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Football: Analyzing the Returning Production of ACC Coastal Contenders

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Which QB will have the most production returning around him?

NCAA Football: Clemson at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

It was another year of parity in the ACC Coastal division, with 5 of 7 teams finishing the season with 8 or more wins. With all 5 of these teams(Georgia Tech, Pitt, VPISU, Miami, and UNC) losing their starting QBs, 2017 looks to be another year that will be impossible to project.

A strong, experienced group of backs and receivers can make a huge difference in the success of a young QB, which Tech fans experienced this first-hand during the successful transition to Justin Thomas in 2014.

So which team will surround their new QB with the most experienced skill position players this year? In order to find out, I took a look at returning non-QB scrimmage yards. This includes rushing and receiving yards not earned by any QB on the team. By simply compiling the total number of non-QB scrimmage yards and subtracting those earned by players that are leaving, I was able to calculate what percentage of these yards are returning for next season.

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive analysis of which offense is going to be the best next year, there as there are many more factors, such as talent, recruiting, and returning OL experience that are factors. This is meant to be a quick look. That said, here are the 5 ACC Coastal Contenders from last year, sorted by percentage of returning production.

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Team Scrimmage Yards Yards Returning Yards Lost Percentage Returning
Team Scrimmage Yards Yards Returning Yards Lost Percentage Returning
Georgia Tech 4176 3204 972 77%
Pitt 5533 3186 2347 58%
VPISU 5371 2927 2444 54%
Miami 5632 2930 2702 52%
UNC 5409 1467 3942 27%

Georgia Tech commands an overwhelming advantage in returning scrimmage yards, and it could have been even better. If Marcus Marshall had chosen to return next season, the Jackets would have returned 94% of 2016’s non-QB scrimmage yards. No senior even broke 100 yards this year. Also of note, Clinton Lynch led the team in scrimmage yards(again) despite having 13 fewer touches than Matthew Jordan. Incredible. 905 yards on 53 touches. The leader in yards per touch, however, was the legendary Brad $tewart with 18.9, unless you count Chase Alford and his 21 yard fake punt.

Pitt lost its leader in scrimmage yards, James Conner, and its leading TE, but returned most of the rest of the offense. With an experienced transfer QB coming in, the Pitt offense could once again be strong in 2017.

The Hokies lost Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges to the draft, and graduated Sam Rogers as well. Ford was a force, and had 1127 scrimmage yards this past season. They will return Cam Phillips, however, who had 1123. Leading RB Travon McMillian also returns.

Miami could have returned more production than Georgia Tech, but was hurt dramatically by players leaving early for the NFL Draft. RB Joseph Yearby and TE David Njoku(who didn’t play against us if his name isn’t ringing a bell) left early, and took over 1300 yards with them. The Canes do, however, return their top 2 producers in RB Mark Walton(1357 yards) and WR Ahmmon Richards(942 yards). It is nice to see Stacy Coley(754 yards) finally out of the division.

Then there’s UNC. The Tar Heel offense was completely gutted at the skill positions, and will be difficult to see them fully recovering in a year. The top 4 producers (Ryan Switzer, Elijah Hood, TJ Logan, Bug Howard) are all gone. That’s 1126, 1000, 894, and 827 yards gone, respectively.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “This analysis benefits Georgia Tech because it doesn’t account for lost QB rushing yards!” Well, you’re right(though it helped VPISU more), though I have other reasons for omitting QB scrimmage yards. My biggest problem with QB scrimmage yards is that sacks count against QB rush yards, which, to me, is an asinine way to record stats. For example, Brad Kaaya had -136 rushing yards, so including those as “lost” would have given Miami 136 yards returning that don’t exist! Since all QBs will be gone, I chose to focus solely on the players around them.

Who do you think will have the Coastal’s Strongest Offense in 2017? Who will regress the most? Any questions about my data collection or methods? Just leave a comment!