clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Breaking: Advanced stats say Joe Mixon and Curtis Samuel were really good in college

New, 4 comments
NCAA Football: Tulsa at Ohio State Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our look at 2016 player stats by moving from quarterbacks to runners.

I added runner stats to the 2016 Google sheet; there, you can find just about every stat I had for running backs, tailbacks, fullbacks, etc — rushing stats, fumbles, receiving stats, etc. It’s a lot to work through, but have at it. (And show your work! If you write something about this data, please share it with me on Twitter or in comments!)

Some initial takeaways from the data you find there (and again, if a term loses you, check for it here.):

  1. The MWC was a running back’s league last year. The top three backs in terms of combined intended touches (rushes + targets) were SDSU’s Donnell Pumphrey, Wyoming’s Brian Hill, and Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols. Nevada’s James Butler also crossed the 300-touch mark.
  2. Dalvin Cook was a bad man. The Florida State back not only carried 288 times, he also caught 34 of 49 balls at 10.5 yards per target. Of the nine players with at least 315 intended touches, he was the only one to average more than 6.3 yards per touch. And he and MTSU’s I’Tavius Mathers were the only two to top 6.3 with more than 275 intended touches.
  3. D’Onta Foreman: 323 total intended touches ... with no targets.
  4. Toledo’s Kareem Hunt and Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb: 512 combined rushes, zero fumbles.
  5. Northwestern’s Justin Jackson was incredibly all-or-nothing for a workhorse back. He was fourth in the country in intended touches despite averaging just 4.1 yards per target (over 54 targets) and gaining five or more yards on just 32 percent of his carries. There is a skill of sorts to taking 300+ hits over the course of the season, and hey, Northwestern had its best offense in four years in 2016. He clearly played a role in that. (Just ask Pitt.) But still. An odd lack of productivity for someone touching the ball 25 times per game.
NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Northwestern vs Pittsburgh
Justin Jackson
William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

PLAYER TYPES

In the QBs piece, I took a stab at breaking players into different types of quarterbacks. I’ll attempt to do so here, too, though it’s pretty easy to get lost in the weeds. I know this because ... I got lost in the weeds!

Based on size and the ratio of rushes to pass targets (and getting rid of non-triple option fullbacks), I ended up creating basically three categories of running backs: third-down backs (guys with a high ratio of targets to carries), runners (guys with a high ratio of carries to targets), and basic backs. To further compare like to like, I divided the last two categories (runners and basic backs) into two subcategories each, based on size.

Then, as I did with the QBs, I then created general ratings based on your stats in a variety of categories: highlight yards per opportunity (explosiveness), opportunity rate (efficiency), fumble rate, touchdown rate, receiving success rate (efficiency out of the backfield), and receiving yards per catch (explosiveness out of the backfield). Based on the category of backs at hand (and educated guesses regarding the importance of each category), I gave those categories different weights.

  • Third-down backs: 32% opportunity rate, 26% highlight yardage, 16% receiving success rate, 16% yards per catch, 5% fumbles, 5% touchdowns
  • Basic backs: 33% opportunity rate, 33% highlight yardage, 13% receiving success rate, 7% yards per catch, 7% fumbles, 7% touchdowns
  • Runners: 42% opportunity rate, 42% highlight yardage, 8% fumbles, 8% touchdowns

So how’d we do? Well, first, a couple of disclaimers:

  1. System matters. You’ll see that guys in spread option systems — Georgia Tech, Navy, etc. — are very friendly to their backs, and backs in those systems therefore grade out very well.
  2. Your line matters. That Penn State’s Saquon Barkley ended up 21st overall and in the 91st percentile with a young, banged up front probably means he should have been in the 99th percentile.
  3. As with QBs, these numbers aren’t adjusted for opponent. Things were complicated enough already.

With that in mind, let’s check out some lists. The bottom are based off of players who had at least 20 intended touches. (Again, I wanted as large a sample as possible.)

Top 10 third down backs

  1. Clinton Lynch, Georgia Tech (So., 100th percentile)
  2. Darryl Bonner, Navy (Jr., 99th)
  3. Dishan Romine, Navy (Sr., 97th)
  4. Curtis Samuel, Ohio State (Jr., 97th)
  5. Calvin Cass Jr., Navy (Sr., 95th)
  6. Stanton Truitt, Auburn (So., 92nd)
  7. Eddie McDoom, Michigan (Fr., 89th)
  8. Qua Searcy, Georgia Tech (So., 89th)
  9. I’Tavius Mathers, MTSU (Sr., 89th)
  10. Jeremy Smith, Louisville (Jr., 88th)

Or basically, the top three non-option backs were Samuel, Truitt, and McDoom.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State
Curtis Samuel
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Top 10 basic backs (small)

  1. Toneo Gulley, Navy (Sr., 99th percentile)
  2. Tyler Campbell, Army (So., 99th)
  3. Boston Scott, Louisiana Tech (Jr., 98th)
  4. Timothy McVey, Air Force (Jr., 97th)
  5. Tony Brooks-James, Oregon (So., 97th)
  6. Jordan Asberry, Army (So., 97th)
  7. Anthony Wales, WKU (Sr., 96th)
  8. Chris Evans, Michigan (Fr., 89th)
  9. Art Thompkins, Toledo (Fr., 89th)
  10. Kenny Young, Miami (Ohio) (So., 88th)

Non-option top three: Scott, Brooks-James, Wales. Another solid list.

NCAA Football: Louisiana Tech at North Texas
Boston Scott
Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports

Top 10 basic backs (large)

  1. Ty Johnson, Maryland (So., 99th percentile)
  2. Rashaad Penny, SDSU (Jr., 99th)
  3. Aaron Jones, UTEP (Jr., 98th)
  4. Joe Mixon, Oklahoma (So., 98th)
  5. Miles Sanders, Penn State (Fr., 97th)
  6. Dalvin Cook, Florida State (Jr., 96th)
  7. Marlon Mack, USF (Jr., 95th)
  8. Damien Harris, Alabama (So., 95th)
  9. Chris Carson, Oklahoma State (Sr., 94th)
  10. Kennedy McKoy, WVU (Fr., 94th)

And now we get into the Pro Prospects part of the list.

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Auburn vs Oklahoma
Joe Mixon
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

(Note: “small” and “big” is based simply on whether you’re in the upper half or lower half of the group in overall size.)

Top 10 runners (small)

  1. Teriyon Gipson, New Mexico (Sr., 97th percentile)
  2. Shaq Vann, EMU (So., 97th)
  3. Tyrone Evans, New Mexico (So., 96th)
  4. Derrius Guice (So., 94th)
  5. Diquon Woodhouse, New Mexico (So., 93rd)
  6. Juwan Washington, SDSU (Fr., 93rd)
  7. Devante Mays, Utah State (Sr., 92nd)
  8. Lorenzo Harrison, Maryland (Fr., 92nd)
  9. Lavon Coleman, Washington (Jr., 92nd)
  10. Malik Williams, Louisville (Jr., 85th)

Hello, Lobos. New Mexico backs don’t catch passes, evidently.

NFL: NFLPA Collegiate Bowl
Teriyon Gipson
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Top 10 runners (big)

  1. Cole Macek, Army (So., 98th)
  2. Damarea Crockett, Missouri (Fr., 95th)
  3. Kobe McCrary, Minnesota (Jr., 95th)
  4. Joshua Jacobs, Alabama (Fr., 94th)
  5. Ryquell Armstead, Temple (So., 94th)
  6. Kam Martin, Auburn (Fr., 94th)
  7. Fabian Johnson, WMU (Sr., 94th)
  8. John Moten IV, Northwestern (Fr., 92nd)
  9. Trey Edmunds, Maryland (Sr., 92nd)
  10. Brandon Radcliff, Louisville (Sr., 92nd)

Lots of Terps on this list, yeah? Also: Hello there, Damarea Crockett.

NCAA Football: Eastern Michigan at Missouri
Damarea Crockett
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Alright, now let’s flip that around a bit.

Top 10 freshmen

  1. Miles Sanders, Penn State (basic-large, 97th percentile)
  2. Damarea Crockett, Missouri (runner-large, 95th)
  3. Joshua Jacobs, Alabama (runner-large, 94th)
  4. Kam Martin, Auburn (runner-large, 94th)
  5. Kennedy McKoy, WVU (basic-large, 94th)
  6. Juwan Washington, SDSU (basic-small, 93rd)
  7. John Moten IV, Northwestern (runner-large, 92nd)
  8. Lorenzo Harrison, Maryland (runner-small, 92nd)
  9. Alex Barnes, Kansas State (runner-large, 91st)
  10. Eddie McDoom, Michigan (third-down back, 89th)

Sanders didn’t get many touches, due to some combination of fumbles and “having Saquon Barkley ahead of you on the depth chart.” In all, only one player on this list (Crockett) had more than 88 touches.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Penn State
Miles Sanders
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Top 10 sophomores

  1. Clinton Lynch, Georgia Tech (third-down back, 100th percentile)
  2. Tyler Campbell, Army (basic-small, 99th)
  3. Ty Johnson, Maryland (basic-large, 99th)
  4. Joe Mixon, Oklahoma (basic-large, 98th)
  5. Cole Macek, Army (runners-large, 98th)
  6. Shaq Vann, EMU (runners-small, 97th)
  7. Tony Brooks-James, Oregon (basic-small, 97th)
  8. Jordan Asberry, Army (basic-small, 97th)
  9. Tyrone Owens, New Mexico (runners-small, 96th)
  10. Damien Harris, Alabama (basic-large, 95th)

Ty Johnson had a heck of a year in 2016.

NCAA Football: Quick Lane Bowl-Boston College vs Maryland
Ty Johnson
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Top 10 juniors

  1. Rashaad Penny, SDSU (basic-large, 99th percentile)
  2. Darryl Bonner, Navy (third-down back, 99th)
  3. Aaron Jones, UTEP (basic-large, 98th)
  4. Boston Scott, Louisiana Tech (basic-small, 98th)
  5. Tim McVey, Air Force (basic-small, 97th)
  6. Curtis Samuel, Ohio State (third-down back, 97th)
  7. Dalvin Cook, Florida State (basic-large, 96th)
  8. Marlon Mack, USF (basic-large, 95th)
  9. Kobe McCrary, Minnesota (runners-big, 95th)
  10. Lavon Coleman, Washington (runners-small, 92nd)

On a per-carry basis, Penny was even better than Donnell Pumphrey.

NCAA Football: Mountain West Championship-San Diego State at Wyoming
Rashaad Penny
Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Top 10 seniors

  1. Toneo Gulley, Navy (basic-small, 99th percentile)
  2. Dishan Romine, Navy (third-down back, 97th)
  3. Teriyon Gipson, New Mexico (runners-small, 97th)
  4. Anthony Wales, WKU (basic-small, 96th)
  5. Calvin Cass Jr., Navy (third-down back, 95th)
  6. Chris Carson, Oklahoma State (basic-large, 94th)
  7. Fabian Johnson, WMU (runners-large, 94th)
  8. Devante Mays, Utah State (runners-small, 92nd)
  9. Trey Edmunds, Maryland (runners-large, 92nd)
  10. Brandon Radcliff, Louisville (runners-large, 92nd)

Gonna go ahead and guess that, if I were to run this list for any point in the last 10 years, Navy slotbacks would make up at least two of the top five.

NCAA Football: Navy at Southern Methodist
Toneo Gulley
Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Top 10 workhorses

Guys with at least 150 intended touches...

  1. Rashaad Penny, SDSU (basic-large, 99th percentile)
  2. Aaron Jones, UTEP (basic-large, 98th)
  3. Joe Mixon, Oklahoma (basic-large, 98th)
  4. Teriyon Gipson, New Mexico (runners-small, 97th)
  5. Curtis Samuel, Ohio State (third-down back, 97th)
  6. Anthony Wales, WKU (basic-small, 96th)
  7. Dalvin Cook, Florida State (basic-large, 96th)
  8. Marlon Mack, USF (basic-large, 95th)
  9. Damarea Crockett, Missouri (runners-large, 95th)
  10. Damien Harris, Alabama (basic-large, 95th)
NCAA Football: Texas El Paso at Texas Tech
Aaron Jones
Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

And finally...

Top 25 power conference guys

  1. Clinton Lynch, Georgia Tech (100th)
  2. Ty Johnson, Maryland (99th)
  3. Joe Mixon, Oklahoma (98th)
  4. Tony Brooks-James, Oregon (97th)
  5. Curtis Samuel, Ohio State (97th)
  6. Miles Sanders, Penn State (97th)
  7. Dalvin Cook, Florida State (96th)
  8. Damarea Crockett, Missouri (95th)
  9. Kobe McCrary, Minnesota (95th)
  10. Damien Harris, Alabama (95th)
  11. Derrius Guice, LSU (94th)
  12. Joshua Jacobs, Alabama (94th)
  13. Kam Martin, Auburn (94th)
  14. Chris Carson, Oklahoma State (94th)
  15. Kennedy McKoy, WVU (94th)
  16. Stanton Truitt, Auburn (92nd)
  17. John Moten IV, Northwestern (92nd)
  18. Trey Edmunds, Maryland (92nd)
  19. Lorenzo Harrison, Maryland (92nd)
  20. Brandon Radcliff, Louisville (92nd)
  21. Lavon Coleman, Washington (92nd)
  22. Alex Barnes, Kansas State (91st)
  23. Ryan Nall, Oregon State (91st)
  24. Saquon Barkley, Penn State (91st)
  25. Elijah Hood, UNC (90th)

Pointless exercise in list-making? Maybe. Fun all the same? Definitely.

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Georgia
Clinton Lynch
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports