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Charting the Tide, Offensive Review | Arkansas Razorbacks

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Amari who?

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Connelly invented all of this; check out his college football analytics blog, Football Study Hall.

But first, let’s talk about Calvin Ridley

When Julio Jones arrived at the Capstone in 2008, it was as one of the country’s most heralded recruits — the crown jewel of a now-legendary class that formed the foundation of three national championship teams. When he left after the 2010 season, he was the possessor of numerous school records and in the conversation as the finest receiver even to don the crimson and white, with many leaning toward Jones over the Palmers and Newsomes and Hutsons of the world.

When Amari Cooper arrived at the Capstone in 2012, he was yet another four star in yet another ridiculous Crimson Tide recruiting class, undeniably talented yet not even the best-regarded receiver of the group (that would be Chris Black). After being overshadowed by Black in spring training, Cooper stepped up in a big way after DeAndrew White went down with a knee injury, blowing up against the Viles on his way to breaking all of Jones’ freshman records. By the time he departed for the NFL last spring, he had left the faithful breathless with his excellence at the position, “Heisman Trophy finalist” by his name and numerous school records under his belt, perhaps even supplanting Jones atop the pecking order of greatest Tide receivers.

Through the first six games of 2015, Ridley is outpacing the production of both:

Tide Receivers Through Six Games
Player Catches Yards Average TDs
Julio Jones 19 278 14.6 4
Amari Coooper 21 263 12.5 3
Calvin Ridley 31 385 12.4 3

Jones had one more touchdown and a higher average, but otherwise Ridley is clearly ahead of the other two. Of course, game 7 in 2012 was the Viles, when Cooper went for 162, and proceeded to go bonkers for the rest of the season; Jones got stronger down the stretch in 2008 as well, which is how they made it to nearly 1000 yards apiece despite being south of 300 through six games.

Now, don’t get me wrong here — six games is just six games, and there’s a lot of football yet to be played in Ridley’s time in Tuscaloosa. But if the glimpses we saw in games one through four and the superlative performances of the last two weeks are any indication, the statskeepers may have to address the receivers section in the record book again at the end of 2015, and perhaps at the end of 2017 as well. Until then, enjoy this bomb, eerily reminiscent of Cooper’s big touchdown against Florida in 2014:[1]

1 | Feel free to compare for yourself.

Mesmerizing.

Confused?

  • Air Yards — The down-the-field or vertical yardage gained on a pass play as a result of the quarterback’s throw (i.e., prior to the receiver’s involvement), as measured from the line of scrimmage. So for forward passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage, the Air Yardage would be negative. This metric is also tracked on incomplete passes — underthrown balls are measured from where the ball lands, and overthrown balls from where the intended receiver is. Balls tipped at the line or thrown away are not measured. The companion statistic on completed passes is yards after catch — the sum of Air Yards and yards after catch on a completed pass equals the yardage gained on the play.
  • Catch Rate — The number of balls caught over the number of targets for an individual, or how often a receiver makes the catch when targeted.
  • Disruptive Plays — A sum of sacks, stuffs (tackles for loss on a ballcarrier, as opposed to a QB on a pass play), blocked kicks/punts, passes defensed/broken up, interceptions, and forced fumbles. Think of these as things that got you multiple helmet stickers when you were playing peewee.
  • Distance Splits — Aside from the quarterback performance chart (which is in terms of Air Yards), all distances refer to the yardage to go for that particular down, not how much yardage would be required for a successful play (see Success Rate).
  • Percent of Total for Rushing and Passing Splits by Down — These numbers refer to the percentage of first down plays that were a rush, second down plays that were a pass, and so on, NOT the percentage of rushes that were on first down. For example, the sum of first down pass frequency and first down rush frequency will be 100%, but the sum of first, second, third, and fourth down rush frequencies will be well in excess of 100%.
  • Garbage Time — Defined as when a game is not within 28 points in the first quarter, 24 points in the second quarter, 21 points in the third quarter, or 16 points in the fourth.
  • Pass Direction — One the quarterback performance chart, the pass directions (left, middle, right) refer to the third of the field the ball was thrown to, as defined by the hash marks, relative to the direction the offense is moving (i.e., from the quarterback's perspective). 'Left' throws are to the leftmost third, 'middle' throws are to the area between the hashes, and so on.
  • Run Directions — See the figure below. Defensive letter gap terminology is on the top in blue, and offensive hole terminology is on the bottom in green. Rushes are coded as 'Left Tackle' if they head through the left B and C gaps / the 3 and 5 holes, and so on.
  • RunDirection

  • Success Rate — A 'successful' play is defined as gaining 50% of required yardage on first down, 70% of required yardage on second down, and all of the required yardage on third and fourth downs — required yardage is another term for the distance required for a first down on a given play. Success rate is simply how often a team is successful.
  • Target — The intended receiver on a pass play. All pass plays have intended receivers, with the exception of passes that were tipped at the line, thrown away, or otherwise thrown in such a manner as to render identification of an intended receiver impossible.
  • YAC — Passing Yards After Catch, the amount of yardage gained by the receiver after catching a pass. YAC + Air Yards = Passing Yards.
  • iPPPIsolated Points Per Play, the amount of Net Equivalent Points gained per successful play. This is the best explosiveness metric the advanced stats community currently has; read more about it here.
  • Line Yards — The number of rushing yards on every run attributable to the offensive line’s efforts. Read more about it here.
  • Highlight Yards — The number of rushing yards on every run attributable to the running back’s efforts. Line Yards + Highlight Yards = Rushing Yards. Read more about it here.
  • Opportunity Rate — The percentage of carries where the back has an opportunity to accrue Highlight Yards; read more about it here.
  • Running Back Rating (RBR) — An overall quality metric for running backs, this is the product of Opportunity Rate and Highlight Yards per Opportunity.
Overall Offensive Performance

Quarter Breakdown
Metric 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
Plays 23 117 19 111 15 70 21 43
S. Rate 73.9% 43.6% 47.4% 47.7% 26.7% 44.3% 38.1% 39.5%
iPPP 0.7 1.0 0.6 1.1 2.6 1.5 0.9 1.0
Pass % 39.1% 45.2% 68.4% 57.7% 42.9% 47.8% 35.0% 51.2%
P. S. Rate 77.8% 42.3% 38.5% 42.2% 50.0% 39.4% 28.6% 28.6%
P. iPPP 1.1 1.4 0.7 1.6 3.3 1.9 0.8 1.0
Rush % 60.9% 54.8% 31.6% 42.3% 57.1% 52.2% 65.0% 48.8%
R. S. Rate 71.4% 46.0% 66.7% 55.3% 12.5% 50.0% 46.2% 55.0%
R. iPPP 0.5 0.7 0.5 0.6 0.7 1.3 1.0 1.0

Observations

With the timing of Arkansas’ final TD shaking out the way it did, the Tide offense did not attempt a single down in garbage time this week — all 78 plays[2] and 34 minutes of possession were competitive time. The results on those 78 plays were mixed, with the ruthless dominance of the first quarter giving way to less-than-spectacular returns down the stretch. That first frame was something else, with the Tide putting up a success rate in excess of 70% on both rushes and passes. The result was two drives of 14 and 13 plays, going for 80 and 60 yards respectively, that chewed up over 11 minutes of clock and produced two field goal attempts.

2 | Not counting Jake Coker’s three kneeldowns.

That latter bit is really the only thing Arkansas can hang their hat on this week, as they yielded tons of yardage between the 20s in the first half, but bowed up inside the red zone. The Tide leads the conference in touchdown percentage given at least 20 red zone opportunities,[3] but were just two for five on Saturday. It should be noted that Arkansas may have gotten more than little help from the officials on the first drive of the game, when what looked like clear pass interference on Ridley went uncalled, but in general they played extremely well inside their own 20.

3 | They’re third overall if you don’t adjust for minimum opportunities, behind Kentucky and Mississippi State.

As you can see, success rates dropped as the game went on, and there are five very good reasons for that that we’ll discuss in a bit.

Formation / Playcall Breakdown
Call Plays Percent of Total Success Rate iPPP
VS.
ARKY
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
Shotgun 48 61.5% 56.3% 50.0% 44.3% 0.9 1.2
Pistol 12 15.4% 24.3% 50.0% 45.8% 0.5 1.0
Under Center 18 23.1% 19.4% 44.4% 43.9% 1.4 1.1
No Huddle 50 64.1% 62.8% 50.0% 45.8% 0.8 1.0
Huddled 28 35.9% 37.2% 46.4% 42.5% 1.2 1.3
Play Action 9 11.5% 12.6% 66.7% 51.2% 2.3 2.1

Observations

The Tide’s use of the Pistol this week was curious to say the least. Unlike previous games, where entire drives would seemingly be run out of this formation, Kiffin only dialed it up one or two plays at a time. It was its typically-efficient self, but not particularly explosive, good for an iPPP half of the Tide’s seasonal average. Under center was the big winner this week, likely due to the astonishing success the Tide had on play-action passes, which were good for a 67% success rate and an iPPP in excess of 2. This is the second week of a shift away from a Pistol and toward play-action passing from under center, which may be a sign of tailoring to the relative strengths and effectiveness of Coker and Derrick Henry.

The breakdown between no-huddle and huddled plays aligned well with the Tide’s general tendency so far this year, which, given what I designate as “huddled”, may be more of a commentary on the percentage of plays in a game that come at the start of a drive or after penalties, measurements, injuries, and timeouts. I think I saw the Tide get into a real, actual huddle just once while the clock was running on Saturday, which has been a consistent trend over the course of the season. I’m still not sure why that is, since those plays with a bit of extra time to prepare consistently get more yardage for the Tide at a comparable success rate. Aside from potentially getting more rolls of the dice to pick up yardage, where’s the benefit?[4]

4 | THROW TO THE FULLBACK OUT OF THE I MORE, LANE.

Personnel Breakdown
Group Plays Percent of Total Success Rate iPPP
VS.
ARKY
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
11 28 35.9% 38.3% 46.4% 43.8% 1.5 1.4
10 22 28.2% 25.1% 59.1% 44.7% 0.8 1.2
12 18 23.1% 16.2% 27.8% 40.0% 0.6 0.9
00 4 5.1% 1.8% 25.0% 16.7% 0.7 0.7
22 3 3.8% 2.1% 100.0% 57.1% 0.6 0.5

Observations

Single back sets with three or four wide receivers are the Tide’s bread and butter, accounting for the most explosive and efficient sets on Saturday, respectively. The latter got a big boost from Ridley’s long touchdown, which was the Tide’s longest offensive play of the year and good for over seven Net Equivalent Points. #3 on the list was 12 personnel, which is almost universally that funky look where the two tight ends are in upright stances tight to the tackles, but back a step or two from the line, with the two receivers just outside of the tight ends. I don’t recall seeing that particular set last season, but it’s one that’s gotten frequent use this year. It’s generally pretty effective as well, albeit not so much against the Razorbacks.

Down and Distance Matrix
Distance Metric Down
1st 2nd 3rd 4th
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
Short
(0-3 Yds)
Plays 2 6 4 15 4 17 0 3
S. Rate 100.0% 66.7% 100.0% 86.7% 100.0% 58.8% --- 66.7%
iPPP 0.3 0.2 0.6 0.5 0.5 0.4 --- 2.3
Medium
(4-6 Yds)
Plays 0 4 10 28 3 15 0 3
S. Rate --- 25.0% 40.0% 57.1% 33.3% 40.0% --- 33.3%
iPPP --- 0.3 0.6 0.6 0.4 0.8 --- 0.9
Long
(7-10 Yds)
Plays 31 140 8 54 5 16 0 2
S. Rate 48.4% 45.0% 50.0% 42.6% 20.0% 25.0% --- 0.0%
iPPP 1.1 1.3 1.7 1.6 1.8 1.4 --- ---
Very Long
(11+ Yds)
Plays 2 8 5 16 4 14 0 0
S. Rate 50.0% 25.0% 20.0% 37.5% 25.0% 7.1% --- ---
iPPP 1.2 1.5 0.6 1.8 1.1 1.1 --- ---

Observations

7/16 on third downs still isn’t what you want to see, but it’s a step in the right direction from the 34% the Tide’s put up so far this season. A big part of that is some improved decision making from Coker the last couple of weeks, wherein he elects to run for first downs instead of forcing throws that aren’t there. He picked up another first down doing that this week, part of 36 yards he gained on four scrambles.[5] He’s not Blake Sims in that regard — few quarterbacks are — but it sure is nice not having a statue back there.

5 | Though, uh, feel free to start tucking the ball there, Jake!

Most of the other third down conversions were Henry, who converted four of his six third down attempts, whilst certain segments of the Tide fanbase were complaining that he wasn’t any good and needed to take a seat. He’s limited in what he can do behind the line, sure, but this is an elite athlete that is an absolute monstrosity running downhill — not someone who needs to be riding the proverbial pine. Regardless, only historic, once-in-a-lifetime type backs can do it without an offensive line, which is a great segue into…

Offensive Line Performance

Rush Splits by Down, Distance, and Direction
Metric Attempts Rush % S. Rate iPPP LY/Att.
VS.
ARKY
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
All Carries 37 53.9% 49.4% 56.8% 56.8% 0.4 0.5 2.5 3.0
1st Down 20 58.8% 53.8% 40.0% 37.2% 0.6 0.7 2.1 2.6
2nd Down 12 51.9% 51.8% 50.0% 62.0% 0.5 0.9 2.3 3.7
3rd Down 5 46.7% 36.7% 80.0% 47.4% 0.8 0.6 4.4 2.7
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
6 70.0% 78.0% 100.0% 70.4% 0.4 0.6 3.6 2.5
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
5 38.5% 52.0% 60.0% 68.0% 0.4 0.6 1.5 3.2
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
21 54.8% 45.4% 42.9% 40.5% 0.8 1.1 2.5 3.3
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
5 54.5% 36.8% 0.0% 0.0% --- --- 2.0 2.2
Left
End
6 16.2% 15.5% 50.0% 52.2% 1.0 1.2 2.9 3.7
Left
Tackle
4 10.8% 11.5% 50.0% 47.1% 0.5 1.1 3.0 2.9
Middle 16 43.2% 48.0% 37.5% 43.7% 0.5 0.8 1.8 2.8
Right
Tackle
7 18.9% 10.8% 57.1% 43.8% 0.4 0.4 2.5 2.3
Right
End
4 10.8% 14.2% 75.0% 57.1% 0.7 0.7 4.1 3.7

Observations

… which was not good at all in this game. With all due respect to a talented Arkansas front seven — the ubiquitous Brooks Ellis in particular — who are not easy assignments for any line to block, the protection was lacking in this one. Many of Coker’s misfires, most notably the first interception, came with a rusher in his face, which is not a good place to work from when you have a somewhat shaky quarterback to begin with. They didn’t do much better in the run game, allowing seven carries of 0 yards or fewer, with several more involving Henry or Kenyan Drake getting nailed around the line of scrimmage, only to power forward for one or two yards.[6] Hard to get a head of steam when you have giant defensive linemen wrapping themselves around your legs before you hit the line of scrimmage.

6 | I had 75 of the Tide’s 156 rushing yards (not accounting for sacks) coming as after contact.

There were a few things to like here, however. Performance on third down was great, with four of five carries being successful, and for decent yardage as well. All six short-yardage attempts were successful, continuing a strong trend for the line on the season. Runs around both edges were the most consistent and explosive options available. However, with a visit to Texas A&M and their vaunted pass rush looming on the horizon, another performance like this one from the line may sink the Tide’s chances of escaping Kyle Field with a win.

Running Back Performance

Advanced RB Splits
Metric Attempts Opp. Rate Hlt. Yds. / Opp. RBR
VS.
ARKY
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
All Carries 37 41.7% 44.7% 1.7 4.0 0.7 1.8
1st Down 20 36.8% 36.1% 1.4 3.0 0.5 1.1
2nd Down 12 33.3% 59.2% 1.5 4.3 0.5 2.6
3rd Down 5 80.0% 36.8% 2.5 2.5 2.0 0.9
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
6 80.0% 47.6% 0.9 4.0 0.7 1.9
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
5 40.0% 50.0% 1.3 2.0 0.5 1.0
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
21 42.9% 45.2% 2.2 4.8 1.0 2.2
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
5 0.0% 25.0% --- 1.8 --- 0.5
Left
End
6 50.0% 56.5% 3.5 5.1 1.8 2.9
Left
Tackle
4 25.0% 25.0% 5.0 15.6 1.3 3.9
Middle 16 33.3% 41.5% 0.8 3.6 0.3 1.5
Right
Tackle
7 42.9% 31.3% 0.7 0.8 0.3 0.3
Right
End
4 75.0% 66.7% 1.5 1.5 1.1 1.0

Observations

As a result of the line’s struggles, it was a pretty ho-hum affair for the backs. Henry’s four third down conversions make that line of the chart pretty spectacular, but that’s offset by the rather uninspiring results on first and second down. Runs in the general vicinity of Cam Robinson were pretty good, although the multiple penalties produced by the side of the line offset this success somewhat.[7]

7 | The unsportsmanlike on Robinson was total crap, though. Bert is deplorable, and needs to go away now.

Individual RB Stats
Player Atts. S. Rate Opp. Rate HLT Yds. /
Opp.
RBR LY/Att.
VS.
ARKY
VS.
ARKY
2015 VS.
ARKY
2015 VS.
ARKY
2015 VS.
ARKY
2015 VS.
ARKY
2015
Henry, Derrick 27 51.9% 46.5% 42.3% 44.6% 2.0 5.0 0.8 2.2 2.7 3.2
Drake, Kenyan 7 57.1% 53.5% 57.1% 48.8% 1.1 2.0 0.6 1.0 3.5 3.1
Harris, Damien 3 0.0% 20.0% 0.0% 20.0% --- 7.0 --- 1.4 -1.7 1.2

Observations

As you might expect given the blocking issues, Drake was the more consistent back, with 57% of his carries going 5 yards or more. As you might also expect, Henry was a little more explosive when he got free, earning twice as many highlight yards per opportunity as Drake. This was a very grind-it-out kind of performance, with few big plays from the run games, but consistent gains that kept the chains moving and the drives alive. Damien Harris got some competitive time carries at the very end of the game, but was bottled up at or behind the line of scrimmage on each one.

Quarterback Performance

Map of Quarterbacking Excellence
Air Yards Metric Left Middle Right Totals
9 12 14 35
Behind
L.O.S
Comp. % 3/3 (100.0%) 6/6 (100.0%) 2/2 (100.0%) 11
S. Rate 100.0% 50.0% 0.0%
iPPP 1.7 1.0 ---
0-5
Yards
Comp. % 2/4 (50.0%) 4/5 (80.0%) 4/5 (80.0%) 14
S. Rate 25.0% 60.0% 60.0%
iPPP 0.7 0.8 0.5
6-10
Yards
Comp. % 0/1 (0.0%) 0/0 (---) 2/2 (100.0%) 3
S. Rate 0.0% --- 100.0%
iPPP --- --- 0.6
11-15
Yards
Comp. % 0/0 (---) 0/0 (---) 1/2 (50.0%) 2
S. Rate --- --- 50.0%
iPPP --- --- 0.6
16+ Yards
Comp. % 0/1 (0.0%) 1/1 (100.0%) 0/3 (0.0%) 5
S. Rate 0.0% 100.0% 0.0%
iPPP --- 7.7 ---

Observations

The same caveats that apply to the running back performance apply here as well, as many of the longer-developing throws were a harrowing experience for Coker on Saturday. Completion percentage was better than you thought at 71%, but even with the 81 yarder to Ridley yards per attempt was a good-but-not-great 7.7. Deep throws continue to be a dice roll, this time only connecting on one of five, with one of the four being the first interception. The six jet sweeps this week picked up a total of 41 yards, which is not terrible, really — 6.8 yards per play wins football games.

