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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fun With Numbers: The Battle in the Trenches

Last week I started posting some findings from an in-depth study done by our pal Jim F. on the top recruits and how Georgia fared in landing them. Most of the post dealt with where the recruits were coming from and how well Mark Richt and Co. protected the borders around the state.

I got a ton of great feedback from you guys on the results, pointing out some issues with the analysis (which was fair) and asking some deeper questions (which we'll get to).

First, here's some points from Irwin R. Fletcher:

The problem then is that you then diverge into thinking that state boundaries somehow indicate proximity. Just look at FSU. It is almost the same distance to drive to UGA from Perry, GA as it is to drive to FSU. Proximity isn't accurately defined by state lines.

Anyway, I think the percentages are a red herring. You can only take so many kids no matter how big your state is. The fact is that since there are fewer BCS schools in GA, the percentages are going to look worse. Texas has how many BCS schools? 7? Bama produces about half as many top 100 recruits but has 3 BCS schools...of course their percentage will be higher. It also explains why PA and GA have lower percentages...fewer choices for kids to stay in-state. (It also becomes an interesting thought when you think about how big a state like Texas and California are and how far these kids have to travel to stay 'in state.')

When you have states like Alabama producing half as many top 100 kids as Georgia, Bama and Auburn are going to have to 'get theirs' from Ga, too.

Fair points, all. I agree wholeheartedly with the notion that Georgia (the state) is poached routinely because many players in the outer borders don't see Georgia (the school) as their "home team." Of course, as Todd Grantham said last week, that's a battle he's going to start fighting.

“If we took the best players in the state of Georgia and within a five-hour radius of our school, and they come to University of Georgia, we can win the SEC championship and compete for a national title. And I think you can be better than Florida, you can be better than Texas and you can be better than Southern Cal if those players came to the University of Georgia.”

So while I think Mr. Fletcher does a fine job of pointing out a reasonable set of explanations for a perceived failure, I'd also say it's probably good news for Bulldogs fans that Grantham is setting his sights even higher.

There were tons of other questions raised by readers after last week's post, and I'm hoping to still hit on a bunch more in the next few days. (Seriously, we've just hit the tip of the iceberg in Jim's research.) But for today, I wanted to address just one.

This issue is brought to us from My2Cents, who wrote:

I think we will do fine in state and around the southeast. What I would hope from Coach Lak and Coach Grantham is to get some of the big lineman that come from up north and out in the midwest. There are also usually some good linebackers and skill players from those areas. The way we play next year will open the doors and tweak a lot on interest. We need to be better at which of the best of the best we pick.

Good points, but as it turns out, the bigger concern might be on the line on the other side of the ball.

Remember, this analysis covers all of Rivals' top 100 recruits dating back to 2002 -- or, for the purposes of this discussion, the best 800 high school players from the past eight years.

So, how might that list break down by position? Glad you asked...

Off. Line
Def Back 110 13.7%
Receiver 94 11.8%
Running Back 92 11.5%
Linebacker 89 11.1%
Def End
87 10.9%
Def Tackle
67 8.4%
Quarterback 64 8%
Athlete 59 7.3%
Tight End
26 3.3%

* Two things are slightly deceiving here. 1.) "Defensive Back" is a bit of a general term. There's a big difference between recruiting a corner and a safety, so we may be being a bit broad in our terminology. 2.) "Athletes" generally end up as defensive backs or receivers, so by labeling them otherwise, we're sort of short changing a couple of categories.

Taking the aggregate numbers only, however, we notice quickly that offensive linemen make up a pretty hefty share of the best players coming out of high school. So, you might then assume that, since only eight schools in the country have secured more players from this list than Georgia, the Dawgs should have gotten a decent number of O linemen, right?


Of the 800 best high school prospects since 2002, Georgia has signed 35. Here's the Bulldogs' positional breakdown:

Off Line
3 8.6%
Def Back
4 11.4%
Receiver 5 14.2%
Running Back
4 11.4%
Linebacker 3 8.6%
Def End
4 11.4%
Def Tackle
4 11.4%
Quarterback 2 5.7%
Athlete 3 8.6%
Tight End 3 8.6%

In case you're wondering, of Georgia's "athletes," one became a defensive back (CJ Byrd), one became a running back (Richard Samuel) and one became a receiver (A.J. Bryant).

So, let's do a simple comparison here: The first chart essentially shows the talent pool of great prospects. The second shows Georgia's success rate in luring those athletes.

Now, where do we see a difference?

Well, on the plus side, Georgia knows how to grab a good tight end. And while that QB number is a little on the lower side, the stats for that position can be deceiving because you don't really need to grab more than one really good one every two years or so.

The biggest difference though? There's no doubt that it's on the offensive line.

In the past eight seasons, there have been 112 offensive linemen ranked among the best in the nation coming out of high school. In that span, Georgia has managed to sign just three of them.

Of course, your next question might reasonably be, "Who were they?"

The answers: Justin Anderson, A.J. Harmon and Chris Burnette.

Anderson spent a year at prep school and has been up and down in his success since arriving in Athens. Harmon and Burnette have yet to start a game (and Harmon opened on the D line, to boot).

In other words, since 2002, Georgia has essentially played without a single top recruit on the offensive line at any point.

This season, Georgia stands to add one more top-100 guy to their linemen cache with Brent Benedict, but he is one of just two O line signees.

On the other hand, Florida has signed six top-100 linemen since 2002 and Tennessee has inked five.

Now, it's fair to ask whether these O line evaluations were all that great to begin with. After all, the list of Georgia's top signees in the trenches doesn't include Clint Boling, and he's turned out to be pretty good.

But I think it's also fair to say that Georgia hasn't had nearly the success with O linemen it should have in recent years, so closing with at least one more this year might make for a big finish.

Oh, and while we're on the subject of positional success for Georgia, here's two more of concern: Defensive end and Linebacker.

Georgia's four "top prospects" at D end during the past eight years where Brandon Miller (miscast for three years), Marcus Jackson (injuries derailed his career), Toby Jackson (never qualified) and Charles Johnson.

That, however, should be changing this year with three four-star prospects joining the ranks and Todd Grantham's new look on D.

At linebacker, Georgia's three "top" signees were Akeem Hebron, Desmond Williams and Josh Johnson. Not exactly an impact group.

Of course, I think Hebron's name might be one that has a chance to float back to the surface as Grantham evaluates his personnel for the 3-4.


Ant123 said...

This really looks like that either our talent evaluation at linebacker and D-end and O-line have been poor, or we have done a poor job of landing the ones we really wanted.
There is another point to look at however and that is how many of these top-rated players were actually top-rated at the end of their college carers not just the begining?

j.leonardjr said...

Desmond Williams? What class was he in? I don't recall him at all. Wasn't Darius Dewberry ranked really high coming out of high school?

David Hale said...

You're right, Ant. And that's the next thing I'll be looking at.

Irwin R. Flecther said...


I'll finish my comment at the end, since I think it pretty much goes away from the idea that I was giving UGA excuses for failure and such. My point was simply that percentages from in state aren't the right measure. I completely agree with Coach Grantham that you can lock down all the top 100 talent that you need in state, but if you have to sign AJ Green from South Carolina over Josh Jarboe from Cedar Grove which we did in 2008, you don't worry about where the two came from, do you?

Locking down the state is a means to an end...signing the most top recruits you can. However, the end is always going to be how many top recruits did you sign...not where did they come from.

Anyway, I don't think it is worth quibbling over because the chart in today's post is good info. While it's not an exact science, I always think it is interesting to see what players UGA has produced in the draft (rather than looking at how they were ranked coming in)...I was talking to someone just the other day on how long it had been since UGA produced a first day LB or OL. You have to go back to 2005 with Odell or 2003 with George Foster and Boss Bailey (both Donnan recruits) to find either. Funny thing is that LB and OL never seemed to be an issue for Donnan...Foster, Bailey, Stinchcomb, Witherspoon, K. Bell, J. Jennings, M. Stinchcomb, C. Terry....

Anyway... I've reposted the end of my comment that you cut out. Like I said, I'd still be interested to see how often we get beat in Metro Atlanta. For example, in 2008, there were 6 players on ESPN's Top 150 from Metro Atlanta...0 went to UGA. On the 2010 list, there are 15 of 150 in Metro Atlanta...UGA has commits from 5 (Malcome, Ogletree, Houston, Smith, and Stripling). On the 2009 list, there were 9 in the top 150, UGA signed 1 (Branden Smith). I would think the key means of getting better recruits would be batting better than 6 of 30 on recruits a hour from your door.

"I think as long as you are pulling a high number of top 100 recruits based upon the fact that you can only have X number of scholarship players each year, that is the real measure of recruiting success...and then you can see how other measures such as geography affect that percentage.

I'd be interested seeing a breakdown based upon mileage from the school. That could really tell us something. I think the real issue for UGA isn't 'in state' but it is how often we get beat on players in the Atlanta gut is that is what killed us in the late 90s and that is what keeps us from getting over the hump now."

David Hale said...

Irwin... didn't mean to imply you were making excuses, and I only abridged the comment for space reasons. I think what you offered was a valid EXPLANATION for some of the results, which is how it was intended to be portrayed. Sorry if that didn't come through.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to know if there are sites for Auburn, Clemson,North Carolina,South Carolina and etc that pick apart every small detail. We have every major programs on every of this state that pick our bones with the help of the AJC. I do not think you can question that you can get anywhere near the position attention from the border states press that AJC rag gives tech and the border schools. Sometimes it gets to be to much for many of us.

Irwin R. Flecther said...

No worries, Dave. Never offended by your analysis and certainly not accusing you of a Sean Hannity like doctoring of my comments.

Love the food for thought and your willingness to engage your readers in the discussion.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article. It seems to me like we usually get 1 or 2 "early" commitments from lower-ranked linebackers or O-Linemen every year, which leaves less room for higher rated guys. That's just how it seems to me

UGA69Dawg said...

Well as far as the OL is concerned it's hard to fine enough O Lineman with bad shoulders. That seems to be a requirement to play OL at UGA.

Ant123 said...

Irwin, I think you are exactly right about metro Atlanta and your other point as well.
Once we see how many star recruits become star players for both UGA and the competition. Then we can see if we have recruiting problem which I suspect is true at the OL and LB positions or a coaching up problem which I think has been true at DB, LB, and O-line prior to Searls. We will see this upcoming season about Searls.
David, Does the positon coach evauluate the prospect or does the coach recruiting that area do that? Though, I am sure there is some overlap who decides who to really go after?

Anonymous said...

RT Irwin Fletcher:
After reading your comments, I agree w many of your thoughts. Yes total #’s matter more. However, one indicator that is routinely brought up by shows and experts is “How well did the in state recruiting go?” I wanted to get a true measure, at least from the “difference makers” standpoint. Two, if ‘Top’ kids routinely choose not to go to UGA, does that make a statement against The State University school? What’s driving them away – not attractive to them? What could change to get more of them, if UGA wants ‘em? I don’t have the answer.

Also in full disclosure mode I left another reply on the “white” board before I read these comments.

Jim F
PS I just started to track the Metro factor. Is S. GA getting poached more or is Metro b/c of culture and size more of a reason to allure the Top 100 out?? I’ll keep you posted.

DawgOnTap said...

Check and see how many of those guys make their all-conference team and keep in mind that by the recruiting sites estimation, all of them should be all-conference caliber. I think you will find that in many cases, it is the evaluation that is off the mark.

Like someone said...OL is the hardest to project. I had a much bigger problem with the fact that in the last two seasons that we only had 1 upperclassmen (who was a JUCO guy). That, imo, was a big failure on this staff's part. The classes of 2004 and 2005, we only had one kid get in school and stay in school past his sophomore year (Cheese). Two classes, we got one guy that made it through the program?!?! That's just poor picking and not getting enough bodies on campus. Seems like we got off the "feast and famine" diet though.

meat said...

nice use of aggregate. you must have been an econ major.