A Preseason Look at Virginia

Another sterling article by Rich in SC…

Marc Bronco Mendenhall enters his sixth season as head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers (VA). Bronco, prior to his arrival in VA, was the head coach at Brigham Young University (BYU) . In his eleven years at the helm, BYU amassed an overall record of 99-43.

After a 2-10 (1-7 conference) first season, Bronco’s teams have gone 28-22 (17-16 conference, 10-3 Out of conference (OOC), one conference championship loss, and 1-2 in bowl games).

What do the 2020 NCAA stats say about Virginia’s 5-5 record.

I knew this info existed but I did not think about using this until this article. I should have used this is the leadoff chart in every article.

Do stats lie? Sometimes they do or more context is needed. In this case, The VA leader in individual QB Pass Efficiency is a punter.

On to the review. Of course, the schedules.

Some neat things to point out in the VA schedule notably a bye in the tenth week of a 13 week season. At least the bye is before the Notre Dame (ND) OOC home game. Speaking of the OOC schedule, VA is playing three Power 5 (P5) opponents – Illinois, ND and an away game at BYU, Bronco’s old team. (The ACC, Big10, & Big12 conferences consider BYU a P5 team for scheduling purposes.) Virginia gets to play back to back non Saturday games – Friday 9/24 home game with Wake and Thursday 9/30 away game at Miami.

The recruiting part of the review.

All five classes are exclusively Bronco’s. Started off slow with the 2017 and 2018 rounding up to an average 5.5 rating / 3* recruit using Rivals Numerical Ranking (NRR). His last three classes have improved to a rounded  average of 5.6 recruit with the 2020 actually topping that mark at 5.607.

Any transfer portal (TP) entries?

Of course, there are. Clemson is the only ACC team that has not taken anyone off the TP.

The best of the group is TE Jelani Woods from Oklahoma State. He will probably be the starter. The surprise of the group is the 2017 5.5, 3* from Harvard. I believe I read the Chico Bennett had an offseason injury and will miss the 2021 season. Anthony Johnson the 2017 CB will have a good shot at starting. He joins a Cavalier team that ranked #123, giving up 304.4 yards per game. It’s a good thing Reed is not a Virginia fan. He would be having a conniption. (Ed Note: True…)

Who are the players to know?

As usual, I start with returning 2020 All ACC selections. With the announcement of the 2021 preseason all ACC 27 member team, I have marked the single selection in Bold. This is followed by additional names not on the returning list but on the Athlon 2021 preseason selections.

Virginia is projected to have one of the better Oline’s in the ACC.

That wraps up the recruiting, TP entries and names to know portion of my review. On to Virginia ‘s player losses.

Who did the Cavaliers lose to the NFL? Those names in Bold where 2020 All ACC selections.

I just added Zane Zandier to the list because he went to local high school Thomas Jefferson (TJ).

Like all teams, Virginia lost some players to the TP:

Jowon Briggs (2019 5.9, 4*) is probably the best of the bunch. He entered the TP with four games left to play in the season (one of them ended up being cancelled). As a Cincinnati native, he announced his transfer to Cincinnati eight days after entering the portal.

Snap counts. I have added total team pass and run attempts to the chart. Should have done it earlier. You can assume that the QB made the same percentage of handoff’s to non QB’s as he made percentage of pass attempts. Not very accurate but will get you in the ballpark of total snaps.

Virginia runs different offenses depending on who is taking the snaps at QB. Armstrong and Armstead are more run-pass option (RPO) QB’s. Stone is a pro style QB. Thompson is a “Wildcat” QB. Thompson is also known to line up as a Wide receiver.

Virginia’s 186 running plays by RB’s/ WR (six in total) went for 748 yards or 4.0 yards per carry (y/c). One of the six has moved on to his life’s work. Virginia’s returning five players (who had at least one carry) are 129 carries, 470 yards for 3.6 y/c. The transfer from Harvard was an All-Ivy league first team selection.

Now for a bonus fun with numbers exercise, The POV has been discussing Kenny Pickett (KP) and his stats including Passing Efficiency (PE), yards per attempt (Y/A), touchdowns (TD) and interceptions (INT) thrown amongst others. Mainly in those discussions , KP was not put in a good light. Would it make any difference to Pitt’s overall record if KP’s passing efficiency was in the top 31% of all 2020 eligible QB’s? (Ed Note: Not really but go for it…)

Now for my usual wordy explanation. I get my stats I use from the NCAA. Link:

 NCAA Statistics

This link will take you to the NCAA home page. Every stat on this page is for “TEAM” statistics. For individual stats, you need to click on the “INDIVIDUAL” tab.

If you do find your way to the individual passing efficiency ranking and click on it you will see this header line.

It holds just eleven items:  Rank, player (name, school, conference). Class (CL), Position (POS),  Games Played (G) (Games the player played in. Not the  games the Team played) , and the meat of the data:  Pass Attempts, Pass Completions, Interceptions (INT), Pass Yards, Pass TD and finally Pass Efficiency which is just a calculation based on the prior five numbers.

Notice there is nothing about Y/A, Yards per Completion (Y/C), Completion % (Comp%), Yards per Game (Y/G) and so on. All of those are calculated based on one or more of those five numbers and sometimes a sixth – Games played. Those categories have their own tab in either the team or individual main tab.

How did I come up with top 31%? That is easy. There are 108 QB’s eligible per NCAA standards ( Min. 15 Attempts Per Game | Must play in 75% of team’s games). 108*.31 = 33.48.  Notre Dame’s Ian Book was the 33rd ranked QB. If Book was #33 what would KP need to do to match that ranking.

Here are KP’s and Ian Book’s line straight off the NCAA PE page.

Before I start let me give the formula for Passing Efficiency (PE) and an example using KP’s numbers.

((8.4*Passing yards) + (330* Touchdown Passes) + (100*Completions) (200*Interceptions)) / Passing Attempts:

I set up the chart below. I changed one of the four numbers I mentioned to mimic Ian Book’s number one at a time. I then held that constant for the remaining numbers. I held the fifth (pass attempts) constant. Aggregate and individual changes are shown at the bottom of the chart:

All it would have taken to be a top 31% (instead of top 61%) in QB PE was nine more completions, 255 more yards, two more TD’s and six less INT’s. Except for the INT’s all were doable. Even more doable was throwing only three less INT’s but adding another TD.

I had fun doing this chart. Reed was right in his assessment of Y/A and Y/C as a major factor in assessing a QB’s performance. I had never run the numbers before but Y/A (Y/A was how I calculated passing yards) was the biggest change factor in passing efficiency.