Saturday, July 26, 2008

Return of the Sack (Once Again)

**I know that this is rough, has multiple grammar mistakes, needs the note about the former Defensive Ends Coach JG and the note about DT's last year. It will come but I am out of town till tomorrow afternoon.**

This off-season, FSU HC Bobby Bowden opined that the team did not generate enough pressure on the quarterback. FSUncensored decided to take another look. For the purposes of this study, I looked at ACC games (excluding Duke), and Non Conference games against BCS opponents. I limited the study in this way so the numbers won't be skewed by huge totals against extremely inferior opponents who were forced to pass on every down in the second half of games.

'04: 7.8% 25 Sacks over 322 Dropbacks in 9 games. Teams Excluded: UAB, Syracuse, Duke.
'05: 9.0% 33 Sacks over 366 Dropbacks in 10 games. Teams Excluded: The Citadel, Duke. Syracuse.
'06: 6.8% 18 Sacks over 266 Dropbacks in 9 games. Teams Excluded: Troy, Rice, Duke, Western Michigan.
'07: 6.4% 27 Sacks over 424 Dropbacks in 11 games. A sack every 14.7 dropbacks. Teams Excluded: UAB, Duke.

Sack rate is the most effective way to measure sacks because it takes out the naturally occurring variance that results from game to game. A good sack rate is 8.5%. The top teams in the country have sack rates of about 10.5%, but they probably average around 9% against their good competition. Since that is the filter I applied, that is the number we will shoot for. 6.4% for FSU is bad.

What are some possible reasons for this dropoff in sack rate?

Kevin Steele coming, and going.
Talent drop (defensive ends and linebackers)
Jody Allen
Playing in close games resulting in more uncertainty as to the play call

Let's use this chart to help us find the answers:


DE Sacks

Total Sacks

% of Total






No Data

No Data

No Data

























I couldn't find reliable records for 2001, but the data clearly trends downward, yet there is a glimmer of hope in last season's numbers.

Idealism: The more pressure your defensive line creates, the less need you have for blitzing, and the more men you can devote to coverage.

I do think that FSU blitzed more under Kevin Steele, who coached FSU's linebackers from 2003-2006. Steele was a known fan of the 3-4 defense, which features a lot of blitzing. In Steele's first year, FSU had 55% of sacks from the defensive ends, compared to 79% the year before. I think Steele's blitzing attitude did make Mickeyt want to send the guys more often, and as a result, our defensive ends picked up some 3-4 tendencies. Our LB's sack totals were consistently high under the Steele regime. The Overall sack totals were also down. The blitzing may not have been entirely because of Kevin Steele however, because the secondary has played very poorly over the past 3 years (#74 in 2005, #43 in 2006 and # 50 last year, in adjusted pass efficiency defense. Interestingly, In 2007, ChuckTheChest (Chuck Amato, you know him from The Weatherford Report ), became the LB coach again, and the LB's stopped blitzing all of the time. FSU's defensive ends contributed 43% of the team's sacks. Conclusion: Kevin Steele did not hurt the sack rate overall, but did somewhat change the way our defensive ends play. This hurt FSU's image as "D-End U"

Sacks come primarily from 2 sources; linebackers and defensive linemen. The linebackers have not decreased in talent. The defensive ends (and to a smaller extent the tackles) probably have. In the typical pattern of the recruiting practices from 2001-2006, FSU recruited
Brian Coulter , an excellent defensive end prospect who could never get in. He is now at Missouri. FSU struggled to bring in talented edge rushers over the past few years, specifically during the Steele era. Here is a quick synopsis of the edge rushers FSU brought in under the Steele Era (2004-2006, 2003 doesn't count because he didn't impact the 2003 recruiting class.) I scored them using Phil Steele's PS#, a measure of where they rank vs. all other defensive linemen. Obviously they would rank higher if rated only against defensive ends as opposed to linebackers.

Justin Mincey, PS # 17-- Moved to defensive tackle @ 275+LBS. He didn't have the speed to be an edge rusher at that size.

Neefy Moffet, 6-1, 260, Sr. PS # 10LB-- Decent member of the current defensive end rotation. He is a bigger defensive end however, and isn't really an edge rusher.

Brian Coulter, PS #?-- super highly rated defensive end prospect, never could qualify.

Kevin McNiel, 6-2, 255, Jr. PS #217-- good prospect. Involved in a car accident and missed '07 season.. 3 Sacks Freshmen year. Currently a Junior. Not the quickest guy, similar to Moffet (above).

Jamar Jackson, 6-4, 232, So. PS # 48LB-- blew out knee, now reportedly healthy. Light enough to get around the edge. Should be a solid member of the rotation this year.

Everette Brown (at left), 6-4 250, Jr. PS # 23LB-- Stud. 6.5 sacks last year as the primary starter. He is rated a top 10 defensive end prospect and is a definite first day prospect (top 3 rounds) should he leave this year. At 6-4, 250 he is quick enough to get around the edge. The crown jewel of FSU's defensive end stable and really the only one who has a clear NFL future at this point. He should help the end on the opposite side because he demands a double team every time the qb drops back. FSU has not had a first round defensive end since Kamerion Wimbley in '06 (2005 senior season), and Everette clearly stands out as the next. Who will be the end on the opposite side?

Markus White, 6-4 250, Jr. PS#2 among Juco DE's. 24.5 sacks last year at Butler JUCO. Named national junior college defensive player of the year. 24.5 sacks at a high level junior college is impressive. Some guys have a nose for the ball and it appears that Markus (sic) has just that. His film seems to show someone with great explosion and anticipation. His outstanding attribute seems to be his first step quickness. White has clear NFL potential and it would not surprise me to see both White and Brown leave after their junior years.

