The Effect Of Returning Starters On A Defense (Fun Stat Nerd Tidbit: Cincinnati)

So Cincinnati returns 11 defensive starters. That's probably a good thing, right? But how good? And how much can a bad defense improve in one offseason just because of experience? Let's take a look, shall we?

Average Change In Def. F/+, Last Three Years
Starters
Returning
N Avg Chg in
Def. F/+
1 1 -12.4%
2 4 -10.9%
3 10 -8.4%
4 32 -2.1%
5 53 -1.1%
6 69 -0.5%
7 85 1.1%
8 56 1.5%
9 37 4.2%
10 9 6.0%
11 3 5.4%

So basically, if you return between five and eight starters, you are likely not going to change much, but three or fewer is a problem, and nine or more is a good thing.

Now, let's break it out by quality of the defense. Below is the same data broken out into four categories: defenses whose Def. F/+ was minus-10% or worse, defenses between zero and minus-9%, defenses between zero and plus-9%, and defenses who were plus-10% or better. For reference, Cincy's Def. F/+ was minus-6.4% last year.

Average Change In Def. F/+ by Quality of Defense,
Last Three Years (N>2 in bold)
Starters
Returning
Def F/+:
< -10%
Def. F/+:
0 to -9%
Def. F/+:
0 to 9%
Def. F/+:
> 10%
Overall
Average
1 -12.4% -12.4%
2 -7.0% -14.1% -8.5% -10.9%
3 -7.5% -7.8% -11.1% -8.4%
4 +6.5% -2.0% -0.1% -6.1% -2.1%
5 +12.0% -0.5% -3.3% -5.5% -1.1%
6 +1.2% +1.6% -1.5% -5.0% -0.5%
7 +4.8% +0.8% -1.1% -2.0% +1.1%
8 +5.4% +2.2% -1.2% +5.2% +1.5%
9 +8.6% +5.1% +2.3% -1.8% +4.2%
10 +10.7% +5.8% +1.3% +1.9% +6.0%
11 +6.5% +3.3% +5.4%

We're dealing with tiny sample sizes on the extremes here, but if we were to project about a six-percent improvement from Cincinnati, that would raise their ranking to the No. 35-50 range. With a solid offense, this would make Cincy a really solid overall team.

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