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What can John Reagan do for KU's offense?

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John Reagan joined the Jayhawks in December, but exactly what impact will his arrival have on the dismal offensive efficiency of 2013?

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

If you are like me you look for reasons to be hopeful for the upcoming football season. We attempt to glean hope from any source and coaching changes add fuel to the fire. Today I want to take a look at new offensive coordinator John Reagan. Specifically, I’m interested in two things; how have his offenses produced on the field and exactly what level of talent was he working with.

Coach Reagan may be familiar to most Jayhawks who remember the recruiting and offensive line play he brought to KU a few years back, but for those unfamiliar here is a portion of his bio per the school's website:

"…Reagan previously spent five years (2005-09) as an assistant coach at KU as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator, where he helped the Jayhawks produce the best season in school history and set numerous offensive school records.

Reagan returns to KU after recently completing his fourth season at Rice, where the Owls defeated Marshall in the Conference USA Championship game…under his guidance Rice has put up impressive offensive numbers. The Owls entered Saturday’s C-USA title game ranked 61st in the country in total offense averaging 420.5 yards per game, while ranking 58th in scoring offense at 30.5 points per outing. The Owls boast the country’s 17th-ranked rushing offense (239.5 yards per game).

In 2012, the Owls produced the second-most productive offensive season in school history, piling up 5,556 yards, 414 points and 306 first downs on their way to winning the last five games and capturing the Armed Forces Bowl championship.

Under his direction during his first stint in Lawrence, KU posted a better rushing average in each of the first four seasons, including running for 188.8 yards per game in 2007. 

In 2008 Reagan molded an offensive line which featured two redshirt freshman starters in Jeremiah Hatch and Jeff Spikes, at the tackle spots. Under his direction each earned freshman All-America honors, while two interior linemen, center Ryan Cantrell and guard Adrian Mayes, were both named All-Big 12 honorable mention.

In 2007, tackle Anthony Collins not only earned All-Big 12 First Team honors, but was an All-America selection, one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy, given annually to the best interior lineman in college football and a fourth-round NFL draft pick. Tackle Cesar Rodriguez and Cantrell were both tabbed to the All-Big 12 Honorable Mention team after the 2007 season.

The 2006 KU rushing offense finished fourth in the Big 12 behind the talented Jon Cornish, who set a new Kansas single-season rushing record with 1,427 yards following the KU line. Reagan saw center and senior captain David Ochoa earn All-Big 12 Second Team honors.

In 2005, Reagan had two offensive linemen -- Ochoa and Bob Whitaker -- earn All-Big 12 honors during his first year with the program.

Reagan, who spent the 2003-04 seasons as the offensive line coach at the United States Air Force Academy… was the offensive line coach for one season at Temple….directed the defensive line at Temple for two years....(worked) with the Akron defensive line in 1999…was the tight ends coach and offensive tackle coach at Army (1998) and Penn (1997)…spent the 1996 season as an offensive graduate assistant at Oklahoma State….(began) his coaching career in 1994 as the assistant offensive line and fullback coach at Albany.

John Reagan joined the Jayhawks in December after KU produced arguably the most impotent offense of all Big 5 teams.

Exactly what does John Reagan bring to the Jayhawks and how effective can his offense be? To answer that, first let’s take a look at some advanced metrics as provided by the fine folks at Football Outsiders. The goal for this review is to compare Rice’s 2013 offensive output to KU’s using play-by-play and possession based statistics.

Part I - The Fremeau Efficiency Index (possession based)

The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) "considers each possession, filtered to eliminate first-half clock-kills and end-of-game garbage drives and scores. A scoring rate analysis of the remaining possessions then determines the baseline possession efficiency expectations against which each team is measured. A team is rewarded for playing well against good teams, win or lose, and is punished more severely for playing poorly against bad teams than it is rewarded for playing well against bad teams."

The following are several components used to calculate the FEI (specifically the Offensive FEI):

First Down Rate, the percentage of offensive drives that result in at least one first down or touchdown.

· 2013 Kansas – 0.514, rank: 122 of 125 FBS teams

· 2013 Rice – 0.704, rank: 48

It is no surprise that Rice outranked Kansas by 74 spots. Kansas produced approximately 15 first downs per game to Rice’s 22.

Available Yards, yards earned by the offense divided by the total number of yards available based on starting field position.

· 2013 Kansas – 0.264, rank: 123

· 2013 Rice – 0.704, rank: 66

In 2013 Rice outperformed Kansas by compiling 407 yards/game to 295.

Explosive Drives, the percentage of each offense's drives that average at least 10 yards per play.

· 2013 Kansas – 0.063, rank: 117

· 2013 Rice – 0.118, rank: 70

Overall KU averaged 4.28 yards/play to Rice’s 5.43.

Methodical Drives, the percentage of each offense's drives that run 10 or more plays.

· 2013 Kansas – 0.085, rank: 116

· 2013 Rice – 0.112, rank: 100

Value Drives, the percentage of each offense's drives beginning on its own side of the field that reach at least the opponent's 30-yard line.

· 2013 Kansas – 0.200, rank: 122

· 2013 Rice – 0.315, rank: 99

Finally, the overall Offensive FEI, or the "opponent-adjusted efficiency of the given team's offense":

· In 2013 Kansas scored a -0.583 for a rank 119 of 125 FBS teams, while Rice finished with a -0.044, ranked 67. This value details a Rice offensive efficiency (as adjusted for opponent) that ranked 52 spots higher than our beloved Jayhawks.

Part II - S&P+ Ratings (play-by-play)

Continuing the along the same track, let’s review the S&P+ Ratings. This rating is defined as:

"a college football ratings system derived from the play-by-play data of all 800+ of a season's FBS college football games (and 140,000+ plays). There are three key components to the S&P+:

Success Rate: A common Football Outsiders tool used to measure efficiency by determining whether every play of a given game was successful or not. The terms of success in college football: 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.

EqPts Per Play (PPP): An explosiveness measure derived from determining the point value of every yard line (based on the expected number of points an offense could expect to score from that yard line) and, therefore, every play of a given game.

Drive Efficiency: A drive-based aspect based on the field position a team creates and its average success at scoring the points expected based on that field position."

Below are outputs obtained by evaluating the above criteria specifically related to offensive performance:

Standard Down S&P+:

· 2013 Kansas – 85.7, rank: 111

· 2013 Rice – 93.2, rank: 91

Here we see that Rice was only marginally better at moving the football during "standard downs" (defined as all first downs, any 2nd down with fewer than 8 yards to go, and any 3rd or 4th down with less than 5 yards to go).

Passing Down S&P+:

· 2013 Kansas – 74.2, rank: 118

· 2013 Rice – 94.7, rank: 77

Passing downs are all other downs not defined as standard. As we can see Rice significantly outperformed Kansas in long yardage situations.

Rushing S&P+:

· 2013 Kansas – 91.5, rank: 92

· 2013 Rice – 97.0, rank: 78

Passing S&P+:

· 2013 Kansas – 71.1, rank: 121

· 2013 Rice – 91.5, rank: 86

Overall Offensive S&P+

· 2013 Kansas – 71.1, rank: 121

· 2013 Rice – 91.5, rank: 86

We see that for every metric presented Rice outperformed Kansas and for the most part, it’s not really close. Note that both teams performed more efficiently when running the ball compared to passing. However, Rice outperformed Kansas considerably when it came to moving the ball through the air.

At this point it is obvious that the 2013 Rice Owls were offensively superior to the 2013 Kansas Jayhawks. Is this alone enough to give us hope for 2014? How much of that can be contributed to John Reagan? It is interesting to note that in their bowl game (without Reagan) Rice put up their fewest points of the season, 262 yards less than their average (145 compared to an average of 407), and averaged 1.9 yards per rush.

Part III – Talent


To estimate exactly how well the 2013 Rice Owls were coached we need to know exactly what level of talent OCJR was working with. The following information details the recruiting rankings (per Rivals) of the Rice Owls from 2010-2013 compared to that of Kansas during the same time period.

Class

5 star

4 star

3 star

0-2 stars

Class Rank

Rice

2013

-

-

4

14

91

2012

-

-

11

13

92

2011

-

-

13

6

89

2010

-

-

8

8

106

Kansas

2013

-

2

19

3

46

2012

-

-

15

5

75

2011

-

2

21

4

34

2010

-

2

12

4

55

Not only did OCJR’s offensives significantly outperform KU’s, as noted above, but it appears this feat was accomplished with vastly inferior talent. Kansas recruited more three and four star recruits and fewer 0-2 star recruits than Rice. Also, each of Kansas’ classes ranked at least 45 positions higher than Rice’s with the exception of 2012 (Weis’ first class).

Hope is a Waking Dream

The idea of truly effective offensive attack seems like distant ambition to most KU fans. Jaded by the recent past and the seemingly run-of-the-mill hires, it has become difficult for fans to hope for more.

Just for a moment (or the next month and a half) we can hope that Reagan will turn this offense around. Maybe we will see Pierson take a screen pass and dance past a second level blocker on his way to the end-zone. Just maybe the pursuing speed of Big 12 linebackers will be consistently misdirected by the multiple threats coming out of the backfield. Maybe today we can believe that 2014 will produce an offense that will exceed our expectations.