Category Archives: Strategery And Mechanics

‘How can a guy catch a ball eight yards downfield with a lineman standing right there next to him?’

The irony of using Auburn as an example of the envelope pushing of the downfield lineman rule officials swear they’re going to enforce this season – no, really, they swear it! – shouldn’t escape any Georgia fan who saw what seemed like last season’s only actual attempt to call that penalty in the Auburn game overturn a brilliant fake punt call.

Incorrectly, of course.

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A play by any other name would smell as sweet

I tend to be a little skeptical about “it’s so easy” declarations, so I can’t say I’m totally relieved to hear John Theus’ take on the transition at offensive coordinator.

Having learned the new scheme this past spring, offensive tackle John Theus believes the same. Theus said there hasn’t been much of an adjustment for the players with Schottenheimer outside of learning a few different names. Otherwise, the offense, in philosophy, is pretty much the same.

“It’s not that hard. It’s pretty much the same kinds of plays and same schemes — a little bit different,” Theus said. “The main thing is just learning the new terminology. It’s not all that difficult, you just have to condition your mind differently and just be on top of things. Once you start getting some repetitions with it, it becomes second nature.”

Now it may be he’s offering that perspective strictly from the vantage point of his position group.  That would be more understandable, given the level of experience Georgia’s offensive linemen have.

That being said, there will be plenty of time for repetitions in August to get the troops acclimated to whatever changes are in store.  I just worry how this may feed into this season’s regression to the mean concern for me – how much of Georgia’s +16 turnover margin from 2014 fades away in 2015?

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

The curse of Herschel

Great piece from the get go (you guys know I’m a sucker for puns, and the header is a good ‘un) about the Georgia running back situation by Matt Hinton.

This is a story about a star running back at Georgia, which means that it is also, on some intrinsic level, a story about Herschel Walker. It’s impossible to avoid: In his three years, Walker so thoroughly embodied the ideal college workhorse that in the three-plus decades since his last carry in a red-and-black uniform, his shadow over the position has only grown. At some point, possibly before he even left campus, that shadow became a permanent feature of the landscape, looming over aspiring recruits and proven commodities alike: The best of the post-Walker tailbacks in Athens include two consensus All-Americans,1 six first-round draft picks,2 and a future NFL MVP, all of whom register in the imagination as mere footnotes by comparison. No broad-shouldered, blue-chip prospect has ever been touted as The Next Rodney Hampton. No fan in the cheap seats has ever been moved by a great run to exclaim, “That kid looks like Tim Worley out there!” No TV producer has ever booked Garrison Hearst or Knowshon Moreno to grant his blessing to the latest heir apparent.

So the bar for what qualifies as a star running back at Georgia is relative, to put it mildly. And before we get around to parsing the bona fides of the current headliner, sophomore Nick Chubb, it has to be said that exultant expectations for UGA rushers over the past few years have tended to produce a lot of false prophets.

I’ll grant you that maybe Matt takes a little artistic license to make his point – I don’t think any of the Georgia faithful, at least when sober, saw Washaun Ealey as the next Herschel Walker – but there’s little question that in general we have a tendency to see if someone can step up and take a shot at filling the myth.  Kinda like back in the days of my misspent youth when we wondered who would emerge as the next Beatles, I suppose.

The most interesting part of Matt’s piece is this chart…

Goodness, gracious. If you look up “workhorse” in the dictionary, Knowshon’s 2008 season is there. (Musa Smith’s 2002 effort is nothing to sneer at either.)

All of which makes what Chubb did last year that much more remarkable.  And it’s a good example of how well Georgia has managed its running backs of late.

So how special can we expect Chubb’s 2015 season to be?  Aside from managing the workload, there’s also an issue of strategy in play.

That may be the case, but even if Chubb and his high-ceiling cohorts are all they’re cracked up to be, the broader question still remains: In an era of efficient, up-tempo offenses and rapidly accelerating scoreboards, is it still possible for a great back, or a group of great backs, to serve as the centerpiece for a championship? On the one hand, college football is not yet “a passing league” in the sense that the NFL is: Although college offenses throw more often than in the past, they still tend to run more than they throw, and ground games in general are as productive as ever. Unlike in the pros, where individual backs have been steadily devalued as short-lived, situational cogs, the every-down workhorse remains a prized commodity in the college game. Still, it’s also been clear for a while that the days of college offenses hitching their wagons to a transcendent talent like Walker or Gurley or Chubb and riding him to a title are long gone unless that type of back is accompanied by a quarterback who can generate some semblance of balance.

Eh, maybe.  Georgia, but for some unfortunate and untimely brain farts, came closer to pulling that off in 2014 than you’d think.  And you’d have to think that with the change at quarterback and offensive coordinator, along with depth questions at wideout, the program is going to try to ride the Chubb train as far as it can.

If that works, then I think Matt is spot on with his conclusion.

Regardless of the final numbers, if under those circumstances Chubb is able to uphold his end of the bargain as the engine of a sustained title run, his place in the most exalted tier of Bulldog greats will be secure.

In other words, we’d be naming the next generation of black Labrador retrievers after him.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Nick Saban’s energy crisis

When it comes to football, nobody is more obsessed with sweating the small stuff than Alabama’s head coach.  So, I’m fascinated with the attention he’s paid to Junior’s decision to speed up the Tide’s offense last season and the rather broad hints Saban’s making that some of that may have played into the defense’s collapse at the end of the year.

“If we’re going to be a no-huddle team like we were last year, I think we have to manage the season better with our team,” Saban said, “because I think at the end of the season last year, we ran out of gas a little bit.”

Now understand, while the pace may have been breakneck by Saban’s standards, it was middle of the pack by FBS ones – Alabama ranked 72nd nationally last season in plays run per game.  But that’s enough for Saban to draw his own conclusions.

“Which is like a couple, three more games,” Saban said. “And our players showed it. So we’re going to have to do a better job of keeping our team where they need to be so that we can finish strong.”

What’s really interesting about this, when you parse his remarks, is that he’s more concerned about muddying his team’s identity than the energy level.  Read this and see what you think:

“It’s interesting that we set records last year on offense, passing, our total offense, points,” Saban said. “I’m talking about records all time. But yet, there was something that we lost in doing that. Before we would just line up and physically dominate the line of scrimmage and the other team knew what we were going to do. It really wasn’t a secret but they couldn’t stop us.

“So, even though we had much more balance, much more diversity, I think we lost a little bit of that. And I think it’s important that we sort of gain that back so that we are a physical, relentless, competitive-type team that nobody wants to play. But we play with that kind of toughness because that’s been the trademark. That’s help us have the sort of success that we’ve had. So I’m a little apprehensive about giving up that quality and not having that identity as a team, especially in a league that is sort of built on those kind of intangibles.”

The irony here, at least for me, is you can make a valid argument Georgia’s 2014 offense had the identity that Saban believes last year’s Alabama’s squad lacked.  Despite running more than five fewer plays per game than did ‘Bama, Georgia managed the best average yards per offensive play in the conference, and led the conference in scoring.  Even though it played one less game, Georgia outrushed Alabama by about 450 total yards, and almost by a yard per carry.

The big question now is what Saban does to counter what he perceives as the flaws in Alabama’s game last season.  Does he instruct Kiffin to rein it in?  Does he stick with Alabama’s version of the no-huddle and try to adapt better on defense?  You know he’s going to chew on it until he comes up with something.

In any event, it could be a story line to keep an eye on in the weeks leading up to October 3rd.

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Got jargon?

Trust me – you want to bookmark this.

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I blame Schotty.

If you’re looking for an area where it’s likely that we’ll see a change in approach as a result of the transition at offensive coordinator, use of the tight ends is as good a place to start as any.

In that regard, Saturday Down South’s Murf Baldwin takes a look at where Schottenheimer’s come from and where he may be going.  I’m not sure if I’m ready to make any Patriots comparisons yet, but there’s definitely some food for thought in his two posts.

One thing I will say is the timing of this for Georgia looks to be fortuitous, in that if there’s ever a time to put more emphasis on the TE position, it’s a year in which (1) your offense is likely to be run-heavy; (2) the experience in your wide receiver group is lacking; and (3) you’ve got more than respectable depth at tight end.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Pete Carroll, Nick Saban and the art of skinning cats

I’ve started reading Chris Brown’s new book, The Art of Smart Football, (more on that in a later post, once I’m finished reading it).  The first chapter is devoted to Pete Carroll and his evolution as one of the best defensive minds in football.

Chris notes that one thing Carroll has added to his repertoire is mixing in some two-gap defensive line tricks to his base 4-3 Under, which is based on aggressive one-gap line play.  Carroll’s done that to allow his defense to gain numbers elsewhere to counter the increased threat of quarterbacks running spread-option plays.  That in turn has led to him deploying a variety of types of personnel to gain flexibility.

It’s something he learned while at Southern Cal.  Here’s what Chris quotes about that.

“That really came out of my time at SC,” Carroll told Seahawks.com.  “We forced [young players] to play, in essence.  And then we discovered if we asked them to do things they could do uniquely well, that they could elevate faster and find their confidence sooner.”

Compare that to what Nick Saban had to say about how he’s had to adapt to the challenge of defending hurry-up offenses in college.

“The biggest effect is pace of play and how it’s affected the whole game,” Saban said. “I’m not saying this in a negative way, because there are more points and it’s more exciting. There are a lot of good things about the way college football has evolved. But from a defensive perspective, you can’t play specialty defense, you can’t play substitution defense, so you really have to recruit more players who can play every down. You can’t recruit specialty players.”

So one coach has chosen to go in the direction of greater specialization and the other in the direction opposite.  That’s not to say either is incorrect, of course.  Both are two of the best defensive minds in the game (with due apologies to Gus and Boom, heh), although you could argue that Carroll is trending a little better than Saban of late, I guess.  I just find it more than a little interesting to see the conclusions they draw from strategizing against modern offenses.

I admit I can’t help but wonder what kind of impact Saban’s approach has on Alabama’s recruiting now, though.  One of the huge advantages Saban enjoys with managing an 85-man college roster is the ability of carrying specialty players on it. It will be interesting to see how giving up that advantage plays out over the next few seasons.

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