Useful yardage

Maryland running back Da’Rel Scott in happier times, running against Cal in a 2008 win. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Maryland running back Da’Rel Scott in happier times, running against Cal in a 2008 win. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Three feet is three feet. All yards are equal.

But in football, as in Animal Farm, some rushing yards are more equal than others.

No ACC running back illustrates that better than Maryland’s Da’Rel Scott.

Scott looks like one of the better running backs in the ACC. Through four games, he’s fourth in the conference in rushing, with 297 yards. He’s averaging more than 5.7 yards per carry, third among ACC backs with at least 45 carries. Scott has put up two 100-yard games in the season’s first four weeks.

Look a little deeper, though, and it’s clear Scott’s not as effective as his standard statistics suggest. Scott is a classic boom-and-bust back. Nearly 40% of his season yardage total came from just three carries.

Scott’s success rate better illustrates his true value this season.

My definition of “success” is a derivative of the one used at footballoutsiders.com: a carry is successful if it (a.) gains at least 40% of needed yards on first down, (b.) gains at least 60% of needed yards on second down, (c.) converts a first down on third or fourth down or (d.) yields a first down or touchdown, under any circumstances.

Scott’s success rate is 36.5%, the second-lowest among conference running backs averaging at least 10 carries per game:

Name

School

Success

Attempts

Rate

1st Downs

TDs

Yards

Toney Baker

N.C. State

30 48 62.5% 10 5 250

Ryan Williams

Virginia Tech

44

84

52.4%

12

8

492

Ty Jones

Florida State

24

49

49%

11

4

228

Javarris James

Miami

19

39

48.7%

6

3

143

Josh Haden

Boston College

20

43

46.5%

8

1

175

C.J. Spiller

Clemson

31

67

46.3%

14

1

288

Graig Cooper

Miami

16

35

45.7%

9

1

179

Montel Harris

Boston College

30

71

42.3%

12

3

270

Jonathan Dwyer

Georgia Tech

21

50

42%

10

2

326

Shaun Draughn

UNC

23

60

38.3%

9

0

249

Da’Rel Scott

Maryland

19

52

36.6%

9

3

297

Re’quan Boyette

Duke

8

34

23.5%

5

0

70

Some notes on the top three in success rate, and the reigning conference player of the year:

Toney Baker

Baker’s season started horribly. On his first carry, he lost three yards and the ball. South Carolina returned the fumble 14 yards for recovered the fumble at State’s 14-yard line and subsequently scored a touchdown. That score decided State’s only loss thus far.

Baker has been solid as stone since then, rolling up 10 first downs and 5 touchdowns on 40 carries. Coming into 2009, Baker had had a star-crossed career, losing two seasons to leg injuries. He’s finishing on an up note this year.

Best carry: A 2-yard touchdown run that won the Pitt game Saturday. The second-down run with 3:49 left in the game capped State’s comeback from a 14-point deficit.

Worst carry: The aforementioned fumble against South Carolina.

Ryan Williams

No one needs new stats to show Ryan Williams’ greatness. But they’re nice to have on hand. Williams has done it under every circumstance: at home, on the road, against good teams, against bad teams, playing from ahead, playing from behind. It’s absurd to say such a thing so early in the season, but he’s my pick for conference player of the year at this point.

Best carry: A 44-yarder midway through the third quarter against Miami. If two drive-killing drops by Miami tight end Jimmy Graham didn’t effectively end this game, Williams’ ramble on the Hokies’ next drive did.

Worst carry: A five-yard loss midway through the second quarter of VT’s blowout win over Marshall. This carry had no impact on the game. Williams has been that good.

Ty Jones

Jones may have had the best single game of any ACC back so far this year. Against Brigham Young, he carried 12 times for 108 yards, five first downs and one touchdown. Jones’ success rate vs. BYU was 92%.

Like the rest of his teammates, Jones fell back to earth last week. He carried 12 times for 21 yards, with a success rate of 33%.

Best carry: A 1-yard touchdown run that clinched a 19-9 win over Jacksonville State in FSU’s second game of the season. At the time, Jones’ game-winner was the last strand holding the Seminole program over the abyss. A week later, after the thrashing of then-No. 7 BYU, it looked like a harbinger of FSU’s return to greatness. Now, who knows?

Worst carry: A 6-yard loss in the first quarter of the Miami game. Nothing special here, just an ugly play.

Jonathan Dwyer

A week ago, the defending ACC Player of the Year brought up the rear on this list. After the Miami game, Dwyer had a league-low success rate of 33%. Nearly half his total yards this season had come on his first carry, a 74-yard touchdown against the Unfortunates of Jacksonville State.

Things look much different after the first genuine Jonathan Dwyer Game of the season. Dwyer didn’t reach the end zone against North Carolina, but he nearly doubled his season rushing total and churned out six first downs. Dwyer’s success rate against UNC was a robust 58 percent.

Is Jonathan Dwyer back? Time will tell.

Best carry: The first one. Dwyer appeared to pick up where he left off last season, taking an option pitch from Jamar Josh Nesbitt and sprinting 74 yards for a touchdown, untouched, against Jacksonville State.

Worst carry: Dwyer killed a 10-minute Tech drive in the second quarter of the Clemson game in week two. On third and goal from the 3-yard line, Dwyer lost three yards, setting up a field goal that put the Yellow Jackets up 24-0. Tech ultimately won the game, but not before Clemson rallied to tie it at 24.

Advertisements

11 Responses to Useful yardage

  1. Brian Schuch says:

    It will be interesting to see this list at the end of the year. Will Baker be able to keep up his success?

    On a side note, did you calculate this yourself? How long did it take you?

    In yet another note, I was wondering your take on the new Heisman candidate. I’m in pretty much agreement with YANCSSB.

    • Jimmy Ryals says:

      The Mad Sonneteer!

      I’d bet on Williams staying near the top of the list, but it’s a bit of a crapshoot from there. The early-season competition for most of the ACC has been so bad that it’s hard to know which results are real and which aren’t. I wasn’t sold on Baker a week ago, but he had a really good game against a tough Pitt defense last week.

      I feel basically the same way about Russell Wilson. I was a skeptic coming into the season; I thought his success last year was largely a result of unfamiliarity, like a pitcher who’s really good the first time through the league. It’s hard to draw conclusions from Gardner-Webb and Murray State, but Wilson was great against Pitt and better than his numbers suggested against USC. He’s not a Heisman candidate, but I’m sold on him as a top-tier ACC quarterback. We did a piece on him a few weeks ago, but I’m not sure how well it stands up now.

      I did the figuring, but I ripped the methodology off from footballoutsiders.com.

      Thanks for keeping us big in Japan.

  2. James C. says:

    Awesome, awesome breakdown guys. I have RTweeted it and plan to link to it from my page…it’s too damn good not to!

    Yes, I’m totally sucking up!

    • Jimmy Ryals says:

      Thanks, C—-! I liked your piece on Dinich’s Heisman list — media outlets should treat Heisman lists as the BCS treats its rankings. No candidates until week 8 (at least).

  3. Bird says:

    Only thing, it’s Josh Nesbitt not Jamar. Great read.

  4. […] NC State’s Toney Baker was the most productive runner through a quarter of the season. Baker has a “success” rate of 62.5%, which is 10% better than Virginia Tech’s Ryan Willams, the ACC’s leading rusher. What […]

  5. […] Harris, Boston College. Talk about useful yardage. Harris rushed for 99 yards in the final seven minutes, including a 42-yard touchdown run with 4:07 […]

  6. ar says:

    Can we get this chart/post updated during the year? Good entry.

    • Jimmy Ryals says:

      I’m working on a follow-up piece that updates the chart and adds a couple of new toys. Should be up this evening.

  7. […] point of this isn’t to slam Jacoby Ford (although I do love raining on a nice-seeming parade). It’s that appraising wide receivers is hard. The statistics we see in games – catches, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: