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When Does Attrition Hurt Your Program?
Posted by Dan on June 19, 2010 at 3:32 PM in Feature, Pigskin

The impact of Ryan Perrilloux's dismissal is still being felt for LSU.

During the course of some unrelated research the last couple of weeks, I noticed that the University of Florida lost a considerable amount of players to transfers/being kicked off. When discussing the merits of Florida’s 2006 recruiting class with a friend and avid Florida fan, I found it interesting that while the class got serious production out of the handful of superstars recruited: Percy Harvin, Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes, etc., they also lost six of those 27 commitments to transfers or dismissals. And five of those six were rated as 4-star recruits. That seemed to be a pretty astounding number, so I wanted to dig a little deeper and see what the rate was for other schools.

Before I could dive into the topic I needed to set some criteria. First of all, I only counted athletes who: a) spent time on campus, b) transferred or were dismissed. So kids that didn’t qualify or opted to play professional baseball, for example, did not count. Secondly, kids who were forced to quit due to injury were not considered either. Finally, I narrowed the field significantly by looking at only major contenders in the SEC with coaches who have been at their school for four years. I chose to do this for two major reasons. First, it’s impossible to draw any conclusions on how Vanderbilt (since Bobby Johnson has been there over four years) is affected by attrition due to the fact that they are at an immediate disadvantage in recruiting. Even if Vanderbilt kept every recruit they ever signed, it’s highly unlikely they would have competed for a Division title. Second, it’s impossible to draw accurate conclusions from switches in coaching regimes. Some players choose to transfer because of a coaching change, so it would be unfair to penalize, say, Bobby Petrino, because a player chose to leave Arkansas due to Houston Nutt leaving for Ole Miss. I wanted to limit the data strictly to classes recruited by the current head coach and in most cases the effects of attrition aren’t seen until two or three years down the road. Therefore, it is unlikely we will know anything about the attrition statistics of the 2008 class until this offseason at the earliest. In this case, coaches like Houston Nutt, Dan Mullen and Bobby Petrino are completely eliminated due to insufficient information.  In short, this narrows the field to four coaches/schools.  Below are the results.

School Recruits Committed Transfers/Dismissals % Class Years
Florida 72 20 27.8

2005-2007

Georgia 67 10 14.9 2005-2007
LSU 65 18 27.7 2005-2007
South Carolina 83 21 25.3 2005-2007

No, you didn’t read that wrong.  Florida, South Carolina and LSU have lost over 25% of all recruited players strictly to transfer or dismissal since the 2005 season.  Those are pretty alarming numbers.  And that’s not even considering injury losses.  Georgia, on the other hand, has had tremendous success of keeping its committed players on their roster.  Interestingly, Georgia has also experienced less success than either LSU or Florida over the past five years.  So what do all these numbers mean?

Well for one, I think a cursory look at the numbers fails to explain them.  The statistics alone are alarming, but you must delve into them to understand their true implications and impact upon the respective program.  On the surface level, high attrition rates don’t prohibit a team from success.  That is the first conclusion we can draw.  Obviously Georgia had a very low rate of losing players, and LSU and Florida nearly doubled that.  However, LSU and Florida’s winning percentages, SEC Titles and NCs over the past several years outnumber any of Georgia’s.

So, juxtaposing Florida to LSU due to their similar attrition rates and success levels during the decade, let’s take a more in-depth look at the numbers and what affect this had on the depth chart.

QB: Each lost one 5-star QB.  However, the situations were significantly different.  For LSU, losing Ryan Perrilloux was a tremendous blow to the depth chart.  Perrilloux was dismissed prior to the season he was expected to become a starter; this after having a couple years of seasoning to prepare him for SEC play.  As a result, the Tigers were forced to resort to redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee, which proved to be disastrous.  As Lee continued to struggle the Tigers gave the duties to true freshman Jordan Jefferson, who again took the reins this year as a true sophomore.  It’s unlikely that the entirety of LSU’s offensive woes can be placed on the Perrilloux departure, but their struggles at the QB position certainly can.  Conversely, Florida lost 5-star Cameron Newton at a different juncture.  With Tebow already entrenched as a starter and prepared to hold the position for another 2 years, Newton was dismissed.  Though we can’t be sure of the effects of losing Tebow on the Florida offense, we can certainly deduce that they won’t have to default to an entirely inexperienced QB this season, as John Brantley has had plenty of time to learn from the bench.  Had Newton remained on the straight and narrow, he would have battled Brantley for the starting position, but it’s hard to see both of them sticking with Florida and sacrificing any chance to be a starter.  In any case, Florida would have been prepared with a well-tutored starter behind Tebow.  The Gators also lost 4-star Josh Portis, who many believe was the heir apparent to the Florida offense once Chris Leak graduated.  However, due to the fact that Portis has never put it together at any point in his college career, it seems unlikely that he would have done so for the Gators either.  3-star Bryan Waggener was another QB commit, but considering he was a project, it was unlikely he’d ever be a significant contributor.

RB: Losing a RB is perhaps the most insignificant loss of any position in football unless you already have a truly elite and irreplaceable talent (which is rare).  In most cases, teams will have a solid stable of running backs that are interchangeable and can be productive.  LSU has lost two RBs to Florida’s three.  By looking at current depth charts, I don’t think either team suffered tremendous losses due to these departures.  For LSU, one running back was 4-star Antonio Robinson, who was having trouble competing with backs younger than him.  The other was 4-star Steven Korte.  Korte could have helped the Tigers this year at the FB position but because he is listed as a RB it’s impossible to know how that transition would have gone.  The Gators lost a trio of 4-star backs: Bo Williams, Chevon Walker, and Mon Williams.  The last two years the Gators have relied upon their smaller, speedier backs (Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey) and the power of Tebow to drive their running game.  Both Bo and Mon Williams could have been alternatives as power backs.  However, the Gators received transfer Emmanuel Moody, who is more powerfully built, and he was used sparingly throughout the year.  Could they have provided a power running attack to help rest Tebow?

WR: At the receiver position Florida lost two 4-star talents while LSU lost one 4-star and a 3-star.  LSU has had tremendous success of late with their WRs from Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis and Early Doucet to Demetrius Byrd and Brandon LaFell and now the future with Terrance Toliver and Rueben Randle.  It is unlikely that 4-star Ricky Dixon would have ever made a significant contribution.  3-star Tim Molton was reportedly (according to corner Patrick Peterson) the hardest player to cover after the spring this year.  Unfortunately, Molton suffered an injury and felt he wasn’t the same afterwards and transferred.  Molton certainly could help a WR corps that will be very green next year.  Florida 4-stars Jarred Fayson and Nyan Boateng could all have been potential difference makers.  Next season Florida will enter the season with the inconsistent Deonte Thompson as their top option.  Boateng had good size, and Fayson had blazing speed.  The Gators certainly could use that experience next year.  Furthermore, without Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy this year, their passing attack struggled at times.

OL: LSU’s line was woeful this year and looking at the amount of attrition at the position, it is no surprise why.  Count ’em.  The Tigers have lost (1)Kyle Anderson, (2)Matt Allen, (3)Steven Singleton, (4)Mark Snyder, (5)Zhamal Thomas, (6)Ernest McCoy, (7)Jarvis Jones, offensive line recruits.  That is simply astounding.  From practice reports Thomas, McCoy and Jones all showed flashes of being tremendous players.  Of the seven, three are now starters at Division 1 schools, two at SEC schools.  The Tigers were weak in the middle this year and struggled at the guard and center positions.  Redshirt sophomore Josh Dworaczyk was forced into starting this year, weighing only 281 pounds.  How could the girth of McCoy, Thomas or Jones help the line?  What if Allen or Singleton could have played center rather than the undersized and not ready T-Bob Hebert?  Therein is significant impact.  Conversely, Florida only lost Ronnie Wilson.  Wilson was certainly a good player, but other than the 2007 team the Gators had little trouble with the performance of their offensive line.  I have no doubt that Wilson would have been a multi-year starter and probably helped the Gators line, but significance of his loss isn’t too great.

TE: LSU lost JD Lott, a low-rated project type and the Gators lost Trent Pupello.  Considering LSU had Richard Dickson for the last three years and the Gators had both Cornelius Ingram and Aaron Hernandez, neither seems to have suffered tremendous losses.

DL: This is the area which perhaps most impacted the Gators.  Although the Gators only lost two commitments: Torrey Davis and John Brown; they are both at defensive tackle.  Over the past couple of years. if the Gators have had any weakness on defense it has been the interior strength of their tackles.  RS Freshman Omar Hunter was pushed into starting duties due to the loss of Davis and Brown.  Having their depth may have made an impact as significant as helping to shut down the Alabama run game in the SEC Championship (where they were abused up front).  Surprisingly, LSU hasn’t lost a single DL recruit due to transfer or dismissal.  However, the loss of so many linemen may have directly affected the future positions of some.  Lyle Hitt, Will Blackwell and Joseph Barksdale were all two-way players in high school that could have tried a hand at playing along the defensive line at LSU.  However, due to the gross amount of lost players, LSU was forced to move them to the offensive line to create depth.

LB: At LB LSU lost 4-stars Shomari Clemons and Derrick Odom.  Clemons had trouble cracking the depth chart with the current LSU starters, but Odom is a speedy talent that has gone on to be a successful player at Memphis.  With his size and athleticism, it seems he would have been in line for an opportunity to play under John Chavis.  Florida lost Kalvin Baker, Jon Demps and John Jones.  Under Strong, the Gator’s linebackers have been a strength and it’s hard to say considerable damage was done by any departure.  However, Demps may have been a starter for the past couple of years considering his size and athleticism. Furthermore, their depth chart is now rather thing going into next season and the added depth and experience would only help.

DB: Florida’s losses at DB include Eric Sledge, Avery Atkins, Jacques Rickerson, Jamar Hornsby and Jeremy Finch.  Though these five are all nice players, it’s hard to imagine any of them playing on this year’s squad ahead of the starters.  However, they could have made a significant impact in 2007 when Florida’s secondary struggled considerably.  LSU lost safety Troy Giddens and corner Phelon Jones.  Giddens could have potentially been up for a starting job this year next to Chad Jones.  Phelon Jones was unlikely to ever significantly contribute considering a couple of younger players had moved ahead of him on the depth chart.

When you take a swim through the actual numbers, I believe it becomes clear why LSU has greatly struggled these last two seasons and Florida has not.  Florida’s most significant losses were DTs, and at nearly every other position, they had more than adequate solutions.  On the other hand, LSU faced significant losses at the QB position and along the offensive and defensive lines.  If you’ve watched LSU play the last two seasons it is painfully obvious how much they have struggled on the lines and how their QB play has suffered as well.  In recent years they have reloaded the positions, but can they hang on to them?  That’s something only time and the attrition gods can know…

2 Comments Leave yours

  1. BitchinBen 2010/06/21 at 8:59 AM

    Don’t forget that the Razorbacks lost a hell of a punter in Mitch Mustain back in 2006…

  2. Dan 2010/06/21 at 9:13 AM

    Ha! I still can’t believe the rise and fall of Mustain.

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