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?

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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.”

39 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

39 responses to “Addition by subtraction, or subtraction by addition?

  1. Hogbody Spradlin

    Alabama’s pass defense didn’t seem to have any problems against us last year.

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  2. Rick

    I don’t get why losing Kirby Smart is anything other than a complete non-event to Bama fans. Pruitt left Bama once before and immediately led the #1 defense in the country by a mile at FSU, better than the one that he left at Bama. He then had UGA back among the conference’s best on D in two years.

    At Bama, he will have the best D in the conference almost every year until someone figures out how to recruit anywhere near as good as Saban. There is little reason to believe that Smart is actually a better coordinator than Pruitt.

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    • sniffer

      But you do agree that Smart is a better coordinator than Pruitt, little as that reason may be?

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      • Rick

        Honestly, I have no idea. In the one year they had comparable talent (Pruitt’s year at FSU), Pruitt had the better defense, and was the unquestioned head of that unit. Smart’s track record has a far more impressive length, but all of it came under a defensive mastermind at HC.

        I would be stunned if Smart put out a better defense than Pruitt this year, though.

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        • dawgtired

          “but all of it came under a defensive mastermind at HC.”

          This. I’m anxious to learn if Kirby can continue his success away from Saban.

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        • sniffer

          I would be stunned if Smart put out a better defense than Pruitt this year, though.

          Agree with that but it’s due to AL having the better recruits currently, not necessarily the better coach. I also believe Kirby (and Tucker) will continue the upward trend the defense has been on.

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        • JCDAWG83

          In that season, Pruitt had a defense loaded with NFL caliber talent playing against ACC competition. I’m not saying he’s a bad coach, but he wasn’t facing ferocious competition. Auburn with Nick the Thief moved the ball pretty well against them in the championship game. If not for Jameis the Rapist, I think Auburn would have won another national championship.

          Pruitt will again have an NFL talent laden defense at Bama. If Bama does not have a good defense that will be a pretty damning indictment of Pruitt. Pruitt did a good job at Georgia but he had a few games where the other team destroyed our defense. Our #1 pass defense last season was not solely because of our great db play, most of it has to do with the horribly poor quality of pass offenses we faced last season.

          I liked Pruitt but I’ve heard there was no way he was staying, regardless of who the coach was. He had apparently made everyone in Athens that mattered hate his guts. I don’t know the details but I have heard from several who have some inside knowledge that Pruitt had absolutely zero friends in BM.

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          • W Cobb Dawg

            “…Pruitt had absolutely zero friends in BM.”

            Not so sure that’s a bad thing to put on a resume for Pruitt. The bottom line is, I’d rather have Pruitt on our sideline than the opponent’s. Maybe BM should’ve hired Dale Carnegie as DC.

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            • Not so sure that’s a bad thing to put on a resume for Pruitt.

              You guys crack me up. Yeah sure – having a reputation of being an absolute dick and insubordinate to your bosses is definitely a real resume-builder. You tell me how that would go for you in your own professional life.

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              • Jeff Sanchez

                Yeah it’s certainly crippled JP

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                • dawgtired

                  Chuckle. He must have had some incriminating evidence on ole Saban. 😉

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                • Otto

                  He was so terrible to work with he went back to a former employer.

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                • Well – I think Jonathan Taylor showed that Saban doesn’t always make the best decisions either. 🙂

                  It’s definitely a calculated risk on his end, but I’m pretty confident I’d have trouble finding employment in my field if my reputation was such that I were an insubordinate, pain in the ass to work with no matter how good I am at my job. Results certainly matter, but they will only take you so far when you have to deal with people each day.

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                • Otto

                  Taylor was really a nonRisk for Saban, if he stays out of trouble they have great talent and more depth. If he gets in trouble he gets dismissed quickly and decisively and it opens a spot for another recruit. Bama would not fire Saban for 1 player getting in trouble.

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          • dawgtired

            I really believe (maybe more hope than believe) that the two coaching staffs, not counting HC, are fairly equal. It will come down to talent and player heart. Close may just have to be good enough for Dawg fans right now.

            Oh yeah, on a side note. My daughter got her acceptance letter from UGA last night…I’m a Dawg-daddy now!! I’m sooo pumped. My eyes swell when I think about her walking through the Arches. Just thought I’d share. 🙂

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  3. DawgPhan

    I do think that it is a little easier to gauge Pruitt’s abilities and impact because you could see it before and after at several big time schools.

    You arent trying to adjust expectations from Pruitt at a small school to a big school or anything like that.

    He performed well at Bama, then at FSU, then at UGA. You can feel pretty confident that he will do well at Bama. With Smart you dont have as many data points.

    And of course you have zero data points for how smart will do as a HC, which is the job that he actually has right now. He might be the greatest DC that ever walks the earth, but he isnt going to be doing that at UGA.

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  4. W Cobb Dawg

    I wish we kept Pruitt. He’s going to step in at bama and they’ll never notice CKS is gone. There’s no question he could’ve taken a huge load off of Kirby’s shoulders by continuing to handle our defense and a chunk of recriting. I believe we have a solid D staff anyway. But it isn’t very often a school has a chance to land or keep a DC/recruiter like Pruitt.

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    • I do, too, WCD. It was very apparent that was never in the plan for whatever the reason. I think the question was whether Kirby and Pruitt could coexist.

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    • dawgtired

      (inject any large number here)
      I was a Pruitt fan. I don’t think I want to know about his sins while at UGA. It may ruin my fandom-ness for him.

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    • MGW

      I’d like to see him still at Georgia too, but I think we basically spent that money elsewhere because we needed to and could because we have a D minded coach and its not as necessary to have Pruitt, even though he would have been a nice luxury. I’d hate to have pruitt but no money to spend on O and support staff.

      McGarrity’s coming around i guess, but Smart still doesn’t have the unlimited spending power of Saban. If he did, I believe we’d probably still have Pruitt.

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  5. Walt

    All this talk about what Smart, Pruitt and Tucker did or will do at Bama, but what about Saban. He’s a defensive coach, and has proclaimed himself the best DB coach there is. Don’t you think he’ll have a LOT of influence on Bama’s defense and secondary in particular? Do you think Pruitt will tell Saban how to run the defense or the other way around? Will be interesting to watch how this plays out.

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  6. PTC DAWG

    Honestly, Bama is not our competition…UF and UT are, at least for the next few years. Kirby will need time to build depth to compete with Bama…

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    • dawgtired

      May be playing them in Atlanta THIS year 😉 But I get the ‘focus-on-winning-the-east’ mentality.

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    • Yup. Long term recruiting, and win the East in the short term. Hell, if we can develop Eason there’s a chance we could pull a rabbit out of the hat in next few years.

      Also, Saban has to retire at some point.

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    • Bulldog Joe

      True.

      Gotta beat Missouri and South Carolina off the starting line first, and we get ’em both on the road.

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  7. Derek

    Who knows who made the decisions week to week on Alabama’s defense or who decided what types of players to recruit? We know who called the defenses on each play but we don’t know how independent those choices were. What we do know is that Alabama’s defense was very good against certain things and average against others. The same was true with pruitt at Georgia. We ate up teams that wanted to go east west and struggled against teams that went north south. A lot if that was due to personnel. Floyd especially was great if a team wanted to get around the edge, but if they pulled linemen across the formation right at him, he was helpless. Jenkins had similar issues.

    What I’m interested in seeing whether smart will bring Pruitt’s flexible, fit the scheme to your personnel, approach or if he’ll take the more rigid approach that saban took and count on the players to eventually be there to run it.

    Saban’s defense was all about run fits and controlling the LOS. Once he made you abandon the run, he went nickel, played cover one almost exclusively and only changed things up to trick a QB into throwing a pick against a zone that looked like man. They did that to both qbs in then playoffs and got picks. The problem they consistently had was that their predictability left them vulnerable when teams showed up with personnel that could match up. Rather than changing their identity, they danced with the girl who bring ’em even when the other team started running up and down the field. Was that Nick or was that Kirby? Who knows? I don’t think that’s Pruitt though.

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  8. 69Dawg

    The way most here talk you should make Nick the patron saint of lost causes Between Kiffin and Pruitt he has got his hands full. Like all coordinators, they do what the Boss wants. Do you really think Nick just turned Kiffin lose to run the offense any which way Kiffin wanted. Pruitt was going in the opposite direction with the body types he wanted at UGA and what Kirby had at Bama. It will be informative if Bama starts to change body types. Can Pruitt bring Nick around from fast and big to smaller and faster. That will be interesting. We know that Kirby wants fast and big and we also know that until last year Bama was an average pass rushing team. Nick got a proven DC to be the DC. We got a DB coach to be the DC and a DB/LB/DC to be the head coach. I’d say Nick has the advantage in the swap. I do think Kirby will be a good HC if he can just calm down and act like a HC. It seems to be harder for defensive coaches not to go over the top. Offensive coaches tend to think more than act. Heck even Nick gets fired up, We know how the SEC refs all love to screw with us, so Kirby better not let his inter-Muschamp take over. He’s not at Bama anymore and the no calls are gone with the wind.

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