Wear and tear

Ivan Maisel finds a pattern.

When an offense goes up-tempo, the defense pays the price. Not just the opposing defense, either. The defenses at Arizona and No. 2 Oregon are playing 82 and 76 plays, respectively, per game. The wear-and-tear is exacting a toll in mid-November. The Ducks are playing freshmen on their defensive line, and Arizona is playing four walk-ons and two true freshmen on its defense. They are playing because that’s who’s healthy.

Two teams strike me as a small sample size, so I headed over to cfbstats.com to see if there was anything to Maisel’s point on a larger scale.  The list of defensive play numbers is here, and yeah, you’ll find a lot of schools running spread, hurry-up offenses populating the lower part of that list.  (You’ll also find a lot of teams with crappy defenses populating the lower part of that list.  But I digress.)  So maybe he has a point.

But, wait a minute.  Here’s something Groo wrote in his Auburn wrap-up that may have you wondering where the happy medium is in this story:

I’ve seen a bit of talk about leaving the defensive starters in so long. Yes, there’s the risk of injury, but that would be my only concern. If you have an opportunity for a shutout, I’m not going to complain about making a little extra effort to keep it going. But there’s a more important reason for leaving them in. If Georgia has a chance in the SEC championship game, it’s going to be a physical game every bit as demanding on the defense as the Florida game was. The defense needs to be conditioned to play at top form all four quarters, and it’s not helping them to sit. I expect we’ll see them play longer than we’d expect against Georgia Southern also. If you want to see an excellent defense not used to finishing games, look at Bama over the past two weeks.

Hmm.  Is it possible that Georgia’s the happy medium here?  The Dawgs are playing almost 67 defensive snaps a game, which is certainly a lot fewer than the teams Maisel cites and is the third-fewest number in the SEC.  (By the way, there’s a pretty consistent correlation between the conference’s best defenses and the number of plays defended.)  But because of the way many of Georgia’s games have played out this season, its starters have been on the field for a significant majority of those snaps.  It’s also worth remembering that certain of those starters were suspended early and needed those snaps to shake off the rust.  Maybe that’s something else that’s paying off later in the season.

Given the scholarship numbers Georgia chose to play with this year, there’s certainly been a little luck in dodging the injury bullet.  But the coaching staff perhaps deserves a little credit here for managing the defensive depth well.  (Maybe the S&C folks should take a bow, too.)  Post suspension, the only game I can recall where Grantham had to press a walk-on into service was against Kentucky when Rambo got dinged up for a few plays and Connor Norman subbed for him.  And at this point, it’s a stretch to call Norman a mere walk-on, if you want to be fair about it.  Other than that, if Grantham’s played a freshman it’s been because he wanted to, not because he had to.

The $64,000 question is will that pay off at the SECCG?  Stay tuned.

15 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

15 responses to “Wear and tear

  1. Bob

    2 minutes left in the game. Georgia leads team x 38-0. Jarvis Jones makes a stop in the backfield and then grabs his left leg. He is helped off the field. It is determined that it is his ACL and his Georgia career is over.

    Who would not want to run Mark Richt and Todd Grantham out on a rail? Sorry, shutting out a pathetic Auburn team means zilch. Besides, how about next year and getting some folks snaps for the future.

    • Cojones

      This is your flip on what was a good reason stipulated to keep them in the game? If they can’t hold up for three qtrs in the SECCG, then their game conditioning should have been upped by the coaches and they are to blame. If they play and get hurt, it’s the coaches’s fault also.

      You can’t go into a game and play it half-hearted because you fear injury. You most certainly will get injured. You leave it up to the coaches because they know way better than you with the “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” reasoning. Just because of this negative setup, I hope the coaches play them all every down.

  2. Jim

    Defensive depth probably matters a little too – and we all know about our self imposed sanctions we are faced with in terms of the numbers…

    Hope our next 12 quarters of football are as good as our last 12…

  3. Lrgk9

    The Mental toughness is the key. Fatigue drags you down and its all about cranking it back up

    • Cojones

      A jewel of a thought. I agree that training along those lines are valuable. Of course, some get injured due to fatigue and inability to “crank it back up” like true champions do, but what the hell, this is CFB. Mental toughness is most certainly taught and at this stage, is most certainly the key.

  4. Uglydawg

    Alabama now has the opportunity to play it’s defensive starters for four quarters. There’s still plenty of time to “condition” them, if they buy into the mantra that the defense is unconditioned to play for four quarters.
    They did seem winded and maybe panicky when the Aggies were pressing them so hard late in the game…
    But now they know…so look for a “reconditioned” Bama defense. Saban will have them hustling all the way.

    • Cojones

      You can recondition them all you want, but they better be able to play faster and more downs because it’s sure as hell coming when we meet Bama.

  5. TL

    Connor Norman actually played the first two series after halftime against Florida as well. I think Rambo was shaken up by the tackle by the offensive lineman for Florida on his 1st-half-ending interception and had to sit out a couple of series after halftime. But, I just wanted to point that one out to you, Senator.

  6. Macallanlover

    Agree with Groo that the defense deserved that shutout after the slow start in the 2012 season. I feel there should be no complaints as long as Auburn kept their starters in the game, it is up to the beaten down coach to put up the white flag. I also feel the backup offensive players should always be allowed to run the entire offense (meaning passes and runs they are capable of executing) when they get the opportunity to play. Asking them to run dive plays does little to build them for future play and gives them little chance to shine. They work to hard in months of practice to be asked to dance around the ring.

  7. Krautdawg

    I can’t argue with stats, but they don’t really touch on any root causes. As Coach Richt said, even if the offense scores fast, nothing’s stopping the defense from getting off the field just as quickly.

    • HahiraDawg

      Agree’d except that 3-4 times in a half to make a 3 and out is easier than on the 7th time in the half.

      • Cojones

        And not making any 3 and outs keeps them on the field the longest. After the D lets an opponent score and O comes back for a 3 and out or a kickoff runback TD that puts the D right back in, who is at fault if the D is dragging?

        I say it’s because they let the opponent have so many 1st downs that kept them on the field so long. It is specious thinking to blame the O.

  8. The Bruce

    “…there’s certainly been a little luck in dodging the injury bullet.”
    NOOOOO! DON’T SAY THAT!!! Now Georgia Southern is going to injure EVERYONE with cut (chop) blocks.