July 25, 2014

Episode 17: Brandon Rink of OrangeandWhite.com talks Defense & Special Teams

PodcastGraphic300X300

Brandon Rink joins me to discuss how the Tigers address depth at DE in the Georgia game, does Clemson have the best right DE combo in the nation, fans long wait for Tony Steward to be a starter, defensive backfield conundrums, the unenviable task of being the guy who replaces Chandler Catanzaro and more.

You can also download and subscribe to the Podcast via iTunes by clicking here.

Thanks to Brandon for participating and Clemson graduate Adam Eargle for the podcast artwork and all SUR graphics.  Need a graphic artist? Check out some of Adam’s work here.

Podcast: Fall Camp Primer 1 – Brandon Rink of OrangeandWhite.com talks Offense

PodcastGraphic300X300

Fall camp starts in just over a week and Brandon Rink (@brink_aim) joins me to talk offense including: When and how often Deshaun Watson plays, offensive line depth, the most underappreciated running back on the roster, which receivers he believes will break out and much more in part 1 of our preseason series.

You can also download and subscribe to the Podcast via iTunes by clicking here.

Thanks to Brandon for participating and Clemson graduate Adam Eargle for the podcast artwork and all SUR graphics.  Need a graphic artist? Check out some of Adam’s work here.

Three Years of the Chad Morris Offense

Morris

You can find all 3,054 plays here for your own analysis, but here’s an overview of the last 3 years in charts and graphs.

Something you want to see not here? Pick up the internet and give me a call.

Play Selection 11213 Yards 11213 YPP 11213

Plays Per Game 11213Yards Per Game 11213Points Per Game 11213
Pass Distro 11213Tragets by Position 11213

3rd Down by Distance 11213 Chart

3rd Down by Distance 11213 Graph

Returning Receiver Detail

Mike Williams

Below are the 2013 numbers for the returning receivers for Clemson.  

Though 20 of his targets were at or behind the line of scrimmage, it’s interesting to note that Germone Hopper was targeted more than Mike Williams.

Returning Receiver Detail

Geek Speak: Total Yards Matter – 2014 Version

Random Numbers

While I don’t believe total yardage is the “end-all, be-all of football” it’s pretty clear to me that total yards are an important stat in college football.

Besides the obvious – it generally takes yards to score points – I have some numbers that back up this theory.

There are many guys smarter than me that say total yards mean little, are an “overrated” or “simplistic” metric and spend many hours devising complicated formulas to prove why that is.

I’m not smart enough to understand all of the mathematics behind those theories, but my general operating theory is “the simpler the better”.

It’s difficult to find a simpler metric than total yards, and this seems to give those smarter than me fits.

Specifically, out gaining your opponent is important.  The more the better.  If you think about it, out gaining your opponent takes into account many factors that occur during the game.  If you turn the ball over consistently you are likely to gain less yards, score less points and win less often, for example and using the difference between teams total yardage also means defense is factored into the equation.

So while gaining  yards is important, this analysis looks at the difference in yardage between winners and losers.  Another way to put it is, if Team A gains 600 yards and gives up 575 yards in game 1 and gains 125 yards and gives up 100 in game 2, Team A has the same odds of winning both games.

It’s not about the number of yards you gain, it’s about the difference between the number of yards you gain and the number of yards your opponent gains.

The charts and graphs below cover 2,116 games (6 games resulted in teams having exactly the same number of yards) between Division I teams from 2011 through 2013 and tell a simple story: Outgain your opponent and you will likely win. The more you outgain your opponent the higher your odds of winning.

Winning Pct by TYA Chart

Winning Pct by TYA Graph

A little further proof that yards matter? Teams with more yards than their opponents cover 64.6% of the time. And, as with the winning %, the higher the yardage differential the more likely a team is to cover, without exception.

 

Cover Pct by TYA Chart

Cover Pct by TYA Graph

Using the Pearson Coefficient I found a solid 0.606149 correlation between total yard differential and winning.

How did Clemson fare using this metric in 2013? I’ve previously posted on why I wasn’t that worried as Clemson fell behind in the Orange Bowl vs. Ohio State and the Tigers were 9-1 (lost South Carolina) when they outgained their opponent and 1-1 when being outgained (won Georgia, lost Florida State). Against the spread the Tigers were 6-5 when outgaining an opponent and 1-1 when being outgained.

