If you’ve paid attention to Ole Miss football over the past few weeks, you’ve become familiar with the three main talking points surrounding the program. One, it’s Matt Luke’s third year as head coach, but it’s really more like his first year*, two, are you aware that Ole Miss hired two proven veteran head coaches as its top assistants, and three, IT’S A YOUNG TEAM, BOB.
*Let’s take a moment so I can stick my head underwater and scream until I pass out.
While people have and will continue to talk themselves into talking point one, and number two is a fact, is the #YOUTHS talking point true? To find out, I dispatched the Red Cup investigative team, which I just made up 10 minutes ago and is comprised of myself, a laptop, and an internet connection, to find some answers.
To begin this exercise, I didn’t want to look at the official roster and crunch the numbers based on players’ years. Instead, I looked at the participation charts from the Memphis and Arkansas games. My thinking being that, though a small sample size, these charts provide us with a list of who is earning playing time and not just on the team. I mean, it’s got to be a lot of youths, because you can’t help but think of redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Corral and sophomore Ben Brown on the offensive line right away. Right?!?
We begin with the Memphis game, which, if you recall, was not great! Of the 22 combined starters on offense and defense, the breakdown looked like this:
- 9 Seniors
- 8 Juniors
- 3 Sophomores
- 1 Redshirt Freshman
- 1 True Freshman
When you pull all the math levers, that comes out to 77.3 percent of the starting lineup being upperclassmen and 22.7 percent being sophomores or younger. Not exactly a youth movement.
However, in addition to those 22 players, 34 others saw the field. Here we see a significant shift:
- 6 Seniors
- 9 Juniors
- 5 Sophomores
- 8 Redshirt Freshmen
- 6 True Freshmen
Your math here comes out to 44.1 percent upperclassmen and 55.9 percent sophomores and freshmen. Combined, of the players who played against Memphis, 57.1 percent were seniors/juniors and 42.9 were sophomores and younger.
Against Arkansas, the starting 22 numbers were the same, but we saw a slight shift in the backup participation numbers towards the #YOUTHS.
- 6 Seniors
- 9 Juniors
- 4 Sophomores
- 8 Redshirt Freshmen
- 10 True Freshmen
That comes out to 40.5 percent upperclassmen and 59.5 percent youngsters. Overall, 54.2 percent seniors/juniors and 45.8 percent sophomores/all freshmen. That’s a pretty slim majority but a majority nonetheless.
Obviously, we need to compare these numbers with other SEC teams to get a better idea if this is way out of proportion, but, fam, FAM, though I generally do not value my time, there is no way I’m logging on to do multiple maths related to teams for which I do not care. Even I can recognize the times I need to treat myself better than that.
However, though Ole Miss’ starters are dominated by elder statesmen, there is a dramatic drop in returning production from 2018. As the great Bill Connelly showed, Ole Miss ranks 116th in returning production, with just 51 percent of last season’s efforts showing up in 2019.
The really gross part is 30 percent returning offensive production (good for 130th out of 130 teams!). Defensively, Ole Miss ranks 41st in returning production (71 percent). The point being, even though there are olds filling up the starting lineup, they’re not all olds with in-game experience but to their credit have been a person in a college football program for multiple years.
Based on who is starting and playing right now, I don’t think the narrative is entirely true, as it should be more about inexperience rather than THEY’RE SO YOUNG BOB. Of course, this brings up the question why is Ole Miss having to rely on inexperienced older and younger players in backup roles.
To answer that, we’ll need to turn to crootin’ results from 2016-2018 and play the exciting game of “Where Are They Now?.” I can already tell you that it’s not the most uplifting of games, actually it’s downright a little depressing. However, because the people demand content, we shall press on with that game next week and wish we had not done so.
Until then, if we could beat Southeastern Louisiana without much stress (LOL), we can immediately follow up on this post, rather than abandoning this and readying a fire-them-all post.