Category Archives: Strategery And Mechanics

“Yes, that Derek Dooley.”

Missouri’s new offensive coordinator has Bill Connelly pondering black thoughts.

In theory, Dooley can simply build complexity on top of what Heupel had established, giving Mizzou the capability to hit the brakes (Heupel’s offense was fourth in Adj. Pace last year) and come up with a Plan B for when solid defenses slow down the base attack.

It’s not hard to see the potential downside, though. Going from simple to complex, from “spread” to “pro-style” — though those terms grow more fungible each year — could lead to you misplacing your strengths in the name of fixing weaknesses.

And by god, if Dooley prevents us from seeing another year of Lock-to-Hall deep balls, he should be banished from college football.

New Mizzou motto:  if it ain’t broke, let SOD break it.

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Filed under SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics

“They all want perfect plays.”

Last season scoring was down in college football, a drop of about a point and a half per game per team to 28.8, and the lowest mark since 2011 (28.3).

And there was much defensive coordinator rejoicing, right?

Turns out offenses across college are running fewer plays.

FBS teams averaged 69.9 plays per game in 2017, down from 71.6 the season before and the fewest since 2011. Eighty-three of 129 FBS teams last season ran fewer plays per game than in 2016. Seven teams averaged at least 80 plays per game last year, half as many as in 2016 and the fewest since 2011. There were 31 teams that ran fewer plays per game last season than in 2016, but saw their average time of possession increase.

The end result is that college offenses are more efficient than ever.

Championship Analytics Inc., a company that provides dozens of FBS schools a weekly advanced metrics breakdown of their upcoming game, uses drives per game to measure pace. Responding to a request from The Associated Press, CAI’s research showed drives per game have been decreasing in FBS for the last three seasons. In 2014, FBS games averaged 25.12 drives per game. Last season that dropped to 24.39. Points per drive, however, have remained relatively steady. In 2014, teams averaged 2.21 points per drive. Last season, it was 2.23.  [Emphasis added.]

The rest of the article, which is about the timeless chess match between offensive and defensive coordinators, is worth reading.  Suffice to say that the offensive guys aren’t losing the war yet.

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Filed under Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

Missing Stetson Bennett

Those special quarterback packages we’re expecting this year?  Jim Chaney succinctly explains their limits:

“Justin’s ability to run the ball is exceptional but we don’t have the best depth at that position right now.”

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UPDATE:  Marc Weiszer has more from Chaney.

“I don’t know that you walk out and say because Justin Fields can run, he is a running quarterback,” Chaney said. “I think Justin Fields is a fantastic quarterback. He happens to be able to run. That’s a good thing. Designing a playbook directly because he can run, I think that would be distorting who we want to be as a football team. But it has given us some different things that we can open up in the playbook. It does open some pages to it. As far as strategy goes, it’s another skillset that we have available to us to use anytime we want to.”

Boy, he wants to.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Jim Chaney’s crayon box: the past and present of Jake Fromm

Ian Boyd takes a look at how Fromm’s 2017 season went, starting with a stat that likely won’t be repeated this year.

In eight of Georgia’s 15 games in 2017, starting QB Jake Fromm threw the ball fewer than 17 times. The Dawgs were 8-0 in those games.

It’s reasonable to expect the run/pass ratio Jim Chaney calls in 2018 to favor throwing a little more:  Chubb and Michel are gone, Fromm is a year older and wiser, a rapidly improving offensive line, etc.  What’s interesting is that Boyd thinks (unlike a lot of Georgia fans) that Jim Chaney has a clue.

However, it’s worth noting that offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is the same man who coordinated the Drew Brees-led spread offenses at Purdue, and this Georgia team will now include a talented and experienced cast of receivers and tight ends…

Coaching in the NFL with the Rams gave Chaney a greater appreciation for using TEs and running the ball, which has carried over in his second college stint, but the passing game knowhow is still there.

When Georgia did throw in 2017, you could see the high degree of complexity…

Georgia’s advanced passing game isn’t going to solve every third down, but it will see increasing prominence as Fromm progresses.

Will Chaney and Fromm combine to make Georgia’s passing game lethal enough to carry the team until the defense sorts itself out (something which, admittedly, may not take as much time as the fretters think)?  Stay tuned…

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

So much for the everybody knows it was Saban’s defense narrative.

I mentioned a couple of days ago that Kirby gave a coaching lecture at the Texas High School Coaches Association Convention..

If you’re looking for a remarkably deep dive into what he had to say, click here (h/t Chris Brown) and strap it on.

Smart’s lecture was broken into several parts: 1) the evolution of his defensive scheme; 2) winning 3rd down; 3) TFL study (how to get more of them); and finally 4) a question and answer session. What I really enjoyed about Coach Smart was the fact he was willing to admit he needed to change. Many coaches, especially at his level, can get comfortable after a lot of success, but that breeds complacency. He had several comments on how he needed to adjust his defense to what they were seeing and encouraged everyone to go and visit people to gain new ideas and insight on their particular scheme. Don’t be a dinosaur – adapt or die!

That’s Smart’s overall philosophy in a nutshell, but if you’re looking for specifics, here you go:

Most know that Saban and his proteges base out of his Match 3 coverage Rip/Liz scheme, but Smart has discovered that you have to adjust not only the overhangs (Saban likes his outside leverage) but also how the CF safety plays (MOF). I’m assuming a lot of this change came after he went and met with current Texas DC Todd Orland when he was at Houston. This wanting to adapt came after Ohio State scored 42 points and beat Alabama in the 2015 Sugar Bowl. Tome Herman, former Houston HC and now Texas HC, was the OC for the Buckeyes at the time. Interesting stuff.

  • Smart is moving away from the DEEP middle third safety (unless D&D calls for it)
  • The “High Safety” (FS) now plays the RPO (think like a high low hole player -Quarters guys should be familiar with “robber,” and if you are in Big 12 country the 3-safety Dime).
  • The safety sits at 10 yds and is like a “High Rat” or robber player reading the QB. He will take the inside RPO to let the LBs fit run. Think of it as a funnel. The overhangs are outside leverage and funneling everything to the safety who is sitting at 10 yards reading the QB.

This is an interesting idea because it allows your ILBs to be late. Smart referred to it as similar to Tampa (think an inverted Tampa). The way I see it, it is like what the Big 12 teams are doing with their 3-safety (Dime) looks, but from a Sabanistic perspective (Rip/Liz). I love the way he adjusted the scheme to fit what he knows.

Notice the references there to what Big 12 defenses are doing.  Looks like Kirby may already be a step ahead of Lincoln Riley’s perception of Georgia’s defense.

Because of the way he was aligning his Ni, Spread teams could force his hand and get what they wanted. He noticed a lot of teams were going FIB and dictating where the Ni was depending on his front. If Smart had his 4-down unit in, teams knew the Ni was going to the passing strength, so they played relatively normal. When he would go 3-down, the Ni would now go to the field no matter what and he was getting a heavy dose of FIB. If he tried to leave a hybrid package on the field and switch from 4 to 3-down, but teams would tempo to get him to play “Palms Up Defense” because his verbiage was too long.  This changed the way he thought about his defense: 1) he needed to cut verbiage and 2) he needed basic rules for alignment – the Ni always goes to strength.

  • The Change:
    • Smart figured he must be able to line up versus tempo
      • Eventually switched to pass strength in every package (alignment)
      • Started using one-word calls
    • He tried to devise ways to keep alignments consistent even when switching packages
    • Simulate tempo in practice
      • “Fastball” starts versus formations – this is like a pursuit drill:
        • Team aligns to a formation
        • The ball is snapped and thrown to a spot on the field
        • The team runs to the ball. The whistle is blown and they must get lined back up
        • Repeat with a different formation (x4)
        • He would add scouts and work leverage on the ball versus screens and “pop” or snag routes
    • Don’t line up and play “vanilla.”
    • Design a field/boundary and match-up defense. This allows you to give different looks and the players know where to go instantly by the call.

I hope nobody tells Todd Grantham about this.

There’s plenty more there and you should read it all if you’re interested in learning more about what goes into designing the Georgia defense.

If you want more of a tl;dr analysis, Ian Boyd’s got you covered.

If Georgia winds up not missing Roquan too much this season, Kirby ought to be coach of the year.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”

Some good stuff here:

Kirby Smart needed outside help.

Alabama’s defense had just been shredded for 42 points and 537 yards in the Sugar Bowl by the eventual national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. A defense that had been top 5 in yards allowed per game six years in a row finished 12th nationally. A unit full of future NFL Draft picks looked a step slow, finishing 59th in pass defense.

So Smart, then Alabama’s defensive coordinator, gave Tom Herman a call.

“You talk about evolution and adjusting to the competition, for us that meant talking to coach Herman,” Smart, now the head coach at Georgia, said during a coaching lecture at the Texas High School Coaches Association Convention. “We said, ‘Give us everything you got. Help us, be honest. Tell us where we stink.’”

They “stunk” where they weren’t supposed to stink.

That meant facing a fact – Alabama was built to stop a thing of the past.

“We’re built for big, physical, eight or nine in the box. How are you going to stop the run?” Smart said. “That’s a dinosaur.”

Smart’s lecture began with a chart of Alabama’s starting lineup during the 2009 national championship game. Featured prominently were nose tackle Terrence Cody (365 pounds) and inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower (260 pounds). Smart flashed to another slide displaying his 2017 equivalents to that All-American pair, John Atkins (305 pounds) and Roquan Smith (225 pounds).

The dinosaur age of Smart’s defense involved stopping 21 personnel and two-back sets. That’s what Hightower and Cody were built for. In the age of three and four-wide sets, Atkins and Smith represented an evolution. The recruiting prototype changed for Smart changed from big run stuffers to more agile prospects capable of running in space.

I would have loved to have seen Kirby’s reaction when he first realized what he had in Roquan Smith.

Anyway, read the whole thing.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

“We’ve got great rules right now.”

Damn it, Steve Shaw.  This could have been a contendah.

During the offseason, there was quiet discussion that could have potentially turned college football’s offensive revolution upside down.

The NCAA Football Rules Committee considered making reviewable a long-standing rule that allows offensive lineman to block up to 3 yards downfield on a pass, according to Steve Shaw, NCAA secretary-rules editor.

Can you imagine the bricks that would have been shat on the Gus Bus had that been put into effect?  Actually, yes.

“We’ve got great rules right now,” said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, one of the nation’s best at running RPO concepts. “Three yards downfield is fair. College football is fine. That’s what high school has done. That’s what people want to see.”

Yeah, Gus, coaches cheating on the rules is what I pay good money to watch.

It’s apparent there’s a problem with the officials on the field keeping up with RPOs.

“What makes that call so difficult is you can be up to 3 yards [downfield] when the pass is thrown,” Shaw told CBS Sports. “What that means is, at that release point, you’ve got to frame the field. The umpire — the guy right behind the defense — used to be the guy for that. That ball goes overhead and you see a guy 5 yards downfield. You’ve got to map [the lineman] back to where he was.”

So what’s the problem with providing an eye in the sky to help?  Evidently what scared Shaw and his cohorts off was the possibility of (more?) delays.

“There was conversation in the rules committee, ‘Should we make it reviewable?'” Shaw said. “The concern now is, every pass play, [you] put yourself in the replay seat. You can’t let the game start unless you review ineligibles downfield.”

Current Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham had a quick reaction. It’s hard to imagine stopping a game every time there is a question whether is improperly downfield. College games are long enough. In 2016, the average length of a game was the longest in history: 3 hours, 24 minutes.

“It would be interesting if that were a rule change,” Stidham said. “Games might turn into 5 ½-hour games.”

Or maybe, after throwing a couple of flags to take away big gains, the threat of reviews might encourage certain teams to play within the rules.  We’ll never know.  Thanks, Steve!

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Filed under Strategery And Mechanics, The NCAA