In today’s SEC, variety is the spice of life.

I’ve touched on this before, but the idea that the SEC’s loss of so much experienced talent at the quarterback position going into this season may lead to a defensive renaissance needs to be put in context.  And that context ain’t that pretty.

The last couple of seasons only continued a trend toward more explosive offense and away from the suffocating defense that was the SEC’s trademark for many years. Just a few seasons ago, nearly every SEC defense ranked among the nation’s top half in terms of yards allowed. That’s no longer the case, as about half of the league’s defenses trended toward the bottom in 2013 — with Arkansas (76th), Missouri (81st), Tennessee (83rd), Auburn (86th), Kentucky (91st) and Texas A&M (109th) all ranking 75th or worse nationally in total defense.

Some of those teams generally sucked, sure, but you’ve also got your two division winners in that group.  (And no Todd Grantham.  But I digress.)  How much of that development can you attribute to great quarterbacking and how much to a broader issue of defensive quality?

Ching thinks that it’s not your father’s SEC anymore and the offenses will still run ahead of the defenses.

Getting rid of some great quarterbacks will certainly help improve those numbers, but this is no longer the smashmouth, pound-the-run league that it once was. It’s not as simple to defend what today’s offenses throw at you as it was during the I-formation days of yore, and several SEC defenses have a long way to go before anyone would consider them competent at containing such attacks.

You have Gus Malzahn’s ground-based spread at Auburn, which led the nation with 328.3 rushing yards per game and nearly carried the Tigers to a BCS crown. There’s Missouri’s version that featured one of the league’s top rushing attacks and some dangerous (and huge) weapons at wideout. Kevin Sumlin’s spread at Texas A&M obviously benefited from having Manziel as the triggerman, but the Aggies are still going to post big numbers even without Johnny Football.

And you’ve still got versatile offensive schemes such as those at Ole Miss, South Carolina and Georgia — all of which will start senior quarterbacks — that will almost certainly continue to produce on the ground and through the air. Wild cards LSU, Florida and Mississippi State also have the potential to be impressive on offense depending on how their quarterbacks and young skill players develop.

It’s the wide array of offensive schemes that are the big challenge to conference defenses now.  To succeed over the course of a season, you’ve got to be able to go from handling the HUNH you see from Auburn, Ole Miss and TAMU (all different in philosophy) to the pro style stuff that’s Alabama’s, LSU’s and Georgia’s bread and butter and anything in between.  That calls for having enough quality personnel to be versatile.  Yeah, teams in the conference recruit very well, but well enough?

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3 Comments

Filed under SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics

3 responses to “In today’s SEC, variety is the spice of life.

  1. mdcgtp

    I think the issue is multi-faceted. It is trendy among all of us Dawg fans to talk about poor fundamentals and the emphasis of scheming over teaching by our previous defensive coaching staff. That said, the poor tackling and bad fundamentals are pervasive throughout college football.

    There are so many factors that go into these things and I think Ching is being simplistic to say that wide open offenses are the key.

    I would argue that football is a game of trends and cycles. Those trends and cycles are tied to a variety of factors. Obviously, the current trend favors offenses (tempo, dealing with spread, etc.). Further, the rule changes have also created challenges for defensive coaches and players, but much like the steroid era in baseball where it seemed like hitters were in control, there will be a response from the defense.

    In baseball, it was long tossing programs and the ever present radar guns which acted as an incentive for guys to train to throw harder and harder. Anyone who witnessed the parade of guys coming out of the Cardinals bull pen during the World Series can see how hard throwers are the new normal in baseball.

    I am not a football coach, and I don’t know what the new normal will be, but my guess is will based upon tackling. When Spurrier ran the fun and gun, I always said the thing that killed us in the early years (what i used to refer to as multiple choice WRs open downfield) was not what beat us in the later years (missing tackles). The 1997 win was a clinic in WR catches ball, and WR gets tackled right in that spot. Ultimately, both versions of the spread (air raid and run based) are based upon missed tackles. They are generally NOT vertical offenses NOR are they particularly complex. They provide a LOT of options (be it on passing routes or on traditional triple option or even Malzahn using veer concepts). The goal of the offense is to get the ball to the athlete in space or “throw it where they are not.”

    My suspicion is there will be some schematic adjustments, but for the most part defenses have to simply adjust and “do their jobs better”. By “better”, I firmly believe that running QBs MUST be forced to pay the same price Todd Gurley does when he runs the ball. How you do that? I don’t know, but I know that a QB who takes the same beating as a RB is going to have trouble doing all the other things he needs to do to be effective.

    • Good post, mdcgtp, and good insight.

      … the current trend favors offenses (tempo, dealing with spread, etc.). Further, the rule changes have also created challenges for defensive coaches and players, but much like the steroid era in baseball where it seemed like hitters were in control, there will be a response from the defense.

      Yes, there will be a response, and I think you’ve mentioned several of them.

      But there is no possible response for any defense, now or in the future, when the officials are so intent on providing fast pace, that they don’t allow a defense sufficient time to be ready and set for the next play. There is nothing a defense can do to overcome the inherent disadvantage of not being ready to play, that we’ve seen so often these last 2 or 3 years.

      That is why uncontrolled offensive pace is such a threat to the integrity of the game.
      ~~~

  2. Ant123

    I may be wrong but I think the targeting rule played a large part in the offensive numbers. There is not a lot of fear in going across the middle nowadays.