Category Archives: Strategery And Mechanics

“We throw to the open guy.”

Kirby doesn’t have time for this tight end shit.

But the tight ends make up a talented group – Nauta was the team’s third-leading receiver last year – so why do they comprise a collective 14 percent of the team’s catches?

Kirby Smart has a simple explanation. Defenses are playing man-to-man against Georgia, because they’re worried about UGA’s run game, and it’s easier for tight ends to get open against a zone.

“Trust me, I know about coaching defense and I know how people are playing us. So it’s easy to see why tight ends aren’t catching as many passes for us: Because they’re not open,” Smart said. “We throw to the open guy.”

Smart sounded bemused at all the fuss about the subject.

“I’m so engulfed in what we’re doing that I don’t know what people are so enamored with about the tight ends catching the ball. If the tight ends get open, they’ll get thrown the ball,” Smart said. “When people play you to stop the run, they play man a lot. When they play man, they cover the tight ends. I dare you to show me where there’s a tight end that’s open in man-to-man. …

“We’ve got plays designed to go to the tight ends, but they’ve been covered. It’s not a matter of we don’t want to throw to our tight ends. We have no mutiny against them. We just have to keep working at it and try to get some spots where they’ll be open. If some teams will play zone we could throw the ball to the tight end.”

Kirby’s bemused.  I wonder if his tight ends are, too.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Herbie’s advice for Jim Chaney

Seth Emerson asks Kirk Herbstreit to weigh in on Georgia’s play selection in the wake of the Auburn game and with the SECCG coming into view, and, like it or not, Herbstreit is pretty spot on with his response.

First, this is an accurate assessment of Georgia’s offensive philosophy:

“They’re not Oklahoma with Baker Mayfield or what Clemson does: ‘Hey let’s just score in three plays, no problem, let’s go.’ They’re more methodical. So I don’t know if Week 10 it’s fair to look back at their season and with a loss the way they suffered one at Auburn and say, Well they need to be more balanced, they need to have this. They are who they are at this point.

“The best thing that you could do is maybe say, Hey we’re going to still win with defense, we’re going to still win with field position, let’s win the turnover battle, let’s run the football. But when we get into these tougher games, guys, with teams that can match us at the line of scrimmage – specifically the SEC championship no matter who shows up there – they’re going to have to go play-action pass on early downs more. They’re going to have to give Jake Fromm and that offensive line a better chance than being a ‘Run-on-first-down, run-on-second-down, uh oh third-and-5, third-and-7, now let’s ask the freshman quarterback to make a play.’ That’s just not who they are right now. They will be. When Fromm gains more experience and they get better receivers. But for now that’s not their game. So to me you’ve got to hope that throwing on first-and-10 on play-action will get the linebackers out of position, give you some easy throws to the tight end, or some easy throws to the receivers on their coverage. But I don’t think you can say, ‘Hey we’ve got to go into this game and be more 50-50 balanced to give ourselves a better chance.’ Just because I don’t think you can do that Week 11, Week 12.”  [Emphasis added.]

You go to war with the offensive personnel you have, not the offensive personnel you wish you had.  (Not to mention the head coach you have.)  It seems to me that Chaney has structured his offense to maximize the production it’s capable of, based on its limitations and Kirby Smart’s expectations.  Ten wins in, you’d have to say he’s done a respectable job with that.

The rubber’s about to meet the road, though, and as Herbstreit acknowledges, from the SECCG on, it’s unlikely that Georgia will face a team that doesn’t match up (at worse) on the lines.  So where do you go from there?

“I don’t think they need to change anything. I think everything they have in their arsenal is there. I just think it’s a different mindset from Jim Chaney. I think it’s a different mindset from how they approach the attack. It’s not: ‘Hey this worked all year, we’re big bad Georgia, we can run the ball on anybody, we’ve got the best backs in the SEC, we’re doing to do this.’ Sometimes you run to set up the pass, and other times you’re going to have to pass to set up the run.

“And I think if they would have the trip to Auburn back with a young quarterback, I would bet they’d say, Look we’re going to have to throw a bit more on early downs, and once we have a little success with that, then we can get back to running the football. Then we can get back to our linemen getting up those linebackers. But when you go into a game, and the defensive coordinator on the other side, and it’s a road game, his number one goal is we have to stop the run. We’re putting nine guys up there if we have to. We’re going to stop their running game. We don’t care what they do throwing the ball, we’re going to stop their running game.

“That was (Auburn’s) approach. If you go back and watch the film, that’s what my point is, when a defense is going to approach a game like that you have to say, OK boom, put the ball in the belly of the tailback (and then) pull it out. Get those guys all up at the line of scrimmage to tackle the ball-carrier and now you have a tight end out in the flat for a 5-yard pass. Not fancy, nothing crazy, you’re just doing a little flat route and he catches it, and he turns the corner, and he picks up 12 yards. That’s what I’m talking about.

“So it’s not like they have to change the gameplan, find some new plays. It’s more of how they approach it and how they attack, and it would not shock me at all that when they go to Atlanta it’s not going to be new plays, it’s going to be how they call them, and whether it’s Bama or Auburn it’s going to be the same approach. They’re not going to let (Georgia’s) run game beat them. So Chaney’s got to say, OK, no problem, play-action on first-and-10, now I’m a linebacker, now I’m a safety, now I’m like, Wait a second, are they throwing here or are they running? Now I’m a little hesitant. Now I’m getting back to being able to run the ball a little easier. So that’s why I’m saying play-action early downs makes a defense indecisive and makes it much, much easier for linemen to be able to block them when a defense thinks like that.”

I think that’s right.  Georgia isn’t going to radically restructure its offense when it plays the West champ.  For one thing, there isn’t enough time to install a whole new offense and expect it to function smoothly against one of the top defenses in college football.  For another, your best players on offense are the running backs you’ve relied on all year to get you to Atlanta.  The SECCG isn’t the time to work around using them; it’s the time to come up with ways within the existing structure of your offense to put them in situations where they can win a given play.

I’m not saying, “boom!, that’s easy”, and I don’t think Herbstreit is, either.  It’s Jim Chaney’s job to give Chubb, Michel and Fromm a fighting chance.  (It’s also the staff’s job to make sure the rest of the game doesn’t get away from the Dawgs and force Chaney and the offense into a position they’re not comfortable with, but that’s a post for another day.)  Reinventing the wheel in late November doesn’t strike me as an efficient way of accomplishing that.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

The return of balance

For once, it seems I managed to glomm on to something before Kirby had to explain it to me.

That’s been the story most of the season.  10-1 Georgia is last in the conference in passing attempts by a wide margin, despite most opponents following the same strategy that Kentucky used against the Dawgs’ running game.  We may find it frustrating to watch at times, but Chaney’s insistence on sticking to the run early has largely been a success.

The exception that proved the rule is Auburn.

The Dawgs haven’t thrown the ball much because they haven’t needed to.  They’ve won ten games, most of those in dominating fashion.  The offense is built in a way to protect a true freshman quarterback and to take pressure off a defense that’s excelled most of the season.  That’s good tactics in my book.

What it’s not built to do, as we saw on the Plains, is claw back into a game once it’s facing a significant deficit.  And, while it seems likely that Georgia Tech will succumb to what’s worked all year, it’s just as likely that will be the last time this season Georgia can count on the tried and true formula coming through without a hitch.

So, what say you about that, Coach Smart?

Kirby Smart, asked about that Monday, acknowledged that his team needs to run and pass well.

“To be able to win a championship you’ve got to have balance. We continue to improve on our balance,” Smart said. “Our ability to throw down the field, our ability to open things up. But if we open things up and throw the ball downfield I would beg the question what we’re doing with 27 and 1 the rest of the time.”

That would be Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, respectively now the second- and fifth-all time rushers in Georgia football history.

“It’s Catch-22 to be balanced,” Smart said. “But at the end of the day to win you’ve got to be able to do both, and when you play really good teams you’ve got to be able to do both.”

Ditto, says his offensive coordinator.

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney told the CBS broadcast crew on Friday that he didn’t think Georgia could win a championship by continuing to run it 70 percent of the time.

I’m not sure what to make of the questioning.  Georgia, just to remind everyone, is 10-1.  It got to this point pounding the ball (on pace to throw fewer passes than any SEC team since 2012), playing good defense and special teams.  Who’s to say that the Dawgs would be in the same place right now if, say, they’d run the ball 100 fewer times over the course of the season?

As a look back, then, that seems a wasted effort.  The relevant question from here is what does Chaney do —  and, maybe more relevantly — what does Smart want Chaney to do when Georgia game plans for the SECCG and whatever comes after?  You would hope that at least there are lessons to be taken from the Auburn loss that will prove useful in that regard.  I can’t help but wonder, though, if better results from the defense and special teams than what they showed in the loss will prove even more useful.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

David Cutcliffe’s advice

In beating Georgia Tech Saturday, Duke ended a six-game losing streak.  They did it without the benefit of a bye week to get them ready to play Tech’s triple option, although in playing Army the week before, they did get their defense plenty of reps to prepare for Johnson’s offense.

Interestingly enough, when asked what Duke’s secret of success was, Cutcliffe didn’t resort to the usual explanations you hear about how to defend Tech.  Instead, he came at it from the other side of the ball.

“You’ve got to take the challenge on yourself to try to outrush a team,” coach David Cutcliffe said. “And about the only way you’re going to outrush a Georgia Tech team is to be on the field more than they are. We accomplished that.”

“I told them, ‘When you’re playing an option team, prepare to play from behind at some point,’” Cutcliffe said. “To play these teams, you have to catch up to the speed of that offense. It’s not a scout team. So it takes you awhile to get your sea legs.”

… Cutcliffe spoke during the week about the importance of making the most out of their drives, since Georgia Tech’s run offense could take time off the clock and limit possessions. Duke did that, scoring on its first seven possessions and eight of their 10 possessions for the game.

I can think of another team that’s going to try to outrush Georgia Tech.

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Filed under Georgia Tech Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Jim Chaney doesn’t need us to tell him to run the damned ball.

From Seth Emerson’s “By the Numbers”:

1

Tackles-for-loss given up by Georgia’s offense against Kentucky, the only one coming on a sack in the first half.

On the ride back from the game Saturday night, after comparing the outcomes of Georgia’s last two games, it occurred to me that if you’re preparing to play Georgia and decide you have to load the box to stop the run, you’re going to lose.

Sure, you may succeed in the short run, as Jim Chaney is going to run his tailbacks into those eight- and nine- man sets early and often, but what’s also going to happen are a couple of things:  one, at some point Jake Fromm is going to get the go-ahead to throw the ball against a defensive backfield lacking numbers and eyeing the run; and, two, those five Georgia running backs are eventually going to wear your ass out and get their yards.

That’s exactly where Kentucky found itself as the game progressed.  The ‘Cats did manage to gum the works up early on, although as the stat Seth disclosed indicates, their defense wasn’t particularly disruptive.  Once Jake Fromm settled in, Chaney turned him loose on Georgia’s second scoring drive.  Two of his three passes, including the 27-yard toss to Wims for the touchdown, were about as easy as completions come.  From there, it was pound the crap out of the defense until submission time.  On the day, the Dawgs ran for 381 yards and averaged close to nine yards a carry.

That’s been the story most of the season.  10-1 Georgia is last in the conference in passing attempts by a wide margin, despite most opponents following the same strategy that Kentucky used against the Dawgs’ running game.  We may find it frustrating to watch at times, but Chaney’s insistence on sticking to the run early has largely been a success.

The exception that proved the rule is Auburn.

The Tigers have been the only team Georgia has faced this season that didn’t need to load the box to disrupt Georgia’s offense.  After an initial series in which Fromm went 3-3 and marched the team down for a touchdown, Chaney stuck with the run for the next couple of series, only to see the offense bog down for the rest of the half.  There was only one pass attempt on first down in the first half.

When Fromm is comfortable, Georgia’s offense is fine.  What we’ve seen this season is that there are two ways to make him comfortable:  establishing the run game to open up the passing game and throwing on downs when the opposing defense is expecting the run.  Auburn took away the first path and Georgia never tried to open the second one.

The good news in the short run is that this week’s opponent is coming off a game in which it gave up over three hundred yards rushing to Duke.  I would expect that Georgia Tech will load the box to stop the run — even in the best of times, Ted Roof has never met a run blitz he didn’t like — and I would expect that will work about as well as it has in every one of Georgia’s wins this season.

The bad news in the intermediate term is that whichever team the Dawgs face in the SECCG won’t be loading the box and will likely be able to disrupt what Georgia likes to do.  The challenge for Chaney is that he can’t stick with the same old, same old if that happens.

That game also represents a bigger challenge for the whole team and staff.  Chaney’s patience with the game plan has largely been a plus this season, and, you could argue, almost a necessity given the true freshman quarterback running the offense and the reshaped offensive line.  The reason Auburn was a disaster was that the special teams mistakes that contributed to the defensive meltdown meant that offensive patience was a luxury that Jim Chaney couldn’t afford.  Georgia’s offense isn’t built for catch up.  If special teams and defense can’t keep the Dawgs in the championship game while the offense tries to establish traction, which is how Georgia held things together in South Bend, it’s going to be another long day.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

“This is not normal for a cornerback.”

I don’t mean this in a snarky way, but I am curious.  When I see a stat like this…

… I can’t help but wonder whom Kirby is referring to when he says the defense has had tackling problems all season.  I presume Roquan and Reed aren’t in the mix there, so who needs to up his tackling game?

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Steve Spurrier and “Mills”

Chris Brown doesn’t post as often at Smart Football as he used to, so when he does put something up about college football, it’s a cause for celebration (for me, at least).  And this piece about Steve Spurrier and his love for the deep post pass is worth reading, not just for the Xs-and-Os aspect, which Chris doles out in spades, but also because of what it says about Spurrier’s mindset as a head coach and game planner.

In 1990, Steve Spurrier took over at Florida, vowing to not only turn around the Gators but also to bring an entirely new brand of football to the Southeastern Conference, namely an aggressive, pass-first system that had its roots in the offenses Spurrier ran as an NFL quarterback, as updated and refined in his years as a head coach in the USFL and at Duke. Before the first game against Oklahoma State, Spurrier elevated a young QB named Shane Matthews from fifth on the depth chart to starter. Just before the game, Spurrier approached Matthews:

“Coach Spurrier always liked to come around and talk to guys in the locker room while they were getting ready,” Matthews said. “He finally comes to me and asks, ‘Shane, what play do you want to start with?’”

“I’d never started a college game before. A lot of people were giving him grief already for naming me the starter. So, I said: ‘Maybe a screen or a draw?’ “

And Spurrier responded: “Shoot, they didn’t hire me to come down here and run the football. We’re going to throw it.”

That first play was a 28 yard completion from Matthews to receiver Ernie Mills, who had run a post route behind a ten-to-twelve yard dig or square-in route. Florida scored a touchdown for plays later en route to a 50-7 victory. The rest was, well, history, as Spurrier’s run at Florida would be one of the most successful tenures — and influential — of any coach in football history.

Ray Goff, among others, just wasn’t ready to cope with that kind of mentality.  (And, yeah, if you look closely, you’ll find video of a couple of plays where Spurrier victimized Georgia’s secondary.)  That kind of mentality is what leads to a tribute like this one:

Spurrier didn’t invent The Mills Play, which would eventually come to be known simply as “Mills,” but he called it so often and so aggressively — and was so successful with it — that you’ll see the play clearly labeled as “Mills” (or “Florida” or “Gator”) in playbooks of coaches who never even coached under or played for the Ol’ Ball Coach.

Like it or not, Spurrier will go down as one of the two or three most influential coaches in SEC history.

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Filed under Strategery And Mechanics, The Evil Genius