Nick Saban’s energy crisis

When it comes to football, nobody is more obsessed with sweating the small stuff than Alabama’s head coach.  So, I’m fascinated with the attention he’s paid to Junior’s decision to speed up the Tide’s offense last season and the rather broad hints Saban’s making that some of that may have played into the defense’s collapse at the end of the year.

“If we’re going to be a no-huddle team like we were last year, I think we have to manage the season better with our team,” Saban said, “because I think at the end of the season last year, we ran out of gas a little bit.”

Now understand, while the pace may have been breakneck by Saban’s standards, it was middle of the pack by FBS ones – Alabama ranked 72nd nationally last season in plays run per game.  But that’s enough for Saban to draw his own conclusions.

“Which is like a couple, three more games,” Saban said. “And our players showed it. So we’re going to have to do a better job of keeping our team where they need to be so that we can finish strong.”

What’s really interesting about this, when you parse his remarks, is that he’s more concerned about muddying his team’s identity than the energy level.  Read this and see what you think:

“It’s interesting that we set records last year on offense, passing, our total offense, points,” Saban said. “I’m talking about records all time. But yet, there was something that we lost in doing that. Before we would just line up and physically dominate the line of scrimmage and the other team knew what we were going to do. It really wasn’t a secret but they couldn’t stop us.

“So, even though we had much more balance, much more diversity, I think we lost a little bit of that. And I think it’s important that we sort of gain that back so that we are a physical, relentless, competitive-type team that nobody wants to play. But we play with that kind of toughness because that’s been the trademark. That’s help us have the sort of success that we’ve had. So I’m a little apprehensive about giving up that quality and not having that identity as a team, especially in a league that is sort of built on those kind of intangibles.”

The irony here, at least for me, is you can make a valid argument Georgia’s 2014 offense had the identity that Saban believes last year’s Alabama’s squad lacked.  Despite running more than five fewer plays per game than did ‘Bama, Georgia managed the best average yards per offensive play in the conference, and led the conference in scoring.  Even though it played one less game, Georgia outrushed Alabama by about 450 total yards, and almost by a yard per carry.

The big question now is what Saban does to counter what he perceives as the flaws in Alabama’s game last season.  Does he instruct Kiffin to rein it in?  Does he stick with Alabama’s version of the no-huddle and try to adapt better on defense?  You know he’s going to chew on it until he comes up with something.

In any event, it could be a story line to keep an eye on in the weeks leading up to October 3rd.

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42 Comments

Filed under Nick Saban Rules, Strategery And Mechanics

42 responses to “Nick Saban’s energy crisis

  1. Granthams replacement

    Some of that is covering JR for the absence of Cooper.

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  2. Juan

    At least Saban now knows that Kiffin will be his downfall. Fortunately his pride is going to keep him from making a change for at least one more season.

    Saban is getting weak as he ages.

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  3. Uglydawg

    “Four Corner’s Offense”.
    It makes perfect sense. After building a big lead, you go conservative.
    CMR has been doing it for years…and now he has the hosses to make it work.
    It drives us all crazy, but it saves the defense, esp. late in the season as Saban alluded to.
    In the past, Georgia has not always been able to grind out those late first downs and control the ball. That should change this year.

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    • Cousin Eddie

      That was the foundation of the “Fun and Gun” with the OBS at uf. Throw for the lead then beat them to death with clock management.

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    • W Cobb Dawg

      “It makes perfect sense. After building a big lead, you go conservative.
      CMR has been doing it for years…”

      Have to respectfully and strongly disagree with you Uglydawg. If you ask me, our O has been far too conservative when in the lead. The result being the onus is/was on the D to do more heavy lifting as the game progresses. That approach COULD work if we’re “grind out those late first downs and control the ball.” But I’d argue we rarely do that. More often than not, the O goes conservative and gets a series of ‘3 & outs’ thereby giving our opponents the opportunity to get back in the game. It’s happened so dang often its become ritual.

      Changing the game plan (to go conservative) because you’re scoring well (and building a bigger lead) seems like an invitation for disaster – because it is. I say keep your foot on the gas until the final result is a foregone conclusion and/or the opponent takes steps that show they are conceding the game (by pulling regulars from the lineup, going conservative, etc.).

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      • Uglydawg

        No disagreement here, W. Cobb…read my last paragraph..I agree that CMR has tried this when he didn’t have the horses to pull it off. It will only work if you have a comfy lead and can play keep away. I’m hoping this year CMR will finally be able to go conservative without us all having bite-marks on our chairs when the clock hit’s zero.

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  4. Cousin Eddie

    I expect Saban to settle somewhere in the middle. They will do a little of each, sorta like what Bobo tried to do with Murray. Go HUNH when they have the personnel advantage and smash mouth when they want to and need to. It is a difficult task to know when to do what but I figure Saban will be more involved in the game management this year than previous and let Smart have a larger control of the D than in the past, that is if Saban is truly worried about this.

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  5. Scorpio Jones, III

    Sauron seems to me to be saying that when the offense is knocking the defense around like bowling pins…or in some cases, duck pins, the defense tends to do that, too…its a synergy. Smash-mouth begats smash-mouth, or something like that.

    But wait…is this just an excuse for losing to Dickhead? Guess we will know more October 4.

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  6. 3rdandGrantham

    Translation:

    “Sure, our offensive stats looks great last year, but our defensive ones didn’t, aight. Maybe some of you media types might have forgotten, but I coach defense, aight, not offense, so this really makes me look bad. If this trend continues this year, people might even go so far as to start questioning whether Lane is a better coach than me, which is absurd but I just can’t have any of that, aight.

    But the bigger picture is we must do more to protect these players, aight, and speeding up the game will cause far more injuries to them. That’s my #1 concern overall…protecting these players and taking care of them, aight. That, and getting rid of NFL agents and pushing the draft back, as it cost us to lose to Ohio State and ultimately a national title. Aight.”

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  7. Don’t know about Bama, but it seems Pruitt and Richt’s formula is going to be endurance and rotation. With all the conditioning that S&C coach Hocke is having our guys do, I think our plan is to go fast and wear out the other team, but have a conditioned defense that can handle getting back on the field quickly.

    Bama’s strategy might be going back to trying to slowing things down by slowing down their offense.

    We could witness two opposite theories come time for our match up with them.

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    • JCDAWG83

      Of those two, Bama’s will be more successful. Long, grinding, physical drives that keep the opponents offense off the field and their defense on the field and keep your defense off the field and rested seems like a better strategy than score fast and hope your defense can stop them. Nothing is more demoralizing for a defense than not being able to get off the field.

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      • I don’t know, seems to me we had a good share of long, grinding physical drives last year.

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        • If we score, that puts pressure on the other team to score. If we score a lot and get up by 2 or 3 scores, then the other team has to abandon the run.

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        • JCDAWG83

          I know, and if we give the ball to our Heisman quality running back when it’s goal to go and don’t pooch kick to a team that has no hurry up option with 18 seconds to go, we win 11 regular season games and play in the SEC championship game with a shot at the playoffs.

          Getting cute=losing most of the time.

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  8. paul

    I don’t know, it kind of sounded to me like he was calling out his S&C program. Something we know a little bit about around here.

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  9. W Cobb Dawg

    FWIW I don’t see us as a grind it out O. RBs like Gurley, Marshall, Chubb, Michel are the types who can take it to the house on any given play. Last year we had to use a ‘short game’ because our QB simply couldn’t throw long effectively or consistently. With a stronger-armed QB we are, and should continue to be, a balanced, high powered O.

    QuoteLight Dashboards above comment is right on about CJP. The D’s “formula is going to be endurance and rotation” – particularly until we have more players like Lo Carter who are game changers.

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    • JCDAWG83

      We didn’t lose a single game last season because we couldn’t throw long enough passes. 21 tds with 4 ints, over 2100 yds passing. Not Heisman numbers but certainly not any sort of drag on the offense.

      Every loss last season can be laid at the coach’s feet with Florida being a joint venture between the coaches and the players.

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      • DawgPhan

        I know…I can’t believe that CMR threw that pick to end the tech game. what a bonehead.

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        • JCDAWG83

          The bonehead pooch kick created the opportunity for the pick. No pooch kick, no tech first down at our 35 on one play, no timeout to give the kicker time to get settled (second late game bonehead move), no fg, no overtime, Dawgs win.

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          • DawgPhan

            The only problem is that you can’t be sure that kicking it deep doesnt end in the same outcome.

            What we can be certain of is that throwing the pick ended the game with UGA losing.

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          • Will (The Other One)

            Friend and/or the OL not picking up Tech’s obvious run blitzes in the 2nd half was far more to blame than the kick. After that second goalline fumble the offense played as poorly as it had all season long, against an average at best defense. Never should have come down to a pick (and ruined our streak of averaging over 40 points/game at home against Fish Fry.)

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          • Patrick

            Whenever we win a close game, are those losses also always laid at the feet of the losing coach?
            Maybe you should watch games next year from opposing team’s view, that way you can both blame Richt for all our close losses AND find a reason to give Richt no credit when we win.

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      • AthensHomerDawg

        Every loss last season can be laid at the coach’s feet…
        “The JCDawg doth protest too much, methinks”

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        • Macallanlover

          I will be glad when CMR’s eligibility is used up and the scholarship athletes have some accountability. Guy has cost us over 20% of the games played and never won a single one!

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      • Sides

        UGA lost to SC because of the lack of a deep passing threat. We had no pass rush and young corners. Our defense actually looked competent in that game.

        If I remember correctly UGA also fell behind quick to Florida. It is tough to play catch up with only a running game.

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        • Georgia lost that game because it was +2 in turnover margin, but only came away with three points from the takeaways.

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          • Sides

            I think you are somewhat proving my point. Georgia had 2 extra possessions vs. a historically bad SC defense. The defense had absolutely no pass rush all year but Georgia did not have the ability to take advantage of it with a downfield passing game.

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      • Gaskilldawg

        Do the coaches get any credit for the wins?

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  10. Biggus Rickus

    So their defensive meltdown against Oklahoma was when they were still a smashmouth team, right? Maybe, just maybe, it’s not the hurry-up that hurt them at the end of the season? Maybe it’s just a convenient excuse for Saban?

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  11. Part of the need for the No Huddle last year was Blake Sims. He wasn’t terribly adept at reading defenses. The No Huddle allowed Kiffin time to read the defense and adjust the play call. You saw this trigger several delay of game penalties, especially early in the season. As the season wore on, Sims improved at reading defenses, so there was less of a need for the No Huddle, but the offense had gelled pretty well running it.

    Supposedly (and I don’t have proof outside of anecdotes from folks who have watched practice) Coker and Cornwell – the realistic QB competitors this year – are both much better at reading defenses. My assumption before reading this was that the No Huddle would be dialed back because it wouldn’t necessarily be needed, given these QB’s ability to read defenses.

    But Saban’s point about identity is an interesting one. Last year was a departure from the line up and punish the other team. Given the lack of depth at RB, it will be interesting to if we see less No Huddle to get our identity back or if it becomes a necessity to use to hide our RB depth.

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