Between Bennett and Fields’ arrival, the G-Day QBR trolling here next year ought to be epic.
Daily Archives: December 29, 2017
I really, really wish I could stop seeing these Greg McGarity comments.
“We had to learn what it meant to compete at that level,” McGarity said. “We needed some direction, too. We needed help in understanding what it took to compete at the highest level. He hadn’t been in the chair [at Alabama], but it was pretty doggone close to the head coach’s chair. I think Coach Saban had allowed him to learn and to be a part of the inner workings of his program.”
They’re paying a guy more than half a million dollars a year to learn from his newbie head coach how to run a football program successfully.
As I am wont to say, that’s a helluva way to run a railroad.
Finally, some Rose Bowl drama.
But that changed here Friday morning when Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield did not attend a previously scheduled media availability for Sooners’ offensive players, an absence attributed to an illness by a school spokesman.
Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner and a player who typically relishes the spotlight, has now missed every public appearance, including an arrival news conference Wednesday at Disneyland. While there’s no reason to suspect that Mayfield’s status for the semifinals is in doubt — he has continued to practice this week and was seen on the field during the team’s media viewing window Thursday — the vague nature of the illness, the fact it has now gone on for three days and the preprogrammed answers about it from Oklahoma coaches and players have left enough of a void to be filled with inference and speculation.
I haven’t written as much about the impending train wreck that is Arizona State under Herm Edwards as I probably should, but get a load of this.
Really, what could go wrong?
It appears that Bert’s buyout is going to be ginormous because somebody didn’t pay attention to the contract draft.
Bielema’s original contract in 2012 with UA listed a chart with buyout amounts and included language that the figures in the chart should be plugged into a formula. The contract extension in 2015 laid out a new chart with higher figures but maintained that “all other text, terms and conditions … shall remain the same and shall not be modified in any way by this First Amendment.”
The formula says to take the amount listed as the guaranty payment identified in the chart and to divide that by the number of months in the term of employment. The formula then says to take that amount and multiply it by the number of months remaining on the contract.
Under that formula, the Democrat-Gazette took the $15.4 million and divided it by 97 — the span of Bielema’s employment from Dec. 4, 2012, through the end of his most recent contract, Dec. 31, 2020. The newspaper then took that figure and multiplied by 37 — a rough figure that included the month of December 2017 and the remaining three years of Bielema’s contract. It totaled $5.87 million.
Bielema’s deal with the foundation includes the same chart as his contract extension but does not refer to the formula included in the original contract. [Emphasis added.]
That’s almost a $10 million oversight.
I keep telling you these people aren’t that sharp. But they care about football!
Yeah, my nerves are tingling over what Georgia’s defense will be facing with Baker Mayfield, but what about the other side of the ball? The Sooners offense is the best single unit playing in the CFP, but their defense is the weakest single unit hitting the field on New Year’s Day. What should we expect from Chaney, Fromm, Chubb, Michel, et al.? And what’s Oklahoma going to do about that?
Well, there seem to be a few common themes out there about those questions.
- It’s the Big 12, and those offenses, man. That’s one the Oklahoma team appears to embrace, itself. “In the Big 12, you’re going to be stressed in a lot of different ways,” senior defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo says. “We’re not complaining — it’s just the nature of the beast. I think it’s just a little misleading, looking at it on paper.”
- SEC defenses are overrated because they don’t face many good offenses. The complement to theme #1 means that Georgia’s offensive staff hasn’t had to work as hard to game plan as your typical Big 12 staff because they can get away with a vanilla offense due to the level of opposing offenses. Here’s Oklahoma’s DC on that: “It’s a unique league. The quarterbacks, the offensive coordinators do a great job, really, scheming week to week and trying to pick at your weaknesses. I would imagine Georgia’s had three or four weeks to do that. So we’ll see.”
- Oklahoma’s defense will be playing with a chip on its shoulder. Hard to do when you’re 12-1 and in the CFP, but: “The only time you pretty much do hear about our defense is how much we suck … or how we’ve got to improve in this and this and this, and how we’re holding the team back,” sophomore linebacker Caleb Kelly says. “So we have a lot to prove and we have these next two games to do it. And I’m just hoping we come together as a defense and continue playing well like we have the past couple of games.” Seems to me you could apply the same sort of thinking to Georgia’s passing game, if you want to.
As you can see, those are all kind of generic. Ian Boyd, though, gets more specific with what is an interesting point. Amidst pointing out the weak spots in Oklahoma’s defense this season, he finds one potential strength:
The saving grace for the Sooners in this contest is that Georgia is much simpler as a rushing team than Kansas State and their favorite play, inside zone, is vulnerable to the Sooners’ favorite front.
