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The Forecast for 2006
I am stat guy. I always have been. I have other vices in life, but few as embarrassing as my need for statistical data. So lets look at some team and individual stats from the 2005 and 2004 football seasons, and try to project an increase or decrease in some of these numbers.
2005 Wins-8 2004 Wins-6
The Tigers increase by two wins from 2004 to 2005. This number should go up again in 2006. Remember we have 12 games in 2006 and the schedule does ease up in my opinion. The talent level has increased, so we forecast this number to rise in 2006.
2005 Total Offense-384.6 ypg (2nd in the ACC) 2004-295.6ypg (10th in the ACC)
The Tigers improved by 89 yards per game in Spence's first season. I think the Tigers can average over 400 yards per contest this season. I am not sure where they will rank in the conference, but with the offensive line intact, I like this offense. It is rare that a four-year starter at quarterback graduates and you increase your offensive productivity, but Rob Spence saw his quarterbacks' productivity increase with a new quarterback every year. Also, Will Proctor simply has more weapons than Whitehurst.
400 yards per game is not out of the question for 2006.
2005 Rushing Offense-153.0 ypg (4th in the ACC) 2004-107.5 ypg (10th in the ACC)
Productivity increased by almost 46 yards per game under Rob Spence last season. Wake Forest and Virginia Tech averaged over 190 yard rushing per game last season, and I think the Tigers can get close to that. A reasonable goal would be 175 yards per contest. Remember, defenses will try to stack the box against the Tigers and force Proctor and the passing game to beat them. James Davis, Reggie Merriweather, Demerick Chancellor, and C.J. Spiller are the league's best tandem of running backs and they will be running behind the leagues best offensive line.
2005 Passing Offense-231.6 ypg (4th in the ACC) 2004-188.1 ypg (5th in the ACC)
An increase of 43 yards per game in the passing game was one of the biggest surprises of 2005. I personally believe this number will stay close to the same. I think 225 yards per game is a good goal. The receivers are talented and diverse. The open field guys like Chansi Stuckey and Jacoby Ford can take a short pass and turn it into a long gain. The bigger guys like Aaron Kelly and Rendrick Taylor can bail Proctor out with some big plays and deep balls. The Tigers will not go vertical often in 2006, but when they do, this group can handle the duty. I like the tight ends under Coach Napier, and I really believe the running backs will see their production in the passing game increase.
2005 Scoring Offense-26.3 ppg (5th in the ACC) 2004-21.5 (8th in the ACC)
When you increase your points by almost five points per contest, great things happen. Defenses have been very good in this league in recent years. Last year, only Virginia Tech averaged over 30 points per game. I believe the defenses will not be quite as talented this season as some big-time players have left the league, and one great defensive coordinator (Blackney at Maryland) has retired. This number comes down to productivity in the red zone. The Tigers led the league in field goals last season. If this number can drop and red zone efficiency ends in more touchdowns, this number can increase. I believe 30 points per game is a very reasonable goal, and I believe the Tigers will be able to obtain it.
2005 Passing Efficiency Rating-134.7 (2nd in the ACC) 2004-96.7
Nowhere were the Tigers as improved as they were in this category in 2005. Spence's offense should always produce a high number here. The quarterback will be different, but this stat should stay close to the same. Proctor will have close to 70% completion percentage in this scheme.
2005 First Downs-252 Total (3rd in the ACC) 2004-183 Total (T-8th in the ACC)
This is yet another major improvement the offense saw in 2005. I think this number could go down in 2006, but that is a great thing. I think this offense will see bigger plays out of Davis, Spiller, Stuckey and company this season. I also believe the return teams will provide the offense with better field position, thus less room for more first downs.
2005 Time of Possession-30:37 (5th in the ACC) 2004-27:58 (11th in the ACC)
In some ways this is a meaningless stat, but Spence does like to keep the ball. The Tigers had the ball two and a half more minutes per game in 2005 than they did in 2004. Bowden also likes to keep the defense on the sideline. I personally can see this number going up or down in 2006.
2005 Third Down Covertions-38% (4th in the ACC) 2004-31.7 (9th in the ACC)
This number had to increase in 2005 and it did by over six percent. We think this number continues to improve in 2006. The Tigers look to do what three teams in the league did last year and that is average of 40 %. Proctor will run the football a little more effectively than Whitehurst and he should be able to manufacturer some first downs. Also third down backs like Spiller will help and the productivity from third-down receivers Thomas Hunter and Rendrick Taylor will help Proctor.
2005 Kickoff Returns-21.9 ypr (5th in the ACC) 2004-26.3 (2nd in the ACC)
This number was down even further mid-way through the 2005 season. The answer here is personnel. Justin Miller could break one, and Duane Coleman and Kelvin Grant were not great return men. This number will dramatically rise in 2006. The Tigers have better weapons now. Last season Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham finished the season here, and add to the list of return specialist Ray Ray McElrathbey, Jacoby Ford, C.J. Spiller, Demerick, and Chris Chancellor, and this production should soar. Look for big plays out of this unit.
2005 Punt Returns-6.9 ypr (6th in the ACC) 2004-12.0 ypr (2nd in the ACC)
I thought Chansi Stuckey did a good job here last season. It was his return against Texas A&M last season that helped turn that game in the Tigers' favor. Stuckey will get competition from McElrathbey, Ford and Spiller. Again, I forecast these numbers to increase in 2006.
In summary, this offense will be very productive due to depth and talent along with the scheme. There are fewer question marks on this offense than any in recent years. Plus there are more weapons. Weapons + scheme=success.
Tomorrow we will look at the defensive numbers and make some forecast.
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