Using Analytics to Breakdown How Memphis’ Offense and UCF’s Defense Matchup with Each Other

UCF heads on the road to Memphis this week in without a doubt their most challenging game this season to date.

Memphis, is the team a lot of people were saying would potentially be the ones that would finally end UCF’s winning streak and shut up their fan base.

However, they have not exactly played up to their expectations this year, already losing to conference games; @ Navy and @ Tulane.

Both those losses were on the road, they get UCF @ home in the AAC championship rematch and they should have a solid crowd.

This game will feature plenty of points as both these teams are both top 10 scoring offenses, Memphis is the #3 scoring offense at home.

I broke down Memphis’ offense through their first 5 FBS games in about every way possible and tried to look at how UCF’s defense has fared against each particular thing that Memphis will throw at them.

I was going to do the same with UCF’s offense vs. Memphis defense, but kind of ran out of time and I just think UCF is going to score no matter what defense they’re playing against. If the defense can get stops they’ll win.


I’m sure most of you have already seen Darrell Henderson’s raw stats for this season. He has been by far the best running back in the country statistically and it really isn’t even close.

Memphis plays 3 running backs throughout the game. Henderson is obviously their main guy, but Patrick Taylor has been extremely good this season as well. Tony Pollard probably plays the most snaps out of all 3, but he primarily will line up in the slot. He plays a similar role as to how Otis Anderson has been used so far this season.

I broke down both Henderson’s and Taylor’s rushing numbers through Memphis’ first 5 FBS games.

 67 carries for Henderson through 5 games only comes out to about 13.4 again which isn’t a lot for a guy as productive as Henderson, but game flow has also played a part in mostly all their games. Expect him to get 15+ carries this week.

Memphis loves the outside run. 32 of Henderson’s 67 runs have gone to the outside, he’s been successful on 20 of them for a remarkable 62.5% success rate.

Let’s take a look at how UCF’s defense has fared against outside runs so far this season:

These are only on rushes by RB’s. Brady White, Memphis QB is not a run threat so pretty much all rushes will be coming from RB’s with maybe 1 or 2 from Pop Williams.

So, UCF has faced 56 outside rushes, with 29 (51.79%) being successful. However, there is a drastic difference in left end rushes and right rushes. This could be because the right side of the line is better, but the thing that sticks out is the tackling. On rushes to the LE, UCF has missed 12 tackles, accounting for 3.74 yards per rush. To the RE, they have only missed 5, accounting for 1.07 yards per rush.

They’ve also allowed 4.11 yards after contact on LE rushes and only 1.97 on RE rushes. Looking at this, Memphis should try to run left more than right, but their season split with Henderson and Taylor is almost exactly 50/50.

I mentioned missed tackles on the outside rushes. It’s going to be a major factor in the outcome of this game. The only way Memphis wins this game, is by dominating the ground game and I’ll get more into this later.

Henderson has forced 28 missed tackles on 67 attempts this season. About 40% of his carries. On those 28 missed tackles, he’s accrued a whopping 498 yards, that’s 7.43 ypc and 100 yards rushing alone on missed tackles. UCF just had their first 100 yard rushing game by a RB in a long time against SMU and Henderson does that routinely on forced missed tackles alone.

The good news, for UCF, is their tackling has improved tremendously as the season has progressed.

As you can see, every game, tackling has improved. The SMU game doesn’t include the final two drives with “2”s” in, but if the “2’s” are in against Memphis, that will be the game is out of reach either way.

The one game that is concerning here is FAU. Devin Singletary is about as comparable of a back to Henderson that UCF will face. Singletary forced missed tackles on 50% of rushes last season and UCF had 27 missed tackles on 62 plays in that game. However, the improved tackling the last two weeks leads you to believe Henderson will get his fair share, but not an excessive amount of yards after missed tackles forced.

Men in Box:

The easiest response to “stopping the run” is to stack the box. Which in today’s football is almost impossible to do.

The most common box today is a 6 or 7 man box just because of the way college teams spread out defenses now, it’s just impossible to put 8 consistently in the box.

I filtered out all plays inside the red zone for the purpose of this.

You’ll see that against a 3/4/5 man box, Memphis didn’t even attempt to run the ball.

Vs. a 4 man box, they faced 6 3rd and 10+’s, all unsuccessful. Their one successful play was a 1st and 10.

Vs. a 5 man box, they only ran two plays out of 17 with 5 or less yards to gain.

Getting this team in obvious passing situations, will lead to a lot of success and I’ll reiterate that going forward.

You’ll see that Memphis has no problem running the ball against a 6 or 7 man box and they averaged over 10 ypc against both.

They did struggle a bit against an 8 man box in terms of running, but had great success throwing in a smaller sample size, but that’s why it’s so hard to stack the box.

If you look at how UCF has played on defense in retrospect with how many players they had in the box, you’ll see they as well primarily will play 6 or 7. They stacked the box 17 times, and it was by far the worst defense they’ve played. Smaller sample size of course, but I don’t think that’s the answer.

They played incredible vs. the run with a 7 man box and very good with a 6 man box, there’s no need to over adjust this week.

Also, just looking at these numbers, gives you a great picture of how good this defense has been under Randy Shannon.


Ahhh, my favorite topic. Except this time I won’t rant about UCF’s personnel usage except for the fact I wish it looked a lot more like Memphis’.

Memphis loves using two running backs. It’s in large part because they want Tony Pollard on the field as much as possible, much like UCF with Otis.

Pollard has lined up as a receiver on 137 of 269 plays (51%). He only has 10 carries on the season, 4 coming from the slot, 6 coming from the backfield. He’s hit on 7 out of 10 of those rushes, so you need to account for him.

He has 20 targets, 2 have been out of the backfield, 18 coming out wide. So he’s used more as a WR, but he’s listed as an RB and you need to account for him lining up or motioning into the backfield.

They also like having two tight ends on the field, something UCF struggled to defend the run against while playing Pitt. Joey Magnifico and Sean Dykes are both great tight ends, so you can’t really argue with getting them on the field together.

Magnifico and Dykes have combined for 15 targets, good for 10 catches, 0 drops and a 66.67% success rate.

They will both split out at times, but only 5 of their targets have come split out. You would also think the tight end would play a big part in their play action passing attack, but only 3 of their targets have come on play action.

Memphis loves to throw out different personnel groupings and with a majority of their talent being at the tight end and running back positions, you can’t blame them. It’s a matchup nightmare for defenses to deal with.

If you look at how UCF’s defense has played in retrospect to the personnel they were matched up against, you’ll see that the one area you can say they struggled is against two tight end looks. They’ve allowed a 56.67% rush success rate which is by far their highest with a decent sample size.

Memphis does not run a lot of “11” personnel, a matchup UCF has been very good again. All 14 of Memphis’ plays in 22 personnel came last week against UConn, I 100% expect them to roll out Magnifico and Dykes together with Henderson/Taylor and Pollard together a lot against UCF.

UCF has faced only one pass against 2 RB looks so far so it is a land of unknown for the defense. Combine that with their somewhat struggle to defend the run against two tight end looks, it makes the most sense. Also what makes the most sense, hardly ever occurs.

Passing Game:

This isn’t Memphis’ strength because of how good their running game is, but the effectiveness of the rushing attack can lead to passing success.

Let’s remember as well that Riley Ferguson and Anthony Miller aren’t walking out of the tunnel for Memphis this week, so no matter what, that’s a win for UCF.

White’s been pretty accurate this season so he’s not a major downgrade from Ferguson, but I have found where they really struggle to pass the ball and I’ll key on that later.

A majority of his passes are thrown at or behind the LOS, easy throws to make normally screens and when you have Henderson and Taylor in the backfield, that’s smart.

However, when he has open receivers downfield, he’s delivering the ball accurately at about a 58% clip. Milton was around 60% last on 21+ passes and was the best deep ball passer in the entire NCAA, so White, while the sample size is significantly smaller, has been effective in this area.

I charted 49 play action passes out of 128 attempts which is about 38% of passes. This is a pretty high number and would probably rank as the highest in the NFL. They’ve been successful on 30 (61%) of these. Everyone knows about Memphis two-back attack in the run game and it helps out their passing game a ton. They average 10.89 yards per attempt on play action passes, a significant gain.

Another way to get your QB easy completions and take advantage of a defense gearing up for the run, screen passes. Memphis has thrown 34 of them, successful on an incredible 21 (61.76%) of them, averaging 7.5 yards per attempt. These 34 passes have traveled a combine -68 yards behind the LOS.

I’ve charted 136 pass attempts (not including sacks) against UCF this season. They’ve faced a play action fake on 48 of them and have only allowed 20 to result in successful plays which definitely indicates on their ability to not bite on the run and stay disciplined.

They’ve only faced 7 screens in 4 games so a very small sample size with only 3 being successful. I can promise you the screen game will be a part of Memphis’ gameplan this week.

I mentioned before the involvement of Dykes and Magnifico in the passing game. Against UConn, UCF allowed 6 successful plays on 9 tight end targets.  Since, they’ve only allowed 4 on 16 targets. Definitely an area that has been dominant after that UConn game.

Memphis really only has one true starting WR. Damonte Coxie plays significantly more WR snaps than the other handful of guys who will rotate. Coxie is a really good receiver. He has 40 targets, by far the most on Memphis.

His average depth of target is 10.75 yards. He has 26 catches (65% catch rate), but only 18 successful plays. They definitely try to get him the ball downfield, but he will be targeted all over the place, and frequently.

Get Memphis in Obvious Passing Situations:

Alright, this is my final point, and the by far the biggest key to the game in my opinion.

Now, it sounds obvious, but if you look at the data I’m about to show you, you might actually think I’m on to something for once.

Early down success (1st and 2nd down) is something I’m high on. It’s key to being a good football team. That is exponentially true with Memphis.

As you can see, they are very good in this category. High success rates, high YPC and YPA. I don’t include sacks in passes, that is why the numbers won’t add up.

Now, when you look at Memphis on third down:

It’s a whole different story.

They only convert at a 44% clip on third down, nowhere near UCF’s 59%.

It’s in large part to getting behind the chains. They’ve only ran the ball on 3rd down 7 times and running is their strong suit. On those 7 rushes, their average yards to gain is 4, which includes one 12 ytg situation, so it is actually lower.

Now, on the 35 passes, their average YTG is 9.91 (obvious passing situation). They’ve only been successful on 16 of those (45%). They’ve also been sacked or had an unsuccessful scramble 5 times. So on 40 third down dropbacks, they are only hitting at a 40% success rate.

So how does UCF’s defense do in these situations?

On 1st and 2nd down, their numbers are incredible. As good as Memphis was, UCFs defense is even better. I would also argue the offenses that UCF has played are significantly better than the defenses Memphis has faced.

If UCF can hold even moderately true to these numbers on Saturday, Memphis will have no chance.

