routine). The ball hits the receiver in the hands, no excuses for a drop. (Catches/total)

Here are the numbers from the SMU game.

Not to be outdone by the oline or QB, the A&M receivers turned in near-perfect day. The only 2 drops were both by runningbacks and Ryan Swope had himself a heck of a day grabbing both marginal balls. EZ also contributed with a tough grab of his own. Keeping in line with last season, passing targets were predominantly to Fuller (32%) and Swope (28%). This duo received half of all targets last year and will likely come near that number again this year. The downfield seam to Hutson was a welcome addition to the offense

Running Backs

The newest addition to RTHO is a chart for the A&M ball carriers. Each rush attempt is categorized into the following groups (0 yards or less; 1-4 yards; 5-9 yards; 10+ yards). The average rush attempt is somewhere around 4 yards, and based on research done by Football Outsiders, these first 4 yards are heavily dependent on the blocking of the offensive line. Rushes less than 4 yards point to the oline failing to get a good push off the ball and runs consistantly beyond 5 yards show the oline is opening up holes for the RB. At the same time, a RB’s ability to break tackles, push piles and utilize even the smallest openings will push more of his rush attempts beyond this 4 yard mark. So while it is impossible to separate the ability of the line to block from the ability of the RB to create yards on his own, by looking at each individual ball carrier, we can get a better idea of which RB might bring more to the table (assuming blocking is head relatively constant for each ball carrier).

Overall Success Rate. Beyond charting each rush on a raw yardage basis, I also take a look at how well the RB does relative to the down and yards-to-go. Each rush is considered a win based on achieving a minimum of:

  • 40% of yards to go on 1st down (4 yard gain on 1st and 10; capped at 6 yards)
  • 66% of yards to go on 2nd down (3 yard gain on 2nd and 5; capped at 8 yards)
  • 100% of yards to go on 3rd and 4th down (usually either a 1st down or TD; capped at 10 yards)

This will give us a better idea of how well the RB is doing in context of game situations. The caps for each down are used in order to not punish RBs who carry the ball in extremely long yards-to-go plays, such as 3rd and 18. If the RB is required to get a 1st down on such a carry, it would be almost an automatic loss.

Power Success Rate. Very similar to the Overall Success Rate, but with a specific emphasis on 3rd and 4th down carries with 3 or less yards to go for a 1st down or TD. Also, all downs with goal-to-go from the 3 yard line or closer are charted. This will tell us how much success the ball carrier has on those downs where the defense really protects against the run, along with showing us who the coaching staff trusts the most to get the tough yards.

So here is the first attempt at a Run Chart.

Cyrus and Christine were the only back to get multiple carries and both backs had outstanding Overall Success Rates. We can see that Cyrus was a little bit better than C-Mike at consistantly breaking the 4 yard barrier; but both backs did extremely well.

This area, more than any other, is a work in progress and will likely undergo changes as the season progresses. So if any of this is confusing, or you have any suggestions, please leave a comment. And hopefully as the carries pile up, we can get some additional insight into our two-headed monster toting the rock.


This game should be seen as nothing other than a rousing success. For the first game of the season, the oline did a great job of protecting the QB; Tannehill was very accurate and in sych with his receivers; and, 1-2 punch at running back consistant broke long runs. I’m not sure the coaching staff could have asked for much more from the entire offensive unit.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

RTHO….2010 totals




Offensive Line


Looking Back at the Big 12

Before our beloved Ags embark on what is looking more and more likely to be our last season in the Big 12, I want to go back to 2010 and examine just how each team performed.


First, let’s take a look at how each team performed on offense, relative to the rest of the conference. Each team’s offensive production is plotted as a ratio of the league wide average for yards-per-play in conference games (5.1 ypp in 2009; 5.5 ypp in 2010).



Notice that even though A&M’s offensive production dropped only slightly (5.6ypp in ‘09; 5.5ypp in ‘10), when comparing our production to the league average, the drop is a little more pronounced. Fortunately, there are very few reasons to expect the offense to suffer a similar drop and numerous reasons to expect the offense to jump back up near the top of the league in production.

All four components of the offense – QB, RB, WR and O-line – should be improved. Ryan Tannehill returns under center, after taking over for an ailing Jerrod Johnson 1/3 of the way through conference last year. Christine Michael returns from a leg injury to tag-team with Cyrus Gray for the most formidable 1-2 punch in the conference. The WR corps returns almost entirely intact (losing only Terrence McCoy, who only saw 4% of all passing targets) and is headlined by a potential All-American in Jeff Fuller and two solid juniors in Ryan Swope and EZ Nwachukwu. But the biggest improvement may be seen along the offensive line, where bookends Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews return after impressive campaigns as true freshmen. If there was one place where the Ags struggled too much last year, it would be dealing with the pass rush. Both Joeckel and Matthews experienced growing pains at different points in the year, most notably allowing 7 sacks against Missouri at home in what was easily the nadir of last season.

Glancing quickly across the conference, we see just how outstanding the OSU offense was last year, cranking out an impressive 6.9ypp. Fortunate for the rest of the conference, Dana Holgerson’s brilliance has moved to West Virginia. Unfortunately, Brandon Weeden-to-Justin Blackmon combo still resides in Stillwater.

Just behind the Cowboys is the surprising Baylor Bears, who experienced quite the bump as Robert Griffin III returned from an ACL injury to carry that offense. Leading rusher Jay Finley and pothead receiver Josh Gordon are gone, but mighty mouse Kendal Wright and a stable of running backs will try attempt to keep up with RG3.

On the negative side, KU and ISU are just laughable, Tubberville is well on his way to disarming the once-deadly Tech offense, and Garrett Gilbert happened to Texas.



Now, let’s take a look at how each team performed on defense, relative to the rest of the conference.


Tim DeRuyter. Enough said.

Running through the rest of the conference, Texas’ defense was still the gold standard in the Big 12, even if it didn’t seem that way during letdowns against KSU and ISU and Baylor and OSU. Early reports from Austin seem to imply Manny Diaz will be able to pick up where Will Muschamp left off, but I remain skeptical (not a knock against Diaz, but he is taking over for maybe the best D-coordinator in the nation).

Tubbs not only tore apart the vaunted offense, but also managed to let an above-average defense fall off as well. I would expect his defense to show out a bit more this year.

Baylor’s defense proved to be a weight too heavy for it’s explosive offense to carry and Kansas’ defense did all it could to make its offense not feel so bad.



And finally, let’s take a look at how each team performed as a whole, looking at Yard-per-play differential, which is calculated as YPP(offense) – YPP (defense). Again, only conference games were considered.

Yards-per-play differential is typically one of the best measures of a team’s overall strength, and for the most part, these results correspond with the power rankings within the conference.

OSU had an elite-level differential, but a loss at Norman prevented them from reaching their first BCS bowl. Oklahoma, A&M, Nebraska, and Missouri were all tightly bunched. Texas and Baylor maintained positive differentials, but were done in by a complete failure on one side of the ball (offense for Texas, defense for Baylor). And Kansas, well, there’s always basketball.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Preview: Cotton Bowl–A&M vs. LSU

Matchup #11 LSU at #17 Texas A&M

Cowboy Stadium (100,000)  Arlington, TX

When Friday, January 7th, 7 PM
Television FOX
Vegas Line LSU -1
Weather Indoors.

Run offense vs. LSU defense Here is how the LSU defense has performed against the run in notable games this season.

Opponent Carries* Yards* TD   YPC  OPP 
   Rank **
North Carolina 29 70 0 2.4 89
Vanderbilt 26 112 0 4.3 78
Miss. St. 43 158 1 3.7 39
West Virginia 27 58 0 2.1 81
Tennessee 32 137 2 4.3 97
Florida 29 109 3 3.8 57
Auburn 51 446 3 8.7 3
Alabama 28 125 1 4.5 19
Mississippi 41 245 4 6.0 21
Arkansas 43 163 1 3.8 38

*-carries/yards have sacks/yards lost removed **-national ranking based on YPC

What to watch for... How well Cyrus Gray and the offensive line pick up where they left off.  When we last saw the A&M running game in action, Cyrus and the big guys up from were putting a whoopin’ on the Longhorns to cap off a magical 6-game run.  Cyrus’ 223 yard effort was the most for the Ags sine Leeland McElroy went for 229 vs. LSU in 1995, and was enough to push him over 1,000 yards for the season, (the first time an A&M back has done that since Courtney Lewis in 2003).


Pass offense vs. LSU defense Here is how the LSU defense has performed against the pass in notable games this season.

Opponent Att* Cmp Yards*  TD Int Eff YPA Sacks OPP 
North Carolina 50 28 366 3 0 158 7.3 4 23
Vanderbilt 22 8 23 0 0 86.8 1.0 6 115
Miss. St. 19 10 110 0 5 54.1 5.8 1 19
West Virginia 23 14 119 2 1 98.6 4.1 0 48
Tennessee 28 12 80 0 0 96.4 2.9 5 28
Florida 27 16 134 0 1 112.0 5.0 3 97
Auburn 17 10 80 0 0 108 4.7 1 1
Alabama 37 21 200 2 1 130 5.4 3 4
Mississippi 26 16 175 1 2 123.0 6.7 1 61
Arkansas 27 13 301 3 2 199.0 11.1 4 6

*-att/yards includes sacks/yards lost **-national ranking based on YPA

What to watch for... can Jeff Fuller find open space against Patrick Peterson? In a matchup of future NFLers, plenty of scouts will be in attendance to se who can win this battle.  These two are probably the best players on the field, but Fuller has struggled recently to impose his will on the game as teams have decided to do their best to take him out of the game, and this matchup might be his toughest all season.  A big game against Peterson might be


Run defense vs. LSU offense Here are the stats the LSU offense has put up running the ball in notable games this season.

Opponent Carries* Yards* TD   YPC  OPP 
   Rank **
North Carolina 35 183 1 5.2 37
Vanderbilt 49 286 3 5.8 81
Miss. St. 38 169 2 4.4 27
West Virginia 34 158 1 4.6 3
Tennessee 34 236 2 6.9 63
Florida 46 169 2 3.7 25
Auburn 34 140 1 4.1 21
Alabama 44 237 1 5.4 9
Mississippi 37 221 4 6.0 80
Arkansas 35 116 2 3.3 57

*-carries/yards have sacks/yards lost removed **-national ranking based on YPC

What to watch for... can the A&M defense have success against the run on 1st & 2nd down and force the LSU offense to throw the ball, something they are not very good at.  Stephen Ridley, the leading rusher for the Tigers, was recently ruled eligible after rumors of academic struggles, so the LSU running game will be at full strength.


Pass defense vs. LSU offense Here are the stats the LSU offense has put up throwing the ball in notable games this season.


Att* Cmp Yards* TD Int Eff YPA Sacks


North Carolina 22 15 130 2 1 154 5.9 1 28
Vanderbilt 22 9 106 0 1 78.1 4.8 1 96
Miss. St. 17 10 95 0 0 113 5.6 1 52
West Virginia 25 11 72 0 2 59.7 2.9 2 6
Tennessee 35 19 198 0 3 94.1 5.7 2 47
Florida 25 16 216 2 1 16.4 8.6 1 16
Auburn 33 16 103 1 1 93.5 3.1 3 52
Alabama 21 14 196 1 0 174.0 9.3 1 19
Mississippi 22 14 249 1 1 176.0 11.3 1 112
Arkansas 33 17 178 0 0 115.0 5.4 4 61

*-att/yards includes sacks/yards lost **-national ranking based on YPA

What to watch for... how often the Tigers throw the ball.  LSU has dropped back to pass more than 25 times only three games this season – versus Tennessee, Auburn & Arkansas.  LSU lost 2 of those games, and only a Les Miles special kept them from losing the third game against Tennessee.  LSU rotates between Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee at QB, but neither signal caller is much good, so the Wrecking Crew has a golden opportunity to put up another great performance.


Yd/play Pts/gm
A&M Offense 5.5 31.8
LSU Defense 4.8 17.8
Yd/play Pts/gm
LSU Offense 5.2 28.8
A&M Defense 4.7 20.3