Friday, January 27, 2012

Ferrum by the Numbers

I thought it would be interesting to look back at the statistics from this past season, and see if any inferences can be drawn. While it will be difficult to know how things will go in 2012, I believe that the finishing order from this past season will give insight as to who will be able to challenge for the 2012 USA South title.
Teams that I believe will have a much improved record will be Methodist, Averett, and N.C. Wesleyan. Lower tier teams will likely be Greensboro and Maryville, but with the Scotts going into this season with a new coach, they are more of an unknown than anything.
Another team that is an unknown will be the LaGrange Panthers. As this will be their first season in the conference, it is difficult to get a read on their ability.
They finished 4-6 on the year, and while there is not a lot known about their opponents, I do know that two of their wins came against Maryville, and North Carolina Wesleyan. I will feature their team as the start of the season gets closer.
What is known for the upcoming season is that Christopher Newport and Ferrum will again be very competitive for the conference championship. In fact, I am of the opinion that whoever wins the conference, has to defeat CNU to win the title. I am also of the opinion that if any team can beat the Captains, Ferrun can.

Last season, Ferrum led the conference in in four categories for team rankings....Rushing Offense, Rushing Defense, Pass Efficiency Defense, and Sacks allowed. This was a marked improvement over the 2010 season, and the Panthers did play for the conference championship, but in that game, it appeared that Christopher Newport dominated the Panthers in two of those four areas.
Ferrum's rushing offense was strong, putting up 208 yards, and 4 rushing touchdowns, but their ability to defend the rush was challenged as the Captains reeled off 241 yards rushing, and had 3 touchdowns on the ground. Through the air, CNU connected for 223 passing yards and 4 touchdowns. Ferrum did not allow a sack.
So what does all of this mean? Well, these numbers to me suggest that while Ferrum made a huge first step in its first year under Coach Harper, to win the conference championship, the defense still has some work ahead of it.
Defense wins championships, and for the Captains to have run 21 more offensive plays, and to have had well over 100 more offensive yards suggests an inability on Ferrums part to shut down the Captains offense. The Captains had 13  third down situations, and converted six of them. They went for it on fourth down 4 times and converted three.
There is no denying that Christopher Newport has a talented team. In the upcoming season, they will lose very few of their core players, so I would expect them to again be very strong.
For Ferrum, their much improved defense has to get even better. This, to me would have to start with their front four. Simply put, to beat Christopher Newport, this unit has to dominate the line of scrimmage. They have to be Bigger, Faster, Stronger, and Smarter. This means dedicating time to an off season workout schedule, and being even better prepared for next season. The front four is a talented group of players, but they have to look at football as a year around endeavor, and work on improving every day.
As for the secondary, this year yeilded huge improvements over the previous years.This is a trend that must continue. The improvement shown in 2011 must be the starting point for where this unit will be in the next few years.
This year, valuable seeds were sown. Ferrum is building a program that will be one of the premier programs not only in the USA South, but in the South Region. I look for the recruiting to continue to be solid, and for this team to take its next step in its continued improvement.

Go Panthers!     


  1. The numbers game IS key and a previous post supports an argument for the success of the program is about the Panthers losing only 10 seniors year over year. To compete, even in USA South, Ferrum needs to start losing 20-25 seniors. This would mean that half of the recruited 50 or so freshmen hung around long enough to turn into men and stayed committed to the school and the program. This happens at CNU and other good D III programs and is critical. Plus, its good for the school and more importantly, the DEGREED kids pushing out into the world.

  2. I have to agree, athlete retention is very important. I think there could be several factors that contribute to this issue. Playing time, Cost of tuition, remote locationof the campus....the list could include many things. I think this will be somewhat less of a problem when the Norton Center opens. Also the other stadium improvements will help.
    As for CNU, I think they have an advantage that will be difficult to overcome. They are State Supported, and have a much cheaper tuition, and they are located in a far more urban area....not to mention they are located in the 757 area code which is one of the best football recruiting areas in the country.
    Ferrum will lose 10 Seniors, CNU will lose, according to their roster, 16. The numbers do definitly go down as you look at how many freshmen became Seniors. You make a valid point- What do you think can be done to change this trend?

  3. What can change this trend? You cited several important things; playing time is critical (too many able kids standing on the sidelines while key starters are filling special teams roles would get kids some PT and keep them interested), the Norton Center, better facilities and a better program with a strength coach will help. To me the key is the "recruiting". I think Ferrum could raise the admittance requirements a bit and seek STUDENT athletes. Curious how many incoming freshmen go home at Christmas and never return and what are the reasons? I would guess this ratio is higher at Ferrum than at other schools. Fix this and I think it addresses the retention issues and this isn't on the sports programs alone. This is on the school. The sports teams are just reflections or parts of the whole. As a football coach, I think I would rather work with LESS kids for longer periods who are committed to staying than a revolving door of one season wonders.

  4. Excellent points...Just curious, what about the stronger development of the JV team....It seems to me this is a way to add playing time to some of those on the sideline, giving them game experience, and teaching them, in real time, how the playing systems work.
    Lastly, I think that there is merit to raising the admission standard, bt this may be a double edged sword. This may limit the more athletically talented....On the other hand, CNU has pretty strict admission standards, and they still have a successful program.
    Recruiting is tough, but I think this past season had a lot of recruiting successes. A couple of more years like this past one in recruiting, and Ferrum will br in the playoffs for sure.

  5. A JV schedule certainly would help, although could be a burden on the coaching staff to prep for 2 games in a week and frankly, playing JV might not be "sexy" to a lot of the players. As you mentioned, JV football would offer competition at game speed, however, so it would be very productive. As for limiting admission to more "athletically talented" being a double edge sword, not sure I agree. Knuckleheads are knuckleheads even if they can play, but, you can't build a solid program with knuckleheads. Depth of talent is Ferrum's issue. To get 2 deep at key spots, you need quality kids in sustainable numbers, not a handful of superstars and the balance of one and dones. Ferrum is a private school and can set whatever it desires in terms of tuition, as long as it make sense finanicially. What would it do to retention if tuition was discounted on a tiered program to upper classmen? Not just for athletes, but for ALL students. Step down the cost each year. Full tuition as a freshman, 10% discount as a sophomore, 15-20% as a junior and 20-25% as a senior. Incent the students and equally important, the PARENTS who pay the bill to stay committed to the school for the long haul. I think the results to the school and through osmosis, the atletic teams, would be super positive. Going back to the more "athletically talented" comment, I think there is a big difference in an 18 year old "athletically talented" kid who will be a one and done and a 21 or 22 year old athletically "marginal" kid who has been coached, deveveloped and is committed. I'll take a whole bus load of the latter all day, everyday. Build a team around more mature men and less around boys and suddenly, you got something that is sustainable for future development.

  6. so which teams are leaving the conference and who is joining? What teams will be in the conference next football season?

  7. Shenandoah is the only team leaving the conference. They will begin play in the ODAC this fall.

    They will be replaced by the LaGrange Panthers out of Georgia.

    There are two other conference changes. Piedmont College will also join the USA South. They will be a full time member, but do not have a football program. Lastly, Maryville College, who has been an associate/football only member, will join the conference as a full time member this fall as well.

    So for footbal, the conference will still have 8 teams....Ferrum, CNU, Methodist, Averett,Maryville,
    NC Wesleyan,Greensboro, and LaGrange

  8. Thanks, I really appreciate your hardwork on the blog.