Category Archives: Strategery And Mechanics

Notre Dame, joining the RPO revolution

Looks like Smart and Tucker are going to have their work cut out for them when Georgia travels to South Bend next season.

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If you’re gonna take ’em down, take ’em all down.

I love “what-if” strategy questions like this:

Love to hear somebody ask him about that at his next presser.

Although Dabo Swinney said Alabama sort of tried that.

Swinney said Tuesday that there was defensive pass interference on Clemson receiver Artavis Scott, who made contact with Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey and created some traffic that another Alabama defensive back got caught in on Hunter Renfrow‘s 2-yard TD catch with a second left Monday night…

“Yes, it’s a rub play, it’s a pick play,” Swinney said Tuesday. “Artavis was actually trying to go pick the guy, but he couldn’t get there because he got tackled. I mean, literally, the guy tackles him.”

Boy, it must suck when you’re trying to run an illegal play and the other team commits a penalty to thwart that.  At least they got the winning touchdown out of it.

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One thing talented depth will get you

Here’s a little tidbit from a USA Today story about how Dabo Swinney went about fixing Clemson’s special teams’ shortcomings after last year’s national title game.

Though Alabama’s trouble converting field goals over the years receives a disproportionate amount of attention, the Crimson Tide are largely excellent on special teams because the depth of talent allows for Saban to employ several former five-star recruits — some of whom are a year away from being front-line players — on coverage teams. The Crimson Tide haven’t yielded a kickoff return score since the 2014 season opener and only had two punts returned for touchdowns in the last four seasons. Meanwhile, over the same span, Alabama has scored 12 special teams touchdowns.

The Crimson Tide were able to exploit that advantage last year against Clemson, which ranked 115th in kickoff coverage defense and gave up three touchdowns, revealing the overall immaturity of Clemson’s roster as a national contender.

Hey, guess who was 115th in kickoff coverage in 2016?

Therein lies the rub for Kirby Smart, who certainly saw first hand in Tuscaloosa what all that incoming talent built on Alabama’s coverage and return teams.  But as Clemson showed, that doesn’t happen overnight.  Then again, Clemson improved to 48th nationally this season.

Anyway, read the article in its entirety to see what Swinney did last offseason to address the problem.  I don’t doubt that Kirby will take a hard look at shoring up an area of real weakness, one that cost his team a win or two.  Whether the fix takes or not is just another thing we’ll have to watch for.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Always be creating.

If you don’t read anything else in preparation for the national title game, read this brilliant Chris Brown post about the latest wrinkle to come out of football’s strategic petri dish, what he calls the “toss read”.

And when I say the latest, I’m not exaggerating.

The latest evolution in the Inverted Veer/Power Read is a very 2016 story. The first coach I’d ever heard of running this play I only know of as “coachfloyd” on the CoachHuey football coaching message boards, and the first couple of times I read his text-only descriptions of his team’s new spin on the Inverted Veer I honestly couldn’t visualize what he was describing. (A pitch? What’s the technique? How does the read work?) And yet within a few weeks various high school teams had already installed the play — seemingly on the basis of these message board posts and word of mouth — and within a year a variety of big time college programs were each using it, including both Alabama and Clemson.
If they were still using pen and paper to draw this kind of stuff up, the ink wouldn’t even be dry yet on this baby.

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Gary Patterson appreciates all the help he can get.

Most coaches act like they never read anything in the media about their teams or games.  Not TCU’s head man.

Patterson made no bones about the fact he reads what is said – including something by a Georgia player the day before. At one point in the press conference, when he was asked about some potential strategy, Patterson declined, saying he didn’t want to divulge anything.

“Kirby Smart’s sitting over there so I’m telling him everything,” Patterson said. “It’s kind of like how I was reading in the paper that one of their offensive linemen in the media talked about our slanting. … Right now I’m not giving Georgia anything. They don’t need much help.”

That appeared to be a reference not to an offensive lineman but to Georgia tight end Jeb Blazevich, who was offering a compliment to TCU’s defense. Blazevich said the Horned Frogs were “really good at slanting. I feel like they’re really good at winning their gap when they do slant. There is a field blitz where they slant hard to the boundary. They’re a little bit more unorthodox compared to what we’re used to.

“We’re used to huge guys right up in your face. They’re kind of smaller guys backed up off the ball, but they make up for that. That’s where their niche is—their speed and slanting in the gaps and flying around. I think they play well together. It looks like they have a lot of fun. I know they have a lot of speed off the edge. I think that’s the biggest thing we’re going to have to overcome, just adapting to their speed because they don’t have the size advantage that a lot of other teams have.”

On one level, I don’t think this is that big a deal.  Patterson knows better than anyone, including Blazevich and Georgia’s staff, what he runs on defense, so I doubt this has any significant effect on TCU’s scheme and preparation for today’s game.  But from a mind games standpoint, letting Georgia’s players and coaches know that he’s aware of what they’re prepping for, maybe that plants a small seed for overthinking on a play or two.  Who knows?  When you’ve been around the block as many times as Patterson has, you take any edge you think you can get.

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“But every coach in America would have done the same thing.”

I know this WSJ piece is about the NFL, but it’s still a fascinating statistical look at how successful conventional playcalling is.

… The NFL’s current roster of coaches is a very conservative bunch. And that might not be a formula for success.

A Wall Street Journal analysis of NFL play calling this season shows that—despite a legion of mathematicians, economists and win probability models urging them to take more chances—most of the league’s coaches still reach for the conventional choice by habit.

The Journal analysis examines how coaches played their hand this season across three broad categories of game management: fourth downs; play calling (blitzing on defense; passing on early downs or with the lead on offense) and special teams (going for a 2-point conversion and onside kicks when ahead).

I would argue there’s more than just habit at work here.  There’s also the parity factor.  When you don’t have a huge talent gap between teams — and say what you will, the gap in the NFL is way smaller than the gap in college — the consequences of coaches’ decision making at key times become magnified, especially those decisions that backfire.  Wrapping oneself in conventional wisdom is an obvious defense to criticism.

Again, one of the great things about college football is that disparity in resources forces greater creativity in strategy to try to offset the disadvantage than we see in the pros.  At least that’s the case at schools that don’t use their backup quarterbacks to field punts.

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Where it all began

I’m not exactly sure why — warm feelings of nostalgia, maybe — but West Virginia’s defensive coordinator is looking at film of the 2006 Sugar Bowl to prep for the Mountaineers’ bowl game against Miami.

“I have studied that film (of the Sugar Bowl) a little bit,” defensive coordinator Tony Gibson explained. “It is very similar to what they are doing now in Miami is similar to what they were doing back in 2006. We have it, we have watched it, I haven’t shared it much with the kids at this point, it’s more for coaches to look at.

“Again, they are a run team first, they run with power, they are more of a conventional offense, an old-school get in the “I“, it is going to look different for our guys, it is going to look foreign.”

Old man football, indeed.

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