PSU Coaching - A Change of Opinion?

For months I have been posting that three coaching issues have bothered me for the past few years: O-line coaching, specifically a lack of development and the 2-coach system; special teams coaching, seemingly resolved with a new coach and more depth; and strength and conditioning. With special teams playing better I have moved play-calling into the top three because it seems to be an issue – not so much with me – due to Joe’s age.

I have argued in the past that it all goes back to the coaches, one way or another. They evaluated, then recruited, then developed, then played the kid. They chose the style of offense and defense, drew the plays, and chose the specific play for the situation. In the case of coaching, shit rolls uphill, not down.

Today I will play the devils advocate to my own beliefs and prove that PSU’s coaching staff is doing and has done a good job in terms of recruiting, development, and play-calling. The following information and stats should be taken with a grain of salt, and there are obviously holes in the data due to a small sample size…..but it fits the argument for today.

Recruiting: I included “top schools” based on people’s impressions and tried to include at least one from each conference, with the exception of the Big East. I also added Illinois since they just beat us.  Included schools in this analysis are OSU, Iowa, scUM, Illinois, ‘Bama, Florida, OK, TX, Oregon, USC, Miami, FSU, Boise St. and ND.

Looking back from the ’06 recruiting class through the most recent, PSU has had classes ranked (by ESPN, again, take it for what it’s worth) 9, 21 NR, 16, and 11. Of the above schools in those same years there were six higher ranked classes in ’06, nine in ’07, eleven in ’08, ten in ’09, and six in ’10. On average 8.4 schools in this group had a better class and 5.6 had a class that wasn’t as elite. That puts us in the 40th percentile of this elite group. Over the five years, we had one class not ranked in the top 25; the same number as OK and two less than Oregon – the top two schools in the country.

I didn’t include every school in the top 50, but this gives us a good idea that Joe’s staff is recruiting well. We had the #16 and #11 classes in ’09 and ’10 and I would tack this year – a “poorer year” – up to a small class size with a currently large under-classmen population.

Note: Illinois had the #12 and #16 classes in ’07 and ’08. Those guys are now somewhere between redshirt Sophmores and Seniors. It is no wonder they are playing better than expected for a Zook team. We had the #21 class in ’07 and weren’t ranked in ’08.

Development and S&C: So, we got good recruits, but what did we do with them?

From a macro view I can tell you that from ’06-’08 our average recruiting rank was 20. Those years are important because the ’06 class are our Super Seniors and the ’08 are Juniors – big time contributors - and that group got us a top 10 finish, at #9 last year. So, the recruits came in as the 20th ranked class on average but yielded a #9 finish, I would say that was a nice return.

Looking closer, what have we done with the individuals? Man, Iowa’s and ‘Bama’s players looked like men compared to our boys….really? The 2-deep depth chart shows that our O-line averages 301 lbs while Iowa’s is 287 and ‘Bama is 306.

RB - 212 for PSU, 218 for Iowa, and 220 for ‘Bama

WR - 200 for PSU, 208 for Iowa, and 192 for ‘Bama.

DT - 308 for PSU, 279 for Iowa, and 304 for ‘Bama.

DE - 259 for PSU, 273 for Iowa, and 291 for ‘Bama.

LB - 234 for PSU, 229 for Iowa, and 242 for ‘Bama.

They are bigger in some areas, but we have them in others.

When comparing +5 lbs and -5 lbs to OSU, Iowa, ‘Bama, OK, Oregon, and Boise, only one school has an O-line more than 5 lbs larger, but 4 have lines that are 5 lbs smaller. Looking at the same figures for the other positions we find that at:

RB - 2 are bigger and 3 are smaller

WR - 1 bigger and 4 smaller

DT - 0 are bigger and 5 smaller

DE - 3 bigger and 1 smaller

LB - 1 bigger and 3 smaller.

Our size is on par with these currently great teams.

So, we can feed them and make them bigger, but are they becoming better athletes and more productive at the next level?

Well, starting with a macro view again, I think they are; according to ESPN, PSU has 27 players on current NFL rosters. The top 10 schools are: TX 40, Miami 38, USC 36, LSU 35, OSU 34, UF 33, UGA 33, Tenn 33, Cal 31 and, scUM 29. We’re in the top 15 overall.

Looking at the last four drafts, PSU has averaged 4.25 picks per draft. Our friends in the above example have: OSU 5.5 per, Iowa 4 per, ‘Bama 3.5 per, OK 4.75 per, Oregon 3.75 per, and Boise 1.75 per. Only OSU and OK have averaged more draft picks per year than PSU out of that group. I’m happy with that. Based on current NFL players and recent drafts, I would say we are doing very well.

Strength and conditioning is hard to quantify but I think it shows up best when you look at the 7 events of the NFL combine. In 2010 our six guys were a “top performer” in their position in 2 events on average. That number is better than all of the above schools: OSU 1, Iowa 1.14, ‘Bama 0.10, OK 1.78, Oregon 1.5, and Boise 1. That says to me that we are either recruiting great athletes or making average athletes elite.

Injuries (ACLs) aside, I think overall our coaches have done a good job coaching up and building our kids.

Lastly, there have been a lot of complaints this year with play-calling. I don’t have the time to evaluate each individual play – run inside vs. outside, pass to the middle or screen, etc. But, I did look at what type of play we called on different down and distances.

For the most part, it is very difficult to guess if we will run or throw the ball on a given down and distance. The numbers below are for the first six games this year and do not account for having to mount comebacks or run out the clock:

1st down – Run 52% of the time

2nd short/middle – Run 63%

2nd long – Run 46%

-as you can see, we are pretty even on 1st and 2nd down. That makes it hard for the defense to guess. Now, of course they get keys from formations and personnel, but again, I don’t have enough time to look into all of that.

3rd down is a little more obvious and I would like to see us work on 3rd and short to get it closer to 50/50 as we run 77% of the time. 3rd and middle/long you have to throw, and we do, 85% of the time.

The actual plays called aside, I think our coaches are doing a great job of mixing it up.

I hope this was entertaining if not enlightening. It made me reconsider some of my opinions and I hope it does something for your opinions, whether strengthen or cause you to reconsider.


Supplement - PJS32000 made a good point below that the larger play calling issues seem to be in the redzone

I think our troubles start closer to the 30 yard line vs. the 20. If you check the stats we kick a lot of FGs when we stall out between the 20 and 30.
So, the number below are from the 30 yardline going in and are the % that we ran:

Overall inside the 30 = 59% run - not bad given a young team

Against Iowa and 'Bama = 39% run - surprising against 2 good/great teams

On 1st down overall = 66% - a little high

On 1st down against Iowa and 'Bama = 29% - again, surprising against these two

On 2nd down overall = 76% - that becomes obvious

On 3rd + 4th down overall = 33%

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