In the first post in this two part series, we looked at the offensive production per snap based on my film reviews from last season.
To review, what I did here is simply take all players that played at least 100 snaps, tally up the points I handed out to them in film reviews over the season, and divide that by the number of snaps they played. This gives us a percentage that answers the question: On what percentage of plays did each player have a “plus-play?” A plus-play is basically completing your assignment and beating the man in front of you in dominant fashion.
Below, I have charted this out by position with returning players in bold. A couple things to consider when looking at this. 1. The backup players are often coming into the game with fresh legs against spent starters or against fellow backups from teams with less depth. 2. A plus-play on special teams happens without a snap. So, for players on special teams, that is like getting extra points. Comments and observations below.
Obviously, losing the starting front 4 is the marquee loss heading into 2019. The difference between 2019 and previous years is the lack of returning production on the interior at DT. The last time we lost both DTs was in 2014 (Jarrett and Williams), but we had Carlos Watkins, D.J. Reader, Josh Watson, and Scott Pagano coming back as well as Christian Wilkins coming in. Next year, we’re going to need totally unproven talent to step up and take the next step or three.
It’s more likely that we will be able to replace the talent we’re losing at DE. In limited time, Xavier Thomas, was more productive than Austin Bryant due to his raw explosiveness. We also have 7 other DEs that are either returning or coming in as true freshmen. You would think that at least one of those would develop into a reliable 2nd DE, especially with the already solid Justin Foster as the baseline.
The ILB position most closely resembles the DT situation. We’ve benefited from Kendall Joseph’s flexibility, Tre Lamar’s measurables, and J.D. Davis’ depth for a couple years now. Chad Smith, Shaq Smith, and Jamie Skalski have not shown to deliver the level of production of the ILBs we are losing. Chad Smith is a demon on special teams, so his production percentage is inflated. Fortunately, we have 4 freshman ILBs arriving in the fall that could potentially provide depth as the season moves along.
In the defensive backfield, 3 starters return, as well as the entire two deep at safety. After being maligned as the weakness of the team most of the 2018 season, the DBs should be a strength in 2019. Let’s look at the overall raw production from last season.
- DT, Christian Wilkins, 138
- DE, Clelin Ferrell, 118
- WLB, Kendall Joseph, 79
- Sam, Isaiah Simmons, 77
- DT, Dexter Lawrence, 75
- CB, A.J. Terrell, 73
- DE, Austin Bryant, 68
- DE, Xavier Thomas, 65
- MLB, Tre Lamar, 64
- BCB, Trayvon Mullen, 59
- WS, Tanner Muse, 58
- S, Nolan Turner, 54
- DT, Albert Huggins, 51
- WLB, J.D. Davis, 44
41.9% of all the “plus-plays” or points I handed out were to returning players in 2019, as opposed to the offensive side of the ball, which will return 74.5% of the points I handed out this past year. 4 of the top 5 most productive players will need to be replaced, as well as 8 of the top 13.
This is going to be Coach Venables’ most difficult rebuilding project since his first couple of years here. There are a lot of bodies on campus, but a lack of proven studs. Every year, we seem to get a surprise development from a guy we don’t think much of like Garry Peters, Kevin Dodd, or Ryan Carter. This will be the first time we will need that jump to be made by DTs and ILBs though. Can it be done? Sure. We’re at the point where we can trust in our (arguably, tops in the nation) player development. However, we’re also accustomed to having absolute studs up front. There is a big chasm between improvement and All American level performance. At DT and ILB, this will be the biggest chasm Venables has had to bridge.