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Graphing the Tide: Player Graphs vs. Louisville

Folks, we’ve got a lot of running backs.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Alabama John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

“Part 2” of Graphing the Tide each week is going to be all those players charts (plus a new one for you Defense fans) that we started looking at after the LSU game last season. For a view of the teams and game as a whole, take a look at Graphing the Tide vs. Louisville.

Metric definitions

A ”successful” play, as defined by Football Outsiders, is when a play gains enough yardage to keep the offense on track, i.e., 50% of needed yardage on 1st down, 70% on 2nd, or 100% on 3rd/4th. A ”big play” (aka “explosive play”) is any play that gains ≥15 yards (run OR pass).

Total Running and Passing

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As a refresher from yesterday’s GTT, here are the total run/pass counts. Passing showed some exciting explosiveness on the day, but running the darn ball still kept the offense on schedule most reliably. Let’s break it down.

Success by Runner

Look at all those runners! And young ones, too.

This is the first time we’ve seen Najee Harris top this list! I thought I would see that somewhere in the graphs last season, but the closest time was vs. Mercer, where, in fact, Brian Robinson Jr. tallied the most attempts (successful and otherwise).

Speaking of, Brian Robinson Jr., our fourth string back, looked great here, too, with a >71% success rate on his attempts.

It’s great to see Josh Jacobs getting some real action (and traction) in this game. This chart only reflects rushing attempts on offense, so we’re not even seeing his huge special teams touchdown reflected here. Go, JJ, go!

This is our first time seeing freshman Jerome Ford anywhere in these here charts. Unfortunately he didn’t tally a successful run, but that’s likely because his only attempts came late in the 4th when we were just burning clock with every-down rushes.

We have to go down to the fifth rusher to find a QB on this list — huzzah! This is a strange looking stat-line for Jalen Hurts, who more often than not has been the leading rusher in Alabama games these past two seasons. Say what you will (and you surely have) about the resulting offense, but Jalen was usually good for a least a few explosive plays, and here we’re not seeing even a successful one. I’d venture it has to do with the offensive strategy (and encouraging Jalen to throw) more than his continued ability to run the ball.

This 9 rushers is the most I’ve seen graphing, and actually matches the total number of receivers we passed to in this game. (Usually you expect the latter number to be higher, but it’s not always the case with Bama).

Success by Passer

Well that’s new: I spy three quarterbacks in this list. How’s it going, Mac?

There’s Tua Tagovailoa, making some explosive plays happen. I’d say that this is the first time we’ve seen Tua showing “true starter” numbers here, except that the effect was actually much more dramatic in the title game vs. Georgia, where he slung the ball much more than Jalen Hurts did from half to half.

Jalen Hurts had a pretty good showing, here (really!), with a 60% success rate from 10 passing attempts. Plus, not registering any “unsuccessful catches” suggests that he wasn’t throwing as many screens and short balls as he may have in the past.

Sorry Mac Jones: I’m glad you’re getting some game time, but hopefully soon it’ll be longer stretches where you can start putting together a bonafide bar graph (truly, the QB dream).

Success by Receiver

For Alabama (of recent years), nine is a lot of receivers to show up here, and it matches the impressive distribution we saw from the title game, too.

There’s a new leader this week, with Jerry Jeudy registering the most attempts (successful and otherwise). I had my doubts after seeing Henry Ruggs III and Devonta Smith light things up at times last season, but the 2017-A-Day-hero Jerry Jeudy has stuck around and might just hold this lead receiver spot on Saturdays this year.

Devonta Smith seems to be doing a Ruggs 2017 impersonation in this game, where literally every one of his successful catches is also an explosive one. (With Ruggs it was that every catch was a TD, too, but the similarity remains). He was fun to watch in this one.

Irv Smith Jr., a Tight End, is showing up with the other receivers here, which is great news. He’s an exciting player and a personal favorite.

The sorting is a bit odd here (based on total attempts, then order of appearance), but true freshman Jaylen Waddle showing up as our third most successful receiver in his first game is truly something. We’re not even counting his success on special teams, either, so get ready for some fun stuff from this lil’ guy. I’m honestly afraid that indie-fan favorite Xavian Marks has ceded his role as “super fast small-ish receiver/returner.”

It’s fun to see some running backs in this list, but they didn’t have much success in this one. Oh well, I guess we’ll have to settle for actual downfield passing with our amazing new QB.

Success by Tackler (New!)

Hey, a new chart! Yep, I was able to pull tacklers from all of the same play by play data and line it up in a similar way. Though it’s a bit less intuitive read as the offensive ones: —in theory, you want to see a lot of tackles, but on unsuccessful plays—though players don’t generally get to choose where on the field they tackle someone. And different positions would have different expectations here: a defensive lineman should be seeing lots of tackles on unsuccessful plays, while a cornerback may rightly get tackles more often on successful (and even explosive) plays (really a cornerback probably doesn’t want to show up much on this chart).

Anyway, we’ll learn together how to ‘read’ this thing as the season goes on. Some thoughts on this game in the meantime:

This seems like a lot of tacklers. I think that’s a good thing? It’s especially good to see some young guys, like Patrick Surtain II, Ale Kaho, and Cameron Latu showing up already.

No surprise that starting Mike linebacker Mack Wilson is towards the top of the list, but boy you’ve got some folks hot on his heels, with the breakout week-1 terror Quinnen Williams coming in with as many tackles. Williams’ statline is beautiful here, just one big bar of unsuccessful attempts, built from organic Cardinal tears.

Once I re-ran these charts without the currently-injured LB Christopher Allen being counted, I saw that Saivion Smith (who Chris Allen’s number was reallocated to) was actually tied for our top tackler on Saturday. That’s a surprise. Like I mentioned, a CB probably doesn’t want to come in with so many tackles, especially from explosive and successful plays.

... so, an interesting point of comparison is the other starting cornerback, Trevon Diggs, who does not appear in the tacklers list. Whoa! There are probably a few things going on here, but it suggests that Trevon was keeping his covered receivers from catching stuff. And that’s the point. Nice job, Trevon.

Deionte Thompson is awesome. I’m not positive whether to call him a “free safety” or “strong safety” in our defensive scheme, but having him come forward to make tackles on unsuccessful plays is awesome. (I would think a strong safety would be more likely to make tackles that end up being “unsuccessful plays” but I could be wrong there).

Same as always: shout any questions or feedback you’ve got down there in the comments. Thanks and Roll Tide.