View From the Press Box: Dion Clisso 2/23

Dion Clisso

By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Posted: February 23, 2011 - 11:14 AM



I am a big baseball fan. I know that may sound like heresy on this site, but there is nothing I like better than watching baseball in the summertime.

I enjoy the atmosphere of being at the game and all of the numbers that go with it. While I follow the statistics and understand their importance, I am not in the ever-growing legion of people who feel the game can be boiled down to some algebra problem.

Baseball is a game where the numbers tell their own story. Football on the surface seems to be a game of beating the guy in front of you and the numbers that come out of the games are just a side product.

I agree that football is not a game ruled by the stats but I heard something interesting last week that made me think. At the Greater Kansas City Football Association’s February coaching clinic the staff from Iowa State came to talk to group. The Cyclones coaches offered a few different presentations that basically broke out into offense and defense.

Leading the defensive discussion was Iowa State defensive coordinator Wally Burnham. Burnham has been on the Iowa State staff the last two seasons and before that was the defensive coordinator at South Florida and South Carolina and was a linebackers coach at Florida State under legendary coach Bobby Bowden.

Burnham’s presentation gave the coaches in attendance a small look at everything from practice to drills to how the coaching staff and team spend their week during the season.

One thing that stood out to me was Burnham talking about which stats he paid attention too. He mentioned average yards per rush allowed by his defense and scoring allowed by the defense. Those were the two he focused on as a defensive coordinator.

I am not a football genius but that sounded about right to me. The points-allowed stat is an easy one to understand. If you don’t give up a lot of points you have a better chance to win football games. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter how many times a team drives the ball up and down the field if they can’t put the ball in the end zone.

The yards per rush stat really started to make more sense as Burnham talked. These days a lot and I mean a lot, of teams like to spread you out and throw the ball. It is a great way to take advantage of one-on-one mismatches and get the ball to your most talented players. That is really how football is played today on most levels.

While that is fun, exciting and will win games, football is still a game about being able to run the ball. At some point in a game, or in a season, a team needs to run the ball. How many yards you can crank out of that running game play by play will determine how you can hold onto the ball and win games.

If a team can get its rushing average over 3.5 yards a carry it has a good chance of imposing its will. It’s basic math, three rushes at 3.5 yards equals 10.5 yards and a first down. It is a pretty basic stat that can tell a lot about an offense and defense.

I don’t know if I want football to be overrun with statistics like baseball seems to be, but paying attention to some basic stats can make the game a little more interesting and tell even more about the games you are watching.

Dion Clisso is the Managing Editor of PrepsKC. To reach him send e-mail to dion@prepskc.com.