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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...

Position
Recruiting
Stars
Production
Stars
Difference
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.

18 comments:

Greg said...

David-

I like that you crunched the numbers a little bit on Ball.

The Knowshon RS blunder as well as the Marlon Brown (and beyond that Wooten) situations are particularly troubling to me.

Im not ready to throw heaping blame on Ball yet, but as you said, after this season, such scrutiny could definitely be warranted.

Here is my take on those three situations:

Knowshon- It seems as though Richt wasnt against the idea of RS'ing him either, so Ball doesnt get all of the blame.

Marlon- Its possible that because his level of competition was SO LOW in HS, that he really just was not ready to compete at a high level. This, to me, is going to be the most important sign of TB's work. Brown 100% should have been redshirted last year. He has the physical tools, he seems to be a hard worker (going out and working on his own with the new QB's) so the coaching is the remaining x-factor.

Rantavious- Saw flashes of brilliance in this kid this year. Let's see where it goes.

Even Tavarres King presents an interesting situation. The kid has a ton of talent but seemed to be held back this year due to some mental lapses (including his hands) which to me are the responsibility of the coaches.

I hate to say it, but Da'Rick did mention on several occasions that the UTk WR coach had quite the list of past students which was attractive. I'm afraid, however, that this was just one little factor. The bottom line is that Da'rick went to Knoxville ONLY (and i mean that 100%) because Nash Nance did.

David Wilson said...

Very interesting analysis, David.

Much has been made lately of coaching salaries. In the business world, people with high salaries/bonuses are expected to produce growth and profit for their employers. If they don't produce, they are replaced.

I think it is very appropriate for the business of college football to recognize the same values and expect coaches to produce athletes who reach/exceed their potential as athletes, as students and as young adults.

I am hopeful that Coach Richt has assembled a coaching staff that will be focused on production and results.

Kathleen said...

Tony Ball is perfectly capable of coaching kids who need no coaching...

He has zero vision for potential and has no clue how to coach anyone up. He's great at being punitive and only knows one method for motivating - the stick!

That's just my humble opinion.

Dr. Merkwurdigliebe said...

It's clear to me that UGA needs some up grading on the offensive side of the ball. I think Richt needs to employ the same strategy by going into the NFL and nabbing an outstanding you position coach to become the OC and move Bobo back to QB coach. I think we could also use an upgrade at WR coach.

Anonymous said...

Tony Ball had nothing to do with Da"Rick going to Tennessee. He went to Tennessee because he wanted to attend college with his best friend pure and simple. If you wanr to point the finger at someone point irt at Richt and Garner for not offering that Nance kid.

David Hale said...

I'm not suggesting (nor do I think Rex is) that Da'Rick would have come to UGA if the Dawgs had someone other than Ball coaching WRs. But the point Rex makes is that UT does have a more established WR coach with a very good track record, and I think it's fair to say that the jury is still out on Ball overall.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like to me that the UT WR coach was lucky to have a bunch of studs playing for him. Does anybody seriously think he "developed" those guys into the players that they were?

Anonymous said...

I think that it doesn't make much sense to lump together guys like Kevin Perez, who was never injured but never grew or developed and so was a recruiting whiff, and Tony Wilson, who showed a lot of promise but never got over his severe ankle injuries and had to leave the program, so was not a recruiting mistake. Seems this analysis could use quite a bit more nuance.

Anonymous said...

My thing is Da'Rick knew Tony Ball was the Wide Receivers coach in June 2009. It was not a problem then and quite frankly I doubt it was the a problem a few weeks ago. Let's face Tennessee's reputation as being "Wide Receivers U" are as much of recruiting tool as Beorgia's being "Tailback U". It means nothing, ask Mack Brown for clarification on that. So you are now implying that Darin Hinshaw is more accomplished with wide receivers than Tony Ball?

Anonymous said...

David,

Will you release your list of how you ranked the players (or did I miss that somewhere)?

Anonymous said...

(I mean specific players, that is)

Michael A said...

David, your analysis conveniently overlooks the fact that you were a 3-star recruit that has turned out to be a 5-star producer.

Nice work.

brad said...

What about the fact that UGA gets a lot of early commits who are three star players and never have their rating go up? Is it a reflection of committing to UGA? It seems as if you commit to USC, FL, TX, etc., your stars miraculously increase. For that matter, I've seen stars go away from players that have committed to UGA.

Kathleen said...

It's one thing for kids to meet and get to know coaches and the way they project themselves and another thing when kids start to hear rumblings through the grapevine about what a coach is really like.

I'm not saying that it's Tony Ball's fault Georgia lost that recruit, but I am saying that it's not as simple as "he knew he was the coach at that time..." because what a recruit knows at the start of the process and what they learn as the months pass and mouths open are really different things.

Anonymous said...

Kathleen, so are you implying that that Da'Rick believed a untested wide receivers coach was better than one with lots of experience?

Kathleen said...

No that's not what I'm saying at all -- what I am saying is that the comment about him knowing Tony Ball was the coach last summer means he wouldn't change his mind about Tony Ball isn't necessarily true. Kids talk - and some of them will voice their real opinion of a coach.

The other part of that is, if you've got one coach you are hearing bad things about and another coach with a clean slate and you're a teenager, it's easier to go where there is little information vs. negative information.

Anonymous said...

Kathleen you clearly do not understand teens.

Kathleen said...

Clearly.