Category Archives: Strategery And Mechanics

Skin in the kickoff game

If you’ve watched any Alliance of American Football action (and before you ask, I haven’t), you may have noticed an absence of kickoffs.

The AAF debuted last weekend without toe meeting pigskin following scores. Offenses simply took over at the 25-yard line. No high-speed blocks, tackles or collisions. Definitely no injuries.

“It felt a little awkward,” said Atlanta Legends coach Kevin Coyle, a veteran of more than 40 college and pro seasons. “For me personally, it felt strange not to kickoff and cover the kick.”

Obviously no kickoffs = less injury chances, which has started another drum beat about what college football ought to do about that.

The thing is, the rule changes already enacted have had their desired effect.

  • For the first time since the NCAA began tracking such numbers, less than half of all kickoffs — only 42 percent — were returned last season.
  • For at least the fifth straight year, touchbacks are up. The 2018 total of 4,273 was up almost 28 percent since 2013.
  • The total number of kickoffs returned for touchdowns is down almost half from 72 in 2012 to 38 in 2018.
  • Kickoff return yards are down 42.2 percent since 2011. That was the last season before the kickoff was moved from the 30 to the 35-yard line.

Still, that’s probably not satisfying for the all or nothing crowd.  So what’s an NCAA rules committee to do?  Well, if you’re Steve Shaw, you raise an interesting defense of the status quo.

“Imagine Georgia-Florida and the place is up for grabs and we just jog out and put it on the ground,” he said. “I think we want to do everything we can do to protect the play.”

That’s the most empowered I’ve ever felt about an NCAA rule change.

By the way, thanks for getting the name of the game right, Steve.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics, The Body Is A Temple, The NCAA

Balance

As somebody who’s always believed the first law of offensive coordinating is take what the defense gives you, I’ve always favored Mike Leach’s definition of balance over, say, Mike Bobo’s.

“There’s nothing balanced about 50% run-50% pass, ’cause that’s 50% stupid. What is balance is when you have five skill positions and all five of them are contributing to the effort in somewhat equal fashion — that’s balance. This notion that if you hand one guy 50% of the time and then you throw it to a combination of two guys the other 50% that you’re really balanced. You probably pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that. People have been doing that for decades. Well, then you’re delusional.” -Mike Leach

As Ian Boyd puts it,

It’s often been noted that it can be hard to run the ball effectively if the defense isn’t worried about the pass at all because defenders fly downhill when they see run blocking. Alternatively, a defense that isn’t worried about the run can play more DBs, bring more exotic blitzes, and rush the passer off the snap more aggressively. In that sense, balance can just mean making a defense worry about multiple things before the snap to prevent them from zeroing in.

Mike Leach prefers to think of balance in terms of how many skill players on the field have to hold the attention of the defense. If all five skill players are a threat to receive a pass from the QB and do damage with the ball, it becomes very difficult to account for everyone on every snap.

He then goes on to look at what balance means in an era of pass-first, HUNH spread offense.  There are effective wrinkles, of course, but in the end, it still comes back to the Jimmies and Joes.

Having balance in the Leach-ian sense is pretty difficult. Ensuring that there are players at all five skill positions that can actually threaten a defense is pretty difficult. For years Leach was able to do it because his Tech teams were unique in their approach and defensive rosters weren’t built to handle facing so many competent receivers. Nowadays his teams face a squad like Washington that plays in base nickel personnel with speedy LBs in the middle of the field and there are diminishing returns.

Having a roster that can put five skill players on the field at the same time who can be counted on to carry the day if the defense dictates that the ball needs to go there.

Remember, the spread started as a way to give teams with lesser talent a shot at competing with their betters.  It’s certainly evolved from there, but as it has, defenses have evolved with it.  If the world is moving to stop pass-first offenses — and Boyd takes the position that’s still an ongoing process — the teams that are left with high levels of talent and run-heavy schemes that should be able to exploit defenses not geared for that sort of attack should be successful in pursuing a contrarian approach.  Gee, I wonder if we know of any programs that take such an approach…

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Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

My, the Urnge Kool-Aid is refreshing.

That didn’t take long.

Anybody know what the difference is between an offense that’s six-flame en fuego and seven-flame?

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Strategery And Mechanics

Thursday morning buffet

Dig in, peeps.

  • Bud Elliott writes about when coaches know to give up on continuing to recruit a kid.
  • Boom’s cannon misfires.
  • “… I’ve never represented the University of Nebraska as legal counsel, and I’ve never held myself out as doing so.”
  • The rhythm of Signing Day.
  • David Hale argues offseason momentum isn’t really a thing.
  • Patrick Garbin takes a look back at Georgia recruiting, pre-Kirby.  His piece reaffirms two longstanding impressions I have:  Dooley was mailing it in his last two or three seasons and Donnan had the players to win a lot more than he did.
  • “This is why offensive lineman shouldn’t be allowed to play high school basketball.”

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Filed under 'Cock Envy, College Football, Crime and Punishment, Georgia Football, Recruiting, Strategery And Mechanics

Winning the transfer portal

Ian Boyd makes an intuitive point with this post.

While much of the discussion about the NCAA’s new transfer portal surrounds the blow struck for player agency, it’s likely there are other changes afoot. An easier transfer process is going to drive the evolution of the game like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, imbuing particular programs with new weapons.

The college game has already cycled through updates such as the hurry-up, no-huddle spread. The HUNH spread made the game simpler, allowing the offense to wait until the defense was set before checking into one of a few limited options.

One of the more stunning aspects of Clemson’s dominating win over Alabama was the role played by freshmen Trevor Lawrence and Justyn Ross. Lawrence hit Ross six times for 153 yards and a score on 10 targets.

But while they were both amazing high school talents, they still offer a takeaway for teams looking to plug any kind of talent into an offense. Modern spread attacks like Clemson’s make it easier to install new players, whether they’re freshmen or transfers.

Offenses that rely on schemes that are more challenging for new players to learn, like a certain one in Athens, need to face the reality that for every Jake Fromm who has the ability to grasp the basics as a true freshman, there are going to be Jacob Easons and Justin Fieldses who don’t.  Those kids will have every incentive and, more importantly, plenty of opportunity to take their skills to another program that will find a way to unlock those sooner.

That doesn’t mean Georgia should give up the chase.  Quite the contrary, it behooves Smart to grab all the elite quarterbacking talent he can.  You never know whether a quarterback is ready until he’s had time in your program, and with the new transfer protocol, those who don’t measure up will move on to greener pastures, reopening roster spots at the position for the staff to fill.

There is something to be said for efficiency when your coaches are good at talent accumulation.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics, Transfers Are For Coaches.

Tales from the crayon box

One thing I’m genuinely curious about:  offhand, whom do you think the folks who are critical of Chaney’s work (and Bobo’s for that matter) would deem the ideal Georgia offensive coordinator?

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

When “might” does the heavy lifting

I suppose this “How Georgia’s offense might change under James Coley” piece might be of some limited interest, but the problem with taking it too seriously is that it’s next to impossible to compare the context of Georgia and Miami.  Coley was working under a different head coach with very different personnel.

The other problem with taking it too seriously is the conclusion.

If the past is any indication, the tight ends will be more involved under Coley and they’ll get more opportunities in space and down the field.

Gosh, where have we heard that before?

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics