For the past few years the BBN has certainly talked a lot about youth vs experience, except this time, it's about football. In basketball, we've come to accept the premise that a team of the highest ranked youngsters can defeat the team of veterans. In football, just the opposite. Even if you had a recruiting class with the #1 player at every position, you still wouldn't enter any game a favorite. Warmarsh wrote a nice piece about UK's problems with attrition and its effect on the quality and depth of the team. There have also been some discussion on coaching players up and players left from the previous year for both Kentucky and Western.
I ended up putting on my nerd cap and poking around the stat sheet and rosters for the teams. Basically I was looking to compare the playing ages of the two teams and how the coaches are using their freshmen. For experience, each starting player is given a point for their year classification whether standard, redshirt or juco. 1 for freshmen through 4 for senior. Then just adding up the numbers for total years experience for each unit.
First, UK Offense - 31 : WKU Defense - 34. Now if the redshirt years are added in, both teams add 4. So UK ran the ball well against an older defense? Probably not, since we're talking about a Sun Belt defense. Kentucky's players are average 3+ star players while the Hilltoppers are average 2+ star. So what success the offense had might be attributed to strictly the better athletes (and the fact several INTs slipped through WKU hands). Whether it is pure athleticism or better fundamentals, along with where they were or were not coached correctly, is up for debate.
Now we look at the other side. UK Defense - 34 : WKU Offense - 32. Wow, Kentucky has more experience, it's against a Sun Belt offense and we still had some problems? First, for Kentucky we take one away due to a juco (Smith). I take one off for juco since they really are closer to a sophomore in skill level. Typically a juco is about sophomore level at the beginning of the year and the coach is expecting him to be at junior level by the end of the year then up to senior level on time. Then we account for redshirts which adds 8 (!) to WKU and 0 (zero, nil, nada, zip) redshirts on Kentucky's defense. After all the changes we now have UK-Defense 33 : WKU Offense 40. That's a helluva spread in experience, you better have some fundamentals, physical advantage and a good plan. Again, that's where discussion starts.
Just for grins: Alabama Offense - 34 : Alabama Defense - 38. But then, these are 4+ players.
I briefly looked at how the 2013 recruiting class was used by each team. Kentucky had 11 participate (3 starters) and WKU had 8 participate (2 starters). Of the 11 that played for UK, the four on defense logged 19 tackles while WKU 0 tackles from their four 1st year players.
On the offensive side UK's trio of receivers covered 44 yards (22% Rec Tot) and WKU also had three receivers who snared 51 yards (19% Rec Tot). Pretty close. When we look at rushing UK had 42 yards (18% Rush Tot) between Kemp and Timmons (he had the fumble, but he got the 33 yards first!). Western had no rushing by a first year player.
From these numbers it looks like when Stoops puts a first year player on the field he's getting results. This doesn't necessarily mean Stoops out did Petrino, but I like that these guys aren't just burning up a shirt, they belong on the field. To directly compare with Petrino we'd also have to look at need and depth which is a whole other subject. I don't know what depth he has at each position, what players are coming next year or the quality of what is sitting on the bench.