The challenge of this “tite” front, which uses a pair of 4i-technique DEs clogging up the B-gaps and then outside linebackers on the edges is that it makes it hard to run the ball downhill as the play is designed and either the sam linebacker or the mike can be a free hitter that the offense doesn’t block. Georgia has tended to handle that with either a Fromm keep option or a quick pass outside to the slot but the Sooners are hard to beat that way with strong safety Steven Parker dropping down. The senior is a pretty sure tackler and these options all involve giving the ball to someone other than Chubb or Michel which isn’t the preference in Athens.
Boyd goes on to say that “There’s a chance Georgia mauls the OU defensive line and blows open holes up the middle anyways, or that they can use their supporting run plays to attack the edges or get OU from clogging up their inside zone play, but the strength of the Georgia offense is not in attacking a defensive front like this.” Look, if Georgia can’t win either line of scrimmage Monday, this is going to be the first Auburn game all over again. I just happen to think that Chaney’s learned a lot from that debacle and will be prepared to react, as he did in the SECCG, if Oklahoma has early success loading the box and stuffing the inside running game.
By the way, read the entirety of Boyd’s piece. He’s got some interesting things to say about the flaws that have plagued the Sooners defense most of the season. There are definitely areas for Jim Chaney to try to exploit, particularly in terms of the steps Stoops has taken to scheme to protect linebacker Caleb Kelly in coverage.
One thing about Ian’s “Georgia is much simpler as a rushing team than Kansas State” observation — and he’s a much sharper Xs and Os guy than I’ll ever be, so I take him at his word there — is that it took me through several game logs for a few teams to see how that sorted out. The Kansas State game was Oklahoma’s worst of the season in terms of defensive yards per carry (interestingly enough, the Iowa State loss involved one of their better efforts). Without Georgia playing the Wildcats it’s a little hard to provide complete context, but there is a common opponent between KSU and Georgia, and that’s Vanderbilt. You may remember that Kansas State lost to Vandy, but still managed to turn in one of its better rushing efforts of the season, gaining over 200 yards and averaging almost six yards a carry.
However, that pales in comparison to what Georgia did against Vanderbilt: 423 rushing yards; 7.83 ypc. Sometimes, success is more about execution than it is about scheme.
And I think in the end that’s where it all comes back to. If I have a fear it’s that it takes Georgia’s offense longer to sort itself out than Mayfield does against Georgia’s defense, and the Dawgs are looking at an early two or three score deficit. As Boyd concludes,
The Sooners have a large and talented if inconsistent defensive front and they’ll be keen to send numbers to stop the run and encourage Georgia to ask Jake Fromm to out duel Baker Mayfield in a shootout. If Georgia is going to rise above that and impose their will in the trenches then they’ll either have to slow down Mayfield or get going early on the ground in this game. That may be the battle to watch in this game.
As we saw on the Plains, Georgia isn’t really built for massive comebacks. It’s got to maintain some semblance of control on at least one side of the ball to win.
I find this juxtaposition of comments about how the coaching staff went about its decision making at the starting quarterback spot revealing. Here’s what Jim Chaney had to say about the thinking going into the season:
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said he wouldn’t classify the separation between Eason (the starter) and Fromm (the backup) as “significant” at the conclusion of fall camp, but “it was such that we didn’t feel comfortable in the other direction (Fromm) at the beginning of the Appalachian State game.”
Obviously, Plan A had to be crumpled into a tiny ball and tossed into the nearest trash can after Eason’s injury in the opener, but what about after the preseason choice to start returned to full health?
“I don’t think there was ever a premeditated moment,” Chaney said, speaking to the media for the first time since August at the L.A. Hotel Downtown. “We went out, Jacob wasn’t healthy yet, and we beat Notre Dame. We came back home and won another ball game (against Samford). You could see us starting to click and the ball starting to move down the field with relative ease. It was a good formula at that time. We never predetermined anything but you couldn’t make that change at the time, when Jacob got healthy. It wouldn’t have been the right thing at the time.”
It’s conservative, and I don’t mean that in a negative sense. Clearly, they had some clue that the offense was going to get more traction out of the offensive line and running game than it did in 2016, and that meant looking for the quarterback who would do the least harm to the orientation of the game plan. Experience won out, but then Fromm showed he could handle the game plan at least as well as what they’d expected from Eason… plus, there was all that winning. You just don’t screw with what’s working.
ESPN’s pulling out all the bells and whistles — even adding a couple of new ones — for your New Year’s Day viewing pleasure.
- The standard broadcast of the two games, on ESPN’s main channel. Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Maria Taylor, and Tom Rinaldi have the Rose (5 p.m.) Joe Tessitore, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe, and Laura Rutledge have the Sugar (8:45 p.m.)
- The popular Coaches’ Film Room, which the network’s been putting on during championships for years. That’s going to have Syracuse’s Dino Babers, UNC’s Larry Fedora, West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen, Ole Miss’ Matt Luke, TCU’s Gary Patterson, and former Arkansas and Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema. That’s on ESPNEWS.
