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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Recruiting Big & Kicking Short: More Fun With Numbers

Here's a common complaint I've heard from fans recently: Georgia has a top-10 recruiting class every year, so shouldn't we always be a top-10 program?

On the surface, it seems logical, so let's look at exactly how the numbers stack up, courtesy of a bit of research done by Randy, one of the blog's fine readers...

Randy went back through the past five years (i.e. any player that would still be on a team's roster) and looked at the average star ratings by class. He then took the top 25 from each year and assigned a point value. The top-rated class each year was given 25 points, the 25th-rated class given one point, and so on. He then tallied the points to see, based on recruits, who should have the most talented teams.

The next step was overlapping those results with the current rankings. Here's the current AP top 15 and their "recruiting score," according to Randy's research.

Rank
Team
Score
1 Florida 221
2 Texas 204
3 Alabama 124
4 LSU 197
5 Virginia Tech 24
6 Boise State 0
7 USC 246
8 Cincy 0
9 Ohio State
202
10 TCU
0
11 Miami 149
12 Iowa 23
13 Oregon 40
14 Penn State
64
15 Oklahoma State
28
NR Georgia 203

Now, a couple of problems with the study, some of which Randy also alluded to in his note to me.

For one, recruiting rankings are not an exact science. They're generally strong indicators of future success for individual players, but when you add them all up for a class, there can be wide variances. A few extra diamonds in the rough mean you can have a stud class with a low socre and a few busts means you can have a great score but a below-average class.

The other thing to take into account is how many players leave early for the NFL. Those big recruits also tend to be the guys who bolt school after three years, too. Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno are helping Georgia's overall score here, but they aren't helping the Bulldogs on Saturdays.

And finally, a minor problem with the math. Randy used both Rivals' and Scout's rankings and added them together. What that means is that if you had the No. 5 class one year, you really got 40 points for that, and if you had the No. 20 class, you got 10 points for it. By adding them together, the variance between the top and bottom was essentially doubled. That's not necessarily a problem in terms of how we compare the rankings of each team, but saying Georgia's score of 203 is five times better than Oregon's score of 40 is probably overstating the difference in total talent by a bit.

Still, there are some obvious things we can take from this research.

For one, the great recruiting schools -- i.e. schools over 200 points -- do quite well.

Second, winning with a low recruiting score isn't likely unless you're in a non-BCS conference or the Big East.

Third, it's absurd how much of an advantage USC has in terms of recruiting compared to other Pac-10 schools.

Wait... you wanted discussion about Georgia? Ah, I figured you might.

Yup, Georgia is by far the highest score not to be ranked in the top 15 (or even the top 25) in the AP poll. The next closest competitors are Michigan (170), Notre Dame (155), Oklahoma (151), Florida State (142) and Tennessee (114). I'll give Oklahoma a bit of a pass since they've gone to a bunch of recent BCS bowls and they'd probably be a top-15 program if it weren't for their Heisman-winning QB sitting on the sidelines with a shoulder injury.

But look at the rest of that list: Michigan and Tennessee are in either Year 1 or 2 of a new coaching regime. Notre Dame is a disaster, and, well, you've read the news on what's going on at Florida State.

It's not exactly a group Georgia wants to be associated with.

Of course, the other side of the coin is this: Georgia is in the same conference with three of those other top schools. It also competes against South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Auburn and Arkansas, which had reasonable recruiting scores and added Oklahoma State to its schedule this year. Meanwhile, as I mentioned, teams like Ohio State and USC are miles ahead of the vast majority of their competitors when it comes to bringing in talent.

But even when you add up compeition, attrition and margin of error in the rankings, it's hard to not come to a relatively similar conclusion. I'll let Randy give you his:

"Tossing out injuries, early departures, strength of schedule – hell just about everything – I have concluded either UGA is being coached down or the recruiting services are as clueless as Mike Bobo."

I'm not saying this is fair, but recruiting rankings vs. results is probably the most analytical measure we have of which coaching staffs get the most out of the talent they have to work with, and by that measure, Georgia really does not stack up well -- at least this season. Of course, it's also probably worth remembering that the Dawgs did finish No. 2 in the country just two years ago, and with those same high recruitings scores, LSU, Florida, Alabama and Miami have all had 4+ loss seasons in the past three years.

ADDENDUM: As many of you have pointed out in the comments, this analysis is little more than a snapshot in time. It's a rough approximation of the talent currently in Athens vs. the current ranking. That ranking was different a week ago and could be different next week. And the talent is certainly not necessarily evenly dispersed. Again, that's why I included so many caveats in discussing the research.

I don't know that we can make any absolute statements about Georgia from these results, but what we can say is that, given the talent that should be expected from consistently strong recruiting classes, Georgia should routinely play at or near the same level as other top programs, including Florida, LSU, Alabama, USC and Ohio State. In terms of sheer wins and losses, that has been the case. But I'd also be willing to guess from the vast majority of the comments I hear from fans, the program isn't necessarily viewed that way.

So then the question is: Are these rankings useless? Maybe. Is the value of a program simply derived from national titles rather than simple Ws and Ls? Maybe. Or is there more talent than results? Maybe.

Again, these numbers aren't a final solution to any questions. They're a piece to the puzzle, and a starting point for a discussion I'm sure will continue throughout the season.

OK, moving on...

We've talked quite a bit about kickoffs and kick coverage this week, for obvious reasons. But we've dealt with specific examples, like last week's debacle at the end of the game. What about more aggregate numbers?

Well, Bulldogs Blog MVP Jim F. looked at each kickoff this season and came up with some numbers.

The one problem with analyzing kickoff numbers from the stat sheet is that it doesn't tell us whether a kickoff was directional or deep or how the coverage unit looked or any of that. We get two numbers: How deep was the kickoff and where was the kick returned to? If someone wants to watch the film for all five games and do some better math, I'm all for it. Sadly, I don't have that kind of time right now.

But, thankfully for us, Jim applied a loose interpretation of the numbers that does a good enough job of approximating Georgia's kickoff philosophy on individual kicks. If a kick was 65 yards or farther, Jim considered it a "deep" kick. If it was 60 yards or less, he considered it a "directional" kick. (And, for good measure, there was also one poorly executed squib kick in there, too.)

Here's what he found (total 28 kickoffs):

Type of kick
Avg.Field Pos.
Deep w/touchback Opp 20
Deep w/o touchback Opp 35
Directional Opp 34
Squib Opp 37
All Opp 32

So what does this tell us?

Well, for one, there is some evidence to support Jon Fabris' claim that directional kicking has merits, since essentially it does save Georgia an average of 1 yard per returned kick in field position.

But my guess is that one yard is not enough to overcome the likelihood that a deep kick for a touchback offers. Even if you figure that three-quarters of all of the "deep" kicks will be returned, the statistical difference between the average field position the opposition would get on that 75 percent of kicks would be just about four yards per game more than the directional kicks. Yet on that one out of four that went for a touchback, Georgia is gaining 14 yards of field position over a directional kick.

And how much of a difference does that make? A big difference, actually. Here's Jim's breakdown of field position:

Starting field pos.
Opp. Drives
Opp. Scores
Percent scores
UGA territory
4 4100%
Opp. 40 or better 7 6 86%
Opp. 30 or less
16 4 25%
Touchback (i.e. opp 20)
6 1 17%

*Note: Two of the drives that started inside the 30 ended in turnovers.

So, what do we learn from this?

The obvious answer is, if Georgia forces its opponent to march 70 yards or more for a touchdown, the defense is going to be pretty successful. If they don't, there's a good chance points are going on the board.

So if we know that a.) your best chance at having the opposition start behind its own 30 comes from kicking deep, and b.) having the opposition start behind its own 30 drastically reduces its scoring efficiency, then shouldn't a + b = c.) kick the ball deep for cripe's sake!

But these are just numbers. They don't measure the heart of a walk-on or the excitement of a good challenge or the intensity of the defense when faced with adversity. Those are the intangibles you just can't account for with stats.

24 comments:

Matt said...

Without letting the season finish out, comparing UGA's ranking to their recruiting ranking is totally and completely meaningless. If we had beaten LSU last week, we'd be ranked in the Top 10 or right outside it. Then our recruiting ranking and actual ranking would have a strong correlation THIS WEEK. As it were, we lost, and it does not match up.

You can do better, Dave. Talent evaluation and coaching leaves a lot to be desired of late, but a one week snapshot doesn't prove or disprove that.

Matt said...

Or perhaps, more fairly, Randy can do better. CDV, please demand better execution out of Randy, and continue to work harder to get 'butter.

David Hale said...

Not disagreeing with your premise, Matt. That's why I included so many caveats in the research. The information is what it is, I'm simply putting it out there because so many people have noted it. I don't think UGA finishes outside the top 25 this year, but regardless, even a one-year snapshot doesn't mean much. All we can do is take the information at any given time and continue to build upon it going forward. This is simply a starting point.

Dog44 said...

I agree with the first two comments above. It would be much more helpful to see recruiting rankings vs. results over the past 5 years or so... (and I believe UGA has finished in the top 10 almost every year.) If you averaged our recruiting rankings over five years and compared them to our final poll position over five years (and in fairness you should probably not compare them to the exact same years, but rather a few years later...) my hunch is that we'd find Richt & co. getting about what you'd expect from our recruiting classes.

Still, interesting research, and thanks to Randy.

Anonymous said...

"Georgia has a top-10 recruiting class every year, so shouldn't we always be a top-10 program?"

Georgia fans = Smrt.

2001- Final ranking 22
2002- Final ranking 3
2003- Final ranking 7
2004- Final ranking 7
2005- Final ranking 10
2006- Final ranking 23
2007- Final ranking 2
2008- Final ranking 13 (but 10 for the coaches')

Grand total of 2 years missed. One was Richt's first year. The other was a 9-win season with a true freshman behind center. (And if you switch Andy "Miss" Bailey for a healthy Brandon Coutu, that's an 11-win team.)

With this ridiculous Fire-Richt-Hire-VanGorder thing spreading around the Internet as well, how about asking this: Should Dawg fans stop huffing glue?

Spencer said...

I'm sure there was a time in 2007 after we had 2 losses that our ranking v. recruiting talent looked pretty bad. I have to agree with Matt that this is a pretty poor sample.

He should take our average end of year ranking for a five year period and compare it with 5 year segments, not just where we are this week.

Certainly everyone agrees that this year is a down year, and this particular point in time is about as low as we've been since 2006.

Now if we remain unranked at the end of the year, and especially into next year, well there's a problem.

Anonymous said...

It's stunning that people can't spot that there is an obvious downward trend to Georgia football.

If we lose Saturday to Lane Kiffin, the Richt era is finished. It may take us another 3-4 years to realize it, but the run will be done.

WFdawg said...

I may not be ready to panic yet on the recruiting rankings vs. AP ranking, but I do find the kickoff stats convincing. Why was Poland so bereft of talent that we couldn't find someone to kick it out of the back of the endzone? Hope Bogotay enjoys that scholly. Not since Andy Bailey have we gotten less from a kicker. The best ones during the Richt era have walked on. If I were Richt, I'd go spend an afternoon at soccer practice. It might be well-worth his time.

Anonymous said...

You know, changes probably should be made: clearly Martinez isn't getting the job done as the DC, and a coach specifically for special teams wouldn't hurt, but "an obvious downward trend"? How old are you people? Have you gone completely crazy?

The sense of entitlement you people have is disgusting. I'm old enough to remember the Donnan years, the Goff years, and even Dooley's later years, which were lean! We weren't even thought of as relevant in the SEC, much less considered to be a national power as we are today. That happened under RICHT.

You think that coaches who consistently win 10 games a season are just lined up waiting to come to Georgia? (Incidentally, Richt has almost as many 10 win seasons as Dooley did in less than half the time.)

Name me one viable alternative to Richt, and if you say Van Gorder, you have definitively proven yourself to be a moron, because the guy went 3-8 in his one year as a head coach (at Ga Southern). The fact is that CFB is more competitive than it has ever been. The fact is that you can drum up stats to support your point of view regardless of what it is. The fact is that, yes, Cox is a significant downgrade at QB from Stafford, and King/Samuels aren't nearly as good as Moreno. Fact is, this is supposed to be a down year, but you know what? If we win out, we still go to the SEC Championship!

You supposed fans are crybabies who clearly know little about football yet feel like the Internet somehow empowers you to be 'experts.' If you try to run Richt off, somebody should slap the fool out of you. You don't like our coach, feel free to go pull for another team because guess what? You're not in charge! (Thank God!)

Anonymous said...

"If we lose Saturday to Lane Kiffin, the Richt era is finished. It may take us another 3-4 years to realize it, but the run will be done."

You know what? You're absolutely right. All of Georgia's freshmen will leave the program. So will Aaron and Da'Rick. They'll tear down the stadium, too.

Look: If a mid-season loss in a transitional season is enough to put you over the edge, you might as well stop being a fan. You're not doing the program or yourself any favors.

Silver Dawg said...

Those recruitment numbers and analysis (thank you, Randy...and Sir David) are STUNNING, STUNNING.

No other conclusion can be made. None. Some coaches (all?) are NOT up to snuff with the talent in the house.

No doubt about it. CMR needs to shake up the house. Sometimes clarity is achieved by being an empty nester. CMR would not be alone in the nest long. Too many damn good coaches would JUMP at the opportunity to coach at
Georgia.

Randy or Sir David, those number need to be in Damon's hands.

Anonymous said...

Georgia recruits talent and is loaded with talent. Speaking from experience of having a son on the team, the players simply are not coached once they get there. If anything, they regress.

Army Dawg said...

David,

normally your blogs are a ray of commen sense in an other wise pool of internet sludge. I was on the phone and I recommended to my brother that he go to macon.com and find your blog...and then you go out publish this. As several of the responses have mentioned, you can't judge the book when you are barely 1/4 through it. Now, I have a sense that some things aren't as pretty as I like but remember two years ago, we thought Richt and Georgia was done after UT put one of the worst whippings on us we had seen in years. By Thanksgiving we were given ESPN hell because we thought the Dawgs were as good as anybody in the country. This evaluation can be made from past recruiting classes and past end of year rankings but I'm pretty sure the rankings of 10/7 are going to be much different than the ones released in early January.

This guys analysis smells more like somebody trying to drum up anti-Richt feelings than a true comparison of where ratings and rankings have taken us over the Richt era.

David Hale said...

Army Dawg -- I don't disagree with you. As I mentioned in the post, this is a snapshot, not a final judgment. I even referred to 2007 and added that Fla, LSU and several other programs like that have met with moderate or limited success in recent years. I'm aware of the limitations of the numbers, but that doesn't mean they are completely worthless.

Again, I'm not trying to say the research should be line No. 1 on firing coaches. In fact, as I'm sure you've read numerous times, I've never advocated for a single coach to be fired. I'm simply supplying some information and asking you guys what all we can take from it. Maybe it's nothing, as I mentioned in the post, or maybe there is something to it.

As you note, things are probably not as rosey as you'd like, and as you also mention, they're almost certainly not as bad as this particular set of numbers would indicate.

Like I wrote -- it's a starting point of an ongoing conversation. Let's see where things are in a few more weeks and a few more after that.

Anonymous said...

We are 6 wins and 4 losses over the last 10 games. Still think there is no probem?

We have averaged 27.1 points and given up 29.6 points per game. I hope things get better because if it does not, then it will get much worse.

Nov 1 vs. No. 8 Florida*
L 49-10
Nov 8 at Kentucky
W 42-38
Nov 15 at Auburn
W 17-13
Nov 29 No. 22 Georgia Tech
L 45-42
Jan 1 vs. No. 18 Michigan St
W 24-12
Sept 5 at No. 9 Oklahoma State
L 24-10
Sept 12 South Carolina
W 41-37
Sept 19 at Arkansas
W 52-41
September 26 Arizona State
W 20-17
October 3 No. 4 LSU
L 20-13

Dr. Merkwurdigliebe said...

I don't know about you guys, but I didn't expect anything better than 8-4 this year. Trying to replace Stafford and Morena has gone exactly how most intelligent analysis thought it would - a significant drop-off. Some will argue Cox's numbers aren't that much worse than Stafford's and that would be correct, but once again stats don't tell the whole story. Losing Moreno has been nothing short of disasterous for this offense. We have a dismal running game and are now going to rotate a true freshman (Ealey) into the mix to see if we can get any production. Our offensive line as certainly not met preseason expectations, as most thought it was the best in the conference and one of the best in the country. In reality they're average at best.

Georgia fans are getting concerned, because we're seeing some disturbing trends that include discipline problems, poor special teams play, underperforming 4 star recruits, and poor coaching on both sides of the ball.

In spite of this negative rant I sleep soundly knowing I have absolutely no links to Georgia Tech. Life is good!

Anonymous said...

I like to rate recruiting by looking at which players make all conference(either 1st,2nd or 3rd team)by their 3rd or 4th year...this tells me if they were more of an impact player...

as for kickoffs...I like to see the ball sail out of the end zone and put the opponent on the 20 each time...80 yard drives give the defense a better chance and the opponent more chances to stop themselves,too.

of course,in an effort to put exciting kickoff returns into the game,the powers moved the kicker back a ways...I don't like the change and it has certainly hurt the dawgs greatly...it takes an incredibly strong leg to knock it out of the end zone now...

later,old dawg

JRL said...

I be Randy and I have very thick skin so blast away. I would like to make one thing very clear - I have been a UGA fan since the mid 60's and think we have the best head coach we have ever had. I want him to stay until he WANTS to leave so..........


Wow David you turned my little numbers exercise into a pretty decent blog topic.


What I was trying to do is see what is going on this year and simply did a little analytical comparison.

You can carp on this and that but the numbers tell me UGA has talent that is not producing - for whatever reason. I suspect it is coaching.

IMHO the BoBo experiment is a failure. Sure he has had some big numbers but I think that reflects more on the talent than his expertise. I challenge anyone here to name another SEC that would hire him away from UGA.

If nothing else my numbers stirred some emotions and created some spirited debate.

Anonymous said...

SilverDawg, guess you missed the point everyone else got about how recruiting rankings (boy is that shaky ground to stand on) did acutally match UGA ending poll rankings (another mushy platform). Suppose reading comprehension and logic are not strong suits of yours. Push your agenda, whether facts support your premise or not.

The biggest shake up needs to be shaking the weak fans out. When we do need a new coach, some will be reluctant to come to a place whose weird fans ran off the best coach we have had. And that will be why CMR leaves, no doubt. Who could blame him after reading the loonies who post on message boards every day?

Robert said...

Hate to break it to the faithful, but we're right back where we started:

Donnan 97-00: 35-13, 0 SEC Championship Games, 1-3 v. UF

Richt 06-09: 33-11, 0 SEC Championship Games, 1-2 v. UF

Unlimited talent and resources, but wildly inconsistent play. Staff changes must be made or we will be in a never ending loop of Citrus and Outback Bowls. There is no question that we are trending downwards. None.

Anonymous said...

