Sunday, January 12, 2014

An Average Season Under Doug Nussmeier

Devin Gardner has gone from catching touchdown passes against Alabama to likely throwing them
for Alabama's offensive coordinator.
Every team is different, but I wanted to take a stab at what kind of production we can expect from new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier while he's here in Ann Arbor. I looked at his last five years, which he spent with Washington (2009-2011) and then Alabama (2012-2013). I then averaged those seasons together to come up with a rough estimate of what types of numbers the Wolverines will put up. The player listed with the projection is my early guess at the depth chart for this upcoming fall.

Quarterback (Jake Locker, Keith Price, AJ McCarron):
230/395, 2800 yards, 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions
184/332, 2265 yards, 17 touchdowns, 9 interceptions
242/362, 3063 yards, 33 touchdowns, 11 interceptions
211/314, 2933 yards, 30 touchdowns, 3 interceptions
226/336, 3063 yards, 28 touchdowns, 7 interceptions
2014 Devin Gardner projection: 219/348, 62.9%, 2825 yards, 26 touchdowns, 8 interceptions
2013 Devin Gardner stats: 208/345, 60.3%, 2960 yards, 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions

Running Back #1 (Chris Polk, Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon):
226 carries, 1113 yards, 5 touchdowns
260 carries, 1415 yards, 9 touchdowns
293 carries, 1488 yards, 12 touchdowns
204 carries, 1322 yards, 17 touchdowns
207 carries, 1235 yards, 14 touchdowns
2014 Derrick Green projection: 238 carries, 1315 yards, 11 touchdowns
2013 Fitzgerald Toussaint stats: 185 carries, 648 yards, 13 touchdowns

Running Back #2 (Demitrius Bronson, Jesse Callier, T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake):
19 carries, 89 yards, 0 touchdowns
77 carries, 433 yards, 0 touchdowns
47 carries, 260 yards, 1 touchdown
175 carries, 1108 yards, 12 touchdowns
92 carries, 694 yards, 8 touchdowns
2014 De'Veon Smith projection: 82 carries, 517 yards, 4 touchdowns
2013 Derrick Green stats: 83 carries, 270 yards, 2 touchdowns

Wide Receiver #1 (Jermaine Kearse, Amari Cooper):
50 catches, 866 yards, 8 touchdowns
63 catches, 1005 yards, 12 touchdowns
47 catches, 699 yards, 7 touchdowns
58 catches, 999 yards, 11 touchdowns
45 catches, 736 yards, 4 touchdowns
2014 Devin Funchess projection: 53 catches, 861 yards, 8 touchdowns
2013 Jeremy Gallon stats: 89 catches, 1373 yards, 9 touchdowns

Wide Receiver #2 (Devin Aguilar, D'Andre Goodwin, Kevin Norwood):
42 catches, 593 yards, 5 touchdowns
44 catches, 530 yards, 4 touchdowns
41 catches, 611 yards, 6 touchdowns
29 catches, 469 yards, 4 touchdowns
38 catches, 568 yards, 7 touchdowns
2014 Jehu Chesson projection: 39 catches, 554 yards, 5 touchdowns
2013 Devin Funchess stats: 49 catches, 748 yards, 6 touchdowns

Wide Receiver #3 (James Johnson, Devin Aguilar, Kasen Williams, Kenny Bell, DeAndrew White):
39 catches, 422 yards, 3 touchdowns
28 catches, 352 yards, 2 touchdowns
36 catches, 427 yards, 6 touchdowns
17 catches, 431 yards, 3 touchdowns
32 catches, 534 yards, 4 touchdowns
2014 Amara Darboh projection: 30 catches, 433 yards, 4 touchdowns
2013 Jehu Chesson stats: 15 catches, 221 yards, 1 touchdown

Tight End #1 (Kavario Middleton, Marlion Barnett, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Michael Williams, O.J. Howard):
26 catches, 257 yards, 3 touchdowns
4 catches, 31 yards, 0 touchdowns
41 catches, 538 yards, 6 touchdowns
24 catches, 183 yards, 4 touchdowns
14 catches, 269 yards, 2 touchdowns
2014 Jake Butt projection: 22 catches, 256 yards, 3 touchdowns
2013 Jake Butt stats: 17 catches, 235 yards, 2 touchdowns

Tight End #2 (Chris Izbicki, Michael Hartvigson, Kelly Johnson, Brian Vogler):
3 catches, 7 yards, 1 touchdown
2 catches, 16 yards, 1 touchdown
8 catches, 30 yards, 1 touchdown
5 catches, 39 yards, 0 touchdowns
8 catches, 71 yards, 1 touchdown
2014 A.J. Williams projection: 5 catches, 33 yards, 1 touchdown
2013 A.J. Williams stats: 1 catch, 2 yards, 1 touchdown


  1. Good research. The obvious question, of course, is how big of an improvement would production at that level be compares to last yr (or the last 2-3 yrs) under Borges.

    I don't know the data, but it feels like a big jump.

    1. I added last year's Michigan stats for comparison. The only real "negative" movement is that the ball will likely be spread out more, rather than having Jeremy Gallon lock down the majority of targets and yardage. The top two receiving seasons under Nussmeier hover right around 1,000 yards (1005 for Jermaine Kearse, 999 for Amari Cooper).

  2. Good Research! The obvious follow up question is how big of an improvement would this be over Al's offense the last year...or the last 2-3.

    I don't know the numbers, but I get a sense it would be a pretty big jump.

  3. I'll take it! What's the projection for Devin's passing yardage? Also he may be our 2nd or 3rd leading rusher, so maybe you can predict that from previous Nuss stats ( Price and Locker ran the ball).

    1. I added Devin's projected passing yardage. Price wasn't much of a runner. Locker averaged 113 carries, 387 yards, and 7 touchdowns. I thought about including rushing stats, but the three quarterbacks were so different that I didn't think it would really be useful.

  4. Is there anyway to find out Borges' projections based on what he did before coming to Michigan? That we can see what was supposed to happen vs. what did happen? Once you find the % drop (I'm assuming we did worse than the projection), use that same % to find a modest measure of what will probably happen, at least in year 1?

    I just don't know with our O-line and the first year under a new OC if we can use Nuss' past as a measurement tool by itself.

    1. Nussmeier needs to make a huge decision and fire Darrell Funk. Along with that, he needs to make a homerun hire, and go along the lines of Bob Bostad. If Michigan can get a big name like Bostad, then I feel like Michigan will have a top three OL in the Big Ten (I know that doesn't say much, but it's a huge step up), because the talent is there, there is no question, the talent is there. Even though this will be mostly a sophmore OL, they should have no problem showing flashes of brilliance, and holding their own against big defenses. If Funk stays, I still think the OL will be better, and maybe even decent, but I don't think he's a good coach, and I doubt that Kalis will ever reach his full potential.

    2. Man - people are relentless about firing coaches. The OC wasn't enough?

      It's not clear who is to blame for the OL - is it Borges/Hoke for changing the blocking style repeatedly during the season or Funk for not developing their ability to execute. I think the former is a possibility.

      I've called for Funk to be fired too, but that was under the assumption that Borges was still around. The combination didn't work. Now with Nuss, I think it's fair to give Funk the year.

    3. There is absolutely a question about the talent of the OL. Recruiting rankings say it's there, but not one of them is proven. In fact, the best returning OLmen is a former walk-on.

    4. @Lanknows: I don't think we're in "give them one more year to see if they can work it out" mode. If we tank next year, that will likely be the end for Hoke and the whole crew.

    5. Depends on your definition of 'tank' I suppose. I think there's almost zero chance Hoke gets fired, even if he wins 7 games again.

      Brandon obviously does not think Hoke is the problem. Hoke obviously does not think Funk is the problem. It's possible they are right. It is not as simple as: fire position coach = position improves.

