Daily Archives: October 15, 2019

Ideas for a Plan B

I’m not advocating for a wholesale adaptation of LSU’s offensive scheme right now, because it’s not practical and because I don’t presume to know if, even were it so, it would be the best choice for Georgia.  I do believe, though, it’s worth checking out these tweets from David Wunderlich breaking down some plays showing how Joe Brady schemed his offense to get receivers open constantly because LSU’s offense before this season had been in a similar posture to Georgia’s and has made a significant leap this season with the change of approach.

See what you think from these:

Look at all the space created around the receivers for them to operate in.

And as a reminder, LSU and Georgia ranked eleventh and second, respectively, in passer rating in 2018.  This season, it’s first and fourth, respectively.  You can’t tell me the two teams’ talent isn’t comparable.  The present difference is the tools the talent is being given to work with.

I’m not smug enough to suggest that this isn’t rocket science.  Clearly this is complex stuff, or we’d see defenses routinely shutting down other teams’ passing games.  But I am smug enough to suggest that a program with all the resources Georgia has available to it should be able to dial up a passing attack — even one based primarily on a manball approach — that’s more of a challenge for a 2-3 team to defend than we saw Saturday.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Adding insult to injury

This should chap Kirby’s ass.

Boom received a national coach of the week award for not being quite as ineffective managing a game as Smart was.  That’s some low bar.

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Filed under Agent Muschamp Goes Boom, Georgia Football

Not the turnover you were thinking of

So, Georgia was forced to do a bunch of shuffling on the o-line because of injuries.

Part of the reason for the sub-standard performance can be chalked up to injuries. Starting left guard Justin Shaffer exited the game with a neck injury that will also keep him out this week as well. Solomon Kindley came in for Shaffer only to exit the game when he suffered another injury to his ankle. Smart indicated Kindley will likely be able to go this weekend but it’s not known how healthy he’ll be.

Smart added that Ben Cleveland is also battling injuries. That all explains why Georgia played three guys at left guard and three guys at right guard on Saturday. And that kind of turnover makes things difficult for the group.

“That kind of turnover throughout one game is pretty tough,” former Georgia All-American Jon Stinchcomb said on Monday’s episode of DawgNation Daily. “That turnover in the front proved to be really problematic. An area of strength and I’m as guilty of this as anyone of saying this Georgia offensive line is elite, and they certainly have to potential to be. But they were not on Saturday.”

Smart made it very clear that the reason for the constant rotation was due solely to the injuries and not ineffective play.

Okay, fine, I guess, but you know who wasn’t involved in Shuffle City?

Kinlaw absolutely abused Hill on that play and singlehandedly blew it up.  That was on Georgia’s second series of the day.  There would be more of that to come.

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Filed under Georgia Football

King makers

In his latest The Read Option email, Banner Society’s Steven Godfrey delves into the thought process that led to Houston’s D’Eriq King’s unusual (at least for now) decision to redshirt the remainder of this season and return for 2020.

Houston wants to win big, as often as possible, and not because the school and its fans and boosters covet American Athletic Conference titles. Houston has been engaged in a years-long effort to regain its Southwest Conference glory by joining a Power 5 conference. For a while it looked like it would be the Big 12. Now maybe it’s the Pac 12, if there’s ever another round of aggressive realignment. Honestly, they’d join any of them.

They already schedule like a P5 for maximum exposure (a Sunday night opener at Oklahoma, a Friday night game vs. Washington State in the local NFL stadium), they built a brand new football stadium specifically capable of adding additional seating to meet P5 standards, and they lured Dana Holgorsen away from West Virginia with a $20 million contract.

Winning is the only currency that buys relevancy, and Houston is rightly convinced the price to become a Power 5 program is nothing less than being the most talked-about G5 team, year in and year out.

I assure you, Holgorsen took the job fully aware of these expectations. Back in the Spring, I visited him in Houston. During our conversation, he mentioned some anxiety about his new roster, specifically for the 2020 season and beyond. After Tom Herman parlayed a 12-1 Peach Bowl season into the AAC’s best recruiting class in 2016, Applewhite’s staff couldn’t keep pace. 2017 and ‘18 produced the #4 and #5 classes in the league and no top-line, Ed Oliver-type coups.

Houston has (had?) talent in quarterback D’Eriq King, who thrived in former OC Kendall Briles’ system last season (63 percent completion rate, a 36/6 TD/INT ratio, 14 rushing TDs). He is now out for the season, along with senior receiver Keith Corbin; both players announced they would redshirt after UH’s 1-3 start. In theory, the pair will return in 2020 to what Holgorsen plans on being a better, deeper roster (five Power 5 transfers are currently sitting out 2019 to become eligible at UH for the ‘20 season).

This move is a manipulation of the new NCAA redshirt rule, which was intended to give coaches more flexibility and let more incoming freshmen see playing time (in up to four games) and still redshirt. West Virginia AD Shane Lyons, Holgorsen’s old boss and the chair of the NCAA Oversight Committee, told CBS Houston’s move was “not how the rule was intended.”

In short, this isn’t about a player’s selfishness.  It’s about a program’s plan to return to relevancy and more as quickly as possible.  What’s even more interesting about this is that Godfrey is convinced tanking wasn’t part of the plan when the season started.

It’s worth mentioning that had Holgorsen intended to bomb the 2019 season from the get-go (I believe he did not) he wouldn’t have signed Murphy, a veteran lineman with a known injury history and only one year to play, at all.

Houston isn’t tanking in the traditional sense. While redshirting your best players is selling the present to pay for the future, trying to lose games offers no reward in a sport without a draft. If anything, Houston wants to win as much as they can with this thinner 2019 team to backstop their redshirts with as strong an incoming recruiting class (and transfer class) as possible.

How the Cougars got to this point is arguably more the program’s doing than the first-year coaching staff’s, plus a little bit of college football circumstance: Saturday’s 38-23 loss to Cincinnati was Houston’s fourth. The first two were to those two very good P5 opponents, Oklahoma and Washington State, scheduled years before as an attempt to keep the Cougars nationally relevant.

The third loss, the back-breaker that turned a manageable 2-2 into the alleged fire sale at 1-3, was thanks to a single trick play by division rival Tulane. It’s entirely possible we’re not talking about any of this if the Green Wave didn’t fake a kneel-down. That’s how thin the margins are in this sport, especially for any program with aspirations as outsized as Houston’s.

In terms of bigger picture consequences, though, that’s not particularly relevant.

But it doesn’t really matter if Holgorsen planned to tank and backfill his roster all along, or if a tough schedule just got away from a first-year staff. Because the second thing you have to know is that Khator and Fertita don’t give a shit what anyone thinks. They’re all in, and increasingly mindful of how fast the momentum they built with Herman in two seasons can disappear. When the next chance comes, they have to look as appealing as possible.

And that’s when you get into the troublesome aspects of college football’s latest roster management innovation.

That players like Murphy can sign away their remaining eligibility under false pretenses is yet another reason why NCAA athletes need more agency in this process. But what would that agency even be: if you can show proof that your coach is overly focused on roster-building, you receive a free year of eligibility?

Nothing in college football is proprietary. If Holgorsen’s gimmick works — keeping newly redshirted players around, keeping the rest of the 2019 roster engaged, and adding great recruiting and transfers to end up 11-1 — it will undoubtedly be copied by other programs. And especially with first-year head coaches, at least until the NCAA attempts to close the loophole with new language. There aren’t any potential NCAA violations here. Yet.

It’s hard to be surprised the Cougars have done this, either as a premeditated plan or a hasty reaction. This is Houston, a school that is determined to break back onto the biggest stage possible. What separates UH, Khator, Fertitta (and now Holgorsen) from the rest of college football is their transparency about that desire, and their transparency about what it takes to achieve it. The rest is not unique to Houston. The machine is ugly.

It’s a good thing college football hasn’t been professionalized, amirite?

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Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, The NCAA

If Jeremy Pruitt has a hair on his ass…

I would pay good money to watch him elevate this from a joke to reality.

Tennessee will travel to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 1 Alabama Saturday night in the rivalry known as the “Third Saturday in October.” The Vols will be lucky if the game isn’t over by the third quarter considering they opened as nearly five-touchdown underdogs to the Crimson Tide.

The Volunteers will be without linebacker Henry To’o To’o for the first half after the freshman was popped for a targeting call in the second half of last weekend’s victory over Mississippi State. He is second on the team in tackles with 34 and fourth in tackles for loss with 2.5. So what’s the game plan in his absence? Coach Jeremy Pruitt could turn to an incredibly creative strategy to keep the ball away from the deadly Alabama offense.

“I was thinking about there’s a high school team over in Arkansas, they always onside kick, they never punt,” he said. “I’ve never seen them play, [but] I always hear people talk about it. In fact, I think they played one of the high school teams here in our state this year, somebody was talking about it. So, we really kind of considered that as our game plan. Just don’t give them the ball, if we can do that.”

I mean, why the hell not?  At this point, it’s not as if Tennessee even has its dignity to lose.  That went out the window with the Georgia State loss.  Pruitt can call a boring, meathead game and lose by a substantial margin, or he can come out swinging and give everyone something to talk about.

He keeds, he keeds, I know.  Too bad.

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Strategery And Mechanics

Just another bizarre moment from a bizarre day

I’ve seen this repeated on a number of message boards from some folks I have no reason to doubt, so while I wasn’t listening at the time, I accept it at face value.

Apparently Smart told Chuck Dowdle in the interview shortly before kickoff that, quote, “This team isn’t ready to play”.

I don’t know what was going on in the pregame locker room, but that doesn’t sound good.  And before you tell me that’s nothing but coachspeak, I would agree if it were something he said after the game, but beforehand?  I find that a little strange.

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Filed under Georgia Football

When there’s a will, there’s a way.

This is what I was saying yesterday, only more coherently:

But with the switch to James Coley as offensive coordinator, the Georgia offense has even more deeply embraced the “impose our will” manball tendencies that they had cultivated under former offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Against South Carolina, Georgia ran on 60% of standard downs even though their overall run rate was only 42.6%. That means there were a ton of run-run-pass sequences. Yes, Georgia has had some notable injuries along the offensive line and at wide receiver (including emerging top target Lawrence Cager), but the Bulldogs also have three former five-star receivers they can turn to in George Pickens, Dominick Blaylock, and Demetris Robertson. Offenses with far worse talent at receiver are still willing to scheme guys open.  [Emphasis added.]

But still, without the turnovers — one of which was a pick-six, another inside the South Carolina 30, and another that ended Georgia’s first overtime — Georgia likely still wins this game eight or nine times out of ten. The Bulldogs had a 10.4% success rate margin over the Gamecocks despite the conservative play calling. In the end, credit goes to South Carolina’s players and coaching staff, who clearly identified during their bye week that Georgia would be either unable or unwilling to target their edge receivers against man coverage, allowing the defense to concentrate on slowing Georgia’s run game. The Gamecocks held Georgia to a 33% passing downs success rate and just a 22% touchdown rate on Georgia’s nine scoring opportunities.

Banner Society’s Bud Elliott summed up this game perfectly: “When you never scheme players open and never hit explosive plays, your offense has to be so clean. [Georgia] should have won game (10% [yards per play] edge and ran 27 more plays), but 4 turnovers is not clean. Georgia’s lack of explosive play ability is an every-week issue.”

Georgia’s goals are still on the table for the season — a double-overtime loss to a conference opponent can be overcome in terms of making the playoff — but it’s hard to see the Bulldogs winning out without tactical and strategic changes.

Doubling down on Chaney’s approach has a cost, and that cost is a greater reliance on not screwing up.  My fear from here is that Kirby believes the best course of action going forward is doubling down on Coley’s approach.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics