Thursday, March 4, 2010

The TE's the thing...

Many Georgia fans have championed the re-appearance of the receiving tight-end at UGA. They are excited about players like Aron White and Orson Charles who like to go out and actually CATCH PASSES. These fans whip themselves into a frenzy because the receiving tight-end makes the offense more dynamic. It forces the defense to cover the whole field, and gives a troubled quarterback more options to make plays.

In short, some folks seem to believe that the Tight End is the thing that makes the offense most effective. They remember stand-out players like Ben Watson and Leonard Pope, and the success our offense had when they were playing as opposed to the lack of success we had when players like Tripp Chandler were leading the charge at end. So, I did more diggin'...let's take a look, shall we?

(Oh, and by the way, let me say this: I'm tired of the 2001 statbook at georgiadogs.com. It's not very user-friendly at all, and has no season statistics. So, I have to go through, game-by-game and come up with figures for 2001. After three position groups, I'm really FED-UP with it!)

YEAR Players Catches YDS AVG TD

2001 McMichael 28 328 11.7 1
Watson 9 170 18.9 1

2002 Watson 31 341 11.0 3

2003 Watson 23 324 14.1 2
Brannon 4 43 10.8 0
Pope 1 21 21.0 0
Milner 1 15 15.0 0

2004 Pope 25 482 19.3 6
Milner 4 77 19.3 0

2005 Pope* 39 541 13.9 4
Milner 14 291 20.8 2

2006 Milner* 30 325 10.8 3
Chandler 2 37 18.5 1

2007 Chandler 21 283 13.5 2
Figgins 3 24 8.0 1

2008 Chandler 5 58 11.6 1
White 3 88 29.3 2
Figgins 2 32 16.0 2

2009 Charles 23 374 16.3 3
White 13 198 15.2 4
Lynch 2 17 8.5 0

* Denotes Team-leader at receiver.

So, those are the numbers. What can we take from them? Well, it's easy to see why folks remember Watson and Pope. Watson is the only Tight-End in the MR era to be the ONLY tight-end catching passes for an entire season, and Pope was the team's receiving leader in 2005. Those who've forgotten about Milner have most likely done so simply because he was overshadowed by Pope, then he was the best-thing-going for our passing game in a bad 2006 season. But, the numbers also show why folks would LOVE to forget about Tripp Chandler's stint as the #1 at TE. In the years with him there, tight ends saw less and less production, dropping from the top of the receiver list to #3, and then to #9 his senior year.

That's right, in 2008, our starting tight-end had less receptions than eight other players on the team. I could see fourth, maybe..if we had two amazing wideouts (which we did in 2008) and a great receiving backfield. But honestly....ninth? Wow. I can't help but believe that if Stafford had found a way to incorporate the tight-end a bit more, a couple of those games might have had different results. Then again, you can only throw to the talent that's on the field...and Sadly for UGA, Tripp Chandler was not a banner Tight-End. He wasn't a clutch receiver, dropping too many important passes, and wasn't the most fleet-of-foot. That is why his production dropped so sharply between his junior and senior years. In fact, the other TE to play both 2007 and 2008, Figgins, saw an uptick in production in total yards, ypc, and touchdowns...notably, both of Figgins' 2008 catches were TDs. Chandler is one of only two TEs throughout the Mark Richt era to see a solid decline in production between their Junior and Senior years, with the other being Ben Watson. Watson, though, suffered more from new additions of solid TEs Pope and Milner. Chandler didn't. Chandler was in Stafford's 3rd year, and should have greatly improved on his 21-catch Junior campaign. He did not.

Looking further into the stats, 2009's 38 catches were second only to the championship season of 2005 when TEs hauled in a whopping 53 passes. And, the innaugural Richt year was only one behind 2009, with 37. The magical 2002 13-1 season? 31.

Also an interesting factoid...in 2009, the TEs caught more TD passes than in any other year of the Richt era.

Some would say, though...that the yardage and catches and all don't make an argument for how important the TEs actually are to the team. Take, for instance, 2006. Milner led the team in receiving, but we were 9-4. A year prior, Pope had led the team in receiving, and UGA finished 10-3 with an SEC Title. Some folks would say...those two seasons are only a loss apart, pretty close, right? Wrong.

Two things to remember...in 2005, UGA went 9-2 in an 11-game season, then went 1-1 in the post-season, winning the SEC but losing the sugar bowl. In 2006, UGA went 8-4 in a 12-game season and then won its bowl. This means that in the season, UGA won 81% in 2005 compared to 67% in 2006. Not even close.

Speaking of percentages, I thought it might add some fuel to the argument about tight-ends if I included the comparison of TE receiving yards to Total receiving yards.

Year TE YDS REC YDS %

2001 498 2974 16.7
2002 341 3435 9.9
2003 403 3435 11.7
2004 559 2978 18.8
2005 832 2977 27.9
2006 362 2397 15.1
2007 307 2579 11.9
2008 178 3610 4.9
2009 589 2615 22.5

According to the numbers, tight-end production is definitely on the upswing...I say this not because the numbers show a trend upwards over the past FEW years, but simply because they show a volatile JUMP upwards last season, and the statistical trend for TEs at UGA is for them to get better as they get older (Chandler being the one glaring exception). In 2010, the TEs have two rising juniors, and two rising sophomores. We should see very good production out of this position for the next couple of years. But, I'm not sure that the TE is what brings us a title.

You see, with these stats we find something interesting. The 2002 year had the second lowest percentage output by tightends of all nine years. The "raw catches" ranking would place 2002 squarely at the middle of the pack (5th), but the percentage of total passing offense shows that in UGA's BEST season, we relied almost as little as possible on the tight end. Then, however, we go to 2005 and see that in UGA's second-best year (ranked so simply because of the SEC title) the Tight-ends were utilized FAR AND AWAY more than in any other Richt season. We can also see the impact that play-making wideouts like Massaqoui and Green (and even better, the combo of the two in 2008) have on tight-end production - especially when you have a QB that likes to go deep.

Which, I suppose begs the question....could it be that the WR is the thing?

I'll look into that.


Go Dawgs.

1 comment:

Pete said...

Damn... I really wanted Tight End to be the thing.