“Confuse and clobber”

Ian Boyd takes a look at how teams like Appalachian State have married sets with fullbacks and tight ends to spread offenses.  Check out this quote from Appy State’s head coach, comparing what he ran against Michigan in that infamous 2007 upset and what the Mountaineers do on offense now:

“The game has evolved since then,” Satterfield says. “Most everyone is doing some version of the spread now. The defenses have tried to catch up, and to a certain extent, they have, by putting more speed on the field. We’ve kinda gone back to running the football and a little bit more slowing the game down and limiting the offensive possessions for the other team, and that’s helped us since we moved up to the FBS level. But the game is always evolving.”

Boyd explains how schools like ASU find personnel to fit what they do now.

It used to be that when people thought about prototypical football players they thought of guys like running backs and fullbacks. Elite, physical runners and big, burly blockers who lived for the contact of the game. But nowadays the game is increasingly dominated by QBs that can process and make decisions under fire and then deliver the ball down the field through the air to receivers who are processing and making decisions on the fly.

It’s not too terribly difficult for a program like Appalachian State or NC State to load up with multiple solid running backs, nor to find blocking fullbacks and tight ends. It’s even possible to find really good ones because they no longer have as much value at the bigger universities that are only looking for TEs that can run routes.

There could probably be some advantage gained by recruiting good tailbacks and then using something like the I-formation, which is no longer common at all, to feed them the ball. That and great defense is more or less how San Diego State has been winning the Mountain West the last few years. However, that’s not what these teams are doing. Instead they’re utilizing even more old school sets like the old Wing-T combined with modern shotgun, pistol, and spread-option tactics to feature multiple ballcarriers at the same time.

Not only are those players and tactics accessible for a smaller school, but they have the added benefit noted by Satterfield above. Running simpler, up-tempo offense was always properly the purveyance of the blue blood programs. The philosophy of an up-tempo spread is truly to determine the game’s outcome by giving your own, well-drilled athletes as many opportunities as possible to out-execute their opponents while the spacing of the spread raised the stakes of every play.

Slowing the game down, limiting possessions, and trying to win through scrappy execution of unique tactics is much more an underdog strategy and the “confuse and clobber” offenses aim to do just that.

I’ve always been an advocate of contrarian thinking when it comes to offensive strategy.  If defenses gear up to defend spread attacks by going faster and leaner, then a power offense should find personnel mismatches to exploit.  That coaches already running spread offenses are embracing some of those tactics is another reason to love the variety that college football breeds out of necessity due to a lack of parity.

It’ll be interesting to see how Georgia handles the ASU offense, not to mention how Smart deals with Satterfield’s slowing the game down to limit Georgia’s offensive possessions.

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34 Comments

Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

34 responses to ““Confuse and clobber”

  1. Jack Klompus

    It makes sense to me, I must confess.

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  2. Greg

    You adjust the defense to how the offense is being run….coaching. We have big & fast, what ASU runs should not matter. It is adjustments that matter.

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  3. MGW

    Sounds like an early lead would do us some good.

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  4. Southernlawyer11

    Why do I worry that Kirby Smart’s offensive philosophy is a 70yr old trapped in a 40 yr old’s body ? I suppose we check all the boxes for being one of the last remaining programs capable of running a no nonsense pro-style attack, but even we can see how devastating a few mere imperfections in O-line depth can be……especially if you’re damn determined that you’re privileged enough to never have to think outside the box.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 92 grad

    Senator, you’ve come at me with the “CFB has zero parity” hit when I comment the opposite where I believe there is parity. I still do believe that the top 40 or so programs are very evenly matched, so even that the evolution of the game is the only way any team gains advantages. I don’t care to be right or have anyone agree with me so don’t take this wrong. I just think that most teams are so evenly matched it just takes 2 or 3 players and wrinkles to swing games.

    And yes, I do sincerely agree that CFB is something to be thankful for. I hate that the money looms large and I hope things don’t ruin the sport.

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    • Not sure what you’re referring to. I wouldn’t say there’s zero parity in CFB, but there’s far less parity than there is in almost any other sport. You don’t think UGA and ASU are on a level field, do you?

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      • Southernlawyer11

        It’s become such a tired cliche’ to say this but I think there is parity in the top 40 OUTSIDE of Alabama. (I know, really out on a limb here). But nobody has ever seen the level of recruitment AND roster management we have seen with that man. He is almost always operating with 85 ready-to-contribute blue chip athletes.

        No other team in America could have had such funky QB play in a game against Clemson and only lose on the final play. It would have been a route. They have created for themselves a margin of error that NO OTHER program enjoys. Alabama can have 2 of 3 units shitting itself for much of the game but then dominate with grinding depth in the one other facet until the other two catch up.

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        • Southernlawyer11

          When Alabama’s offense is crapping itself, its defense just bows up and turns Time of Possession into an actual useful metric…….meaning, it quickly puts the other defense back on the field so it can slowly get worn down to the point it no longer matters if Alabama’s QB AND Offensive Coordinator are simultaneously having a bad day.

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        • How many times has the 40th best team in the country won the national title?

          Since 1998 I think something like 12 schools have won it. I don’t think any of them were unranked before the season started.

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          • JCDAWG83

            I’m not certain but I think the argument is about the “any given Saturday” aspect of talent parity. True, the unranked or 23rd ranked team to open the season isn’t likely to sniff the CFP championship, the relative talent gap between them and a top ten ranked team is not so vast that the lower ranked team has no chance of winning a head to head matchup.

            App State has 85 scholarships to give, the same as we do. While I don’t think their talent is on our level across the board, they don’t have a bunch of intramural squad level talent on the field either. The spread in it’s purest form utilizes a “basketball on grass” strategy hoping to put the offensive player in a one on one situation with a defensive player in open space. If the offensive player can win that play, he can make big gains. Teams like App State, when they face opponents like Georgia, hope to keep the game close into the fourth quarter and hope to capitalize on a late turnover, big play by their offense or a miscue by the more powerful opponent to pull out an upset win.

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      • 92 grad

        It’s hard to pinpoint which moving target to focus on to explain my thinking here. I certainly agree that asu is not essentially equal to our team, I agree that roster depth is a significant hinderance for smaller schools, but at the end of the day our team rarely wins a game by more than 10 points. Any mistakes made by our team are extremely costly, like, if one Db steps in the wrong direction the opposing qb is talented enough to exploit it and throw a td. I suppose my feeling is that the kids are so talented and coached up to high standards that they pounce on any mis match instantly. One player picking up on his opponents hesitation can change the outcome of a game. It just impresses me that these kids are as good as they are, maybe that’s where I’m coming from.

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        • southernlawyer11

          I hear what you’re saying. Somebody said recently that the average SEC fan generally thinks his team should roll Vanderbilt and Kentucky because of superior talent. It’s a little of a misguided assumption because, while the superior talent part is true enough on paper, the disparity isn’t big enough to overcome the improvement that comes with the (still fairly talented) Vandy player getting week-in-week-out experience vs talent naturally superior to himself. The Sr. DB for Vandy, in effect, becomes a more talented player to his otherwise equal counterpart who chose to attend a G5 school 4 yrs earlier.

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      • Got Cowdog

        Dawg I hope not. I guess we’ll find out soon enough

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    • Greg

      You’re right for the most part. There is mostly parity in the starting 22 (early upsets) depth is where the difference is. However, there are some exceptions when a player or two can make a difference….see Clemson, just to mention one.

      Like

  6. georgiajeepn

    Is it really just that simple? Since the Appy State coach has revealed his offensive philosophy maybe Georgia should just ground and pound also. Shorten the game even more and outman them size wise?

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    • dubyadee

      Worked so well against Nichols.

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      • georgiajeepn

        That was against last year’s team right? I believe the subject team is Appy State this year. If we have the same kind of problems as last year then the Dawgs are in for a world of hurt and not just against Appy.

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  7. JT

    Yes, it can be that simple provided you a good defense to compliment slowing down the game and eating clock. The defense can’t be swiss cheese because if it is you can’t slow down the clock, you need to score quickly to keep up.

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  8. Hobnail_Boot

    Win first down. Make them more predictable.

    Rinse and repeat.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think playing Georgia’s game doesn’t really help AppSt here. Seems like they’re going to try and out-Georgia… Georgia. Trying to slow down the game against Tenn, a team that wants to play with tempo makes a lot of sense, but trying to slow down and be deliberate against a team that wants to do the same but has better talent 1-22 seems like a tough road to hoe.

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    • Look at what Miami did to AppSt last year. They run a pro set and want to run the ball and be relatively deliberate and they just murdered AppSt because AppSt went up against a team that wanted to play the game the same way.

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      • Yes, Miami runs a pro-style offense, but it was different … they went HUNH sort of like we did with Murray and Mason. The combination of HUNH with a pro-style attack is devastating for most college defenses. It’s the best of both worlds. The HUNH makes the defense stay on the field and coaches can exploit match-up problems with either a bludgeoning running attack or with better skill players on the outside.

        The problem we had last year is that we were in the huddle virtually every play except in 2/4 minute offense situations. We were giving defenses the chance to substitute to match personnel groupings.

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  10. 69Dawg

    When the David’s of CFB beat the Giants of the Power 5, it is usually the fact that the Giants beat themselves. Barring a flood of turnovers, dropped passes, missed kicks, stupid special teams play etc a team like APP State should not be able to stay on the field with any Power 5 team. That being said UGA has for the last few years played like crap against these teams. Whether it is the coach’s fault for not getting the guys up for the game or just the fact that most of these elite athletes think they can just roll their helmets on to the field and win ( my suspension), upsets happen and UGA is very lucky we have scrapped by on some of these. That is where Alabama has been better coached. I know that even they have come close to losing on a few occasions and even lost to ULM in Saban’s first season, but now his teams know that if they fail to perform, even in these walkover games there will be somebody else playing that position next week. He has the depth to replace the guys that dog it in these games, we do not yet have that luxury.

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  11. Red Cup

    With any team like App State you have to be up more than one score so that they cannot win in the end on one play. That will be their playbook. Run clock, keep it close and try to steal a win at the end. almost worked against the urange last year.

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    • southernlawyer11

      and it always helps to bury them early. An overmatched G5 team will often fold when put in an early hole, but when they hang around their confidence increases exponentially when compared to just a regular underdog.

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    • W Cobb Dawg

      Agree, we need to put some serious points on the board. I wouldn’t say UGA has had a grind-it-out offense in the past as much as we’ve had a grind-the-clock offense. Scoring seemed to be an afterthought to ball control/killing clock. Our opponents were more than happy to keep the score low and close. There are soo many examples of this approach coming back to cost us wins that I won’t even bother listing them. Seems to me a shoot-it-out approach would benefit us much more than a grind-it-out approach.

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  12. dubyadee

    I don’t know that it would really effect the overall w/l record, but it would sure be nice to see Georgia hang a big number on somebody . . . anybody. It has been a long time. I remember being really upset with Richt that, even with his best teams, the back-up QB rarely saw the field.

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  13. Macallanlover

    Wish we had an OC capable of articulating an offensive strategy and giving an aura of confidence to his program’s supporters. (Would actually just be nice to have Kirby’s foot off his throat to hear any of what he thinks about offensive scheme.) But that said, Appy may make all the right decisions as they prepare for Septmber 2 but UGA should dominate them and cover the spread winning by 2+ TDs.

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    • JCDAWG83

      Right now, the line is Georgia -14.5. That should be taken as an insult by the team. How has Georgia football fallen so far that it is barely a 2 touchdown favorite over App State? I’m not insulting App State but a traditional SEC top tier program only being favored by 2 touchdowns over a team a couple years removed from D1-AA should be a wake up call to the team and coaches.

      I think the App State game should be the “statement” game for Georgia to open the season. Anything less than a laugher will send the message that Georgia football still can’t be taken seriously.

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      • Macallanlover

        I think the line is fair, not an insult at all. It is an opening game, lot of mistakes and disorganization, and UGA has a much bigger game the next week so they may keep things vanilla, and attempt to get some new players a few reps. ASU isn’t that weak a team, should be healthy, and would love to earn some respect. I think it would have been a closer game if they had gotten the noon kickoff everyone expected, bad break for them to catch us at twilight/night. Dawgs 31-34 Appy 10-13

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        • If we keep things vanilla, we’ll be in for a fight. That’s exactly what Tennessee did last year (and it was a late afternoon/night game if I recall), and it almost cost them. Sure, ND is a higher profile opponent, but this program can’t afford to overlook anyone right now. You go out on that Saturday night with the intention of making a statement. The 45-10 woodshed job Miami dropped on them in Boone last year should be the standard.

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          • Macallanlover

            I am with you one your premise and approach to the game itself, certainly not suggesting we take them too lightly at all. I guess there are different degrees of “vanilla”. I was referring more to withholding certain personnel groupings or formations that may be more appropriate for a strategic advantage against ND. I want all games played full out, and would use those new formations if needed to win the first game, but 80 percent of the playbook will almost surely secure that game, Roll out more, only if needed….and it shouldn’t be.

            I can see a Miami style beat down, but I want more guys getting those first game jitters out of the way. I expect us to use several freshmen early in the season and South Bend isn’t the best place for that. Would take a 31-10 type game rather than push to run it up more, that would be impressive enough win for an opener with a marquis opponent on deck. We won’t overlook Appy in the opener.

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  14. Uglydawg

    Upsets are much more likely in the early season.. player attrition by injury is much harder on team without really good depth. That may be stating the obvious but the point is ASU will be at it’s healthiest against UGA..but the same can be said either way.

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  15. Cojones

    As the game progresses, mismatches occur less and less.

    Fast DBs?… run the ball down their throat. Big DBs?… pass their eyes out. So then we recruit (and get) big and fast DBs. Get a QB that creates another player on the field with his feet. Pocket passers have to throw short and with a fast release as well as throw accurately down the field in order to earn respect for the running game. The more that the need develops for pocket passers, the more the need for a big O-line and powerful RBs. Nirvana is to have an all-around QB that personally creates hell for their D and by having a well-oiled O in front of him like Bobo put on the field.

    ASU can creates a facsimile of the above that can give anyone fits, especially if we play as we did last season. Right now I’m going to hold my powder until viewing something different from last year. Every Georgia game is up for grabs until Bobo’s machine returns.

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