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Cracking Spring Scrimmage Boxscore Code

These are assumptions based off of very limited data and video. I had fun with this, but if you're running off to your bookie based off of anything in this post, you're a madman. Standard Spring practice disclaimers (mainly that Spring practice is a confusing, twisted, Twilight Zone that you should place almost no faith in) apply. Enjoy.

You find yourself asking some funny questions when going over a Spring scrimmage boxscore. Stuff like: How come when the team ran 104 plays, they only tell me about the result of 37 of them (11 Maxwell passes, 14 Cook passes, 12 Bell rushes)? It says the receivers caught 13 passes, but Maxwell and Cook alone combined to complete 15, where are the other two receptions? You said there were 14 tackles for loss but you only identify 11.5 of them, who had the other 2.5? Why does this matter so much to me? WHY MUST YOU TURN THIS BOXSCORE INTO A HOUSE OF LIES (or rather, omissions)?!

I imagine this is a little like looking at old Soviet press releases or photographs where remarks, people, and figures are carefully compiled and screened beforehand, and then rescreened afterwards, to give the least amount of possible information. But I'm not gonna let you get away with this that easily Commissar Dantonio! We're going to squeeze this information for every factoid we can get! To the Football Cryptanalysis room!

The blitz is on (again)

Of MSU's 10 'sacks', five came from the team's defensive ends (Gholston, Heath, Gainer) but the other five were divided up between the middle linebacker (Bullough), outside linebackers (Jones, Elsworth), cornerbacks (M. White) and cornerback/safety (Trae Waynes). Even in Spring practice, it's clear the MSU defense is still bringing heat from all different angles, and I don't think fans would have it any other way.

Additionally, in the first play of the video provided by MSU All-Access, you can see Darien Harris come off the edge Denicos Allen style on a play very similar to this one profiled here (except in this case, it's Rush who is the stunting DE while Gholston beats the offensive tackle on the other side of the play for what looks like a 'sack' [or batted down pass, or a forced fumble. It's a bad camera angle.]). Narduzzi. You magnificent bastard, I read your book!.

Finally, if ten sacks seems high, well it is (in this scrimmage, MSU had 10 sacks in 104 plays, or a sack 9.62% of plays. In last year's regular season the defense had 45 sacks in 903 plays or a sack on 4.98% of plays). MSU averaged about twice as many sacks in this practice as they would have had in a game last year, on a per play basis. But, as you can see in the video, QB's were on 'one hand touch' sack rules. I think everyone can agree it is easier, maybe even twice as easy, to lay a hand on a QB, than it is to bring him down. I wouldn't get too concerned yet.

More after the jump...

Oregon this is not.

In 100 minutes, the team ran exactly 104 plays, or essentially 1 play a minute. I'd guess some of this slower pace can be explained by coaches almost certainly pausing play to, well, coach players (because if they're not, and we're taking a full minute to run each play, well, that might cause some delay of game issues once the season starts), but if you're curious if MSU is installing much hurry-up, don't bet on it with those numbers.

Gang tackling is present

Out of the 28 tackles listed, 16 of them are listed as assisted tackles, meaning multiple players are usually hitting the ball carrier. If we remove Heath and Gholston's 'sacks' this number probably goes up to 16 out of 24. This is good. Trae Waynes and RJ Williamson come in for praise on their ability to tackle in space, combining for 7 of the 12 solo tackles listed.

Clarifying interceptions

Not mentioned in the box score, but clearly there in the last of three plays in the linked All Access video, is Cook throwing the pick six to Adams. I can't really tell if it's Adams jumping the route or Cook making a bad throw to Andre Sims because the camera is in maybe the worst possible angle to tell such things :(

This means Maxwell was also picked off once by Adams for no gain, and also by Isaiah Lewis for 33 yards.

Quarterbacks are taking what they can get (which is not much right now)

Yards per attempt were not good for either quarterback (5.1 for Maxwell, 5.4 for Cook) and fall even further once you remove their longest throws (removing his 18 yard TD throw put Maxwell at 3.9 on his other 10 attempts, removing Cook's 19 yard strike to Drone drops him to 4.3 on his other 13 attempts). In all honesty, I might be more worried about that then the interceptions.

We can assume based on how deep in the pocket many of the sacks are coming (each of them averaged about a 7 yard loss) that some of the deeper throws weren't getting released until after a defender already laid a hand on the QB.

Hype machine and other receiving notes

I'm not saying John Jakubik is the next Blair White, I'm just saying he is a walk-on who is basically the same height and weight, and who seems to be coming out of nowhere to establish himself as a reliable option in a young and untested receiving corps, and- OH MY GOD, HE'S TOTALLY THE NEXT BLAIR WHITE GUYS!

I'm happy to see Arnett get his feet underneath him a little bit, he'll be a very easy guy to root for this year (Hey NCAA, how about you stop leaving the kid twisting in the wind regarding his status, huh?). It's interesting to see Langford (3 catches, 19 yards) make an impact so early into his position switch, but with Fowler and Lippett probably out for the rest of these practices, there's a chance for him. Andre Sims caught the only mentioned touchdown of the game and (I think?) alongside Drone was the only player to get above 10 yards a reception (2 catches for 28 yards), so kudos to him.

Run game???

Bell is highlighted (12 carries, 49 yards) with a decent effort. He comes in on the second play of the video on a run where he gets a nice block from Andre Sims and carries three defenders for extra yards because of course he does. But no QB scrambles are mentioned, and no other running back else gets a word in this box score. We can pretty fairly assume they did not exceed Bell's modest production, or have any especially notable runs. Did Nick Hill and Larry Caper get abducted by space aliens? You can't find anything in this box score to prove they didn't.