Category Archives: Georgia Football

Uncle Verne reminisces about that time in Athens…

You know the time.

If you’re not smiling after watching that, you have no soul.

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Filed under Georgia Football

How will we know if there’s progress on defense?

Assuming the defensive stats improve as the season goes along — and, damn, they’d better — will it be due to Georgia’s players getting better, or opponents getting easier to defend?

The Georgia secondary has been particularly lit up, giving up six pass plays of 30 or more yards this season after allowing only 10 total last season and eight in 2014 under coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

“I’m not here to point fingers,” defensive tackle DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle said. “We’re all a defense, we’re all together so not the back end giving it up, the whole defense is giving it up. Maybe if the D-line got more pressure, the back end wouldn’t have to cover for so long. I put it on all of us. It’s something we all have to work on and get stronger together with.”

Georgia’s secondary hasn’t been helped by the pass rush. The Bulldogs are second to last in the SEC with four sacks.

Davis chalks up this year’s growing number of big plays allowed from a secondary perspective as a lack of “eye discipline” and breakdowns in technique and fundamentals. For one-on-one matchups, Davis said that’s “squeezing guys off, getting our head around and making a play on it.”

The good news for Georgia is it may have faced its best offenses.

Missouri and Ole Miss are ranked fourth and 17th nationally in passing yardage and North Carolina is No. 13.

Of the eight remaining games, Florida is the highest rated passing team at No. 40. The rest are 82nd and lower.

None of the teams left on Georgia’s schedule rank in the top 50 in total offense. Tennessee is 85th and the Bulldogs schedule still includes Georgia Tech (117), Vanderbilt (121) and South Carolina (124).

Maybe October and November will be more inviting than September was for Georgia.

Hopefully, the correct answer is both.

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“Just go hit someone.”

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Well, you don’t see this every day.

Georgia coaches raised a few eyebrows during last week’s game against Ole Miss when nose tackle John Atkins and defensive tackle Julian Rochester each received an offensive rep for the Bulldogs on a key fourth-and-1 play.

It just wasn’t clear at the time how off the cuff the call to put them on the field was.

“It was just thrown out there,” said Atkins, who revealed the decision came directly from head coach Kirby Smart, despite the fact the Bulldog junior claimed the team never worked on the play in practice.

Atkins got to talk about the play, but it sounds like Rochester got the key block down.

Actually it was Rochester, who lined up at tight end, who executed the most important block. Lining up at tight end on the right side outside of tackle Greg Pyke, he dominated his man. Chubb cut outside around right end, then juked a closing defensive back to take the ball straight up the hash marks for the big gain.

Which is not to say Atkins wasn’t a contributor.

Atkins laughed that the call to go in came so quick, he didn’t have time to think about messing up.

“When I went out there, I just thought back to when I was in high school – just go. Just hit him,” said Atkins, who joked that he actually graded out well on the play.

“I ended up getting two points,” he said. “I think that was pretty good.”

I’d laugh, but when I reflect on what this says about what the coaches think about their existing o-line depth, it’s not so funny.

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Yeah, it’s personnel. Just not in the way you mean it.

For those of you who keep arguing about Georgia’s talent level and how much of a factor that is in fueling our current angst, I think you need to realize that even though the Dawgs are still running a pro-style offense, it’s not the same one that Richt directed last season.

Georgia has succeeded in the run game in the past without dominant offensive line play. The Bulldogs averaged 227 yards rushing over the last two seasons with an offensive line generally considered moderate in overall talent. But Mark Richt’s teams utilized a zone-blocking scheme that required less one-on-one matchups.

Head coach Kirby Smart’s employs more of a road-grading philosophy. He was asked if UGA’s offensive line deficiencies were something that can be schemed around.

“I think it’s hard to scheme around fundamentals of football,” Smart said. “I think blocking and tackling are the number one things that you have to be able to do in football. … We’ve got to be able to block really well. That’s important. That’s a key cog in order to be able to run the ball.”  [Emphasis added.]

They tried “scheming around”, with those three-tight end formations buttressing the offensive line.  The real issue is that the linemen they have to work with were recruited with a different blocking philosophy in mind.  Smart’s right — there’s only so much you can do until Pittman can sort things out.  Which, judging from what we’ve seen so far, may take some time.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

The early tale of the tape isn’t pretty.

Jason Butt points out a few statistical shortcomings.

Georgia has given up 18 plays of 20 yards or more through its first four games of the season. Eight of those big plays came against Ole Miss, which included a 23-yard pass from Chad Kelly to Evan Engram on the Rebels’ first play from scrimmage and a 41-yard rushing touchdown by Kelly in the third quarter.

Taking it a step further, nine of the aforementioned plays have been 30 yards or more. Four have been longer than 40 yards.

Through Georgia’s first four games a season ago, the Bulldogs only gave up nine plays of 20 yards or more. Of course the schedule was significantly lighter, with games against Louisiana-Monroe, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Southern to open the season.

The Bulldogs did begin to give up big plays last season in October as they surrendered 23 plays of 20 yards or more in games against Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri and Florida. But that stretch can be considered tougher than what it has gone through this year, with North Carolina, Nicholls State, Missouri and Ole Miss up first.

To put it more bluntly:  last season, Georgia finished tied for sixth nationally in opponents’ long plays from scrimmage; this year, the Dawgs are tied for seventy-sixth in that category.  Not a good trend, in other words, even taking scheduling into account.

Of course, that got me started wading through cfbstats.com.  Here are three more depressing rankings on the offensive side of the ball — depressing, but not necessarily surprising:

  • Sacks allowed:  14th in 2015; 109th in 2016
  • Passer rating:  57th in 2015; 107th in 2016
  • Offensive yards per play:  40th in 2015; 99th in 2016

It’s early, I know.  And we can hope Georgia is merely going through a transitional phase.  But while some of the decline can be chalked up to scheme changes on the o-line and in the secondary, as well as the growing pains being suffered with a true freshman starting quarterback, it’s also a little disturbing to hear a Process disciple acknowledging a third of the way into the season that there are issues with his team’s mechanics.

Kirby Smart offered a simple solution to Georgia’s big-play problems during the first third of the season.

Coming off a game in which Mississippi gashed the Bulldogs with big-yardage gains, Smart knows his defense to hold up better with Tennessee coming to town at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

“Tackle better,” Smart said. “I mean, the offenses we play, they get explosive plays on everybody. It’s more about limiting those. Like you mentioned, how do I give up less? If we tackle better, and you take nine of the 15 missed tackles away, then you take away about seven big plays. I think that’s the most important thing.”

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Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

Six degrees of Richt

The big firings this week have a common thread that Bill Connelly uncovered.

In this way, Miles has been done in by something that has been the doom of many successful coaches: coordinator hires.

Georgia’s Mark Richt lost successful offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, replaced him with Brian Schottenheimer, and was unemployed within the year.

Fifteen years earlier, Bobby Bowden picked his son Jeff to replace Richt. FSU had averaged 38.1 points per game and 10.9 wins per season with Richt’s offense. Those fell to 29.5 and 8.5, respectively.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly lost defensive coordinator Bob Diaco in 2014. The Irish had finished fourth, 17th, and fourth in Def. S&P+ in Diaco’s first three seasons; under new DC Brian VanGorder, Notre Dame finished 43rd in 2014 and 35th in 2015. It’s early, but the Irish are thus far 78th in 2016. VanGorder is out after a 1-3 2016 start.

In nine seasons as an NFL coordinator, Schottenheimer (once Cameron’s quarterbacks coach at San Diego) had only twice produced an offense that ranked better than 21st out of 32 in Offensive DVOA.

VanGorder was trickier to evaluate. In four years as Richt’s coordinator at Georgia (2001-04), his defenses never allowed more than 20 points per game, and in four years as DC of the Atlanta Falcons, his defenses improved each year. His lone Auburn defense wasn’t very good (56th in Def. S&P+ in 2012), but it was better than the one before it (62nd in 2011). Still, his acumen did not fit in South Bend.

There’s a Mark Richt has lost control joke in there somewhere, no?

By the way, Schottenheimer was once Cameron’s quarterbacks coach?  I guess I should have been paying more attention when he was hired.

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Something else that’s going to be a big deal?

Jesus, Booch, give it a rest, man.

It’s natural to assume that Tennessee, and sophomore defensive tackle Shy Tuttle in particular, might have some extra motivation this week.

With No. 11 Tennessee (4-0, 1-0 SEC) visiting No. 25 Georgia (3-1, 1-1) on Saturday at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., Tuttle and the Vols will get their first shot at the Bulldogs since he was injured last season on a low block from behind by Georgia center Brandon Kublanow.

Tuttle suffered a broken fibula and torn ankle ligaments on the play, which sidelined him for the rest of his freshman season and resulted in a lengthy recovery that ultimately forced him to sit out the Vols’ season opener this year.

But Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Monday that Tuttle and his teammates won’t have revenge on their minds when they cross paths with Kublanow and the Bulldogs on Saturday.

“Again, it’s unfortunate that, that happened, but Shy has recovered from it,” Jones said during his weekly Monday press conference. “And you can’t focus on that. You have to focus on the task at hand and winning your one-on-one matchup and your preparation. I don’t even think he’s thinking about that, and neither are we.

“Again, it’s a new game. It’s a new season. It’s a new opportunity, so I don’t see that even entering in the thought process.”

The Vols clearly haven’t forgotten about the play, though. Jones referenced Kublanow’s hit on Tuttle earlier this month when he spoke to the Knoxville Quarterback Club, calling the block “unacceptable.”

I mean, if we’re gonna get into what’s unacceptable, let’s go through all of Georgia’s injuries in Knoxville during the last two visits, starting with Keith Marshall’s.

Your team’s favored and on a roll, Georgia’s reeling a bit and you want to gnaw over a football injury?  I guess it beats having to discuss other painful topics.

If you want my advice, though…

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Georgia Football