Monthly Archives: December 2016

This is why he’s called Dabo.

Coach Swinney has always subscribed to the “I got mine, don’t worry about his” school of thought when it comes to player compensation, so him coming out forcefully against players sitting out bowl games to prepare for the NFL draft is no real surprise, but you gotta love the logic to his thought process.  Or, to be more precise, the lack of logic:

Dabo Swinney comes out strong on players sitting out of bowls, saying those players might as well skip their entire final season. “You can get hurt in any game and every game is huge…”  [Emphasis added.]

Dude, guys like Fournette and McCaffrey are skipping their senior seasons.  That’s the whole point.  Does that mean you actually approve?

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Filed under It's Just Bidness

The final act of Georgia’s 2016 play

Pro Football Focus summarizes the Liberty Bowl as follows:

Georgia QB Jacob Eason has struggled against pressure this year, completing just 33.8 percent of his passes and posting a QB rating of 44.7. He has also struggled with his downfield accuracy, as he has completed only 22 of his 109 shots at least 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. While TCU hasn’t produced a consistent pass rush this season, the Horned Frogs rank 19th in coverage grading among Power-5 schools. CB Ranthony Texada has given up just two receptions of at least 20 yards in his past seven games, while his counterpart, Jeff Gladney has given up just three such catches the entire season.

Georgia’s ability to move the ball on offense relies almost solely on RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who have combined for 1741 yards and forced 60 missed tackles. Due to poor offensive line play, 1162 of their yards have come after first contact. TCU’s front seven is strong against the run, led by DT Aaron Curry. If the Georgia backfield can’t make TCU defenders miss – the Horned Frogs have missed 136 tackles this season – TCU should be able to put up enough points on offense to pull off the upset.

That really hits where I’m feeling the toughest part of the game is for Georgia today.  With Ridley’s injury taking one more playmaker off the field, I have a sense that Chaney and Smart are going to double down on pounding the ball.  Georgia is going to have its usual trouble scoring points as a result.  Can the Dawgs keep up with the Frogs if they have to?  I’m skeptical.

Marc Weiszer mentions two other factors affecting my thinking about the game.  One is something very much in Georgia’s favor:

Georgia is 19th nationally in turnover margin (+7). TCU is 84th (-3).

This game looks close enough to me that going +2 in turnover margin might well be enough to make the difference.  Georgia is more likely to pull that off than is TCU.

On the other hand, this definitely isn’t something in Georgia’s favor.

Georgia’s Kirby Smart is 7-5 in his first year as a head coach. He is 3-1 in nonconference games. TCU’s Gary Patterson 149-53 in 15 seasons, all at TCU, making him the school’s all-time winningest coach.

In a tight game, are you gonna go with the guy who’s still working out the bugs that come with on the job training or the one who’s led his team through several bowl games already?

My heart’s with Georgia on this one, but my head tells me we’re about to see one last game marked by the same problems — constipated offense and red zone woes — that have plagued the Dawgs all season.  They’ll both cost them today in a narrow loss.

At least we’ve got recruiting to look forward to, eh?

Consider this your game day thread.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Alabama, where they mean business about business decisions

Another sign of the genius of Nick Saban — if the reality is that college football is the NFL’s free developmental league, don’t run from that; embrace it.

… Why are highly rated draft prospects at Alabama largely staying for their senior years when the national trend is skewing more toward leaving at the first opportunity given the money and risk factors involved?

… It’s clear that Saban’s advice on whether players should stay or leave is a large part of the equation. Though some could view it cynically and say a coach whose $7 million-a-year salary depends on wins and losses shouldn’t be advising unpaid college players to pass up guaranteed money, Saban approaches it as a value proposition.

And when difference between guaranteed salary for first-round picks and those taken in the second round can be millions of dollars, it’s worth careful consideration for those who have the potential to enhance their stock.

“I think the biggest thing we try to do with our players is we try to get them to make a quality business decision,” Saban said. “You can’t improve your value once you get in the draft. It is what it is, and what a lot of people don’t realize is everybody wants you to come out for the draft, but once you say you’re in the draft every team looks for reasons not to draft you.

“They’re making a significant investment, and they want to make sure they’re getting quality for what they want to invest in, so if guys can improve that as college players, that’s certainly something we would like for them to do and we’ve had a significant number of guys that have done that and come back and improved their draft value. We’ve had guys who have gone out because it was the right thing for them to do and they’ve done extremely well. Every case is different and I think our players, because they’ve seen both sides of this, sort of understand the business side.”

Allen, who received a second-round grade from the NFL Draft advisory board last year, is the embodiment of that analysis as ESPN’s Mel Kiper now rates Allen the No. 3 overall player. If he ultimately gets drafted somewhere in that range, Allen’s decision to come back will guarantee him at least $16 million more on his first contract than if he had been an early second-round pick.

The trick isn’t selling your players on the value of staying.  It’s delivering on that message.  How many coaches out there can legitimately do that?

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Filed under Nick Saban Rules

Gary Patterson appreciates all the help he can get.

Most coaches act like they never read anything in the media about their teams or games.  Not TCU’s head man.

Patterson made no bones about the fact he reads what is said – including something by a Georgia player the day before. At one point in the press conference, when he was asked about some potential strategy, Patterson declined, saying he didn’t want to divulge anything.

“Kirby Smart’s sitting over there so I’m telling him everything,” Patterson said. “It’s kind of like how I was reading in the paper that one of their offensive linemen in the media talked about our slanting. … Right now I’m not giving Georgia anything. They don’t need much help.”

That appeared to be a reference not to an offensive lineman but to Georgia tight end Jeb Blazevich, who was offering a compliment to TCU’s defense. Blazevich said the Horned Frogs were “really good at slanting. I feel like they’re really good at winning their gap when they do slant. There is a field blitz where they slant hard to the boundary. They’re a little bit more unorthodox compared to what we’re used to.

“We’re used to huge guys right up in your face. They’re kind of smaller guys backed up off the ball, but they make up for that. That’s where their niche is—their speed and slanting in the gaps and flying around. I think they play well together. It looks like they have a lot of fun. I know they have a lot of speed off the edge. I think that’s the biggest thing we’re going to have to overcome, just adapting to their speed because they don’t have the size advantage that a lot of other teams have.”

On one level, I don’t think this is that big a deal.  Patterson knows better than anyone, including Blazevich and Georgia’s staff, what he runs on defense, so I doubt this has any significant effect on TCU’s scheme and preparation for today’s game.  But from a mind games standpoint, letting Georgia’s players and coaches know that he’s aware of what they’re prepping for, maybe that plants a small seed for overthinking on a play or two.  Who knows?  When you’ve been around the block as many times as Patterson has, you take any edge you think you can get.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Junior’s new sales pitch

Come to FAU, or as he refers to it, the University of Alabama Lite.

In fact, Kiffin expects to use Love’s time at Alabama working under head strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran as one of his recruiting pitches.

“To me now when you come to FAU, you’re getting Alabama’s program,” he said. “As a high school kid you’re saying ‘Okay I want to go to Alabama, but I don’t have an Alabama offer,’ I can go there and get the same training to prepare me for the NFL and prepare me for my college seasons.”

Hey, if he sells that to recruits who never actually get an invite to step foot on Alabama’s campus to compare, who knows?  It might work.  At least it’s a more positive message than warning them about alternate careers if they don’t choose to play for him.

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Filed under Don't Mess With Lane Kiffin, Recruiting

“But I certainly feel more comfortable having been through a season.”

Jeff Schultz relays what may be the most Process-y story of Kirby Smart’s Georgia career so far.

Smart was so determined to amend for that performance against Tech’s triple option that in the days following the loss, he reached out to a third party to see if former long-time Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green would be willing to come aboard as a consultant.

The answer from Green: no.

Smart confirmed Thursday he reached out indirectly to Green because he knew the assistant coach, despite his friendship and past ties to Tech coach Paul Johnson, had helped Clemson prepare before its game against Tech. Smart was hoping Green would do the same for Georgia. But it turned out Green helped Clemson only because his son works there (director of video).

Smart said he has since acquired the assistance of others, without divulging who. But the anecdote illustrates how determined Smart is to get Georgia turned around next season.

True, determination and fairly unlimited resources may only get you so far, but if Smart is willing to go so far as to add on a designated consultant for defending the triple option — and nobody at Butts-Mehre has an objection to spending money to do so — I’m more than willing to be patient and see what a no stone left unturned approach gets Georgia football in the next two or three seasons.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Today, in be careful what you wish for

All of a sudden, coaches backtracking on playoff expansion seems to be a thing.

Here’s Jimbo Fisher, getting all worried about the bowls in the CFP era:

“We better be really, really careful with all this playoff stuff,” Fisher said. “We’re all caught up in a championship. All we talk about on Tuesday [when rankings are released] is who is in the playoff rankings. Who cares? Go play and be the best team you can be.

“These games all mean something. I think they mean more than ever right now, and I hope we don’t push that away and destroy a great tradition in college football.”

Hey, he said the T-word!

Meanwhile, Dabo’s up and gone all old school on us.

Not that any of this matters one bit.  Money talks and will always do so.  And Jimbo and Dabo will keep cashing their paychecks, no matter what happens to the bowls.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs

If they gave out Darwin Awards for crime, this would win.

There are no words.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment

When you’re your own Second Chance U

Mississippi State finally gets around to dismissing a player after his third arrest in a month.

Man, bowl prep must have been a real distraction, Coach Mullen.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, SEC Football

Life after the crayon box

Jeb Blazevich haz a sad.

Jeb Blazevich searched his memory, but he couldn’t quite remember when and how he heard the news two years ago. Yes, his offensive coordinator leaving was a big deal, but at the time it didn’t seem like a seismic, far-reaching event. Georgia was coming off another record-setting offensive year, there was talent all around, and even Mike Bobo told everyone on the way out that his team would be just fine.

There was no reason for Blazevich and other Georgia players to think anything else.

“They said we had the best offense in Georgia history my freshman year,” recalled Blazevich, now a junior tight end, on a year when Georgia scored the most points in school history. “I said, well shoot we’ll break it again next year.”

Blazevich laughed.

“It’s interesting how naïve I was, I guess,” he said.

The struggles since then of Georgia’s once-mighty offense have cost one head coach his job, resulted in wholesale turnover on the offensive coaching staff, and generally been a source of constant consternation among the fan base.

If Georgia doesn’t score 40 points in Friday’s Liberty Bowl, it will be the first season in 16 years that the Bulldogs haven’t reached 40 in a single game. After setting records in Bobo’s final few seasons, the numbers have cratered the past two years under Brian Schottenheimer and Jim Chaney: The Bulldogs enter the bowl game ranked 89th nationally in total offense and 104th in scoring, and will need to score 40 points to avoid the lowest scoring output for a Georgia team since the schedule expanded to 12 games.

Now I’m sad.

Seth Emerson does a good job of cataloguing the reasons for Georgia’s offensive decline.  Two of those in particular caught my eye.

One is the blocking scheme, which we’ve discussed before.  There has been a change of approach from Sale to Pittman.

Sam Pittman, the respected line coach hired by Smart, instituted a scheme predicated on blockers moving forward. Rob Sale, the line coach last year, focused more on a “lateral” technique, according to lineman Dyshon Sims.

“It’s the same concept, but every position coach teaches it different,” said Sims, a junior this year. “And I think as you happen to do the lateral stuff last year and then trying to transform it into going straight downhill took some time for us getting some used to. But I think now that we’re comfortable with that scheme it’s going to be a lot better.”

Sims was asked what the biggest challenge was with the change.

“Just not getting into the old system anymore,” he said. Because you train yourself into trying to do that for so long, for over a year, and then you have to change everything, pretty much. So sometimes you can find yourself going into the old stuff a lot.”

Brandon Kublanow, a starter the past three years, also acknowledged that you sometimes “fall back on habits”, but you have to use practice to avoid that.

“I think every offensive line coach will tell you they have their own style, what kind of footwork they want, what kind of steps they want, how far the steps will be,” Kublanow said. “So everyone’s different. New year, new coach, so a lot of different things.”

Old habits die hard.  (Although that doesn’t explain Catalina’s struggles.)

Two, transitions have been a way of life for three seasons now.

There’s a reason that Blazevich, Chubb and the other soon-to-be seniors are looking forward to next year: Continuity.

“This’ll be the first time I had a strength coach and offensive coordinator both coming back,” Blazevich said. “So just to have that consistency. I mean, I don’t even know what it’s like. Just to take that next step, because everything’s always been intro.”

Not only have there been three coordinators the past three years – four if you count John Lilly’s successful play-calling stints in the two bowls – but there have been three offensive line coaches, three running backs coaches, three receivers coaches, and three strength and conditioning coordiantors.

“The consistency of ‘This is how it’s going to be, this is how it was, now everybody’s on board and everybody knows,’” Blazevich said. “It’s not, ‘Oh we need to figure out this offense, we need to figure out this weight training.’ Now it is what it is and we can just go.”

Chubb echoed that.

“I think it has been overlooked. You can get by with it one year, but then the next year you change, and it kind of gets complicated,” Chubb said. “Hopefully we can get some kind of stability here and make things better.”

Yeah, I can see how that would lead to a bit of a mess.

Both points lend themselves to an argument that there is reason to be optimistic about improvement on the offensive side of the ball next season, but that’s something that remains to be seen, obviously.  It’s also probably the strongest reason for giving Chaney another year.

Purely as an aside, boy, does this comment come off vastly different in hindsight:

Obviously Mike did great things here,” Schottenheimer said when he was introduced at Georgia. “He will do great things at Colorado State. I’m not gonna try to be Mike, certainly…”

Mission accomplished.

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Filed under Georgia Football