- Finebaum Film Room, with SEC radio host Paul Finebaum and a bunch of analysts watching the game and taking calls during it. This is on the SEC Network.
- A SkyCam broadcast and an all-22 broadcast, with a wide enough camera angle that you can see just about every player on the field.
- Various hometown audio options, with local radio calls.
- The Command Center telecast, which is on ESPN and features “a split-screen with multiple camera views displayed simultaneously, which could include the main ESPN camera angle, the SkyCam view and isolated camera feeds of both head coaches at any given time. Enhanced statistics and real-time drive charts supplement the game action.” That sounds like a lot but could be your thing.
- And College GameDay is airing, of course. That’ll be at the Rose Bowl, where panelist Herbstreit calls the game later in the day. It starts at 9 a.m. ET, which is 6 a.m. local time. More details on that are here.
There’s also this: “ESPN will debut a camera inside the first-down-marker at the Sugar Bowl, the first time a camera has been positioned inside the equipment. The unique vantage point will provide viewers a look at the line to gain.”
It’s reassuring to know that coaches don’t have any more real insight into what we’re in store for in the Rose Bowl than the typical GTP comment thread. I mean, “Either Georgia kills ’em or Baker Mayfield puts on a show” is one helluva hot take, ain’t it?
I have a weakness for stories like how Mike Gundy went out and hired his current offensive coordinator.
When Gundy began searching for an offensive coordinator after the 2012 season, he sought two qualities: talent and anonymity. He was tired of losing assistants.
Todd Monken had left for the Southern Miss head-coaching job after two record-setting seasons with Oklahoma State. Monken followed Dana Holgorsen, who spent the 2010 season as the Pokes’ OC before taking the West Virginia job. Since becoming Oklahoma State’s coach in 2005, Gundy had only one offensive coordinator last longer than two years — Larry Fedora logged three seasons before becoming head coach at Southern Miss.
“I said, ‘Forget this. I’m going to go find somebody that nobody will want for a while,'” Gundy said. “And I got lucky, and it worked out great for us, and it solved and/or ended the issue I was concerned about.”
Gundy went online and looked up offenses that excelled both with rushing and passing numbers. He then narrowed the search to no-huddle, tempo-based offenses similar to Oklahoma State’s. Next, he found coordinators who also coached quarterbacks. The last step, the trickiest, was identifying lesser-known coaches who might stick around even after successful seasons.
Starting at the FBS level, Gundy worked his way to Shippensburg University, a Division II program in south central Pennsylvania. Under Yurcich, Shippensburg had led Division II in offense (529.2 yards per game) and ranked second in scoring (46.9 PPG) in 2012, a year after shattering team records for scoring and yards.
Gundy had numbers but no video, and tracking down the person who handled Shippensburg’s film wasn’t easy. “He was a fireman and [was] teaching class,” Gundy recalled. Oklahoma State eventually got three games sent its way as part of a film exchange, and Gundy liked what he saw.
Mainly because it takes a certain amount of balls that tends to be lacking in the majority of coaching hires we see these days.
After Oklahoma State’s success, will other coaches accept the Mike Gundy Coordinator-Finding Challenge? Gundy doesn’t think so.
“Let me build a scenario for you,” Gundy said. “It’s the AD that hires everybody’s favorite as the next head coach, because then, if the guy doesn’t make it, he can say, ‘Well, everybody wanted him. He was the logical choice, right?’ You’re not going to see very many coaches that have a gut feeling on a guy and hire a guy at Shippensburg, and have the fans or the administration patronizing you because you hired some guy [and] everybody thought you lost your mind.
“Most coaches aren’t going to be like that.”
Also, because this is one of the best job acceptance stories I’ve ever read.
Gundy finally connected with the Raiders’ offensive coordinator and arranged a meeting at a hotel near where he would be recruiting. On a cold, snowy day early in 2013, the two men met and talked ball for three hours. Gundy did some vetting, talking with Shippensburg coach Mark Maciejewski, but knew he had his man.
“That doesn’t happen every day,” Maciejewski said. “It was a unique situation and very fortunate for him. At first, it was like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’ But then, as time goes on, you sit back and you see there’s a reason [Gundy] wanted him.”
The next day, Gundy called.
“Mike, here’s the deal,” he told Yurcich. “I’m going to offer you the job, and I have a three-year contract that pays $400,000 a year.”
Silence. Three seconds, four, five, six … Gundy worried that Yurcich had been caught in a snowstorm.
“Are you there?” he asked.
“Well, do you need to talk to your wife?”
“I don’t need to talk to anybody.”
Yurcich at the time was making $52,500 a year at Shippensburg. No kidding he didn’t need to talk to anyone.