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Midseason Chart Review Part II: The Offense

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 19 Oregon at Washington Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Earlier in the week I went over the playing time allotments at each position and how they’ve shifted over the course of the season. Today, we’re going to go in-depth with the offense to see which formations, players, and situations have been the most or least successful.

Before I lay out the formations info below, let me talk a little bit about how I record each position in my charting as I do have some mixed methods. A running back is either a running back or a fullback. That fullback is technically a tight end in the UW offense but if he lines up behind the QB and in front of my primary back in the I formation then he’ll be considered as a 2nd running back rather than another tight end.

Otherwise, all players who are listed on the roster as tight ends will count as a tight end even if say, Hunter Bryant is split out wide. Wide receivers are all non-TEs who are not in the backfield. If Salvon Ahmed is split out wide and there is no one in the backfield then I would consider that to be 0 RBs. When Richard Newton is taking a direct snap with Kamari Pleasant next to him and Jacob Eason lined up outside, Eason is the WR and there is only one RB.

Finally, if you’re unfamiliar with success rates: A play is successful on first down if it gets at least half of the remaining yardage, on second down if it gets at least 70% of the remaining yardage, and on 3rd or 4th down if it results in a 1st down conversion. With that out of the way...

2019 UW Offense Formations/Success Rates

Running Backs Wide Receivers Tight Ends # of Snaps % of Runs Run Success Rate % of Passes Pass Success Rate
Running Backs Wide Receivers Tight Ends # of Snaps % of Runs Run Success Rate % of Passes Pass Success Rate
1 2 2 274 61.31% 54.17% 38.69% 50.00%
1 3 1 141 29.79% 59.52% 70.21% 39.39%
0 3 2 30 0.00% 0.00% 100.00% 56.67%
2 1 2 25 76.00% 68.42% 24.00% 50.00%
2 2 1 23 91.30% 61.90% 8.70% 50.00%
1 1 3 10 90.00% 33.33% 10.00% 0.00%
2 0 3 9 88.89% 87.50% 11.11% 100.00%
0 4 1 6 0.00% 0.00% 100.00% 16.67%
1 4 0 2 0.00% 0.00% 100.00% 50.00%
0 5 0 1 0.00% 0.00% 100.00% 0.00%

By far the most popular formation that the Huskies run is with 12 personnel (one running back and two tight ends). It is traditionally an indication of running the ball on most offenses and while the Huskies do lean towards the run when they line up with two tight ends, the pass catching abilities of Hunter Bryant and Cade Otton allow them to stay flexible. Despite defenses having an inkling that the run is more likely the team has a slightly higher success rate running the ball then throwing it out of this positional grouping.

The next most common look is an 11 personnel grouping with one running back and one tight end. When the Huskies take that 2nd tight end off the field it is usually a concession that they’re behind the chains and will need to pass more often. If the Huskies spread the field with 3 receivers on 1st down they actually run and pass it at nearly equal rates and have a 62.5% success rate running the ball. However, if they’re in that look on 3rd down they pass the ball almost 80% of the time and have only picked up 25% of the first downs on 3rd and long.

Beyond that you can somewhat combine the next two looks which involve bringing in a fullback plus either 1 or 2 other tight ends. Unsurprisingly, the team has run the ball the vast majority of the time in these looks and they’ve generally been successful when doing so. Washington have picked up the first down 75% of the time with 3 yards or fewer to go when they have a fullback in the game. As long as Richard Newton is out it really seems like going heavy with Jack Westover in at FB is the best way to go to pick up a conversion.

Washington would much rather put 3 TEs out there at the same time then go with none at all. They’ve run 19 plays in a jumbo set but only 3 all season without any tight ends. Unsurprisingly, they’ve run the ball almost 90% of the time when in a true jumbo look and have yet to run without a TE out there. Cade Otton leads the skill position players in snaps and that’s a big reason why.

2019 Washington Offense Snaps/Success Rate by Player

Player # of Snaps % of Passes Pass Success Rate % of Runs Run Success Rate
Player # of Snaps % of Passes Pass Success Rate % of Runs Run Success Rate
Otton 440 45.68% 48.76% 54.32% 55.65%
Baccellia 365 58.90% 44.65% 41.10% 52.67%
Bryant 364 50.00% 48.90% 50.00% 54.95%
Fuller 335 58.21% 45.64% 41.79% 53.90%
Ahmed 277 53.07% 44.22% 46.93% 58.91%
Bynum 156 42.95% 43.28% 57.05% 55.06%
McClatcher 112 66.07% 35.14% 33.93% 52.63%
Newton 110 38.18% 40.48% 61.82% 55.88%
Nacua 107 35.51% 57.89% 64.49% 62.32%
McGrew 103 44.66% 54.35% 55.34% 57.89%
Westover 44 15.91% 42.86% 84.09% 59.46%
Pleasant 40 35.00% 50.00% 65.00% 46.15%
Luciano 26 11.54% 0.00% 88.46% 52.17%
Culp 25 20.00% 40.00% 80.00% 60.00%
Spiker 20 35.00% 42.86% 65.00% 69.23%
Chin 19 57.89% 36.36% 42.11% 37.50%
Osborne 12 33.33% 50.00% 66.67% 50.00%

That’s a lot of numbers so I’ll try to point out some of the most interesting ones for you.

Chico McClatcher has the highest percentage of passing plays when he’s on the field and also the lowest success rate among any of the contributors. That’s either a sign that it’s been too big of a signal that we’re passing it when he’s on the field and/or he has struggled when he doesn’t get the ball. There is the confounding factor that 74% of the pass plays Chico has been in for have come with 7+ yards to go so his poor success rate might just mean that we mostly bring Chico in when we’re behind the chains and really need a big play.

Everyone has been clamoring for the continued usage of Puka Nacua in the passing game and the stats certainly back up that sentiment. Washington has a nearly 58% success rate on passing plays with Nacua in the game which is the highest mark of any skill position player. The team also has a 62% success rate when he’s on the field for running plays which is the highest among anyone with more than 20 snaps.

The sample size is still low enough that there’s a chicken and egg situation going on. The biggest chunk of Nacua’s playing time has come during the last 6 quarters when Washington has scored a combined 69 points (nice). Is the offense clicking because Nacua’s been playing more or has he happened to be out there while for instance the offensive line is playing out of their minds or Eason truly internalized the system. Regardless, the numbers show the coaching staff is guilty of gross negligence if he doesn’t get more chances the rest of the year.

The play of Andre Baccellia has been much maligned this season and it’s mostly warranted. As you can see from the table above, Baccellia has a lower success rate running or passing the ball when he’s on the field than any of the other starting pass catches in Fuller, Bryant, and Otton. But they’re all pretty close to the same. Most of the frustration with Baccellia has been that Eason just doesn’t throw him the ball. He’s averaging a target on just 19% of the routes despite leading the team in the number run. That has led to a team low 1.12 yards per route run. And when he does get the ball he has only gained a 1st down on 27.5% of his targets which is again the lowest on the team.

I noted the success of the I formation in the first section of the article but Jack Westover is second behind Nacua in run success rate among anyone in on more than 20 run plays despite his presence almost always signalling a run. Let Jack Block.

Last season the team had a ridiculously high success rate passing the ball with Sean McGrew in the game. That trend has continued this year although to a slightly lesser degree. Would’ve been really nice to have him available against Oregon...

Passing Game

The Husky passing game under Jacob Eason to this point has been fairly efficient with 7.95 yards per dropback (includes sacks) and a success rate of 46.75%. We thought there might be an opening up to a more vertical passing attack with Eason’s arm strength but this season the average throw has gone 9.28 yards downfield compared to 8.33 last year under Browning. A slight increase but not a sign of a massive change.

There has been a pretty dramatic difference in Eason’s numbers in the games where he’s struggled or not. Eason averaged under 5 yards per play against Cal and Stanford and at least 10 yards per play against Eastern, BYU, Arizona, and Hawai’i with the USC game the only one which you could say was only slightly below average. It has been boom or bust and unfortunately the two busts were the two jaw dropping losses.

The two biggest factors for success with the Husky passing game has been whether Eason is under pressure and whether there is play action. The offensive line has for the most part been exceptional this season at keeping Eason clean. I’ve only considered Eason to be under pressure on 15% of total dropbacks. Last year that figure was 19% and with a more mobile quarterback in Jake Browning. When Eason hasn’t faced pressure he’s averaged 9.0 yards per play with a college passer rating of 168.65 and a success rate of 51%. When he’s had defenders in his face it falls to 2.3 yards per play with a college passer rating of 39.6 and a 23.7% success rate.

Eason has also been great when the team uses play fakes although I would argue that he still struggles to make it a realistic fake and doesn’t put the ball close enough to the back for fear of fumble. It hasn’t really mattered as Washington is averaging 11.9 yards per play on play action with a success rate of 52.9%. They’re only running play fakes on about 20% of their pass attempts and I would like to see it more often although I’m sure it’s partly because Eason prefers the shotgun despite the numbers.

Washington’s passing game has also been at its best when they’re avoiding standard passing situations. On 1st down Washington has a success rate of 56.2%, on 2nd down it drops to 44.9% and on 3rd down it’s 35%. If it feels like the Huskies never convert a 3rd down through the air it’s because they very rarely do.

Running Game

There’s not much in the way of negativity that you can throw the way of the run game. The three primary backs (Salvon Ahmed, Sean McGrew, and Richard Newton) have all been very good when health although all 3 have missed time due to injury. Each is averaging better than 5 yards per carry and has a success rate of at least 54%.

Richard Newton was the primary big back and has definitely had the highest percentage of his runs come up the middle. But smaller backs like Ahmed and McGrew have meant the team is better when attacking the edges rather than going straight up the gut. Washington is averaging 5.2 yards per play with a 53% success rate on runs between the tackles, 5.6 yards and 60.4% when running to the left, and 6.3 yards and 60.4% when running to the right. Expect to see more of the toss to Ahmed which got used more often starting at the end of the Arizona game.

With the injuries to Newton and McGrew we saw more of Kamari Pleasant against Oregon than we had at any other point during the year. The results were unfortunate. Among the 4 primary backs on the team Pleasant ranks last in yards per carry, yards before 1st contact, yards after contact, forced missed tackle %, and success rate. Yikes. Pleasant seemed like at least a capable #3 option last year but he hasn’t been able to find his stride at all this season. If the Dawgs are still left without Newton/McGrew against Utah we’ll see if they use the bye week to try to get true freshman Cameron Davis more involved.

Join us early next week as the focus shifts to the defense.