      If you don't think next year is still a transition year, you're in for disappointment. The OL personnel is worse than 2013, when the OL absolutely stunk. Improvement via better coaching is our only chance, and Nussmeier brings that (hopefully). Minimizing how much transition we have with this group is a reasonable argument for enhancing the coaching staff rather than overhauling it entirely.

    6. Get out of here @Lanknows when you're saying the talent isn't there. These were Freshmen, they'll end up being good players.

    7. I didn't say the talent wasn't there. I said it's not a certainty.

    8. And next time don't name call

    9. I didn't see any name calling...

    10. I didn't write that. Someone is having using my handle.

  5. From what I've read, it appears that Nussmeier is good at adapting his scheme to his players. Hopefully he uses Butt more than you are projecting because he had a fantastic season for a true freshman and based on his weight gain and improvement over the season seems like a player who really puts the work in.

    Based on the low TE usage rate though, I wonder how hard they go after Wheatley with another small class and needs for other pieces of Nussmeier's preferred offense.

    1. I agree. I would expect Butt to come closer to the high-end of Nuss' TEs: 40/500/5. He was already used a lot last year and Nuss will probably dial back TE stuff, but with Gallon and Dileo gone, Butt should be one of the top returning receiving threats and the only guy who really fits as a 2-way TE.

      I don't necessarily agree that they will dial back TE recruiting though. There isn't exactly a surplus yet -- where there is a surplus IMO is moreso at FB/H-back.

  6. Including the stats from Alabama's record-breaking star-laden roster is a serious flaw in these projections. Michigan simply does not have that level of experience and talent, especially on it's OL.

    Because of that - the numbers are too high in aggregate. More specifically, if Derrick Green and Smith put up those numbers (~1800 yards) behind this OL I'll eat a couple lemons.

    Michigan fans are generally overly optimistic - this kind of thing only encourages that, and the inevitable carping that comes with not meeting said unreasonable expectations.

    The Washington offense is probably more indicative of what we can expect - which is still pretty impressive production for Nuss. The open question there is how much of that was Sarkisian...

    The passing/receiving numbers do look reasonable though. I really think Chesson & Darboh (& whoever ends up at slot WR) are the biggest winners in the conversion from Borges to Nuss. I think we'll see fewer formations with 2TE and a FB and more 3-WR sets.

    1. Washington was 5-7, 7-6, and 7-6 when Nussmeier was there. So I don't think it's a stretch to assume that production will be somewhere in between what Washington did and what Alabama did. Chris Polk and Jessie Callier put up 1800+ yards at Washington in 2010.

    2. W-L record isn't particularly relevant, but it reinforces my point. Michigan has won 7 and 8 the last two years (even less if you average out the last 5 years) - Washington's track record seems realistic and comparable to M's in general. Also, if your defense stinks your record will be worse AND you'll put up more impressive offensive stats (i.e., More possessions, plays)

      As I said, what Nuss did at Washington was impressive (obvs - it got him hired at Alabama). The high-water mark for RB rushing a UW was 1800, yes, but if you take out the 1900 and 2300 from Bama, the forecast/average value for Michigan goes from an unlikely 1800 to a far more reasonable, but still optimistic 1500 (roughly). For comparison, this year's top 2 backs ran for about 1100.

      More so than the totals, it's the averages that alabama managed that are entirely unrealistic for Michigan to attain. Their guys are running for 6 or 7 ypc, our guys ran for well under 4. They did that before Nuss and they'll probably do it afterwards. That's what a bunch of 5-star players do. Washington's guys, meanwhile went from just under 5 to around 5.5. Again, that seems like a reasonable target for Michigan. But the numbers say Green over 5.5 and Smith approaching 6.5. That's not going to happen. If they can get to 4.5 that would be a major accomplishment.

      The overall talent level at Michigan will be far closer to Washington than Alabama IMO. The heights that Washington reached might be attainable, but probably not till the following year (2015). The heights that Alabama has reached are not attainable for Michigan football in the foreseeable future. They were record-breaking units with elite talent at nearly every position. Michigan is still in transition scheme-wise, and starting 3-star caliber talent at many positions.

      It's an interesting exercise and useful as a best-case-scenario, but as far as projecting 2014 Michigan it's way too optimistic to include those Alabama teams in the projected stats.

    3. W-L seems relevant to me. You're saying that Alabama's super awesome offense in 2012 shouldn't count, but it's balanced out by the offense of a couple mediocre squads in the form of Washington. I would imagine that Michigan should be counted on as a ~9 win team next year, meaning they should be somewhere between a 7-6 performance and a 13-1 performance. Three average teams combined with two very good teams would seem to be a pretty good indicator of what a good team will look like.

    4. In 2011, Washington ranked #24 in offense and #103 in defense by FEI. Their record was not a good indicator of their offensive performance. This year, Indiana has a great offense but a terrible record. It happens all the time.

      Alabama is better than "very good", they are elite. Top 10 on both sides of the ball. Michigan is very far from that. I thought their D could get there in 2014, until the last couple games. Now I'd be happy with a top 25 ranking for the D.

      Michigan has won 9 games once in the last 6 years. Expecting that is optimistic. Predicting near 6 ypc for Green/Smith is flatout unrealistic.

    5. Eh, agree to disagree. Nussmeier had running backs at Washington (Polk, Callier, Sankey) who averaged 5.5+ yards/carry. If Washington can do it, I think Michigan can, too.

      The key word in play here is "average." I'm not saying these guys WILL have 6 yards/carry or 26 passing touchdowns or whatever. It's "If Nussmeier's average season were to play out, then these are the guys on the depth chart who would likely have these numbers." I don't really see the point in arguing about it. It's math. It's using facts. I don't really care how accurate it is right now - the guy was just hired a few days ago, I've never studied him, we haven't seen the spring game, we don't know who'll return in 2014, we don't know if anyone will get hurt, etc.

      Don't get mad at math. It can't help itself.

    6. Ha. I'm so mad at math!!!

      It's paring the math with the 2014 projection that I'm arguing with. If a 2014 Michigan player wasn't tied to it - it just said "Nussmeier Average" - I wouldn't be arguing. That's a calculation (i.e., math). When you take the math and apply it to make a projection - that's forecasting. It's different.

      Or, if you had a disclaimer that said you don't actually think these crazy numbers will happen. Knowing you to be a generally reasonable guy, I would expect that your season predictions will be more conservative than these stats indicate. I could be wrong...

      Washington didn't get there (5.5ypc) until year 3. I think 5 ypc is a best case scenario for Michigan RBs in 2014. When the OL matures in '15 and '16 we might be able to reach the "average" your math suggests, but we're so far away from that right now. I think nearly doubling YPC in one year is unprecedented, . Maybe somebody like Auburn has done it with a scheme changes but Michigan is trying to do it with mostly the same personnel (less 2 NFL tackles) and philosophy. Change can happen quickly in college but I don't see the ingredients there for Michigan in 2014.

    7. Jesse Callier averaged 5.6 yards/carry in 2010, and Polk averaged 5.4 yards/carry that year.

      Derrick Green is going to run for 4,000 yards on 99 carries. You heard it here first.

    8. You're right - they got there in year two. In year one, it was 4.9 and 4.7 ypc, up from 4.5 and 3.5 ypc the previous year. Michigan starts from a baseline of 3.5 and 3.3 ypc. Michigan RBs in 2014:

      4 ypc - good work Nuss!
      4.5 ypc - excellent work!!
      5 ypc - wow!!!
      5.5 ypc - screw football, Nuss' next job is to fix US healthcare
      6 ypc - knighted by Queen
      40 ypc - Thunder struck

  7. Not sure how they'll spread the receptions out next year, but I would hope for Butt to be more of a weapon than he was as a true freshman.