Boilermetrics: Hazell. Nuts?

Volleyball season is almost here (there was a scrimmage between the 2013 team and an alumnae team today), which means football season is almost here, which means if someone Not To Be Named were planning on doing an article about the new coaching staff, what they'd done at previous stops, and what they might do here, the time to get the research completed and the article posted would be Now.

So ... hey folks, what's up? Did you have a good summer? Oh, all right. No more small talk. On with the show.

When last we left football season, Morgan Burke made a change. Out went Danny Hope, in came Darrell Hazell, he of the 11-1 start at Kent State (with a loss to Kentucky??? and not a good loss at that), the dramatic loss in the MAC title game, and the resulting bowl game that nobody really cared about. Out went Gary Nord (and there was much rejoicing), in came John Shoop (and all Purdue/Chicago Bears fans left the building). Out went Tim Tibesar, in came Greg Hudson. (Who?)

Now, football doesn't yet lend itself well to predictions on a small scale. You can identify long-term trends more easily than season-to-season changes, particularly when you consider all the variables that go into a football season ... but really, who wants all that boring stuff? You want us to say exactly how well (or poorly) the Good Guys will do this season, and then you can laminate this post, put it on the wall, and throw eggs at it when I'm wrong.

Very well. Let's do this thing.

We have three dramatically different stories to examine. Coach Hazell is in only his second I-A head coach position, so we've only got one stop to check, and only two years of his at that. DC Hudson filled that role at two other schools previously, Minnesota and East Carolina, and OC Shoop coached at North Carolina for five years in addition to his NFL stint. Fortunately, both coordinators were doing other things the last year or three, so we can look at not only how they did compared to their predecessor, but also how the coaches who replaced them managed with the players they were left.

Let's go worst to best, shall we?

Offensive Coordinator John Shoop

(All tables below are from Football Outsiders NFL and NCAA statistics, with the exception of NCAA data from 2001-2004 and David Lockwood data from 2005, which was drawn from the NCAA's archives.)

Season DC/Team DVOA rank Pass rank Run rank     Variance rank Schedule rank
2000 Gary Crowton 23 22 23     25 15
2001 Chicago 18 19 18     4 21
2002 Chicago 28 27 29     25 10
2003 Chicago 30 32 13     17 32
2004 Terry Shea 32 32 27     28 32

Gary Crowton was shown the door following a season where his offense was particularly unimpressive; against a middling series of defenses (schedule rank indicates the relative strength of the defenses that team faced), the Bears were consistently poor (variance is the variance of their offensive performance, with a high number representing less variance). Shoop took over, and immediately the Bears improved ... kind of. While their overall ranks improved, Chicago wasn't particularly consistent offensively, and the Bears frequently had to rely on their solid defense to pull out victories. Chicago scored fewer than 14 points on five occasions, losing three of those games ... and didn't lose any more regular season games. The playoffs were a different story, as the Bears dropped a 33-19 decision to Philadelphia, and that was pretty much the end of the good times under Shoop.

In 2002, the Bears stopped being inconsistent on offense ... but not in a good way. Instead of mixing good and bad games, they just stopped playing well, as Chicago plummeted to 28th in offense. Bears fans could point to the tougher series of defenses Shoop's men faced in 2002, but that actually meant the raw numbers, unadjusted for defense, were actually worse. (Fortunately, the cliff between the Bears and the bottom four teams - Dallas, Detroit, Carolina, and the expansion Texans - was significant.) In fairness to Shoop, Chicago was using second- and third-string quarterbacks for a good bit of the season, but then injuries don't always mean the end of a season. For example, the 2010 Lions were 19th in offensive DVOA despite starting Shaun Hill or Drew Stanton for 13 of 16 games. (Yes, yes, Megatron, but that's kind of the point, right?)

In 2003, Chicago's run game turned around, rising from bottom-four to top-half, but it didn't matter, as the passing game totally collapsed, taking the offense with it. Even the league's easiest schedule of defenses couldn't help Kordell Stewart, Chris Chandler, and Rex Grossman look like NFL QBs. Dick Jauron was fired after this season, and there was obviously no reason to retain Shoop.

Terry Shea replaced Shoop, and ... if anything, things got worse. Again, no NFL-caliber quarterback appeared in a Chicago uniform, which certainly suggests that a significant percentage of Shoop's struggles in Chicago were due to the lack of weapons he had at his disposal. On the other hand, without quality tools to work with, Shoop's offenses were unimpressive at best. It's probably fair to mark this as incomplete.

Season DC/Team S&P+ rank Pass rank Run rank Drive Eff rank
2006 Frank Cignetti 65 31 27 73
2007 North Carolina 72 25 85 84
2008 North Carolina 44 29 63 45
2009 North Carolina 90 100 93 69
2010 North Carolina 42 36 72 43
2011 North Carolina 54 20 77 67
2012 Blake Anderson 38 29 42 47

In 2006, Frank Cignetti led a mediocre offense at North Carolina: although it could produce some pretty good plays from time to time, with both passing and running in the top quarter of I-A ball, their drive efficiency (comparing their ability to score to the average points expected from the field position they get) was poor, suggesting that they just couldn't put enough of those plays together. Head coach John Bunting was sent packing, and Butch Davis was hired to replace him. Davis brought Shoop aboard for the 2007 season.

In contrast to his Bears teams, where Shoop got the running game going but struggled mightily with the passing game, at North Carolina, with the exception of the 2009 season (where the Tar Heels were awful across the board; it's probably no coincidence that this was the season after Hakeem Nicks went pro, depriving the passing game of a stellar target), Shoop put together some pretty good offenses, although UNC continued to struggle to drive the ball consistently, never pulling their drive efficiency rank up to their overall offensive rank. The running game was a significant issue, never once placing in the top half of D-I ball.

When the academic fraud scandal at North Carolina took out Davis, Everett Withers was named head coach, and he kept Shoop for the 2011 season, but 2011 was Withers' sole year in charge, and Larry Fedora replaced Shoop with Blake Anderson in 2012. North Carolina's offense improved significantly in both running and overall efficiency; the coming season will be Anderson's second as OC, so it's too early to tell how much of the difference was due to him (and how much of the previous issues were on Shoop).

Shoop's UNC tenure is probably more predictive of his efforts at Purdue than his Chicago years were: like Purdue, North Carolina's main focus is not on football, and while they do bring in some talented players, they aren't the most loaded team in their conference. Shoop was able to put together some pretty good offenses, particularly in the passing game. It's entirely possible that he can do the same at Purdue ... but he's probably going to need something to work with at quarterback. Let's see what he does next year when he has a QB that he can work with for more than a year.

Head Coach Darrell Hazell

Hazell goes here not necessarily because of a lack of talent, but more from a lack of experience. He spent just two years at the helm of Kent State, taking over for Doug Martin.

Season Coach/Team S&P+ rank Off rank Def rank Off Drive rank Def Drive rank
2010 Doug Martin 94 110 87 113 115
2011 Kent State 81 116 21 116 23
2012 Kent State 55 69 47 70 41
2013 Paul Haynes ?? ?? ?? ?? ??

In 2010, Kent State was not good. Their defense was bad, their offense was horrible, and neither unit could put together a solid series of plays. Martin was given the boot, and Hazell was hired away from Ohio State. Hazell retained DC Jon Heacock (now the cornerbacks coach at Purdue) and brought in Brian Rock to run the offense.

Hazell and Heacock had an immediate impact defensively, moving the Golden Flashes from a bottom-tier team to a top-25 team on that side of the ball ... but Rock was, perhaps misnamed, as his offense could not move his namesake at all, actually dropping from their 2010 ranks. Kent State repeated their 5-7 record from the previous year.

In 2012, as you may have heard, things were a little better. Rock's offense improved dramatically, and even though they still weren't good enough to crack the top half of the I-A offensive rankings, with Kent State's schedule, they were good enough to cover for a drop in defensive performance and get Kent State to the verge of a BCS appearance. Sadly for Flashes fans, it was Northern Illinois that got the MAC title and the right to get whacked in a big-name bowl,

Again, we'll have to give Hazell an incomplete. Things certainly looked better from a distance, but it's worth noting that in addition to the 33-point loss to Kentucky, Kent State barely beat Ball State and recorded unimpressive wins over doormats Akron. There's no good way to tell how much of what Hazell did was actual improvement and how much was simply good luck. We'll probably learn some of that as we compare new coach Paul Haynes' efforts with Kent State to Hazell's first year with the Boilers.

Defensive Coordinator Greg Hudson

If I said "Hey, Purdue's hiring a guy who can take poor units at second-tier football schools and make them into respectable defenses," you'd say "sounds good to me, right?" (Are we a second-tier football school? Let's not discuss that now.) So ... sounds good, right? Check this out.

Season OC/Team Scoring def Pass Y/A Rush Y/A
2001 Moe Ankeny 73 76 94
2002 Minnesota 47 37 85
2003 Minnesota tie-35 22 38
2004 Minnesota 39 72 51
2005 David Lockwood 80 87 87

Football Outsiders' data doesn't go back all the way to 2001, so this data is all based on boring old NCAA stats: points per game, yards per passing attempt, and yards per rushing attempt. "Attempt" is the key word here, because Moe Ankeny's 2001 Minnesota defense didn't actually succeed at very much. The Gophers were easy to pass against, easier to run against, and easy to score on, and as a result, Glen Mason gave Ankeny a pink slip and replaced him with Hudson for the 2002 season.

Boom! Suddenly Minnesota was much better against the pass and at holding opponents' scoring down. Sure, the running game was still something of a problem, but Hudson had solved the bigger issue for the Gophers, and suddenly Minnesota was 7-1 (Purdue says hi!) and pretending not to notice that their schedule was heavily back-loaded. The top quarter of the conference whipped Minnesota, and a bad Badgers team stole Paul Bunyan's Axe, but Minnesota nevertheless earned a trip to Nashville and knocked off #25 Arkansas, 29-14.

In 2003, Hudson's defense got even better, earning a top-25 rank against the pass and rising a solid 47 spots against the run. Although Minnesota benefited from not playing ranked teams Ohio State and Purdue (ha!), they beat all the unranked teams on their schedule, and that meant a 10-3 record and another bowl win, this time over Oregon in the Sun Bowl.

The next season, the defense regressed a bit, falling sharply against the pass and a bit against the run, but they still managed to stay in the top 40 in scoring defense, and they recorded a third straight bowl victory despite falling to 7-5 overall. Following the season, Hudson headed to Greenville to run the East Carolina defense.

To replace Hudson, Glen Mason chose David Lockwood. Things did not go well. Lockwood's defense dropped to bottom-third rankings in all areas, and although FO's stats indicate that Minnesota's schedule played a part - Minnesota's S&P+ defensive rank overall was 50th, and their drive efficiency was 34th - the Gophers would not again see the heights that Hudson lifted them to. The next year, Lockwood's defense imploded in a 44-41 OT loss to Texas Tech in the Insight Bowl, yielding 31 points in the last 20 minutes of regulation to set an NCAA postseason record for largest blown lead (Purdue says thanks!). In the meantime ...

Season OC/Team Scoring def Pass Y/A Rush Y/A  
2004 Art Kaufman 115 116 101  
Season DC/Team S&P+ rank Pass rank Run rank Drive Eff rank
2005 East Carolina 81 75 94 82
2006 East Carolina 36 43 45 40
2007 East Carolina 52 60 29 54
2008 East Carolina 31 52 29 37
2009 East Carolina 64 38 48 59
2010 Brian Mitchell 96 86 97 88

With FO's stats starting in 2005, we'll show NCAA stats for 2004. Art Kaufman would probably prefer that we not, because his defense that season was awful. If you look at the bottom of the rankings, you'll find Pirates everywhere: scoring, rushing, passing. East Carolina opponents ran them to a 2-9 record, and just 12 points separated them from a winless season. John Thompson (not that John Thompson) got the axe, and as you may have heard, some guy named Holtz was hired to replace him.

One thing Skip did right was to hire Hudson away from Minnesota. Almost overnight, the Pirates began to improve, and in two seasons, East Carolina's defense was suddenly one of the best in Conference USA. The offense couldn't quite keep pace, but Hudson kept the defense producing season after season, until finally Florida State reached in and took Hudson away to coach linebackers.

Ruffin McNeill was now the head coach, and he hired Brian Mitchell (not that one, this one) to run the defense ... and it was awful. Mitchell's defenses never topped 72nd in his three years as DC. He's since been fired, and his replacement will not be Hudson, although Hudson was rumored to be a candidate for the job.

While the grades for Shoop and Hazell may be incomplete, the grade for Hudson is not. At both stops, he was able to significantly improve the defense with players that his predecessors and successors could not adequately use, and there really was no transition period before the improvement took place.

Out with it, kid!

Purdue's biggest challenge this year will be the across-the-board improvement the conference is likely to see. Teams that may have been weak in the past, like Minnesota and Indiana, may be better this year, and teams at the top of the conference, like Ohio State and Nebraska, will continue to be strong. The Boilers don't play Michigan, but do play the rest of the conference heavyweights, and have Iowa instead of Minnesota, which is likely a break.

Still, it will be a challenge for Hazell to show any improvement over last season's record. Shoop likely needs someone with better skills than Henry's to run a solid offense; Rob certainly has earned the starting role and has been willing to do whatever is necessary to lead the team, but he's probably a level or two below what's necessary to succeed in Shoop's offense against Big Ten defenses. (In fact, this may be the biggest issue with Shoop. Purdue runs about 50/50 with respect to finding NFL-caliber talent to run the offense. If Hazell doesn't have and can't find a guy who turns out to be at least Orton-like, it would be no surprise to see Shoop replaced after a couple of seasons.)

If Purdue can go 6-6 and earn another bowl bid, it'll likely be the defense that carries them. The Boilers were 61st last year under Tibesar, and if Hudson can give them a boost similar to what he provided at Minnesota and East Carolina, it might not be long before Purdue has a defense that can run with pretty much any offense in the country. It may be reasonable to temper expectations somewhat - both Minnesota and East Carolina were bad, so Hudson had much more to improve - but it's hard to see Purdue faring worse on that side of the ball, even given the departure of Kawann Short. If OCs within the conference struggle, Hudson's unit might even pull out an extra win or two ... and that might make the Hazell hiring pay off after just one season.

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