ANN ARBOR, Mich. — If the 2017 football season were a college course, Tim Drevno and the Michigan offense would have failed the semester.
Adam McClintock, a coaching staff metrics analyst who is known as the College Football Professor, was harsh in his assessment of Drevno’s third season as Michigan’s offensive coordinator.
McClintock told Land of 10’s Sean Keeler in January that Drevno earned an F for the season after taking a “massive step backwards.” So, can Drevno move Michigan’s offense two steps forward in 2018? He can, but the Wolverines will need to cut down the number of plays they take to score, reduce penalties and produce touchdowns instead of field goals.
“It’s not necessarily a young team anymore,” McClintock said. “This is a very big indication of his time at Michigan. There needs to be improvement.”
McClintock grades offensive and defensive coordinators based on talent on hand and the per-play efficiency with which they score or allow points. McClintock bases efficiency grades for offensive coordinators on production relative to talent. He determines those grades using an algorithm he created that measures how much effort it takes to score 1 point on offense.
McClintock gave Drevno a C-plus for his first season at Michigan, despite the Wolverines finishing fourth in the Big Ten in 2015 with 295.9 yards per game and Jake Rudock finishing the season with 3,017 passing yards. He gave Drevno an A for 2016, a byproduct of a senior-laden roster. That grade plummeted to an F last season.
“Drevno’s first year was a transition year,” McClintock said. “The second year, he had a senior-heavy team. This year, that wasn’t necessarily the coach’s mistake. He struggled. But a lot of that, you look at the youth, you look at the problems he had at quarterback.”
This coming season, Michigan needs to repair its offensive line and maximize the use of one quarterback, as opposed to rotating three because of injuries and underperformance.
Michigan also needs to improve its plays-to-touchdowns ratio. In 2017, the Wolverines scored 39 touchdowns on 875 offensive plays, needing an average of 22.4 plays to score a touchdown. By comparison, Ohio State needed an average of 14 plays to score a touchdown (1,029 plays, 73 touchdowns), and Penn State needed about 13.3 plays to score a touchdown (909 plays, 68 touchdowns). Michigan led the Big Ten with 19 field goals; Ohio State kicked 17 and Penn State had 9.
“Michigan needs to punch it in the end zone — don’t kick field goals,” McClintock said. “When Michigan got into scoring position [in 2017], they settled for field goals, and that hurt their efficiency. They need to make and take those opportunities to score.”
Yet 2017 wasn’t rock bottom for Michigan’s offense — 2014 was. Michigan’s efficiency rating of 3.17 in 2014 was worse than it was last season (2.60). The bigger the number, the lower the efficiency rating.
“2014 under Doug Nussmeier versus 2017? They weren’t even close,” McClintock said.
“This was a young team, and I’m optimistic for Michigan’s changes. But if there’s no improvement, then it’s time to panic and start asking questions.”