No, total yards aren’t the end-all, be-all of football. But total yards, specifically when compared to your opponents total yards, matter and this simple metric can also increase the odds of picking the team that’ll not only win, but cover the spread, too.

It’s important not to confuse correlation with causation and I’m not saying having more total yards causes teams to win by itself.  Other factors (turnovers, for example) can cause a team to have more (turnovers gained) or less (turnovers lost) total yards and win or lose the game.

I’m saying total yards is an important factor in determining winners and losers, more than many want to acknowledge.

 

SUR and OrangeandWhite.com to collaborate on Clemson Football Podcast

PodcastGraphic300X300

PodcastGraphic300X300Seldom Used Reserve and OrangeandWhite.com will team up for a Clemson football podcast on Clemson football beginning later this summer and through the season.

OrangeandWhite.com Clemson beat writer Brandon Rink and Seldom Used Reserve’s Marty Coleman will share their views on Clemson football beginning with position by position and game by game previews beginning in late July.

Once the season begins the podcast will review the previous week’s game, preview the upcoming game and touch on other topics of interest to Clemson fans and fans of college football in general.

Why a podcast? A podcast allows the listener to consume the media on their own schedule and not be tied to a particular broadcast schedule such as radio. Can’t listen today? No problem, it’ll be there when you’re ready.

You can subscribe and/or download the podcast from iTunes, on SeldomUsedReserve.com and OrangeandWhite.com.

How can you help? Get the word out by sharing this post via your choice of social media option below (email is an option) and let your friends and acquaintances know that a new option and new voices in the analysis of Clemson football is on its way.

Questions, comments or suggestions? Email seldomusedreserve@gmail.com.

Podcast artwork and all SUR graphics courtesy of Clemson grad Adam Eargle and the Eargle Design Company.

2014 Forecast: Offense

Morris

MorrisLast year I underestimated the Clemson offense (or gave ACC defenses too much credit) and Chad Morris. I believed the loss of Nuk Hopkins and Andre Ellington would slow the Chad Morris juggernaut down. By and large I was wrong as the Tigers approached 508 yards per game.

Problem is, I feel the same way this year with the loss of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. Perhaps it’s the eternal pessimist in me.

Over the last 3 seasons (40 games) Chad Morris’ offense has run 3,054 plays and racked up nearly 19,000 yards while Boyd set nearly every passing mark in school history.

2014 could be a bit different for Tiger fans and the Tigers on the field. Boyd, Watkins and Martavis Bryant are gone, being replaced by Cole Stoudt, Adam Humprhies and Mike Williams and at running back the Tigers are looking for a feature back from a group of 5 (or 7 if you count true freshmen).

A lot of yards and touchdowns are now in the NFL.

My working hypothesis is that the Tigers rely on the “smash mouth” portion of Morris’ Smash Mouth Spread slightly more this season after being fairly balanced in rushing the ball 53% of the time (including sacks) and throwing 47% of the time in Morris’ first 3 seasons.

More running means less plays, less yards and less yards per play.  I don’t expect a monumental shift, but rather a small, subtle one.

The second part of that hypothesis is that while the Tigers were able to withstand the loss of Hopkins and Ellington, the loss of Boyd and Watkins is greater.

There will also be a corresponding drop in explosive plays.  Replacing Rod McDowell, even if it’s by committee, is less difficult than replacing Watkins, Bryant and Boyd and it’s a leap to expect Stoudt and his receivers to obtain the same level of cohesiveness.

Of course, there’s a chance that Stoudt could replace Boyd almost seamlessly in the short to medium game and I’ve even forecast him to leave Clemson with the highest completion percentage in a year and for a career. The question is the long game which Boyd and Watkins (along with Martavis Bryant) were so good at.

Watkins turned 3 yard passes into 20 yard gains and 14 yard passes over the middle into 66 yard touchdowns. Bryant averaged 19.7 yards per catch. Replacing that explosiveness is going to be difficult, perhaps impossible. Sammy was drafted 4th overall for a reason.

The Tiger offense will be good, but I don’t expect it to be 507.7 yards per game good.

I hope I am wrong again.

Breakout season: 960 Plays (80 per game), 540 Points (45 per game), 6,120 TY (510.0 per game), Rushing 2,240 yards (187 per game), 26 TD; Passing 3,880 yards (323.0 per game), 37 TD.

Bust: 864 Plays (72 per game), 396 Points (33 per game), 5,000 TY (416.7 per game), Rushing 1,900 yards (158.3 per game), 20 TD; Passing 3,100 yards (258.2 per game), 28 TD.

2014 Outlook: 912 Plays (76 per game), 456 Points (38 per game), 5,542 TY (461.8 per game), Rushing 2,172 yards (181 per game), 24 TD; Passing 3,370 yards (280.8 per game), 33 TD.

2014 Forecast: Freshmen/Redshirts – A look at the rest

Watson

WatsonThe forecast for the players below will be in a little different format.  They’re all freshman and while I expect most of them to play to some extent, I didn’t forecast “bust” or “breakout” seasons, because I believe expectations are limited.  I fully recognize that a sizeable portion of the Clemson fan base believes some (Watson, for example) will see significant playing time in 2014. 

The analysis below is based on several assumptions, which you may or many not agree with, but it does provide a framework for the forecasts that follow.

Here are my assumptions:

  1. Cole Stoudt is and will be the starting quarterback barring injury.
  2. With 5 backs that will not redshirt (Howard, Brooks, Davidson, Gallman, Dye) and two of those being freshmen, the coaching staff will opt to redshirt Jae’lon Oglesby and Adam Choice given a choice (pun not intended).  This not only provides an opportunity for these two to acclimate to the college game, but avoids having 4 freshmen backs at the same time thereby spreading out eligibility and recruiting needs in coming years. (more on this below)
  3. Trevion Thompson may play due to the relative thin wide receiver corps. Two of the three wide receiver positions only have two players listed and the only other two wide receivers listed on the roster are Daniel Rodriguez and Andrew Maas.

Deshaun Watson

Five star players don’t enroll early to sit, but Watson was injured in the spring and sat out the spring game.  That was a setback in Watson’s drive to start and it’s going to be difficult to overcome when the competition has 3 years in the offense.

Many fans and pundits believe Watson will start at some point in the season, if not in week 1 vs. Georgia.  Others think Stoudt starts but Watson sees significant time and perhaps eventually takes over.

As my forecast for Stoudt indicated, I believe in Cole Stoudt more than that.

Watson takes over next year and before he’s done he challenges many of Tajh Boyd’s records (assuming 4 years).

2014 Outlook: 57.1 cmp% – 173 PY – 2 TDs/1 INT – 88 RY/2 TDs – 4 total TDs

Trevion Thompson

Perhaps the 3rd player at the 9 wide receiver spot, Thompson has a chance to see the field in 2014, especially if he shows versatility.  As documented above, two of the three wide receiver spots go only two deep and this provides an opportunity for Thompson who is listed at 6’2 and runs a 4.5. 

2014 Outlook: 16 receptions, 167 yards, 1 TDs

Tyshon Dye

Perhaps the most difficult running back to get a read on because of injuries he’s suffered since arriving at Clemson.

Dye has redshirted (back injury), but his subsequent Achilles injury makes him a huge question mark in 2014. With 3 experienced backs ahead of him along with fellow redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman, it’s going to be difficult for Dye to see the field for any extended amount of time.

2014 Outlook: 22 carries, 101 yards, 1 TD

Adam Choice

Many expect Choice to lead Clemson in rushing this season (see poll on my website).  I expect him to redshirt because of the sudden log jam at running back.  If Choice plays, that would give Clemson 3 freshmen running backs and while that’s not impossible, my gut says it’s unlikely unless Choice has an incredible fall.

2014 Outlook: Redshirt

Jae’lon Oglesby

The home town favorite,  I believe Oglesby redshirts, too for similar reasons as Choice.  If I’m correct Clemson’s 2015 running back picture (assuming no losses) would look like this: Brooks (Sr.), Davidson (Sr.), Gallman (So.), Dye (So.), Choice (Fr.) and Oglesby (Fr.).  Two seniors, two sophomores, two freshmen.  This means that the future needs are more equally distributed and four running backs are not lost in the same season.

2014 Outlook: Redshirt

Examing Swinney’s Record: Back to Back 11-2 seasons is a good thing, right?

