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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fun With Numbers: Returning Offensive Firepower in 2010

Yesterday, I wrote about the quarterbacks returning in the SEC for 2010 -- or more to the point, the lack of QBs returning for 2010.

The Senator brings up an interesting point on the issue, too.

"David thinks that Garcia may be Lakatos’ biggest challenge this year, but I think that game presents even more of a test for what Grantham and Belin can get out the linebackers."

This is something I didn't note in my post, but it's worth mentioning because, while Scott Lakatos faces the direct challenge of game planning the opponent's passing game, it's Todd Grantham that can have the biggest impact.

So let me now offer a quote from Grantham, discussing his 3-4 scheme:

"In the 3-4 you can be balanced. You really don’t have to declare your rusher until you see the formation sometimes. I think it gives you a better advantage over teams that are multiple formation-wise because you don’t get outflanked. You basically adjust your 'backers and you can still be solid against the run. And you also aren’t telling them who’s coming. The thing with the 4-3 is, the guys who put their hand in the dirt are the guys rushing. In a 3-4, I can tell you that the three guys with their hand in the dirt are coming, but one of those other outside backers is going to be coming 95 percent of the time. So they’ve got to account for all four of those guys on every snap, yet only one of those guys is going to be coming. So I think it gives you more position flexibility relative to the formations, and I also think it’s a little bit tougher for quarterbacks."

So what Grantham is saying is pretty simple: His scheme makes life confusing for QBs who aren't used to reading a 3-4.

And what my post from yesterday was saying is pretty simple, too: There won't be a lot of veteran QBs in the SEC in 2010.

So while there is rightly a legitimate concern about how quickly Georgia's defenders can learn Grantham's scheme, perhaps it's just as fair for other teams to be worried about how quickly their QBs can learn it, too.


OK, so enough about the quarterbacks. Let's talk about the rest of the offense around the SEC.

(And as a side note, Georgia returns the most offensive starters in the SEC, with 10. Mississippi and Tennessee return the fewest, with just four starters coming back on offense. You can see the full list of returning starters over at Phil Steele's blog HERE.)

First, let's start with the receivers. Here's what each SEC team has coming back for 2010...

Rec. Yards
Rec. Yards
Arkansas 3845 3353
Auburn 2857 2608 91.3
S Carolina
2940 2436 82.9
Georgia 2615 2323 88.8
Tennessee 2942 2166 73.6
Alabama 2631 2093 79.6
Kentucky 1824 1663 91.2
Vandy 1756 1509 85.9
Miss State
1685 1158 68.7
Ole Miss
2844 1109 39.0
LSU 2363 1096 46.4
Florida 3305 886 26.8
SEC Totals
31,607 22,400 70.9

A few thoughts:

-- It's easy to see why people are excited about Arkansas. They return the best QB in the SEC in a pass happy offense that also returns 91 percent of its receiving yardage from last season. Dangerous.

-- Georgia returns the fourth-most overall receiving yards and the second greatest percentage of its receiving yards in 2010. And that's from a group that went three-and-a-half games without A.J. Green last year and employed three freshmen (Orson Charles, Tavarres King and Rantavious Wooten) in significant roles. Give Green a full season and add the typical growth from freshman to sophomore seasons for the other three, and maybe that receiving corps shouldn't be too big of a worry for UGA fans.

-- It's one thing to enter the year without an established QB. That, of course, will be the case for two-thirds of the SEC this year. But it's another thing to do that with what is far and away the least accomplished group of receivers in the league, and that's exactly what Florida will do in 2010.

Listen, I've seen enough of Urban Meyer to assume he'll put a potent offense on the field no matter what this season, but he's definitely going to have to work a bit harder to do so this season than he has in the past (which is amusing considering he worked so hard it put him in the hospital last year).

Florida will return just 886 receiving yards in 2010 -- less than half the average among the other 11 schools -- and the biggest question mark surrounding the Gators last year was whether or not they had a legitimate vertical passing game.

Again, I don't doubt Meyer's ability to put a quality offense on the field, but it will be very, very interesting to see how that unfolds this season.

-- Also worth noting, I calculated stats for receptions and receiving TDs, too, but none were dramatically different than the numbers shown above. Kentucky returns the greatest percentage of receptions (90 percent) and South Carolina returns the most receptions overall (210). Florida remains last in both categories (75 receptions, 30 percent of 2009's totals).

Vandy returns the highest percentage of its 2009 receiving TDs -- all of them in fact. But that's not saying much since the Commies scored just six times through the air last season. Arkansas and Auburn both return more than 90 percent of their receiving TDs, while Florida, Ole Miss and LSU bring up the rear, all at about 35 percent.


That's the numbers on the receivers. But let's look at the running games, too.

