Category Archives: 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.

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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.

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Money.

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.

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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?

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

“I just realized Coach Chaney, he’s a very smart guy…”

I’ll be the first to say that anything has to be an improvement over the mess that was Georgia’ offense over the second half of last season, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see this quote and react with a certain amount of trepidation.

The first few weeks of spring practice are the most critical for offense installation, which Smart said is now finished. While sophomore tailback Sony Michel said that there were aspects of previous offenses that he can bring to Chaney’s offense, he added that it’s the most complex of the three offenses he has dealt with in his three-year career.[Emphasis added.]

“It’s almost like classwork,” Michel said. “You’ve got to actually sit down and study (the playbook). Some of the past playbooks, it was kind of easier that you could kind of put things together, but this playbook, you’ve got to actually study it and dissect it a little bit.”

Oh, Gawd.  I hope we’re not continuing to look back fondly on Mike Bobo’s box of crayons a year from now.

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Addition by subtraction, or subtraction by addition?

Alabama’s lost its defensive coordinator and its defensive backs coach, but it’s only gonna get better.

Last season, under secondary coordinator Melvin Tucker, Alabama was in a zone scheme more than we’ve seen in years past. That is not a coincidence either.

In 2014, Alabama faced an unreal 495 pass attempts, yielding over 3000 yards through the air and 24 passing touchdowns surrendered (24th S&P passing defense.) In 2013, Alabama faced nearly 30 passes per game, and gave up 13 passing touchdowns; still, opponents were very efficient, as the Tide was just 32nd in S&P passing defense.

With several young players cracking the 2015 rotation, and with Alabama’s inability to get its man-defense up to the levels the Crimson Tide is accustomed to, Tucker simplified the schemes, put an emphasis on creating turnovers, and went to much more of a zone look to protect against the deep shot that had been Alabama’s bane the previous three seasons. Alabama finished 3rd in S&P pass efficiency defense last season; really only being torched in one game against the Heisman runner-up. Alabama surrendered 13 touchdowns in 14 games, before allowing four to Deshaun Watson, half of which occurred in a wild fourth quarter.

With Tucker’s departure, Nick Saban brought in former Troy DB Derrick Ansley to compliment Jeremy Pruitt’s more aggressive scheme. And, yes, Pruitt is considered somewhat more aggressive than Kirby Smart, blitzing well over 60% of the time during FSU’s title run. Last season, a Georgia secondary that had been somewhat maligned in years past finished the nation with the No. 1 pass efficiency defense in the country, and Georgia had the No. 1 defense against explosive plays allowed. Both bode well for an improved Tide team that nevertheless finished 7th and 9th in those categories.

Bully for the Tide.  What does it mean for Georgia?  I’m not sure it means much, for one big reason:  Georgia’s front seven in 2016 isn’t going to be anywhere near the quality of Alabama’s 2015 front seven.  Tucker played a ton of zone because he knew he could get away with it, due to Alabama’s dominance up front.  And Pruitt blitzed a bunch last season because he had to enhance the pressure that Georgia’s defensive front usually delivered.  Given that both shoes are now on the other feet, isn’t it likely we should expect each to gravitate a bit more towards the other in their approaches?

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UPDATE:  Here’s some of what I’m talking about.

… The theory is that the previous defensive staff used Floyd and Jenkins’ pass-rushing prowess to “protect” the young secondary, which benefitted by being in better coverage situations.

Not surprisingly, Floyd and Jenkins agree.

“That definitely was a goal me and Jordan had set going into every game: Make the quarterback get rid of the ball as quick as possible so the DBs can cover,” Floyd said.

“We definitely wanted to take some of the stress off the younger DBs. Because we didn’t want to put them in a lot of man-on-man type situations,” Jenkins said. “We knew they were younger, and we just wanted to make it easier for the freshmen coming in.”

That doesn’t mean Jenkins thinks the secondary was overrated.

“Oh no, there are still some good athletes back there,” Jenkins said. “We just wanted to eliminate that from even being in the mindset. We wanted them to be able to go ball out and play without worry.”

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“The sexiest thing in football today.”

No, it’s not Lane Kiffin.  It’s the run/pass option (RPO).  Bruce Feldman has a good piece up about it that’s worth your time.

One thing that I really love about college football is how its lack of parity encourages creativity and experimentation with offensive and defensive concepts.  Just like some major college innovations eventually trickle up to the pros, the same kind of osmosis takes place from the lower to the upper levels of college ball.

Kuchar’s new study came out Thursday, and it’s a follow-up to the study on RPOs that X&O Labs produced in January 2015 that was by far the best seller the company has produced. As part of this project, X&O Labs tapped into some of the most prolific offensive coaches at the FCS, D-II and D-III levels. I suspect several of these guys will be working at the FBS level soon. Among them: Dustin Beurer, OC, Albion College (MI); Andrew Breiner, head coach,Fordham; Brent Dearmon, OC, Arkansas Tech; Brian Flinn, WR coach,Villanova; Jake Olsen, OC, Loras College (IA); Joe Osovet, former head coach, Nassau CC (NY); Drew Owens, OC, Western Connecticut State; Clay Patterson, head coach, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M; Matt Stansfield, run game coordinator and tight ends coach, Duquesne; and Pat St. Louis, OC, Morehead State. One of the coaches involved was D-III Texas Lutheran OC Andy Padron, who has since been hired as the co-OC at Bowling Green.

The 31-year Padron is a certainly a name to remember. The son of a Texas high school coach, he credits spending time learning from Hal Mumme to incorporate Air Raid pass concepts, as well as visiting Baylor every spring, and he took one of his favorite running plays from Chip Kelly’s Oregon attack.

Padron told me nearly 100 percent of his system is based on RPOs. Texas Lutheran was 6-24 the three seasons before Padron arrived to help turn TLU around, and last year the Bulldogs won a third straight Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship and led the SCAC in nearly every offensive category.

“It gives the offense a chance to be right,” he said of the RPOs impact. “You want to make (the defense) wrong. You want to have to think fast.”

The battle between offensive and defensive strategies never ends.

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