Category Archives: Strategery And Mechanics

“I’ve got everything we’ve ever done at Tennessee and Ole Miss.”

David Cutcliffe explains his philosophy in exploiting inexperienced defensive coordinators:

“I’m a big believer in speed. You know long I’ve liked spreading a field. My theory basically is this: Defensive players have continued to get bigger and faster. We’re on the same size field as when we played. Really, the players are nothing like that.

“As you look at attacking a defense, it’s important to lengthen the field two ways. You’ve got to use the entire width of the field, and you have to try to take some form of vertical attack downfield. We’re not what people call ‘spread.’ We are a no-huddle, which I went to the second time at Tennessee. We are trying to find every way we can to run the ball vertically, to run it right at your mouth. In the process of doing that, I love being able to spread it deep with play-action, but we are also looking at how people defend the width of the field. So many young defensive coordinators do such a poor job of doing that. We’re going to take what they give us, still. We just do it a lot faster.”

Boy, do I remember that.

When Cutcliffe went to a three-receiver set before the end of the second quarter in that 2006 game, you could sense that Georgia’s defense was struggling to keep up.  37 second-half points later – the Dawgs had only given up 34 points the entire season before that game – we had our first real clue that Willie Martinez was no Brian VanGorder.

I bring this up because Florida’s sparkly new offensive coordinator is a disciple of Cutcliffe’s.  I’ll be interested to see how he matches wits with a young Jeremy Pruitt and a not-so-young John Jancek.

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Sunday morning buffet

There’s always something to fill the chafing dishes.

  • Mark Richt thinks Malcolm Mitchell is growing up.
  • The Notre Dame bloggers are really getting into Brian VanGorder‘s tactics.
  • Has QB guru George Whitfield, Jr. fudged his résumé?  And if so, will anyone care?
  • If you wonder why the Big Five don’t just take their footballs home and start a new organization outside of the NCAA, Andy Staples offers one good reason:  “The cynical among us might also mention they like being tax-exempt; an organization made up solely of those five conferences might not be.”
  • Behold the awesomeness that is the early schedule of the SEC Network.  Gotta have it!
  • Tennessee sure is going through walk-ons like it’s nobody’s business.
  • Does one of the proposals adopted this week in Destin mean what I think it means? “Increase bowl revenue distribution in football and require all teams to be financially responsible for all guaranteed ticket purchases” sounds like the conference won’t be pitching in to cover expense shortages due to unsold tickets any more.  Of course the SEC is stepping in on the front end to limit the size of those packages, but in an age when the bowls are being told to pick for rankings over commercial popularity, that’s a change that could bear watching.
  • Mark Richt likes Mike Bobo a lot more as a coach than he did as a recruit.

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Georgia Football, It's All Just Made Up And Flagellant, SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics, The NCAA

I ain’t missin’ you at all.

In case you’re wondering what Brian VanGorder’s up to at Notre Dame these days, here’s a little taste.

I hope this is the type of defense we see from the Irish next year. It’s aggressive without being reckless. Fundamentally sound without being conservative.

When do you think we’ll see something similar from a Louisville blogger?

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Wednesday morning buffet

The chafing dishes are full, so knock yourselves out.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, Look For The Union Label, Media Punditry/Foibles, Pac-12 Football, Political Wankery, Strategery And Mechanics

We’re all going to miss the hand waving.

Mark Richt, embracer of KISS.

Pruitt said this spring he didn’t intend to make a call that he didn’t think his defense could execute. Richt heard that comment and called it “music to my ears.” Speaking before a UGA Day event in Augusta on Monday, Richt elaborated.

“I think Jeremy’s wise enough to go at a pace where our guys are going to really know what we’re doing. When you have stability and carryover you have more ability to do more things because guys know what they’re doing. But if you’re starting from scratch and you’ve gotta play a little more basic fundamental football, there’s nothing wrong with that either.”

Hey, better late than never, right?

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

The incredible shrinking fullback

I touched on this a little the other day in discussing Quayvon Hicks’ redesigned role, but there’s an underlying question we ought to look at:  why is Bobo de-emphasizing the role of the fullback?  After all, going back to P-44 Haynes, there’s a rich tradition under Richt of the fullback being a key cog in Georgia’s offense.  But Bobo acknowledged that last season saw Georgia line up in the I less than 30% of the time.  And that’s not a trend that’s expected to change.

I can’t say I know all the answers to that, but here’s one thought:  if part of your sales pitch on the recruiting trail is that you run a pro-style offense and the NFL has devalued the fullback position to virtual insignificance, wouldn’t you eventually follow suit?

And the reason that question is worth asking is because Chase Stuart makes a pretty good case that it’s not just the fullback position that’s lessened in value on the next level.  Will that have an impact on Georgia’s recruiting and deployment of personnel down the road?  I don’t know yet, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Is Quayvon Hicks Trippin’?

Last week, somebody asked me what I thought the story might be with Quayvon Hicks, who started out gangbusters last season but saw his playing time diminish as it went on and has now been shifted into a new role at H-back.  My answer was that the coaches appeared to believe that Merritt Hall was the more consistent blocker at fullback.  That may still be the case.  But it may be that something else is in play, too.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Georgia played in a three-receiver, one-tight-end set more than 70 percent of the time last season. That formation takes the fullback off the field. Bobo would like to move away a little bit from the traditional fullback mold like the Bulldogs have had in the past with Jeremy Thomas, J.T. Wall and Brannan Southerland.

More than 70 percent of the time?  Sounds like Bobo has already moved away a little bit.  And it may be the case that Hicks has a better skill set for what Bobo is moving to than as a more traditional I-formation fullback.

Richt said the 6-foot-2, 265-pound Hicks “did pretty good,” considering he only has 15 practices at the position under his belt.

“It’s definitely not polished there, but he’s proved to be able to put his hand on the ground on the line of scrimmage and pass pro and run block pretty darn good,” Richt said. “Just learning what to do, he did a pretty good job and part of it is what we call the F position is a fullback but it’s also a tight end. The fullback is out and the F is the tight end in a three-receiver set. A lot of times that F will run the same route sometimes from a fullback position, sometimes from a tight end position or a tight end alignment. There’s a little carryover there so that probably helped him some.”

Carryover… like this moment at his old spot (dial the clip up to the 2:09.00 mark):

It’s too early to know how serious this all is, of course.  It may be little more than window dressing to move a player who hasn’t developed the way the coaches needed at a particular position.  But I hope it’s more.  Hicks has too much talent to let it go to waste.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Everything you wanted to know about Shaq Wiggins’ departure, but were afraid to ask.

Chip Towers does an admirable job tying the Wiggins story together… which is my cue to cut it into smaller portions.

First, if you have Louisville in the pool, consider yourself the early leader in the clubhouse:

It appears quite likely that Shaq Wiggins will end up at Louisville.

That’s according to his father. Al Wiggins told me Monday night that the Cardinals are the leader among about 20 schools that have shown interest in having the 5-foot-10, 165-pound cornerback transfer in from Georgia. The Bulldogs announced they were effectively releasing Wiggins by mutual agreement this past Friday.

Louisville is, of course, coached by former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. And Louisville, of course, has already claimed another UGA defensive back. Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons transferred there after the coach Mark Richt dismissed him in February for multiple rules violations.

“You have to consider them,” Al Wiggins, speaking by phone from their home in Tyrone, said of the Cardinals. “Coach Grantham is there and that’s where Josh Harvey-Clemons is at. You know, they played on the same side (of the secondary). So that’s definitely something Shaquille and I feel comfortable with. But we haven’t really made a firm decision yet. We’ve still got to put everything on the table.”

Can’t say that’s really much of a surprise.  Nor is this:

“I was very impressed with the way Mark Richt handled the whole thing, the way he released him, the way the conversations went with him and Pruitt,” Al Wiggins said. “It was so positive it was unbelievable in a lot of ways. There was nothing negative about it. It was really impressive to see that in modern-day football, that a separation could be as positive as this. I was very impressed with the University of Georgia. They didn’t want him to leave, but they didn’t try to get in his way. They were very professional. There’s absolutely no bitter feeling.”

That’s all of a sort from the man who goes on to say that “…I’m not afraid of attrition… Sometimes attrition is good. Life is too short for guys not being where they ought to be or where they want to be, all those types of things. In the end, you want everybody to be where they want to be and have the best opportunity to do what they want to do. There’s a lot of that going on, but it’s not all that shocking, really.”  Which is honorable.  (Not to mention a good reputation to have on the recruiting trail.) But it’s a little risky if you’re not staying on top of managing your program’s roster numbers.  So there’s that.

Here’s the interesting part:

Shaq Wiggins had been arrested for driving on a suspended license earlier this year, but wasn’t going to be suspended and the incident wasn’t a factor in this decision, Al Wiggins said. The issue was the coaching change.

Scott Lakatos, Wiggins’ position coach, was not retained after this past season, Grantham left for Louisville for more money and the rest of the defensive staff eventually left for different jobs. The Bulldogs subsequently brought in Jeremy Pruitt from national champion FSU to coordinate the defense. The difference in schemes, techniques and general coaching philosophy is radically different, according to Mr. Wiggins.

He said Pruitt teaches a “T-step” coverage technique rather than the “power-step” Shaq has always utilized and prefers. Despite starting eight games as a freshman last season, Shaq fallen back on the Bulldogs’ depth chart. He also had been reprimanded more than once for improper decorum in the weight room and on the field.

“You can’t blame a new coach coming in with a new tone,” Mr. Wiggins said. “He didn’t do a good job of adjusting maybe. I don’t know, but it’s time to move on.”

Kudos to Mr. Wiggins for the honesty there.  As for the differences in scheme and technique, I hope somebody asks Pruitt to elaborate on that.  I’m certainly curious.

By the way, if you want to know what T-step technique is, here’s a description:

There are two main ways cornerbacks come out of their breaks using the backpedaling technique. The first one I’m going to explain is how I learned, which is the T-step. It is called the T-step because you make a “T” shape with your feet when you make your forward and diagonal breaks.

For example, when breaking to the left, you wanna stop your backpedal with instep of your right foot. Then you bring your left heel to just inside your right foot, making a “T” shape, with the toes of your left foot pointed in the direction you want to go. You then drive off your left foot hard into the direction your left foot is pointing.

My father calls it the “brake, click” because your “braking” with your outside foot and “clicking” the heel of your inside foot into the instep of your brake foot. It’s a quick three-step motion with purpose of changing directions as quickly as possible.

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Line items

It seems like everyone’s taken note of the declining value of collegiate running backs in the NFL draft, but Ivan Maisel teases something else out of the data from last week’s:

The disparity of opinion regarding the linemen on the consensus All-America team and what NFL teams thought of them is large. Of the eight offensive and defensive linemen from the All-America team, five were drafted in the fourth round or later. Meanwhile, the two receivers and four defensive backs on the All-American team went in the first 41 picks. It could be that different offenses in colleges call for different skills in line play. But the ability to run and move in space, on offense and defense, is valuable in any scheme.

Now there’s a difference between being rewarded for production versus projection – Clowney is a perfect example of the difference – so I’m hesitant to say whether this is a statistical outlier or the beginning of a trend.  And if it’s the latter, whether that’s a function of what’s coming out of the college ranks or the way the NFL game has evolved.  But I’ll be curious if we see more of the same in next year’s draft and, if so, what sort of impact that might have on CFB down the road.

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Speed kills getting receivers up to speed.

Bill Belichick (h/t Chris Brownhas noticed another trend the HUNH hath wrought.  College receivers aren’t as NFL-ready as they used to be.  That’s because you can have the play fast, or you can have the play detailed.  But you can’t have both:

“I’d say there’s a lot of teams and a lot of players we’ve talked to in the last couple of years where … I don’t want to say it’s common, but certainly more common,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “Run a go, run an in, run an out, you know. Run a bubble screen. Whatever it is. It’s given independently to a number of players. Maybe four, five, six or seven different components of a play. Yeah. I’d say that’s a little different than the traditional call a play, we all have an assignment, we all go out and run the play. I think that’s becoming more and more common in college football.”

It’s become a challenge for NFL teams to get those receivers up to speed as rookies.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Belichick said. “Because they haven’t done it. I’m not saying they can’t do it. It’s just that in some cases, they haven’t done it. You’re teaching a player a concept. We call a play within that play, 11 people know what to do. In a lot of cases, that’s not what they’re doing now (in college).

“Conceptually, though, it’s a definite difference between hearing one thing and running a play and hearing another thing and running a play and just hearing your assignment and not getting the concept of the play. It’s just different. When you’re trying to run plays as fast as you can run them without a huddle (in college), as soon as the play is over, run to the line and run the next play, it’s obviously faster to just give the guy an assignment rather than run the whole play and try and communicate the whole play and get everybody to do it. Teams that are running those types of offenses in college have obviously developed a system that facilitates a faster tempo. And that’s part of it. It’s something we are having to, I don’t want to say adapt to, but it’s different than some of the traditional play calling we’re familiar with.”

At some point, wouldn’t you figure this becomes factored into how five-star receivers get recruited by colleges still running pro-style offenses?

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