Position Reviews: How Did The Canes Perform Compared to Last Year?

Guys like Ereck Flowers will be huge (literally) for next year's team - USA Today Sports

State Of The U breaks down the performance of each position on the field, taking a look at comparisons to last year and what improved.

The off season of college football is a long one. Sure, recruiting helps fill the void, but nothing compares to game day and the excitement that Canes football brings. To help ease you into the post season, SOTU will be going through the position groups of this year's Hurricanes, and comparing them to the previous year's group. The purpose of this is to see how the team has changed, what improved, what didn't, and what to look forward to in 2013.

I won't lie. I have absolutely zero clue as to how offensive linemen are graded, and what those grades mean. Nor could I find much about this info online. However, I do understand the roles these guys play, and what sort of things they impact from game to game. This makes it fairly easy to compare a few stats from year to year, and see what differences there are, especially when the offensive coaching staff is the same in both years.

To help break things down here, here's the 2011 offensive line roster:

73 Jermaine Barton OL 6-7 305 RFr. Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (St. Thomas Aquinas HS)
79 Malcolm Bunche OL 6-7 320 RFr. Newark, Del. (Newark HS)
70 Jon Feliciano OL 6-5 320 RFr. Davie, Fla. (Western HS)
61 Joel Figueroa OL 6-6 323 Unk Miami, Fla. (North Miami HS)
66 Harland Gunn OL 6-2 310 Sr. Omaha, Neb. (Central HS)
77 Seantrel Henderson OL 6-8 345 So. St. Paul, Minn. (Cretin-Derham Hall HS)
63 Tyler Horn OL 6-4 305 Sr. Memphis, Tenn. (University HS)
78 Jermaine Johnson OL 6-6 320 RSo. Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (Hargrave Military Academy)
55 Ben Jones OL 6-5 310 Jr. Miami, Fla. (Northwestern HS)
68 Jeremy Lewis OL 6-4 315 Jr. West Palm Beach, Fla. (Palm Beach Lakes HS)
65 Brandon Linder OL 6-6 310 So. Southwest Ranches, Fla. (St. Thomas Aquinas HS)
69 Eduardo Lopez OL 6-0 300 RSo. Miami, Fla. (Southwest Miami HS)
62 Shane McDermott OL 6-4 290 RFr. Lake Worth, Fla. (Palm Beach Central HS)
72 Brandon Washington OL 6-4 320 Jr. Miami, Fla. (Milford (N.Y.) Academy) (Northwestern HS)
64 Hunter Wells OL 6-6 300 Fr. Canton, Ill. (Canton HS)
75 Jared Wheeler OL 6-5 315 RSo. Hollywood, Fla. (American Heritage HS)

And here is the roster from 2012:

79 Malcolm Bunche OL 6-7 323 RSo. Newark, Del. (Newark HS)
70 Jon Feliciano OL 6-5 314 RSo. Davie, Fla. (Western HS)
74 Ereck Flowers OL 6-6 314 Fr. Miami, Fla. (Miami Norland)
76 Taylor Gadbois OL 6-8 310 Fr. Dallas, Ga. (East Paulding)
77 Seantrel Henderson OL 6-8 340 Jr. St. Paul, Minn. (Cretin-Derham Hall HS)
63 Danny Isidora OL 6-4 312 Fr. Weston, Fla. (Cypress Bay)
55 Ben Jones OL 6-5 315 RSr. Miami, Fla. (Northwestern HS)
68 Jeremy Lewis OL 6-4 312 RSr. West Palm Beach, Fla. (Palm Beach Lakes HS)
65 Brandon Linder OL 6-6 312 Jr. Southwest Ranches, Fla. (St. Thomas Aquinas HS)
69 Eduardo Lopez OL 6-0 275 RJr. Miami, Fla. (Southwest Miami HS)
62 Shane McDermott OL 6-4 296 RSo. Lake Worth, Fla. (Palm Beach Central HS)
64 Hunter Wells OL 6-4 300 RFr. Canton, Ill. (Canton HS)
75 Jared Wheeler OL 6-5 312 RJr. Hollywood, Fla. (American Heritage HS)

As you can clearly see, if basic math is in your bag, that the 2011 line had a bit more help than this past year's. Granted, some of the above names may not have played, or may have been injured, so the above tables don't represent the starters or the majority contributors. That's simply a look at the personnel that was available.To help us decide which unit outperformed the other, we will look at a few team stats that are directly affected by the offensive line: rushing yards, sacks given up (yards will not be included, because they don't control that), 3rd down conversions, 4th down conversions, and red zone touchdowns. Sure, the offensive line is not always 100% controlling of these situations, but they obviously play a very huge part of all of them. The running back stable is mainly the key, but without an offensive line, there's no rushing game. If they play well, the sack numbers should be low. If they play well, then potential running downs like 3rd and 4th should be converted at a higher rate. If they are playing well, then the number of touchdowns scored in the red zone should be higher, since the majority of plays called in that situation are runs. There are of course variables like QB and RB play, coach's play calling, and the defense that they are up against, but regardless of all that, it starts and ends with the line.

Here's a look at how the two year's lines stacked up against one another:

Rushing Yards Sacks Allowed 3rd Down Conv. 4th Down Conv. RZ TD's
2011 O-Line 1748 19 63/148 (43%) 8/17 (47%) 27/41 (66%)
2012 O-Line 1737 18 67/170 (39%) 8/17 (47%) 27/52 (52%)

So there you have it. Even with the dynamic Duke Johnson, steady Mike James, an improved Stephen Morris behind center, and the rest of the offensive weapons, this year's OL seems to have underperformed their 2011 counterparts, at least based on my clearly unprofessional analysis. They did allow one less sack than in 2012, so there's that, but the rest of the numbers failed to keep up. Things should get better in the coming year, as everyone on the line should return, according to the coaches. Seantrel Henderson is of course the wild card when it comes to the NFL draft, but we have heard nothing from him so far, which one has to think is some sort of good sign. Not only that, but guys like Ereck Flowers, Taylor Gadbois, and Danny Isidora will have another year under their belts, and will provide extremely valuable depth.

Golden is looking to bring in some talented youth with this next recruiting class as well, with Hunter Knighton and Alex Gall already committed, and a few other targets out there.

Thoughts? Questions? Hit up the comments!

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