Advanced statistics can make a big difference in the end result. Coach Steele explains it all here...
By Steve Steele
Former Offensive Coordinator
Dakota State University
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To many coaches, statistics are something you check after the game to see how you did. You can compare them to previous games, previous years, and opponents to get a grasp on how your unit is performing relative to other units across the country. That said, manipulating these statistics to be proactive and gain an advantage in performance objectives is something that most small schools don’t have time, effort, or desire to do. Here at Dakota State, we find this exercise to be essential.
Our offensive staff uses past statistics with some formulas that are well known to many fantasy football experts to predict our success rates in different situations that can help decision making on game day. This is especially powerful with our offense being no huddle and up tempo as having this data available to study ahead of a game can really help us keep our pace in moments where a lot of teams would have tough decisions to make.
When we took a look back after year one of running our no huddle offense, we noticed a few things. First off, we wanted to be faster in all situations, but especially in our critical situations where we need to have a successful play. Our process was too slow having to check our charts and then our call section to get the correct play in. Second, our play success model that we based play-calling on was very conducive to being successful in going for fourth downs. This led our off-season research to find a model that would allow us to mold our play-calling model to be quicker, especially in critical success situations, as well as looking to get in favorable fourth down situations rather than taking a lower percentage third down play to try and get all of it, more times than not resulting in a punt.
Explosive Plays: We also log explosive plays that are given up by opposing defenses as well as are achieved by our offense. The main reason for this is to get what downs, distances, fronts, and coverages were exposed by other offenses as well as what our offense has done to expose other defenses. This combination of a self-scout and opponent scout can tell us what they are expecting from us as well as where they may be most susceptible to a big play.
All of these calculations are brought to the table and compared. We compare our own offensive analytics to the offenses that our current opponent has played for our best possible options. For instance, if we see that we are currently at 77% Power Success on offense and the offenses who played our opponent the last three weeks had an 82% Power Success Rate, we know that we should look to run the ball in Power situations because we could expect success. So our Third and Short playlist will be composed of run plays that would favor our Power Rate (usually the best two run plays we have).
Another way to check in with these is looking at the stuffed percentages for our offense and the opposing defense. If our stuffed percentage is highest on 1st and 10, then we need to reexamine exactly what plays we ran and why that is. By understanding what Down and Distance our opposition has the highest stuffed percentage, we can see their defensive personality a bit more. Outside of the typical blitz stats that are calculated, the stuffed percentage can give us their personality in down and distance. If their 1st and 10 stuffed percentage is extremely low, then we can plan that they won’t blitz and will likely be back on 1st downs. On the other hand if we see their 2nd and short stuffed percentage is well above average, they may be especially susceptive to the Play Action Pass. It all plays a part into getting our guys in the best possible situation for them to succeed on the given play.
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- How to gauge success per concepts using analytical distinctions such as play success, power success and stuffed success.
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We plan on continuing this practice in our offensive game-planning and scheme creation, but also look to expand further upon our use of analytics to put more of our players in better situations. We are always looking to learn new things and new ways to better ourselves and our program. If you are interested in getting more of our formulas or spreadsheets that we use or just want to discuss and bounce ideas or even share your own experience with analytics, feel free to reach out.
About Coach Steele: Steve Steele began his coaching career as a Graduate Assistant at Dakota State in 2012 and was promoted to the Offensive Coordinator position after the 2013 season. He has coached the Offensive Line all four of his years at Dakota State in addition to running the programs academics and compliance efforts. He played collegiately at William Penn University, lettering all four years and graduating Summa Cum Laude in 2012.