Amid all the Saban-Kiffin sniping that’s admittedly been amusing to follow, Alabama’s head coach had some interesting things to say about what he wants from his offense.
“I felt like we moved further and further away from what I wanted to do last year,” Saban told ESPN this week. “I think the first two years [under Lane Kiffin] we did what the quarterback could do. It was what we needed to do from a quarterback standpoint, but we still philosophically were doing the things I wanted to do in terms of balance and utilizing all of our skill players. And last year, and this is no criticism of Lane or anybody, but having a freshman quarterback [Hurts] and trying to accommodate his skill set, we got to where we weren’t very effective passing the ball.
“Some of it was him being a freshman and us protecting him probably too much, but I wanted to get back to where we could utilize the skill guys we have on offense and still do some of the things that are difficult to defend. The point is that we had Calvin Ridley and O.J. Howard, but they had very little impact on most games.”
I get his point about not wasting Ridley’s and Howard’s talents, but overall, the philosophy expressed there seems to go against the current grain of thinking regarding offensive scheming, which is using a dual threat quarterback to exploit defenses. Say what you will about Kiffin, but I thought his greatest strength as an offensive coordinator was his ability to design the offense around his most dynamic players. A couple of years ago, that was Amari Cooper; in 2016, it was Hurts.
But that doesn’t seem to be where Nick Saban’s head is at now.
“You’ve got guys blocking downfield when you throw a pass. How much better does it get for the offense?” Saban said. “You’ve got to do some of that stuff, but I also thought we needed to go back and make sure we were coaching the passing game like we needed to do it to be able to develop a quarterback so we could have more balance in what we were doing. We threw a lot of passes last year (an average of 27.8 per game), but they were the kind of passes Jalen could deal with, but really not the kind of passes that took advantage of the skill players that we had.”
“We want our quarterback to be able to make plays with his feet, but we also don’t want to have to count on a lot of quarterback runs to make our offense go,” Saban said.
That sure sounds to me like a man who wants to run a more traditional pro-style, run-based, play action passing game. What I wonder after reading that is what’s on Kirby Smart’s mind in that regard. After all, Smart spent years soaking up Saban’s wisdom. Yet, Smart has indicated in his comments this offseason that he wants to get away (somewhat, at least) from that kind of offense, even as his recruiting has clearly favored beefing up the size of his offensive line and receiving corps.
I’ve always seen the value in contrarian thinking when it comes to offensive philosophy. As defenses trend towards being structured to stop spread attacks, it sure seems like running a heavier pro-style attack would be an effective way to exploit the catch that comes with that. When it comes to offensive schemes, does Saban know something that Smart doesn’t know, or is it more a case of the two of them meeting somewhere in the middle?
13 responses to “Get back”
Interesting, shall be interesting to see how Bama evolves. I will say I felt like I was at a UGA game for Bama Washington as I heard more than a few fans yell “Run the *%@# ball Lane!!”
I want a dual threat QB like Watson, Shockley, $Cam, or even Murray. Those guys ran when they needed to but could throw the entire route tree.
You want a Heisman caliber QB. FIFY.
You don’t necessarily need a spread offense, but your offense must take advantage of the rules that favor offensive football. 1) You can incorporate RPO as the lineman can release downfiled (2 1/2 yards?) on a foreward pass. As a linebacker of safety “reading the keys” of the lineman this is extremely difficult to defend.
2) You can block downfield on a pass behind the line of scrimage. Why crowd everone at the line of scrimmage when you can in essence have a running play with a forward pass?
3)You can control defensive substitutions with your tempo.
These are the 3 big advantages in college football. None of the requires the spread, one requires tempo. All of them requires a good coaching staff to take full advantage. Gone are the days of hitting a 15 yard square out on the money as being important, when you can throw lateral to the line of scrimage and get 15yrds by getting a playmaker in space with lineman downfield. This is why we see less quarterbacks ready for the NFL, while seeing QBs put up gaudy numbers in college. As an offense you need to take advantage of these situaions.
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I hope Kirby looks a lot further than Tuscaloosa for what to incorporate into his offensive vision. Saban is a damn good coach but he isn’t the only one KS should pay attention to. Once of Saban’s strengths is he does it his way and didn’t let any one coach set his standards or goals. Kirby needs to have his own identity, and it should be a blend of what he has seen and make his own way. I am seeing more Saban than I like at this point, but he is very young in the position.
I also wish he had chosen better for an OC since it is an area is short on expertise with. Bringing in the analyst from Minnesota may help, can’t hurt, but I hope he realizes that was a warm mess we had on the field last year with our offense in at least 10 of those games. I know it has to be better this season even with Chaney still around, Smart just needs to realize the easiest hire is rarely the best one, and Saban evolves while keeping his eyes on new ideas and unorthodox hires.
If I heard correctly on the G-Day broadcast, Kirby and possibly others on staff talked with the offensive staff at OU about using multiple backs in the passing game. Mixon may be a PoS as a person, but the way OU used Perine and Mixon offensively was very nice. Now if only we’d hear about them talking to NE about how they used Gronk and figure out ways to use Woerner and/or Nauta in that TE split out/in the slot role…
Both using RBs and TEs in the passing game last year would have helped loosen up the defense for the running game so I am all-in on a change in that direction. Baker Mayfield is a great QB to build that offense around too.
That’s the one thing that will be a lot trickier to translate. Mayfield was very accurate passing, and a decent threat to run. So far, neither thing is true of Eason. My hope is maybe they do some RPOs with both RBs and a WR runs a deep post, so if there’s single coverage, Eason can just go deep (because his arm strength is a lot greater than Mayfield’s.)
Kiffin started hanging his D out to dry. That’s what he really means. Too many 3 and outs left them on the field too long and they wore out against Clemson.
You could make the same argument in the 1st Clemson championship game. You didn’t see a clock killing drive as was the trademark of preKiffin Saban/Bama championship teams.
I think that what he’s grinding on is how the offense couldn’t hold a lead once Scarborough went down. Everybody faces a situation where your qb makes plays or you die. It’s why you can’t play the floridas and alabamas of the world with Lambert and Mason.
When the defense stops the run, quits respecting it and they pins their ears back to kill the qb, can your qb move the chains or does he crumble?
I’m guessing that bamas o-line isn’t what it’s been and, as we’ve been reminded time and again, you never know where you’ll be in RBs in any given game on the schedule.
I thought Hurts was pretty damn good for a freshman. Gonna take one hell of a team to keep Hurts out of the championship game for his next 3 years of eligibility.
Is Fromm a good runner, I mean now that he’s our starter after GDay.