Category Archives: Strategery And Mechanics

The POP pass and the ineligible receiver downfield rule, a grumble

I don’t blame the folks at Roll Bama Roll for being peeved about this:

In the aftermath of Alabama’s loss to Ole Miss on Saturday, discussion has been rekindled around the POP pass and its exploitation of the ineligible receiver downfield rule. For those unfamiliar with the current rule, offensive linemen are allowed to be no more than three yards downfield at the time a forward pass is released. Having an arbitrary window like this makes it difficult for the officials to police, as the difference between three yards and four yards can be difficult to ascertain depending on the official’s angle. This inspired a failed rule proposal in the offseason to remove the three yard window and adopt the NFL rule, which allows linemen to advance no more than one yard before the pass is thrown. Proponents of spread offenses argued for better enforcement of the existing rule as opposed to a rule change, suggesting that such a rule change would take an exciting play out of college playbooks.

The rule may not be bullshit, but enforcement of it, as we all know, is close to a joke.  (So much for adding that eighth member to the officiating crew to better keep up with action on the field.)  So, if they’re not going to get serious about it on the field, what to do?

The article suggests expanding what can be reviewed by the replay official to include penalties dealing with time and space.  Eh, I’m not sure what college football needs is another reason to slow the game down.  Brian Cook offers a different approach:

… it might be better to do away with the rule altogether and just call offensive pass interference on any lineman who hits or impedes anyone other than a defensive lineman on a pass play beyond the line of scrimmage. That might be more enforceable—and the penalty would be much stiffer.

Interesting… but I’m not sure why officials would be any more willing to enforce this than the three-yard rule.  Plus – and I know this is nitpicking – in an age of multiple fronts with outside linebackers that jump back and forth between the first and second level, how do you decide whether someone is a lineman on a given pass play?

Bottom line is that it’s sad we’re at a point where we know enforcement of this rule has been a failure and yet nobody expects anything to be done about it.  Well played, Steve Shaw.


Filed under SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics

How to know when an offense is starting to click

It’s a pretty good sign when Nick Chubb and Malcolm Mitchell ponder whether Georgia’s passing game or running game should bear the brunt of opposing defenses’ attention.

… Through three games, defenses have loaded eight defenders in the box and forced Lambert to win with his arm. By making South Carolina pay dearly, defensive gameplans could suddenly be altered.

“I think they’ll have to spread it out more on defense because they can’t keep packing the box with eight people,” Chubb said. “It leaves two corners and a safety. Our wideouts are doing a great job. Malcolm Mitchell is making plays. Reggie Davis, Terry Godwin, Isaiah McKenzie, they have to respect those guys, and respect Greyson a lot more than what they saw from the first two games. We’re getting very balanced and that’s a great thing.”

Chubb has seen more than his fair share of eight-man boxes and would be thrilled to see it shrink some.

Mitchell, on the other hand, is OK with things staying the same. After all, the running game is still racking up yards with Mitchell not having to worry about being double covered.

“You hope to get singled up because it gives you more opportunities,” Mitchell said. “The ball can be placed at many different places. When you have more than one person on you the window’s very small. So you got single coverage, it’s an opportunity for you and the other guy to compete and say who’s better than who.”

They’re both right, of course.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

For his next trick, Nick Saban announces a cure for cancer.

Hey, remember when Nick pushed for that 10-second substitution rule ’cause he was all concerned about player health and stuff?

Saban said the committee’s study of no-huddle teams revealed that an average of four snaps per game came within the first 10 seconds of the play clock. The threat of it, though, puts a limit on how a defense can adjust, Saban said.

“You’re not really affecting how they play, but what keeps you from being able to ever take a defensive player out, whether he’s hurt, pre-existing condition, whatever it is — is the fact that they might snap the ball,” he said. “So you can’t do anything. You’ve got to call timeout to get a guy out. And if you tell a guy to get down, that’s really against the rules, and they boo him out of the park.”

Well, somehow he’s managed to put aside his qualms.  With a vengeance.

Alabama averaged nine more offensive plays per game in 2014 than it did in 2013. Last week, Alabama ran 100 plays to Mississippi’s 65.

Through three games, Alabama has run 249 plays — one more than Oregon (!), and more than spread programs such as Texas A&M (234), Arizona (231), California (227), Clemson (225), Texas Tech (218) and Auburn (188).

It’s a miracle!


Filed under Nick Saban Rules, Strategery And Mechanics


Boy, when’s the last time anyone at Georgia so dramatically changed the perception of their standing as both Lambert and Schottenheimer did in a mere four hours last night?

As astoundingly impressive as Lambert’s showing was (he’s vaulted into fifth nationally in passer rating), I’m even more taken by what Georgia’s offensive coordinator pulled off.  First, he’s Lambert’s position coach.  Some of the credit for the improvement in Lambert’s game has to go to Schottenheimer.

But what was really great was letting everyone know from the get go that the answer to the question of why Georgia’s game planning in its first two games was so conservative was that, yes, he was holding something back.  And when I say from the get go, I mean from the get go, as the Dawgs came out in their very first series throwing the ball.

And that’s why, of all the numbers Seth Emerson mentions in this piece, this number is my favorite:


Times that Georgia threw it on first down Saturday. The first two games of the season Georgia only threw it a combined nine times on first down.

No doubt this is one of the worst defenses I’ve seen South Carolina deploy under Spurrier.  But Schottenheimer made them look bad by going away from the tendencies he’d established.  All in all, just a brilliant night.  No wonder Spurrier made an effort after shaking hands with Richt last night to find Schottenheimer in the crowd on the field and congratulate him.  The master knew what his pupil had accomplished.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

“I always felt like if they’re going to give you 53½ yards, you play with it…”

Here’s a really good piece on the strategy behind what Art Briles and Bob Stitt do on offense with what the article calls the “super-spread”.

The super-spread relies on simple math. If a cornerback is defending a athletic wide receiver in a confined area, the receiver will struggle to get open. But the more of the field the cornerback has to defend, the more successful the receiver is going to be.

Let’s say a defense is in man coverage and a corner is trying to defend a receiver that’s lined up five yards wider than normal. If that receiver gets targeted on a crossing route 5 yards downfield, and he has covered 15 yards laterally, the area under the route is 37.5 square yards. But if the receiver is lined up 5 yards wider and gets to the same spot, the cornerback has to cover 50 square yards. Sometimes the receiver won’t get to that same point, but there is more space to work with underneath the route before things get crowded.

Similarly, if the defense is in zone — let’s say cover four quarters, with three linebackers covering across the middle and four defensive backs lined up roughly 7 yards off the line of scrimmage — and two receivers are lined up 5 yards wider than normal, each of the three linebackers have to account for 3.3 yards more, width-wise. If the zone is roughly 5 yards deep, that’s 16.5 more square yards per zone.

That works particularly well when teams need to neutralize talent discrepancies, as was the case in Montana’s first game of the season — Stitt’s first game with the Grizzlies and first at the FCS level — against top-ranked North Dakota State. Though as Briles has shown through Baylor’s rise, having more talented players is no detriment; it just makes the offense that much more effective. Despite having inferior players who were being introduced to a new system, Montana neutralized the Bison defense. After giving up just 280 yards per game last year, NDSU gave up 544 yards.

North Dakota State’s defenders play well against the run and well against the pass, but it is almost impossible for them to play well against both, simultaneously. With the field spread so wide, it is impossible for teams to play zone effectively against a super-spread offense, so teams often opt to play the pass, spreading their defenses out to match the opposing offense. That means many defenses will only put five players in the box to rush the passer and defend the middle of the field.

“It’s an offensive line coach’s dream to get a five-man box,” Stitt said. “If you do the right things in the spread, you’re going to (get a five-man box).”