UCF’s defense on third down? Great. On 42 dropbacks, they’ve forced 7 scrambles and have one sack. On 34 passes, they’ve only allowed 12 successful plays (35%), amazing. UCF can feast defensively on third downs here, but the key will be forcing Memphis into these situations which UCF has been able to do their opponents early on.

The final thing I looked at in this category was how Memphis played when they were down by two scores or less in the second half. I consider these still situations where you the game is in reach, and you don’t have to abandon the run and your strengths.

On 37 plays in this type of situation, they’ve thrown a pass 62% of the time, clearly out of their comfort zone and it shows with their 30% success rate.

If UCF gets up early it’s going to be hard for Memphis to play catchup without Ferguson and Miller like they were able to in the AAC championship.

Offensive Line:

I forgot to talk about this, but it will be quick. Memphis’ O’Line is not very good, despite their crazy ability to run the football. It shows how good Henderson truly is.

They’ve allowed a run disruption/hurry/knockdown/sack on 40 of 250 plays which is probably a little lenient. On those 40 plays, only 4 have been successful. Without a mobile QB, it makes it hard when you allow so many pressures and a run disruption always will make it difficult no matter who is running the ball.

UCF has a run disruption/hurry/knockdown/sack on 89 of 280 defensive plays against FBS teams. Advantage UCF again.


Going on the road in college football is always difficult no matter who the opponent is. Memphis is in a big revenge spot here and after the way their season started, this is pretty much their super bowl so expect all the tricks and an all out effort from Memphis.

UCF is going to put up points. They’ve scored 30+ in 18 straight and there is just no reason to think Memphis who allowed 40 to Tulane and 35 to South Alabama will be the team to stop that streak.

So for Memphis, they need to be able to score with UCF.

In order to do that, I think they need to run Henderson and Taylor to the outside and often. Make UCF match up against two tight end sets as much as possible and force them to tackle in space. It is the one weakness this team has shown throughout the season.

Memphis just can’t afford to be put in obvious passing situations. UCF’s secondary is by far the best Memphis will have faced, and they struggled mightily in these situations in their other games, so there is no reason to expect that to change here.

Brady White has shown he is a very accurate QB and thrives in the PA and Screen game, but that is all taken away when the defense is expecting pass.


Breaking Down UCF’s Offense Vs. SMU Using Analytics: Will they ever Play to their Strengths?

UCF won their 18th straight over the weekend as they beat SMU 48-20.

While 48 points really jumps out at you, I don’t think the offense played particularly well and it’s been the same reasons for the past couple of weeks, for the most part.

However, this team has still been putting up crazy numbers, so when (if) they ever kind of play to their strengths more often than they don’t it will be interesting to see how many points they can put up.

They also have not really faced a respectable defense yet and honestly may not play one until the bowl game.

I’m not going to go too in depth as I’ll have more season total data when I preview the Memphis game in a couple of days. I’m also not going to talk about the defense against SMU, they were really, really good so we’ll leave it at that.

McKenzie Milton:

Now the third straight (fourth if you include SC St.) where Milton’s accuracy numbers just are not very good again. I keep saying I think he’ll get back into the rhythm he was in last season, but every week it doesn’t happen, I start to think it is more a product of Heupel’s offense than Milton’s issue.

I have some theories and after the Memphis game, with 4 FBS games of data, I want to compare it to last season to see where the major differences are.

However, this week he was a lot better throwing the ball downfield which is definitely a positive.

Milton’s legs had been a major plus on designed runs so far, but he didn’t have a single designed run this week for some reason. I know after he got hurt it would’ve been playing with fire, but that was still essentially 1 half of football without one.

Milton missed 4 open receivers this week (for me to consider this you have to be very open) which is a couple lower than last week, but these are throws he needs to make. Most of them would go for big gains.

Now, that being said, it is extremely difficult to be consistently accurate when you’re under pressure every single time you drop back.

SMU blitzed on 22 of 39 dropbacks, an extremely high rate and UCF’s line just couldn’t handle it.

Milton was also pressure on 7 of the plays where SMU didn’t blitz. So on 29 of his 39 drop backs, he was under some sort of pressure. This is against a not so great defense too.

A lot of people may look at the number of sacks allowed and be like “well the O-Line has been great in Pass Pro”, but Milton makes up for so much of the poor O-Line play because of his mobility and creativity.

It has been a lot of the same culprits all season and with so much depth at the line IMO, I wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of the “2’s” get a shot. It’s just simply not easy to have a successful downfield passing game with constant pressure.


This was upsetting to me. Snelson came back and looked great, but it also led to a crazy amount “11” personnel usage. Even in the prior games with Snelson playing, Heupel mixed it up a lot, however against SMU, he went back to his old Missouri tricks.

 70 out of 81 plays in “11” personnel. Once again it produced under a 50% success rate, while 2 running backs on the field was once again easily over 50%. A lot smaller sample size this week though.

The good news here is, Otis Anderson got more running back snaps, the bad news is, Otis Anderson got a heck of a lot fewer total snaps.

Runnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Game:

New game, same old question from me.

For some strange reason, Heupel feels the need to force AK more carries than necessary. He had some huge runs in this one and we saw what makes him so important to this team, and that’s why he needs his touches. He is still an amazing football player with world speed, but that doesn’t mean he’s an every down between the tackles guy.

He hasn’t been bad between the tackles, it’s more of it’s too much. Quality over Quantity.

Now, if UCF didn’t have the talent behind him, I would be fine with his production.

Against SMU, he had 20 carries, 8 of them were successful, not great. 14 of his carries went for 5 yards or less and he averaged under 1 ypc after contact.

Otis, Taj, and McRae had 15 combined carries and produced at an 80% success rate. It’s just hard to argue against the numbers.

Taj had 2.2 yards after contact per rush.

McRae had 3.25 and forced 3 missed tackles on 4 carries.

Otis, was well, perfect. 6 for 6, 9 yards per carry before contact and 3.5 after contact. He forced 3 missed tackles on 6 carries.

If I have to go out on the field and hand Otis the ball myself for him to get more carries, I might have to do it. I still have about 3 years of eligibility left.

Quarter Breakdown:

So scrolled across this tweet during the game and wanted to investigate a little. I didn’t go crazy, but just did some basic research.

Now, against SMU the offense did look a lot worse in the 2q than 1st, but I think a lot of that gets judged off of just points.

I filtered out every play, by quarter, for the first 3 quarters for the FAU, Pitt, and SMU games and combined them together.

I left out the 4th quarter because every game has been over by then, thus gameplans and what not kind of get aborted.

First think that jumps out at me, is the consistency. Almost the same run/pass ratio per quarter and almost identical plays ran each quarter.

The second quarter statistically speaking, has been the worst. With a larger sample size the numbers could separate themselves a little more.

If you look at the second quarter, UCF actually has the high yard per carry, but the lowest rushing success rate. They also have by far the lowest yards per pass attempt.

With a high YPC and a low success rate, it leads me to believe they are getting put in longer down and distances in which they are running the ball in.

They also only have 63 yards after the catch on their competitions in the second quarter. This shows that defenses kind of have great coverage and may be able to anticipate UCF’s pass play designs a little bit more after seeing them for a quarter.

Definitely will be something I can look more into with more data throughout the season, but it is something interesting to look at.

The yards per attempt difference in the second quarter is the main thing that jumps out as the difference between the other two quarters, but that’s about it.


After Beating Pitt, I used Analytics to show why UCF’s offense can be so much better and how the Defense Dominated

UCF posted their 17th straight win on Saturday when they defeated Pitt to improve to 4-0 on the season.

The teams performance almost flip flopped this week, as the defense tackled great and played lights out, while the offense struggled a bit. Yes, they put up 45 points, but they played a Pitt defense who let up 38 to a abysmal North Carolina team. If you break the offense down a per play basis (which I did) you’ll see that compared to the UConn and FAU performances, they did not perform well.

It’s not a bad thing to put up 45 points and have your QB be the national player of the week, when you don’t play anywhere close to your capability, but to beat the better AAC opponents and potentially a NY6 opponent, you need to be better overall because those teams aren’t committing dumb penalties and blowing as many assignments.

McKenzie Milton:

Milton was the Walter Camp offensive player of the week this week which is crazy considering he played his worst game of the season against an FBS opponent.

Don’t get me wrong, Milton still played great, but he could have put up video game numbers with the amount of open receivers he missed.

Milton struggled throwing deep against SC St and was 0-2 against FAU on such passes. Against Pitt, he struggled again. It is a little uncharacteristic as he was 39/60 last season on 21+ yard attempts. He also struggled with his short passing and intermediate against Pitt. The only area you can look at and say he was pretty good was the deep intermediate range.

Milton also didn’t throw an interceptable pass (penalties aren’t counted) which is a positive. He completed 18/34 passes and that’s exactly what his accuracy was so no drops by receivers.

However, Milton missed 6 open receivers and I only mark a receiver as open if there is room for error on the pass and it can still be completed, so 6 is a good amount.

4 of them came on deep passes, all which would have gone for touchdowns. Exactly why I said he could’ve put up video game numbers. With the accuracy numbers he had last season, there’s no reason to panic as 5 of the 6 missed open receivers were to Tre Nixon and Otis Anderson, guys who he wasn’t throwing to last season so hopefully chemistry will come as the season advances. I know Otis did catch passes last season, but he is not someone who Milton was continuously throwing too.

Milton also struggled against the blitz, an area he had been making the opponent this season.

The O-Line has not been great and it wasn’t against Pitt.

UCF allowed 9 pressures on pass plays.

Jake Brown allowed 4 of them, he has been a constant victim this season. After Jordan Johnson had a poor game last week, he allowed another 2 hurries against Pitt. Colubiale has picked it up on the receiving end, but his blocking continues to be suspect as he allowed another 2 hurries.

Brown also let up 2 run disruptions and Schneider for the first time this season allowed a couple as well.

It seems to be the same culprits on the O-Line and with UCF’s depth there, it would great to see even more rotation then they already have.

Milton’s ability to run the ball has been a major factor this season. Pitt defended the read option and Speed option pretty well, but Milton was extremely effective on QB draws and scrambles. Forcing 4 missed tackles on 9 rushes isn’t too bad for a QB, either. The unpredictability of QB draws, makes it a dangerous play for this offense.

Milton didn’t have his best game and if he can get back to his old self on deep passes, it will really set this offense up for major success. This receiver core continues to get open down field and I don’t expect that change.


I finally got my wish. UCF ran more plays out of “21” personnel than “11”. It didn’t result in what I expected, but it was still more effective than “11”.

Snelson being out, really affects the personnel grouping Heupel can put on the field, but he’s expected back this week so that will change.

It’s important to note that Otis didn’t line up as a RB a single snap, which to me is just dumb and kind of diminishes the “21” personnel grouping.

A quick reminder that he was the best rusher on the team last season and was also very good up the middle, an area Heupel loves to run.

Run Game:

Adrian Killins once again received the most carries and was once again the worst rusher. Look, I really like Killins, but he’s just not being used right and I’ve been saying it for a while now.

However, before I post rushing stats, maybe Heupel learned that getting the ball to AK in space can work. AK was targeted twice out of the backfield, he had 135 yards on those plays with 113 of them coming after the catch. When you throw the ball to a RB, out of the backfield, they are normally covered by a LB, advantage Killins.

Against UConn, AK was targeted twice out of the backfield. He had 44 yards on those two receptions. He’s 5 for 5 in terms of success rate on his targets (not including SC St). That is good in my opinion. 179 yards on 4 receptions out of the backfield, actually good.

Ok, back to the run game.

Killins numbers just are pretty ugly. 0 missed tackles forced on 12 carries, a 41.67% success rate, and only .92 yards after contact. Pitt was probably the most physical team UCF has played and it shows here.

Taj, I’ve been extremely high on. He was only successful on 2 of his 5 attempts, but absolutely bullied Pitt with 4.4 yards after contact.

McRae got double digit carries and in terms of success rate outperformed AK and Taj. He forced the most missed tackles out of all RB’s and did well, both before and after contact.

Bentavious (hope I spelled that right) got all 7 carries with the reserves, but he still looked great and it would be interesting to see what he can do with the 1’s.

My point on the run game continues to stay the same, but Otis needs some carries and hopefully that him getting none was just a result of Snelson being out.

With Milton at QB, UCF ran 71 plays. They were successful on 34 of them. That’s a 47.79% rate which is not very good. Against FAU and UConn they were in the mid 60’s.

The bright side here is they still scored 45 points so when the players and coaches say the offense can get better, it’s extremely true.


It’s obvious the defense played excellent as the starters shut out the Pitt offense. Pitt ran 54 plays against UCF’s starters. UCF held them to a 40.74% success rate. Just absolutely incredible.

Where UCF struggled against FAU was on outside rush attempts. Pitt ran the ball 16 times to the left end or right end and were only successful on 7 of them. However, they were over 50% successful when the ball carrier was a running back, so there is still room for improvement in this area.

One thing Pitt did, was throw a bunch of different personnel groupings on the field. This is good because Memphis likes to do the same.

One negative thing that jumps out here is UCF’s ability to defend the run against multiple tight ends. In “12” and “13” personnel, Pitt was successful on 9 of 12 rushes.

Everywhere else, UCF was really, really good.


I think this is what everyone knows UCF has been awful at this season. 27 missed tackles against both FAU and UConn, wasn’t going to cut it.

The starters only missed 6 tackles on 54 plays for an extra 33 yards. A major improvement from the first couple of weeks. No player missed more than one tackle either.


UCF got pressure or a run disruption on 19 of Pitt’s 58 plays. On those 19 plays, Pitt only had one successful play. Also, on those 19 plays, UCF didn’t blitz once. Getting pressure without blitzing is a major recipe for success.

An abundance of players contributed in this area.


17 of Pitt’s pass attempts were thrown at a defensive target, only 7 were completed and only 3 were successful. Absolute dominance.

Brandon Moore was only thrown at once and once again he was in better position to make the catch than the receiver. He has dropped about 3 interceptions the last two games on like 4 defensive targets. It sucks that he’s dropping them, but that is insanely good. He basically is taking his receiver out of every play.

Everyone was just really good that there’s no point of going through all the numbers. The linebackers, safeties, slot corners, no one was bad in coverage.

I feel like it is only a matter of time before Milton starts to click on some of these deep balls and once he does, watch out. There are a couple of changes I’ve continuously pointed out on offense that I think would benefit UCF, but apparently Heupel and I don’t see eye to eye.

The coverage has been excellent defensively all season. Against Pitt, UCF got a ton of pressure without blitzing, something I think a lot of people were concerned about under Randy Shannon.

Defending the run against multiple tight ends will be something to look at going forward, but then again, most teams don’t use two tight ends in college anymore.

Setting the edge on outside runs needs to improve especially before the Memphis game because Darrell Henderson is very, very good.


Using Analytics to Look at How UCF’s Offense Dominated FAU and Despite Poor Tackling, the Defense Showed a lot of Promise

UCF extended their winning streak to 16 games while improving to 3-0 in 2018 with a convincing win over Lane Kiffin and Florida Atlantic. There were a lot of positives in this game and not many negatives, but we’ll take a look at everything using analytics and advanced stats from the game.

Josh Heupel now has 3 games under his belt and there are certainly some things that I wish he’d use more of on the offensive end, but he has impressed me thus far in terms of using his personnel wisely after what I saw him do at Missouri which had me nervous heading into the season.

It’s also nice having one of the best quarterbacks in the country in McKenzie Milton and we’ll jump into his numbers right away.

Now, it’s very clear Heupel limited Milton against SC State and really didn’t want him doing much, which makes me just question why not play Darriel Mack and get him some reps with the 1’s.

Milton performed nicely against FAU. It wasn’t his best game throwing the football, but it certainly wasn’t a bad one.

Milton threw 30 balls, not including passes thrown away. 23 of them were accurate passes. He only took 2 deep shots this week, which is a little less than normal, for both this season as well as his downfield passes from last season. One pass was completed and the other he missed an open receiver, but I’ll take 1 out of 2 deep ball completions any day of the week.

Where Milton really excelled was on intermediate passes. Balls thrown 11-20 yards down field, he was 9/12 in terms of accuracy. Just an overall solid game for McKenzie.

I mentioned in my preview, that UCF needed take advantage of FAU’s defense when they blitz. Well, UCF did just that.

Milton faced 7 blitz’ and completed 5 passes, all for successful plays.

However, Milton struggled when he faced pressure that came from 3 or 4 man rushes. FAU kind of ran a QB contain with the front 3/4 and played zone with the remaining 7/8 guys. Milton struggled here when he had to hold onto the ball longer than he wanted to.

He only completed one pass in the above situation on 7 pass attempts. He did have a successful scramble on top of that one completion, but this is definitely something to look at going forward.

Milton faced a decent amount of pressure and there were a few run disruptions allowed.

There were 11 plays the above occurred. Jordan Johnson uncharacteristically allowed 6 of them. He’s been amazing for this O-Line so I’m going to chalk this up as a down game for the Center. With his attitude and confidence I don’t think it is a concern.

Adrian Killins also allowed 2 pressures while pass blocking. Tyler Hudanick had 2 allowed as well and Wyatt Miller and Jake Brown each had 1.

The thing Heupel didn’t allow Milton to do against SC St was use his legs. I think Milton’s running ability is the single most dangerous weapon for the offense and we saw this against Auburn, the best team UCF has played during their 16 game win streak.

I broke down Milton’s rushes by QB draws, Read Options, and scrambles.

He had 10 designed runs. 8 of them were successful plays and he gained over 7 YPC. He also is extremely good at making people miss. He forced 5 missed tackles on those 10 attempts and that’s including rushes where he gives himself up early to avoid a hit.

It was nice to see Milton allowed to be Milton again and the offensive production certainly showed it.

Personnel Usage:

This is something I’ll be anxious to see every single game. If you have read anything I’ve wrote about UCF heading into this season, personnel grouping was my biggest concern. Heupel is almost there, but he just needs to flip his numbers a little more.

“11” personnel is still his most used, but he is starting to get out of his comfort zone and I’m loving it.

Otis Anderson was on the field for every snap run in either “20” or “21” personnel. UCF had a 71.88% success rate on those plays. That is… well, pretty damn good. Otis might not be getting the touches that he wants, or that I think he should get, but his impact on the game is much larger than only when he has the ball in his hands.

UCF ran “10” personnel 5 times. These 5 plays, Marlon Williams was on the field in my ideal Marlon Williams should be UCF’s tight end situation. All 5 of these plays were successful and Marlon himself continued his outstanding production for UCF turning both his targets into successful plays and forcing a missed tackle to get in the endzone.

At times, it’s almost like some of the stuff that I say, makes sense. Crazy world.

Run Game:

A lot of people are unhappy with the run game and they’re just wrong to put it nicely.

Runs up the middle were successful 12 out of 18 times, good for a 66.67% success rate. AK, although I don’t agree with him being a bell cow, had a 54% success rate up the middle.

McGowan and McRae need to get more carries it’s that simple. They both have been beasts all season. Against FAU, TAJ was 7 for 7 on his rushes while gaining 3 ypc after contact.

McRae was 5 for 7 in terms of successful runs on his attempts.

The discrepancy in carries does not equate to the production in the backfield and I hope that is something changed moving forward.

Early Down Success:

This goes along with my point that people who are saying the runs up the middle aren’t working. As shown above, almost all of UCF’s rushes are up the middle.

UCF ran 67 plays on 1st or 2nd down. They ran the ball on 39 of those plays. 29 of them were successful and they averaged 7 yards per carry. That is good, not bad. Now, they were 18/28 on pass attempts on early downs as well and actually gained more yards per attempts through the air than on the ground.

UCF is rushing at such a high success rate and averaging an exceptional amount of yards per carry, people diminishing this are crazy.

The better part about averaging 7 ypc here, is that UCF didn’t even have any crazy long rushes to skew the average, it is a true average.

It was nice to see Michael Colubiale replicate what he did last season in his limited action. He did have a drop, but it wouldn’t have resulted in a successful play either way.

He had 6 successful plays on his 8 targets. His 2 that were unsuccessful were when he was lined up as a true tight end. His 6 successful targets were when he was split out wide. I think this is something important to note and focus on as we see how his role grows through the season.

Overall, the offense was very good and Heupel’s clock management in the 4th quarter was outstanding.

The few things I’d like to see different are more Marlon Williams in “10” or “20” personnel, more plays run out of “20” and “21” personnel than “11” and “12”, and getting Taj and McRae more involved in the run game.


Besides the missed tackles, I actually think the defense played really good. FAU was only successful on 34 of their 75 plays (45.33%). Now look at the success rates I just posted for UCF’s offense and tell me that isn’t good.


Tackling was bad against UConn, tackling was really bad against FAU. I actually charted the same exact amount of missed tackles in both games, but FAU had 11 less plays of a sample size. FAU also turned their forced missed tackles into 80 yards more than UConn.

207 extra yards on 27 missed tackles just can’t happen. Those 34 successful plays FAU had could’ve easily been cut down to 25. I get it, Devin Singletary is really good, I’ve done plenty of charting on him and know more than anyone what he can do. He wasn’t the only one making guys miss though so that is not an excuse.

Run Defense:

FAU dominated UCF when they ran to the outside. 20 for 34 successful plays on outside rushes. Compared to all of FAU’s other plays, that is crazy high.UCF did well against the run with 7 in the box and didn’t do horrible with 6. Against better passing teams, 6 in the box is going to have to get the job done.

Pass Defense:

UCF was incredible in coverage. Brandon Moore is turning himself into the next Mike Hughes, minus the hands. Moore dropped two interceptions against FAU, but that’s alright.

Moore was targeted 3 times. He allowed 1 catch. It went for -1 yard. That should be a -.33 yards per target not a positive. His other two targets, he dropped an interception. This is a guy who is on the field for every pass.

Along with Moore, Clarke is on the field ever pass as well. He did pretty good too. 2 catches on 4 targets that went for a total of 20 yards, but he didn’t allow any yards after the catch.

Safety play in coverage has been great all season and it was again despite a couple of deep balls on Richie Grant, but that will happen against speedsters like Durante and Willie Wright.

Now, the linebackers in coverage were sensational. They were targeted 6 times, didn’t allow a single catch and recorded 3 interceptions. You can’t get better than that.

The limited yards after catch allowed is something that stands out to me and that is a major positive.

Defensive Pressure

In my preview I said UCF had to get pressure without blitzing. They did so 9 times. Those 9 passes, 3 interceptions, 5 incompletions, and 1 completion. UCF only blitzed 3 times and based on those numbers, you can see why. When you have coverage as good as UCF has, you don’t need to blitz.

This was a great performance by UCF. I don’t think the 36 points allowed really shows how good the defense played. They need to continue to improve their tackling and work on forcing outside rushes inside, and this defense will be in some serious business.

I’m looking forward to UCF putting up back to back positive showings on both sides of the ball in this Pitt game. Many people are looking forward to it and I think UCF should dominate both sides of the ball in this one.

The FAU performance showed a lot of promise and people who don’t think so, need to look at some of the real numbers. Box scores never tell the true story.

Previewing the UCF vs. FAU Showdown Using Analytics and Advanced Stats

Friday night, FAU heads to Orlando to face UCF in a matchup between two of the most exciting offenses in the country. Lane Kiffin is one of the best offensive minds in college football and he’s proved that with the turn around he’s produced at FAU. On the other hand, UCF hasn’t lost in 15 straight games and in those 15 games, they’ve scored over 30 points.

Two of the best players in the country will be future by each team as well. Devin Singletary led the NCAA in rushing TD’s last season and McKenzie Milton finished 8th in the Heisman race so if you like offense, this will be a great game to watch.

I broke down each teams offense and what each team needs to do to win using analytics and advanced stats from both this season and last season.

For FAU, I charted 8 offensive games from last season and all 3 from this season (only the first 3 quarters in Oklahoma and Bethune Cookman games the scoring differential in both). I charted their defense against Kyler Murray’s offensive plays and the first half of the Bethune Cookman game (I wanted to do the third quarter, but JetBlue’s wifi let me down. I didn’t chart the defense vs. Air Force because they run the triple option.

For UCF, I charted 10 games from last season, Mizzouri’s 10 games from last season, and the offense in the first two games this season. I only charted the defense for the UConn game because SC State is one of the worst FCS offenses so those stats would skew data.

FAU Offense Vs. UCF Defense:

FAU lost Jason Driskel after last season. This season Kiffin went with Chris Robison an Oklahoma transfer to lead the offense. In my FAU season preview, I mentioned that I thought Robison would be an upgrade over Driskel. My thought process behind this was, Driskel couldn’t throw the ball downfield. Look at his charting from 2017.

He was just 17/48 in throwing catchable passes on balls traveling 11 or more yards in the air. FAU’s offense was still able to be succeed because of Kiffin’s creativity in the short passing game which has continued over to this season.

In just 3 games, not even 12 quarters, Robison has attempted 37 passes traveling over 11+ yards. He’s thrown an accurate ball 18 times on those 37 attempts. Not amazing, but not terrible, definitely an improvement over Driskel. If you take out the Oklahoma game, Robison’s first ever college start against his old school and arguably the best team in the country, he’s 14/25, good for a 56% accuracy rate. He is only getting better every game and is a QB you have to worry about.

UCF’s defense faced 10 passes on balls that traveled over 10 yards. 40% of them resulted in successful plays for UConn’s offense, but the receiver was open on 60% of them. Against these 10 plays, UCF also had an INT. Nevelle Clarke faced 3 of these targets, 2 of them were successful. Look for Robison to try and take advantage of who Clarke is matched up on. Brandon Moore was lock down in the season opener and shut down his two deep ball targets. I expect Robison to try and avoid Moore as much as possible.

FAU also really likes to use the Tight end in the pass game and they have a really good one in Harrison Bryant.

Last season he caught 18 of 23 charted targets and produced a 73% success rate.

So far in 2018, Bryant has caught 9 of 12 targets and has been successful on 8 of those plays. He’s gained 96 yards after receptions with 38 of them coming after contact.

Against UConn’s tight ends UCF’s defense allowed 7 completions on 9 targets with 6 of the 9 resulting in successful plays.

Look for Harrison Bryant to have himself a game against the Knights defense as Kiffin loves to get him involved and it looks like a favorable matchup.

Kiffin’s offense has been so successful in the short passing game. He loves the jet sweep pass which I’ll get into in a sec, but he also loves to run a play action fake with a slot receiver or tight end coming across the LOS to run a flat route right at or behind the LOS. I mention this because both UConn and SC St ran this play numerous time against UCF and off the top of my head I don’t believe they stopped it once.

Onto the jet sweep pass, or a pop pass, whatever you want to call it. It’s really just a glorified run play.

FAU has run 99 designed pass plays this season that I’ve charted, 13 of them have been a jet sweep pass. That’s a pretty significant amount in my opinion. However only 6 of them have been successful.

All 13 have been thrown to their 2 play making receivers, Willie Wright and Jovon Durante. Willie Wright is one of my favorite players in college football and you can read about why in my FAU preview. Durante is new to Kiffin’s offense this season, but he has quickly become the focal point.

He has a cool 28 targets in 3 games. Converting 17 of his 21 catches into successful plays. He has also been open 4 times on incompletions where Robison was inaccurate.

Durante has 142 YAC and has forced 7 missed tackles resulting in an extra 47 yards of offense. Tackling is something I’ll get into in a little.

He is also an outstanding deep threat. He has been targeted on balls 21+ yards down field 6 times and he beat his defender on all 6. Robison only connected with him 3 times, but you better keep a safety over the top, which is something Richie Grant and Kyle Gibson did a great job of against SC State.

Devin Singletary is one of the best RB’s in the country and UCF is going to need to contain him. Last season, Singletary forced a missed tackle every other rush. On his 54 carries this season that I’ve charted, he has forced 30!! That’s good for an extra 131 yards rushing. He is also averaging right around 2.0 yards after contact.

As you can see, FAU’s offense is very diverse. The easy thing to do as a defense is simply say let’s focus on stopping the run. It sounds easy, but it’s not because Singletary can beat you 1 on 3 and last season he actually got better when there were more people in the box.

Trying to stop the run, sets up a defense to be vulnerable against play action. FAU uses play action on half of their passing plays. On the 43 passes that involved a PA fake, FAU threw 23 successful passes. Well over 50%.

Against UConn, UCF faced a play action pass 15 times, allowing 9 completions for 110 yards. Good for 7.33 yards per attempt which is a pretty good amount.

For UCF’s defense, they have to be able to get pressure without blitzing. It’s happened only 7 times to FAU this season and only 1 of them have resulted in a successful play. The 8 times they faced pressure on a blitz, they’ve turned 6 of them into successful plays. UCF didn’t blitz much vs. UConn and Shannon is known not to Blitz much. This is a good start, but they need to create pressure.

An area UCF can look to attack to generate pressure is the left side of the line. On 24 plays where FAU allowed a run disruption or QB hurry, 17 of them have been allowed by the C, LG, and LT.

Red Zone scoring is going to be huge in this one. Field goals are not going to cut it and should be looked at as turnovers with a participation trophy. Just off watching the games, FAU struggled to score TD’s in the red zone. Now I’m going to look at the data and see if it’s true.

They’ve run 30 plays in the red zone. 14 have been successful, not great considering how good their offense is outside of the red zone. They are 9 of 19 in terms of success rate on rushes and 5 of 11 on passes. They just need to be better on Friday.

UCF only faced 10 red zone plays vs. UConn and allowed a 50% success rate (3 rushes, 2 passes). There is no glaring advantage to either side here as the data is limited with only a few games played by each team, but it is definitely going to be a major factor in the result of this game.

The biggest thing I’m looking at is tackling. Against UConn, UCF allowed 127 yards on 28 missed tackles. I’ve mentioned Durante’s and Singletary’s ability to force missed tackles, Willie Wright is also in a category with them. If UCF struggles to tackle, it could be a long Knight (pun intended) for UCF.

Summary FAU O vs. UCF D:

-Attack Nevelle Clarke downfield, stay away from Brandon Moore.

-If I was UCF, I’d shadow Durante with Moore or always leave a safety over the top.

-Get Harrison Bryant involved as much as possible. Bryant is really good and UCF struggled against Tight Ends vs. UConn.

-Don’t allow short passes to turn into big plays. FAU loves jet sweep passes, don’t allow these to turn into big plays when they are an opportunity to put the offense behind the chains.

-Don’t bite on play action.

-Get pressure without blitzing.

-Tackle (obvious, but true.)

-Win the battle of the red zone.

UCF Offense vs. FAU defense:

I don’t really know much about UCF’s offense yet. I really would’ve liked to see the how they did against UNC, but well we didn’t. SC St is a horrible FCS school and UConn has allowed over 9.5 yards per PLAY this season so it’s really hard to get a grasp on it. Milton looked unreal week 1 and seemed to overlook SC St week 2.

If there is one thing for sure with the offense, the rushing attack is legit. I’m going to go off this more of FAU’s defense than UCF’s offense because I’m a little more confident in that.

FAU’s defense is an interesting one. They are really good, but Oklahoma lit them up. Now, Kyler Murray is the best QB in the country and is better than Baker Mayfield and if you want to argue that, you’re wrong. CeeDee Lamb and Marquies Brown are two of the best receivers in the country and Rodney Anderson was one of the best RB’s in the country before he got hurt. It’ s impossible to judge FAU’s defense off that one game and it just wouldn’t be fair.

Early down rushing is something I think UCF needs to do more of.

Against SC State, UCF was 14 for 25 on rushing attempts on first and second down. They produced 6.76 YPC on these attempts. Against UConn, they had 29 such attempts, 20!!!! Of them were successful and produced 8.76 YPC. Just insane numbers. Look, Milton is one of the best QB’s in the country, but that doesn’t mean throwing the ball every play is the right move. Running early, allows for short yard 3rd downs and a more tired defense. When you run as successful as UCF has been, it sets you up for play action passing. Milton completed 12 of his 18 PA passes for 13.58 yards per attempt vs UConn and 18 of 34 for 12.33 yards per attempt against SC State. UCF needs to use the run game more than they have been.

FAU has faced 11 play action passes that I’ve charted, 7 resulted in successful plays.

Another thing UCF needs to get back to this week is allowing Milton to use his feet. FAU has faced 5 QB rushes/scrambles allowing an 80% success rate and 9.8 YPC.

Last season, Milton led the nation in deep passing, this season, he was incredible against UConn and awful against SC State in this category. Well, he has a chance to get back on track as FAU has allowed a 75% success rate on deep passes. Kyler Murray and his receivers are a slightly above core than what UCF has, but I’d take Milton to Nixon/Snelson/Davis over a lot of groups in the country.

