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Charting the Tide, Offensive Review | Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

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After four games, it's time to talk Coker vs. Bateman.

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 the quarterback competition.

That is, let’s talk about the lack of one. Repeat after me, folks: Jake Coker, warts and all, is the starting quarterback of the 2015 Alabama Crimson Tide.

I bring this up in part because of a conversation that started in yesterday’s edition of Josh Chatham’s routinely excellent Initial Impressions series. After another seemingly uneven performance by Coker, there is still a segment of the fan base that thinks Cooper Bateman should be at the helm.[1] Certainly, Bateman did some good things in his limited reps against quality competition, but do the stats support him being the starter?

1 | A smaller segment is still on the Alec Morris bandwagon.

Bateman vs. Coker
Metric Bateman Coker
Comp/Att. (%) 13/18 (72.2%) 58/107 (54.2%)
Yards (YPA) 98 (5.44) 684 (6.39)
INT Rate 5.56% 3.74%
20+ Yard Throws (Rate) 2 (11.1%) 15 (14%)
Throws 0 Yards or Less (Rate) 9 (50%) 25 (23.4%)
Success Rate 27.7% 37.4%
iPPP 1.74 1.42

Two big, big caveats here. One, as is typical in this space, these stats are filtered for garbage time. Two, as a result Bateman’s sample is only 18 throws, which is really, really small.

I’ll admit, once I put the chart together there’s more of an argument to be made here than I anticipated. In terms of traditional stats, Bateman is clearly the more accurate quarterback with a near 20% advantage in completion rate. Coker’s gotten more out of his throws with about a yard edge in YPA. He’s thrown more interceptions, but Bateman has thrown them at a slightly higher rate.

In terms of charting results and advanced metrics, some of those numbers start to make sense. The main reason Bateman’s completion percentage is so high is half of his passes don’t go beyond the line of scrimmage, a rate over twice as high as Coker’s on the same throws. Coker throws bombs at a slightly higher rate, and I mean bombs — Bateman’s two attempts at 20+ yards were right at about 30 yard through the air, whereas Coker has chucked seven in excess of 40 yards. Coker’s had the slightly higher success rate, but Bateman, surprisingly enough, has gotten more value out of his successful throws.

So what does this tell us? Again, it’s hard to say with such a limited sample on Bateman, but it’s clear Coker has the bigger arm and that the coaching staff is more confident in his ability to make downfield throws. The fact he has a higher success rate in spite of all those missed bombs suggests he’s sufficiently accurate on the intermediate stuff as well, and none of this takes into account what has appeared to be numerous instances of miscommunication between him and his receivers. While I’m sure some of that is on Coker, it’s hard to say how much.

On the other hand, the playcalling with Bateman clearly leans toward the conservative, with the intent of those super short throws being to rely more on the skill player to pick up yardage than the quarterback. Couple that with some interesting decisions on the read option plays that were slated to be his role in the offense, and at this stage the decision seems readily apparent. To echo what Josh said in his piece, the way forward here would be to rein in some of these errant deep balls until Coker can get on the same page with his receivers, focus on the intermediate passing game to keep the defense honest, and above all…[2]

2 | RUN THE DAMN BALL, LANE! MAKE THEIR ASSES QUIT, LANE.

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.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
Plays 24 82 18 77 9 51 0 22
S. Rate 41.7% 35.4% 50.0% 48.1% 44.4% 52.9% --- 40.9%
iPPP 0.7 1.0 0.7 1.1 1.5 1.4 --- 1.1
Pass % 50.0% 50.0% 50.0% 59.7% 33.3% 49.0% --- 66.7%
P. S. Rate 25.0% 30.0% 44.4% 41.3% 33.3% 40.0% --- 28.6%
P. iPPP 0.7 1.3 0.9 1.6 2.3 1.4 --- 1.1
Rush % 50.0% 50.0% 50.0% 40.3% 66.7% 51.0% --- 33.3%
R. S. Rate 58.3% 42.5% 55.6% 58.1% 50.0% 65.4% --- 71.4%
R. iPPP 0.7 0.8 0.5 0.6 1.2 1.3 --- 1.1

Observations

Switching the order up a bit this week so that the oh-so-important discussion about garbage time can happen at the top of the article. This week, garbage time commenced about nine minutes into the third quarter, after fullback (!) Michael Nysewander rumbled (!!) 19 yards for a touchdown on a pass to the flat out of the I formation (!!!) to put the Tide up 24-0 — a play that compelled Gen X’rs and older[3] to wax poetic at the resurgent supremacy of old-school football. In truth, we’ve seen that play often over the years — Roy Upchurch beat API in 2009 on a variation of this play, and former great Tide fullbacks Le’Ron McClain and Jalston Fowler made a living off it — but it never, ever gets old.

3 | As well as some classically-inclined Millenials such as myself.

At any rate, some interesting results here this week. As the game wore on, the success rate on rushes dropped, although the iPPP perked up a bit in the third. That rushing success proved to be quite the panacea for the passing game, which had been pretty moribund in the first half,[4] but was lethal on limited attempts in the third. I’ll let you fill in the clichés about establishing the run yourself.

4 | A lot of this was on the receivers, as we’ll discuss later.

Formation / Playcall Breakdown
Call Plays Percent of Total Success Rate iPPP
VS.
ULM
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
Shotgun 24 47.1% 59.3% 41.7% 41.8% 0.6 1.3
Pistol 21 41.2% 27.4% 47.6% 50.0% 1.0 1.0
Under Center 6 11.8% 13.3% 50.0% 40.0% 1.1 1.0
No Huddle 34 66.7% 64.2% 41.2% 45.5% 0.9 1.1
Huddled 17 33.3% 38.5% 52.9% 41.4% 0.8 1.2
Play Action 6 11.8% 12.8% 33.3% 37.9% 1.5 1.7

Observations

The Pistol was working again this week, and as a result the Tide lined up in that formation almost as often as they lined up in the Shotgun — well above the season average. Under Center looks were great this week as well, albeit in limited usage.

The Tide is a no-huddle team now,[5] as that seems to be the go-to when the clock’s running. Oddly enough though, the 33% of plays where they have time to talk — whether it be due to a timeout, penalty, injury, whatever — they were significantly more successful, with comparable effectiveness per iPPP. Play action passes continue to be the most effective plays run by the Tide.

5 | And despite keeping it “close to the vest” this week, we saw what appeared to be HUNH Pistol? What a world.

Personnel Breakdown
Group Plays Percent of Total Success Rate iPPP
VS.
ULM
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
11 22 43.1% 40.4% 45.5% 41.9% 0.8 1.4
12 12 23.5% 12.2% 58.3% 50.0% 0.9 0.9
21 7 13.7% 10.4% 42.9% 58.3% 1.2 1.0
10 6 11.8% 22.6% 16.7% 40.4% 0.4 1.3
20 3 5.9% 10.0% 33.3% 43.5% 0.4 0.8

Observations

Despite blowhard commentator Matt Stinchcomb’s[6] assertion that the Tide doesn’t use many two-back sets, they operate out of those looks at least 20% of the time per the charting results from someone who actually watches them play. 11 personnel continues to be the Tide’s preferred look, as the usage has remained steadily around 40%. 12 personnel was used about twice as often as it normally is in this one, at the expense of the typically more effective 10 personnel.

6 | Andre Ware’s just a doofus. This guy was an… aggressive doofus. I guess he did go to Georgia.[7]

7 | SHOTS FIRED.

Down and Distance Matrix
Distance Metric Down
1st 2nd 3rd 4th
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
Short
(0-3 Yds)
Plays 0 4 3 10 4 10 1 3
S. Rate --- 50.0% 66.7% 80.0% 0.0% 50.0% 100.0% 66.7%
iPPP --- 0.2 0.5 0.5 --- 0.4 0.4 2.3
Medium
(4-6 Yds)
Plays 0 4 5 15 3 11 1 3
S. Rate --- 25.0% 40.0% 73.3% 66.7% 45.5% 0.0% 33.3%
iPPP --- 0.3 1.0 0.6 0.7 0.9 --- 0.9
Long
(7-10 Yds)
Plays 23 97 7 41 2 11 0 2
S. Rate 56.5% 44.3% 42.9% 39.0% 0.0% 27.3% --- 0.0%
iPPP 0.8 1.3 1.3 1.6 --- 1.2 --- ---
Very Long
(11+ Yds)
Plays 0 4 1 9 1 8 0 0
S. Rate --- 25.0% 0.0% 44.4% 0.0% 0.0% --- ---
iPPP --- 1.8 --- 1.9 --- --- --- ---

Observations

After a solid performance on third downs against Ole Miss, the Tide was back to piddling around on that critical down in this one, going just 2 of 10 while the game was still in doubt and 2/13 overall. That’s inexcusable, particularly against a defense as terrible as Monroe’s. Particularly egregious was the 0/4 performance on third and short, which the Tide was previously 5/6 on for the season. First down performance was up a tick in this one, with a significant increase in success rate accompanied by an unfortunate downturn in iPPP.

Offensive Line Performance

Rush Splits by Down, Distance, and Direction
Metric Attempts Rush % S. Rate iPPP LY/Att.
VS.
ULM
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
All Carries 23 52.9% 45.4% 65.2% 62.6% 0.5 0.6 4.0 3.3
1st Down 11 56.5% 50.9% 54.5% 38.8% 0.8 0.8 4.5 2.8
2nd Down 9 62.5% 50.0% 55.6% 71.0% 0.7 0.9 3.9 4.5
3rd Down 3 30.0% 25.6% 33.3% 50.0% 1.0 0.5 2.6 1.9
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
5 75.0% 77.8% 40.0% 66.7% 0.5 0.7 2.1 2.4
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
4 55.6% 57.6% 75.0% 72.2% 1.0 0.6 5.4 3.9
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
14 50.0% 41.2% 50.0% 41.5% 0.8 1.2 4.3 3.7
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
0 0.0% 14.3% --- 0.0% --- --- --- -1.5
Left
End
6 26.1% 17.6% 83.3% 56.3% 1.1 1.2 6.0 4.0
Left
Tackle
3 13.0% 12.1% 33.3% 54.5% 0.4 1.3 4.2 3.7
Middle 10 43.5% 48.4% 40.0% 52.3% 0.6 0.8 3.0 3.1
Right
Tackle
1 4.3% 6.6% 0.0% 16.7% --- 0.5 -1.2 1.3
Right
End
3 13.0% 15.4% 66.7% 57.1% 0.5 0.7 5.2 3.7

Observations

As would be expected, the line got good push against an overmatched Warhawk defensive front, earning 4 Line Yards per attempt overall, which exceeds their seasonal average before the game by almost a yard. The short yardage numbers reflect what the down and distance chart showed, in that rushing performance in these scenarios was poor across the board. Runs straight up the gut weren’t great this week, but the outstanding results out of the Pistol — looks which saw the backs go around the edges often — more than made up for that.

Running Back Performance

Advanced RB Splits
Metric Attempts Opp. Rate Hlt. Yds. / Opp. RBR
VS.
ULM
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
All Carries 23 56.5% 48.2% 2.3 4.7 1.3 2.3
1st Down 11 54.5% 36.4% 2.6 4.1 1.4 1.5
2nd Down 9 66.7% 73.3% 2.0 4.3 1.3 3.1
3rd Down 3 33.3% 20.0% 3.0 2.5 1.0 0.5
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
5 40.0% 46.2% 0.8 6.1 0.3 2.8
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
4 75.0% 58.8% 3.8 2.1 2.9 1.2
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
14 57.1% 47.2% 2.2 5.5 1.3 2.6
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
0 --- 0.0% --- --- --- ---
Left
End
6 83.3% 62.5% 4.2 5.6 3.5 3.5
Left
Tackle
3 33.3% 30.0% 1.5 19.2 0.5 5.8
Middle 10 40.0% 46.2% 1.1 3.7 0.5 1.7
Right
Tackle
1 0.0% 16.7% --- 0.5 --- 0.1
Right
End
3 100.0% 64.3% 1.2 1.6 1.2 1.0

Observations

As would be expected given the previous chart, around the ends were the money plays for the backs in this one. All three runs around the right end made it at least five yards, but the five successful rushes around the left end were particularly explosive. The Tide backs averaged a little over nine yards a carry in this direction, producing an RBR of 3.5, which is right in line for this season. Aside from some outstanding containment by the Ole Miss defense last week, Tide runs to the outside have been difficult to stop this season.

Individual RB Stats
Player Atts. S. Rate Opp. Rate HLT Yds. /
Opp.
RBR LY/Att.
VS.
ULM
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
Henry, Derrick 12 41.7% 52.6% 41.7% 47.1% 1.7 6.3 0.7 3.0 3.4 3.4
Drake, Kenyan 9 66.7% 51.6% 77.8% 51.6% 2.1 2.3 1.7 1.2 4.5 3.3
Harris, Damien 2 50.0% 50.0% 50.0% 50.0% 7.0 7.0 3.5 3.5 5.5 5.5

Observations

The Next Great Tide Back got two non-garbage carries this week, and while Damien Harris picked up middling yardage on the first, he took the second on a nifty run around left end for 14 yards. Kenyan Drake was the man in this one, as his exciting whirling dervish impression on several runs elicited fervent applause from the faithful in attendance. He was the beneficiary of slightly better blocking this week, but he’s now even with Henry on the season in terms of Line Yards per attempt. He took his carries five yards or more over 30% more often than Henry did against the Warhawks, and got a bit better yardage on those carries as well. It sure is nice having two outstanding running backs to pick up each other’s slack.[8]

8 | It’s been even nicer to have that for the seventh year in a row.