I said during the Montana-NDS game that in a few years, I could see a Stitt-coached Vanderbilt driving Nick Saban crazy.


Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

The VanGorder is strong with this one.

I’m not the only one feeling it.  From Seth’s ongoing live chat today:

Do you think Schottenheimer/Richt have purposely been showing a vanilla offensive scheme, or do you think the offense is just vanilla this year?

A little of both. They are going to ride this running game all year. People need to get used to that. They believe they have a defense they can win with, as they did in the VanGorder days, and don’t believe they need an air-it-out passing game to win it. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to pass the ball; they realize they need to pass it better than they have the first two games. But the coaches also don’t care about style points as much as fans do.

Ah… so much fodder for the comments section here.  I’ll hang up and listen to your answers now.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Loosen up a little, fellas. It won’t kill you.

Going back to Seth Emerson’s second glance piece about the Vanderbilt game, here’s something he tallied from Schottenheimer’s play calls:

Georgia ran the ball 26 times on first down at Vanderbilt, versus just five passes on first down. In Week 1, it was 22 runs on first down and four passes.

Damn.  Based on that, you’d think he had an allergy to throwing the ball on first down.

Now, again, I get why that happened.  But Tyler points out something interesting in this post that makes me question whether being that lopsided running the ball on first down makes as much sense this week.

So, that brings us to South Carolina. Poking around, something about South Carolina’s pass defense really stood out:

Situation G Att Comp Pct. Yards TD Int Rating Long 1st 15+ 25+
1st Down 2 25 18 72.0 216 0 0 144.58 43 7 7 3
2nd Down 2 16 11 68.8 115 0 1 116.63 20 6 3 0
3rd Down 2 17 10 58.8 74 1 2 91.27 21 4 1 0
3rd Down, 1-3 To Go 2 2 1 50.0 21 1 0 303.20 21 1 1 0
3rd Down, 4-6 To Go 1 5 2 40.0 17 0 1 28.56 10 2 0 0
3rd Down, 7-9 To Go 1 5 3 60.0 15 0 1 45.20 6 0 0 0
3rd Down, 10+ To Go 2 5 4 80.0 21 0 0 115.28 14 1 0 0
4th Down 2 2 1 50.0 19 0 1 29.80 19 1 1 0

Teams are doing quite well throwing against them on first down. Now, first down is when the whole play book is open, but when you compare their rushing defense, it becomes apparent that first down ain’t their thing.

Situation G Att Yards Avg. TD Long 1st 10+ 20+
1st Down 2 32 241 7.53 1 44 6 6 5
2nd Down 2 27 115 4.26 2 20 8 2 1
3rd Down 2 10 58 5.80 0 29 5 4 1
3rd Down, 1-3 To Go 2 5 25 5.00 0 29 2 1 1
3rd Down, 4-6 To Go 2 3 22 7.33 0 17 2 2 0
3rd Down, 7-9 To Go 1 1 13 13.00 0 13 1 1 0
3rd Down, 10+ To Go 1 1 -2 -2.00 0 -2 0 0 0
4th Down 2 2 1 0.50 0 1 1 0 0

1/3 of all their first downs given up happen on first down plays. 22% of all first down plays result in a first down. For comparison sakes, UGA has only given up 3 first downs on first down plays.

That’s some relatively low hanging fruit ready for the plucking, it seems to me.  And best of all, it doesn’t really require a huge amount of risk taking on Schottenheimer’s part.  There are plenty of safe throws off of play action in Georgia’s playbook that can pick up a quick 5-7 yards on a first down play, for example.  And nothing about that requires the offense to go off script from being run-oriented.  As Tyler puts it,

Hey, if we’re only going to throw it 20 times, let’s make 13 of those times on first down, because it sure feels like first and ten is a good time if you are trying to soften a defense geared for run.

If they’re gonna give it to you, take it.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics