Posts Tagged ‘Jake Locker’

The buck stops … where?

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

I know I’ve already gone after him once today, but I just can’t help it. Via Matt Hayes of the Sporting News, here’s an account of what’s been going on at the University of Washington as the Huskies have lost five straight games following their 2-0 start:

For the past two weeks, Ty Willingham and his staff have been — and it pains me to even write this — blaming players for the team’s shortcomings.

This a 2-6 team whose two wins are against a horrible Syracuse team and Boise State — before new quarterback Taylor Tharp got comfortable.

Washington has given up 1,719 yards and 147 points in the last three games, and these are some of Ty’s remarks:

After a loss to Oregon, Ty said the Huskies “need more bullets” in their gun to compete. Of Southern Cal — which isn’t part of the last three losses — Ty told the Seattle Times, “How many of our starters, when we lined up against USC that night, would’ve started for them?”

Later, Ty had to “clarify” his comments, and came up with this jewel: “We need to put (players) in the best position possible, that’s the job of a coach. And at the same time, your players have to make the plays. It’s always a combination, it’s never just one.”

So this is what respected Washington president Mark Emmert — a UW alum who loves football and has been through the meat grinder as chancellor at LSU — is paying millions for? Let me explain something here; it’s a very simple process:

1. Staff recruits players.
2. Staff coaches players.
3. Players perform how they are coached.

That’s it, people. If Washington is struggling, it’s coaching. Willingham has three recruiting seasons under him — more than enough time to start a turnaround or at least become a respectable team that can beat the Arizonas of the world.

If it weren’t for [Jake] Locker, this team would be winless. Instead, the staff is spineless.

If this team is lacking “bullets” as Ty says, it’s his fault. It’s like the classic Seinfeld episode where George rebuffs a date because she’s bald. Elaine so eloquently says — hands coned around her mouth — “You’re bald!”

So Ty’s players aren’t good enough?

You’re the guy recruiting them!

Somewhere, wacko Notre Dame fans have to be smiling.

“Smiling” isn’t quite right, since I do actually feel for all the members of the Husky faithful who’ve been taken in by this loser, and who’ll have to wait at least another half-decade to undo the harm he’s doing to their program. But yeah, that pretty much hits things on the nose. (The Seinfeld reference is especially well-placed; one imagines a disgruntled UW alum tossing Willingham’s headset out of an apartment window, and Ty leaning halfway out as it falls to the street.)

It’s worth comparing Willingham’s explanation of his team’s suckitude with the Charlie Weis’s answer to a reporter who asked him about the factors that led to Notre Dame’s 1-7 start (I quoted this earlier in the week):

Well, first of all, let’s start with coaching, because what you just did in your question is gave me about 15 different excuses for us being 1 and 7, so why don’t we just start with 1 probably, with the transition that we’ve had from last year to this year, have not done the best job of having the team ready to go on a week in and week out basis, and we probably should leave it at that one because if you are looking for me to give you a whole dossier of problems that have happened this year, there would be too many things. If you want good fodder, let’s just throw me out there, okay. … I think that if you start with the head coach doing a better job, then you’d probably have a better record.

And there you have it, folks. Weis is willing to recognize what Willingham is not: that excuses don’t count for anything when you put a poor product on the field.

To be more precise, the real point is this: OF COURSE the circumstances in which both Weis and Willingham have found themselves this season have been less than conducive to winning. But that doesn’t change the fact that those circumstances are in part their own responsibility, nor does it make it okay for them to shift the blame to their PLAYERS, of all people. When you’re a third-year head coach, explanations of your team’s failures start and end with you.

Hayes deserves some serious kudos for calling Willingham out for this bullcrap. I’ll be dollars to donuts we don’t see Pat Forde or Jon Chait doing the same thing any time soon …

(HT: stonebreaker22.)

Youth Movement

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

Against Purdue last Saturday, true freshmen and sophomores accounted for 48 of Notre Dame’s 71 rushing yards (67.6% - sacks not included) and 268 of their 377 receiving yards (71.1%). This continued what has clearly been one of the stories of the season for the Irish: they start a true freshman at quarterback in Jimmy Clausen, and each of their three leading rushers (James Aldridge, Armando Allen, and Robert Hughes) and four of their six leading receivers (Robby Parris, George West, Duval Kamara, and Golden Tate) are just one or two years removed from high school. On the season, 362 of Notre Dame’s 391 rushing yards have come via true freshmen or sophomores, as have 582 of their 822 total receiving yards - numbers good for 91.2% and 70.8% of the team’s offensive output in those categories.

How do these numbers stack up to other Division I programs, whether national championship contenders or teams in “rebuilding” mode? [NOTE: While I've done my best not to include redshirt sophomores in these statistics, I've probably made some mistakes somewhere. Where possible, I've also tried not to include sacks in the rushing totals, though that doesn't really work for teams with dual-threat quarterbacks.]

Let’s start with top-ranked LSU and USC. The Tigers start an upperclassman at quarterback in Matt Flynn, and while their #1 rusher is an upperclassmen, each of the five players who follow him in total rushing yardage are true freshmen or sophomores. Still, though, only 750 of LSU’s 1117 total rushing yards, or 67.14%, have come from underclassmen - much less than Notre Dame’s 91.2%. Meanwhile, among their receiving corps, LSU has only two underclassmen with more than 100 receiving yards on the season, and true freshmen and sophomores account for a total of 416 of their 1084 total receiving yards, or 38.4%.

USC, meanwhile, also starts an upperclassman at quarterback, but four of their five leading rushers are true underclassmen. On the whole, true freshmen or sophomores account for 71.2% of USC’s rushing yards, still far less than the percentage for Notre Dame. Only two Trojan underclassmen have 99 or more receiving yards, though, and underclassmen account for only 330 of 898, or 36.8%, of their total receiving yards.

It also seems worth looking at a few other programs with third-year coaches. One such team is the Florida Gators, who start a true sophomore at quarterback in Tim Tebow. Tebow is also the team’s leading rusher, and fellow sophomore Percy Harvin leads the team in receiving yards and is also their third-leading rusher. But on the whole, the Gators’ offense is still much less dependent on underclassmen than Notre Dame’s: 71.4% of their rushing yards come from true freshmen or sophomores, to go with 53.6% of their receiving yards.

The Fighting Illini of the University of Illinois are also in their third year under head coach Ron Zook. They start a true sophomore at quarterback in Juice Williams, but three of their four leading rushers - Williams is #2 - are upperclassmen, and underclassmen have accounted for only 267 of their 1278 rushing yards (20.9%) so far this season. Meanwhile, the leading receiver for the Illini is freshman Arrelious Benn, with 286 yards on the season, but overall their underclassmen have accounted for only 55.6% (438 of 787) of Illinois’s receiving yards.

Finally, let’s take a look at the University of Washington, in their third year under former Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham. The Huskies start a true sophomore at quarterback in Jake Locker, and he is also the team’s leading rusher. But Locker is the only UW underclassman with substantial rushing yardage, and true freshman and sophomores have accounted for 503 of the Huskies’ 804 yards on the ground so far, or 62.6%. Moreover, all of Washington’s top receivers are upperclassmen: true freshmen and sophomores have only 17 receiving yards so far this year for UW, a mere 1.97% of their 861 total.

Here’s a chart detailing those statistics:

What these numbers make clear is that Notre Dame’s offense is MUCH more reliant on true freshmen and sophomores than other programs. Moreover, the fact that the Irish have fallen behind in each of their games so far this year means that very few of these numbers are based on performance in “mop-up duty”: ND’s depth chart lists a true freshman or sophomore at either first- or second-string for every offensive position except center. Thus far this year, a huge portion of the offensive burden has been placed on players only one or two years removed from high school - and judging by how things have gone, there is no reason to think this state of affairs won’t become even more pronounced as the year goes on.

None of this is meant to excuse an 0-5 start that is the worst in Notre Dame’s history. This team has underperformed, and they have no-one but themselves to blame for that. But comparisons like this certainly help to put things in perspective.