Category Archives: Strategery And Mechanics

Auburn wants a more balanced offense. The question is why.

This kind of talk drives me crazy.

“That was really probably the No. 1 priority in the spring, to be more balanced,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “We led the country in rushing last year. When you do that, defenses have to take some chances. We’ve got to do a better job this year of making them pay when they do take chances. … We feel like we have some receivers that can stretch the field and make some plays.”

The article is about the addition of stud WR D’haquille Williams, and I get that it never hurts to add more talent to an offense.  But Gus directed an offense that was second in scoring and second in total offense in the SEC last season, despite throwing the ball less than 30% of the time.  Why should he care about balance?

The answer is he shouldn’t.  At least not until opposing defenses begin to show they’re getting a handle on what Auburn’s doing.

I’m guessing this is simply random, meaningless coachspeak, because he’s got a pretty sharp offensive mind.  But if he wants to try to show otherwise, I won’t complain.  That’s the kind of thinking that worked so well for Chizik.

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Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Strategery And Mechanics

Tuesday lunch buffet

A little later in the day, but just as tasty.

  • John Pennington argues that the SEC Network may actually work against national exposure for the conference’s schools at first.  I understand the point he’s trying to make, but I think he forgets that SEC schools have benefited from national exposure on CBS for many years now.
  • Here’s a nice Xs-and-Os preview of the Clemson-Georgia game.  The author thinks it’ll be “all about Clemson’s ferocious defensive line vs. Georgia’s all-world backfield.”  Agree or disagree?
  • Phil Steele has nine sets of power ratings he uses to evaluate teams.  One of those sets has Georgia going undefeated; another four call for an 11-1 season.
  • College football players want NCAA Football 15 back.
  • Bobby Petrino compares the ACC Atlantic to the SEC West.  I guess that’s his way of telling Louisville fans not to expect any division titles.
  • Jimbo Fisher said Jameis Winston was not subject to more discipline for shoplifting seafood at a supermarket in April, because, as he was punished by the baseball coach, double jeopardy attached (“… you don’t punish a guy twice for the same crime.”).  Kinda like a Law and Order episode minus the Lennie Briscoe quip.
  • Be still, mine heart.

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Filed under Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, Crime and Punishment, Fall and Rise of Bobby Petrino, Georgia Football, PAWWWLLL!!!, Phil Steele Makes My Eyes Water, SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics, The NCAA

Hutson Mason and the year of the running back

I’ve touched on it before and it’s been noted elsewhere that with the departure of so many talented quarterbacks from the SEC, the conference is likely to see many teams rely more on their running games.  But it’s worth keeping in mind that even during last season’s Year of the Quarterback, it’s not exactly as if the SEC was a pass-happy league.

SEC teams ran the ball on 57.3 percent of their plays from scrimmage last season. That marked the highest percentage from any of college football’s “Power 5” conferences, edging the Big Ten’s 56.8 percent.

Pac-12 teams ran least, keeping it on the ground only 51.9 percent of the time. SEC champion Auburn ran the ball 71.9 percent of the time. SEC teams ran the ball more than 55 percent of the time in each of the past six seasons.

So, it may be the contrarian in me, but I have this feeling that if we’re looking at a heavier dose of the run from some offenses, those that can still throw the ball with some effectiveness are going to have an advantage taking what defenses will be geared to try to stop.

And that leads me to something I heard Mark Richt say on Sports Center about an hour ago (here’s to the rewards of home recuperation).  Talking about Mason’s chances this year, Richt made a point about it not being simply that his quarterback had been patient and liked being at Georgia.  He stressed that Mason’s a fifth-year senior who’s benefitted from being in the same program, with the same position coach, the same offensive coordinator and the same offensive system the entire time.  There’s something to that, and outside of South Carolina’s Thompson, I’m not sure there’s another starting quarterback in the conference this season who could make the same claim.  Throw in Mason’s surrounding cast, and you may really have something other conference offenses will have a hard time matching.

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Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Third and Pruitt

Tyler Dawgden looks at the transition from Grantham to Pruitt and sees this as nerve calming:

One other thing to be hopeful for about this season: Pruitt won’t likely do much different, alignment wise, than Grantham did with the front seven. Much of the heavy lifting will be done with the DEs and NG filling gaps, with the line performing nearly the same role of preventing easy inside yards, while pushing the pocket back into the QB on pass plays. The big difference will come from philosophy after the snap with the LBs, as Pruitt’s system is both simpler from an execution standpoint and more reliant on the LBs to blow up plays with speed. In that regard, I feel pretty good about our talent.

I don’t disagree, but I think I’d go one step further.  I don’t think we’ll see Herrera and Wilson on the field in coverage together as much as we did last season.  Opposing 2013 quarterbacks put up a 192.77 passer rating against Grantham’s defense on 3rd Down, 7-9 yards to go situations and a 141.45 passer rating on 3rd Down, 10+ yards to go situations. Pruitt’s gotta come up with something to deal with that.  And I doubt that’s leaving those two out there handling receivers.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Mark Richt was HUNH before HUNH was cool.

You want to talk about pace and the Georgia offense?  Well, the season Georgia posted its highest average of offensive plays per game was way back in 2003.

GEORGIA’s AVERAGE OFFENSIVE SNAPS PER GAME BY SEASON

2003: 73.1
2013: 72.7
2011: 72.6
2001: 71.3
2002: 70.1
2004: 68.8
2007: 67.2
2012: 66.0
2008: 63.5
2005: 62.9
2010: 62.6
2009: 61.0
2006: 59.1

Over the next three seasons, Georgia’s averaged dropped by fourteen plays per game.  Gee, I wonder what caused that?

Georgia football coach Mark Richt continued the two-year fight for his no-huddle offense this week at the SEC Meetings.

“He and I talked about it for the last three hours,” Bobby Gaston, the league’s director of officials, said Friday afternoon on the second day of the meetings at the Sandestin Hilton.

Since coming to Georgia, Richt has all but ditched the fast break offense he made famous at Florida State because, he says, the league’s officials don’t allow him to go fast enough to make it worthwhile. SEC officials are required to pause for 12-14 seconds between each play, and that’s not going to change despite Richt’s arguments, Gaston said.

“He doesn’t agree with it, but he knows what we’re doing,” Gaston said.

The mandatory pause is to allow the officiating crew to get in position, Gaston said. Richt argued that the officials should put the ball in play as soon as they are set, regardless of how much time has elapsed, but Gaston said that would provide the offense an unfair advantage.

“Mark Richt would eat their lunch,” he said. “He would go straight to the ball and snap it. He’d get in 100 plays. We have about half the coaches who think we go too fast and about half who think we go too slow so we must be in about the right spot.”

Smug asshole.  I wonder how Gaston feels about that now.

I don’t buy conspiracy theories for the most part.  But that decision, more than anything else I can think of, makes me question now and then if somebody in the SEC office was out to get Richt.

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Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics

What if it is the year of the running back?

Notwithstanding the Mason for Heisman trollfest we endured yesterday, there’s a very good reason to question why it’s reasonable to expect ginormous production out of Georgia’s passing game this season.  If you’ve got a ridiculously gifted stable of running backs, as Georgia is blessed with, why is it necessary, or even desirable, to place the focus of the offense on a guy with only two career starts?

And as Mike Herndon points out, Georgia is hardly alone in the conference in that regard.

In 2013, the SEC was awash in experienced quarterbacks. Johnny Manziel was the defending Heisman winner. AJ McCarron, Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Connor Shaw at South Carolina were studies of consistency. Zach Mettenberger was looking to build off a promising first year as the starter at LSU.

All of those signal-callers are gone now, as are Austyn Carta-Samuels (Vanderbilt),James Franklin (Missouri) and Tyler Russell (Mississippi State).

With so many new faces behind center this fall and a bevy of talented rushers returning, could the SEC go smashmouth this fall?

… While nearly half the SEC returns quarterbacks with significant starting experience in 2014, only one of those – Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace – was among the conference leaders in passing yardage. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott was a part-time starter in 2013, while Florida’s Jeff Driskel and Tennessee’s Justin Worley missed most of last season due to injury.

What’s more, the conference’s top five receivers, in terms of yardage, are all gone. The SEC returns only two players – Mississippi State’s Jameon Lewis and Auburn’s Sammie Coates – who had more than 750 yards receiving last year.

You’ve got a quarterback who’s got to find his way with a receiving corps that’s also finding its way back after being devastated with injuries.  The tight end position, always a key to Georgia’s passing game, brings one career start into the 2014 season.  Why put an unnecessary amount of pressure on those guys? Especially early?  And especially if much of the SEC is facing the same issue?

But the wealth of experienced rushers will provide a crutch upon which many SEC offenses can lean until their new quarterbacks get their feet wet. Indeed, at places like Alabama, LSU and Vanderbilt, a more conservative approach may be the ticket in September before a more proficient and potent passing game can emerge by November.

Play action is the bread and butter of Richt’s and Bobo’s offensive approach. Selling the running game makes Mason’s job that much easier.  And if that gives the passing game time to adjust over the first part of the season, so much the better.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Wednesday morning buffet

Need something to get over the World Cup elimination blues?  The buffet’s here for you.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics, The NCAA

Whee!

Pace is a big deal these days, but as Bill Connelly points out in his Baylor preview, it ain’t always everything.

Adjusting for run-pass ratio (since runs are less likely to result in clock stoppages), here are the 10 fastest offenses in the country in 2013 according to Adjusted Pace:

 

  1. BYU (14.3 plays greater than expected)
  2. California (plus-12.8)
  3. Texas Tech (plus-12.5)
  4. Baylor (plus-11.7)
  5. Virginia (plus-9.9)
  6. Nevada (plus-9.9)
  7. Fresno State (plus-9.4)
  8. Arizona (plus-8.9)
  9. Washington (plus-7.8)
  10. Clemson (plus-7.5)

 

Here’s the thing about this list: only one of these offenses ranked better than 19th in Off. F/+. Four ranked 48th or worse.

In other words, going fast is just like any other tactical decision you make as an offensive coordinator:  it only helps if you know what you’re doing with it.

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Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

Simple is as simple does.

For all the talk of balance you hear from offensive minds, whether it’s the Mike Bobo or Mike Leach flavor, this is what I’d prefer to hear about the guy calling plays for my team’s offense.

McElroy, who led Alabama to the 2009 national title, said he believes Saban “very much respects” what Malzahn does, adding that Malzahn’s genius is his simplicity, which allows the Tigers to play fast.

“The looks and things change from week to week but they’re not necessarily doing different schemes, different plays,” McElroy said. “You can often almost overanalyze it. Watching the film, it’s like: They just ran that; it was just a little bit different formation. They just ran the exact same play four times out of the last seven. It’s amazing to see him being able to do that. Once he finds something that works against a defense, he definitely exploits it and credit to him for being able to do that.”

Don’t get cute. Don’t overthink.  If you can run something the other guy can’t stop, why worry about balance?  Plus, it’s demoralizing as hell for the defense.  At least until it adapts.

How will Saban and Alabama adjust?  “I assume that Nick Saban will probably have some simplified calls in his defense this upcoming season in order to better prepare…”

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A whole ‘nother box of crayons

Mike Bobo, on the evolution of Georgia’s offense:

“I think the biggest thing is keep adapting to what you’re trying to do offensively, and get the guys that can make plays the ball. The big misconception to us if (that) we’re gonna be two-back and run it all the time. We were 75-percent one-back last year,” Bobo said. “And everybody thinks, Well you’re gonna play Georgia you’re gonna be play-action pass. We used to. Well that’s when we had a little different personnel. So you’re going to adapt to your personnel and how they play. You’ll probably see a little more spread this year too because that’s what Hutson is comfortable with. And that’s what Aaron was comfortable with.”

In fact the No. 1 personnel group for Georgia’s offense last year was the three-receiver set. That doesn’t mean Georgia went away from the power-I or any two-back set. Bobo said he was “still a firm believer that you’ve gotta let them know you’re at the ballpark and be physical running the ball.”

Let me say two things surprise me there.  First, the whole “keep adapting” thing is something I strongly doubt we’d have heard emerge from Bobo’s mouth five years ago.  So it’s great to see the way his approach to the game has changed.  Second, his comment that Aaron Murray was more comfortable playing in the spread caught me.  But reflecting back, I can see where Bobo’s coming from with that.  The 2011 opener against Boise State was when Georgia started playing with no-huddle a significant amount of the time, and if you think about the personnel Bobo had to deploy that season, it makes sense.

So what are we going to get with the change at quarterback?

“You know, sometimes simpler is better for those guys,” Bobo said. “Because you want them to have success. You never want to put them in a situation where they might fail and you might lose them their whole career.”

Dang!  Next thing you know, Bobo will be telling us that he’s always been a big believer in Mike Leach’s definition of balance.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics