August 31, 2015

Podcast: One week from Wofford we talk DL, cupcakes, make or breaks, traps and more

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I’m joined by Brad Senkiw and Brandon Rink of orangeandwhite.com to talk about the loss of D.J. Reader, make or break games, potential traps and more.

You can download and subscribe via iTunes here or at the bottom of page for iTunes or Android, play in this window or play in a new window.

Podcast artwork courtesy Eargle Design.

Tigers led nation in 3rd down D in ’14 and the reason is…

3rd-down

The key to leading the nation in 3rd down defense?  Being really good on 1st and 2nd down defense.

It turns out that Clemson’s opponents faced 3rd and 7 or more on 61% of third downs in 2014 and, as the chart/graph shows, there wasn’t much chance of succeeding when faced with that distance – 14.2% to be exact (17/120).
3rd Down D Graph3rd Down D Chart

When faced with 3rd and 6 or less opponents approached 50% conversions (37/77 – 48.1%).

It’s not earth shattering to note that the farther to go the more difficult it is to make a first down – that’s intuitive.

Perhaps the takeaway here is as good as the 2014 defense was even that group struggled (to some degree) when the distance to go was 6 yards or less and the key (in addition to a fast, athletic, talented defense) is stopping first and second down thereby forcing a more predictable play call on 3rd and long.

3rd & short

TDye

One of the driving forces of Clemson’s mediocre third down performance (ranked 50th with a 41.9% conversion rate) was the inability to convert in short yardage (3rd and 3 or less for purposes of this post).

The Tigers converted only 60% of 3rd and 1’s and only 58.3% of the time when running the ball. That has to change.

3rd&Short

*Passes includes 1 sack

One thought is to change the play calling that was very consistent under Chad Morris – run the ball on almost every 3rd and 1, whether you have the personnel to be successful or not.  This wasn’t just a 2014 thing, but was consistent over Morris’s 4 years in orange.

Another, perhaps less palatable, option is buried in the numbers below – Deshaun Watson was 6 for 7 in converting 3rd and short into first downs (Clemson statistics do not delineate between scrambles and designed runs).image

3rd&ShortWatson

Converting on third and short would be one way (in addition to scoring more often when starting in opponent territory) for Tony Elliott to make this offense his own, whether it be through the traditional smash mouth approach Morris repeatedly attempted or a different method that occasionally involves the right arm of Watson.

The importance of starting field position & an area with room for improvement

Clemson's Tony Elliott communicates at the Florida State game during the first quarter at Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Florida.

I don’t think it surprises anyone to find out that teams tend to score less points the farther they have to go and the Tigers are no different.

2014 Pts Per Starting Field Position ClemsonI’ve put specific numbers to Clemson’s starting field position in 10 yard increments in the chart below for the 2014 season and what it shows is expected through the midfield point.

What happens when Clemson began on the opponent’s side of midfield is the surprise.  The Morris offense was really good in open space with lots of room in front and not so great when starting in opponents territory.

The Tigers averaged only 0.1 points less when starting between their 21 and 30 than when starting 30-40 yards further down field between the opponents 49 and 40 and only 2.3 points per drive when starting between the opponents 39 and 30.

The question is why?  Is it a natural result of a HUNH offense?  Is it the result of the inability to run the ball consistently at times?  Play calling? Mental lapses?  Your guess is as good as mine and without data for the rest of FBS to compare these numbers to it’s of limited value.

That said, it does point to an area where there is plenty of room for improvement and the Tigers need to take advantage more often when starting in opponent’s territory.

Tony Elliott’s only called plays in one game so the sample size is tiny, but the Tigers fared no better than the first 12 games of 2014.  Two drives started in Oklahoma territory and resulted in a missed field goal (started at OU 20, 4 plays -5 yards) and a punt (started at OU 45, 3 plays -3 yards). Two drives, 7 plays, -8 yards, 0 points.

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For a chance to win a Ghost Monkey Brewery Founders package and support a good cause visit: http://www.ghostmonkeybrewery.com/raffle.html

Tiger sports, great beer & supporting a good cause

SUR TIGER

Seldom Used Reserve (SUR) and Ghost Monkey Brewery (GMB) have teamed up to provide one lucky person a Founder’s package from GMB.

GMB is a Charleston based Nano-brewery that will open in the fall of 2015.

The Founder’s package includes:

• Vacuum insulated stainless steel growler
• Four growler fills over the year (one fill per day)
• Pint glass, koozie, and 2 t-shirts
• $1 off pints any time/card holder only
• Early access to special release beers
• Invitation to pre-opening private tour, lunch, and tasting with the owners
• Invitation to Founder’s and Premier events

The entry is $5 and you can enter as many times as you like.  Any funds received above cost of the package will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.

Many thanks to Clemson grad and Ghost Monkey partner Jim Leonard for making this happen.

For complete details, rules, contest entry and to learn more about Ghost Monkey Brewery visit http://www.ghostmonkeybrewery.com/raffle.html.

SUR TIGERGhostMonkey

Podcast: Clemson fall camp take aways, Q&As & much more

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I’m joined by Brandon Rink and Brad Senkiw of orangeandwhite.com, to talk Clemson football, including:

  • Depth at LB given Korie Rogers walking away
  • Camp update/News/Takeaways
  • Offensive standouts
  • Defensive standouts
  • Buy/Sell/Hold from Coach Speak
  • Progress of position battles – RB, OL, DL

…and more.

You can download and subscribe via iTunes here or at the bottom of page for iTunes or Android, play in this window or play in a new window.

Podcast artwork courtesy Eargle Design.

Please visit our friends at Ghost Monkey Brewery.

Metrics for Returning Rushers

Clemson Football - Wayne Gallman

The concept of successful plays is not new, nor is it a metric I invented. Brandon Rink of orangeandwhite.com introduced me to it a couple years back. I believe Brandon learned of the successful play metric from Smart Football.

The basic idea is that not every rush of the same yardage is equal. A 3 yard run on third and 2 is good. A 3 yard run on third and 4, not so much.

In general, the metric attempts to add context around each carry and provides information in addition to the yards per carry metric.

As measured in the chart below a “successful” rush is defined as:

1. 50% or more of yards needed for a 1st down on 1st down (or touchdown).
2. 70% or more of yards needed for a 1st down on 2nd down (or a touchdown).
3. A first down or touchdown on third and fourth down.

The numbers below are expressed in terms of percentages.  For example, 30% of all of Adam Choice’s runs were successful by the definition above, as were 30.4% of Choice’s first down rushes.
RETRUSHMETS

Explosive plays are defined as a rush of 12 or more yards and it shows an area where Clemson struggled in 2014. The Davis, Spiller, Ellington and McDowell years were full of these, but there seemed to be dearth last season.

The question remains as to what the 2015 season holds for the running game. The 2014 offensive line pass protected fairly well, but struggled more in the running game. A rebuilt offensive line along, including the unexpected loss of Isaiah Battle, has many curious about what this season will bring on the ground.

Count me among the curious.


The metrics also show the importance of Deshaun Watson to the Clemson running game, which leads to the question of when and how often will Watson be used in this capacity.  Dabo Swinney has been vocal and steadfast in his belief that you can’t worry about injuries you have to “go out and play football”. How that translates from preseason practice to fall Saturdays is a huge question that will no undoubtedly be one of the big debates of the season.

Figure The Odds: Will Tigers start a streak in Columbia?

A Scott SC 2014

Editor’s Note:  The probabilities below are derived from an algorithm developed over the last several years that includes a database of over 2,800 college football games over 4 seasons and takes into account the teams relative strengths and weaknesses and on field performance.  While in its infancy, the algorithm acquitted itself well head to head with the ESPN FPI measure during last year’s bowl season.

As I write this in mid-August the South Carolina Gamecocks are a bit of an unknown.  Despite Steve Spurrier’s protestations, there are those that think the Gamecocks are in a downward spiral.

Whether that’s true or not is, of course, up for debate depending on what side of the fence you’re on.

I respect Spurrier as a coach that has gotten the most of his talent and found ways to win, often times without his best players.

On the other hand, I sense a different tone from the Head Gamecock this preseason, one I can’t quite put my finger on.  Spurrier seems distracted by insignificant happenings off the field, while trying to convince the fans all is well on it.

The ESPN FPI projects 5.5 wins for the Gamecocks, only two wins in the SEC (Kentucky and Vandy) and losses to the two ACC teams on the schedule. Ouch.

On the field the Gamecocks will have a new, and inexperienced, quarterback, will be without Mike Davis and will have to rebuild an inept defense.

CLEMvsSCU - Copy

That ESPN FPI gives the Gamecocks a 40% probability of beating Clemson in Columbia, which is close to the 35.4% probability the SUR algorithm projects.

The expected point chart projects a 9 point victory for Clemson.

The probabilities above will change prior to the game being played as both teams will have played multiple games adding additional information to their profile.

Other 2015 Win Probabilities for Clemson

Wofford   Appalachian State  Louisville  Notre Dame  Georgia Tech  Boston College  Miami  N.C. State  Florida State  Syracuse  Wake Forest




Figure The Odds: Probability Clemson defeats Wake Forest

Wayne Gallman runs for a 30-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter at Wake Forest

Editor’s Note:  The probabilities below are derived from an algorithm developed over the last several years that includes a database of over 2,800 college football games over 4 seasons and takes into account the teams relative strengths and weaknesses and on field performance.  While in its infancy, the algorithm acquitted itself well head to head with the ESPN FPI measure during last year’s bowl season.

For the second consecutive game the probability of Clemson winning appear low to me and the ESPN FPI agrees, giving the Tigers a 93.1% probability of winning. However, the number is higher than the Syracuse game, which brings me some comfort.

In particular, the yards per play assigned to the Tigers seem low, given that under Deshaun Watson the Tigers averaged 6.8 yards per play in 2014.

To get to a number similar to the ESPN FPI, Clemson would have to average around 6.5 yards per play (all other metrics the same). While 5.58 yards per play seems low, 6.5 seems high.

CLEMvsWFU

It’s exactly this type of conundrum that led me to create the algorithm I use in developing these probabilities – the tendency to overthink.

Getting back to a more basic level, the Wake offense is not going to score enough to beat the Tigers, not in Death Valley, not with Deshaun Watson at quarterback for Clemson.

The talent difference between the two teams, on both sides of the ball, means the Tigers should be able to win, perhaps handily, even if they aren’t on their A game.

The probabilities above will change prior to the game being played as both teams will have played multiple games adding additional information to their profile.

Other 2015 Win Probabilities for Clemson

Wofford   Appalachian State  Louisville  Notre Dame  Georgia Tech  Boston College  Miami  N.C. State  Florida State  Syracuse

Loss of Wiggins another blow to 3rd/4th down D

Venables

The season ending injury to Korrin Wiggins exacerbated a topic I had already planned to write about.

Everyone knows the Clemson defense lost massive talent in the front 7 from Vic Beasley to Grady Jarrett to Corey Crawford, DeShawn Williams, Tavaris Barnes, Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward.

Those names don’t include Gary Peters, who I believe, quietly had a special season, including a team leading 15 stops on 3rd and 4th downs that prevented first downs.

With the loss of Wiggins only 28 of 104 stops on 3rd and 4th down return for the Tigers. There’s a lot of little things that go into making those stops in crucial situations, talent, preparation and coaching to name a few.
image

Another, perhaps less recognized, factor is experience. While Clemson continues to have the first three items on the list above, the experience factor took another hit with the loss of Wiggins.

The Tigers were already going to be challenged to duplicate their nation-leading third down defense of 2014. That challenge got a little tougher yesterday.