If you understand a little history you realize that everyone has some down years. just checked this - from 68-70 Bear Bryant went 20-13-1. After winning the 66 sugar Bowl Bear didn't win another Bowl game until the 75 Sugar Bowl. in between Bama played in 8 bowl games and had a 0-7-1 record. And Bear is considered by many to be the greatest college coach of all time. He would have had a hard time surviving in this day and age. And maybe that tells us one thing that's wrong with college football. There's some work to be done but the folks that want Richt fired are idiots. i wouldn't trade him for anyone.

Todd said...

I don't think people are really calling for Richt's head, but he is ultimately responsible. Last year was 9-3, but very easily could have been 7-5 (Kentucky with a freshman wr playing qb and an Auburn team that fired the coaching staff) It is a downward trend. Last year was the same thing, but you had 2 first rounders that could out score people.
I hope the coach speak in the press conferences are just that...coach speak. Hopefully behind the scenes, Richt is putting the heat on some folks. How long do you pay a man 2 million dollars to beat who they should beat and lose to who they should lose to? Richt and Co. are not big game coaches. I knew at halftime of the bowl game last year that Richt will not win a national championship at Georgia. Pride is on the line and you have 2 first rounders on offense and you run out the clock to get into the locker room. Thats like sending Logan Gray back to fair catch everything, play scared. Playing not lose instead of playing to win will not win you championships. You want to play for a coach that plays scared or somebody that wants to beat the crap out of somebody?
Check Clay Travis' blog today. He has a youtube clip of Les Miles after halftime of the Tennesse game. That is fire and that is why they will be back. Sure they are overranked but they are young.
It is a different day and time, and you have to produce and win. Saban, Meyers, and Miles know that. Say what you want, but the trend started after the WV game. Promoting life long friends and homers like Bobo is weak moves. Again conservative, he knew what both were and didn't want to risk stepping out and getting a big time coordinator.
Georgia is and will continue to be the 4th best team in the SEC. Behind coaches that get it.

JRL said...

In defense of my numbers and the criticism created let me ask a few questions.

Going into a new season what do you base your optimism or pessimism on? I would guess most of your instincts are based on the previous year, who we lost, who is returning and what young studs will emerge. All of which are based on the projected star quality of the players on the roster.

Most of us follow recruiting and lick our collective chops when we sign a 4 or 5 star player. We anticipate greatness or at least a high level of play so the numbers are a very legitimate gauge of what we can expect and the only measure we have. When an opponent signs a highly rated player that we wanted we groan collectively and think of the ways he will hurt us in the future. When we sign a seemingly can’t miss player we grin from signing day until September. In a nutshell you base your expectations on the star quality.

Now flash forward to the present. The team is performing at a level most (not all) fans deem less than the collective stars would indicate. I am acutely aware that we lost some great playmakers from last year. But we had some highly rated players waiting in the wings and for the most part they are under performing.

Have I thrown in the towel on this year’s product – not at all? Am I disappointed – somewhat? From my point of view we have a team that misfires frequently. We have a more than a few highly rated players on the roster but for some reason they are not playing up to their previous billing. The times they have played well seems centered on their talent rather than the scheme. Great players will generally play well in any system and excel in a system that puts them in position to make plays. My question - are we putting them in position to excel with the current schemes? Are our special teams on the same level as the teams with similar recruiting success? Is our offense performing at a level equal to the teams with similar recruiting success? Unlike many I think our defense is playing reasonably well considering the abysmal play of our special teams and the schizophrenic offensive game plan (I’m reluctant to call it a plan) that still has no identity. Bottom line I think we have the talent to be much better than what we have shown which is the main reason I have not given up on this season.

The 2007 Florida Gators said...

"I knew at halftime of the bowl game last year that Richt will not win a national championship at Georgia. Pride is on the line and you have 2 first rounders on offense and you run out the clock to get into the locker room."

We lost to Michigan in a similar situation. Michigan! Who lost to Appy State.