Let’s now look at FAU’s D-backs and kind of see who UCF should throw at. I feel bad and this is poor on my part for not using names, but I charted just using numbers and I’m on the plane without WiFi so I can’t look them up.

#3 has been thrown at 8 times, only 3 have been completed. He’s allowed 2,15,0 yards before contact, and 0,0,3 yards after contact on those receptions. 6 of these targets came 10 or more yards down field.

#9 has been targeted 3 times and all 3 have been successful.

#23 has been targeted twice on passes over 20 yards, both were completed. Definitely a guy to look at attacking down the field for Milton.

FAU has blitzed 16 of the 61 plays I charted, they have allowed 10 successful plays on those.

UCF has faced 9 blitzes on pass plays, turning 5 of those into successful plays. 4 completed passes on 8 attempts averaging about 10 yards per attempt. Milton has also scrambled once for 7 yards against the blitz.

FAU seems to be an aggressive defense blitzing over 25% of plays and it’s something UCF should be able to take advantage of with a strong offensive line and a mobile quarterback who is extremely good at throwing on the run and improvising.

I mentioned UCF had a problem with missing tackles and FAU is no different. On 61 plays, FAU missed 27 tackles accounting for 218 yards of offense. Oklahoma has elite skill players, but UCF’s skill players aren’t too far behind in terms of talent.

Tackling for both teams is going to be a major thing to watch in this one.

It’s so hard to really break down UCF’s offense under Heupel and I wish this game was later in the season so I had some more data because I’m really looking forward to this game. I also think UCF could have benefited from getting more game reps and comfortability in with the new offense.

It should be an extremely entertaining game Friday night. Both offenses have ways to attack these defenses, we’ll see which Coach did their homework this week.

My Offensive Takeaways from the SC State Game and Why Marlon Williams needs to be UCF’s Tight End

UCF’s offense did not look very good on Saturday against FCS opponent, South Carolina State. The starters still put up 38 points, but it wasn’t very pretty. After a nearly flawless performance in Josh Heupel’s debut, Saturday’s performance raised some question marks.

A lot of this blame has been put on McKenzie Milton. It was probably the hardest game to watch him play since his freshman season and the numbers showed that. However, I don’t think there’s reason to panic with Milton, more so the offense and the way it’s run.

Milton has earned the right to be the player that the blame will be placed on the offense in poor showings by turning himself into one of the best quarterbacks in the country. This is a testament to how good he is. To me, he simply, just wasn’t on his game.

Looking at his accuracy numbers, it’s not pretty at all. If you look at the UConn numbers posted in UConn recap article and look at the 2017 numbers, this is far from close to any of his past performances.

If you look at his raw stats, you’ll see he had more competitions than accurate passes which is never a good thing.

Milton was also the best deep ball passers in college last season. Saturday, he didn’t throw an accurate deep ball and 3 of the 6(!!) interceptable passes he threw were on balls traveling over 21 yards in the air.

Based on what we’ve seen from Milton the last 14 games, you can’t look two much into this performance especially in a tough game to get up for mentally.

However, there is one thing in the passing game I was interested in. Quick bubble screens to WR’s and short passes outside to WR’s are a staple of this offense, but SC State might have put on tape just how to stop this.

I looked at passes Milton threw from the right hash to the left numbers and vice versa that traveled 5 or less yards in the air. These are 5 yard throws, so naturally you think they should be easy competitions, but in college, the hashes are wider than the NFL and these passes are really traveling about 30 yards in the air.

South Carolina State’s D-backs were playing physical and not giving much space to UCF’s wide outs so the time it takes for a ball to travel that far, allows the DB’s to make a play.

The numbers here aren’t pretty. It’s an adjustment I think Heupel has to make based on gameflow on and how the defensive backs are playing. It’s a big part of his offense, but SC St just showed every opponent how you can defend this if you want.

The Run Game:

I think it’s pretty obvious that the rushing attack has been very successful so far this season. No matter who is running the ball, it’s working and like I mentioned preseason, running the ball up the middle is Heupel’s staple.

16 out of 30 rushing attempts up the middle and 62.50% of them were successful.

My question is, why isn’t the ball be running run more, especially on early downs. Milton dropped back to pass 42 times in 3 quarters against an FCS team in a game that was never even remotely close.

Milton had 7 less attempts against UConn in a conference game.

If you take a look at early down (1st and 2nd) success rate and play calling, you’ll agree with me.

UCF ran 61 plays on 1st and 2nd down, 32 of them successful. 25 of those plays were runs, with 14 of them successful, good for a 56% success rate which is excellent. Now 50% is still really good, but it’s not even close to 56%. Throw success rate out the door, well not really. If you look at the total YPC on rushes, UCF gained 6.76 yards per carry on plays run not on 3rd down.

Throwing the ball, they produced 6.59 yard per pass attempt. Still a good number, but when you are running the ball at a higher success rate and gaining more yards, why aren’t you doing it more?

Also, if you read my preseason comparison with Heupel’s offense last season, he ran the ball almost exactly 50% of the of the time. This is with a team that was trailing a decent amount of the time and had a QB who might be the first to go in the upcoming draft.

Now, there are NFL studies that show that running the ball doesn’t improve play action passing and I actually agree with that in the NFL, but I feel in college it does. With spread offenses and linebackers and safeties who aren’t as disciplined as NFL guys, I feel it has an effect.

Running the ball successfully forces defenses to bring more guys into the box, which opens up room for receivers downfield.

I left out stacked boxes because they were all goal-line plays. Against a 6 man box, UCF was really good at both running and throwing. When SC St tried to stop the run, they were able to, but UCF was able to still throw the ball decently.

If you break down those 14 passes, 8 of them went 10 yards or more in the air. 6 of them, the receiver was open. Milton only threw 4 of those 6 accurately, but the point is made that forcing teams to stop the run against an offense with this wide of splits, is going to allow for open receivers down field.

Now, back to play action. Of the 42 dropbacks, 34 involved some sort of play action. I’m not very good at math, but that equates to about 81% of pass attempts. If you’re not running the ball at all, play action is just wasting a little extra time for the QB to go through his reads and deliver the ball instead of creating passing lanes by moving the LB’s.

Marlon Williams:

The smartest thing Heupel could as a head coach is move Marlon Williams to tight end. Not necessarily a complete position change, but use him like a Jordan Akins. In fact, Williams is probably a better blocker than Akins was so it makes even more sense.

Look, every media member who wrote about Heupel’s offense at UCF said the tight end would be more involved. They couldn’t have been more wrong and I couldn’t have been more right. The few people that actually saw my article detailing how UCF’s offense will look can back me up on that and if not, it’s like the second article on this site.

Colubiale was great last season as a role playing tight end and 8 of his 11 targets were successful. Him coming back was big for the program, but he’s caught one pass in two games. He’s also allowed 2 pressures and 1 run disruption in terms of blocking. He just doesn’t fit into Heupel’s system as he did Frost’s.

Williams is a guy that I think is extremely underrated and is a very good player. Heupel’s idea of this was to use him in the run game. This has been very unproductive as Williams has gone nowhere on the few rushes he has.

Look at his receiving numbers last season. He had a 71% success rate and averaged the most yards after contact out of all UCF’s receivers/tight ends. Physicality and tight ends kind of go together the last time I checked.

With the addition of Tre Nixon, it kind of hurt Williams in terms of getting snaps this season. He’s caught 3 passes (not including the 4th quarter against SC St), 2 of them were successful. The unsuccessful one, he still forced 2 missed tackles and created 3 yards after contact. His catch against SC St went for 21 yards where he dragged the defender for 10 yards after contact.

This almost makes too much sense that it seems to easy of an idea.

Williams isn’t going to be a down grade when the tight end is not split out and he’s an upgrade as a receiver when the tight end is split out wide.

Would you rather have a safety on Williams or Colubiale if your Heuepel?

The defense played great, but that’s expected against an opponent that just can’t come close in matching physicality with you. I didn’t chart the defense because it will skew numbers and we’ll see if they improved for real against FAU.

Breaking Down UCF’s win over UConn Using Advanced Stats and Analytics

UCF kicked off their season last Thursday on the road with a 56-17 win versus UConn.  It was an extremely impressive debut for Josh Heupel. I broke down the game from an advance stats/analytics perspective.

It was nice to finally get to see Heupel’s offense in action and see what he was going to with the personnel overload he inherited at UCF. I had charted every Missouri play from 2017, in which Heupel used “11” personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, and 3 WR) about 94% of the time. This was a major concern for me as UCF had a lot of success with multiple personnel’s in 2017, particularly with two running backs on the field.

Otis Anderson was the main reason for this. Success wise, and overall, he was UCF’s best RB in 2017 and he was also extremely successful as a pass catcher. I was worried he was strictly going to be playing in the slot this season and it was one of the main things I was looking at in the UConn game. Based on his touches/where he lined up, I charted Anderson as a running back.

The offense was extremely impressive and I’ll break down a couple things I liked. The defense on the other hand was not very good, despite letting up only 17 points.


UCF just dominated UConn’s defense, so they were successful in any category you want to filter their plays into, but with 2 running backs on the field (Otis was in on all 14), they were successful on 12 of the 14. The 2 they weren’t, an inaccurate pass by Milton to open Snelson and a drop by Nixon. They easily could’ve been a perfect 14 for 14 with two RB’s  on the field.

This will be something I will definitely be keeping an eye on throughout the season and would love to see UCF play without a Tight End, but I highly doubt that happens because it makes too much sense.

The tight end is almost non-existent in Heupel’s offense, real journalists don’t know that because they just look at raw stats and see that Missouri’s tight end tied for the most touchdowns by a FBS tight end last season.

Colubiale/Hescock/Roberson were in on 77% of the snaps and saw one target.

McKenzie Milton is Still Very Good:

I was really excited to watch Milton get back on the field. He was tremendous last season and got the recognition he deserved in the offseason, but he also put in a ton of work this offseason and it showed.

Milton was accurate of 28 out of 32 throws, that includes his one throw away. Off the top of my head, one of the throws was a pass behind Snelson and a deep ball to Nixon that he just missed a TD on.

Milton’s decision making has been tremendous and I think that shows when looking at his accuracy numbers. When you include his ability to run the ball, it makes him almost impossible to stop.

Dredrick Snelson/Tre Nixon/Gabe Davis

A lot of people were concerned with Tre’Quan Smith going to the NFL, rightfully so because he is a tremendous talent, but I wasn’t really concerned as UCF’s other receivers were actually more successful than him last season. Gabe Davis, Tre Nixon, and Dredrick Snelson are all going to be NFL receivers in my opinion.

I completely forgot to make a chart for Davis, but he had 9 targets, 6 catches, 3 drops, and 5 successful catches. All 3 receivers had problems with drops, but I’ll attribute that to it being the first game of the season. It’s not a concern for me. These 3 guys had 25 of Milton’s 31 pass attempts and if it weren’t for drops, they were un-coverable.


The line was extremely good, the only concern was Jake Brown. He was the only lineman to allow a QB hurry or a run disruption. He allowed 2 QB hurries and 1 run disruption. Colubiale also allowed a run disruption on a play were he just whiffed on his block. AK and Taj allowed the two other QB hurries.


As with everything else on the offensive end, the run game was very successful. AK, Taj, Otis, McRae, and Bentavious Thompson, were the 5 running backs who got carries. No one had a breakout game, but they were all extremely efficient.

There is a bunch of other stuff in terms of tendencies and play designs I charted, but with only one game of data, I don’t really feel like it is sufficient enough to look at right now, but will be as the season moves along.

All in all, there was no sign to be concerned, if anything I was more impressed with the way the offense was run/designed more than last season.

One main thing that I don’t have data for, but just off watching the game, was the wide receiver splits. The Wide outs are split out so close to the sidelines that it opens up the whole field and forced UConn to go with a lot of 5 or 6 man boxes which is great for the run game.


With the change to a 4-3 defense, I didn’t really know what to expect heading into the season and I still don’t really know what to expect.

The main thing that everyone saw in this game was missed tackles. UCF had a lot of missed tackles at times last season as well and their tackling against UConn was piss poor.

UConn had 73 plays that were either a completion or a run. On those 73 plays, UCF had 28 missed tackles that resulted in a total of 127 extra yards gained.

You can say tackling isn’t a concern, they’ll just work on it in practice, but this was an issue last season so I don’t have confidence in saying that it is something that will be an easy fix. 127 yards of extra offense is way too much to be giving quality opponents. Pindell is an elusive QB who is going to make guys miss in the open field, but those misses need to be limited.


Pindell is not a very good quarterback when it comes to throwing the ball. He was still able to complete 27 out of 41 attempts, including 3 throw aways’. On 2 more incompletions, receivers were open and he made inaccurate throws. So on 29 of 38 passes thrown, he was throwing to open receiver. The coverage can get a little bit better outside of Brandon Moore who had an excellent game. Losing Aaron Robinson on the first kickoff was absolutely awful and hopefully he has a quick recovery because I think he’d be a huge help.

Defensive Line:

With the losses of Jamiyus Pittman and Tony Guerad on the defensive line, many people were concerned with the depth of this group. The two people who stood out to me, were Joey Connors and Trysten Hill.

UConn had 37 rush attempts not including scrambles. UCF had 15 run disruptions on these plays. A run disruption I consider as someone who disrupts the runners initial run direction in any form at or behind the line of scrimmage. 15 is a pretty high amount. Of the 15, Trysten Hill had 5 of them, absolute dominance. Mason Cholewa and Joey Connors both had 2 as well.

On Pindell’s 50 dropbacks, UCF blitzed only 9 times and recorded 15 hurries or knockdowns, all by different players.

Overall, I think UCF’s D Line was very good and could be a major factor in the success of this team.

Overall Defense:

UCF played really good against the run. Only 15 of UConn’s 37 run plays were successful. I think the front 7 in the new 4—3 was a big question mark for a lot of people with the players lost, but this is a great sign.

Of their 41 passes, 20 were successful. Not bad to be under 50%, but also against one of the inferiors passing QB’s they will face all season.

Pindell scrambled on 9 of his drop backs, 8 of them resulted in successful plays. This is a major concern when UCF has to face a dual-threat QB.

It was just UConn, but overall I think Heupel has the offense headed in the right direction. He did a great job mixing his scheme with the personnel he inherited. If he can continue to understand what combinations help make UCF the biggest threat to score, the offense will be tough to stop.

I think the defensive concerns are a big more serious. Tackling is a major issue. Also, 17 points looks good on the scoreboard, but 3 big turnovers helped this. A bad decision by Pindell and a fumble by a freshman on his first drive are not things you can rely on every game against the better teams.


Why Devin Singletary Might be the Best Back in the Country and also Why the Departure of Jason Driskel Will Allow Lane Kiffin’s Offense to be More Explosive in 2018

Lane Kiffin turned Florida Atlantic into one of the most talked about teams in the country in a single season. Kiffin led the Owls to an 11-3 campaign in 2017 including a C-USA championship and a 10 game winning streak to end the season. Not many people knew what to expect from FAU in 2017. Now, in 2018, Kiffin has hype to live up to as the Owls are one of the best group of 5 schools heading into the season.

Using analytics and situational analysis, I took a look at FAU’s offensive dominance in 2017 and why I expect their offense to be even better in 2018 despite losing their starting quarterback.

As a heads up, I was only able to chart 8 of 14 games due to not having access to the other 6 videos. Dug myself to far into the season before I realized this, but I have games from the beginning, middle, and end of the season, so I feel the data is pretty reliable.

The big things I wanted to look at with FAU’s offense is personnel usage, Devin Singletary, Willie Wright, Harrison Bryant, and why losing Jason Driskel might be a blessing in disguise for the Owls.



The first thing, I like to look at when studying an offense is personnel usage. I believe using multiple personnel’s is the best way to create matchup problems against the defense. Joe Moorhead the new coach at Mississippi State and one of the best offensive minds in college football, believes using “11” personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) is the best way to attack  defense because it allows you to have your best players on the field at all times. I won’t argue against this as he clearly knows a lot more than me, but coaches are very successful both ways.

Let’s take a look at Kiffin’s personnel usage:

About 69% of plays were run out “11” personnel, the most popular personnel in modern day football.  “10: and “12” personnel were the other two used greater than 10% of plays. Out of “12” personnel, FAU had a 63% success rate, compared to 53% out of “11” which is still very good, but “12” personnel is clearly where they thrived. As a run first team, with one of, if not the best running back in the country, this is no surprise to me, and I’ll explain why in a little.

FAU really struggled in “10” personnel, having just a 37% success rate. I will explain my thoughts on the reasoning behind that in a little as well.

Offensive Line:

FAU started the same offensive line for all 14 games in 2017, but only two of those starters return this season. However a couple of players return from 2017 injuries who should be able to fill the vacated positions. This is a line that dominated in 2017 and losing 3 starters should be a little concern, but I don’t believe it will affect this offense.

Devin Singletary:

Devin Singletary absolutely dominated in 2017 and deserves all the hype and Heisman talk he is getting heading into 2018. To be honest, I never watched him closely until I started this project and he is the real deal.

I charted 169 rushes for Singletary. He had a 58.58% success rate on those rushes which is unbelievable. Of his 169 rushes, only 58 of them went outside the ends. This tells me he doesn’t try to bounce everything outside and that he loves hitting the hole at full speed. Running between the tackles he was successful on 69 of his 111 rushes.

Singletary only averages 2.83 yards before contact, but bullied tacklers. 3.16 yards per rush after contact is good stuff. A major reason why I think Singletary outweighs the offensive line losses.

Another reason? His ability to create positive yards when contacted at or behind the LOS.

52 of his 169 (30.77%) of his rushes, he was hit at or behind the LOS. He still averaged 2.54 yards after contact on those rushes. For reference, Saquon Barkely, the #2 pick in the NFL Draft, averaged 0.47 YAC on the same type of rushes.

Singletary forced 78 missed tackled on his 169 rushes. About 1 every other rush.

So stopping Singletary has an easy solution, stack the box. Wrong.

Against a 7 man box, pretty much the most you can put in there against “11” personnel, Singletary had a 62% success rate and averaged  8.03 YPC. Throwing another guy in the box to should help slow down the run game. Not against Singletary, he posted a cool 71.43% success rate against 8 man boxes, however his YPC did drop significantly.

9 and 10 man boxes are unrealistic against Lane Kiffin’s offense unless it is a goaline situation as all 8 of those carries were.

I mentioned personnel before. Here are Singletary’s numbers based on personnel usage:

If you give Singletary more big bodies to block, he’s going to have success. A tight end in the game corresponds to Singletary being the best he can. Good thing for FAU, their top two tight ends return and I’ll talk about one of them in a little bit.

If there is a weakness in Singletary’s game, it would be his receiving. He doesn’t have bad hands as he reeled in 13 out 13 catchable targets, but only 5 of his 18 targets were successful plays. It’s something to look at during the 2018 season to see how this will improve with in my opinion a better QB option.

The Loss of Jason Driskel:

It’s hard to say that Driskel leaving is a good thing for FAU, but I truthfully think it is and they don’t even have a starting QB named yet. Regardless if it is Chris Robison or De’Andre Johnson, there is an upgrade at talent.

Looking at Driskel’s passing, 102 of his 174 (58.62%) were thrown behind the LOS-5 yards in the air. He had 31 attempts on balls thrown 16+ yards down the field and only 7 of those were catchable. Of those 31 attempts, 9 of them were also interceptable passes.

Looking at his numbers, it is clear Kiffin felt most comfortable with Driskel throwing screens and short passes to his throwing arm side.

Decision making is a huge part of the RPO offense and that is something Driskel excelled at. Because of this, he had great success running the ball on option keeps despite not being the most athletic quarterback.

With Kiffin’s track record coaching quarterbacks, I have confidence he’ll have his starting QB making the right decisions and not forcing anything.

The main reason I think having a more talented throwing QB will benefit the Owls is because of Devin Singletary. Singletary forces the defense to play 7 in the box which allows one on one’s across the field.

If you look at how FAU fared depending on how many men in the box, they struggled to throw the ball against 5 guys in the secondary. Just 41 out of 116 passes were successful. When teams tried to load up to stop the run, Driskel was able to make plays due to his decision making and Kiffin’s offensive schemes.


FAU didn’t have any dominant receivers last season due in large part their lack of ability to throw the ball downfield. Kaleb Woods emerged as a threat once he returned from suspension and Kamrin Solomon also was a reliable target, but their departures don’t worry me because of Willie Wright. Wright was phenomenal last season.


Wright caught 37 of his 55 targets and had just 2 drops. He also had 7 inaccurate balls thrown his way on plays he was open. Wright is lightning quick and lethal in the open field. Kiffin used him exactly how he should. He had 25 targets behind the LOS mostly all pop passes, just an extension of the run game really. Of those 25, he turned 20 of them into successful plays producing over 11 yards aver the reception.

Another key returner for the Owls, is tight end Harrison Bryant. He is critical in the run game, but he’s a fantastic receiver as well.

17 of his 23 targets were successful plays. Not many tight ends in the country, if any, can say that. Bryant benefited a lot from Kiffin’s offensive schemes and teams biting on play action, but regardless his numbers are impressive and he is key to FAU’s success.

Play Calling:

Not many things to point out here. One thing I am confused about is Kiffin’s play calling deep in his own territory.

With one of the best RB’s in the country and a clear run first offense, FAU when backed up only ran the ball 25 out of 57 times. With a 50% success rate compared to around a 40% rate when they dropped back for a pass. Every other area on the field, FAU ran the ball more than they threw, except for where you would expect them to be a little more conservative.


