We have reached the halfway point of the season. I don't know whether to weep, ignore, or, after how ugly it was Saturday, be thankful. That said, there was a lot of interesting stuff to take from the 48-31 debacle on Saturday.
After flirting with being even just a little bit diverse during some of the first five games, the Aggies said "Ah, screw it!" and decided that they were going to line up with four wide receivers and just throw the ball. Over and over. As you can see below, we ran 93 plays, and on an whopping 88 of them, we used 10 personnel (four wide receivers) and either ran our normal spread formation (2x2) or trips formation, with a few variations (a wide trips, which is basically our version of a bunch formation, and trips into the boundary, which we've toyed with a few times this year).
In re-watching the game, and our use of nothing but four wide, I did notice a personnel change that I don't feel like has been mentioned much. Joshua Reynolds continues to start at the Z position. He has previously been backed up by Jeremy Tabuyo. But this week, Kyrion Parker was his backup (in limited action, though he was targeted twice and made one catch). So where did Tabuyo go? As far as I can tell, he moved over to the Y position, backing up Boone Niederhofer, who was filling in for Malcome Kennedy. Sabian Holmes, who if I recall correctly (though I'm not 100% sure) has seen time at both inside receiver spots (Y and H) but this week exclusively played the H spot, backing up Ricky Seals-Jones.
So all of that to say that there has been some message-board criticism of Niederhofer this week, and people wondering why he played so much. I'm not getting into that, but I think a possible answer as to why he played so much (well over 80 snaps, I believe) was because his backup, Tabuyo, just moved to that position last week. Parker getting healthy caused a chain reaction of movement, along with Kennedy being out. And Sabian Holmes, who I *think* can play both Y and H, moved over to Y and backed up Ricky Seasl-Jones since Cam Clear only played five snaps. Ultimately, we should be better and more deep going forward as Parker gets his feet wet on the outside and Niederhofer and Tabuyo provide depth at the Y position. Now, moving on...
Success rate, my favorite thing to track. But it was bad. Oh so bad. For the second straight week, under 50%. Those are not numbers we are accustomed to seeing. We are normally about a 60% team.
And here are the updated numbers on the running backs.
And lastly, Kenny Hill's numbers. You'll recall that last week, Arkansas never once blitzed, they always played with four down linemen who rushed. MSU was similar, just not as extreme. The vast majority of the time, it was four down linemen, four rushers. Out of 71 dropbacks, 56 times they rushed four.
And now his targets chart. This game saw all four touchdown passes go to the outside receivers (two to X, two to Z), while all three interceptions came when targeting the inside receivers. The outside position continues to be far away the big play, high rating throws, while the inside positions, especially the Y, are getting the most targets, but the lowest efficiency. I'm not saying that to be critical, as each position has a role to play. It's just apparent that our big play threats are our outside receivers, and as of now, our inside receivers are more of the "possession" type of guys. Our X and Z positions are averaging a combined 11 yards per attempt, while the H and Y are getting just 7. And you can see the TD:INT ratios too. Does that mean anything? I don't know, I'm not the coach. They all need to catch the ball better, I know that much.
So in scouring the numbers and watching, here are a few other trends I've picked up on.
- When the Aggies do not have a tight end in the game, we drop back to pass 78% of the time.
- When we do have a tight end in the game, including our power sets, we only drop back to pass 30% of the time.
- When we are in 11 personnel, with one tight end and three wide receivers, we drop back to pass 37% of the time.
- On 1st downs, we drop back 65% of the time.
- If you look back at the success rate by down and distance chart, you'll notice that our full game success almost always mirrors our first down success. The Aggies need to do a better job on first downs.
- The smallish anomaly of the group was the first game of the year. We were decent but not great on first down, but we made up for it by absolutely dominating 3rd downs, even 3rd and long. Looking at our 3rd down success from that game to the rest shows that we just had "one of those nights" against South Carolina, in a good way.
- I wonder if Cam Clear is healthy. I'm not the first to speculate on it obviously, but with the lack of snaps, it makes you wonder. And then I did see him get completely blown up when we lined up in our squeeze formation and tried to run Carson to the edge on Clear's side. Clear couldn't do anything and his man tackled Carson for a two yard loss.
- Tempo. We aren't really using it to our advantage as far as I can tell. We were pretty fast at times in 2012, and then not as fast in 2013, but the thought was that we slowed down because McKinney was relaying plays to the sideline and then they were signaling it on from there, so theoretically now that Spav is calling plays directly from the sideline, we should be able to go really fast. Also the thought was that we had a new center last year, but this year he is experienced and we can push the tempo. And we just don't. We aren't slow, but we aren't really using tempo to our advantage IMO.
- And before leaving the tempo topic, I have to point out that I thought our coaches really dropped the ball twice on Saturday when we had questionable plays that were called in our favor, and rather than hurry up to avoid a replay, we took our sweet time and ended up having the plays reviewed. Failure to hurry up cost us a 40 yard pass to Speedy. That is poor coaching. Little things like that drive me crazy.
- Play action passing. This goes hand in hand with the much-discussed topic of how much we do or do not run, but the fact is, we hardly run any play action. I'm not talking about packaged plays with a run/pass option, I'm talking a true play action pass where we sell the run to suck the linebackers and safeties up and then throw behind them. When we do it, it works. But we rarely do it. We need to run more, and with that, we need to do more play action. I thought Spav would bring that to the offense because he used it some in the Chicken Bowl, but just like his use of Clear that game, I guess it was a false indicator.
- We only ran three play action passes against MSU. All three were successful. For the year, we are successful 72% of the time when we run play action and average 13.4 yards per play.