FSU should have it's best season from its defensive ends since 2002. Bolstered by the addition of White, the continued progress of Brown, the health and maturity of Jackson, Moffett, and McNiel, it is perfectly reasonable to expect the defensive end rotation to be the Acc's best and they should reach 24 sacks in '08 (8 each from Brown and White, with the other 5 in the rotation contributing about 1.5 each.)

FSU has recruited a slough of talented defensive end prospects in the '08 and '09 (unsigned) recruiting classes. It appears that Chuck Amato's prowess in developing several NFL defensive ends at NC State (Mario Williams #1 Overall DraftPick, Manny Lawson) is helping, along with the prospect of early playing time.

Honesty and fairness are 2 central goals of this blog. I needed to say that because I am about to suggest that a current member of FSU's staff isn't a great coach. Jody Allen became FSU's defensive ends coach at the end of the 2002 season. While defensive tackle coach Odell Haggins churns out NFL DT after NFL dt (Travis Johnson, Broderick Brunkley, Darnell Dockett), Jody Allen has struggled to produce NFL defensive ends of late (Kamerion Wimbley). More troubling, however, is the lack of development and progress of Alex Boston, Anthony Kelley (LB), Willie Jones, Darrell Burston, and Neefy Moffett. Until
Amato came back(2007), FSU struggled mightily in recruiting and developing edge rushers. I am not there everyday in practice and I'm not able to see his coaching ability, but the stark contrast suggests that Odell is very good and that maybe Jody isn't. I do believe this unit will benefit from increased talent this year and he does have some excellent pieces to work with. The increase in sacks from defensive ends as a percentage of total sacks increased last year upon Amato's return and I feel that is a good sign of things to come. I fully expect a dominant group of defensive ends this year. If that does not happen then FSU may seriously need to consider jettisoning yet another "Nepotism Era" hire.

Yet another explanation for the drop off in total sacks is FSU's overall performance. When teams are leading or trailing by a large margin, their play calls are predictable. FSU has been in much closer games due to the complete ineptness of Bobby Bowden hire Jeff Bowden and the deplorable decline of the offense in the nepotism era. FSU can't count on teams throwing all the time in the second half now, which makes it much more difficult as a defense to pin the ears back and go full gear at the quarterback. This is clearly a reason the sack % has worsened in recent years. If the offense improves, other teams will be more predictable and our defensive ends can once again tee off on the opposing quarterback. Hopefully the offense will improve and FSU defensive ends can forget about playing the run in the 4th quarter and pad their stats with ridiculous loops around the opposing team's poor left tackle.

Depth: FSU hasn't had quality depth in a while. FSU lived off a multi-man rotation in the past and they always had fresh defensive ends in the 4th quarter. The depth seems to be improved and I look for fresh fourth quarter legs once again.

Screen Passes, Draw Plays, etc: Someone suggested that FSU faces more of these passes now than ever before. I am not able to research how many screen passes or draw plays FSU have seen in recent years and I certainly can't get data from the pre-youtube era. These are made to slow the defense down and discourage aggressive upfield rushing. I do think that our defensive scheme is vulnerable to misdirection, screen passes, draw plays, and the like. I just don't know if FSU really does see more of them now than they used to.

I will be very surprised if FSU does not have its best sack season since 2000. With a greater contribution from the defensive ends allowing the linebackers to become more involved in the passing game, the secondary should improve as well.


jab9780 said...

Definitely keep this blog up. I cant get enough of FSU football, and being an engineering graduate of FSU, your analysis provides a great quantitative approach that I can really appreciate.

I have forwarded your Weatherford Report to all my FSU friends and hope that it will increase traffic to your site.

Keep up the great work, and I look forward to your next analysis.

Perhaps a topic for future contemplation is the comparison of FSU's recent recruiting classes and their failures/successes and what is the cause of this. I personally think it is/was the lack of developing players by our past coaches, others believe that although the ranking experts suggested we continued to have great classes, that we simply did not have the athletes we used to have. This is evident by the lack of players drafted in this years NFL draft.


Scalper said...

I am adding your question to the mailbag. It should be up soon.

Anthronole said...

Scalper & FSUncensored,

I was forwarded your blog by a fellow Nole a couple of days ago and I must admit I think the site is awesome! I absolutely enjoyed the intellectual analysis in your Weatherford Report.

Regarding your Return of the Sack article, I was wondering what your thoughts were regarding the overall offensive scheme changes in college football in general and how has it impacted FSU's success with QB pressure & sacks?

For instance, FSU has or will see many variations of the option offense(spread @ UF, Orbit @ WF, Wishbone @ Ga Tech, standard @ Va Tech).

Statistically I don't know if you can incorporate these into your analysis. But many of these offenses are designed to take advantage of being over aggressive on the defensive side, which unfortunately is what Mickey Andrews has taught since day one on the job.

Anonymous said...

Look, I'm not a coach and haven't seen Jody Allen coaching the ends. But it wouldn't suprise me if your speculation is correct. Bobby Bowden has a history of taking yeoman coaches and letting them coach positons they never even played before, much less coached (Jimmy Heggins ring a bell?). How can a former under-talented offensive lineman like Allen who is a grad asst. one year suddenly become a DE coach the next, ready to teach the finer points of technique, balance, steps, etc? We simply do not have the talent and depth to paper over subpar coaching anymore. This program will never truly turn around until Bobby takes his naps somewhere else and Jimbo is finally able to clean house!