Dabo Swinney

Dabo SwinneyWhen Tommy Bowden was at the helm at Clemson a large portion of the fan base just wanted him to “win the games you’re supposed to win” and be competitive in the others and they would be happy.

Back then expectations were low.

Back then, no one could imagine consecutive 11 win seasons and victories over Auburn (twice), Georgia, LSU and Ohio State.

No one could imagine giving up 70 to West Virginia, getting blasted at home by Florida State and losing 5 straight to South Carolina either.

By and large Swinney has won the games he’s been expected to win (yes there are a couple of exceptions, but by and large).

In ACC games against teams north of Clemson (North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke, Wake Forest, Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Boston College) Swinney is 28-4 (.875).

Not so much with teams south (Georgia Tech, Florida State and Miami) of Clemson as the Tigers are 6-9 (.400) under Swinney.

Dabo’s a respectable 6-6 against the SEC with several impressive wins, but that’s overshadowed by a 1-5 record against South Carolina.

DS Detail

In some ways, Dabo’s a victim of his own success, something fairly typical in college football and life in general for that matter.

Let’s pretend it’s August, 2011, you’re coming off a 6-7 season and you were asked, “If you can go 32-8, win an Orange Bowl and an ACC title in the next 3 years would you take it, no questions asked?” My guess is a very high percentage of Clemson fans would have jumped at it, probably because it sounded so good after the mediocre Bowden decade and roller coaster beginning of Dabo’s tenure.

Now? That’s not good enough. Hey, you gave up 70 in an Orange Bowl, got blown out by Florida State at home in the biggest game in the last 3 decades and lost 5 straight to South Carolina.

College football is funny that way. Who you lose to and how you lose can be as important as winning.

Back to back 11-2 seasons is a good thing. Unless it’s not.

Inside The Numbers: The “2″ Wide Receiver – Adam Humphries and Artavis Scott

Humphries

HumphriesYou could argue that of all the stars lost from the Clemson offense of 2013, Adam Humphries has the biggest shoes to fill. Sure, quarterback is the most talked about player on most teams and Tajh Boyd got his share of publicity and holds nearly every record filling the crevices of Tim Bourret’s gray matter. But replacing Sammy Watkins is arguably more difficult than replacing Boyd.

That impossible chore falls to Humphries and how he performs could go a long way to determining the Tigers 2014 fate.

Humphries isn’t Watkins and never will be, nor should that be his goal. He needs to be Adam Humphries – catch the ball, gain positive yards, move the chains, rinse, repeat.

Humphries is no slouch. Coming out of Dorman High the same year as much ballyhooed Charone Peake, Humphries carved out a niche in his first two seasons which saw him catch a total of 56 balls for 410 yards and a score.

Humphries scared no one, averaging 8.7 per as a freshman and a miniscule 6.8 per catch as a sophomore. Last season’s 41 catches were good for 483 yards (11.7) and Humphries managed to get deep against Syracuse.

While many think of Watkins as primarily a deep threat, the truth is Sammy was targeted 53% (72 of 135) of the time at or behind the line of scrimmage while only 38% of Humphries’ targets were at or behind the line of scrimmage.

The question is what happens after the catch. That 14 yard pass that Watkins turned into a SportsCenter highlight against Georgia? Who knows what happens, but expecting similar results is not a high percentage bet.

I’m confident Humphries will catch the ball. I’m intrigued to see what happens after that.

Breakout Season: 75 receptions, 975 yards, 10 TDs

Bust: 40 receptions, 500 yards, 2 TD

2014 Outlook: 69 receptions, 814 yards, 8 TDs

Artavis Scott has a golden opportunity. Not quite as golden as Sammy Watkins back in 2011, but still a chance to make his mark as a true freshman in Watkins’ old position.

Watkins was targeted 135 times last season (10.4 per game) so it’s not a stretch to say there will be plenty of opportunities for Scott as the 2nd teamer.

I’m out on a limb here as Scott was a rising high school senior at this time last year, but I believe he will be the more explosive of the two options at the 2 and will get ample playing time and targets as the season progresses.

Breakout Season: 45 receptions, 600 yards, 5 TDs

Bust: 10 receptions, 125 yards, 1 TD

2014 Outlook: 36 receptions, 446 yards, 3 TDs