Looking at Linebackers
Depending on Brian Toal’s recovery, BC’s starting Linebackers might be total different from the starting three from the 2005 BYU game. In other years this might be worrisome. Not so this year. I think our experienced second teamers will step in without missing a beat. (And if any of the highly touted recruits contribute, things will be that much better.) Why am I so high on our second teamers? Our historical consistency, their 2005 production and the unspoken endorsement from the coaching staff. Let me explain.
Football data is not as good as baseball or basketball data when it comes to analysis. There is a ton to track, a high degree of subjectivity and a lot of relevant information that isn’t captured. So lacking a magic stat, I looked at tackles. Even with the subjective aspect, tackles still provide a good barometer of productivity and activity for linebackers.
Historically, BC linebackers have accounted for 1/3 of our tackles.
|Year||Total Tackles||Tackles by LBs||Percent from LBs|
So the share is consistent almost regardless of the lineup. I tried to find some correlation between overall defense or returning starters but there wasn’t one. It seems to be about talent. The unit that had the least experience/productivity entering a season was 2004. The Brown-Hendu combo only accounted for 12% of the 2003 production. But with Frosh Brian Toal, the three performed great in 2004 (as did the overall defense). However 2005 is where things get interesting and speak to how deserving Dunbar, Pruitt and a lesser extent Francois were/are.
Without getting into too much detail or posting table after table (which can be tedious to build in blogger) know that I looked back over the past few seasons for detail and a pattern emerged with our linebackers -- the starters played a vast majority of snaps as long as they maintained their productivity and stayed healthy. For example once Ott got to start his numbers were consistent. Same with Flores and Ciurcui. Yet when Henderson and Brown became Seniors their playing time decreased. As did Toal’s (even accounting for his injury). Henderson’s tackles stayed the same, but he had fewer interceptions and pass break ups. Brown and Toal’s tackles declined by 37% and 31% respectively. Did the overall linebacker contribution and percent of defense decrease? No. The total tackles and percentage were in line with 2004. Who was making the plays? Dunbar (50 tackles), Pruitt (37) and Francois (28). So for the first time in five season Spaz played his experienced linebackers less than he did the previous year and our linebacker production stayed the same and total defense got better. To me that speaks to the second team’s capabilities, the coaching staff showing signs of – gasp – adaptability and most importantly the trust the staff has in the second unit.
I want Toal to return. I want the redshirt freshmen to shine. I want Akins’ switch to LB to take. Yet I am not worried about any of those things, because I think Dunbar, Pruitt and Francois will have big years if given the chance.