Rush Yards
Rush Yards
Alabama 3011 2695 89.5
Kentucky 2486 2077 83.5
Florida 3105 2056 66.2
Georgia 2093 1724 82.4
Vandy 1920 1687 87.9
Auburn 2756 1510 54.8
S Carolina
1576 1471 93.3
Arkansas 1713 1271 74.2
Ole Miss
2387 984 41.2
Miss State
2731 807 29.5
Tennessee 2045 695 34.0
LSU 1596 547 34.3
SEC Totals
27,419 17,524 63.9

A few thoughts:

-- People are excited about South Carolina this season, and I'm guessing a big reason for that is because the Gamecocks return such a large percentage of their overall offense from a year ago. But here's something that struck me: Auburn returns only about half of its total rush yards from 2009, but returns more total rush yards than South Carolina does, despite the Cocks bringing back 93 percent of last year's production. So the question then is -- does it matter how many returning players you have if they weren't that good to begin with? Of course, the flip side to that is, experience makes players better, so perhaps it's to be expected that we'll see growth in players from year to year.

-- Again, Georgia scores decent marks. The Dawgs return the fourth-most rushing yards in the SEC (and 82 percent of their total, with the missing 18 percent coming because of Richard Samuel's move to LB). But much as I wrote about UGA's receivers, this is a group that really only got going halfway through last season. It's not at all unreasonable to assume that the performances of Washaun Ealey and Caleb King should be much better if each plays a full 12 games than last year, when they combined to miss seven-and-a-half games between them.

-- The more I look at the success Morgan Newton had in his limited role last year and the percentage of talent that Kentucky is bringing back, the more I think the Wildcats could be flying a bit under the radar.

-- And let's look a bit deeper at Florida. Yes, the Gators are returning the third-most rushing yards in the SEC, but as a percentage of what the ran for last year, they're seventh in the conference. Obviously the biggest loss in that department comes from Tim Tebow, who was their star in short-yardage and red-zone situations.

Making matters worse is, what Florida loses in Tebow, it already wasn't very good at to begin with. The Gators ranked 10th in the SEC last season in red-zone conversions and they scored TDs on just 50 percent of their red-zone opportunities. (Georgia, meanwhile, was third in red-zone conversions and scored TDs 63 percent of the time.)

Of Florida's 34 red-zone TDs last season, Tebow was responsible for running in 11 of them. So it's not surprising that, while Florida returns nearly 70 percent of its total rushing yards from 2009, the Gators bring back just about 50 percent of their rushing TDs.

-- Along those lines, Vandy, South Carolina, Alabama and Arkansas all return more than 90 percent of their rushing TDs from 2009. LSU, Tennessee and Mississppi State all return fewer than 40 percent.

-- Scary thoughts: Alabama returns 92 percent of its carries, 90 percent of its rush yards and 94 percent of its rushing TDs from last year. And they'll probably be better this year. Yikes.


OK, so let's wrap the whole thing together. Here's how the SEC teams stack up in terms of total offense returning...

2009 Total
Total Offense
Alabama 5642 4788 84.9
Arkansas 5558 4624 83.2
Auburn 5613 4118 73.4
Georgia 4708 4047 86.0
S. Carolina
4516 3907 86.5
Kentucky 4310 3740 86.8
Vandy 3676 3196 86.9
Florida 6410 2942 45.9
Tennessee 4987 2861 57.4
Ole Miss
5231 2093 40.0
Miss State
4416 1965 44.5
LSU 3959 1643 41.5
SEC Totals
59,026 39,924 67.6

And the numbers for overall offensive touchdowns:

2009 TDs
Return TDs Pct. Return
Arkansas 55 51 92.7
Alabama 48 41 85.4
Auburn 49 37 75.5
Georgia 41 34 82.9
Kentucky 39 32 82.1
S Carolina
30 27 90.0
Florida 58 26 44.8
Tennessee 47 26 55.3
Vandy 18 18 100.0
Ole Miss
44 18 40.9
LSU 34 13 38.2
Miss State
30 12 40.0
SEC Totals
493 335 68.0

A few final thoughts:

-- When you go 14-0, win a national championship, then return 85 percent of your offense -- and more total yards than anyone else in the conference, you're going to be a favorite to repeat. So yeah, Alabama's probably gonna be good again.

-- And it's also worth noting that Alabama's primary rivals last season -- LSU and Ole Miss -- return the lowest percentage of their total offense in 2010. The SEC West may be the better division next season, but there's a pretty big gap between what those top three teams bring back and the giant overhaul that will need to happen at the bottom three schools.

-- If you're Vandy, are you depressed that you scored a lowly 18 offensive TDs last year or are you excited that all 18 are returning?

-- The bulk of Georgia's "losses" are from Richard Samuel's move to defense. And since he's still on the team, perhaps it's not entirely fair to remove him from the stat totals (although I'd guess it probably is). So for the sake of argument, if you add his numbers back in, Georgia actually returns 4,442 total yards of offense, just a notch behind the top two teams and 94 percent of its total yards from a year ago.

-- And yes, I'm aware that another big factor in offensive success will be what teams return on the O line. But that's a post for a bit later... and one I promise I'll get to.


Anonymous said...

Great backs + crappy o-line= crappy running game (or at least not living up to your potential I.e 2008)

It all starts with the o-line. Health at the o-line is our biggest concern next year. Even more important than the new qb taking snaps.

MikeInValdosta said...

Preemptive>>>> Georgia has to have advantage on gainesville in this area.
-- And yes, I'm aware that another big factor in offensive success will be what teams return on the O line. But that's a post for a bit later... and one I promise I'll get to.