What happened to our depth? - Part 2

EDIT NUSS: Promoted for extreme amounts of awesomeness. If you read Part 1, make sure you read this. Seems to largely confirm what most of us assumed anecdotally. HUGE props to TiltingRight for this in-depth piece.

After the first post here, regarding the attrition that occurred over the 04, 05 and 06 recruiting classes, I made the case that the loss of bodies from those years caused a gaping hole in our depth chart.  This was, in turn, a big part of the reason we were seeing the losses mount up in the 08 and 09 seasons.

In the comments, I mused about comparisons to other teams, and had a sense we weren't outside the norm of attrition, just at the bottom end.  Well, after doing some research and plotting the data into a spreadsheet, I found some interesting stuff.

First, some disclaimers:

  • The information I used to put this together comes from the databases.  Their rankings of individual players and entire classes are inherently subjective.  They also (obviously) don't take into account how the player will acclimate to college in general or D1 ball in particular.  Further, they can't take into account how the player will develop mentally or physically, and often don't even project the player's position correctly.

    The recruiting class sizes and lists get a little weird.  If a player grayshirts, for example, he can be listed in two classes.  Also, if a player goes on a mission or joins the military between signing his letter and reporting, he may or may not be listed in two classes, but will show up as an increase in future years depth (OSU had a number of players that fell in both of these categories).  Likewise if they chose to leave mid-career to go on a mission.
  • The raw data presented here does not take into account whether someone was a JC transfer, and thus played two years as a physically mature player, if he was an incoming freshman who never saw the field, whether they left early to play in the NFL or whether they were highly sought after or even for that matter ranked coming in.  In other words, there's not all attrition is equal, not all players in a class are equal.

    The percentage numbers regarding how much of the roster is made up of certain classes reflects an 85 scholarship roster.  Therefore it doesn't take into account transfers from other D1 schools, nor does it take into account APR penalties.
  • The numbers from the 08 class and particularly the 09 class might be sketchy, as often there aren't any stories about players that aren't making it to the field, and so it's tough to gauge whether they're actually with the team.
  • The sample size used is still small.  Unfortunately, while I found the time to do this research, and given a longer lead time could do more, I thought timeliness was important, and as we're wrapping up the season, waiting longer to crunch more numbers would have made the charts even less apropos.


  • Last, I deliberately left out information on Arizona.  This is because the Wildcats site had some oddball stuff going on.  Their database had huge gaps in records (according to the database, half of their players missed the 2008 season, and rejoined in 2009) which threw off the numbers from the 06, 07 and 08 classes that I made what I was able to gather completely worthless.  Too bad, because I think the numbers for Arizona might have given us a glimpse of what we could be looking forward to...?  Who knows.


The charts read as follows (from left to right):

The school and recruiting year

The national and Pac10 ranking for that year (36.6 would be 36th nationally, 6th in Pac10)

The bold and italicized number is the total signed LOIs that year.

The numbers under the year is the remaining players from that class which participated at the beginning of that year.  If a player left during spring camp they're still counted.  If they were injured for the entire year, or even a part of the year, they're still counted.

Total attrition from each class in 08 and then 09.

The total number of players from 04 - 06 classes playing in 08 (would be Jrs and Srs) and the percentage of an 85 scholarship roster they make up.

The total number of players from the 04-07 classes playing in 08 (all previous classes) and the percentage of an 85 scholarship roster they make up.

The total number of players from the 05-07 classes playing in 09 and the percentage of an 85 scholarship roster they make up.

The total number of players form the 05-08 classes playing in 09 and the percentage of an 85 scholarship roster they make up.











Anything stand out here?

WSU has 67 scholarship athletes this year from the 5 previous recruiting classes.  Now there are some transfers, and some walk-ons might have earned a scholly here or there, but holy cow!  67 out of 85 possible.

OSU had classes with 33 and 30 signees!?!?  Now the note I made above about missions trips comes into factor here, but still... wow.

