Jet Sweeps by the Numbers

Hello.

I frequently see jet sweeps singled out as a particularly bad part of our offense. Since it's the offseason and I had a free afternoon I decided I wanted to find out just how bad they were, because criticism by the eye test alone doesn't move the needle for me.

Unfortunately there is no Jet Sweep Attempt statistic, so I had to collect and enter the data myself.

Here is my methodology:

  • Use ESPN's play by play game log to find each non-QB rushing attempt.
  • Find that rushing attempt in the Hokietapes replay to see if it was a jet sweep.
  • Take down the quarter, time, down, yards to gain, yards gained, if there was a TD, player, and alignment.
  • I make no distinction between alignment in the slot vs wide.
  • Plays negated by penalty are not counted.
  • Plays where the runner was aligned in the H-Back position and ran a sweep were counted.

Here are some statistical notes:

  • We attempted 40 jet sweeps in 2019, good for 3.33 per game.
  • We averaged 7.1 ypc on jet sweep attempts.
  • The middle 75% of jet sweep attempts averaged 5.1 ypc.
  • The middle 50% of jet sweep attempts averaged 4.5 ypc.
  • The median attempt went for 4 yards.
  • 45% of jet sweep attempts went for 3 yards or less.
  • 23% of jet sweep attempts went for more than 9 yards.
  • 13% of jet sweep attempts went for negative yardage.
  • More than half of our jet sweep attempts were on 1st down.
  • We attempted 6 jet sweeps on 3rd down. Of those 6 we made the line to gain 3 times, but the 3 times we did not convert were all 3rd and goal.
  • Turner attempted the most jet sweeps at 22 for 223 yards and 10.1 ypc.
  • Robinson attempted 8 for 33 yards and 4.1 ypc.
  • Mitchell attempted 5 for 8 yards, but 4 of these attempts went for short touchdowns.
  • King, Grimsley, and Hazelton combined to chip in 4 attempts for 16 and 4 ypc.

Here is the data:

Game Quarter Time Down Distance Yards TD? Player Alignment
BC 1 14:09 2 10 0 0 King Wide
BC 1 11:54 1 10 7 0 Turner Wide
ODU 2 7:48 1 10 3 0 Robinson Wide
Furman 2 3:30 2 4 12 0 Turner Wide
Furman 3 11:23 1 10 7 0 Turner Wide
Furman 3 10:04 1 G 3 1 Mitchell H-Back
Furman 3 9:50 1 10 9 0 Turner Wide
Furman 4 6:47 2 6 21 0 Robinson Wide
Furman 4 5:12 3 2 29 1 Turner Wide
Furman 4 1:34 2 8 11 0 Turner Wide
Duke 1 14:53 2 10 -1 0 Robinson Wide
Duke 1 12:04 1 10 -4 0 Turner Wide
Duke 1 1:11 3 G 1 0 Mitchell H-Back
Duke 4 12:25 1 10 4 0 Robinson Wide
Miami 1 2:16 1 G 1 1 Mitchell H-Back
URI 1 2:00 2 G -5 0 Robinson Wide
UNC 1 9:14 1 10 -1 0 Robinson Wide
UNC 4 10:09 3 G 3 0 Hazelton Wide
UNC 4 2:20 1 10 7 0 Turner Wide
ND 2 4:30 2 13 -20 0 Turner Wide
ND 4 6:24 2 4 5 0 Turner Wide
Wake 1 14:54 1 10 2 0 Turner H-Back
Wake 1 7:35 3 2 5 0 Turner H-Back
Wake 2 11:54 1 10 9 0 Turner Wide
Wake 3 8:52 1 10 57 0 Turner Wide
Wake 3 6:55 1 10 7 0 Robinson Wide
Wake 4 11:46 1 G 1 1 Mitchell H-Back
GT 2 14:57 2 10 39 0 Turner Wide
GT 3 7:50 1 10 3 0 Grimsley Wide
Pitt 1 13:50 1 10 1 0 Turner Wide
Pitt 1 3:16 1 G 1 1 Mitchell H-Back
Pitt 2 6:11 2 5 5 0 Turner Wide
Pitt 4 12:00 1 10 4 0 Turner Wide
UVA 1 4:06 3 G 2 0 Turner Wide
UVA 3 6:02 2 6 7 0 Turner Wide
UVA 4 13:22 1 10 16 0 Turner Wide
UK 1 13:05 3 3 5 0 Robinson Wide
UK 1 12:05 2 14 1 0 Turner Wide
UK 2 13:34 1 10 14 0 King Wide
UK 3 10:35 1 10 12 0 Turner Wide

Some other notes and omitted plays:

  • There were 4 reverses by WRs that all gained 8 yards or more that were omitted.
  • McClease never attempted a jet sweep which would have saved me a lot of time had I known that going in.
  • The -20 yard attempt by Turner was scored as his fumble and lost yardage, but this occurred on a botched exchange.
DISCLAIMER: Forum topics may not have been written or edited by The Key Play staff.

