Power 5 coaches weigh in: pros, cons of advanced stats

Using advanced metric systems to study statistics is starting to become a major factor across all professional sporting leagues and university athletic departments.

Jon Solomon and CBSSports.com sampled 10 SEC and Big Ten coaches to ask them their thoughts on advanced statistics and if they use them.

You can read each of the coaches responses below. Steve Spurrier’s response to the question is hilarious and Georgia coach Mark Richt sounds like he has no clue what stats his staff uses.

Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Advanced stats he likes: Sports-performance metrics through GPS tracking to monitor player health

“Too much information. I have my own way. … (Safety) Tyvis Powell runs six miles in practice sometimes because he’s such a hard runner. There’s a kid who maybe doesn’t go as hard, and we get all that information and we use that for the safety of the player. The statistical analysis of like should you go for two, we look at that. But we haven’t changed much in our approach that way.”

Nick Saban, Alabama

Advanced stats he likes: GPS system monitoring players’ workload and explosive movements; plus/minus turnover statistics

“We use a lot of stats, but this game is not that complicated. The team that wins usually blocks the best, tackles the best and takes care of the ball the best. … I’m not a huge stat guy, but I know one stat that is very effective is turnovers. There’s a stat in the NFL for one year, five years and 20 years, and if you’re plus-one in turnovers in a game, you have like a 77 percent chance of winning. If you’re plus-two, it’s like 90 percent. If you’re plus-three, it’s like 98 percent. Now, 20-year stats in the NFL, that really proves to me how important it is to take care of the ball.”

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

Advanced stats he likes: Points per possession; red zone efficiency; third-down success by down and distance; three-and-out success/failure; percentage of negative plays vs. percentage of positive plays; touchdown success rate based on number of 12-yard “explosive” plays on a drive

“We’re starting to look at (advanced stats). I love numbers. I love looking at the stats in baseball. You have a pitcher and a batter, but in football there’s 11 different variables. You can say, ‘Boy, this guy throws to the left less than he throws to the right,’ but do you take maybe 15 of those throws out because the center rolls the ball back or the left guard misses his assignment or the quarterback got hit in the face by a blitz? There’s lots of interesting information, but you have to figure out what’s the relevancy of that information? … As you look at why (a 12-yard play) is important, it’s great to say we’ll run the ball up the middle. But the chances that’s a 12-yard play are minimal.”

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

Advanced stats he likes: Impact of possessing the football; red-zone data; third-down efficiency

“We use Coaches by the Numbers (from SportSource Analytics). It’s really too much information and data because you can have information overload. But I think what it is good for is being able to get a profile on what a team is and look at the tangible evidence. You’ve got to get that quotient down to something that’s manageable to your team.”

Randy Edsall, Maryland

Advanced stats he likes: Declined to say

“We’re getting involved in something this year that we’re going to be doing that. No, I’m not going to explain it. … We kind of experimented last year but not really going into it full speed. I think it’s something that might be able to give us an advantage.”

Jim McElwain, Florida

Advanced stats he likes: Third downs in critical situations; red-zone tendencies

“We’ve looked into a couple things, but as far as to the level you’re talking about, no. I’m aware of it, though. That’s huge. Now you’re going to open a whole new department just on that, and there’s some good stuff you find in it. I’m not a huge stats guy but there are really some tell-tells.”

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Advanced stats he likes: Player energy level and injury-risk statistics through GNSS-tracking from Catapult, a popular monitoring system in pro and college football

“Yeah, we use it. It’s kind of a secret. We hired a sports science director last year. … We’ve gathered the data for a year so we know what it looked like last year, particularly during that stretch when we had a tough time trying to win and our energy level was down. There are some things we’re going to change from a practice standpoint because of the data — how we practice, when we practice — and try to keep that energy throughout the season. As we started getting the data, we had a (defensive back) back off his reps (in spring practice) because there was a high probability he’d pull his hamstring based on his workload.”

Butch Jones, Tennessee

Advanced stats he likes: Field position; plays after a first-down incompletion; areas of the field where to go for it on fourth down; using and preserving timeouts in one-minute situations at end of halves

“We’re starting to do more with (advanced stats). I think that’s the wave of the future and we look into whether there’s an underlying pattern with certain things. Sometimes it can be information overload, but it also can provide confirmation as well.”

Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

Advanced stats he likes: Does not think South Carolina uses them

“There’s all kinds of new gadgets. The new things are the drones in the sky — the NFL sending cameras on a drone looking straight down. Gee, can’t you see everything already? I think all of that’s a little overemphasized and not as important as some people think.”

Mark Richt, Georgia

Advanced stats he likes: Does not think Georgia uses them

“We don’t use it, not that I know of. I don’t know much about it.”

There is always the possibility of these stats causing someone to over analyze a situation, but its fun to see what tools some of the best coaches in college football use today.

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*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports