Seth gets asked in his latest mailbag to address the quarterback pecking order in spring practice ($$).
This was supposed to be the year where we didn’t have to deal with endless questions about QB1 and now there are reports of Carson Beck taking the majority of first-team reps during (at least a couple of) spring practices. Is there going to be a quarterback controversy and, if so, have I just contributed to it?
Beck as well as Brock Vandagriff have been getting some first-team reps, but people are probably overthinking this: In Stetson Bennett, you have a sixth-year senior who was just named offensive MVP of the national championship game and the Orange Bowl. And before those games, Monken and Smart were pretty clear about Bennett being the starter. The only reason anyone would doubt his being the starter for this season is, well, the same reason people never expected his career to go this far.
There’s certainly an intense competition going on at quarterback … to be the guy in case Bennett goes down. That’s why you give Beck and Vandagriff reps with the first team now, so you see how each performs in those situations. Bennett then gets just enough starter reps this spring to be on track, and in the preseason you get ready for Oregon, which by the way is not the kind of opponent you give someone their first start when you have the national championship-winning quarterback still on the roster.
So, is that all there is to it? I’d like to think so, and not because I’m in Camp Doubt Stetson. What I’m a wee bit troubled by, though, is that I don’t remember players lower on the totem pole getting more reps during spring practice when Fromm and Daniels were QB1s. Given that Stetson’s never been through a spring when he was the clear choice at starter until now, I am not exactly sure why he doesn’t need those reps himself. That’s why I can’t entirely discount the steady stream of whispers I’ve heard about message sending coming from his coaches.
That being said, I think Seth is absolutely correct that the coaches would prefer Stetson as the starter for the Oregon game, because in a setting like that, there’s no substitute for experience (all other things being equal, of course). What I hope isn’t going on right now is Bennett assuming that preference will excuse a lackadaisical approach to his job along the way. Kirby Smart doesn’t strike me as a guy who does “fuck with me and find out” less than seriously.
Let Brent Rollins count the ways.
- Inline – 319 snaps: 93.8 receiving grade, 24 receptions on 31 targets, 488 yards, seven touchdowns
- Slot – 242 snaps: 69.7 receiving grade, 21 receptions on 28 targets, 273 yards, two touchdowns
- Wide – 91 snaps: 81.7 receiving grade, 10 receptions on 11 targets, 112 yards, three touchdowns
- O-Line & Backfield – 5 snaps: 1 reception on 1 target for a nine yard touchdown
Hmmm… I’m not seeing a lot of bad options there.
As a related matter, I should probably do a post on my favorite Monken play calls last season, but this one…
… and Bowers’ fourth quarter TD in the national championship are probably my top two. (And, by the way, if you look closely, those two plays were run out of different formations. Against Michigan, Bowers is lined up as a tackle-eligible. Georgia ran that as a hurry up and caught the Wolverine defense completely flatfooted.)
Anyway, read the whole thing. It’s enjoyable, to say the least.
Bill Connelly ($$) has an exhaustive piece up about how analytics are seeping into college football playcalling. Check out this chart for one example of that:
It’s slow, but it’s coming.
College football’s most visible believer is Lane Kiffin, whose first real exposure to the strategy came at Alabama, believe it or not.
He quickly concluded that if or when he got another head-coaching opportunity, he would commit to innovation in two ways. First, he would combine a lot of pro-style concepts and present-day bells and whistles (motion, et al) with what he called “Baylor tempo,” reminiscent of the 85-plays-per-game Baylor offenses of the early 2010s. Second, he would go all-in on the math. He would quickly become CAI’s most vocal client.
After winning two Conference USA titles in three years at FAU, Kiffin earned a trip back to the SEC as head coach at Ole Miss, and he has remained committed to those initial tenets. Over the past two seasons, his Rebels have averaged more snaps (78.9) and more fourth-down conversion attempts per game (3.6) than anyone else in the FBS. Sometimes it works beautifully, as when Ole Miss went 4-for-4 on fourth downs against eventual national champion Alabama and had the Tide on the ropes deep into the fourth quarter. Other times, it fails for all to see, as when the Rebels went a Chargers-esque 2-for-5 against Bama in 2021, failed on the first two drives of the game and got blown out.
I sort of liken this to how spread offenses started out as a way for programs with less resources to level the playing field against the bigger boys, only to find it become a dominant strategy across the board. We’ll see if analytics follows a similar course.
They may not have known what they signed up for, but it couldn’t have taken them too long to that figure out.
Man, paying recruits to come play at a school will be the death of college football as we know it.
I bet Spurrier enjoyed that even more than Taylor did.
Brenton Cox swears he’s turning over a new leaf in his final season at Florida.
“I can’t make all the plays, but the ones that I could have gone harder on I took off,” Cox said Tuesday. “I can honestly say I took off a couple plays but I’m here to make it up.”
I’m pretty sure this is one of them.
“It’s been a discussion that I don’t play hard, so he’s been preaching to me that if you’re not at the TV box by the time the play is over then it’s a ‘loaf,’ you’re not running to the ball,” Cox said. “That’s helped me turn the other way and get going when I’m done with my rush.”
Yep. That was a loaf.
This should be fun.
That fourth win is in the bank now, bitches.
So, Barrett Sallee asks what he considers to be the most pressing questions for each team this spring. Some are pretty obvious, like what Auburn, TAMU and LSU are going to do at the quarterback position. There’s also how does Tennessee shore up its defensive backfield, which looks like a pretty gaping hole for now. There’s also amusing — did you know Alabama has to replace Metchie and Williams?
Then, there’s Georgia.
How deep can the defensive line be this season? The Bulldogs defense was historically dominant last season, but multiple key players from the national champs are gone — particularly along the defensive line. Jalen Carter, a 6-foot-3, 310-pound monster, should be the talk of the town after showing flashes of stardom last season alongside departed monster Jordan Davis. Carter has the skillset to be a top-tier NFL draft pick in 2023 and needs to step up in the middle of the defensive line. Devonte Wyatt, a 315-pound monster as well, is also off to the NFL after seven tackles for loss a year ago, which will put even more pressure on coach Kirby Smart to build the depth that championship-caliber teams need to win at an elite level.
Co-defensive coordinators Will Muschamp and Glenn Schumann have replaced Dan Lanning, who took the head coaching gig at Oregon in the offseason. Their first order of business will be developing talent up front.
Will the d-line be less experienced this season? Sure. Will it be less talented? If Carter’s better than last season’s starters — and that’s something many observers believe — that’s a much closer question. And Sallee seems to acknowledge that in the way he asks the question. If he’s wondering about depth, I’d say that’s a first world problem for a program that’s been recruiting the position at a lights-out level. I’d also say that he forgot to mention the lights-out job Tray Scott has done as the position coach there.
When it comes to the NCAA, it seems Congress is in a mood.
For years now, college coaches, athletes and administrators have skewered the NCAA for an infractions process they say is unfair, dawdling and lacking transparency.
Turns out, at least two U.S. senators feel the same.
This week, senators Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) and Cory Booker (D., N.J.) will introduce a bipartisan bill, the NCAA Accountability Act of 2021, that establishes strict requirements of the long-maligned NCAA infractions process, overhauling the operation by involving the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney general.
Bipartisan! Nothing brings our politics together like the NCAA.
The NCAA Accountability Act of 2021 touches on an oft-criticized process: the NCAA’s enforcement of violations through sometimes years-long investigations. The bill creates a set of deadlines to facilitate quicker investigations, shortens the statute of limitations on violations and establishes a new appeals process:
• The bill requires NCAA inquiries to be completed within eight months of a school receiving a notice that an investigation has opened.
• The NCAA, the bill says, cannot investigate violations that were alleged to have happened more than two years before the notice of investigation was sent to a school. The current statute of limitations is four years.
• The bill would prohibit the NCAA from using “confidential sources” as evidence for a decision.
• And a school can appeal punishments by using a three-arbiter panel, different from the NCAA’s current appeals committee.
The proposal also requires the NCAA to submit an annual report of investigations to the U.S. attorney general and each state’s attorney general while also charging the Department of Justice to ensure the governing body of college sports follows the bill’s statutes. Violations will be dealt with severely. The bill authorizes the Department of Justice to fine the NCAA as much as $15 million and to order the removal of any member of the NCAA’s highest governing body, its Board of Governors.
Of course, there’s a likelihood this just encourages the NCAA to throw up its hands on the enforcement process entirely, but I’m not entirely sure that’s a bug.
I just wish somebody had enough of a sense of humor to name the bill after Jerry “The NCAA is so mad at Kentucky they’re going to give Cleveland State another year of probation” Tarkanian.
As easy as it is to mock Georgia Tech, things are so forlorn on the Flats that I almost feel a little pity. Check this out:
When former Memphis defensive lineman Morris Joseph committed to Tech last week out of the transfer portal, he raised the team’s count of scholarship recipients (including incoming freshmen and transfers like him) to 75. That’s 10 shy of the 85-player limit, the largest number of open spots of any team in the ACC.
… For better or worse, Tech’s 10 open scholarships are anomalous in the ACC. Six of the conference’s 14 teams are at the 85-player limit or even over, counting on players to leave the team by transfer or other means. Another three are near the limit at either 83 or 84. The remaining four are between 78 and 82.
I said almost.
Collins is quite the innovator, bringing Richt-style roster management to the friendly confines of the ACC. It’s one thing for Mark Richt to manage a roster like that; I mean, at least Georgia was consistently bringing in top ten recruiting classes. It’s quite another to do that coming off back to back three-win seasons at a program that hasn’t recruited well in 15 years.
What that means for Tech can be interpreted in different ways. One could see it as an opportunity to add talent when competitors don’t have nearly the scholarship space to take on more players even if they wanted to do so. Another is that the Jackets are thin depth-wise and are trying to build their roster at a point when most of the better players have entered the portal and committed.
Good luck with that, Geoff. Georgia Tech has so much to offer right now.
It’s plausible that Tech could have some benefit with so many open spots, something akin to an NFL team with much more salary-cap space than its rivals. However, at the same time Collins will try to convince portal prospects to join a team whose prospects for success aren’t great. And even if competitors don’t have several open spots, the Jackets undoubtedly will have competition for the top available prospects as teams try to complete their own rosters.
“Plausible” is doing some heavy lifting there, amirite?