A positive:

1st down success tends to correlate to putting points on the board and FAU thrived on first down. They posted a 62% rate on rushes and a 56% success rate on passes. Getting ahead of the chains is critical when you are a run first team.

This shows when looking at FAU’s success rate when failing to gain significant yards on 1st or 2nd down. On 2nd down and 8+ yards to go, they were just successful on 26 of 81 plays and only 13 of 41 passes. A typical passing situation. On 3rd down and 4+ yards to go, they were only successful on 21 of 84 plays. 12 out of 51 passes in those situations as well.

When struggling to throw the ball in obvious pass situations, it’s hard to beat teams that can match your talent and speed. Having a QB like Robison or Johnson this season will help FAU keep drives alive that they weren’t able to last season. Against Oklahoma and UCF this will be critical early on.


What Lane Kiffin did in 2017 was remarkable and there is no reason to think it was a one year thing. With their 3 most significant skill guys; Singletary, Wright, and Bryant all returning this season FAU will be better than they were in 2017.

With the departure of Driskel, the passing game should open up a little bit more than last season and that just means bad things for defenses.

Singletary can run against however many guys you want to put in the box and if you can’t stop him with 6 in the box this season, it is going to be a long, long season for opposing defenses.

Breaking down UCF’s 2017 Success and what to Expect From an Offensive Standpoint in 2018 using Analytics

With the departure of Scott Frost and the arrival of Josh Heupel, UCF fans are curious as to how the coaching change will affect a talented UCF team in 2018 following their undefeated season in 2017.  Obviously, there have been numerous reaction articles and “what to expect” articles from Heupel’s offense written by a lot more qualified people than me.  A couple of the things I’ve read were “Frost runs the ball more” and “Heuepel like to throw the ball deep more”.

I decided to take a look at some of these opinions as well as looking at individual numbers from returning players and the production lost from Tre’Quan Smith and Jordan Akins going pro using analytics.  I also looked into Heupel’s offense from an analytical and situational play calling standpoint.

All the terms used, can be found with explanation in the blog under this (if I did it right).

This is longer than I expected, so I broke it down by topic.



The first thing I want to take a look at is personnel usage.  Personnel relates to who is on the field, regardless of where they are lined up.  For instance, last season, Otis Anderson was primarily a RB in my opinion based on his splits, so when he split out as a WR, he is still counted as a RB.  Jordan Akins is a TE, regardless of if he is lined up wide or tight or even in the backfield.  So “12” personnel is read as one RB, 2 TE’s, and the non listed number is the amount of WR’s, in this case it would be 2 because there are 5 non-lineman+QB’s in on every snap.

Let’s take a look at UCF’s personnel usage under frost last season:

A couple things jump out at me. First, “11” personnel was used on about 60% of plays, this is the most common personnel used in modern day football so this is no surprise.  However, UCF was a lot more successful outside of “11” personnel.  With 2 RB’s on the field, UCF had a 60.3% success rate on 126 plays.  This is an extremely high number and is something that the coaching staff definitely looked at as a way to create miss-matches by getting any combination of Otis Anderson, Adrian Killins, Greg McRae Taj McGowan, or Cordarrian Richardson on the field together.

The success with 2 RB’s on the field is a critical number to me when we look at Missouri’s personnel usage:

Looking here, Missouri ran 94% of their plays with “11” personnel on the field.  As mentioned before, “11” personnel is easily the most popular personnel used and according to Warren Sharp, the Rams used it on about 81% of their plays last season and they had a pretty damn good year. So, this isn’t a red flag, but Heupel never ran a play with 2 RB’s on the field together which is a concern to me and I will get into why when I talk about Otis Anderson in particular.  You can say “Missouri didn’t have the depth at the skill positions as UCF had”, but that isn’t true.  They used 3 primary RB’s until Damarea Crockett got hurt halfway through the season, that is the same number UCF used. Mizzou also used 3 different TE’s and 7 different WR’s so depth wasn’t the reason for this in my opinion, some offensive schemes are just different than others regardless of speed and style.


McKenzie Milton had an unbelievable season in 2017 and UCF fans expect another in 2018.  Take a look at his accuracy numbers from last season:

Milton’s deep ball numbers are incredible, throwing an accurate ball 60% of the time.  The area I guess you can say he struggled are passes targeted between 11-15 yards, which is really about it.  The good news is, only 34 of Missouri’s 316 passes were thrown in this range.  There is really nothing to pinpoint on Milton about as he had success everywhere throwing the ball.

So what can we expect from the passing game with Heupel calling the shots?  Well, people like to say that he likes to throw the ball downfield.  This is true, but it is not a major change from Frost.  Of the 349 passes I charted for Milton, 65 (18.6%), of them traveled 21+ yards in the air, completing 50.77% of them.  Drew Lock threw 61 deep balls on 316 charted passes (19.3%).  Slightly higher % under Heupel, but in reality, both teams took a deep shot about 1 in every 5 passes thrown.  In 2018, I expect Milton to throw slightly more deep balls than he did in ’17 because of just how accurate and successful he is on these types of throws, but I don’t expect it to exceed the 20% mark.

Part of this has to do with the loss of Tre’Quan Smith.  Smith is extremely talented and was a great receiver for UCF, but the only area he was the best receiver on the team in last season, was on deep balls and he was damn good in this area.  Of his 76 targets, 29 of them came on passes 16+ yards down the field, 22 of them being 21+ yards, and he caught an amazing 21 of these targets.  Milton had a 72% completion % on balls 16+ yards downfield to Smith which is just unheard of.  No UCF player had double digit targets on balls 21+ yards downfield other than Smith so this is a clear area where someone else will have to step up next season, but with the WR talent UCF has, there should be no problem.

Of the 6 primary pass catchers, Smith had the second worst success rate on total catches, which is why I believe, besides the downfield success, UCF should not miss a beat without him.

In addition, they bring in Tre Nixon (hopefully) and Tristan Payton returns, both who I see as guys who are extremely talented and should be great deep threats.


Looking at UCF’s returning receivers in Dredrick Snelson, Marlon Williams, and Gabe Davis, there is a ton of talent.  In the last 3 games of the season, UCF’s three toughest opponents, Snelson was by far the best receiver on the team.  17 of his 20 targets turned into successful. Where Snelson thrived, was in the short passing game and using his athleticism to make plays. Of his 51 targets, 29 of them were at or behind the LOS to within 5 yards of the LOS.  Of these, he was successful on 20 of them.  He also averaged over 10 yards after the catch/per reception of passes at or behind the LOS (normally screens).  On his targets 16+ yards down the field, he reeled in 9 out of his 18 targets, look for this to increase in 2018.

Marlon Williams is a guy I think is really good and wouldn’t hate to see him moved to a hybrid tight end role with all of UCF’s WR talent.  He’s a big guy and can really block, I think it would create crazy matchup problems for defenses, but I highly doubt this happens. He only had 21 targets that I charted, but he caught 15 of them and all 15 were successful plays, good for the best success rate on the team. Safe to say, get the ball in his hands and good things will happen. He also led the team in yards after contact on receptions with 2.73.

Gabe Davis might have the highest NFL ceiling of the returning WR’s, but posted the worst success rate on the team last year. He was only successful on 19 of his 38 targets, but also only recorded 2 drops. A 50% success rate for a freshman receiver is by no means bad, it was the worst out of the 6 primary pass catchers. I think Davis is primed for a great season as all of these receivers are with Milton tossing them the rock.

Tight Ends:

Now, the tight end position is one that will be interesting this season.  A lot of talk I’ve seen is about how Heupel’s tight ends are such a key part to his offense.  Albert Okwuegbunam tied for the most TD’s in the country with 11, but I don’t exactly buy into the tight end being too important in this offense.

Missouri’s TE’s only had 48 targets and only 23 were successful plays.  This is significantly lower than the 50.66% success rate passes to the WR’s had. Off the top of my head, from watching the games, Missouri’s TE’s success came when they were virtually wide open and due more to defensive miscues than offensive scheme.

To put the target share into perspective, Jordan Akins had 45 targets himself, successful on 25 of them.  Akins had a pretty solid season and will definitely be a loss next season, but he is definitely a guy that can be replaced. For a tight end, 12 of his targets came behind the LOS, which is a lot, but his athleticism and size allowed for this and that is where he’ll be missed most.  Missouri only threw 5 of these passes to their TE’s successful on only 2 of them where Akins had a 75% success rate.

UCF will also lose a combined 20 targets and 65% success rate from Colubiale and Franks.  With the tight end position not being as important as some say it is in Heupel’s offense, I think Jake Hescock and Anthony Roberson should have no problem filling the void of Akins.

Running Backs:

What I think is the most important part to UCF’s success in 2018 and the change in offense, will be the run game.  Contrary to many people’s opinions, Mizzou relied heavily on the run.  UCF ran the ball 324 (not including scrambles) out of 710 charted plays, Missouri ran the ball 322 out of their 655 plays.

In what has turned into a pass first game, especially in college, Heupel relies on the run game to fuel his offenses success.  Missouri was successful on 56.21% of their designed run plays, an amazing number.  On 1st down, they ran the ball 159 times, successful, 54.1% of the time.

Looking at UCF’s run game last season it was good, but not great.  The first thing I’d like to point out is the carry share.  Adrian Killins had 112 carries, Anderson had 67, and Taj McGowan had 55. We’ll get into Milton’s rushing numbers later. Killins having 10 less carries than Anderson and McGowan combined is not very appealing.  I think every UCF fan knows who Killins is, and it’s not an every down run between the tackles back.  Of his 112 touches, he was successful on 48 of them.  Running inside the ends, he was successful on 29 out of 65 carries.

If you take a look at where Heupel’s runs go:

You’ll see that only 82 of the 322 when outside, not many to Killins’ strength.

Killins averaged 2.05 yards after contact and 1.05 yards after contact on his 40 rushes where he was contacted at or behind the LOS, one which he accumulated 14 of the 42 yards. Killins is an elite athlete and a great kid to get the ball in his hands, but 100+ carries is a lot for him and with UCF’s RB depth this season, there is no need for it.

Surprisingly, McGowan was UCF’s most successful runner last season with a 52.73% success rate, however his numbers are pretty ugly. He only averaged 2.25 yards before contact and 1.45 yards after contact which leads to the conclusion that he is not going to break any runs and he can have some big negative rushes as well.  However, he was 22/42 in terms of successful rushes between the ends.

An area UCF struggled big time was 3rd and 4th and short. Many people wanted Cordarrian Richardson to get these touches; however, if you take out the ECU game, Richardson was only successful on 3 of his 12 carries averaging 0.58 yards before contact and 1.45 yards after contact on those rushes.

If you take a look at UCF’s play calling by down and distance, you can see they struggled mightily on third and fourth and short. This is an area they need to improve on this season.  Last season, Heupel’s offense was successful on 19 of their 27 rush attempts on third/fourth and short which is significantly better than UCF’s 16 for 30.  This is an area where UCF needs to improve and hopefully under Heupel, who has shown his offense can be successful in this area can translate that over to UCF in 2018.

Otis Anderson:

Alright, on to my Otis Anderson rant I guess you can call it.  To me, there is no question about it; I think Anderson is UCF’s most important player on offense because of how good he is with the ball in his hands.  This is where the personnel discussion comes back into play. As I mentioned before, UCF was hitting at a 60% success rate with 2 RB’s on the field. Most of these came with Anderson on the field with either Killins or McGowan. Heupel did not run one play with 2 RBs on the field last season or in the 51 plays I have watched from 2016. Now, I know coaches change packages and will implement new things every year, but it is still a concern to me. Here’s why:

There has been a lot of talk about Anderson moving to WR and that he worked there most of spring. I didn’t see a single practice and wasn’t at the Spring Game so I have no clue what his rep splits actually were. I did however see his TD catch out of the slot in the Spring Game which leads me to believe he will definitely be seeing time there. If you take a look at Anderson’s receiving splits from where he was lined up last season, you’ll see that the slot is perfectly fine for him:


36 Targets is great to see. You’ll see 61% of his targets came when he was lined up in the slot, wide or tight, aka anywhere but the backfield. He had a 63.64% success rate when lined up S/W/T compared to a 50% success rate out of the backfield. His average depth of target was the line of scrimmage out of the backfield, mostly all screen passes, something Heupel doesn’t run much of to his RB’s. S/W/T his average DOT was 7 yards and he was still able to produce about the same production after the catch which shows how much more impactful he is as a receiver when not lined up in the backfield. His numbers in the slot could have been even better if Milton had hit him for a TD in the Peach Bowl after he got behind the defense with ease.

Last season, Missouri only threw 22 total passes to RB’s, only 9 were successful. 15 of those passes were at or behind the LOS, only 5 of those were successful. It is clear that passing to running backs is not a focal point of Heupel’s offense, so lining Otis up in the slot or out wide is a must.

Now, you’re probably wondering why the hell wouldn’t they just move Otis full time to WR, those numbers are incredible (they are). The answer is simple; he is by far UCF’s best runner. On plays run inside UCF’s own 40, an area of the field your offensive success will dictate the game, Anderson had a 62% success rate on his rushes.  Overall, on 67 charted carries he was successful on 34 of them, slightly above Killins and slightly below McGowan. However, he averaged more YPC before contact, after contact, and when hit at or behind the LOS than both.

To put this in perspective, Saquon Barkley averaged 0.47 YPC when hit at or behind the LOS, this was good for 57 out of 58 in terms of draft eligible running backs according to PFF. 1.5 is a very respectable average, especially for someone who is not looked at as a power back.

Limiting the negative plays in a high paced offense is crucial, especially in Heupel’s where the passing game seems to become a little more difficult. On pass plays on second/third down with 8+ yards to go, Missouri’s passing success rate was below 40%. Now, remember, Missouri’s QB, Drew Lock, might be the #1 QB prospect in college football this season, so this isn’t a Milton will solve all situation. There are reasons why there are numbers like this.

As mentioned before, Heupel loves running the ball up the gut, Otis was 11/21 on these types of runs a year ago.

On Anderson’s 46 carries on 1st/2nd down and 8-10 yards to go, he averaged right around 7 yards per carry, just tremendous production. On top of that, he was 17/26 on outside rush attempts. Get him in space and good things happen.

McKenzie Milton’s Rushing #’s:

Finally, Milton’s designed run game will still be part of the offense. I’m not going to go in depth because this is already long enough, but I charted 90 total rushing attempts for Milton, not including sacks. Of those 90, 62 were designed runs, whether they’re read options, sprint options, QB draws.  On those 62 rushes, he accumulated 423 of his 635 rushing yards, good for about 6.5 YPC. Heupel has said he wants to see Milton in the pocket more and that isn’t something that should concern UCF fans, I think it was clear last season, Milton wanted to be more of a pass first QB on designed passes. When he needed to improvise, he did, but he didn’t go over the top trying to make fancy plays. He is still going to get his carries on designed runs and that is something a defense has to worry about every snap.


I do want to get into a little thing on Heupel’s play calling tendencies in the fourth quarter, but will not go further into some play calling things other than that because this is too long already. Before that, I want to kind of give a conclusion after going through each offensive position group. The biggest thing to me is Otis Anderson. I think if Heupel turns him into a more one dimensional player in terms of a receiver or running back it will hurt the offense immensely.  The 60 carry range is a perfect target for him. It is slightly less than he had last season, but with UCF’s depth at the position, I think this is a great number. If I was coaching him, I’d want him running the ball when in bad field position and split out when you are in opponent field position, but I’m not a coach so I have no say in this.

His success swings as field position changes. We will see if Heupel’s “11” personnel love will change with the miss-match possibilities UCF can create with 2 RB’s on the field.

The loss of Akins and Smith will not cause for a drop in offensive production.

Overall, I think in terms of the offense, Heupel was a great replacement. He has experience with two NFL QB’s (Lock and Mayfield) like Frost did with Mariota which is great for Milton’s continued progression. I’ve said I expect nothing to drastically change throwing the ball wise, but I expect UCF’s running game to be significantly better this season. The tempo, and blocking schemes Heupel’s offense brings I think is better than Frost’s in terms of rushing success. On top of that, UCF has a slew of talented RB’s going into 2018.

4th Quarter Play Calling:

In a stat I got from Warren Sharp, NFL teams, 210-30 when leading after the fourth quarter. In college, I expect the % to be slightly lower, but I have no idea what is. Play calling is huge in the fourth quarter. Coaches either tend to get too aggressive when trailing or too conservative when leading.  There were four games I looked at for Heupel for this study, he didn’t have a lot of close games.  With only 4 games, this is obviously a small sample size, but all it takes is one close game loss to ruin a season even if you blow everyone else out by 21+.

Last season, against Kentucky, Heupel’s offense was down 6 with 1:48 on the clock and no timeouts. A back and forth quarter the entire way, made me jump right to the final possession. Starting on their own 25, Heupel was able to get off 10 plays in an attempt to win the game. An amazing number given the time left, but is that a number you really want? First play of the drive was a 2 yard pass to the sideline that gained 3 yards. Only took up 4 seconds, no big deal. The next 3 plays were passes that traveled 2,4, and 6 yards respectively all thrown inside the numbers. On 4th and 2, they ran the ball to keep the game alive (I can live with this as a first down stops the clock) and ended up gaining 17 yards. From midfield with 1:07 left (still enough time), they were able to get 2 first downs to the 28 with 28 seconds left (22 yards in 39 seconds is not great). Then a one yard pass inside the numbers essentially ended the game. Moral of this is, Lock is an NFL guy, a lot of these calls were first option quick release throws, by dinking and dunking, one play that doesn’t get out of bounds or a first down, ends the game, it is like playing with fire. When you have a QB that good, you need to put some trust in him and Milton is that good.

If you go back to 2016, there were 3 games in which Heupel had a one possession lead with his first full possession of the quarter, two wins and one loss. This doesn’t seem too bad, considering the loss was against #16 Georgia. However, there is no reason Missouri should have lost this game. Heupel, in my opinion, did the worst thing possible. He went conservative in an aggressive way. By this I mean, he went run heavy, but extremely fast. Heupel ran the ball on the first 14 plays of the drive which started with 13:35 on the clock, so he was obviously having success on the ground. You can’t argue with him sticking to the run. On a 3rd and 4 at UGA’s 28, he ran the ball, setting up a 4th and short, a 4th down decision to go for it decided on 3rd down. It worked out perfectly. The following 3rd down, 5 yards to go, he decided to throw the ball, after running 14 straight times and the ball was intercepted in the end zone. On the 14 runs, pretty clear, you are trying to shorten the game, Missouri left a combined 5 minutes and 20 seconds on the clock from snapping the ball so early in the play clock. Up by 6, run heavy, if they had run the clock down and simply kicked a FG instead of taking a deep shot on 3rd down inside the red zone, they would have been up 9 with 3 minutes left in the game. After a stop, they then got the ball back and ran it 6 straight times, before punting and allowing the game winning TD.

I won’t go into the Vanderbilt game to save some words, but they were able to extend their lead in that one thanks to penalties and well Vanderbilt also isn’t good.

Finally, versus Arkansas, Heuepel got into trouble when his team didn’t have success on first down. He decided to go Jaguars style and throw deep passes, that didn’t work. He faced 4 plays on 2nd or 3rd down with 7+ yards to go. 3 passes, all which traveled 25+ yards in the air. A very low percentage play when you are just trying to get first downs to shorten the game. Missouri’s defense bailed out the offense with two goal line stands in the fourth quarter to hold on for the win.

I will dive into more play calling hopefully soon, but this is too long so that will be all for now. If you don’t think this stuff matters and don’t think coaches of this caliber could do such things, check out how the Colts were the worst 4th quarter team ever thanks to play calling and how the Jaguars predictable play calling cost them a chance at a super bowl.

I have also added all the charts I created for UCF and Missouri’s 2017 seasons somewhere on this site.




Background info on terminology

A couple of house-keeping notes for some terms going forward for the tens’ of people who read any of this, all of who I probably forced to click on it:

First off, I gathered all of this information myself using both teams 2017 seasons and am not trying to say any coach is unintelligent or that I am smarter than them. For both teams, the statistics and plays used only include plays that the starting quarterback was still in (other than Vedral’s few snaps versus Navy). This is to avoid skewed numbers due to the game being out of hand. I also didn’t include the Austin Peay and FIU games for UCF to save some time. For Mizzou, I didn’t include the Missouri State and Idaho games as well as the Texas bowl game because Heupel didn’t coach.

Numbers used, you won’t be able to find looking at raw stats and box scores, almost every number is an advanced stat of some sort.

A Successful play gains 40% of yards to go on 1st down, 60% on 2nd down, and 100% on 3rd and 4th down. Different websites use different %’s for this, I think 40/60/100 is the best breakdown to determine if a play is successful. Looking at success rate, in my opinion is the best way to measure efficiency and performance. For instance, a player can have a 15 yard run on 3rd and 25 and it looks great for the box score and individual raw stats, but it’s not a successful play. Both UCF and Missouri had top offenses in the country, so their numbers will look better than most teams. I look at a good success as anything over 52.5% and anything over 57.5% as great. Between 48.5-52.5% is about average and below 40% is poor.

For Yards after reception, I added up the total yards before contact and after contact. These are yards gained from where the ball is caught. So, on a screen pass thrown 2 yards behind the LOS, if the receiver gets back to the LOS that is 2 YAR. All throws are how far the ball travels to the targeted receiver. For instance a ball thrown from midfield and caught at the 37 is charted as a 13 yard pass, regardless of how far the receiver runs after the reception.

Accuracy is charted as all passes that were caught plus all passes that were dropped.
Directional wise, RS and LS are passes outside the numbers, R and L are between the hashes and the numbers, and M is between the hashes. On runs, RE and LE are outside the ends, R and L are between the guards and ends, and M is anything between the guards.