Comments

Thank you for taking the time to do the analysis. From what you've presented, it seems that as a whole, the jet sweep is a positive play for us, but not necessarily a scoring play. And that running away from the defense when you have blockers is also a positive.

It looks like Pitt did the best defending it, which shouldn't be a huge surprise considering the conditions weren't conducive to the passing attack that game.

So jets sweeps are ok, just not inside the 10, unless its by Mitchell?

If you want level-headed opinions, don't go on a message board or sports forums

That was my takeaway too. On average we gain more yards than a normal running play, but they shouldn't be used when the defense has less room to spread out. The goal to go attempts not by Mitchell bear this out pretty clearly.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

Fun thing to look at now is what the offensive formation is at the goal line. This way you can see how spread out the defense is to get to the corner

If you want level-headed opinions, don't go on a message board or sports forums

On average we gain more yards than a normal running play, but they shouldn't be used when the defense has less room to spread out.

is the field less wide at the goal line? or do you just mean that the secondary is closer to LOS

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

The safeties were down closer to the LOS.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

Sounds like a lot of work! If it were me I would have just summed up all WR rushing attempts as jet sweeps and accepted it'd be only 95% right.

Possible biggest takeaway: 7.1 yards per attempt on jet sweeps vs 4.1 yard per attempt on all rushing plays (https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/schools/virginia-tech/2019.html).

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Jet Sweep

4.1 yard per attempt on all rushing plays

Aren't sacks counted as negative rushing yards in college though? According to the NCAA, VT was sacked 29 times for 202 yards this year. That decreases the attempts per game by about 2.2, and increases the rush yards per game by nearly 7 ypg, bring the average yards per rush up to 4.4.

After doing the math, I think your comment still stands.

Twitter me

Scott Loeffler just got really aroused and he has no idea why.

Firstly, thanks for putting this together...so what we are saying is that Turner is the King of Jet Sweeps.

Mitchell is the Jet sweep touchdown guy

Hokies, Local Soccer, AFC Ajax, Ravens

The Mitchell sweeps on the goal line are excellent play design in my opinion. If I remember correctly they ran it out of the H-Back position with the hand-off in front of the QB.

It's Time to go to Work

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

I frequently see jet sweeps singled out as a particularly bad part of our offense. Since it's the offseason and I had a free afternoon I decided I wanted to find out just how bad they were,

And this is why this website is so great!

This may turn out like one of French's articles where everyone learns something, but maybe doesn't have much to say on the topic. I would have though we ran a lot more jet weeps than that. From what I have found we averaged 70.4 offensive plays per game in 2019, which means that jet sweeps only made up 4.7% of the plays called. I haven't ever taken the time to track a specific type of play over a game, but I would guess that there are other plays we run far more than 5% of the time.

I would call the jet sweep effective considering the 50th percentile lands at 4.5 ypc, but I wonder if we had a RB that was churning out that kind of average ypc would we see the jet sweep as much?

Whatever. It was one bad year.

Seasonal Brew means High ABV for football season and standard the rest of the year.

I would call the jet sweep effective considering the 50th percentile lands at 4.5 ypc

maybe it's effective, just not efficient? [ducks]

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

could it be that we see the action on so many plays that it feels like it's called more than it actually is?

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

Definitely yes.

My wife takes the kids and leaves the house while I watch my Hokie games.........nuff said

I've never understood the complaints from the fan base about jet sweeps. I could tell by watching the games that they were effective for us. Thank you for actually putting the statistics to it to prove that point. Any coach, team or player would kill to average 7.1 YPC

"These people are losing their minds" - Mike Patrick

Probably a mix of truth with bandwagon, and hasty generalization agrument fallacies.

If you want level-headed opinions, don't go on a message board or sports forums

I think the complaints weren't that it was the play call, but the timing of the play call and the "feeling" that defenses knew it was coming...and that we as fans expect every play to gain 10+ yards or go for TDs! /s

"Take care of the little things and the big things will come."

I think some of it is a holdover from the Loeffler era. He ran jet sweeps a lot too... but to my memory they didn't work as well. Which in my opinion was more a function of the talent at WR he had to work with. In any case I think it conditioned the fan base to hate the jet sweep even as it quietly became more effective for us over time.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Jet Sweep

Loeffler's jet sweeps were entirely predictable. Like, if you ever saw Deon Newsome lining up in the slot, you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was getting the ball on a handoff.

To Cornelsen's credit, he at least mixes up the personnel. But you're right, I think the damage has been done.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

Leg for all the work. I've spent a good amount of time trying to parse the espn play by play (I now have a program that works 90% of the time as they arent consistant in terminology) and it's a beast just to read.

In my experience the plays themselves were logged correctly, but often the time the play occurred was incorrect. Pretty early on I just found myself skipping through our offensive possessions 5 seconds at a time until I got to a rushing attempt. It was nice when I would see a drive that was just a bunch of passes or QB runs because I knew I could skip it.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

The plays are correct but terminology differs, rush for no gain vs rush for 0 yards. Its minor and reading it you dont notice but scraping it sucks.

What'd you write it in, is it available on Github?

You should check out @cfbscrapr on Twitter

Appreciate it.

nope, but if you want a copy I can send it to you

Edit: python

Seems like we lost yardage much less frequently once hooker became qb.

Taylor, looking desperately throws it deep..HAS A MAN OPEN DANNY COALE WITH A CATCH ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE FIVE!!!!....hes still open

Likely because defenses had to respect the QB keep option at that point. Not so much before.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

Took me longer than it should have to deduce this...

Name checks out.

If you play it, they will win.

"How the ass pocket will be used, I do not know. Alls I know is, the ass pocket will be used." -The BoD

Plane BOOM!

Whatever. It was one bad year.

Seasonal Brew means High ABV for football season and standard the rest of the year.

PLANE BROOM

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

too bad you aren't opposing and defensive coordinator...

Hello I love everything about this

I lied: "45% of jet sweep attempts went for 3 yards or less." is a problem.

If almost half the time you are putting yourself behind the chains something's not great.

Statistically speaking, we should run it every play and never punt.

That isn't a bad number especially considering it allows you to manipulate their defense to a degree on jet sweep action.

"You don't stare into a rearview mirror"

I wonder how that % compares to our regular running plays.

Edit to add, 5 (12.5% ) of the attempts resulted in a TD from the 2 or 1. I assume these go into the under 3 yards gained category, but were definitely successful.

I lied: "45% of jet sweep attempts went for 3 yards or less." is a problem.

To counterpoint:

55% of the time, it works EVERY time.

Let's Go

HOKIES

Without actually checking I would guess that we had a similar failure rate on conventional rushing attempts, and even if that isn't the case I think you're still left with a play that has a greater potential to pop than a standard rushing attempt. It's more of a risk reward proposition than our usual zone or counter.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

Using the "success rate" measure that Bill C uses for his SP+ rankings (gain at least 50% of yards-to-gain on 1st down, 70% on 2nd down, or 100% on 3rd or 4th down), we "succeeded" on 24 of 40 attempts, or 60% of the time. I can't seem to find a season-long success rate measurement, but here are our success rates for all games I could find Advanced Box Scores for:

Miami: 33%
UNC: 42%
ND: 23%
Wake: 51%
Pitt: 37%
UVA: 43%

tl;dr: 60% ain't bad.

Edit: I guess I owe a partial drink this Monday afternoon after seeing ashore's post below, but at least I added additional context to how decent/good the 60% value is.

First off, this is great and I appreciate all the work you put into it.

That being said, where are the stats on how many times we ran a JS to the short side of the field?

I feel like I need that data point to fully validate the complaints I yell at the tv/field.

If you play it, they will win.

"How the ass pocket will be used, I do not know. Alls I know is, the ass pocket will be used." -The BoD

Unfortunately I would realize things like that when I was already a good part of the way through collecting the data, but that's also why I took down all of the quarters and times from the beginning so anyone else can go back and watch each play without having to do as much digging as I did.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

But I want you to do it. /S

I wasn't complaining. I was only saying that data would be helpful in knowing whether my yelling was justified or not.

I'm going to yell regardless. So, digging deeper into the data is moot.

If you play it, they will win.

"How the ass pocket will be used, I do not know. Alls I know is, the ass pocket will be used." -The BoD

This.^^^ The jet sweep is not a bad play. In my opinion, the jet sweep to the boundary should result in immediate in-game discipline, up to and including relieving of play-calling duties and/or immediate termination of employment. Would love to see what the stats say on this.

"That's it guys. Let's get out of here. That cold drink's waitin' on us, let's go." - Mike Young after win no. 300.

From a schematics standpoint, it makes a lot of sense to run the sweep to the short side. Depending on how we line up in formation, often times the defense is loaded to the wide side of the field leaving fewer bodies to the boundary. From my experience, the reason coaches like running the sweep to the short side is because it forces the ball carrier to get North/south as opposed to stretching it out laterally attempting to get the edge. Add that in with the sweep motion and having a player at %50 speed when they get the hand off and they have a much greater chance of beating that backside backer. Then you could also think about if we are all the way out at the hash, the SS/rover for the defense may be aligned over the top at 15-20 yards deep in the middle of the field as opposed to down in the box outside of the weakside LB. It's all a numbers game and figuring out where you have the advantage with blockers against defenders. I have no faults with Corn calling sweeps to the short side as long as the defense lines up in a way that gives us a numbers advantage to the boundary. On the other hand, if the defense has numbers there and he still calls it to the boundary, then I absolutely have issues with it.

"These people are losing their minds" - Mike Patrick

Noted. And for the record, I'm wasn't saying that JS to the short side of the field should never happen. But it seems to my layman's eyes that whenever we do it the ball carrier gets tackled before they get the chance to even get North/South way more often than they should gaining little or no yardage. At least when you run to the wide side the ball carrier, theoretically, should be able to outrun a large portion of the pursuit and hopefully get the edge to get upfield.

If you play it, they will win.

"How the ass pocket will be used, I do not know. Alls I know is, the ass pocket will be used." -The BoD

Also, does the QB have the option to pull the ball on these JS calls? If the defense lines up a certain way is it on the QB to make that read? Serious question. Because I have no idea if that is part of the called play.

I would say that at least sometimes, yes the QB does have the option to pull the ball. In the recent Hard Hat Mentality video put out with HH and QP they actually talked about the jet sweeps. Said that they knew the fans didn't like it but it wasn't always on the WR, that sometimes, they messed up the read and accidentally gave the ball to the WR by mistake

"These people are losing their minds" - Mike Patrick

This may help make my unpopular opinion more popular. Good job.

"You don't stare into a rearview mirror"

Based on SP+'s definition of success rate (% of plays that are successful), Tech's jet sweeps in 2019 were successful 60% of the time. The average success rate in college football normally floats around 45%. In other words, I'd say these plays were used quite effectively as a constraint that frequently got the offense the yards it needed.

EDIT: Jet sweeps yielded a 57.1% success rate through the Duke game and were 61.5% successful AD. I don' think there is a big enough sample to determine a significant difference here. But, this is not adjusted for opponent.

The SP+ definition of success rate is: half of the yards needed on 1st down, 70% of yards needed on 2nd downs, getting the yards needed on 3rd and 4th. I also conservatively estimated this by only counting goal line plays as successful if they were TDs (not sure where the LOS is in these situations so I couldn't be certain if a 3 yard gain in a goal to go scenario was successful or not).

Also, thank you for doing this! Grabbing all of this data had to be time consuming and it is greatly appreciated.

"That move was slicker than a peeled onion in a bowl of snot." -Mike Burnop

Numbers don't lie. Jet sweep kings, let's keep it rolling

On first view I thought that was Chinballs.

This is me when I have to take a commuter plane.

Click here to destroy wall.

The jet sweep helps open the defense up horizontally. It's not supposed to be successful every time, just to loosen the defense up from left to right and then setup a bigger play down the line. When you get those big plays it's just an added bonus.

What's
Important
Now

I agree that a play can't get 3, 4, or 5+ yards every play (however you define "successful"). With that said, I absolutely despise the argument that coaches are intentionally dialing up a number of no-to-negative gain plays to potentially set the defense up later in the game. I'm no guru, but I'm pretty sure you can influence the defense while still trying to moving the ball.

*because everyone on this site takes things to the n-th degree, you obviously were not saying exactly what I was discussing, however your argument is an extension of one used to defend the coaches when the offense is continually going 3-and-out.

I don't think they intentionally dial it up to be a negative play, more so, you give them the Jet Sweep, now they have to account for it every time they do the Jet Sweep motion.

This setups the the inverted veer goal line play that utilizes the Jet Motion to get someone going horizontally and allows the QB to be a battering ram up the middle. I think there is a third option there as well, but you get the idea.

What's
Important
Now

@OP - job well done.

I do take exception to not including plays / yards negated by penalties. Why not include those in purely for analysis? I would think that negated plays then call for a lower percentage play thatb obviously take away from the overall stats of jet sweeps, not more importantly negate showing if they are effective or not since they rely on a setup.

I'd like to be more verbose but I'm typing on my phone.

SIR...5 game stretch (Duke, Miami, URI, UNC, ND) where 11 total jet sweeps resulted in a net -10 yards and the longest gain was 7 yards. Then no negative plays for the rest of the season (19 carries for 191).

Wow that's crazy. Does anyone know if there was a schematic or personnel change that resulted in such a sudden change in effectiveness?

As far as personnel goes, almost none during that stretch were with Hendon. I can't speak for the Duke game since we were alternating QBs what seemed like every possession so I can't remember if HH was in for those or not. But only one against UM, one against URI and then only one against UNC when HH was in(the others were after he got hurt). Then against ND he was obviously out as well. So after ND I would think you could definitely attribute at least part of the successes to Hendon being QB1.

"These people are losing their minds" - Mike Patrick

Tre got 7 of the first 18 and 16 of the last 22 carries. Mitchell got 2 of those last 22 both for short TDs. Basically, they pretty much stopped giving it to the other guys.

or, net positive of 10 yards if you discount a botched handoff that produced -20 on a single play. Obviously, if it wasn't a jet sweep, the fumble wouldn't have happened, but outliers gonna...out...lie?

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

outliers gonna lie out

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

Duke was Ryan Willis last game. That was a blow out and McClease was actually the only bright spot of the offense that game if I remember correctly. And he doesn't run jet sweeps.

Miami was Hendon's first game. It was a unique game plan that featured a lot of QB runs and the passes to Keene and Mitchell.

Not sure about URI.

Hooker got hurt during UNC game, and the offense was really starting to click. Then it was a full dose of QP up through 6 OT's.

ND game was completely different game plan with another full does of QP.

So, almost all of those game stand out as being rather unique. Remember, it was a season of two VT teams.

I really loved this analysis. Thanks for putting it together. I was curious to know the ratio of yards to yards available. Crunched that data and it's available below.

Down Distance Yards TD? % Yards Gained
1 10 7 0 70.00%
1 10 3 0 30.00%
1 10 7 0 70.00%
1 3 3 1 100.00%
1 10 9 0 90.00%
1 10 -4 0 -40.00%
1 10 4 0 40.00%
1 1 1 1 100.00%
1 10 -1 0 -10.00%
1 10 7 0 70.00%
1 10 2 0 20.00%
1 10 9 0 90.00%
1 10 57 0 570.00%
1 10 7 0 70.00%
1 1 1 1 100.00%
1 10 3 0 30.00%
1 10 1 0 10.00%
1 1 1 1 100.00%
1 10 4 0 40.00%
1 10 16 0 160.00%
1 10 14 0 140.00%
1 10 12 0 120.00%
2 10 0 0 0.00%
2 4 12 0 300.00%
2 6 21 0 350.00%
2 8 11 0 137.50%
2 10 -1 0 -10.00%
2 4 -5 0 -125.00%
2 13 -20 0 -153.85%
2 4 5 0 125.00%
2 10 39 0 390.00%
2 5 5 0 100.00%
2 6 7 0 116.67%
2 14 1 0 7.14%
3 2 29 1 1450.00%
3 3 1 0 33.33%
3 8 3 0 37.50%
3 2 5 0 250.00%
3 5 2 0 40.00%
3 3 5 0 166.67%

Second down was quite a boom-bust proposition.

Any play that gets 1450% of yards required is ok in my book.

Seriously, why do people hate jet sweeps?

"You don't stare into a rearview mirror"

The optics of missing three 3rd and goal jet sweep attempts including one against UVA leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

I gotta say though, that 3rd and goal against UVA looked like a touchdown at the snap. We ran that when they had 10 guys within 5 yards of the LOS inside the box. If Hazelton stays on his man that play scores.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

Because lots of people remember the days when we'd be 3 yards out from the goal line and we could run it straight up the gut.

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I hope everyone got something out of this, and I'm glad the data is being used to give the fanbase even more information like this. Good stuff.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

So jet sweeps are more like pass attempts than rushes...

Actually they kind of are. A pass is about 40% likely to end in zero yards gained.

"You don't stare into a rearview mirror"

Just like a screen pass / dump-off might as well be a run too.

It's all about taking what the D gives you (giggity).