Monday, October 15, 2007

More Fun with Statistics: The Running Game

The folks at Rakes of Mallow clipped an excerpt from yesterday's Boston College Wrap-up, and it led to a lot of comments over there. One of the comments, from Bob Gilleran, stated that I "lacked vision" and blamed all the current woes on recruiting problems dating back to Bob Davie. He thought the current coaches are doing a great job and that we should all be grateful to have them. I think Robert read a lot more into my criticism of offensive line play than was there, and I actually agree with much of what he posted. But he also threw out a challenge:

If there are, as you claim, many other college football programs out there that play the game with integrity and real student athletes and have done better than this 2007 team and their coaches this year, taking into account their killer opening schedule and the nearly complete absence of talent in their 2004 and 2005 recruiting classes, mention a few names and you will see that there are none.
I did some quick looking about for the easiest way to answer Robert's challenge, and set forth below is what I posted in my reply over at Rakes (with minor editing for use here).


Most of what you wrote is true ...

... but not all of it, Robert.

True, the talent level in our upper classes is down. We aren't loaded with 4- and 5-star offensive linemen in the upper classes. But the guys we do have are quality Div-I athletes. Sully, Turk, Duncan were not total stiffs coming out of high school. Sam Young was VERY highly recruited (great get by CW!) and now has around 20 starts under his belt. Yet these guys are playing terribly as a unit. I am not saying they should be leading the nation in rushing yards. I am saying that we have enough talent and experience to at least be COMPETENT run blockers. Armando Allen, James Aldridge, Robert Hughes don't need big holes to get yards - they just need a crease. Instead, they are getting hit behind the line of scrimmage as soon as they get the ball.

As for other schools that "play the game with integrity and real student athletes and have done better than this 2007 team and their coaches this year" here are a few stats for you (I know how you hate facts). The following teams (in no particular order, and including Notre Dame) comprise the Top 10 programs for football graduation rates, as recently announced by the NCAA. (For comparison purposes, Notre Dame has a total of 225 rushing yards this season).

  • Navy is 4-2 overall, and has rushed for 1,742 yards this season.
  • Army is 3-4 and has 554 rushing yards.
  • Stanford is 2-4 and has 772 rushing yards.
  • Northwestern is 4-3 with 843 rush yards.
  • Duke is 1-6 with 468 rush yards.
  • Boston College is 7-0 and has 1,012 rushing yards.
  • Wake Forest is 4-2 with 875 rush yards.
  • Vanderbilt is 3-3 with 887 rush yards.
  • Air Force is 5-2 with 1,823 rush yards.

So, of the Top 10 graduation rate football programs, Notre Dame has, BY FAR, the lowest rushing totals for the season. The closest teams to us (Duke and Army) still have more than DOUBLE our rushing yards.

Do I think that Notre Dame, even with a lower level of talent than usual, has less talented players in the offensive line than the teams listed above? Worse talent than all three service academies, Duke, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, and Stanford? No, I think that Notre Dame's offensive lineman have more talent than those teams. Yet, even if you factor in our very tough schedule to date, those teams are getting more out of their O-line talent than the Irish are.

Robert, as I wrote in my blog, I still think Coach Weis is the right man for this job. He has done an amazing job recruiting. But just as he had to make a tough call for the good of the team last year by bringing Corwin Brown in, he needs a new offensive line coach.

I think you are reading more into my post than is there. I am not criticizing anyone's character or their hard work or their heart. I am criticizing the results. The results on the field indicate that notwithstanding everything else, we need to try something else in coaching the O-line.


Andrew said...

If a new OL coach is needed, then I am interested on hearing everyone's thoughts on what Latina is failing to do that someone else could? (Don't give the response that "he is not getting results.")

Latina is no slouch. His resume proves he can connect with college kidsand coach at the college level.

I don't agree with firing him just to send a message. Unless he's just not putting in the effort, the engergy, or the time.

How do we know whether its CW's practice structure that prevents him from really teaching these guys? That wouldn't be right to fire him if the problem lies elsewhere.

Mark said...

Pagna said it's tied to blocking schemes. Too few. Too simplistic.

"That's why you've got no running attack," Pagna said. "Frankly, all you do is block one-on-one. As a defensive lineman, that doesn't challenge me. Hell, I'll fight the guy in front of me all day long, and I'll win my share.

"However, if I have to worry about being trap-blocked, being double-teamed, somebody posting me, somebody driving me, somebody reaching me and hooking me, somebody cutting me off, all the various blocks that come into play, now I'm not nearly as aggressive on defense as the teams have been against Notre Dame this season.

"There might have been eight to 10 blocks we used to work on with our linemen daily, because you needed all of them. And I think truthfully, whether Charlie wants to admit it or not, by him eliminating the contact part of the sport early on this fall and in the spring, it's cost him. Now he's trying to go back and do the physical part, and it's kind of late. These blocking schemes, the physical stuff, the offensive problems aren't something you can fix in the middle of the season. It'll be an important offseason for Charlie. And he is a brilliant man in some respects."

Andy said...

When Pagna says it will be an important off-season for Charlie, it is code for Charlie should give Latina the Minter treatment as soon as possible.

Pagna is respected more than any of us bloggers, and frankly, as OC Domer has chronicled very well, our offensive line has been porous since the Spring Blue/Gold game. There is no other explanation but poor o-line coaching to explain how we can't even muster any sort of run blocking with the same Offensive Lineman Latina has trained since March.

Andrew said...

Okay, so let's assume Latina failed to teach them different blocking schemes. Is that because he doesn't know them? Does Weis know them? Wouldn't he have asked Latina "why aren't we teaching more blocking schemes"? If not, then why not?

Is it because Weis doesn't care about the run and therefore doesn't care if Latina teaches them anything other than one on one pass blocking?

Is it because Weis took the team in the wrong direction at the beginning of the season (by grasping for the spread option) and didn't allow Latina the time to teach them different schemes?

If Weis is not giving his specific unit coaches time to teach, do they need to be more verbal and complain? What if Weis doesn't take constructive input well?

OC Domer said...


Your comments imply that it is Coach Weis' fault if Coach Latina isn't coaching the right things. In a sense you are, of course, partly right. The head coach is responsible for everything that happens with the team. But your arguments would have been equally valid last year with regard to the defensive coordinator position.

Was it Coach Weis' fault that Coach Minter's defense wasn't getting the job done? Sure - in part. So should Weis have kept Minter? Or was it a good move to bring in another Coach with a different approach? I think it was good to bring in Corwin Brown, even though I could not sit here in California and tell you what, exactly, Coach Minter was doing wrong as a coach. All I knew is that what he was doing was not working.

Same thing here. I don't know what Coach Latina is or is not coaching at practice. I just know that it isn't working. We can't fire the players, Coach Weis isn't going to fire himself. We need to find an O-line coach who is, for whatever reason, a better fit for this team.

aaronb said...

I stated yesterday that it looked like the lineman are confused as to whom they are supposed to block. If the system is indeed too basic, then how do we explain this? Charlie needs to get one of Mike Shannahan's OL coaches in here to install the zone blocking scheme.