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Monday, February 15, 2010

More Fun With Numbers: All the Right Moves

OK, I promise we'll be done with recruiting stuff after this. Well, probably.

Anyway, earlier today I talked about the relative value of a 5-star player over a 3-star player, long term. But those are pretty general evaluations, and obviously you can't get a 5-star guy at each position every year. So while the premise remains worthy (Georgia needs to go after the top athletes and be successful at landing a few of them each year), reality dictates that they also need to get the most out of the rest of the crop of players they land.

So, who's doing a good job with that? Let's go position by position.

Again, these are numbers for Georgia's recruits from 2004-2008, so really, this probably says more about UGA than it necessarily does about things on a macro level, although you could probably make a fair argument that players at a position like O line can be more easily turned from 3-star recruit into 5-star talent because less pure, measurable athleticism is needed than for, say, a cornerback to make that same leap. In any case, here's how UGA's players have developed...

DE 3.75 2.41 1.34
WR 3.82 2.55 1.27
OL 3.3 2.05 1.25
QB 4.0 2.75 1.25
LB 3.77 2.54 1.23
TE 3.2 2.0 1.2
DB 3.47 2.59 0.88
DT 3.86 3.14 0.72
FB/RB 3.7 3.0 0.7

Obviously there are a ton of different factors that go into determining whether a player develops as he is expected to -- injuries, effort, intelligence, luck and coaching come to mind as the primary ones.

Of course, if you look at those factors, the first four seem to me to be variables shared at each position. A linebacker is just as likely to get hurt as a wide receiver, for the most part.

What changes from one position group to the next is the coaching.

So while we can't rule out those other factors as potential reasons why an individual player fails, for the purposes of comparison, they should mostly cancel each other out when we're talking about a larger group.

If that's the case, then the chart above, which measures the difference between expectations of players and production -- or "failure rate," if you will, seems to me to be as good an indication of the relative ability of position coaches as anything, and what those numbers tell me is that things are pointed in a good direction at Georgia right now.

Hear me out...

If we look again at those position groups, there are a couple of external factors that should be considered:

-- The O line "failure rate" is higher -- and certainly higher than fans would like -- but that number is probably skewed due to a high level of attrition at the position in the year immediately following Stacy Searels' arrival.

-- The "failure rate" at QB is a bit on the high side, too, but that is due in part to the low number of QBs recruited. If one fails, it has a far more dramatic effect on the total than one failure in the linebacker group, for example. Same is true for tight ends. (Plus, in just a 5-year time span, it's hard for more than two QBs to be deemed a success, since only one can play at a time.)

So, keeping that in mind, we have six groups that we can compare fairly easily: DBs, DEs, DTs, LBs, WRs and RBs.

Look at those results: Three of those groups are doing a pretty lousy job, statistically speaking, at turning potential into production. Three have done a pretty solid job.

For all the talk of Jon Fabris' talent with defensive ends (his silver lining after destroying special teams), the numbers say that he's gotten less out of the talent at that position than any other coach on the staff. Of the 12 DEs signed between '04 and '08, only three -- Justin Houston, Demarcus Dobbs and Charles Johnson -- had production that matched their recruiting grade. (None dramatically exceeded their grades, although Houston certainly could still make that leap.)

Of course, Fabris is gone now.

Georgia has managed to produce a couple of very, very good wide receivers during this time period. In fact, two of the 5-star production guys were wide receivers -- Mo Massaquoi and AJ Green. And yet, there's a big group of WR recruits who have failed to live up to their promise, too. Sure, Israel Troupe could still blossom, but the track record of guys like Demiko Goodman and Tony Wilson and Walter Hill is hard to ignore.

Of course, Tony Ball would be the guy in charge of turning around Troupe's career. It was John Eason who presided over those past "failures."

When it comes to linebackers, it's hard to ignore the fact that Georgia has a former player who started on an NFL playoff team (Dannell Ellerbe) and another likely to get drafted before round 4 this year (Rennie Curran). But on the whole, this is an underperforming group, too. I like the futures for Marcus Dowtin and Christian Robinson... but what about Charles White, Darius Dewberry, Akeem Hebron and Marcus Washington? Heck, Darryl Gamble and Akeem Dent could have huge senior seasons, but so far, they've been more talent than performance.

Of course, that was John Jancek's department. And he's gone now, too.

So the position coaches who appear to have had the least success at turning promise into performance are all gone now, replaced during the past two offseasons.

I somehow doubt these are the numbers that Mark Richt was crunching when he made the decisions to let those guys go (or in Eason's case, move him upstairs), but that doesn't mean he didn't come to the right conclusion anyway.

It's still far too early to tell what type of impact Georgia's new coaches will have, but it's nevertheless encouraging to know that the problems were identified. Because if Tony Ball and Todd Grantham and Warren Belin can each take one guy per season who might have been a "failure" under the old regime and turn him into a success, that'll mean 12 more productive players four years from now. And that's a significant difference.

ADDENDUM: Rex Robinson brings up the interesting case of Tony Ball in a recent post on his blog, noting that Ball's resume could have been another factor in the loss of Da'Rick Rogers.

I lumped Ball in with the "successful" assistants in this analysis because the overall grade for running backs was solid during his tenure, but it's probably a bit more accurate to say that the jury is still out.

Ball developed two very good fullbacks in Brannan Southerland and Shaun Chapas, but Southerland was already a starter when Ball arrived.

Ball also presided over one of Georgia's biggest success stories in Knowshon Moreno. Of course, Ball was also the position coach who thought Knowshon needed a year to redshirt in 2006.

And then we have Caleb King's stunted growth during his first two years in Athens before blossoming under Bryan McClendon and we have Marlon Brown's lost 2009 season. Ball was in charge in both cases.

So... does Rex have a point about Tony Ball?

I think we'll have a much better idea of that after this season, when it will be incumbent upon Ball to make sure that Israel Troupe, Marlon Brown, Tavarres King and Rantavious Wooten -- each of whom has a high upside -- begin to reach their potential.


Anonymous said...

It would be interestng to see the same analysis of Belin's efforts with linebackers at Vandy. He should score higher than Jancek, right? Same for Lakotos (sp) at UConn.

Anonymous said...

Re: "Does Rex have a point about Tony Ball?"

I've been thinking along the same lines as Rex regarding Ball. Nothing about his resume or performance gives me hope in his ability to coach up receivers. Given the changes which have occurred, he now strikes me as the weakest link on the coaching staff.

Rex Robinson said...

I just wanted to clarify that my statements about Tony Ball are not an indictment on him as a coach, but rather how a coaches resume can be used for or against him. I think coaches get to much credit and blame for certain players. Do you think Baggett made Randy Moss an All Pro? No way, Randy made Randy an All Pro, but it looks good to a 17 year old to say I coached THIS guy.