Incompletions Breakdown
Type Count Percent of Total
VS.
ARKY
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
Misfires 5 14.3% 17.6%
Defensive Wins 2 5.7% 13.5%
Drops 2 5.7% 6.5%
Offensive Errors 1 2.9% 1.2%
Penalties 0 0.0% 0.6%

Observations

Pretty typical breakdown at this point. Coker’s going to miss some, but he’s not always getting help from his receivers, and usually loses a couple to good defensive plays as well. The penalties row should have at least two entries in it, but the refs were too busy dreaming up ways to call unsportsmanlike conduct on the Tide to pay attention to what was happening on the field.[8]

8 | No, I’m not bitter — why do you ask?

Pass Splits by Down and Distance
Metric Attempts Pass % S. Rate iPPP
VS.
ARKY
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
All Passes 35 46.1% 50.6% 48.6% 40.0% 1.3 1.5
1st 14 41.2% 46.2% 71.4% 50.0% 1.4 1.7
2nd 13 48.1% 63.3% 38.5% 38.9% 1.3 1.4
3rd 8 53.3% 48.2% 25.0% 26.3% 0.9 1.0
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
3 30.0% 22.0% 100.0% 55.6% 0.6 0.5
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
8 61.5% 48.0% 25.0% 29.2% 0.6 0.8
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
19 45.2% 54.6% 47.4% 41.6% 1.8 1.7
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
5 45.5% 63.2% 60.0% 37.5% 1.0 1.7

Observations

Games like this underscore why Kiffin seems a bit too fond of play-action passes on first down, as that was the most successful play for the Tide in this game (and many others). It got dicey in a hurry on second and third downs, however, with success rates plummeting at least 30%. The Tide cleaned up on short yardage here as well, going a perfect nine for nine in that situation against Arkansas.

Receiver Performance

Individual WR Stats
Player Targets Catch Rate YAC/Catch Pts./Target
VS.
ARKY
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
Ridley, Calvin 12 75.0% 71.9% 11.8 8.1 1.0 0.9
Howard, O.J. 7 57.1% 66.7% 1.8 6.4 0.3 0.7
Drake, Kenyan 5 100.0% 73.3% 9.2 18.3 0.5 1.1
Mullaney, Richard 5 80.0% 63.2% 2.3 3.3 0.4 0.7
Stewart, ArDarius 4 50.0% 47.6% 21.5 5.5 1.0 0.4

Observations

I think this is the sort of breakdown you see moving forward, given Ridley’s strong play and the altogether frustrating experience of presumed #1 receiver ArDarius Stewart. The latter showed a flash of the potential we saw numerous times last year, taking a screen 37 yards in the first quarter, but otherwise was a non-factor. Once again there appears to be communication issues between he and Coker, as I think he ran the wrong route on the deep ball early in the fourth that drew a rare defensive holding call from the refs. Stewart appeared to be running something akin to a dig route, as he had turned toward the sideline and looked back toward Coker as the holding occurred. Coker was throwing to a spot ten, fifteen yards beyond that, which tells me they were not on the same page. This seems to happen at least once every game, and as it’s not happening with any of the other receivers, unfortunately I think that means it’s on Stewart.

Fortunately, human vacuum cleaners Drake, Ridley, and Richard Mullaney are there to pick up the slack. Ridley obviously had the biggest game, but Drake and Mullaney hauled in nine of their ten targets, often on tough over-the-middle throws. Given Drake’s catch rate and points-per-target numbers, you can make a pretty strong argument he should be getting even more touches as a receiver.

ROLL TIDE