Good Blocking Rate: Why You Should be Bullish on the Ohio State Offensive Line

By John Brandon on June 4, 2014 at 4:40p
29 Comments

It's a cliche, but football really is won in the trenches.

Yesterday, Kyle wrote about Ohio State's focus on rebuilding the offensive line for this fall. Today, I'd like to take a closer, more analytic look at just how good the Buckeyes' line was over the past two years and why the success of the 2012 line gives hope for this season. 

First, we'll get a little technical, breaking down the methodology for quantifying run-blocking success, while the second half looks at Ohio State's offensive line under this microscope.


It's hard to quantify how valuable an offensive line is. Sacks allowed and rushing yards per attempt give a semblance of an idea, not the complete story. A great offensive line can give up bunches of sacks if its quarterback holds onto the ball forever; a lousy offensive line could have its ineffectiveness masked by an explosive running back who churns out yards after contact. Take these two hypothetical lines:

  Attempts Rushing Yards Yards/carry
Line A 20 100 5.0
Line B 20 100 5.0

Line A produces nice holes for its running backs and gains exactly five yards on each run. Line B gets no push and is stuffed for 19 one-yard runs, but has one nice play and makes a crease for its speedy running back who takes it 81 yards for a touchdown. How much of those 81 yards was the offensive line responsible for? Just the first few, and the running back took it from there. Line A and Line B produce the same statistics, yet one of these lines is great and the other is lousy.

This brings us to a stat called "Good Blocking Rate" (GBR), used by advanced stat wonks such as the Football Outsiders. GBR is the percentage of rushing attempts in which the offensive line provides good blocking, which they loosely define as "when the offense does not allow the defense to disrupt a rushing attempt." This data is collected for the NFL by re-watching each game and determining for each rushing play whether the team blocked well.

Short of re-watching and charting every play from last season, I used play-by-play records and some parameters to determine good run blocking, which I define as "designed running plays that gained at least three yards." It's essentially what's needed to get to the second level of the defense; by this point, the running back has cleared the defensive line and the offensive line has done its job. Another way to think of it: "good blocking" means the running back is untouched until reaching the linebackers or second level of the defense.

Quarterback scrambles are excluded, as they are not designed running plays. Successful short-yardage plays are also considered good blocking (i.e. a two-yard touchdown run).


With all that out of the way, here are Ohio State's numbers from the past two years. A rule of thumb I've found for college teams1 is as follows: anything above 60% is solid, 65% is very good, and 70% is elite. 75% for a season is unheard of.

  Rushing attempts Good Blocking Good blocking Rate (gbr)
2012 515 346 67.2%
2013 602 451 74.9%

Again, unheard of.

Here's Ohio State's 2012 season broken out by opponent:

  MIA UCF CAL UAB MSU NEB IND PUR PSU ILL WIS UM
2012 65.3% 62.0% 66.7% 71.4% 67.5% 73.9% 66.0% 47.1% 61.7% 79.6% 66.7% 72.7%

And here's the following season, which may be among the best we'll ever see:

  BUF SDSU CAL FAMU WIS NW IOWA PSU PUR ILL IND UM MSU CLEM
2013 59.5% 71.1% 64.8% 80.4% 77.5% 70.2% 86.7% 77.6% 87.2% 75.6% 86.5% 81.4% 73.7% 60.5%

The 2013 offensive line was an exceptional unit, there's really no other way to put it. The 74.9% GBR makes the 67.2% from 2012 – itself a good score – look pedestrian, but without context these numbers don't mean much.

In context, Ohio State runners were essentially untouched until they reached the linebackers three out of every four runs. That sounds pretty good, but how good? Let's compare these numbers to some of the other top college lines of 2013 to help them make a bit more sense.

Team Good Blocking Rate (GBR)
ALABAMA 66.2%
AUBURN 69.6%
STANFORD 61.2%

Alabama, Auburn, and Stanford had several NFL players on their lines and some of the best rushing attacks in college football. Their methods are different; Alabama and Stanford were the definition of pro-style power football, while Auburn's running game stems from the Hurry-Up No-Huddle and wing-T rushing concepts.

Yet Ohio State's offensive line performed better than all three of them, and it wasn't close. These teams can claim stronger schedules, no doubt, but having a mutual opponent of Michigan State supports the stance that Ohio State's offensive line was superior to Stanford's at the least. Ohio State posted a 73.7% GBR against Michigan State in the Big Ten title game while Stanford had a 44.1% GBR against the Spartans at the Rose Bowl.

Consider the 2012 offensive line's success as well. The 67.2% is phenomenal, better than Alabama's line was this year. The 2012 line featured a center (Corey Linsley) that had never started a game, a left tackle (Jack Mewhort) who had never played tackle before, a right tackle (Reid Fragel) who was a tight end in the previous season. The "experienced" guy was Andrew Norwell, who started at left tackle for the first half of his sophomore season before moving inside.

Ohio State posted a 73.7% GBR against Michigan State in the Big Ten title game while Stanford had a 44.1% GBR against the Spartans at the Rose Bowl.

This group is miles ahead of the 2012 line. Taylor Decker and Chad Lindsay bring good experience competing on great lines, and Pat Elflein has valuable playing time in the two biggest games of the season. Even the two other guys (presumably Antonio Underwood and Darryl Baldwin) have been in the program for a few years now and are entering their third off-seasons with Warinner. They should be expected to perform at a high level from game one.

After only one off-season of coaching from Ed Warinner that group was one of the top offensive lines in the country. One year later they were the top offensive line in the country. If that group could put up better numbers than Alabama in their first year with a new staff, there is no reason for concern in the offensive line. In fact, I'll take it a step further: I believe this year's offensive line will surpass the 2012 group and once again perform like one of the top lines in the country. 

Football is won up front and the offensive line will be the key to a playoff run for the Buckeyes this year. These guys have big shoes to fill, but you'd better believe they'll be up for the challenge.

  • 1 Running the ball in the NFL is much tougher. The Buffalo Bills were the NFL's top offensive line in 2012 at 52.3%.
29 Comments

Comments

Groveport Heisman's picture

Wow I knew we had the best oline coach in the Country and these numbers take that argument and make them stronger. Wish somebody could do this for the Hoke tenure. I'd imagine the 2013 Vulvarines would score near the bottom of the pack. Would also be interesting to see how other teams score against our Dline.

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

+9 HS
OSUBias's picture

Vulvarines!! Thank you. thank you so much for that.

Shitter's full

+4 HS
ISURVIVEDCOOPER's picture

I see how our GBR shows that the OL in 2012 and this past year was ridiculous, and especially against MSU, who had arguably the best defense in the country, but then to see that we were at 60.5% against Clemson leaves an opening for haters to point to our stats possibly being inflated, no?  They could easily say that our schedule didn't have anyone good on it (other than MSU), blah blah blah... so to see that Alabama, Auburn, and Stanford all had higher GBRs then we did against a quality opponent in Clemson makes me want to see some sort of adjustment factor to 'even the statistical playing field'...

Don't get me wrong though... I don't doubt we had one of the top OLs in the country last year bar none, and as Urban said, they were one his best ever...

"I don't apologize for anything.  When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

+2 HS
d5k's picture

If you watched Clemson's defense closely, they were the antithesis of a bend-but-don't-break defense.  They shot gaps and tried to blow up plays in the backfield in exchange for giving up more chunk plays.  So scheme has a lot to do with this stat along with tons of other confounding variables.

+5 HS
buckeyeotaku's picture

i knew they were good! but those stats are gaudy. love seeing them pushing TTUN around on paper as well as real life.

BTW i'm gonna cry myself to sleep when Warriner is no longer the O Line coach.
 

We don't give a damn for the whole state of Bichigan

+2 HS
ISURVIVEDCOOPER's picture

To think that we almost lost him to Army this past season... I feel blessed.

"I don't apologize for anything.  When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

+2 HS
holtzy's picture

Give that man a huge raise!

NuttyBuckeye's picture

Let's just hope that if/when Warinner leaves, we have a student of his as a replacement.

Marc Pocock (a.k.a NuttyBuckeye)

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!

dubjayfootball90's picture

Good read. Like reading about stats that I would not think of (useful stats, not the stats of how many completions braxton has when it is a full moon after car accident on high street where three of seven passengers were able to continue drinking in the hospital).

I am really pumped for Decker, Lindsay and Elflien (Sp?). Pat and Decker are becoming my favorite O-lineman, especially Pat with how he proved how legit and solid he was when he got his opportunity.

Going to be another good year.

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

+1 HS
d5k's picture

Some of the 2012 - 2013 improvement in this stat had to be Braxton's improvement in the read game, the addition of packaged plays, and Hyde's improved ability to run after first contact.  The first 2 would effect how often the line was given an extra blocker by scheme while Hyde breaking tackles within the first 3 yards and falling/running forward counts as a successful OL play in this stat.  In other words, football analytics are really really hard.

+7 HS
buckeyedexter's picture

I don't think our O line or offense as a whole will miss a beat! 

BuckeyeNationforLife's picture

Honestly I'm not even worried about our 2014 line. Just a bunch of talented guys waiting for their chance in the spotlight and I know that Warinner will have them blood thirsty and ready to go to war!

 

ToetotheFace's picture

300, well known for its accurate historical analysis of the vicious anger soldiers had to work themselves up to before battle

Also known for depicting Persians as incestuous, deformed, monsters.

 

OSU_1992_UFM's picture

Well,ummm,ya

UFM_Renewal

Zimmy07's picture

I'm still a bit worried that in 2 of the first 4 games we'll play Va Tech & Cincinnati.  The O-line will pretty much need to gel in practice and against Navy in order to move the ball against Va Tech.

TimmyZ's picture

All the more reason to GIVE THE FUC*ING BALL TO CARLOS HYDE in the 4th quar... Goddam it I'm depressed again....

+8 HS
theopulas's picture

feels like we got robbed....just give the ball to Carlos and lets go see if FSU could stop us, because msu wasn't going to....just my thinking thou........the wound may never heal.....

Theopulas

+2 HS
RocknRollover's picture

But Alabama and Auburn had to go through the gauntlet of the SEC, so they automatically get a 20% bump in GBR.  

+4 HS
ToetotheFace's picture

Dude that is the SEC, that is the A-level rocket speed athletes, this isn't slow-mo defense like the big ten. They all had 100% good blocking rate, the defenses just happened to be at a 40% GREAT penetrating rate.

+1 HS
CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Great article John.  Makes me feel a little bit better about the youth on the line this coming season.

Go Bucks!!

+1 HS
Knarcisi's picture

"Short of re-watching and charting every play from last season, I used play-by-play records and some parameters to determine good run blocking"

You're a sick man, John Brandon. I'd ask you to marry me if I preferred that kind of thing. 

+2 HS
BeijingBucks's picture

I think to be fair you needed a C category where both the RB is insanely good and the line is fantastic. 

The best part about these stats for me is knowing this was against opponents that KNEW we were going to run on them. 

#buckeyeproblems

 

 

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

+1 HS
ToetotheFace's picture

"Today, I'd like to take a closer, more analytic look":

"Short of re-watching and charting every play from last season, I used play-by-play records and some parameters to determine good run blocking"

Also known as the I have no social life look

-1 HS
ToetotheFace's picture

Just a joke, I'm considered a "math/science" introvert type, so I know the enjoyment of what he did.

+1 HS
Shangheyed's picture

Still TBD.... need to get the FROSH in the mix then can really know what kind of OL to expect.

jpbuckeye's picture

Just wanted to add my thanks for some great (and interesting) work.

tussey's picture

Great write up!  I was wondering about the rate against MSU.  Is this somewhat masked by the linebacker and safety play in that even though the play was "well blocked" they were still stopping a rush for minimal yards?  Also, it makes the final two plays of the drive in the forth quarter that much more painful based on the percentages.  

Hovenaut's picture

All respect to the graduated linemen and the work Warriner did last year.

But I think Warriner's best efforts are yet to come...

"Success...it's what you do with what you got" - Woody Hayes

IBLEEDSCARLETANDGRAY's picture

I've thought for the last 2 years that Coach Warinner is the most valuable asset we have other than Coach Meyer himself. I start having nightmares when I think about the possibility of him leaving so I hope the administration does what it can to keep him. For coach Meyer's health and our sanity. I've seen it suggested on here before that when Herman leaves we promote Warinner to OC, which would keep him him here but how would it affect his OL coaching?

 

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.