Daily Archives: January 22, 2018

Fromm knows the drill.

To paraphrase, that which does not unseat Jake Fromm from the starter’s position makes him stronger.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Revenge of the D

Who saw this coming?

Scoring, total offense and touchdowns dropped in college football to their lowest points in six years, according to year-end statistics compiled by the NCAA staff for the 2017 season.

Teams averaged only 28.8 points per game in 2017, a decline of 1.3 points from a record 30.08 points in 2016. That marks the lowest scoring average since 2011 (28.3). College football took a quantum leap in 2007 with scoring average jumping four points per team from 24.4 to 28.4.

Since then, the national scoring record was set three times, peaking at 30.08 points in 2016.

Average total offense was down 403.6 yards per game. That’s the lowest nationally since 2011 (392.4). Average touchdowns per team declined to 3.65, lowest since a 2011 average of 3.59.

All of it reflected the impact of the spread offense on the modern game. A combined 22 national records have been set since 2010 in rush yards per carry, completions per game, passing accuracy, passing yards, yards per attempt, total offense, yards per play, touchdowns per game and scoring.

However, there are tiny indicators that defensive coordinators are pushing back — at least a bit. For only the second time since 2003, no national records were set in 2017 among the 15 cumulative scoring categories tracked each season by the NCAA.

Everything is cyclical.  Somebody’s brainstorming the next big thing on offense as you read this.

In the meantime, some of the change can be chalked up to controlling tempo.

“Defenses have caught up with up-tempo [offenses] and have retooled the secondaries to have corner-type skill sets at safety positions,” said CBS college football analyst Rick Neuheisel.

The numbers bear that out. In 2013, 20 teams averaged at least 80 plays per game. That number shrunk to six in 2017. That’s the fewest since 2010 (three)…

Defenses benefitted by being allowed time to change personnel if the offense substitutes. Then came the rise of RPOs — the run/pass option that allows offenses the decision whether to run or pass after the snap. (For a quick primer, look at Washington State and Auburn game film.)

“As always, defenses at some point begin to catch up with the ‘new’ ways offenses are attacking them,” said Texas A&M offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey. “… A lot of the ‘hair on fire’ offenses that were only concerned with yards and points are controlling the tempo more and trying to help their defense.”

It won’t last.  The only thing that lasts is the chess match itself.

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Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

Revolving door revolves.

I can’t blame Shane Beamer for taking advantage of the opportunity, but I sure wonder if Kirby wishes he’d have done so before Mississippi State poached Scott Fountain.

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Filed under Georgia Football

So, how bare is that defensive cupboard, anyway?

Over at Dawg Sports, macondawg suggests things aren’t as stripped defensively for Georgia as some of us fear.

Five of the 2017 UGA defense’s top ten tacklers are back in 2018. And some of the players who didn’t start a majority of games in 2017 started at least some and played in every one. For example, junior defensive tackle Tyler Clark now has 27 games of experience. Ledbetter has 29.

No doubt, you don’t lose a player of Roquan Smith’s caliber without missing a beat.  And there’s a lot of leadership that just walked out the doors of the Butts-Mehre building for good.  But as macondawg suggests, Smart and Tucker did a good job of rotating players in and out of games all season long.  Some of that was the by-product of a goal to keep the defensive line fresh through constant substitution.  Some of that was the result of being on the good end of a number of one-sided games that allowed for second and even third stringers to get meaningful playing time over the course of the season.  (A minor quibble I had about the Richt era was the absence of such a luxury.)

All of that’s built up playing time.  It’s also huge that Reed and Baker are back to stabilize the secondary.  Maybe the biggest offseason development to watch is this:

It remains possible that Natrez Patrick will return to man the inside linebacker spot he held after coming back from suspension but before going away again for substance abuse treatment. But that’s far from a given.

Agreed, it’s not a given.  But Ledbetter’s return can give us some hope for a repeat.

In any event, even without Patrick, there’s enough experience returning to build around.  It’s far different from what Pruitt faced coming in to replace Grantham for the 2014 season.  Now that was a time to fret.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Concede ain’t played ‘Bama, PAWWWLLL.

One thing I’ve found amusing in the comments lately is the idea floated by some that, with Georgia’s season culminating in a last second loss to the Tide in the national title game combined with Kirby Smart’s recruiting prowess, Nick Saban has stared into some sort of abyss and conceded there’s a new sheriff in SEC Town and his run is over.

The only problem with that is… well…

Alabama is adding Penn State receivers coach and passing game coordinator Josh Gattis as the Tide’s new WR coach and co-offensive coordinator, a source told SI.

In the past seven seasons, the 34-year-old Gattis has produced seven all-conference receivers and three All-Americans. Gattis will take over the Tide’s receivers from Mike Locksley, who is being promoted to offensive coordinator after Brian Daboll returned to the NFL.

In 2015 Gattis was named the Big Ten Recruiter of the Year, as he was instrumental in Penn State signing a Top 15 recruiting class in 2015.

and…

Earlier this week, sources had reported that Alabama’s co-offensive coordinator and wide receiver coach, Mike Locksley, had been tabbed by Nick Saban to lead the offense…

We were high on the decision for several reasons: He was the player’s choice, he was instrumental in implementing the midline zone scheme to Brian Daboll’s pro spread, there is offensive continuity that now stretches from Lane Kiffin’s tenure until the present, and, perhaps most importantly, Coach Locksley has deep recruiting ties to the fertile DMV/NOVA region[Emphasis added.]

Notice a common theme there?  I’m not sensing the proverbial towel being thrown in.

None of which is to say gaps aren’t being closed or Georgia is doomed.  Quite the contrary, as Kirby’s doing what he needs to do in that department.  But the idea that Saban’s resigned to his fate is a real stretch.

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Filed under Nick Saban Rules, Recruiting

At the intersection of Jimmys and Joes & Xs and Os

Bill Connelly uses the national title game to explore the topic of player matchups and advanced stats here and concludes there’s still plenty of work to be done.

But then there’s the next level of data: the matchup data where the ball isn’t involved.

Alabama clearly identified a potential weak link in Parrish and exploited him. The Tide were able to render Georgia’s offense far less efficient than normal, too, by eating up the interior of the Bulldogs’ line.

On multiple occasions throughout the national title game, a coach friend and I would end up texting back and forth — “That Georgia center is getting whooped.” “Georgia center again.” Et cetera. Poor Lamont Gaillard appeared to be pretty regularly getting his lunch eaten by Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne and others.

When the Bama defensive front was creating disruption, it was probably coming from the middle. But Payne finished the game with 4.5 tackles and no TFLs or havoc plays. Our eyes told us Payne was dominant, but we don’t have the stats to back that up. Stuff like this will show up somewhat in PFF grades (which a lot of coaches I’ve spoken with really do not tend to enjoy or trust), but the general point remains: we get far more about Xs and Os from stats than the proverbial Jimmies and Joes..

So here’s an offseason conversation topic for you (and trust me, if this indeed generates conversation, I’ve got plenty of other questions to toss to the field): what do we do about this?

It’s an excellent question.  Anybody who watched that game knows that Payne was ridiculously disruptive all night, and yet there’s no good way of quantifying his performance.  Maybe you think this is just another case of trying to count the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin, but I assure you it matters more to, say, Sam Pittman than that.

So much of football is derived from specific matchup advantages, but our overall data set doesn’t necessarily align with that. You basically win by creating numbers advantages or by having numbers that are better than your opponents’. We’re a lot better at measuring the former than the latter.

I’ll be curious to see where this inquiry takes Bill.

By the way, Bill takes this piece as a jumping off point to discuss the genius of Bill Walsh.  Genius is a word used over broadly these days, but when it comes to Walsh, it’s appropriate.  Connelly has some great quotes, but for my money, Walsh’s reflection on bringing back the Single Wing two decades before we saw the rise of the Wildcat, spread offense, zone read and Rich Rod’s offense at West Virginia is simply amazing.

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Filed under Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics