Category Archives: Strategery And Mechanics

“There is always a sense of urgency to get them up to speed.”

The NFL draft approacheth, so you know what that means: the whining about the spread will continue until the morale improves.

So, you have a quarterback who played in the spread and never took a snap at the line of scrimmage. And receivers who don’t understand route trees.

Not to mention linebackers who rarely played in tight quarters. And blockers who have not gotten into a three-point stance since high school. Or junior high.

Now turn them loose in the NFL? Good luck.

The way the spread offense has taken over college football has made the NFL draft even more of a crapshoot. In the past, pro scouts had seen college prospects perform in something similar to the NFL. Nowadays, other than rarities such as Stanford’s offense or Alabama’s defense, few schools are using formations or styles similar to what the players will face in the NFL…

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman notes how difficult it is “to teach them how to get into a three-point stance, how to run block’ because of the restrictions on practice time under the labor agreement.

Giants OL coach Mike Solari adds there is “a tremendous learning curve as far as technique and fundamentals for young offensive linemen coming into the NFL. There is always a sense of urgency to get them up to speed.”

I guess you guys will just have to work harder.  Cry me a river.

Some of this is interesting.

As more college coaches have gone with the spread, certain positions have morphed. Tight ends either are blockers or quasi-wideouts; rarely handling both duties as they may have to in the NFL. Fullbacks are almost nonexistent. Linemen just backpedal and pass block.

Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry is seen as a high pick because he blocked and ran routes in a pro system. Michigan State tackle Jack Conklin also showed he can run block and pass block, moving him ahead of some spread players.

Patriots player personnel director Nick Caserio notes that some teams “throw the ball 75 times a game, and they’ve never run blocked in their entire life.”

But defensive backs have prospered from the proliferation of wide-open offenses.

“The ball is in the air more, they are learning to tackle out more in the open grass,” Savage says. “It is a tough job for those college DBs, playing against three and four receivers every snap. Colleges run two receivers deep on one side, they exit the field and two fresh receivers are basically doing the same thing on the next play. The DB is the same guy. He’s learning from that.”

In the end, though, it always seems to come back to Nick Saban.


“I would say overall, you can’t grade schools, you have to grade individual prospects,” Savage says. “But when you go to Iowa or Alabama or Stanford, when scouts are watching the tapes, they are at least seeing what the players will be asked to do at the NFL level.”

“… I have always theorized the prospects that come out of some of these ‘NFL-like programs’ are probably getting half a round of elevation of grade in the draft. Because when that scout walks out of that school, he can better project what this player can do than for some other players who don’t have that background.”

If you don’t think Alabama’s selling that quote on the recruiting trail, you’re crazy.


Filed under Strategery And Mechanics, The NFL Is Your Friend.

“Our thing is, when you go, you go.”

For those of you fretting over the wussification of college football, this Paul Myerberg piece on the evolution of tackling in practice is worth a read.

It’ll be interesting to watch over the next few years to see if those teams which have gone to rugby-style tackling are fundamentally sound in games.


Filed under Strategery And Mechanics, The Body Is A Temple

“That’s the thing that separates the men from the boys.”

Admit it – there’s a tinny little voice in the back of your head that occasionally pipes up and says “Kirby was just running Saban’s defense at Alabama.  How do you know what he can do on his own?”.

This probably won’t do much to shut that little voice up.

The first thing to know about Alabama’s defense is that it’s Saban’s defense. Always has been and always will be, as long as he’s there. But he said it’s incorrect to think that he’s pressing every button, making every tweak and calling every play.

“We make changes as we go, but at its core, the system stays the same,” Saban said. “There’s so much diversity in the offenses you face now — the spread, no-huddle, four open, regular formations you always see and then people go spread out of regular formations. The key, to me, is that you know how to adjust the system to everything or at least you’re giving yourself a chance. And then the special situation things you do, whether it’s the pressures you have on third down, those are the things you’re always looking to improve on, and it has to be a little bit relative to the players you’ve got.”

Saban, despite being the face of the Alabama defense, is continually looking for assistants who challenge him and aren’t afraid to think outside the box. But at the end of the day, the buck on defense stops with him.

“People have input in all these things, and that makes the system better,” he said. “But I at least know how to fix it when it goes wrong, and I can help them fix it and help them adapt to things. My role is more to help them prepare the game plan of doing what we have to do and, philosophically, how we need to play. And then I try to help teach the players where I can in certain areas.”

It’s the risk you run when you hire someone without previous head coaching experience.  (Which has been the case with four of the last five head coaches at Georgia, by the way.)  You can go on all you want about how impressive the resume looks, but until you’ve seen the new guy in action, you never know.  When it comes to the product on the field, we’re all hoping it doesn’t turn out to be a year of “what would Saban do?”, but right now, hope is all it is.


UPDATE:  Then again, Kevin Scarbinsky says Kirby won the spring game debut contest with Saban.  You gotta start somewhere.


UPDATE #2:  Kirby has a rebuttal.

“I always felt like, one of the niches is if you can recruit the SEC you can be a head coach in the SEC,” Smart said. “I had that. I might not have a conference championship or a national championship as a head coach, but I had the recruiting factor. Which is critical in this league.”

Which is nothing to sneer at… but couldn’t Richt make a similar argument when he was hired?  That in turn leads to this Nick Saban question:

“He’s asked from time to time, ‘What’s going on? Why don’t they win more?'” said Smart, recalling questions posed about Georgia by Alabama coach Nick Saban. To which he replied, “I don’t know that. I’ll never know. They won good, they just didn’t win big.”

Maybe it takes more than being an outstanding recruiter.


Filed under Nick Saban Rules, Strategery And Mechanics

Résumé building

Between the weather and the play on the field, last year’s Alabama game was about as miserable an experience as I’ve ever sat through.  Reggie Ragland explains (h/t) it was a pretty good time for Kirby Smart, though.

As we go through more plays, it’s apparent that Georgia could not move the ball. Exacerbating matters, it was a wet day in Athens. “It’s always great take it to fans,” Ragland says. “Especially playing at Georgia—[then-defensive coordinator Kirby] Smart’s alma mater. It’s always good to get the win for Coach Smart, and now he’s the head coach over there.”

Pounding the Bulldogs between the hedges probably helped open the job that Smart took.

“It helps out a lot,” Ragland says.

I suspect Florida helped more, but, yeah, I get his point.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Everybody loves the inside zone.

Great piece from Ian Boyd about how the inside zone running play can be deployed effectively in almost any kind of offense you can think of.

… the inside zone running play is undoubtedly the easiest play in football to tweak in order to feature different players from different formations. There are hundreds of different philosophies on how precisely to execute the play but the underlying principle is very simple. The OL will take a quick drop or lateral step and then move downhill looking to clear a quick, vertical path for the RB to pick his way through. There’s at least one double team that the RB will be reading and the hope is to create “vertical displacement” meaning that defensive linemen are driven backwards off the line so that creases will develop as a result of successful push at different points along the line.

Since the play technically aims to hit between the tackles it can work from big or spread formations so you tend to see it from offenses of every philosophic persuasion.

Spend a couple of minutes and read through.


Filed under Strategery And Mechanics


It turns out that Georgia has a name for the sixth defensive back position in its dime package.

Davis is practicing at cornerback, the “Star” position and at the “Money” spot in the dime package.

If you’re wondering where the nomenclature came from, the answer probably won’t surprise you too much.

The extra defensive back in the nickel is called the “Star.” The sixth DB in the dime plays the “Money” position.

The terms for these important positions originated during Saban’s days as the defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and coach Bill Belichick, from 1991-94.

“In the old days, I called the fifth defensive back nickel back, and we never really played six defensive backs,” he said…

“The Star really is the Sam, so he wanted an s-word for that position. When you put six guys in the game, whether it’s a sub linebacker or a sixth defensive back, we had nickel, dime, dollar. Different money terms.”

The sixth defensive back takes the place of the weak inside linebacker.

“But when you talk to players, you can say, ‘Look, these linebackers on the team are all going to play Money. These DBs on the team are going to learn how to play Money,’” Saban said.

“Because when it comes to the assignments of the defense, the position is the same. It’s just they’ve got four wideouts in there now, so the linebacker can’t cover, so we put another DB in there. That make sense?

“So we just started calling that the Money position. It could be nickel, dime or dollar. That was Bill’s sort of system, but it made lots of sense to me. Just like everything else we did, we categorized things for the players. I think it made it better for the players.”

It’s something Smart and Tucker are obviously comfortable using, the inevitable Jerry Maguire jokes aside.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Reconstruction on defense

One other thing of interest from that DawgNation piece about Keldrick Carper:

“The first thing that Coach Smart asked me when we sat down in his office he was like ‘OK, Keldrick, receiver or DB? No, none of that I don’t care or whatever or none of that I don’t know. Receiver? Or DB?’ I told him defensive back and he was like, ‘That’s fine.’”

Smart’s next question wasn’t safety or cornerback. Carper’s answer was a pretty clear tell about the future of the secondary at UGA.

“He said he just wants guys who are athletic and long cornerbacks,” Smart said. “What they do is what they did at Bama. He told me they used nothing but cornerbacks and they used no real true safeties. They put corners at safety because they need 4-5 people on the field who can cover. He said he wasn’t that particular on a position. As long as I can cover and come down and hit and catch interceptions then he told me that I would love playing in their defense.”  [Emphasis added.]

This shouldn’t be much of a surprise.  It’s what he gravitated to at Alabama as a way to counter Alabama’s vulnerability to the spread (not to mention going into last season ‘Bama lost three safeties from their 2014 team).  You can get a better sense of this from reading this 2015 preview of the Tide secondary.

Dominick Sanders sounds tailor-made for that approach.  Who makes the best fit for the other safety slot and the star position?


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics