Daily Archives: August 15, 2013

Attacking Clemson

There was a fair amount of sentiment expressed in the comments to yesterday’s post about how Georgia comes out of the gate in a couple of weeks about pounding Clemson early and often with the running game.  I understand why, but a look at last year’s stats and this year’s Tigers personnel suggests that’s not where that defense is most vulnerable.

Clemson was a really, really good football team with one terrible flaw. And this one flaw defined their season. It explains why they gave up 49 points to Florida State, were poorly matched against South Carolina, and had to like their chances against LSU…

… Clemson allowed 7.4 explosive pass plays per 100 passes, which is top 20 bad. They allowed an explosive play on 4.4% of run plays, which is top 5 bad. Adjusting for schedule, they are sandwiched between Colorado and New Mexico. Those two powerhouses combined for four wins against FBS opposition (Texas State, New Mexico State, Hawaii and Washington State). Florida State and South Carolina were both top-level explosive offenses in 2012 while LSU was not.

Bill Connelly in his Clemson preview notes much the same thing.

The problem was that, while efficiency is incredibly important, preventing big plays is even more important. And Clemson was still wretched in that regard. It’s difficult to rank 16th in Rushing Success Rate+ (efficiency) and 95th in Rushing PPP (explosiveness). That means that basically every time you let a runner get more than about four yards, you’re letting him gain 20. Clemson’s line stats were decent, but it still appears Venables has a way to go when it comes to structuring the back seven as he prefers.

Especially the back of that back seven.

When the Oklahoma defense was at its best under Venables, the Sooners had the pieces to oscillate seamlessly between a competent 4-3 and an almost even more competent nickel look. To combat the spread offense, you almost have to have a good nickel formation, which was a problem for Clemson last year: The Tigers really seemed to only have about four trustworthy (and healthy) defensive backs. Three are now gone, and while sophomore safety Travis Blanks could at some point turn into something pretty special and corner Martin Jenkins returns after missing 2012, the depth here is not what it needs to be.

So I’m not seeing a reason to start out lining up in the I-formation and pounding Gurley over and over and over.  Instead, what I think stands a better chance of success is coming out in single-back formations, spreading out Clemson’s defense with a mix and match of four receivers/TEs, forcing the Tigers to keep their safeties back in pass coverage and using the pass to set up the run.  Give Gurley and Marshall some space to operate in, and Bill’s “let a runner get more than about four yards, you’re letting him gain 20″ observation could turn out to be prophetic.

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Filed under Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

Georgia’s Jimmies and Joes, Xs and Os

Team Speed Kills takes a look at two-deep talent across the SEC, using the Rivals rankings and weighting the backups to count 75% of what starters do, and the results for the red and black probably won’t surprise you too much.

On offense, Georgia’s getting pretty good bang for the buck.

The Bulldogs had one of the nation’s best offenses last year, and it should have another great one this year. So what’s the deal with the lower rating? For one, two members of the two-deep did not get star ratings as high schoolers: starting FB Merritt Hall and backup TE Rhett McGowan. They got one star apiece from me for these purposes. Second, UGA just has some three-star guys in their starting lineup: WR Michael Bennett, TE Kenarious Gates, C David Andrews, and OT Xzavier Ward. The second line only has one five-star and three four-stars as well. Bennett plays better than a three-star, obviously, and Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley at the least are four-star guys who play like five-stars. The consistency of scheme, quality coaching, and experience on that side of the ball means that the performance will be well above what the recruiting stars would suggest.

Not sure why Year2 got sucked in on the Ward hype, which means that Georgia’s rating average is actually a little higher than what he computes, as both Theus and Houston (and how weird is that to type in here?) rated more than three stars coming out of high school, but his overall point is accurate.  And, again, beating a recent dead horse, how much of that overperformance should be credited to what Coach Ball has gotten out of Georgia’s receivers?

On the other side of the ball, it’s a familiar story by now.

And yes, that is Georgia in third. All of the concerns about the Bulldogs’ defense this year come from basically two places. One, nearly everyone you’ve heard of from last year’s unit is gone. Two, we haven’t yet seen Todd Grantham deal with turning over the core of a defense like this. He doesn’t just yet get the automatic vote of confidence that Nick Saban, John Chavis, or Will Muschamp already do. By recruiting rankings anyway, the defense actually rates quite a bit higher in talent level than the offense does, and it would be even higher if one of the backup safeties wasn’t Connor Norman (who wasn’t rated in high school). The Bulldogs are reloading talent-wise; it’s up to the coaches to do the rest.

Again, I don’t think that assessment is unfair at all.  I don’t know how well the defense rolls out early on, but I do expect to see a solid unit as the season progresses.  There’s just too much talent to expect otherwise.

One side note – I keep coming across stuff that makes me see similarities between Georgia’s and Texas A&M’s chances this season.  Obviously you never know how things will play out, but it’s hard for me to understand how anybody in the preseason projects a wide difference between the two programs.  It’s not so much that I’m judging one to be better than the other – although Georgia certainly projects to have a higher upside on defense than A&M – but to think (hey, SI!) that TAMU is the third best team in the country and Georgia no better than twelfth is something that deserves an explanation.

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Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football

Thursday morning buffet

Plenty of goodies to get your day started with:

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Big Ten Football, Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, Georgia Tech Football, It's Just Bidness, Media Punditry/Foibles, Pac-12 Football, SEC Football, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics, The NCAA