It’s time for another advanced stats party, this time, the offensive line gets a look. We’ve actually looked at the advanced offensive line stats previously when Brandon Jones was hired as the offensive line coach. I was really somewhat waiting this spring to see if there was any difference between what we saw last year and this year and it was hit or miss to put it nicely. There were many times that Nic Shimonek was having to make a quick throw and the running game never really got on track during the spring.
The results from 2016 and 2015 are dramatic.
You can see how good things were in 2015, literally the line was at the top of their game and then 2016 happened. Young players, and very little success running the ball were the keys to 2016 and when the quarterback is the leading rusher, in terms of carries, yards and touchdowns, then that’s a problem.
I wonder too how much head coach Kliff Kingsbury blames Lee Hays for letting the room get out of control a bit. Justin Murphy, Conner Dyer and Cody Wheeler all retired or gave up football last year, all would have been juniors this year, Murphy a senior and then with Robert Castaneda and Trace Ellison getting kicked off the team.
The offensive line room somewhat fell apart in 2016. The performance dropped significantly, and I think that’s largely a result of inexperience. Hays also had a certain type of player that is significantly different than what Jones wants and that may be part of the struggle as well. With Hays, he wanted those massive guys that just blocked out the sun, much like the type of guys that Leach had in his last few years. Jones on the other hand prefers more athletic players and it’s quite evident in his starting five players:
Left Tackle: Travis Bruffy
Left Guard: Madison Akamnonu
Center: Paul Stawarz
Right Guard: Jack Anderson
Right Tackle: Terence Steele
Overall, that’s a pretty athletic group and if you add in Bailey Smith at a tight end position, that’s a very athletic, but not very strong group. I don’t think that these guys aren’t bulldozers. So, what I think you’ll see with some decent success are guys like Anderson and Akamnonu pulling and creating space. That’s what they’re good at and I think if you’ll see running success this year, then this is how that gets made.