If you don’t think dealing with the HUNH attack isn’t the biggest thing on the minds of SEC defensive coordinators, think again.
At Georgia, Jeremy Pruitt and Tracy Rocker are concerned about their big men being able to stay on the field and contribute in the face of more pace.
Rocker didn’t call out any single player, but he just emphasized that everybody has to trim down.
“That’s going to happen. I mean, that’s going to be the No. 1 thing, is we’re gonna have to trim them all down and get them under weight,” Rocker said. “Because this league, it’s a lot of no-huddle, and we can’t be 330 pounds out there. We’ll get that done. But it’ll be up to them to do it, too. We’ve got time. But it’s going fast.”
“The way these offenses go now, and they go so fast, you don’t get to sub a lot,” Pruitt said. “If a guy is stuck in there, he’s gotta be able to play. To me, if you’re in shape, then you don’t make mental errors, because fatigue makes a coward out of everybody. So we need to get in shape as a football team. We’re nowhere where we need to be.”
And Ellis Johnson is a man in search of a different body type.
In the SEC, Auburn faces a mix of power teams, spread teams and everything in between. Defensive coaches need versatile players, especially in Auburn’s defense, which can wait to make a call until seeing the offensive formation.
“The game has become more spread out on all levels,” Johnson said. “Quarterbacks throw the ball better than they used to because they’re learning how to throw it at a younger age. High schools are teaching complicated and well-polished passing games and kids are coming to college —receivers and quarterbacks and pass protection — a lot better than they were 15-25 years ago. It’s a different style of football with most teams.
“On the other hand, if you’re going to win a championship at Auburn, you’re probably going to have to go through Georgia, LSU and Alabama. They’re all power football teams. It’s difficult, game to game, it changes quite a bit. But even those teams can spread the field. They all throw the ball extremely well and they have great receivers.
“It’s hard to play with the old prototype linebacker that could stop the run and was a liability in coverage. They’ve got to be able to run, these days. We put a huge premium in trying to recruit length. Not just height, but armspan and those type of things, because so much is done in pass coverage and blitzing where arm length and overall length is such a big factor.”
Johnson mentions a concern I’ve discussed before – the risk that a DC goes so far in structuring a defense to stop the spread that he leaves himself vulnerable to offenses that deploy power attacks. It’s a tough call. Even in the SEC, there are only so many physical defensive freaks you can find who can play against all kinds of offenses. What’s interesting to me is that Georgia seems to believe slimming down on the defensive line will payoff even against the power offenses.
… Tracy Rocker, the team’s new defensive line coach, studied tape of that second championship game, the loss to Alabama, and saw a problem.
“They go to the championship, and you turn on that tape, and the first thing everybody saw (was), they couldn’t get off the blocks,” Rocker said. “That answers a lot of questions.”
And that’s why the days of big nose tackles are gone at Georgia, at least as long as Rocker and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt are around.
In order to adapt to a game that has become more up-tempo, the Bulldogs are emphasizing getting lighter at all defensive positions. Pruitt thinks his defense as a whole is “too big” and needs to cut down.
It sure is going to be fun watching the chess matches this season, isn’t it?