Alternate Title: I see why we're a running team now.
coming into the season I was pretty down on the offensive line. I wasn't entirely sure if they, as a group, would be up to the task of being stable enough to build an explosive offense, or at the very least a productive one, upon their collective foundation. As it turns out I was wrong about that. The offensive line this year ranged from great to really good, and never really dipped any lower than really good all year long. I didn't expect it at all but the offensive line as a whole really became the strongest part of the offense for parts of the year. Look at the stats.
|Year||Sack %*||QB Hurries||TFL %*||YPC||3rd & Short %*|
*Sack Percentage is the number of sacks given up divided by total dropbacks, TFL percentage is TFL's allowed divided by total rushing attempts. 3rd & short percentage is the success rate of rushing attempts on 3rd down with up to 3 yards to gain.
The key stats to me are the Yards per carry and the TFL %. As I mentioned in the running back review running the football is the perfect case study for the law of diminishing returns. In general the more a team runs the ball past a certain point the yields, in terms of yards per carry, decline at a fairly steady clip. That is the biggest reason why the pass has become such a weapon in the game. The average per pass is somewhere between 2 and 3 yards longer than the average run.
This season the Bearcats really bucked that trend in 2011. The Bearcats topped the 500 carry mark for the first time since 2007 and had 2,000 net rushing yards for the just the second time since 1999**. Despite all of those factors that usually work against teams that run the ball more the Bearcats rushed the ball for 2321 which is one of the 10 best seasons running the football in school history and they did it at a 4.64 yard per carry clip. which is the third highest per carry rate in the last 12 years.*** Isaiah Pead's greatness is beyond reproach, but the offensive line was excellent all season long and a big reason why Pead had such a monster year.
** The other season was 2004 when Rick Minter rode the running game to 2201 yards
*** 2009's 4.99 and 2010's 4.68 rank 1st and 2nd on that particular list
This team was better, slightly at protecting the passer than in 2010. Last years line allowed a sack on 7 per cent of drop backs, this years group cut that down to 5 per cent which is good, but not great. This years line allowed 25 QB hurries, only the 2009 line allowed more. Basically this line was good protecting the passing but great running the Football.
One last point, and it's a brief one, before I move onto the defensive side of the ball, the depth was much better this season compared to last. The obvious point is the play of EricLefeld after Sean Hooey went down for what turned out to be a season ending ankle injury. Lefeld stepped in and the production didn't really change at all. As a redshirt freshman he had his foibles, but the line as a whole weathered the storm remarkably well considering how bad the depth was in 2010.
I Was Wrong About this
In the pre season I gave the O Line a 6 out of 10. Basically every assumption I had about the performance of individuals, and the group as a whole, under shot the mark. Looking back at the season as a whole I give the offensive line an 8.