Can you reconcile these two statements?
“We’ve got to be able to run the ball, we’ve got to have explosive passes, we’ve got to be able to throw the ball down the field,” Smart said, adding: “You’re going to say that’s broad, I’m going to say we don’t know until we find out more about our personnel. We don’t make our personnel fit Jim Chaney’s offense. We can’t do that.”
“We have a gameplan every game we go in, just like every team does, that you have three wide sets and you are able to run certain plays out of them,” Smart said. “We have those. If those work, then I’m great with it, especially if we’re not successful in the other. But we have to do what the strengths of our team are. And sometimes that’s two back, sometimes it’s not.”
Actually, I think you can. It’s just that I’m not sure Chaney and Smart have shown a sense of flexibility consistently throughout the season. Part of that may be due to them not really having a good feel for what those team strengths are. So sometimes we’ve seen what feels very much like an effort to jam a square peg in a round hole and sometimes we’ve gotten the impression they’re simply feeling their way around.
“A lot of that is based on not only who we are or what we run, but who we play,” Smart said Monday, when asked about the creativity of Georgia’s rushing attack. “The bottom line is the bigger and more physical they are out there, the harder they are to move. We have to be creative. We have to have the right runs into the right fronts. We have to be stubborn enough to be able to run those. But at the same time allow Jacob to use his strengths and use the wide outs.”
I’m not mocking here. Eason does have his strengths, as this stat from Jason Butt clearly demonstrates: “On drives that have ended with go-ahead scores with less than two minutes to go in games, Eason is 11-of-16 passing for 171 yards.”
There are a lot of head coaches who would give their left arm for a quarterback capable of that. Keep a game close late, and you’ve got a real chance to steal a win. That’s something to build around.
It’s not an end in and of itself, though. It’s not nothing, either. So while you shouldn’t slavishly copy everything you do in a end-of-game, two-minute drill setting and make that the sum total of what you do offensively, there are certain elements of it that may be worth adapting in the first fifty-eight minutes of play.
I’ve never coached, but I watched enough Mike Bobo to confirm that the best offensive philosophy is keep it simple, stupid. Get the ball into the hands of your best playmakers. Figure out your opponent’s weaknesses on defense and exploit them until your opponent proves he can stop what you’re doing. Scheme around your weaknesses.
Case in point: Auburn’s defense comes into Athens a little nervous over what Vanderbilt — Vanderbilt! — did to work around the Tigers’ pass rush.
Georgia’s blossoming attack all starts with quarterback Jacob Eason, and running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, who have combined for 1,178 yards. They’re a big concern for the Tigers’ defense, which has struggled in the last two games against quick passes. Those quick passes, slants and screens have negated Auburn’s once-powerful pass rush.
While “blossoming” may be a bit of a stretch, there is some validity to the concern. The same Vanderbilt offense that only managed 171 yards in Athens gained nearly twice that last Saturday on the Plains. It was only the second time all season the ‘Dores managed to exceed 200 yards passing. And, oh, yeah, Auburn managed only one sack.
You would think this approach would be a no-brainer this week, as it works around an offensive line with shortcomings and plays into areas where Georgia indeed appears to be finding contributing skill position players as the season develops. But will that happen?
Maybe. There were some encouraging signs in that regard against Kentucky.
Georgia was in the shot-gun 40 times in last Saturday’s game, and those plays gained 276 yards. The other 33 plays netted 184 yards, though 51 of those came on one play: The 51-yard pass to Javon Wims, which was on play-action.
Both of Georgia’s touchdowns came out of the shot-gun: A 38-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah McKenzie out of a four-wide set, and a 26-yard Sony Michel run on an inside handoff. Michel had five runs of 8 yards or longer out of the shot-gun.
It wasn’t just the formations they ran. For the first time in a while, it appeared they made a conscious decision to use the pass to set up the run by backing defenders out of the box. In the immortal words of Javon Wims, fresh off his career day,
“When we run the team ball teams are going to tend to stack the box, and they’re going to bring all their guys in, and sometimes you have to keep them honest by throwing it.”
Amen, brother. Sometimes it really ain’t rocket science. Keep KISSing, fellas.