Monday, October 25, 2010

Predictability is offensive

I haven't loved the play calling by Tranq, but felt the bigger problem on offense is lack of execution and using a grab bag of plays and offensive philosophy. But some are starting to feel that BC is entirely predictable and at this point our players are tipping plays:
The stop of the Eagles' Montel Harris was particularly pivotal on Saturday --- and Maryland saw the play coming.

"The guards were kind of giving away their stances the whole game, so the two guards were pretty heavy up front," linebacker Alex Wujciak said. "I think we knew they were going to run the ball. Coach [Don] Brown had an awesome call for it."

Long time reader Patrick M. has a sobering assessment of our offensive ineptitude. Here is his research (which was already posted on Eagle Action):

BC is 112th in the nation in total offense --- which happens to be the worst performance of any BCS-conference school. We are converting 26.7% of the time on third down. We have been absolutely shut down by the ND defense --- 81st in the country --- and the NC State defense, 47th in the country.

There's only one ACC team that is even close to BC for offensive ineptitude --- Maryland. Maryland has converted 28.9% of third downs this, they're not much better than us, perhaps owing to the fact that they too have a freshman QB. In fact, they weren't better than us until yesterday when they converted 10 out of 19 3rd downs. That stat, of course, does not include the 2 out of 3 4th downs they converted; those two were on the same TD drive, and one was a 4th and 7, where we gave up a nearly uncontested 8 yard pass.

We have scored 14 touchdowns on offense this season. To pick a point of comparison, let's go with Dana Bible at NC State: they have scored 30 touchdowns. That is, the offensive coordinator that we wanted to run out of town has been more than twice as effective as Mr. Gary Tranquil.

We have gotten 103 first downs this season, a little more than 14 per game. Thankfully, that doesn't make us the worst BCS conference team --- only second worse, as Vanderbilt is even more futile. Of course, I'm not sure we should be comparing the ACC Atlantic defenses to those of the SEC, but that's a more subjective matter. Maryland has only gained 104 first downs this year --- although that did not stop them from marching out to a 24-7 lead.

So, if you thought you were watching a historically poor BC performance this season --- you are. I have not tracked back to the 1995 and 1996 D.H. seasons, and those (judging by the scores in our media guide) had a similar level of offensive ineptitude. But we are undoubtedly watching the worst offensive performance in more than 15 years ---- and quite likely in more than 20.

Finally, and scarily, BC's groupings might be tipping off the other team. Also from Eric Hoffses at Eagle Action:
Each game I personally chart each and every play noting whether it was a run or passing play and what type of personnel package was in the game. In the 2nd half I noticed something disturbing---Maryland cornerbacks were turned towards the line of scrimmage with their backs to the sidelines on 1st downs when they saw anything but 11 personnel on the field. I thought to myself that this was pretty gutsy. However after analyzing some data I can see why the cornerbacks were lined up like that.

First, let's look at 1st down play calling. I took every first down play, regardless if the play was negated by a penalty or not to see if there were any trends. Out of 28 1st down play calls, BC had 18 running plays and 10 passing plays. Granted one of the running plays was actually a play action pass call that Rettig had to escape the pocket and run out of, but it might have been more effective to see that run to pass ratio closer to 50/50. Also, those statistics might be skewed a little bit since BC was forced to pass so much in the 4th quarter.

My problem was less with the ratio of runs to passes on 1st down, but more with how they came. The Eagles started the game by running on 8 1st downs in a row. With Harris running pretty effectively wouldn't that have been the perfect time for a play action pass?

Perhaps the most troubling thing to me though is how predictable the Eagles were with their personnel packages. Out of Rettig's 33 pass attempts, all but one was run with 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE) on the field. The one pass play not run with 11 personnel, came out of 12 personnel (1RB 2 TE). In 12 personnel BC had 1 pass attempt and 8 rushing attempts. Out of 21(2 RB, 1 TE) personnel the Eagles had 3 rush attempts, out of 22 (2 RB 2 TE) personnel they had 6 rush attempts, and out of 23 personnel they had 2 rush attempts.

So let's break all of this down. When BC did not have 11 personnel on the field they had 1 pass attempt and 19 rushing attempts. If I can notice that do you think the Maryland defensive coaches did?

Still think talent is the main issue here?


mod34b said...

Great post. Love this "inside" the game talk. Amazing what knuckleheads we have coaching.

Maybe our OL coach does not play poker and does not know what a "tell" is. What exactly were the BC guards doing?

Scott said...

I'm concerned about coaching, and I think you ask fair questions, but the punch line is pure madness.

It truly amazes me that anyone can question whether we have a talent problem at the offensive skill positions. I defy anyone to show me a BCS program with a worse speed, experience, and playmaker skill spots.

QB: We Start a true freshman QB (who has talent), over a soph & RSF (who have no talent). Since 2005, BC has not recruited any other QB with BCS offers (i.e., a talent issue). Offenses led by true freshman (an experience issue) are necessarily simple, and yes, often predictable.

WR: A primary WR corps of 3 true freshman, and 1 RSF (i.e., our main guys have zero career receptions). Not a single one of our returning WRs had a BCS offer (i.e., a talent issue), and all combined they have less than 20 career receptions. Worse, the two best of our returning guys are Momah (a project who is slow and can't catch) and B.Flutie (who is slender and slow). It's no surprise that defenses don't view any of our WR's as a viable threat. The reality is that our best receiving playmaker is a tight end, which of course, does not force a secondary to play differently.

4) Finally, we have one good between the tackles RB, who is unfortunately small and slow, which minimizes the amount of field to defend. They don't need to worry about the flats, b/c they can beat them to the sideline. Phieffer is a clone. Montel does well, but his talents are best matched with a passing game.

Bottom line, it doesn't surprise me that the offense seems preditable, or that the defense doesn't show any respect for the passing game. That is absolutely a reflection of lacking speed, skill, and playmaking. You just can't pretend otherwise. If you don't think talent is an issue, then please point to plethora of successful BCS programs with the same or worse talent at the offensive skill positions.

That doesn't mean I'm defending the coaching, or whether I think they are developing our true freshman talent as quickly as needed. But I won't stick my hand in the sand, or pretend that this problem WAS NOT PREDICTABLE.

Big Jack Krack said...

Scott - couple your very good analysis of weakness at the skill positions with Eric's analysis "when BC did not have "11 personnel" on the field they had 1 pass attempt and 19 rushing attempts" - and in combination you have the 2010 debacle.

Simply because we don't have some of the horses this year, doesn't mean you have to run the same plays over and over and over and over.

mod10aeagle said...

mod34 -- I think by "heavy up front", the poster meant that the guards were putting more weight on the hand on the ground rather than back on their feet. This indicates their intention to lunge forward on the snap (run block) rather than shuffle back (pass block).

I think I learned that from a movie, that's how sophisticated that kind of "read" is.

John said...

Reading this makes me even more depressed. Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall and hear GDF and Spaz's private conversations. Would pay a lot of money to understand what they are saying behind closed doors. Do they really get how mad the core fan base is?

Scott said...

I wish the fan base was mad. My fear is that they will (or have) lose interest/hope, which is just as deadly on the recruiting trial. After all, Stevie D has a pretty sad hand to play with this fall, but he is able to leverage his personality and Cornell class into a really good recruiting turn around, both with the 5-6 about to sign, and the following year class.

I will also say, because I think it's no secret we can't toss it around all day, we should at least prepare ourselves for predictable plays. If the offense knows we'll run, then go double tight and bloody their nose.

A33Jim said...


I think the scene you're referring to is from that Mark Wahlberg movie "Invincible." Marky Mark teaches someone to read lineman by looking at their knuckles. If the knuckles are white, it means their weight is on the hand and they're ready to lunge, like you said.

Big Jack Krack said...

I remember our first away ACC game at Clemson in 2005. It was very hot (95 degrees), and the coaches ran in first and second unit offensive lines almost on alternate plays. I was literally sitting in row 1 at the corner of the endzone.

When we committed to the run (and we won that game in OT on the ground) we pushed those guys around pretty darned well. I yelled for the hogs the entire game "run it down their throats - run it down their throats" - and we did.

46 attempts - 164 yards rushing - 2 TDs might seem simply okay - but believe me, when we needed it, the OLine delivered; Callender was the horse, 22 for 116 yards, but Whitworth kept them honest.

24/42 attempts - 221 yards passing 2 INT 0 TDs. Almost 50% passing-rushing.

A young Matt Ryan found 10 different receivers (even after the vicious late hit) - and to Scott's point - perhaps they really were a lot better than the current young receivers we have today.

Miller (TE)
Palmer (FB)

Tight Ends Purvis and Thompson did not catch a pass, but blocked. So there again, Scott - Clemson defenders most likely knew when we were going to smack them in the mouth in 2005. We did it anyway.

I thought we were going to have that kind of OLine this year, but it hasn't worked out for several reasons. We need to get back there no matter who is coaching.

Hats off to the stout Defense that year also - holding Clemson to 13 points on their own field.

CHI_Eagle said...

finally a marky mark reference on the message board. it's about time.

Ry said...

watching the MNF game and seeing dave campo as secondary coach makes me feel like i am looking into or future. dave campo was the HC of the boys and took the demotion to go back to running the defensive type of stuff that was more his speed.

campo is, and i think spaz is as well, a good example of the peter principle.

EagleManhattan said...

Scott's post has to be a tongue-in-cheek joke right? Most of the things here completely false, and if not, gross exaggerations.

QB: Tuggle had offers from Miss St and Indiana. Hell, Davis chose us over Boise St (he certainly looks pretty good at ECU). LeGrande had UConn, Duke and Cuse. Johnson had Cinci and Rutgers.

WR: As for returning WRs, Momah had offers from Uconn and Cuse; Coleman had Vandy (who beat us) and Penn State (who would surely beat us). Not to mention, we also have the #21 ranked WR recruit in the country on the field.

Not to mention, the completely illogical idea that the amount of talent on the field is the reason that tranq puts the same exact personal on every run play to give it away.

Has to be a joke...

eagleboston said...

I've been one who has been cautious about dumping Spaz only because I don't think BC has the bucks to afford to do so and I think he inherited a bare cupboard no thanks to Jags. I believe we would owe him 3 million dollars and we would have to come up with at least a million per year to attract a new coach. Does BC have that kind of money?

However, after watching the Maryland debacle in person, I am disgusted with how far this program has fallen. I know Jags was an ass and did not recruit at all. Still, to lose to a crappy Notre Dame team TWICE, to lose to TOB, to lose 5 in a row for the first time in 12 years is inexcusable! I don't know how this can be done financially, but I want heads to roll! Bring out the guillotine!

I harped for years to fire Skinner and finally got my wish and I firmly believe BC basketball is better for it. I'm starting my harping now in the hopes that maybe 2 years from now, Spaz and Co. will be gone and BC football can return to the top of the Atlantic.

Scott said...

Seriously Eagle Manhatten, I think you just made my case.

So all of our QBs from 2005 to 2010, the best offers they can claim are BCS dormats like Miss State (or was it So. Miss), Indiana, Rutgers, Uconn? BTW Johnson's lost his his offers after a bad senior year.

AS for WRs, I said other than our 3 true frosh and 1 RSF (which includes Coleman) who has zero experience, none of our returning WRs (i.e. soph, juniors, seniors) had any real BCS offers. The best you come up with is Momah's interest from dormats uconn and cuse?

Not sure why you mentioned Legrand, but if you mean Larmond, yeah, he's good, I wish we had him on the field, but that's not what we're playing with.

I'm glad to see D.Davis is doing so much better at ECU then he did with Logan (who is a great coach I miss). But he's not here. He failed out, which at the time no one really regretted given how bad he looked as a RSF.

And my point was, name me a BCS school that has it this bad, in terms of talent, speed, and experience, at all 3 skill positions. I'm ready for a new coach too, but that won't fix everything. ATL asked "do you still think talent is an issue" and my answer is "yeah, it is."

Bgrables said...

think about the schools you just mentioned when we talked about talent. UConn, Syracuse, indiana. Those are awful awful Division I schools. If we don't get recruits over them, we should completely quit. we have zero talent at wide receiver except maybe shakim phillips in the future. Other than that have you seen an open receiver yet this year? i sure haven't. chalk up half the sacks this year to the wide receivers. They are coverage sacks because nobody is open.

EagleManhattan said...

LOL, so he was serious? Wow, so he really is completely clueless. I'm pretty sure I remember Scott stating,

"Since 2005, BC has not recruited any other QB with BCS offers" and "Not a single one of our returning WRs had a BCS offer"

which is 100% false, easily verifiable, and just completely proves how clueless he is. Why would anyone listen to someone who so obviously has no idea of the basic facts related to the topic he's talking about? He's just making "facts" up as he goes to fit his preconceived conclusions.

Legrande was a QB recruit, btw. More ignorance on your part.

Its also interesting how you've changed your statements. You said, "then please point to plethora of successful BCS programs with the same or worse talent at the offensive skill"

which is easy; go look at the rivals rankings and check out which teams are below us year after year, but many of them seem to be doing fine with that level of talent just as we have and could easily be called "successful." Gunnell was slow has hell but always got open somehow. Yet by your logic, he's useless. From 2007 onward, we basically made our way with a bunch of nobody and 2* WRs and did fine. Now we actually have some decent recruits at WR. Next time you want to make a point in the comments section try to get at least 20% of your facts right. When half you post is completely in your own imagination, it makes you seem like a boob.

EagleManhattan said...


Coleman had an offer from Penn State. Why do you conveniently ignore that? Swigert had offers from around 19 schools, including Stanford, Michigan, Pitt, Wisconsin, and Nebraska, yet somehow you seem to think he has "zero talent." I don't understand how people can be so completely willfully ignorant. Its not the players.

CT said...

Wow. People should watch the games more and not read recruiting websites. If you think Momah, a potential starting DE in the spring game, or Lee, or Coleman, would be starting on any of those non-MAC teams mentioned...I mean, yikes.

The sad part is...the problem appears to be all-encompassing. Talent is HUGELY deficient, but that could partially be compensated for by getting the guys in space. Especially in the two close losses we've had--VTech, which was much closer than the 19-0 final, and UMD, which is just straight up embarrassing. Problem is, again, no speed, no threat, no creativity. No one is defending Tranquill or Spaz. But, seriously, our typical 8 win season, which would quiet most of you, in one of the weakest conferences in the country, with an easy schedule (Clemson, ND, VT at home), isn't even feasible. 8 wins in a putrid conference would put most coaches on the hot seat. At BC, it'll get you a pat on the back and a real fun December bowl game in a city very few BC fans will travel to.

If these guys pass the eyeball test, I'm watching a different sport. Maybe it's just too much SEC football.

I hate the SEC.

Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...

EagleNY, the sad part is you think you are scoring points by pointing to guys whose best offers are as bad as follows:

QB Recruits from 2005 to Rettig:
- Flutie (none as a WR or QB, kicker only)
- R.Applegate: Please
- Dom Davis: UNLV, bowling green, Midd Tenn state
- Marsco: Bryant only
- Codi Beck: Grambling, coming from CC
- C.Johnson: you are seriously smoking something if you think his claimed offers were real. He was droped from boards heading into his senior season. Rutgers hadn't talked to him forever.
- Tuggle: Western Kentucky, Indiana, Miss. State, Miami of Ohio

WR Recruit since Gunnel:
- Lindsey: Rutgers and Kent State.
- Jarvis: none (interest from Umass, syracuse)
- C.Lee: no offers.
- Magazu: no offers, and out
- Momah: Uconn, temple (only interest from Syracuse)
- Warren Wilson (well recruited, left program in 1 year)
- Larmond (well recruited, out)

That list speaks for itself. And That's my point.

We're forced to play Frosh/RSF at QB and WR, b/c the talent above them is so pathetic. These rookies didn't beat out good upperclassman, far from it.

I kinda I've our young guys, but in a normal college run, maybe only one of these guys (probably Phillips) would see the field before junior year, by which time they can overcome limitations with savvy, study, and practice. But we're playing all of them at once.

Having to play all the frosh/RSF at once ... with virtually no talent above them ... that's what I call a rare problem.

BC has always found a way to win without 4-5 star type guys, but we were still pulling in real talent.

Go take a look at Hartsall, Matt Hassleback, Tim Hasselback, Q.POrter, M.Ryan, Crane. They were ranked from top 10 to top 30 ... much like Rettig and Suntrap.

I've never been that impressed with our WRs (or at least with how we developed them), but Gunnel, Megwa, J.Hazzard. G.Adams, discosmo, Lilly, Sele, Blackman, D.Byrant (yes I said it) ... all had real suitors ... Swiggert and Phillips fit the mold.

But it's really not that hard to see the difference.

neenan said...

CT & Scott - excellent analysis. Time for BC to end the pretense of being a top 20 wannabe team. We can't recruit real talent for a high-level team. Sure we get an outlier here and there, but not consistent quality across the gridiron. Your posts spell it out

Think we should dropout of ACC and play in a more suitable regional league. Maybe we can start an anti mega national league trend, and go local.

EagleManhattan said...

but in a normal college un, maybe only one of these guys (probably Phillips) would see the field before junior year,

More cluelessness from scott. Do we really need to point out how many freshman three and four star guys are on the two deep and even starting at other major bcs schools? Im sure everyone at those schools is lamenting how slow and talentless their players are as well.

downtown_resident said...

I'm trying to figure out why having lightly-recruited skill position talent exonerates the coaches regarding tipping the plays. Scott, please explain.

ATL_eagle said...

Once you start playing offers don't mean anything. Navy just ran all over a Notre Dame team filled with highly rated talent.

We haven't had good WR talent in 15 years. In 2003 we moved a small, slowish Larry Lester from DB to WR to compensate, yet we were still able to move the ball. Dana Bible, for all his faults, still gave us an identity and gave his skill players combo routes where someone would get open enough. But if you still believe that talent is the issue, than that alone should be an indictment of the current staff since 60% of them have been here for four years and recruited most of these players.

Darius said...

There is no talent problem.

Even with Top 10 talent--which this staff is NOT bringing in--there'd be no guarantee we'd look any better every Saturday.

More to the point, you don't need Top 10, or even Top 25, talent to win football games. The examples of particular teams comprised of nobodies that ended up in the Top 10 are myriad. And there is no shortage of programs out there that win a lot despite not having a bunch of 5-star, bazillion-offer recruits on their team, at the skill positions or otherwise.

BC used to be one of those programs. We've never had a Top 10 recruiting class. And seldom Top 25 classes. BC usually finishes in the 30s or 40s. 2009's class was the worst of the decade. But 2008's was the best. There is at least mediocre talent on our team. The current coaching regime's work in the area has been consistent within this range, in the mid 40s. Thus, there is nothing special about the players being pushed out onto the field in their true freshman seasons, any more than there's anything inherently deficient in the upperclassmen in the program.

The past skill position recruits that have gone on to the NFL or other pro leagues have, by and large, been no more heralded than the most hyped players currently on the roster. What propels unknown recruits to victories--and ultimately to the pros--is coaching. Up until this season, BC outperformed its recruiting rankings. BC coached players up. Our coaching staffs made the players better by improving technique, strength, and football smarts. But if you look what's going on now, you'll notice that everyone who's been seeing the field for more than the 2009 and 2010 seasons has markedly regressed from their performance under the previous coaching staff. These third-, fourth-, and fifth-year players were good enough to win as supporting cast members in previous years. They should be developing into the prototypical stalwarts that BC has long been known for, the sorts of reliable solid players that they looked up to as underclassmen. Instead, they're going backwards, and getting replaced by as-yet-unruined younger players. How does this have anything to do with talent?

Moreover, the previous coaching staffs--going back at least for the last thirty years--schemed to maximize the talents we did have. That too is gone now, as Eric's analysis indicates. How many times in the past season and a half have we heard, from opponents or our own players, that BC's offense was completely predictable/predicted? 5? 6? More? One thing's for sure: it's happening with more regularity. Only a few times last year, now we're hearing it every week.

The direction the program is taking is linear and unmistakable to all but the most delusional, even though the player pool has had consistent, middle-of-the-road talent. And that trend is DOWNWARD. I don't see how the situation can get any better under the current staff. Replace them today and we're better tomorrow. Just about any BCS-team coaching staff in the country could get more out of the talent that we currently have in the program. Most could steer this team to at least 8 victories. And that's good enough for just about everyone whining that we don't have any freakin' talent.


Darius said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mod34b said...

Spaz fiddling while....

(from Globe)

Yesterday, Spaziani tried to explain how he deals with the frustration in running a program that is in danger of its first losing season since 1998.

“I’ve been out front with these problems since Day 1,’’ said Spaziani. “I know I have my mind in the right frame.’’

Really, no angst about it at all?