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Trench Warfare: SMU

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Let's give the big boys up front some love.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Hello and welcome to the trenches.  If this is your first timer here, I welcome you to Our Daily Bears and thank you for joining the best Baylor sports blog in the world.  This will be your post-game insight into the performances of our beloved Baylor offensive line! I, Hammer, will be your host.  If you're not new here, you already knew this.  Either way I appreciate you shirking your duties at work and/or school to read about the mountain movers of our offense.

First I would like to explain a tweak to my grading system.  It is still very similar to last year's but I think this change will allow me to give out more accurate grades for each game.  Here's what last year's grading system looked like:

I only graded the starting offensive lineman, but I did grade the TE's as a group. I graded on a Pass/Fail system based each how well each lineman played on every down. On run plays I looked for: (1) did the lineman block anybody on the play? (2) did the lineman get a solid contact on the defender and drive them back or seal them from the play? (3) did they sustain their blocks to the end of the play? On pass plays I looked for: (1) did the lineman block someone? (2) did they get solid contact and maintained the pocket? (3) did they sustain their block?

If they passed all three criteria they got a score of "1," if not then they received a "0." Penalty plays were not counted as full plays and instead the lineman who caused the loss of yards was handicapped for the next play. This means that if they were make a good block on the ensuing play the best score they could get was a "0." If they failed to make a block on the next play they would receive a "-1."

I realized last year that this system was not as black and white as I thought it would be as I had to make a lot of judgement calls on whether a linemen did enough to earn the full point or not.  I admit that my homerish tendencies pushed me to lean toward giving them the point over not more often than I'd care to admit.

To rectify this I will now give a half point when I deem a block was sufficient enough to do the job but not good enough to deserve the full point.  So now a player may receive a zero, half point, or full point depending on how well they block.

I also decided to give grades for plays where a penalty occurred during a live ball (i.e. holding, illegal hands to the face, chop blocks, etc.) and then assess the "-1" penalty to the player for that play.  Dead ball penalties (false starts and so forth) shall stay the same as last year.

So let's get this going and see how Spencer Drango, Blake Muir, Kyle Fuller, Desmine Hilliard, Troy Baker, and Tre'von Armstead (with the occasional Gus Penning) performed against SMU.

PLAY DRANGO MUIR FULLER HILLIARD BAKER TE's GAIN
PASS 1 1 1 0.5 0 0.5 8 False start on Baker
RUN 1 0.5 0.5 0.5 1 1 10
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 1 1 0.5 1 1 6
RUN 1 0.5 1 1 0.5 1 17
RUN 1 0.5 0.5 0.5 1 1 12
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 0 INC
RUN 1 1 0.5 0.5 1 1 6
PASS 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0 INC End of first series (FG)
PASS 1 0.5 1 0.5 0.5 0.5 16
PASS 0.5 1 0.5 1 1 1 INC
RUN 0 1 0 0.5 0.5 0.5 1
PASS 1 0.5 1 0.5 1 INC End of 2nd series (punt)
RUN 1 0.5 0.5 0.5 0 0 2
RUN 0.5 1 1 0.5 1 1 4 End of 3rd (TD), Colbert came in as an extra blocker
RUN 0 1 1 1 0.5 0 -1 Colbert in as extra blocker and got whipped by RDE
RUN 0.5 0.5 0.5 1 0.5 0.5 2
PASS 0.5 1 1 0 1 1 INC Defensive penalty for a 1st down
PASS 1 0.5 1 1 1 2 3 End of 4th (TD), extra point for Armstead TD
RUN 1 0.5 0.5 0.5 1 4
PASS 1 1 1 1 0.5 13
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 46 End of 5th (TD)
RUN 1 1 1 0 1 0 3
RUN 0.5 0.5 1 0.5 0.5 0 2
PASS 0.5 0 1 1 1 INC End of 6th (punt)
PASS 1 1 0.5 1 1 1 15
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 13
RUN 1 1 0.5 0.5 0.5 1 5 End of 7th (TD)
RUN 0.5 0.5 1 0.5 1 14
RUN 1 1 1 1 0 2
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 20 Flag on JJ for chop block
PASS 0.5 0.5 1 1 1 3
PASS 0.5 0 1 1 1 INC End of 8th (punt)
RUN 1 1 1 0.5 0 0
PASS 1 1 1 0.5 0.5 INC
PASS 1 1 1 0.5 0.5 8
RUN 0.5 1 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 3
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 15
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 2
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 0.5 0 1 1 9 Holding on Fuller
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 10 End of 9th (missed FG), last series of half
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 3
RUN 0 0.5 0.5 0 1 5
RUN 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0 7
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 INC Facemask penalty on the defense
PASS 1 1 0 1 1 INC False start on Fuller
RUN 0 1 0.5 0 0 3
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 0 End of 10th (interception)
RUN 1 0 1 0.5 0.5 5
RUN 0 1 1 1 1 9
RUN 0.5 1 0 0.5 0 3
PASS 1 1 0.5 1 1 INC
PASS 1 0 1 1 1 8
RUN 0 0 0.5 0.5 0.5 4
RUN 0.5 1 0.5 1 0.5 4
RUN 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 1 11
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 4
RUN 0 1 1 0.5 1 10
RUN 1 0.5 0.5 0.5 1 1 4
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC 12 men on the defense
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 0.5 5
RUN 1 0 0.5 1 1 0.5 1
RUN 1 1 0 0.5 0 -1
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 INC Weirdness
RUN 1 1 1 0.5 1 0 13
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 4
RUN 0.5 1 0.5 5 0.5 1 3 End of the 11th (Shock fumble)
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 0.5 3
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 0.5 1 1 1 1 1 18
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 9
PASS 0.5 1 1 1 1 INC
RUN 1 1 0.5 1 1 10
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 10
RUN 1 1 0.5 0 0.5 9
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 11 End of 12th (TD), last drive with all 5 starters together
DRANGO MUIR FULLER HILLIARD BAKER TE's Total
Average Score: 0.795 0.808 0.789 0.808 0.789 0.737 0.788
Run Block Errors 7 3 3 4 7 5 29
Pass Block Errors 0 3 0 1 0 2 6
Penalties 0 0 2 0 1 0 3

So the closer the average score is to 1.0 the better, obviously.  Two things should immediately stand out to you if you've read this series before: the overall scores are much lower than last year's and Spencer Drango did not have the best score of the bunch, like he did many a time last year.  Here's last season's final numbers for reference:

DRANGO CYRIL HUBER HILLIARD PALMER TE COLBERT BAKER AVERAGE
WOFFORD 91% 85% 89% 87% 87% 88%
BUFFALO 89% 91% 91% 86% 97% 91%
ULM 93% 89% 86% 89% 84% 88%
WVU 96% 88% 96% 90% 93% 92%
KSU 89% 93% 86% 86% 84% 88%
ISU 94% 97% 91% 95% 97% 93% 94%
KU 91% 91% 93% 89% 93% 88% 91%
OU 94% 93% 95% 87% 92% 84% 91%
TTU 95% 95% 97% 94% 87% 87% 93%
OSU 89% 90% 94% 96% 88% 88% 91%
TCU 83% 88% 90% 88% 85% 81% 90% 86%
UT 93% 91% 89% 93% 92% 86% 91% 91%
TOTAL AVERAGE 92% 91% 91% 90% 91% 88% 85% 91% 90%

That .788, or 78.8% if you will, against SMU is already lower than the worst rated game from last season, TCU (86%).  No more pumping sunshine, folks.  We're getting down to the nitty gritty now.  It may not look as pretty as last season but I feel like this is a much more accurate assessment than what the previous grading system would show.

So what do all those numbers mean?  Well, it means we have a lot of work to do down in the trenches but anyone who watched the game knows this.  What we need to work on is what can be gleaned, though.

Run blocking.  Our run blocking left a lot to be desired.  There were 19 different run  plays where a full blown blocking error occurred with a total of 29 individual missed blocks.   You will also see that there were a lot of half point scores on rush plays; another reason why our run game appeared to be stunted.  I won't go into too much depth with the grades for each player, but you can see how we did not get production we expected from them.

On the bright side we did get good pass blocking most of the night with only six missed blocks and only three penalties, which is nice.

I'd like to now talk about our two new starters on the line, Blake Muir and Kyle Fuller.  I was somewhat surprised to see Muir get the start and more surprised that he got all the first string reps at left guard.  I was sure that Art Briles would roll out Laquan McGowan, a.k.a. McMountain, a.k.a. McZilla, to start and spell him with Muir.

(Marvel at my MS Paint skillz)

Muir did get the start and played rather well in comparison as he tied with Hilliard for best overall score.  His mobility is what appears to have earned him his starting spot as he was used often to pull and trap.  If you pay attention to our line you can tell our coaches like the guards and tackles to pull in order to open holes as well as for misdirection in our play-action schemes.  Muir has good lateral speed and short area burst which makes him a valuable player in this regard.

What he lacks, however, is the strength and power you'd want to see in a guard.  When he gets an angle on defender and uses proper technique and leverage, he's fine.  But have him go straight up with a D-lineman and Muir will struggle to move him out of the way.  This caused quite a few pileups in the middle of our line, clogging running lanes, and forcing running backs to get bottled up or bounce outside.  When we play bigger, stronger defensive linemen in the near future, he will need to step it up or will be a liability on the run game.

Most everything I said for Muir goes double for Fuller.  Playing against a noseguard all game was a battle for Fuller as he struggled to move defenders out of the middle by himself.  By the third quarter he was receiving constant help from either Muir or Hilliard in the run game.  Fuller made it up by being pretty darn good in pass pro.  He rarely got pushed back and never committed a pass block error.

Our three returning starters were a disappointment in my eyes.  Drango, Hilliard and Baker lacked the aggressiveness and tenacity that I was expecting and it really showed in their run blocking.  Drango and Baker were too often content to seal defenders away from plays rather than attack and drive them back.  This was frustrating to watch as the defenders were sometimes able to get off those blocks and make a play (This is pure speculation on my part, but when watching Drango's play I felt like he may not be 100% back from his injury).

And Hilliard is way too large, strong, and experienced to not be able to consistently push defenders off the line of scrimmage, yet he struggled to do exactly that on Sunday.  He needs to do a better job of bending his knees and using proper leverage because it looks like he's just leaning on people and hoping they get out of his way.

Converted lineman now starting tight end, Tre'von Armstead, appears to be a big part of our offense moving forward.  He's a good extra blocker and a huge receiving threat both figuratively and literally.  He could do better at locating defenders in space and needs to work on getting stronger, but he's young and still learning the position so I'll hold off being too critical.

All in all the line did their job well enough to win the game and that's all that matters right now.  I'm really looking forward to doing more games and grades to see if they will improve enough by the time conference games start because that's when all of their flaws (if they persist) will be exposed.

If you have any questions or features you'd like to see in future posts please fire away in the comments.

Sic Em Bears!