Lighter and longer: fighting the HUNH

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?



Filed under SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics

16 responses to “Lighter and longer: fighting the HUNH

  1. Macallanlover

    I understand your point about the two types of offenses we face during a season but agree with the change of direction being espoused. Big, fat and slow just isn’t athletic enough to be effective in today’s game. We used space takers against Bama in 2012’s SECCG and got drilled by the power running game. While I realize much of that was on the LBs and DBs too, having an aggressive DL that penetrates does more to stop any offense than a slug falling down at the LOS with the possible exception of goal line situations. I also feel this change in body style recruitment and conditioning should be applied to the offensive line. Six foot and 300+ pounds isn’t what we need up front on either side of the ball, imo.


    • I agree. It also is worth noting that we were up against an NFL O line and running back. I don’t know if we were necessarily big fat and slow as much as we were big, fat and out of shape. We couldn’t sustain. They wore us down and Grantham had recruited no depth to alleviate this (last year we saw this shortcoming in all its glory).

      Lets get these kids some endurance–and if that means they need to slim down that’s good too. And if they get faster even better.


      • Oh and I wonder what Pruitt thinks of our S&C program? Right now it doesn’t look like much.

        On another note, you know it must be down season at GTP since we will all be drinking the cool aid while talking S&C, politics, suspensions and Gator (this time its different!!) offensive fluff pieces.


  2. Mayor of Dawgtown

    I agree totally with Mac in his conclusions stated above. The one thing I would say to the UGA coaching staff, recognizing that there have been coaching personnel changes, is: “Make up your damn minds.” A few years ago UGA was large but also lean and fast. Then somebody made the decision, first on the O-Line, to get really big. Remember in 2010 when Georgia had the biggest offensive line in all of football including the NFL? How’d that work out? Then with the arrival of Grantham we had the advent of the 350-360 pounders on D-Line. That didn’t work out so well on D either, did it? Now it seems we have come full circle back to the leaner approach of earlier in CMR’s tenure. Can we quit experimenting here? It takes a toll on the team for players to put on weight, then lose weight or alternatively to recruit new guys who fit the profile of the new scheme. Let’s make a decision and stick with it. FWIW it looks like they are going in the right direction now.


    • Will (the other one)

      At least as far as the NTs went, nobody was putting on 50 lbs. Both our 350 lb. guys came in that size (or a bit bigger in Jenkins’ case). No different than Bama going from all near-400 lbs of Mt. Cody to that 300 lb. Australian that could squat two Mt. Codys.


  3. Bright Idea

    Is Pruitt our new HEAD coach? I bet he enjoys the freedom to speak out that was foreign to assistants at Bama. All of this tells me that Richt has never had his own philosophy of defense or S & C. It has always been left to whatever coordinator he could hire which simply boiled down to a “will you please take it” interview. Right now we are thrilled that Pruitt said yes but but we can only hope that it works until it is proven.


    • W Cobb Dawg

      “Is Pruitt our new HEAD coach?”

      Sure seems like he’s a de facto or auxiliary HC. He doesn’t appear to be on a leash when it comes to commenting on any facet of the team. He seems to be our most active recruiter (although McClendon has done a terrific job recruiting RBs and am glad he’s the recruiting coordinator). His D assistant has taken the lead with STs. I guess CMR is okay with the shake-up. I’m okay with it. We’ve needed somebody to push the staff just as much as the players for a long time.


  4. What’s interesting to me is that Georgia seems to believe slimming down on the defensive line will payoff even against the power offenses.

    Trading 40 pounds of fat for 10 pounds of muscle has always made sense to me. Swapping bulk for more quickness, stamina, and core strength.

    I wish we’d do at least a little of that on our OL, too. I think OL bulk is somewhat overrated.

    You can still be power, and still defend power, and not be the biggest. A great example is Boise 2011, when our OL was the biggest in football (and one of the biggest in history) and outweighed Boise by what, 50-60 pounds/man.

    Yet they kicked us around all night, just kicked our arse all over the field.


  5. Pruitt and Rocker were discussing this a few hours after the NCAA took steps to allow schools to provide unlimited meals and snacks to players.

    This is great news, IMHO. Don’t underestimate this. As some of you know, I’ve been complaining for 5 years about our nutrition, or lack thereof. When McGarity arrived, he hired two nutrition “experts”, but it hasn’t made that much of a difference.

    You can see it on the field, and just looking at the bodies (most every year there’s been an August video clip of players at the Ramsey pool). Not very impressive. And I suspect the biggest problem has been that staff can’t control what the players eat, if they can supervise only one meal/day. I do nutrition for a living, so you could just look at most of our guys and pretty much tell what they’re eating. And that sort of individual discipline hasn’t really been our thing.

    So now, with the new rule, we have a chance to see what the nutrition staff can do. They still have to hope players won’t pig out on sweets and pizza when they’re away from Butts-Mehre. But this new rule is a winner all-around. The players get the benefit of all the good food they need, and the staff gets a chance to better control our nutrition.

    Why is that so important for us? Because you can bet the house that our competition is taking full advantage of it. Our nutrition and conditioning has been the joke of the League for quite a while. Remember Meyer at Florida, and how he was always running his mouth about how Georgia was never in shape, and you could wear Georgia down?

    Then we spilled all the beans to a nationwide audience in the SECCG 2012. I’ll be glad when we get this overweight monkey off our backs.


    • Will (the other one)

      So what do you think the odds are that they get the players on some sort of variation of the Paleo diet (more good fats, grass-fed protein, carbs from sweet potato, not wheat/grains)?


      • Good question.

        So what do you think the odds are that they get the players on some sort of variation of the Paleo diet (more good fats, grass-fed protein, carbs from sweet potato, not wheat/grains)?

        Not very good, because the nutrition people we hired are conventionally-trained.

        Of course, each player is a different case, and nutrition plans must be dome accordingly. Something paleo-style might work for some of those who need to lose a lot of fat, for example, while others might need something else. And of course, young athletes at this level have different needs.

        So I don’t have any clue how our nutrition staff thinks or how they plan. But bad carbs, such as refined sugars, processed foods, etc., are not good for anybody, and athletes wouldn’t be excepted. Even though some of them can get away with it, in terms of weight, etc., it will still hinder performance.

        And that is the part that concerns me, since most conventionally-trained dietitians and nutrition people don’t discern bad carbs, processed foods, etc.. But maybe ours do. I flat do not know. I hope so.

        But you bring up a great point. We can afford the very best food and supplements. And it would be a heckuva good investment for the program to invest in HQ cutting-edge nutrition in the right way.


        • Will (the other one)

          Plus a cutting-edge nutrition program can lead to additional PR, like the Lakers getting tons of press for hiring nutritionists who had them drinking coffee with grass-fed butter in it.


          • LOL. I would be ecstatic to make 1/3 of that progress.

            The best solution, of course, doesn’t reside in the extreme, though there’s nothing wrong with GF butter in coffee, except the thought of it makes me want to throw up. It’s OK, nutritionally.

            But I’ll be happy if we can just practice the evidence-based basics. Teaching our guys how to eat would not only benefit the team now, but provide our players with a very valuable life-lesson, that will be of even more benefit later in their lives.


  6. Always Someone Else's Fault

    It would be more fun if the offensive and defensive coaches both had equal strategic control of the game, rather than letting the offensive coaches determine when subs are allowed. I do believe in chess that giving one side more time to make a decision represents a significant strategic advantage, yes?

    But hey, let’s make fat jokes instead.