% receiving yards returning as an indicator for offensive success

One of the most surprising statistical indicators in college football was Bill Connelly's finding that percentage of receiving yards returning has a higher correlation to offensive success than passing yards returning, rushing yards returning, or offensive line snaps returning. Basically, this means that experience across the wide receiver corps has a greater (statistical) impact on offensive success than experience from any other position group. This stat was mentioned in a few articles in The Athletic this week, one by Andy Bitter, and one by the UGA beat writer.

This got me curious about how the quality of Fuente's offenses at VT varied based on percentage of returning receiving yards. Here's the data:

Season Receiving Yards Receiving Yards Returning (next season) % Receiving Yards Returning (next season) Offensive SP+ Ranking
2015 2936 2567 87% 57
2016 3666 494 13% 39
2017 3113 1200 39% 71
2018 3300 2467 75% 41
2019 2718 2408 89% 60

As you can see, there's a pretty obvious correlation between % of Receiving Yards Returning, and SP+ offensive ranking the following season. The only exception is the 2019 season, and I think we can all assume that was due to Ryan Willis's performance over the first 4 games of the season.

I'm sure there will be some transfers, decreasing the 89% of returning receiving yards to 80-85%, but either way, there is much on offense to be excited about next year.

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Comments

Cool data. Thx.

2008 Stinespring has entered the chat
.....

The correlation might be a little tricky to see. The returning percentage matches up to the SP+ in the next row down.

Working from these numbers alone, I'd expect the offensive S&P to be somewhere in the 30s or 40s next year. (I'd like to see single digits, though!)

Good find!

Four data point and throwing out the outlier that doesn't fit the hypothesis?

My 2019 Season Challenge: only comment with Star Wars memes. (completed as of Nov. 29)

I think the point is that it's not really a hypothesis, that people have run the numbers on a lot of other programs and that is the finding. He was just showing our numbers as a lens to look at the past few years and what we might/should expect next year.

This is correct.

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For programs in general, yes, but this is the claim (specific to VT) that I was referring to:

As you can see, there's a pretty obvious correlation between % of Receiving Yards Returning, and SP+ offensive ranking the following season.

There is not a pretty obvious correlation in those data points. There is a correlation across all programs.

My 2019 Season Challenge: only comment with Star Wars memes. (completed as of Nov. 29)

It seems like the first 2 data points support the hypothesis:
87% - 39th
13% - 71st

And the most recent 2 points go against the hypothesis:
39% - 41st
75%-60th

Interesting info, thanks for the post!

So who are the 300ish receiving yards that we're losing? McClease and Keene? Or is there anyone else?

As of right now, that is it.

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So 60% of the time it works everytime?

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
“I served in the United States Navy"

KCCO

I'm assuming it works predominantly - there will of course be outliers to everything, such as bringing in a star freshman that makes up for lost yards, maybe getting a better qb that can put the ball in the receivers' hands more often, etc.

I'm assuming they looked at a very large data set and just found something that had the highest positive correlation to winning. (Yeah, bring on the Nerrrrrrd meme lol)

Yeah totally missed the movie reference lol

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
“I served in the United States Navy"

KCCO

lol - sure did!

I'm assuming they looked at a very large data set and just found something that had the highest positive correlation to winning.

ummmm...they found that this is the most reliable indicator among a group of very unreliable indicators...that a twig makes a better hammer than a straw

I didn't look at the actual report - just at the summary the OP wrote. And when I said "highest," I did not mean that it was high, just higher than anything else - pretty much to your point of a twig making a better hammer than a straw lol

except, with a hammer, you only have two components to make a hammer. With offensive success, you have hundreds of factors that influence offensive success.

You gotta interpret big data with a big data lens. Can't use your single cause and effect lens. It will fail.

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I don't think anyone is claiming single cause and effect. Just saying that of the four offensive variables isolated, returning receiving yards has the largest impact on SP+ offensive rating.

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i think you're way more confident than you should be in the average commenter's ability to draw a conclusion from data. just read this thread lol

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

Yeah - just because we all went to Tech does not mean that everybody was in the quantitative arts lol

so, according to this data, having 87% of your receiving yards returning nets you essentially the same offensive ranking as 39%. Next you'll be telling me ToP is the most important metric

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)..

Next?!

there he is

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)..

so next year is the year?

Next year is always the year.

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That Da U is bak?

I would think that returning defensive minutes would have a statistical advantage as well

"I am probably too rational to be here"

Apparently the closest statistical indicator for defense is returning tackles in the secondary followed by passes broken up.

Why is your n=1?

he didn't do any statistics!!!

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Couple thoughts...

1) It is obviously January.

2) that all of the correlations are below .40 is pretty bad

well, these are single indicators of hundreds of possibilities that influence offensive success for next season. 40% is pretty good correlation with those facts.

Although, a better statistic would be the power each indicator in a prediction model...

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Correlation of .4 isn't 'bad' (given that the result was statistically significant, and that there's multiple factors considered)

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Statistically significant relative to...

The example graph on the left (r = .42) is a higher correlation than the example on the right (r = .17), but I'm not putting money on either one.

Returning successful players is usually a better result than a random draw of new ones...me: "okay". Receivers are more a reliable predictor of future performance than linemen or QB's...me: "which ones?"

So the key to success in college football now is throwing all your passes to freshmen and not to upperclassmen (and certainly not to seniors) who might leave? Methinks I am taking this stat with a few grains of salt.

The LewDew, Professional Golf Bum

You missed the point. It's the key for the NEXT year. So if you throw ALL of your passes to seniors and you have a great year, and they all graduate, you lose all that production the following year. Sure you'll have some people step up, but if a decent number of your passes go to a junior and they come back, it makes absolute sense that your offense will be as good or better (because that junior gained more experience throughout their junior year) going into their senior year.

Since passing yardage usually takes up a significantly larger portion of offensive production in a game than rushing yardage, barring a few triple option or WR playing QB related exceptions (fuck GT and UK), this basically says more in game reps make players better. Go figure.

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pass to score, run to win.