Daily Archives: March 29, 2016

Addition by subtraction, or subtraction by addition?

Alabama’s lost its defensive coordinator and its defensive backs coach, but it’s only gonna get better.

Last season, under secondary coordinator Melvin Tucker, Alabama was in a zone scheme more than we’ve seen in years past. That is not a coincidence either.

In 2014, Alabama faced an unreal 495 pass attempts, yielding over 3000 yards through the air and 24 passing touchdowns surrendered (24th S&P passing defense.) In 2013, Alabama faced nearly 30 passes per game, and gave up 13 passing touchdowns; still, opponents were very efficient, as the Tide was just 32nd in S&P passing defense.

With several young players cracking the 2015 rotation, and with Alabama’s inability to get its man-defense up to the levels the Crimson Tide is accustomed to, Tucker simplified the schemes, put an emphasis on creating turnovers, and went to much more of a zone look to protect against the deep shot that had been Alabama’s bane the previous three seasons. Alabama finished 3rd in S&P pass efficiency defense last season; really only being torched in one game against the Heisman runner-up. Alabama surrendered 13 touchdowns in 14 games, before allowing four to Deshaun Watson, half of which occurred in a wild fourth quarter.

With Tucker’s departure, Nick Saban brought in former Troy DB Derrick Ansley to compliment Jeremy Pruitt’s more aggressive scheme. And, yes, Pruitt is considered somewhat more aggressive than Kirby Smart, blitzing well over 60% of the time during FSU’s title run. Last season, a Georgia secondary that had been somewhat maligned in years past finished the nation with the No. 1 pass efficiency defense in the country, and Georgia had the No. 1 defense against explosive plays allowed. Both bode well for an improved Tide team that nevertheless finished 7th and 9th in those categories.

Bully for the Tide.  What does it mean for Georgia?  I’m not sure it means much, for one big reason:  Georgia’s front seven in 2016 isn’t going to be anywhere near the quality of Alabama’s 2015 front seven.  Tucker played a ton of zone because he knew he could get away with it, due to Alabama’s dominance up front.  And Pruitt blitzed a bunch last season because he had to enhance the pressure that Georgia’s defensive front usually delivered.  Given that both shoes are now on the other feet, isn’t it likely we should expect each to gravitate a bit more towards the other in their approaches?


UPDATE:  Here’s some of what I’m talking about.

… The theory is that the previous defensive staff used Floyd and Jenkins’ pass-rushing prowess to “protect” the young secondary, which benefitted by being in better coverage situations.

Not surprisingly, Floyd and Jenkins agree.

“That definitely was a goal me and Jordan had set going into every game: Make the quarterback get rid of the ball as quick as possible so the DBs can cover,” Floyd said.

“We definitely wanted to take some of the stress off the younger DBs. Because we didn’t want to put them in a lot of man-on-man type situations,” Jenkins said. “We knew they were younger, and we just wanted to make it easier for the freshmen coming in.”

That doesn’t mean Jenkins thinks the secondary was overrated.

“Oh no, there are still some good athletes back there,” Jenkins said. “We just wanted to eliminate that from even being in the mindset. We wanted them to be able to go ball out and play without worry.”



Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Click bait is alive and well at the AJ-C.

I’m saving you the trouble of reading something this morning.

Kirby Smart’s best UGA blueprint may be following Jim Harbaugh’s lead” isn’t about showing that you have the biggest Johnson on Twitter.  It’s about being better on offense than Georgia was in 2015.

Awesome.  I bet that’s never even crossed Kirby’s mind.

Oh, and you’re welcome.


Filed under Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles

“Exploited? Try blessed.”

Some of you will no doubt nod your heads in complete approval of Seth Davis’ ode of joy to the wisdom and good sense of the NCAA and its current amateurism protocols, but as you read his “players have never had it so good and they know it” explanation as to why things won’t get any stickier in terms of a player boycott…

Yes, the “system” (whatever that means these days) needs to be constantly upgraded to deliver more and more benefits to the student-athletes. But many people are unaware of the extent to which the NCAA has reformed itself over the last two years to do a better job taking care of the players. Thanks to a new governance structure that allows the Power Five conference schools to take the reins, players are now permitted to receive several thousand dollars in stipends in addition to their scholarships to allow them to cover the costs of attending school. There are basically no restrictions on how much food the schools can serve. For the second straight year, schools are permitted (but not required) to pay the travel expenses of players’ families so they can attend NCAA tournament games. (This applies to the women’s tournament as well.) Also for the first time, there are seats reserved on the NCAA’s primary governing councils for players, which allows them to have a direct say over legislation that affect their lives.

The problems facing college sports will be addressed this week, as well they should, but keep in mind that most of these same problems have been around since the enterprise began in the late 19th century. College sports, or at least college football (and later basketball), is big business, and wherever money is changing hands, corruption is sure to follow. But the transaction that will be on display this weekend is worth preserving. No, the players won’t be paid like professionals, but they will be feted like kings. They have earned that by working hard at their craft, under the supervision of some of the best coaches who ever stalked a sideline, in concert with the best strength and conditioning trainers money can buy, in front of the biggest audience most of them will ever see.

… keep in mind two things.  One, all those improvements he cites in his first paragraph there came not voluntarily from the NCAA, but in response to pressure the student-athletes brought in the courts and with the NLRB.  And those kids aren’t so stupid as to avoid noticing that pressure gets results, even with a bunch as stubborn as the schools are.  After all, learning lessons is what students do.

Two, as far as his last paragraph goes, those were exactly the kinds of things that were said about major league baseball players in the reserve clause era.  Once that time passed, it was off to the races, and that included strikes (and lockouts).  Given the level of stubbornness we see from the likes of Mark Emmert as well as the ever increasing wads of cash being handed out for mediocre to above-average results, it’s hard to see how college athletics avoids that same fate if the NCAA and the schools get their collective asses handed to them in an antitrust suit, players being “feted like kings” notwithstanding.  There’s too much money to expect otherwise.

No, we won’t see a player strike crippling this year’s Final Four.  But players have already struck, or threatened to strike elsewhere.

Too bad it’s still not the late 19th century.


UPDATE:  If you’re wondering about my MLB analogy, read this story about the time Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale held out.  Some of the quotes in there are eerily reminiscent of you know what.

“It was astonishing to me,” Koufax wrote, “to learn that there were a remarkably large number of American citizens who truly did not believe we had the moral right to quit rather than work at a salary we felt — rightly or wrongly — to be less than we deserved. . . . Just take what the nice man wants to give you, get into your uniform, and go a fast 25 laps around the field.”

Also, this.

Players skilled in hitting or pitching were not permitted to employ an agent skilled in negotiation.

“They had to go in and talk to the general manager about their contracts, alone,” Moss said.

“Players at the time were told they were lucky to be playing baseball. If it wasn’t for baseball, they’d be driving trucks. Or, if they were black, they were told they would probably be picking cotton. It was a very primitive time.”

Kind of like the 19th century.


Filed under The NCAA

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

Andy Staples has a good piece up about the upcoming media rights battles facing three of the P5 conferences, the Big Ten, the Big 12 and the ACC.  Two of those fights (Big Ten and ACC) are likely to be of interest simply as gauges of where the broadcast market is heading from a value and delivery of content standpoint (“ESPN has reportedly lost seven million subscribers over the past two years. Assuming those people only had ESPN and none of the network’s other channels—most likely did, but let’s estimate conservatively—that’s seven million people who are no longer paying $6 a month for ESPN. That’s a loss of $42 million a month, or $504 million a year.”), but the Big 12’s contest is more existential than that.

That’s because of that conference’s 800-pound gorilla, the University of Texas.  There is a growing number of Big 12 voices who call for the end of the Longhorn Network, Texas’ sweet $15-million/year deal, so that all the schools can join together and create a conference network.  Never mind that the other Big 12 schools sold their third-tier rights just as the ‘Horns did.  The real irony is that the Longhorn Network is what saved the Big 12 a few years ago in the first place.

For those who don’t remember, the Longhorn Network is one of the main reasons the Big 12 still exists. Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado were headed to the former Pac-10, but then the Longhorns pulled an 11th-hour okey-doke on commissioner Larry Scott when the schools out west wouldn’t agree to let Texas form its own television network. So, the Longhorns made nice with the rest of the Big 12 and got their network.

So now, to make this work you have to (1) convince Texas that it won’t lose a penny by terminating the LHN in exchange for a conference broadcast arrangement; (2) require every other conference member to terminate their third-tier media rights deals while making sure that Texas is at the front of the line being made whole from however the new revenue stream is recast; (3) probably add two schools into the mix, which means making sure the pie is enlarged enough that the existing members don’t miss a beat on the money flow; and (4) convincing Texas that ensuring the Big 12’s stability is in its best interests.

Does that sound to you like something Bob Bowlsby can pull off?


Filed under Big 12 Football, Texas Is Just Better Than You Are.

Those decided schematic advantages aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be.

Agent Muschamp now seems to admit the possibility exists that hiring Charlie Weis to be his first offensive coordinator at Florida may not have been such a hot move.

Will Muschamp, South Carolina’s new coach, says he made a mistake as a rookie coach at Florida when he tried to completely change the Gators’ offense. You’ll recall that Muschamp hired Charlie Weis as his offensive coordinator in 2011 and tried to install a pro-style offensive attack. Florida had won two national championships under Urban Meyer (2006, ’08) using a spread attack that relied heavily on the read option.

Muschamp went through three coordinators in four years as the Gators got into an offensive hole and never could get out.

“I probably made a mistake at Florida trying to change schematically from what they had done before,” Muschamp told me on a recent visit to his office. “As a result, we ended up not being very good at anything. These days you just don’t have time to make a lot of changes. You have to adapt to what your kids can do.”

Well, either that, or you just get rid of your kids.

This is one second act I’m really looking forward to watching.


Filed under 'Cock Envy, Agent Muschamp Goes Boom

“It’s beneath us.”

In case you missed it, Georgia Tech finished last season 3-9 and missed a bowl game for the first time in almost two decades.  This post isn’t about the sense of entitlement that is embodied by the header.

It’s to note what the genius considers to be a big fix of the problem.

Johnson is trying to change the Jackets’ fortunes.

He fired special teams coach Ray Rychleski, and hired long-time college assistant Ron West to aid offensive line coach Mike Sewak.

The Jackets’ vaunted spread rushing attack, which finished in the top six nationally in each of Johnson’s first seven seasons, slipped dramatically last season. And Thomas often wound up running for his life in passing situations.

“I wanted to experiment with a special teams coach, and I like the old model better, so I wanted to get back to having two offensive line coaches,” Johnson explained. “I think it’s virtually impossible for one guy to coach five guys with what we do.”

Special team duties will be split among the entire coaching staff and coordinated by wingback coach Lamar Owens.

In other words, when it comes to special teams, he’s embracing his inner Mark Richt.  Talk about your “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” solutions…


Filed under Georgia Tech Football