Quarterback Performance

Map of Quarterbacking Excellence
Air Yards Metric Left Middle Right Totals
6 6 10 22
Behind
L.O.S
Comp. % 0/0 (---) 0/0 (---) 2/2 (100.0%) 2
S. Rate --- --- 50.0%
iPPP --- --- 0.8
0-5
Yards
Comp. % 2/3 (66.7%) 2/2 (100.0%) 1/2 (50.0%) 7
S. Rate 33.3% 50.0% 50.0%
iPPP 0.4 0.3 2.3
6-10
Yards
Comp. % 1/1 (100.0%) 1/2 (50.0%) 1/3 (33.3%) 6
S. Rate 100.0% 50.0% 0.0%
iPPP 1.8 0.4 ---
11-15
Yards
Comp. % 1/1 (100.0%) 1/2 (50.0%) 0/0 (---) 3
S. Rate 100.0% 50.0% ---
iPPP 1.0 1.0 ---
16+ Yards
Comp. % 0/1 (0.0%) 0/0 (---) 0/3 (0.0%) 4
S. Rate 0.0% --- 0.0%
iPPP --- --- ---

Observations

This was all Coker this week, as Bateman did not see the field until the fourth quarter.[9] By now the script should be familiar to you – high accuracy on the short throws with middling results, decent success on the intermediate throws, and revulsion-inducing numbers down the field.

9 | He completed his lone pass attempt to the infrequently seen but oft-desired Daylon Charlot.

However, this week it’s not all on the QB. As we’ll see in the next few charts, this was not an outstanding game from the Tide receiving corps. There were numerous drops in this one, and Coker’s INT, as indicated by Coach Saban at halftime, was clearly a result of him being hit as he threw. At times the throws were a little high or a little low, but in general Coker threw the ball well this week.

Incompletions Breakdown
Type Count Percent of Total
VS.
ULM
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
Misfires 4 16.7% 19.2%
Defensive Wins 5 20.8% 16.0%
Drops 3 12.5% 6.4%
Offensive Errors 0 0.0% 0.8%
Penalties 0 0.0% 0.8%

Observations

See what I mean? His percentage of misfires was actually down a bit from what I saw, replaced by three bad drops by the receivers in non-garbage time and some heady play from the Warhawk defense. In addition to the one time they got to Coker during the throw, Monroe’s preference for man coverage provided opportunities for a couple of pass breakups, and poor protection forced a couple of throwaways.

Pass Splits by Down and Distance
Metric Attempts Pass % S. Rate iPPP
VS.
ULM
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
All Passes 24 47.1% 54.6% 33.3% 36.0% 1.0 1.5
1st 10 43.5% 49.1% 50.0% 43.4% 0.9 1.6
2nd 6 37.5% 74.4% 33.3% 35.1% 1.6 1.5
3rd 7 70.0% 50.0% 14.3% 27.6% 0.4 1.0
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
2 25.0% 22.2% 0.0% 33.3% --- 0.4
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
4 44.4% 42.4% 25.0% 35.7% 0.4 0.9
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
16 50.0% 58.8% 43.8% 37.9% 1.1 1.5
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
2 100.0% 85.7% 0.0% 27.8% --- 1.9

Observations

That success rate on third downs, indicative of a single successful completion, is putrid and wholly unacceptable. Four balls were completed, with the balance comprised of an overthrow, a drop, and a breakup, but the completions were just a bit short of the mark. Two ended up just a yard away from the line to make, and as I recall they were slightly off-target throws that made a successful conversion difficult. That’s unfortunately been a common issue with both quarterbacks, and really makes you yearn for Blake Sims’ ultra-quick release and pinpoint accuracy on the short throws.

Receiver Performance

Individual WR Stats
Player Targets Catch Rate YAC/Catch Pts./Target
VS.
ULM
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
VS.
ULM
2015
Season
Stewart, ArDarius 7 28.6% 45.7% 0.0 3.9 0.3 0.3
Ridley, Calvin 7 57.1% 62.5% 6.0 3.7 0.5 0.4
Mullaney, Richard 2 100.0% 71.4% 0.5 8.2 0.3 0.9
Howard, O.J. 2 100.0% 55.6% 3.0 3.1 0.3 0.5
Sims, Cam 2 50.0% 50.0% 0.0 0.0 0.5 0.5

Observations

I’m starting to feel bad for ArDarius Stewart. He was so tantalizing pre-injury last year, but this has been a rough, rough start to the season for Amari Cooper’s heir apparent. To be fair, he’s often the target on the deeper throws that have rarely been successful for Coker, and many of those balls were not remotely catchable. Personally, I’m hoping we see a little less of those moving forward and more of the higher-percentage stuff underneath, because at this stage the bombs are essentially wasted downs.

Calvin Ridley is definitely the next man up after the season-ending injury for Robert Foster. He was unfortunately the target on several errant throws from Coker, but made the most of his catches, accounting for 24 YAC in non-garbage time, which was half of the Tide’s production in that regard. He’s only going to get better as the season wears on, which will be fun to watch in the latter stages of the schedule.

ROLL TIDE