12 players on the WSU roster going into this season from the 05 and 06 classes.  Oregon had 14 if you include a couple holdovers from 04 (grayshirt?  medical RS?).  ASU was next with 17.  On the other end, UCLA had 29!  Stanford and OSU had 28.  The rest were around 20.

So what does the data say? 

Well, WSU is consistantly at the top for attrition.  And by a wide margin this year on the 05-07 classes (8%+).  Oregon bumps us in the 05-08 classes from THIS year's roster.

ASU is not far behind regarding attrition, and pretty close in the standings, as well.

Stanford probably has the consistantly lowest attrition rate, with OSU, UW and UCLA in the running behind them.

Then what can can we draw out?

Well, the teams with the highest attrition don't always lose.  WSU and ASU had the consistently highest attrition (both had APR issues, too) and lost a lot.  Oregon and USC has been in the upper half of all but one of the four measures but are two of the better teams in the conference.  So apparently, if you can recruit like USC and Oregon have lately, you can withstand higher attrition relatively well.

The teams with the lowest attrition don't always win.  UW and UCLA aren't doing too hot, considering how much of those earlier recruiting classes are still on their roster.  OSU and Stanford, however are doing pretty well with their stable of players.  In fact, they've done it without the highly ranked recruiting classes UW and UCLA had, too, by developing those players and building depth.

The teams with the highest ranked classes don't always win.  USC and Oregon do pretty consistantly.  UCLA and UW don't pretty consistantly.

The teams with the lowest ranked classes don't always lose.  OSU has shown that you can consistantly win by developing less talented players.  Stanford has started to come on as well.  WSU and ASU have been performing "as expected" with lower half classes.

So what can we really conclude here?

Well, it seems to me that the Cougs hit the perfect storm of poop the last couple of seasons.  Based on the above we've been hit three ways:

Strike 1 - Horrendous attrition.  Consistantly (and by far on most counts) the lowest number of holdovers from earliest available recruiting classes.

Strike 2 - Poor recruiting.  Superior talent in the later classes can make up for poor retention in earlier classes.  We are obviously not USC or Oregon.

Strike 3 - Coaching change.  The Oregon transfer of power is the rare exception to coaching changes.  In a lot of ways, so is ours.  Most are like UW's or UCLA's.  Constantly underperforming until the players lose faith in you.  I don't think the players ever gave up on Doba, which actually made the transition to Wulff harder.  There's no hard and fast way to measure discontent in the locker room, but based on the number of players jumping ship here, as opposed to UCLA or UW (so far), it's clear our players were not ready to make a wholesale change in all facets of what they did under Doba.

So does this absolve Wulff and staff from this year's results?  I wouldn't make that argument.  I would, however say that this combined with the injury situation this year makes a strong "mitigating circumstances" argument for the overall season.

Is this going to make anyone feel better about the season we just concluded?  Again, I wouldn't say that.  It does nothing to answer whether or not this staff can gameplan, make adjustments or manage a game as it progresses.  It should, however, give us a bit of perspective on how we stack up, and why we are where we are.

Is there anything here that can give us any hope for the future?  It depends on what perspective you want to take, but I would argue that there is, assuming Wulff and Co. can 1) upgrade the talent; 2) get them to/keep them on campus; and 3) develop them as players on and 4) off the field.

While it's always a work in progress, you can see we're upgrading the talent by what's already been shown on the field from our true frosh and a handful of rs frosh and true sophs.  The attrition has been much closer to a "normal" curve than what we saw early in Doba's tenure.  The thing to be seen is if the staff can develop the players.  Off the field, I think they have.  The kids packed on serious pounds, and are looking more like Pac10 football players.  Three out of four is a darn good start.  Now we've gotta see if they can develop them into playing like Pac10 football players.

This FanPost does not necessarily reflect the views of the site's writers or editors, who may not have verified its accuracy. It does, however, reflect the views of this particular fan, which is just as important as the views of our writers or editors.

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