Yesterday’s weird excursion into basketball usage stats and similarities to old Mizzou players reminded me of something: we’ve been neglecting football around here. In this case, “here” kind of means both “at Rock M Nation” and “in the Mizzou fan base.” We got hypnotized by a basketball team that was actually pretty good, and we put all of our attention into that.
We didn’t write everything I wanted us to write during the football season’s post-mortem time, but that was okay because you weren’t really reading the football stuff we were writing anyway. Basketball? Lapping up every bit of it. Football? Meh.
Over the three weeks or so between now and Mizzou’s Black & Gold game, let’s attempt to change that. Well, let’s change the part where I don’t feel like we wrote enough. I can’t change whether you click on it.
We’ll start with some wonky rushing stuff.
I’ve finally moved my treasure trove of football play-by-play data into a sql structure that allows me to more easily pull multiple years of data at once, so to start taking advantage of that, we’ll look at Mizzou rushers over the last 12 years (2006-17), starting with high-volume RBs (in this case, guys who had at least 100 carries in a given season).
Below, you’ll find a table with the following data:
- Rushes, yards, and TDs — the basics
- Success rate — the building block of most of my advanced stats stuff, a Football Outsiders measure that deems each play a success based on this definition: gaining at least 50% of necessary yardage on first down, gaining at least 70% on second down, or gaining 100% on third or fourth down. It is an on-base percentage for football.
- Line yards — Football Outsiders divvies out rushing credit to the offensive line by giving the line 100% of credit for gains of 0-4 yards, 125% of credit for losses (meaning, the line was at far more fault than the back), and 50% of the gains between 5-9 yards. So, a three-yard carry is three line yards, while a nine-yard carry is 6.5 (100% of yards 1-4, then 50% of yards 5-9). This is an attempt to show how much help a back got.
- Highlight yards per opportunity — A highlight opportunity is a carry in which, per the line yards formula, a back begins to get credit for his own rushes. Any gain with at least five yards is a highlight opportunity, so Highlight Yards per Opp is the total number of yards not attributed to the line divided by the number of highlight opportunities. It is a way to look at explosiveness.
- Marginal efficiency — Based on down, distance, and field position, you can gauge one’s expected success rate in a given situation. Compare the actual success rate to expected success rate, and you get marginal efficiency.
- Marginal explosiveness — My Isolated Points Per Play (IsoPPP) measure looks at the magnitude, i.e. explosiveness, of your successful plays. Again based on down, distance, and field position, you can create an expected IsoPPP measure. (And to say the least, one’s expected explosiveness at his 20 is different than at the opponent’s 4.) Once again, compare actual to expected, and you get marginal explosiveness.
That might be a lot to digest, but let’s dive into some numbers to see how they work.
Mizzou RB rushing stats (2006-17)
There are 17 backs in this sample. The two most noteworthy for 2018 are 2016 Damarea Crockett and 2017 Larry Rountree III. Here are their respective rankings:
- Success Rate: Crockett’s 50.3 percent is third behind only 2011 Henry Josey and 2008 Derrick Washington, while Rountree is eighth.
- Line Yards: Crockett is second behind only 2011 Josey, while 2017 Rountree is fourth behind Josey, Crockett ... and 2017 Ish Witter. The line’s run blocking was much better than we expected these last couple of years. New offensive line coach Brad Davis has a pretty high bar to clear. (And if you’re looking for proof of concept, 2015’s two primary rushers, Ish Witter and Russell Hansbrough, were at the bottom and third from bottom in this category. They got almost no statistical help from a line we know was awful.)
- Highlight Yards Per Opp: Crockett was surprisingly explosive for his size and youth in 2016, ranking fifth on this list behind just 2011 Josey, 2013 Josey (again, proof of concept), 2014 Hansbrough, and 2007 Tony Temple. Rountree was a decent ninth.
- Marginal Efficiency: As you would probably expect, this is about the same as success rate, only Crockett jumps ahead of Washington into second, while Rountree stays at eighth. And 2011 Henry Josey was absolutely off the damn charts.
- Marginal Explosiveness: Taking down and distance into account helped Crockett’s numbers — he jumped Hansbrough into fourth here, but Rountree fell slightly, to 11th.
If nothing else, this serves as a reminder of how damn good Damarea Crockett was in 2016. If he stays healthy — and holds onto the damn football — then Mizzou has not only one of the best running backs in the SEC, but one of the best second-string backs as well. Rountree’s freshman stats show him already holding his own with the Hansbroughs and Kendial Lawrences of the world. That’s a pretty exciting sign moving forward.
Here are the same stats for backs under 100 carries.
Mizzou low-usage RB stats (2006-17)
This could be a Crockett warning sign. Before he got hurt, he was seeing some regression to the mean here. His success rate fell by 1.5 percentage points despite his line yardage actually rising, and while his efficiency numbers were still fine, there wasn’t nearly as much explosiveness.
Dawson Downing, wins the Jared Culver Award. Culver made the absolute most of his 16 carries in 2011, as did Tyler Hunt with his 42 in 2015. We don’t know if Downing will get the opportunity to further prove himself, but he was a nightmare in the open field, producing the second best marginal explosiveness (behind Culver) in this sample. (His marginal efficiency, however: seventh from the bottom.)
While we’re here, let’s look at QBs, too.
Mizzou QB rushing stats (2006-17)
Among the 18 QBs with at least 10 non-sack carries in a season...
- Drew Lock ranked 11th in success rate, third in line yards, 12th in highlight yards per opp, ninth in marginal efficiency, and 12th in marginal explosiveness.
- Micah Wilson, with just 13 carries, ranked 15th in success rate, 10th in line yards, first in highlight yards per opp, 16th in marginal efficiency, and first in marginal explosiveness.
Not a lot to glean here (besides the fact that James Franklin was crazy-efficient — 52 percent rushing success rate in 2011, 59 percent in 100 non-sack carries in 2013), but like Downing, Wilson certainly made the most of his rare open-field chances. If nothing else, we can see why Derek Dooley is tinkering with getting him on the field as a part-time receiver.
And just for fun, here are the non-QB and non-RB rushers of recent Mizzou lore:
Mizzou non-RB rushing stats
This is not something Mizzou utilized in 2017, but if nothing else, let’s use this as a chance to a) get dreamy eyes about Jeremy Maclin once again, and b) give one last shout-out to Josh Augusta, whose short-yardage success was wonderful.