You’ve probably never heard of Tucker Zeleny and, odds are, outside of this blog you never will.
He doesn’t spend his Saturdays down on the Nebraska sideline with Mike Riley. ESPN’s cameras won’t find him in the press box, and he’s not among the staff who meet with reporters after each game.
But the Huskers think Zeleny, now in his second year as the school’s Director of Sports Analytics and Data Analysis, and his staff are their next major innovation, similar to the cutting-edge lifting program that allowed Nebraska to dominate the 1990s.
“I think Nebraska has a history of always looking for an advantage to be gained,” Zeleny said. “When you look back at some of the strength and conditioning things we did back in the day, we’re always trying to keep up with trends in the industry and be aware of what’s out there. With sports analytics sort of blowing up in the last four or five years, there is some interest to get out there and see what can be done with it.”
Zeleny’s staff works with 10 of Nebraska’s teams, but much of their time is spent on football. The crew’s responsibilities include calculating win probabilities during games, scouting opponent tendencies depending on the situation and recruiting.
Zeleny readily acknowledges that his staff doesn’t have all the answers, and the data he supplies must be paired with the coaching staff’s expertise and experience to be effective. It’s not about replacing a coach’s intuition or feel - stats just add another weapon to his arsenal.
“It’s just collecting more information on your opponent and hopefully trying to uncover some stuff that might not be more readily available as the traditional things,” Zeleny said. “If we can put another tool in the toolbox without overloading things, that should only be a help.”
Nebraska views Zeleny as such an important cog because it has realized the power of statistics. Zeleny supplies the coaches with a wealth of information and they’re free to use it as they please.
Bringing Stats to the High School Level
You might not have a Tucker Zeleny available to you, but you’re still able to get a wealth of reports without putting in the extra work. That’s the impact of Hudl Assist, which breaks down your game and supplies you with advanced reports within 24 hours. Without lifting a finger, you have tendency reports, drive charts, box scores and more at your disposal.
“Having that down and distance breakdown allowed me to spend more time worrying about formations,” Jeffrey Vlk of Rains High School (Texas) said. “I picked up on some great third-down tendencies on our opponent. We had great third-down success because of that. There were several times in the game where we were calling out their plays."
These insights are available to anyone on Hudl, but Assist turbo-charges the process. Instead of spending time tagging your game, you can delve deeper into film review and scouting, or you can give yourself a break and spend some time with your family.
“I’m not trying to sound like a slacker or anything, but the time… if you’ve ever looked at film the old way, the pen and pencil way, and then put it back into Hudl, compared to doing it with Hudl Assist, it’s kind of like driving a race car then getting back in an old car,” David Avery, the offensive coordinator at West Lincoln HS (NC), said. “I can break down an offensive film in 20 minutes."
Want to see firsthand what Assist is capable of? Give it a shot.