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Revisiting David Wilson's Success Rates

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Way back in January we looked at David Wilson's success rates during his 2010 season to determine whether or not he could handle most of Virginia Tech's carries by himself. What I hypothesized was the Hokies would need someone else to step up and take some of the load off Wilson's back, particularly on third down.

How did that turn out? Well, Wilson has accounted for nearly 70 percent of the carries by Virginia Tech running backs this year and 57 percent of the RB carries on third down. He also currently leads the nation in rushing yards and is averaging over 131 yards per game.

But have his success rates improved with an increased work load? Was I right when I thought his poor third down success rate in 2010 would mean he'd need help in Virginia Tech's backfield? Let's find out since there's no better time to take a look at these than a bye week when nothing else is going on.

Success rate is how Football Outsiders ranks running back production in the NFL. They define a carry as successful if the back picks up 40 percent of the yardage needed to make a first down on first down, 60 percent on second down and 100 percent on third and fourth down. A running back is thought to be very consistent if he's successful on more than 50 percent of his carries and very inconsistent if he's successful on less that 40 percent.

For these stats, I threw out any carry from what FO considers garbage time, which is when one team is ahead by more than 24 points in the first quarter, 21 points in the second quarter or 16 points in the second half. I also threw out stats accumulated against Appalachian State because my God their defense was awful and no relevant meaning can be gathered from them.

In 2010, Wilson was successful on 52.4 percent of his first-down carries, 46.9 percent of his second-down carries, 50.0 percent of his third- and fourth-down carries and 50.0 percent of his overall non-garbage time carries.

Here's what he's done so far in 2011:

Wilson Success Rates
Down Rush Succ Pct
1st Down 79 44 0.557
2nd Down 57 31 0.544
3rd & 4th Down 15 7 0.467
All Carries 151 82 0.543

Wilson's success rate went up on first and second down, but down slightly on third and fourth down. However, his sample size for third and fourth down is still pretty small. Last year, he was 5-for-10 in non-garbage time on third and fourth and 7-for-15 on all carries.

Basically, Wilson has gotten much better in terms of success rate this year and is still a very consistent back. So much for one of my hypotheses from January. What about the other one, that Wilson would wear down as the game went along?

Well, this year in non-garbage time against FBS opponents, Wilson's yards per carry has gone up with each quarter: 5.02 ypc in the first quarter, 5.77 in the second, 6.12 in the third and 6.62 in the fourth. So, that idea was also complete bunk. Shows you how smart I am.