Daily Archives: September 5, 2018

The once and future Jake Bentley

Matt Hinton does his usual excellent job analyzing what South Carolina’s got in its starting quarterback.

If Bentley wasn’t one of the most touted passers in the 2016 recruiting class, it’s only because he wasn’t supposed to be in the 2016 recruiting class: He graduated from Opelika (Ala.) High a full year early and enrolled ASAP at South Carolina, where his father, Bobby, had recently joined the staff as an assistant. By midseason, Bentley had cracked the starting lineup, relegated touted classmate Brandon McIlwain to the transfer market, and entrenched himself as the focal point of the Gamecocks’ rebuilding effort under Will Muschamp. The arrow entering 2017 was pointing straight up.

A year later, the direction is wobblier. Although Carolina’s record improved, Bentley’s sophomore numbers were down across the board: Completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown-to-interception ratio, and overall efficiency all saw marked declines in his first full season as a starter. In conference games the dip was more pronounced, especially over the second half of the season. In a supposedly down year for SEC quarterbacks, Bentley’s production placed him squarely in the middle of the pack; as an offense, South Carolina fared even worse, finishing 12th out of 14 teams in yards and points per game.

How much of that falls on Bentley’s shoulders, as opposed to his less-than-inspiring surrounding cast, is a fair question. The southward turn on the stat sheet coincided with the exit of USC’s most dynamic playmaker, Deebo Samuel, due to a broken leg, forcing true-freshman receivers into the mix earlier than expected. The ground game offered minimal support; neither Bentley nor the running backs could count on any all-conference types or future draft picks up front. At times — most notably in a bruising night at Texas A&M, where Bentley was sacked seven times — it was all he could do to emerge in one piece.

There were enough flashes of the raw talent that made him an up-and-coming prospect in the first place to keep Bentley’s name on the short list of imminently draftable quarterbacks in 2018. He got off to a fine start in Saturday’s blowout win over Coastal Carolina, connecting on 22 of 29 attempts against the Chanticleers with 4 TD passes and 0 picks. To make good on his first-round potential, though, scouts will need to see sustained improvement against the top half of the schedule, beginning with Saturday’s SEC opener against Georgia. If a big, fully-realized junior campaign is in the works, it starts now.

That it’s convenient to say some of that falloff was due to Samuel’s injury doesn’t mean it’s not true to an extent.  But Matt points to another area that strikes me as conveniently true, too.

According to Bill Connelly’s S&P+ system, which separates plays into “Standard Downs” and “Passing Downs,” depending on the situation, when forced into the latter column the Gamecocks’ fortunes plummeted:

(Specifically, Passing Downs are defined as 2nd-and8 or more yards to go for a first, or 3rd/4th down and 5 or more yards to go; all other downs are Standard Downs. Success Rate is defined as 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down; IsoPPP is a statistic designed to quantify explosiveness.)

That’s a big, dark hole for an entire offense to fall into on passing downs, and Bentley’s situational numbers tracked accordingly:

Bentley’s overall efficiency on third downs (95.8) ranked 15th out of 16 qualifying SEC passers, ahead of only Kellen Mond.

That’s not exclusively on the quarterback — again, the pass protection was spotty at best, and occasionally a disaster. But if there’s a single, defining statistical trend that Bentley must reverse, the abysmal success rate on obvious passing downs has to be it.

Here’s the thing about all of that:  generally, it takes a village.  Lack of a running game, poor offensive line support and a passing game that can’t take a lot of pressure off the first two all contribute.

It seems to me that’s asking a lot to expect everything there to be fixed in the second week of 2018.  Deebo’s back and that helps, but suddenly SC has a real running game and competent offensive line to protect Bentley?  I guess we’ll see, but if Smart and Tucker can get Bentley in a lot of third-and-medium to longs, I’ll take my chances with Georgia’s defense.

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27 Comments

Filed under 'Cock Envy, Stats Geek!

Your 9.5.18 Playpen

The Playpen appears to be a successful experiment, judging from the feedback I’ve gotten from readers.  I certainly appreciate the restraint shown by some of you to keep the regular comment threads clean.

I know recent developments have probably made that hard.  So, those of you chomping at the bit to take shots at Nike, here’s your chance.

318 Comments

Filed under GTP Stuff

Getting o-line priorities straight

Jeff Sentell’s piece about Georgia’s offensive line recruiting is definitely worth a read.  To say there’s been a sea change in approach from Richt to Smart is an understatement, to say the least.

Sentell’s data says it all:

For the purposes of this study, we’ve culled the data from the 2002-2015 recruiting classes and then 2016-2018. Records are not available online to study Mark Richt’s first recruiting class in 2001.

  • During the 14 listed recruiting classes of the Mark Richt era, the program signed 12 Top 10 offensive line recruits on the 247Sports Composite.
  • Smart’s classes have signed nine such recruits in his first three cycles. (Keep in mind that Smart and his staff had barely two months to recruit his first class back in 2016.)
  • Sam Pittman and Smart have signed eight prospects which rated as Top 10 recruits at their position on the offensive line during just the 2017 and 2018 cycles.
  • From 2002-2015, the Bulldogs signed 22 total offensive line prospects with a rating of 4-stars or better on the 247Sports composite standard.
  • This staff has already signed nine OLs who had a composite rating of 4-stars or better since 2016. (We did count the signing of 4-star OT D’Antne Demery in 2017 even though he never enrolled.)
  • John Theus was the only 5-star OL recruit of the Mark Richt era. Georgia has already signed a trio of 5-stars in Cade Mays (2018), Jamaree Salyer (2018) and Isaiah Wilson (2017) so far with Smart.
  • The average offensive line signee under the previous staff was a 3.3-star recruit.
  • The average offensive line recruit under this staff is a 3.92-star recruit. That is boosted by a 4.1-star average per signee over Smart’s first two full recruiting cycles.
  • The Bulldogs signed 39 recruits with no more than a 3-star rating during the 14 years studied prior to Kirby Smart taking over the job.  That was an average of 2.8 per class. With Smart, the Bulldogs have signed only four of those recruits in his first three years.
  • Do you remember the 2011 “Dream Team” of elite recruits for the Bulldogs? When we examine that class we see that hyped-up batch of recruits included four OL signees with a 3-star rating. The top-rated OL in that class was 4-star OT Watts Dantzler. Dantzler rated as the nation’s No. 281 overall prospect.

Good Lord.

Stars may not be everything, but they sure improve the odds in your favor, especially when you bring them in quantity.

I doubt this needs repeating, but Sam Pittman is worth every penny Georgia is paying him.  And then some.

41 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting

The NCAA gets its own show-cause order.

A California court has issued “a tentative decision” that the show-cause order provisions in the NCAA bylaws violate California law.

“[The show-cause order provisions] are void as they constitute an unlawful restraint on engaging in a lawful profession,” Judge Frederick Shaller wrote.

Shaller’s determination is part of the latest filing in former USC football assistant Todd McNair’s civil lawsuit vs. the NCAA. In May, a jury in Los Angeles voted 9-3 in favor of the NCAA following a three-week defamation trial stemming from McNair’s involvement in the Reggie Bush extra-benefits scandal. Two of the four other allegations in McNair’s suit have been dropped, leaving just the declaratory relief allegation to be resolved.

Shaller said that declaratory relief for McNair in this matter was appropriate, and in that ruling commented on show-cause penalties.

“McNair’s ability to practice his profession as a college football coach has been restricted, if not preempted, not only in Los Angeles and California, but in every state in the country,” he wrote.

The NCAA’s reaction was mild (“We look forward to the opportunity to provide our objections to the court per California trial rules.”), but it’s got to be shitting a few bricks as it ponders the ramifications.  If this order is finalized and affirmed on appeal, the state will become a haven for every coach you can think of who runs afoul of the NCAA.  It’ll become one giant Second Chance U.

Those are the consequences of overplaying your hand against an assistant coach who pissed you off.

4 Comments

Filed under See You In Court, The NCAA

“SEC schools draw action.”

The first day of legal sports books in Biloxi went exactly as you’d expect.

At the Imperial Palace Casino’s new sports book, each sport has its own betting sheet, and the sheets, stacked neatly in baskets for prospective bettors with corresponding labels: NFL, college football, MLB, golf, tennis, NASCAR.

One basket is different. It is labeled not by sport but by conference, the three letters recognizable to anyone ’round here, as they might say: S-E-C. “They don’t have these in Vegas,” says George Cole, the Imperial Palace’s sports book director. “SEC football—it’s where the action is here.”

… For now, the sports book will have to do. And that’s O.K. at the Hard Rock, where Schenk says they’ve seen a 15% uptick in foot traffic since opening their book. Next door at the Beau Rivage, the second set of college games is winding down, and it’s still packed, with nearly every seat occupied and a standing-room crowd encircling the venue, each craning their necks to see one of the eight games on the 24 televisions, many of them in college football apparel—a camouflage LSU hat, an Ole Miss wind-breaker, a Michigan T-shirt, a Texas visor. They were all here for a historic day: to, legally, bet on this region’s religion.

“The South,” says Schenk, “they love their SEC, love their college football.”

There’s an SEC promo just dying to happen.  I give Sankey a couple of years before he green-lights it.

4 Comments

Filed under Bet On It, SEC Football

South Carolina quick bites

A few random notes from the Internet:

  • You can’t win if you don’t have a snappy slogan‘Don’t flinch first’.
  • Mr. Conventional Wisdom’s rationale for an upset Saturday is exactly what you’d expect:  “Georgia has a lot of rebuilding to do, especially on defense, but they are going to rebuild with very talented players. So the best time to play the Bulldogs will be early. I went to Columbia twice in the spring and the Gamecocks are very much looking forward to Georgia’s visit on Sept. 8.”
  • CFB Film Room finds the Gamecock defense tackled well against Coastal Carolina.
  • Take this for what it’s worth:  South Carolina has won six of the last nine games in which both teams came in ranked.
  • And the ‘Cocks have won three of the last four in Columbia.
  • Finally, pundits may be impressed with the possibility of an upset, but Vegas ain’t.

31 Comments

Filed under 'Cock Envy, Georgia Football

A tradition unlike any other

According to some of the denizens of Stingtalk, Georgia Tech’s got dance dudes and flag boys again.

Some of y’all have never watched any halftime performances. This ain’t ground breaking.

Once again, the world spins in its properly greased groove.

7 Comments

Filed under Georgia Tech Football