About that whole “Georgia didn’t throw the ball deep in 2019” thing:
Category Archives: Strategery And Mechanics
This one’s for the “but, the receivers” crowd.
Dayne: Situational football is what separates a good coach from a good planner. Traditional football logic says one thing, analytics say another. We are still relatively young in the analytics movement and I don’t think we often see coaches make bold decisions in important moments simply because the numbers say so. Here are some of the situations where many coaches should rethink what they normally do.
Traditional RB stats can lie
This was the first game of the season when Georgia’s halfhearted attempt at the option read was still enough to make defenders stutter. As the season progressed and there was little willingness for the quarterback to keep the football, defenses lost respect and focused on the running back.
Coley did get more creative with his playcalling late in the season when it was clear that Georgia’s offense was stalling out. But to keep relying on a play as a staple when it was clear that defensive coordinators no longer respected the threat was… well, a good example of why the offense was stalling out.
Terrence Edwards, on what he hopes to see from Georgia’s new offensive coordinator:
Former Georgia wide receiver Terrence Edwards knows fans are excited about the prospect of Todd Monken loosening the reins on the Bulldogs’ offense this fall.
He believes that will happen to a large extent. But he also says fans shouldn’t go into the 2020 season with the idea that the Bulldogs will look drastically different than they have in previous years.
“I went back and looked at a lot of stuff that he’s done—his college days, not professional, because that’s totally different. In his college days, he’s been very balanced,” Edwards said. “Everybody wants to call it Air Raid, but he’s always had a 1,000-yard running back in his system.”
Edwards isn’t kidding…
“I like the approach,” Edward said. “I hope he sticks to what he’s done in the past in the college ranks, having a 4,000-yard passer, along with 2,000 yards rushing, because we’ve got some great backs who I think need to touch the ball.”
I went back and looked. Over the last decade, the Dawgs never had a 4,000-yard passer. Aaron Murray came closest, in the 2012 season, with 3,893 yards. (In the injury-plagued 2013 season, Murray and Mason combined for over 4,000 yards.)
In both those seasons, the Dawgs did gain over 2,000 yards on the ground — 2,209 in 2013 (considering the injuries and who was forced to play as a result, that’s a pretty amazing stat) and 2,556 in 2012.
So, you could say that what Edwards is looking for from Monken is peak Bobo. I could live with that myself.
The order and magnitude of the heading are both important. Obviously, if offense and the passing game are king, the quarterback is the most valuable position. If you don’t get elite quarterback play in today’s college football playoff world, your chances of winning a conference championship, playoff, and then national championship game are slim to none. Of the top 25 most valuable players in college football last fall, 20 were quarterbacks, per our Wins Above Average (WAA) metric, which is analogous to Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for the NFL. For the Bulldogs, elite freshman George Pickens was the second most valuable player in terms of WAA, and the third-highest graded offensive player with an 85.5 overall grade.
No mention of Fromm there, but PFF had this to say about him in its ranking of college football’s quarterbacks last season:
8. Jake Fromm – Georgia
Preseason Rank: 9; Week 6 Rank: 6; Week 12 Rank: 7
It wasn’t always pretty from Fromm this season, but he just simply got the job done when he needed to (save for one outing against South Carolina). Sure, he threw away the game, literally, against the Gamecocks, but he was entrusted with every throw and put up a passing grade of 69.0 or higher in all but two contests this year. Outside of the game against SC, he just simply didn’t make many unforced errors in 2019, and that will certainly take him far at the next level. He finished with just seven turnover-worthy throws compared to 24 big-time throws as his avoidance of negatively-graded plays was among the best in the country. He had elite passing grades on throws over the middle just the same as he did on throws outside, finishing with the 10th-most big-time throws on passes outside the numbers. Fromm’s departure to the NFL draft gives way for the Newman transfer as he’ll have big shoes to fill in Athens.
That’s a lot of words to describe Fromm as a game manager. The problem for Georgia was that the game has changed. Fromm’s season would have been more valuable 5-8 years ago, but now…
Dayne: The threat of the run must be present to get the defense to bite on a fake to leave them vulnerable for the pass. What happened for Georgia in 2019 was that defenses developed so little respect for the Bulldogs’ passing game, defenders crowded the box and refused to leave. Georgia failed to counter with consistent passing excellence.
We’ve already hashed to death the perceived reasons for Georgia’s slide in offensive production last season. Going forward, the question is whether Monken can counter with consistent passing excellence. Or, maybe more precisely, whether he has the right quarterback with whom to counter.
If you watched Georgia football last season, I don’t think this chart (h/t DawgStats) will come as any big surprise to you.
The underlying reasons for that differential, of course, are what really matter. Was Fromm simply that uncomfortable throwing into man coverage? Were Georgia’s receivers having that much trouble with man to man? Was Coley simply unable to dial up schemes and routes against man coverage to give his players a better chance?
Probably a combination of all three, but the bigger issue now is what Todd Monken does about that — at least the part that involves the last two questions.
I have to admit I’m guilty of the mindset that Georgia’s containment quality on defense is largely a matter of how good the line play is, but Dayne Young and Brent Rollins suggest that with Kirby Smart, it’s much more a matter of overall defensive alignment.
Dayne: You’ve probably noticed that Kirby Smart tends to avoid giving firm answers when reporters ask about the defensive schemes. Part of that is because the Bulldogs play multiple defenses and ask defenders to be versatile. There is no quick and simple explanation of Georgia’s defensive tendencies because it all adjusts based on what the opposing offense is showing.
Dayne: The problem with having five players prowl the line of scrimmage is that it allows for running plays to bounce outside, as defenders are clogged inside. Georgia is making a shift away from leaning so heavily on bigger outside linebackers/defensive ends, and relying on fast and tall defenders who can line up at a variety of spots.
Brent: This is the old school, base 3-4 defense: nose tackle occupying the center, two 275-plus pound defensive ends, two outside linebackers (Nolan Smith and Walter Grant on this play) along the line of scrimmage, and two inside linebackers (Monty Rice and Quay Walker here). The defense is then rounded out by the two corners and two safeties in the secondary, with Richard LeCounte being the eighth defender in the box on this play. Given the evolution of offenses, and particularly the rise of 11 personnel (remember? One RB, one TE, three WRs), it is rare to see the Bulldogs in their “base” 3-4. In fact, in 2019, only 12.5 percent of plays were played from this base 3-4 personnel.
Dayne: Georgia’s base has adjusted over the years to better cover every quadrant of the field. The star position has become vital to Georgia to increase the athleticism on the field.
Brent: While often not the true star of the defense, the Star position is a part of Georgia’s true base defense. Mark Webb above is the “star,” or fifth defensive/nickel cornerback. Especially on early downs, this gives rise to the typical alignment you see from a Bulldog defense. The 4-2-5 look with three true defensive linemen, mainly functioning as run stoppers and an edge defender, or “jack,” (Azeez Ojulari above) on the line of scrimmage. Then, two linebackers in the middle, one of which is typically bigger, and the force player against the run on the strong side (e.g., Monty Rice), and another on the weak side that is faster and better in coverage (e.g. Tae Crowder). The star then plays in the slot, two outside corners and the two safeties, one of whom typically plays on the wide side of the field (J.R. Reed) and the other typically on the short side of the field (LeCounte). Georgia had this 4-2-5 alignment on 62 percent of its defensive plays last season.
Based on that, the secondary’s role in containment is more significant than I credited before reading that. (It also illustrates why Webb, who did struggle at times in pass coverage last season, was on the field so much at star.) Definitely food for thought.
Does anybody seriously question whether Kirby Smart intends to allow Georgia’s offense to “evolve” this season? I mean, sure, we certainly don’t know the extent to which things will change, but to bring on Monken and Faulkner to keep doing what wasn’t working? C’mon — is it realistic to expect Monken to take the job simply to refine the James Coley playbook?
There are other ways to skin the Manball cat besides running repeatedly into
a brick wall stacked defensive fronts. Kirby may be stubborn, but he’s not that stubborn.