Freshman Tailbacks in the SEC: A Change in the Natural Order or a Few Freaks of Nature?

Tis the season for quitting your job if you work public accounting. Around this time every year, for I suppose, the last century or so, the grass on the proverbial other side has come to look especially green to successive flocks of capital market beasts of burden, who have been chewing the cud in the same paddock for quite long enough. The gates open, the herd wanders out and goes to graze in their new field, having looked neither so bright eyed nor as bushy tailed since, well, they started the job they just left. Clockwork. No less a luminary then Lloyd Christmas said it best, "like the Salmon return to Capistrano."

With this migration comes another ritual just as predictable though less ancient. The goodbye e-mail. You've seen these no doubt.

Today is my last day working at XYZ, I want to thank all of you for the great times, you can reach me at make sure to keep in touch. We will be having a happy hour etc....    

They are for the most part, standard, dull, professional, and utterly insincere. Most of the time. Now and then you'll get one like that's worth a read. Like this one for instance. I encourage you to read the whole thing, sample after the jump (cut down to PG-13 where bolded since after all this is a family blog you can read it in it's original glory at the link):

Guess who just got the hell outta Dodge?! This guy! How many people had Craig Douchenozzlestein lasting until August 4, 2011 in the YMP pool?

But seriously, it is NOT easy to get out of these contracts. Im pretty sure it would have been easier to escape from Auschwitz than a YMP contract. I knew from the second week I start here that this wasn’t going to work out. I mean, working past 7pm cuts significantly into my drinking and foundling women time. So therefore, since October 28, 2008 when I was forced to work until 10pm on my freaking 23rd birthday, these wheels have been in motion


And it goes downhill from there.

Now I thought the same thing that I'm sure all of you Oxford comma advocates did. "Ah, he's mistaken a noun meaning an orphan child for a verb meaning to touch in a sexual manner, much humor could result from this error, let's re-read it, ah, yes, this must not go uncommented." To wit I wrote, using my actual first name:


I do not think foundling means what he thinks it means. Otherwise approve. 

I went back to my work confident that the fine readership of, who was not searching for a new job would have a little laugh. Unfortunately when I returned I was greeted with the following (again edited in bold where not suitable for younger readers, but I couldn't resist leaving the misspelled profanity in its original glorious rendering):

To Briansadik:

It means having sex you fuking moron.  It means smashing some broads head repeated against a wall, car door, hallway, bed headboard, etc. I hate working with people like you.  

These are odd words to misspell I thought. Maybe his "C" key is out of order.....nope. There's a level of mysoginy and aggression that isn't really suitable for....well...anywhere. But even that not withstanding I think there are three things that blow my mind about this. 1) Unironic ussage of the word broad to refer to a woman. I get it that you're from Boston but unless you're from Boston in 1930, this doesn't fly. 2) the etc. and 3) that he hates working with people like me. Jeez, sorry I um didn't mean to upset you by....making a Mandy Patankin reference and pointing out a genuinely hilarious malapropism; my bad.

And so I respond:

in response to Briansadik:

Perhaps I should have made the joke clearer....I'm not sure you got it

What I think the author was trying to say was that work took away from fondling women. Where fondle means to touch in a sexual manner. But what he actually said was it took away from foudling women. Where foundling means a lost child. You see what happened there, he was trying to say he was having sex with women - but what he actually said was that he's having sex with children.

It's a shame you hate working with people like me - you seem like a great guy. 

All right I understand it isn't Oscar Wilde, but I feel pretty good for a two second comment on Declaration of victory. But I'm left with two nagging thoughts. First, I'm pretty out of touch with the cool folks these days. I don't go to bars, spend a lot of time at the office creating spreadsheets on Georgia Football and occaisionally working. My God, what if foundling actually is some slang of which I am unaware, I mean I suppose anything is possible; wouldn't my face be red, maybe I'm the crazy one here. And two, goingconcern tracks approval from the peanut gallery on the comment section by tallying "likes." You like something you click like, it's that simple.

To date, our respective comments are tied at six apiece. Assuming this is a representative sample of the readership of a site devoted to college educated folks working in professional service firms, I say, in abosolute sincerity, for the first time in my life and at the age of twenty nine:

I just don't understand these kids today.

Which brings me to Isaiah Crowell. Today I'd like to discuss the kid of the day from Columbus and more generally the kids in the SEC taking handoffs.

Stop me if you've heard this one before. The University of Georgia might have a true Freshman get a few carries this year. You know how many times that's happened in the last five years? According to the good folks at (who are awesome at life), and a grand total of 26. All by Richard Samuel in 2008. That's two more than LSU (Spencer Ware in 2010) who has had the least in the SEC and 275 fewer than Alabama and South Carolina who have 301 each.

Let's take a step back and unpack this for a moment. The chart below shows the rushing yards of the top fifty running backs in the Southeastern Conference in each of the five years arranged by class of carrier (if we went back a few years to Jared Lorenzen's time at Kentucky we would have to add Nimitz to the table....yes, that's a Jared Lorenzen joke I makes no apologies):

Year 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 Grand Total
Senior            2,937            6,255          2,004          5,689          2,244                19,129
Junior            4,561            6,109          8,285          2,259          6,150                27,364
Sophomore            5,259            4,755          2,414          5,110          5,579                23,117
Redshirt Freshman            2,035            3,504          1,235          1,191          1,380                  9,345
True Freshman                805                214          1,832          3,633          3,456                  9,940
Grand Total          15,597          20,837       15,770       17,882       18,809                88,895

If you played high school football think back to the relationship between experience and success on the field. If you did not play high school football just think back to Forrest Whitaker's character in Fast Times at Ridgemont high - just as good. If your high school was like Forrest's and mine, you probably thought that what happened in the SEC in 2007 was typical. That's what I expected, that the impact of true freshman had to be minimal. You cannot waltz into the SEC and run around as though it's Jackson County Georgia; you're going to get killed. That's why we redshirt, to get the young folks bigger, stronger, smarter, and ready to compete at the highest level of collegiate football. The yards of production would steadily increase since years of practice and experience until, just like high school your senior leaders who had worked and sacrificed would lead you unto the promised land amen.

The change from 2006 to 2010 does not support the worldview that I just described. Here is a summary the change in rushing yards by class in the SEC:

Class 2006 and 2007 2009 and 2010 % Change
Senior                       9,192                       7,933 -14%
Junior                     10,670                       8,409 -21%
Sophomore                     10,014                     10,689 7%
Redshirt Freshman                       5,539                       2,571 -54%
True Freshman                       1,019                       7,089 596%
Grand Total                     36,434                     36,691 1%

Note that there is no meaningful change in the total yardage. This has been a zero sum game (for other examples of zero sum games see 2010 UGA Offense against South Carolina and Central Florida) or as Gordan Gekko put it yards have not been created or destroyed they have simply changed hands. But quite a few yards have changed hands.

Does this change in distribution represent a change in culture in the SEC? That is are coaches playing their true freshman across the league. Or is this an abberation caused by a few remarkable freshman and should we expect to see a reversion to the 2006, 2007 Ridgemont High Levels? Let's try to answer that by looking at how concentrated the yards are among the leading backs at each level:

Column1 Column2 Column3 Column4 Column5 Column6
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Senior Yards             2,937             6,255             2,004             5,689             2,244
80% of Senior Yards             2,350             5,004             1,603             4,551             1,795
Number of Backs to Get 80%                      3                      6                      4                      5                      4
Junior Yards             4,561             6,109             8,285             2,259             6,150
80% of Junior Yards             3,649             4,887             6,628             1,807             4,920
Number of Backs to Get 80%                      5                      5                      8                      4                      5
Sophomore Yards             5,259             4,755             2,414             5,110             5,579
80% of Sophomore Yards             4,207             3,804             1,931             4,088             4,463
Number of Backs to Get 80%                      6                      7                      3                      6                      7
Redshirt Freshman Yards             2,035             3,504             1,235             1,191             1,380
80% of Redshirt Freshman Yards             1,628             2,803                 988                 953             1,104
Number of Backs to Get 80%                      4                      4                      3                      2                      3
True Freshman Yards                 805                 214             1,832             3,633             3,456
80% of True Freshman Yards                 644                 171             1,466             2,906             2,765
Number of Backs to Get 80%                      1                      1                      3                      6                      4

Average 80% Backs 4.36
Std Dev. 1.8
+1 Std. Dev.  6.16
-1 Std. Dev. 2.56

Over the last five years it has taken on average about 4 running backs to account for 80% of the yards attributable to any class with between 3 and 6 being normal. By this measure the parity of production among true freshman SEC tailbacks is in line with expectations. Interestingly in terms of total production and parity of producers true freshman have more in common with seniors than with redshirt freshman.

The last several years seem to support the idea of a cultural change in the SEC where running the football is concerned rather than a few supremely talented freshman. It is certainly possible that the emergence of the 2009 and 2010 is an anamoly, but it is one which is unlikely to escape the notice of the next generation of elite high school tailbacks. And for that group the grass will be its greenest where taking time to adjust to college and learn the system take a back seat to putting the elite into a position to make plays on day one. For some, that might be a radical but necessary change in mindset. Even someone who doesn't understand these kids today can see that.

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