FanPost

Are we experienced?

Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

Mark posted a piece from Ted Miller the other day that indicated that the Cougars ranked 8th in starting experience. I found this surprising in that I, as I think most of us on CougCenter do, consider the Cougars to be a "young team." And if the 2011 coaching press conferences taught us anything, it would be that young teams just face a slew of issues from game time changes to travel schedules to on-field inexperience. My initial impulse was to try to find some way to really break this down to get a more in depth understanding of this. As one commenter, HitKing69, indicated, nearly all of the teams listed in the Top 10 had longstanding traditions of sucking, or, in the case of Auburn and Colorado, are not in the in the midst of their glory. There just has to be more to the story than the Cougars being a team with a lot of returning experience.

The more I tried to develop a hypothesis as to what might explain the Cougars being at the top of the charts, I realized that it would be a fool’s errand, because there are many factors that put certain players into starting roles. Some have earned starting roles by their play in practice and on the field, while others have lost starting roles for the same reason. Injuries (and alleged injuries circa 2012-present) also play a very prominent role in pushing players in and out of the lineup. Also, starting does not necessarily reflect total experience. There were several players with 10+ appearances in non-special team situations, but little to no starting experience. However, starting experience does say something, because it does give context to the situation in which a player is appearing, so I think this is a useful thing to look at.

As I began to put the data together and gather information from the individual players, I realized that each player has a specific story that may not be encapsulate by their total starting contribution to the whole. For example, Jared Byers has started four games, but none of them at his current position. Then, of course, there are the redshirts (medical and non-medical), transfers, etc. And there is Ricky Galvin, who has medical redshirted, switched positions, and allegedly missed several games due to injury last season. Each player has a story and to me sports are about stories and too often this is convoluted by statistics that by and large only take into consideration central tendencies. The Stanford game, Utah game, and Apple Cup were all games in which the Cougars compiled statistics, but there are only a few common modes that can be identified from those games. In any case, I conducted the following descriptive breakdowns to see if there are any interesting statistics or conclusions to be made. Miller lists 359 starts with 44 being on special teams. I am assuming those starts come from den Bleyker, Bowlin, and Furney. I don’t include them in the analysis, although each of them brings a lot of experience and skill at their position. All 305 offensive/defensive starts are accounted for.

Starting Experience in General;

Players with at least 1 start: 34

Offense 149 (from Miller’s report)

Defense 166 (from Miller’s report)

Players with < 5 starts: 9

Players with 5 - 10 starts: 14

Players between 11-19 starts: 8

Players between > 20 starts" 3

The Cougars are returning 34 players with starting experience. On any given Saturday this fall, I only expect them to start 22. This is a very positive sign. It indicates that there will be a lot of competition and depth on the roster this year and players that should redshirt can redshirt. There does seem to be a reasonable amount of balance on both sides of the ball with roughly 54.4% of starting experience on the defensive side and 45.6% on the defensive side. While the Cougars have a lot of different players contributing to their starting total, only a total of 11 have started more than 10 games and 3 above 20. That means that fewer than 1/3rd of all players bring starting experience to the Cougars have a season’s worth of starts under their belt. Of course, several players’ starts on the list have come at the expense of other players’ starts. Players with 10 starts or fewer make up for 119 of the Cougars 305 starts or 39%. On the other hand, there are only three players with 20 starts (Bucannon, Fullington, and Washington), who combine for 82 starts or roughly 27% of the total.

Starting Experience by season

2009: 2 (< 0%)

2010: 27 (8.9%)

2011: 76 (24.9%)

2012: 200 (65.6%)

This really stands out in that nearly 65.6% of all returning starting experience took place during the 2012 season under Mike Leach’s first year with only roughly 1/3rd of all starts having occurred during the Wulff era. This is basically the story that shows that the Cougars’ experience is new experience, as a significant amount of experience that the team holds was gained within a single year. Of course, this had a lot to do with injuries and players beating one another out during last season. Regardless, a lot of players found themselves in the situation of being in the starting lineup and dealing with the preparation that comes with a starting role.

Starting Experience by class

Sophomores: 10 for 58 starts (19%), starts per eligibility year 58

Juniors: 12 for 76 starts (24.9%), starts per eligibility year 38

Seniors: 12 for 171 starts (56%), starts per eligibility year 57

In terms of players with at least one start, the Cougars are incredibly balanced between their classes. However, it is somewhat remarkable to see that sophomores only have 18 fewer starts than juniors. The seniors make up the bulk of the starting experience with 56%, but remember that 82 of those starts come from three players. And only two of the players, Fullington and Bucannon were consistent starters last year, whereas Washington started fewer games than he did as a freshman and sophomore. The Cougars have a very strong core of experienced players that are young and heading into their second year and this seems to be balanced by some pretty good experience that comes from senior players. It is worth noting that many senior starts have come from JC transfers such as Gauta and Sagote who were brought in last year by Leach’s staff to fill immediate needs.

Starting Experience by position:

Quarterback: 1 starter with 6 starts, avg. 6

Running back: 2 starters with 4 stars, avg. 2

Wide Receivers: 8 starters with 48 starts, avg. 6

Offensive Line: 5 starters with 76 starts, avg. 15.2

Defensive Backs: 6 starters with 90 starts, avg. 15

Linebackers: 7 starters with 48 starts, avg. 6.85

Defensive line: 5 starters with 33 starts, avg. 6.6

Here is where looks might be a little deceiving. By looking at these numbers, one might come to the conclusion that the Cougars might be particularly strong in the offensive line and defensive backfield, but these are places where change have been anticipated and alluded to for some time. Fullington accounts for 42.2% of starting experience on the offensive line and the return, while Bosch and Rodgers combine for 25 starts of which 24 occurred last year. The shakeup ad defensive back began last year with both Washington and Horton decreasing in starts. So while there is experience in the backfield, there are major question marks about the roles of players that saw significant time in 2011 and 2012.

Conclusion:

The statistics pretty much tell us what we already knew. The Cougars have a core of young players that began to come of age next year who will look to apply the lessons of a tough season If not for 15 or so minutes of incredible football to finish the season, I think that Coug fans would have carried a much lower morale heading into the 2013 campaign. Yet, for all the tribulation that came with the 2012 season, the Cougars gained a lot of experience that should serve them well in the year to come. The team is balanced in its experience with a lot of older experience to blend in with newer experience. This is a great scenario for any sports team at the pro or college level: a young team with some experience complimented with some solid veteran experience. I look at this a lot like building a house, before the cornerstone is laid, you have to get all the trash off the lot and build a foundation. I think the 2012 season accomplished this and the 2013 season will start to see a very nice structure take form.

Finally, I want to post the data set I created on Excel for everybody to look at. I also encourage anybody that would like to do some other forms of statistical analysis to feel free to use this set. As soon as I hit the PowerBall, I hope to devote a considerably more time to CougCenter compiling data sets and doing analysis on Cougar sports. Still, it’s nice to take a few hours away from the monotony of gainful employment.

Player

Class

PO

starts09

starts10

starts11

starts12

Total

Brett Bartolone

SO

WR

.

.

.

9

9

Matthew Bock

RSJR

DL

RS

0

0

5

5

Elliot Bosch

RSSR

OL

RS

0

0

12

12

Deon Bucannon

DB

DB

.

8

11

11

30

Jared Byers

RSSR

LB

2

1

2

0

4

Teondray Caldwell

SO

RB

.

.

.

3

3

Anthony Carpenter

RSSR

DB

RS

0

0

7

7

Cyrus Coen

JR

LB

.

.

1

11

12

Xavier Cooper

RSSO

DL

.

.

RS

9

9

Henry Eaddy

RSSO

WR

.

.

1

RS

1

Gunnar Ecklund

RSSO

OL

.

.

RS

7

7

John Fullington

SR

OL

.

6

12

12

30

Rickey Galvin

RSJR

WR

.

RS

6

3

9

Ionane Gauta

SR

DL

.

.

.

12

12

Matt Goetz

RSSR

OL

.

.

9

5

14

Connor Halliday

RSJR

QB

.

RS

1

5

6

Damante Horton

SR

DB

.

.

11

6

17

Casey Locker

RSSR

DB

RS

0

2

10

12

Gabe Marks

SO

WR

.

.

.

8

8

Marcus Mason

JR

RB

.

.

0

1

1

Logan Mayes

JR

LB

.

.

0

3

3

Darryl Monroe

RSSO

LB

.

.

RS

12

12

Isiah Myers

JR

WR

.

.

0

5

5

Eric Oertel

SR

LB

.

0

0

1

1

Toni Pole

RSJR

DL

.

RS

3

2

5

Bobby Ratliff

RSJR

WR

RS

4

5

9

Jake Rodgers

RSJR

OL

.

RS

1

12

13

Justin Sagote

SR

LB

10

10

Chester Su'a

JR

LB

.

.

4

2

6

Taylor Taliulu

SO

DB

.

.

.

2

2

Destiny Vaeao

SO

DL

.

.

.

2

2

Nolan Washington

SR

DB

.

12

7

3

22

Dominique Williams

SO

WR

.

.

RS

5

5

Kristoff Williams

RSJR

WR

2

0

2

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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