Danielson on Auburn

I think Gary Danielson is a better in-game analyst than he is someone who dissects trends, but, damned if I don’t share his feeling about Auburn this season.

“Gus’ offense is unique in what it does,” he explained. “And what it does well is blend with a running quarterback. That’s when they run the ball the best, when they have the threat of a running quarterback.

“Jarrett Stidham and Sean White might be the best quarterback combo in the league. It is a great 1-2 punch, but neither of them fit Gus’ track record of what makes this offense go. The proving point for me is can they run the ball effectively without a threat of a running quarterback.”

Stidham’s reputation is largely built on a three-game run he had while at Baylor.  Although impressive, it was in a very different offensive scheme than he finds himself in now, and it was against three sub-par defenses.  While he certainly appears to be talented, his physical skills run in a much different direction than did Cam’s or Marshall’s.  Count me in the group that doesn’t see him as a slam dunk.

I’m reminded by that of one other thing to keep in mind.  Stidham’s run was cut short by injury.  White was hurt last season.  So was Pettway, Auburn’s best back.  Injury-prone backfields and Malzahn’s offense aren’t happy combinations.

I admit that Auburn shows up well in advanced stats.  But the schedule, with Clemson and LSU on the road and Alabama… well, Alabama anywhere, is tough (and, historically speaking, I think Bill giving Auburn a 70% chance of beating Georgia is optimistic).  I’m just not sold on the Tigers the way a lot of folks are.

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Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands

“Tackling Like a Bulldog”

If you believe this to be true…

The game of football has constantly evolved, both offensively and defensively, especially within the past 10-15 years. Despite this, one thing has never changed, the importance of sound, fundamental tackling. A good tackling team forces more third downs by stopping those quick screens on 2nd and 7. It can turn field goals into punts and touchdowns into field goals. It is very rare for a defense to be able to completely shut down an opposing offense, especially in the offensive-oriented game we see today. As such, it is those little differences that give a team a chance to win, and those differences are created through sound fundamentals.

… and wonder what Kirby Smart’s approach to teaching sound tackling technique is, you’ll definitely want to read this piece.

Some people try to find things in this game that don’t exist but football is only two things – blocking and tackling”

This Vince Lombardi quote dates back to the earliest days of the game, but it isn’t any less true today. Even in the modern game where dangerous aerial attacks like the air raid and various forms of the spread offense look to attack all areas of the field with the quick passing game, bubble screens, and Run/Pass Options (RPOs), blocking and tackling still hold their importance to the game. The problem, though, is that with all of the new, exciting, modern-day concepts and strategies at the forefront, sometimes coaches can lose focus on the fundamentals that sit at the root of any good football team.

Kirby Smart, head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, is not one of these coaches. Coming from a defensive background, he has his own ideas and concepts to stand up against the latest and greatest offensive strategies, but, on an importance scale, he keeps sound, fundamental tackling right at the top of his list. What makes Smart’s approach interesting, however, is not just the importance he places on tackling within the Georgia program but the unique approach through which he teaches and practices it.

There some good illustrations of how what the players are taught is applied on the field.  Read it all.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

No panic, just bullshit

This Matt Hayes puff piece on Brian Kelly has to be read to be believed.  Somehow Kelly tries to present himself as the Dude In Charge…

Before we go further, let’s make something clear: Brian Kelly is not pulling back. He’s not making change for the sake of it, not handing over the keys to the sleek machine and becoming more of a CEO coach. And he sure as hell isn’t sitting around while someone else tweaks it.

He built the damn car, people.

“I know what it looks like. I know what a team needs,” Kelly says without a hint of hesitation. “I know what has to happen. There’s no panic here.”

… while simultaneously claiming this as a reason last season went down the tubes.

“I was the absent professor,” Kelly says. “I wasn’t paying attention to the details that we needed. There were internal issues that—if a guy is on it, and he’s doing his job as the head coach, he would’ve seen those things early. My flawed philosophy was, We’re going to score points early while we’re figuring it out on the other side with a young defense. Well, that didn’t happen. We gave up way too many points early, we lost three games, and now we’re in trouble.”

Yeah, blame those assistant coaches.

If you’re a Georgia fan, you’ll love this excuse.

After its coach had to spend too much time, he now reveals to Bleacher Report, fundraising for a football-only facility and not enough making sure he had a firm grasp of his team’s physical and mental focus.

Think about that: The head coach at Notre Dame—which at one point was paying two coaches to not coach (Tyrone Willingham, Charlie Weis) while paying Kelly—was fundraising for a facility during the season.

When asked how that impacted 2016, Kelly says bluntly, “It f–ked up last year’s team.”

Maybe Mark Richt should have tried that.

Man, I hope Georgia pounds these guys.  I hope Kelly’s face gets so red during the game, I can see it from the nosebleed seats.

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Filed under Notre Dame's Faint Echoes

Straight from the Paul Hewitt school of contract provisions

I don’t know how I missed this when it was announced, but check out the sweet deal Mark Stoops has with Kentucky:

In addition to the two-year extension, the amendment adds an automatic extension opportunity to the contract. If the football team wins at least seven games but no more than nine games in a season, the term of the agreement will extend one year. If the football team wins at least 10 games, the term of the agreement will extend two years. For each additional automatic extension year, the total guaranteed compensation will increase by $250,000 from the immediately preceding year.

Now there’s a man who doesn’t want a ninth conference game on the schedule.

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Filed under SEC Football

Tennessee, I’m not sure you’re doing this slogan thing correctly.

Forget Booch for a minute and check out this metaphor:

Before the start of preseason camp, Kelly compared the Vols to a “snake in the grass” and said that “our goal is to end up biting somebody at the end of the day and making them pay.” Taylor made a similar reference in describing Tennessee’s underdog approach.

“I feel like we’re laying in the grass waiting to strike,” Taylor said. “Our team isn’t talked about as much now. I feel like we’re just waiting for our opportunity to shine.”

Gentlemen, I am not sure that phrase means what you think it means.  Feel free to knock yourselves out with it, though.

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UPDATE:  Another whiff.

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange

“I guarantee you another coach uses that in recruiting.”

Two words guaranteed to make you nervous:  UGA and scooters.

Players who park in an unauthorized spot risk get parking tickets. History shows there is no preferential treatment of athletes: Jarvis Jones, in the midst of one of his All-American years, once had his car towed.

Such stories are commonplace among players.

“I try to stay away from (driving), because those parking tickets, they rack up pretty quick,” sophomore tight end Isaac Nauta said, grinning.

So many players use scooters, and generally like it. But it also comes with risks: Baseball player Chance Veazey was paralyzed in a motor scooter accident in 2009. On a much smaller scale, Ray Drew got in a scooter accident as a freshman in 2011, hurting his arm and missing a week of practice.

Like any student, UGA spokesman Claude Felton said, football players are required to purchase a UGA parking permit. Houston, who arrived at UGA just after Veazey’s accident, went to the DMV and passed a motorcycle driving test, out of an excess of caution.

Houston heard talk of building a parking lot where the turf practice fields were located. But that idea was nixed when they decided to build the indoor facility on the football grass fields.

Athletics director Greg McGarity was asked whether, when the indoor facility was planned, any consideration was given to creating parking for players. McGarity declined to comment, referring to Felton, who said that “given the lack of space in our footprint, that was not a consideration.”

Sounds like the kind of thing that can change if Smart starts winning big and makes demands.

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UPDATE:  For you tough guys calling the players snowflakes…

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UPDATE #2:  One last point from Seth bears careful review.

But what the story was trying to convey a situation that not a lot of people are aware of, and that, believe me, is discussed a lot among players, coaches and staff. I’m sure Kirby Smart would prefer that his players, particularly his starting quarterback and star tight end, didn’t ride around campus in a scooter, but it’s their best option, they feel. It’s something that athletes at some other schools don’t necessarily have to deal with, and Houston’s quote about being sure that another coach uses it against Georgia in recruiting was particularly interesting.

I may be reading too much into that, but it makes me wonder if there’s a little message sending going on with this.  Again, a Kirby with more leverage…

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Filed under Georgia Football

The new recruiting math

How much of an impact with the new early signing period have?  Well, consider this:

In the 2016 class, from Dec. 20 through the month of January before signing day, 224 FBS recruits either decommitted or flipped their commitments to other schools. In the 2017 class, during the same time period, 238 prospects changed their commitment status.

Now, obviously, the new rules don’t stop that from continuing to happen.  Reading between the lines in the linked article, here’s a guess as to what’s coming.

  1. There will be a significant number of recruits who will sign in December.  (“I spoke to 76 recruits ranked in the top 150 of the ESPN 300 rankings, and 44 said they had plans to sign in December.”)
  2. That group will be largely comprised of kids who have already committed to a school.  (“Of the five-stars who said they are planning on enrolling early, all but Marshall are currently committed.”)
  3. Like it or not, the numbers suggest that some kids who want to sign in December won’t be allowed to sign early.  (“When you’ve got one program, on average, making 230 offers but only able to sign 25 players, there’s a natural amount of friction — a type of tension that exists in that system.”)
  4. There will be those recruits who simply don’t want to make a decision until the last minute (“But then again, there are some recruits who actually don’t know where they’re going, which is why they wouldn’t sign early. Most know where they’re going, but want all the recruiting hype and fun, so they play around with it…”), either due to uncertainty or because they enjoy playing the recruiting game.
  5. To the extent that coaches are unhappy about the new rules, it’s largely because they sense a certain loss of control.  Most of that isn’t about the top kids, as the above numbers hint at, but, instead, for recruits at the margins — late bloomers, for example.  But it’s more likely related to how they have to manage the numbers two months earlier than they’ve been used to.  It’s one thing to cut a kid loose very late in the process because the slot you’ve held open was filled at the end by someone higher on your board.  It’s another to try to talk that kid into hanging around for two months on a maybe when he’s got a hard offer from another school in his hand.  We’ll soon see who’s really good at that kind of sales work.

Bottom line?  Expect more grumbling from head coaches.

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Filed under Recruiting