The bane of Mel Tucker’s existence

One thing I noticed during the Ole Miss game — not that it took any sort of special analytical powers — was how much Georgia’s defense struggled with Kelly’s mastery of the run-pass option.  (I was also impressed that I never saw a flag on Kelly for throwing past the line of scrimmage or one for ineligible lineman downfield on some of those plays.)

Well, guess what?  Tennessee has a few RPO calls in its bag of plays, too.

Davin Bellamy had two words to describe what it’s like to defend a run-pass option play, which has become a staple of a lot of spread offenses throughout college football.

“Very frustrating,” he said.

He has good reason to have that take.

Throughout the majority of his football upbringing, Bellamy was taught to rely on instincts as a defender. In a passing situation, he was to beat the blocker off the line of scrimmage and get to the quarterback. In a run situation, he was to set the edge or control a gap.

But now, the run-pass option threat on offense has changed the way the game is defended. Georgia has been the victim of big plays from run-pass options in each game this season. North Carolina, Nicholls State, Missouri and Mississippi all ran run-pass option plays, in which the quarterback had the choice to go with a run or pass after the ball was snapped.

Tennessee is another spread offensive team with run-pass option plays. Georgia, which was gashed for 510 total yards against Mississippi, will try to get a better grasp on run-pass option plays Saturday.

“It kind of takes away your tenacity,” Bellamy said. “You kind of got to play your keys and not just get off the ball and do what you want to do. You just gotta make sure you’re in the right position for everybody.”

That’s not what you want to hear when your lack of pass rush (Georgia is next to last in the SEC in sacks) isn’t helping your secondary make plays.

Missouri burned Georgia with quick passes. Ole Miss did some of that, but quarterback Chad Kelly also had plenty of time to throw. And after getting the benefit of a good pass rush last year, Georgia’s secondary isn’t getting it this year. That’s left Georgia’s secondary often on an island, and at Ole Miss that meant height mismatches.

Tennessee also has tall receivers. Georgia knows it can’t just let the quarterback and receiver play throw and catch, as Ole Miss did.

Big difference between knowing and doing, though.


Filed under Georgia Football

32 responses to “The bane of Mel Tucker’s existence

  1. gastr1

    You mean there’s a way to counter a pass rush without having great NFL caliber tackles? Who knew?


  2. Castleberry

    Really frustrating to watch. I think college should have the NFL rule (line of scrimmage vs. 3 yards downfield). At a minimum, the call should be as tight as an offsides or false start penalty.


  3. Greg

    The run-pass option has been around forever in football, it is nothing new. It is taught how to defend even at the high school level….or it was. It is not hard…. just recognize offensive formations, read your keys and do not over commit. Hopefully, they are practicing this over & over….and OVER. Not sure if I could stand another loss to UT. There is no team that I hate worse.


    • Ben

      Get your résumé ready, then, because I don’t see anything in Smart or Tucker’s coaching lineage that suggests that either of them will be able to see through this one. It’s why Saban brought in a guy who is on the edge of offensive football: he knew there would be a time when he’d have to outscore the other guy.


      • Greg

        The problem is, you need the type athlete that can defend this (linebacker/DE’s). The kind that can play in space and cover. I thought Pruitt was starting to recruit that way. It will be interesting if Smart continues that way, or if he goes after the big jumbo-type athlete as Bama did/has for years.


  4. Will Trane

    Totally on board with Greg.
    Who would have thought that Bama would lose all of its defensive brain to Georgia and rank this low in pass defense.
    Spring practice, fall practice, four games into the season and the defensive players and coaches talk and play like it is the first time they have ever seen a field [53 x 100] and offensive formations.
    They are a third of the way through this season.
    Somebody had better get a sense of urgency here.
    One could be that freaking AD bottling up Ledbetter. Play the kid this weekend, dammit. One more game or 7 days going to make that much difference now.
    if they are not going to play him until half of the season is over, then tell us he gets a medical redshirt. For whatever that is worth.


    • I’m sure you know exactly what’s going on with Ledbetter and how he is doing with his recovery. I’m going to trust the university to do what is right for him. If he doesn’t play this year so he can deal with his alcohol demon, I’m fully supportive of it.


    • Ledbetter is held out until doctors give the OK. McG effs up enough on his own, no need to assign blame for things that aren’t his fault.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Rpcpisme

    This R/P option has me fearful for Saturday’s game. Dobbs isn’t a great passer, but good enough to keep you honest.


  6. I am a little bothered that our DBs were often defending the pass by facing the receiver with their back to the ball. Are Kirby and Tucker teaching this technique?


    • D as in Dawg

      I hope not. And based on Briscoe’s apparent demotion, hopefully they are trying to fix it.


    • Starbreaker

      I noticed this too…I remember Willie Martinez coached the DBs to play the receiver and with Gratham came here that was one of the talking points that they should play the ball instead. Of course our guys seem to be constantly playing “catch up” so maybe looking back is the least of their concerns (and that is also scary).


      • down island way

        Thus far we haven’t been offensive enough to place the defense in better position to make those plays CKS speaks so highly of…….not blaming the offense,defense,special teams,scout team nor THE RED COAT marching band for our short comings…..we all see it, it is what it is. GO DAWGS!


    • Absolutely not. Kirby and Saban teach pattern reading, where the DB essentially runs the route tree with the QB. The reason they’re not playing the ball is because they’ve played 3 teams with better receivers than any of the teams we’ve seen since the 2914 DB exodus (save maybe Alabama last year).


      • 86BONE

        When the ball is released from the passer’s hand, any player can make a play on the ball. Not quite sure why d backs don’t play the ball. Look at it as a fumble…it is a “loose ball”.
        I turned the game off when Brisco looked like he was swatting flies for Old Piss receivers….PATHETIC


  7. D as in Dawg

    Let’s just face it, we are going to get walloped this weekend. UT will score fast, then we’ll play well enough to keep it close until the half, then they’ll open up a can in the 3rd, then we’ll get some too late scoring in the 4th. I’ll scream and complain during the game that the sky is falling and then I’ll be the voice of reason next week. Oh, I almost forgot something, my opinion will be wrong and many commenters will tell me that in a very not nice way. Go Dawgs!


  8. Bright Idea

    The running QB has completely changed defensive football and the advent of the RPO adds to it. I don’t think those outside of the arena understand that the RPOption part starts after the ball is snapped. The scheme has spread the field and caused the defense to virtually abandon the LOS. Of course defenses playing Georgia have no reason to abandon the LOS because we can’t get the ball out in space because we prefer to pound and our QB is no threat to run.


  9. I agree with Greg’s comments above. I think Saban has recently used the term “eye discipline.”

    A couple of other things:

    It seems to me that Bama’s DBs never turn their heads to play the ball. To the guy on the couch it looks like they don’t have “ball skills,” but they are trained to play this way. Drives me crazy.
    Accordingly, when a guy like Kelly is “on,” you wind up getting torched.


    • ASEF

      It makes sense. If you are recovering to the WR, then turning to find the ball is a low-reward, high risk play.

      Try it. Go out and just stand next to someone. Turn and try to find a pass in the air. 9 x out of 10, the ball goes right by you – and now you’re turned away from the guy who just caught it.

      If you’re running stride for stride, then you turn. But if you’re not, then you play the hands and (a) hope to disrupt the pass and (b) damn sure make the tackle.


  10. Rick

    Senator – do you have no control over what ads play on your site? This is pretty icky:


  11. ugadawgguy

    Kirby/Saban’s defense has long been known to struggle with the spread, especially vs. mobile QBs.

    Doesn’t look like that trend for them is ending at Georgia.


  12. AusDawg85

    I’m not in the arena, but DL’s who can push in, set the edge and disrupt the backfield seem to contain RPO offenses pretty good. Oh, and smack their QB hard every chance you get to wear him down.