Category Archives: Strategery And Mechanics

Power corrupts, unless you’re talking about offense.

Ian Boyd looks at what Mike Gundy is up to at Oklahoma State and wonders if he’s coming up with the next big thing.

The nature of the spread offense is to isolate defenders in space and attack whichever defender is out-leveraged with someone fast. Originally that focused mostly on the passing game with the run game as a constraint if the defense spread too wide and left themselves outnumbered up front.

Oklahoma State’s spread-I looked to add the component of attacking the interior of the defense with size and versatility in the running game but with the main overall purpose of still setting up fast people to out-leverage opponents.

The Power run offense is a different beast than the spread and power generally hasn’t been combined much with spread offenses save for the 3rd generationsmashmouth spread” systems that use the QB as a runner or with the RPO-heavy Baylor and West Virginia attacks.

The power run is about imposing your will up front with a scheme that will drive defenders off the ball and put hats on hats so that the running back is generally always running for a gain, potentially a big one if he can juke a safety or the defense wears out and huge holes appear.

It makes for a ball-control run game that is often accompanied by a deep strike passing game off play-action.

Maybe I’m missing something, but that sounds familiar to anyone who’s watched what Mike Bobo was doing the past couple of seasons.

Not that this is dumb by any means.  If defenses all over the country are retooling themselves to deal with conventional spread offensive attacks, going after those with power running games makes very good sense.

Then again, Alabama, which already runs a power attack, may be taking steps to meet Gundy in the middle.  Take a look at a quarterback Saban is chasing right now:

Despite his name, Pass’ greatest weapon is his legs. At 6’5 and 220 with incredible athleticism and the potential to play at 240-plus, he’s drawn comparisons to Cam Newton or Cardale Jones. Pass is not yet a refined passer, but teams running the spread option don’t care much. Even some elite pro-style programs believe Pass can be a great passer from the pocket.

North Carolina, Alabama, Auburn and Louisville are major players. Alabama’s recruitment, following its use of mobile QB Blake Sims, could signal a change in recruiting philosophy.

And offensive philosophy.

Saban’s no dummy.  He knows what gives him problems defensively.  He’s already shown a willingness to let Kiffin introduce some hurry up principles into Alabama’s offensive scheme.  A big running quarterback seems like another example of going “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”  And perhaps an acknowledgement by a defensive guru that it’s the offense’s world that the game is living in now.

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“The NFL is going to draft the best player at quarterback.”

There’s plenty of derp to go around in this Dennis Dodd piece (I know, I know) responding to this bit of criticism from Bruce Arians about spread option quarterbacks at the next level:

“So many times [in the draft] you’re evaluating a quarterback who has never called a play in the huddle, never used a snap count. They hold up a card on the sideline. He kicks his foot and throws the ball. That ain’t playing quarterback. There’s no leadership involved there.”

Wait, he’s not done.

Spread offense quarterbacks, Arians said, “are light years behind.”

Dodd chastises Arians for his boorishness, saying he should know better.  Why?  Because Tom Brady plays out of the shotgun… or something.

“I tell everybody I think the new pro-style is the shotgun,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “You can take a sixth-grader and take 10 minutes to take a three-step drop under center. But to take a kid and teach him how to catch and throw a quick game out of the shotgun, now that’s a learned skill.”

Hey, look, this is all really stupid.  Dodd coaxes the obvious out of Rodriguez – “To judge the success or lack of success based on what system they’re in … it’s whether they can play or not.” – but Arians doesn’t necessarily disagree with that.  He’s just saying that it’s harder for purposes of the draft to evaluate players coming out of systems like Arizona’s.

The real issue here is that spread gurus like Rodriguez and Malzahn, whom we heard extolling Nick Marshall’s quarterbacking skills for any NFL personnel guy listening, want to have it both ways.  They want the right quarterbacks to run their systems so they can win at the college level.  But they don’t want to scare away talented kids with talk that their systems will be an impediment to playing on Sundays after that.

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

The offensive coordinator transition and the effect on the intermediate passing game

As you guys know, I don’t follow the NFL closely, so my impression of Brian Schottenheimer’s work on that level is largely restricted to what others have had to say after observation.  Here’s one such comment, based on his career with the New York Jets.

No Jets QB has done well in the 20+ play category. While the 40+ plays are often the result a wide receiver simply having superior speed and getting open down the sideline, the 20+ yarder is often more about hitting an open receiver in stride and letting him scamper those extra few yards to pick up the 20. This never seemed to happen with the Jets. One would think that if you are avoiding that type of play, then the Qb’s completion percentage should significantly rise as would his YPA.

If you look at Favre in Minnesota that is exactly what is happening with their offensive scheme. The Vikings have limited how far Favre can throw the ball in the intermediate passing game which is why his 20+ plays are so low. His completion %, however, is 11% above the average, a big jump from both 2008 and 2007. In addition his YPA are a big increase from his time with the Jets. As a Jet his completion percentage was identical with his stats in Green Bay, despite Favre being used much more as a down the field passer in 2007. His YPA were a disaster as a Jet. There really has been no correlation with the lack of mid range passing and completion rate under Schottenheimer, other than Chad’s rise in completion % in 2007, where Pennington’s passes were so short that his YPA was just awful by his usual standards. His stints in Miami and under Herm provided much better results with the YPA being far better outside of Schottenheimer’s system.

The question to ask is do the Jets not call plays that are safe outs if the long pass is not there? In 2007, when Chad was under heavy pressure the dramatic decline in his YPC and YPA indicate that the safe routes were very short with no hope of working for any extra YAC. Favre’s numbers indicate a similar pattern. Clemens was really the only aberration, but dealt with a ton of 3rd and longs due to the big sacks he took, a problem also plaguing rookie Mark Sanchez. When examining Clemens high YPC compared to not just his contemporaries in Croyle and Jackson but to Pennington and Favre it seems as if Clemens simply locked on long and did his best to find the first read that was maybe a longer pattern. It would explain the huge amount of sacks he took relative to Pennington as well as the poor YPA and completion %. It also is probably a reason why he turned the ball over so much.

That strikes me as, if not ominous for Georgia’s offense, at least relevant.  Look at Georgia’s conference ranking in scrimmage plays of 20+ yards over the past few seasons under Bobo:

  • 2014:  7th
  • 2013:  4th
  • 2012:  2nd
  • 2011:  3rd

The drop in 2014 was matched, as the above passage speculates (the Qb’s completion percentage should significantly rise as would his YPA”), by Mason leading the conference, setting a school record in the process, in completion percentage.  Mike Bobo, it would seem, made a deliberate choice based on his starting quarterback’s strengths and weaknesses to alter his approach in the passing game.  Note how that’s reflected in conference ranking in passing plays of 20+ yards over the same period:

  • 2014:  11th
  • 2013:  2nd
  • 2012:  1st
  • 2011:  2nd

Despite a big drop in that category, Georgia didn’t miss a beat on offense last season because of an incredibly effective running game and because Mason was an accurate passer.

All of which begs the question what happens under Brian Schottenheimer.  It’s impossible to say right now, of course.  You don’t know how much of what Richt wants in the passing game (and what Georgia has been used to running under Bobo) is maintained in the new version of the playbook.  It’s also very likely that this year’s starting quarterback will have better arm strength than did Mason – but will likely be less accurate and more prone to turnovers.

But from here, what it suggests is a few things:

  • reinforcement for what most of us expect, another year of heavy reliance on the running game;
  • a good reason for the quarterbacks evaluation to stretch out over a longer period than we’ve seen over the past few seasons; and
  • the early, favorable schedule being a useful period for Richt to evaluate Schottenheimer’s feel for the passing game.

It’s gonna be interesting, anyway.

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Victory usually comes down to who holds the chalk last.

Here’s a stat from last year to ponder:

Of the 15 fastest-paced offenses in 2014, nine managed to blow double digit leads they held in the 2nd half of the football game. This is a huge hole in tempo offensive strategy preventing it from totally catching on at bigger universities who prefer to impose their will with man-ball.

If you don’t want to play man-ball, what to do?  One option might be to create a special team for what Boyd refers to as four-minute situations.

At these times an offense only wants to have run options and not give the defense the chance to dictate a pass, perhaps even putting someone on the field besides the Quarterback to execute the package. This should be fairly straightforward for most college teams, who generally have former option quarterbacks all over their offense and defense. If not, you still see teams employ their better DL as lead blockers on the goal line, why not embrace a similar philosophy to get the best players on the field to protect a 4th quarter lead?

If you have a team with moderate depth that runs hurry-up ball, I can see why that would be an attractive option.  But if you coach one of those man-ball teams that runs a successful offense, what’s the point of going HUNH in the first place?

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Too pooped to stop pop

At least for another season, the republic is saved. (h/t)

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel has tabled a proposed football rule that would have adjusted the ineligible receiver downfield rule from 3 yards to 1 yard on Thursday.

Panel members, who met on a teleconference Thursday, felt more discussion about the rule should take place within the college football community before a final decision is made.

They go on to note that only 65 of the FBS head coaches participated in the initial survey, so I guess they didn’t buy Troy Calhoun’s puffery.

In any event, officials can go back to ignoring the rule, just like before.  Except in Georgia games, of course.

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Chicks dig the pop pass.

Gus Malzahn, brave defender of the status quo, touches the last base in opposing the downfield lineman rule change.

“Scoring will be down. You’re not going to see teams scoring as many points, and when it’s getting harder all the time to get fans to come to games, is that something that college football wants?”

I dunno.  I kinda enjoyed it when Georgia held Malzahn’s offense to seven points.

Seriously, I figured that was coming.  And it touches on a nerve.  There’s some point when you cheapen the ability to score so much that it debases the game.  I’m not saying we’re at the point – although I don’t doubt there are plenty who would say otherwise – but arguing that the more pinball action to the game, the better doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies, either.

Besides, I thought you were Mr. Creative, Gus.  Surely a little setback like a rule change won’t be an insurmountable block for a guy with your offensive vision.  Even if you only finished fourth in the conference in scoring last season with the rule the way you like it.

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Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Strategery And Mechanics

Gus Malzahn, selfless and sensitive

Auburn’s coach wants you to know that his objection to the proposed rule change about linemen blocking downfield is more than just about him.  He’s doing it for the children high school coaches everywhere.

“That’s part of the creativity of the game,” Malzahn said. “I’m not into anything that takes the creativity out of the game. You know, you see a lot of coaches around the country, specifically high school coaches that are coaching in college, that’s very important to them.”

Isn’t that how life is sometimes?  One minute, you’re pulling down $4 million a year and the next the Man has a boot on your throat.

Speaking of the Man, here’s the NFL knocking his system.

The divide between offensive philosophies in the NFL and college football is still very wide, especially when it comes to the quarterback position.

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was very critical of no-huddle offenses during last month’s NFL Combine.

“So many times, you’re evaluating a quarterback who has never called a play in the huddle, never used a snap count. They hold up a card on the sideline, he kicks his foot and throws the ball,” Arians said. “That ain’t playing quarterback. There’s no leadership involved there. There might be leadership on the bench, but when you get them and they have to use verbiage and they have to spit the verbiage out and change the snap count, they are light years behind.”

Gus strenuously objects to that.

As the innovator of the Hurry-Up, No-Huddle philosophy, which utilizes play cards and signals from the sidelines and an incredibly simple verbiage, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn stood by his system.

“I think every coach has their own opinion,” Malzahn said. “Obviously I like what we do, I agree with what we do. That’s where the game is going, regardless of anybody’s opinion. But we feel strongly with what we do.”

Obviously.  And when quotes like Arians’ get thrown back in his face on the recruiting trail – it’s the SEC, so you know they will inevitably – what’s the rebuttal, especially when you see the pros looking at moving Nick Marshall to defensive back?  Why, it’ll be to place the fault on the NFL.

“I know he can be a quarterback at the next level,” Malzahn said. “It needs to be the right system. You’re talking about a guy who’s probably one of the best zone-read quarterbacks in the history of college football.”

If only some owner would just go ahead, bite the bullet and hire a high school coach…

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Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Strategery And Mechanics, The NFL Is Your Friend.