Category Archives: Strategery And Mechanics

Situationalizing

You can never do enough of it.

`’Basically, every day we start our team meeting with another situation.  We have the entire team in here.  We go through a situation.  One of them might be two minutes, and the offense has to get a first down to win the game.  We had that situation come up against Tennessee.  We weren’t able to do it.  Then we had to stop them because we had a sack/fumble.  So we did stop `em.  We got the ball back.  We did score.  So what we’ve tried to do is replay the situation.  I’ve spent a lot of time during this offseason talking to NFL teams, because these NFL teams deal with this every game.  Every game comes down to that.  College football, I think, 50 percent of our games come down to one score.  So if that’s the case, we’ve got to simulate those.  So every single day, except the first practice, we had end-of-game situation at practice.  I think it makes Jacob (Eason) a lot better.  It makes Jake Fromm a lot better.  And defensively, it’s been great.  We even had a situation the other day where we were gonna clock the ball with the clock running.  We had a first down and we went to spike the ball and the guy jumped offsides.  At the end of game, we had a 10-second runoff.  So we start the whole meeting with that, and I think that kids can learn a lot from these situations.  I mean, Jay Johnson’s a guy from Minnesota and he brought a list of situations they did there.  That’s so invaluable to me because you try to simulate those.  You talk to other coaches and try to simulate them, so we’ve done a lot of that this spring.”

I think that’s great, as far as it goes, but it does beg the question about what they were doing to prepare for specific situations last season.  Are they prepping this stuff more than they did in the spring of 2016, or was it just a case of last year’s work not sticking?

Whichever was the case, there’s a perception that things were certainly lacking in that department.

Georgia has placed a focus on situational football throughout spring practice. (Deandre) Baker knows all too well that the lack of execution in the game’s latter stages cost the Bulldogs on multiple occasions.

“It allows us to project the real-game situation,” Baker said. “In a game, we’ll know how to respond when we get in a situation, whether we’re down or up by 10. Or if we have to get the ball back or something like that. (Georgia head coach Kirby Smart) pointed out games like Tennessee, Kentucky – which was a big one – and Auburn.”

Root for the learning curve, I guess.

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Teasing out a little Dawg porn

Now, fellas, you shouldn’t do this unless you mean it.

… During some periods a select group of receivers, tight ends and tailbacks have been together, running routes under the direction of receivers coach James Coley.

They start in the middle of the field, and run the same route, whatever their position: Terry Godwin (receiver), Mecole Hardman (receiver), Isaac Nauta (tight end), Sony Michel (tailback), Brian Herrien (tailback), and others.

It all reflects one of those tweaks that Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is making to this year’s offense: Putting their players in the best position to make plays, and that includes putting certain players in the slot, where they would create either a size or speed mismatch for a defender.

“It’s been a change. Guys like Sony being in the slot,” inside linebacker Natrez Patrick said this week. “It’s a nightmare looking across and having to check Sony in an open field.”

No shit.

I’ll believe it when I see it.  But I’d really like to see it.

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“And you can’t be the starter if you can’t snap.”

Sometimes it’s the little things that make me love college football.  Especially when it’s player-driven, like this:

That crude simplicity is the dead snap’s most attractive feature. Once the ball is spotted, the center places the back point of the ball in his palm rather than gripping it like a quarterback arming a spiral. The nose is then placed into the ground so the ball is at a 45-degree angle with an inch of the ball grazing the turf. The fingers are spread, usually with one across the laces or seam to help with grip. Then with the wrist locked, the center swings his arm back like a pendulum and releases.

“Life changing,” Cushing said.

It was the same for former Vanderbilt center Joe Townsend.

Small hands, sweaty palms — that’s how he characterizes his mitts, which were at the core of his issues with the Commodores. His hands weren’t big enough to fully grip the football, and when the SEC swelter forced perspiration to slide down his arm, greasing the ball, he struggled to secure it.

Commodores guard Wesley Johnson suggested at a 2012 practice that he try a primitive sandlot method popular across backyards and barbecues. “Bear claw it,” Johnson said. Stick the nose into your palm and shuffle it back, he said. “Trust me, just try it.”

In the pre-practice walk-through, Townsend gave it an attempt. He didn’t tell then-position coach Herb Hand, but quickly Townsend was snapping perfect chest-high changeups the quarterbacks could easily gather. “Coach Hand said, ‘Joe, what the hell are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m trying something out,’ and he said, ‘Well, come to me before changing s— up!'” Townsend remembered. “But it worked, and I did it throughout my career.”

Whatever works, brother.

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Is there more to life than blocking?

Seth Emerson mentions something that might help Terry Godwin see the field more this season.

For one thing, Godwin is standing out for reasons other than pass catching this spring. In the past, his slight frame and blocking abilities kept him off the field in many situations. But after the scrimmage this past Saturday, Smart recalled Godwin blocking well on a bubble screen.

The better a receiver is at blocking, the more he will be on the field. Malcolm Mitchell, for instance, was the team’s best blocking receiver in 2015, when he was also the team’s leading receiver, ahead of Godwin.

That sounds great, until you remember that Georgia’s leading receiver last season was that powerhouse blocker Isaiah McKenzie.

The point here isn’t that blocking doesn’t matter.  Quite the contrary when you’re a run-first offense that needs downfield blocking to help its talented backs gain extra yardage.  It’s that blocking isn’t the be-all and end-all to successful receiving… or at least it shouldn’t be.

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“The Bulldogs have the players to create mismatches.”

I know it’s Tom Luginbill, but roll with this scenario for a second.

“Let’s just say you’ve got ‘12’ personnel with Isaac Nauta at tight end, but now you’ve got Nick Chubb and Sony Michel on the field at the same time,” Luginbill explained to Saturday Down South. “Let’s say it’s 3rd-and-4 and Georgia lines up in split backs out of the shotgun, and they motion Sony Michel out of the backfield.

“If you look at it from that perspective, now what you’re doing is you’re creating what could potentially be a mismatch in the passing game with a back on a linebacker or a safety, which is an advantage for Georgia. Yet, you still have your guy who can push the pile and get you 4 yards in the run game, and your tight ends on the field who can help in the run game or be involved in the passing game.”

All I can say is more of this, please.

Yes, it all starts with having a functioning offensive line and a quarterback who’s more comfortable in the offense, but, damn, with a little creativity, I really do think this offense has the talent to go places this season.

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The red zone is the dead zone.

Seth Emerson returns to a subject we’ve harped on plenty here since the end of the last regular season, Georgia’s ineffective play on both sides of the ball when it’s inside the 20-yard line.

… The 20 yards beyond the end zone were calamitous for Georgia in general last year.

On defense, it was probably what kept a good unit from being great: Georgia ranked 114th nationally, and second-worst in the SEC, in red zone defense. It allowed opponents to score 90.7 percent of the time it got inside the 20, and to score touchdowns 74.4 percent of the time.

That was a major step backwards from 2015, when Georgia ranked third-best nationally in red zone defense. Opponents only scored 67.6 percent of the time inside the 20, and the touchdown rate was 50 percent.

“We work on that a little bit more, so we can perfect that, have a little better percentage next season,” Baker said.

On offense, Georgia’s red zone problem last year was just another problem area: The Bulldogs scored at least three points on 84.4 percent of trips there, which ranked 64th nationally. But it only managed a touchdown 55.6 percent of the time, which ranked 100th nationally.

If there’s a difference in the two, it’s that I would say the offensive red zone woes were more an extension of the general inefficiency we saw last season, whereas the defense played well outside of that area.  Or, as Emerson puts it,

The offensive problems are easier to diagnose, because they’re symptomatic of what went wrong in general. Problems with blocking, by the line and on the perimeter. Play-calling that was too predictable at times. A freshman quarterback slowed down the offense, stalling momentum when drives got closer to the end zone….

Smart is correct about the team being “horrible” in the red zone offensively. But it was only part of the problem: Georgia had 45 red-zone offensive trips last year, but that only ranked 79th nationally. The Bulldogs got touchdowns on 25 of those trips. If they had penetrated the end zone 10 more times, then the 35 touchdowns still only would have ranked 39th nationally. Good, but not great.

The defense, on the other hand, can almost single-handedly point at red zone problems. Georgia’s opponents only had 43 such trips, tied for 37th nationally, but the success rate (39 times getting at least a field goal, and 32 touchdowns) is startling.

So, you can argue that if the staff can address the offense’s general problems, that should lead to more red zone success.  On defense, though, it’s a little trickier.  Davin Bellamy thinks “it’s all about attitude”.  He’s referring to himself and his teammates there, but as I once speculated, I wonder if it’s more about coaching priorities.  If I’m right, there’s a lot of factors in play that would have to be addressed.

I joke about the Auburn game that the key to keeping Auburn from scoring regularly from the red zone was to keep Malzahn’s offense out of the red zone, but that’s actually how things played out in Georgia’s most impressive defensive effort of the year.

The trick to that, though, isn’t simple or one-sided.  You have to think turnover margin and field position play major roles in aiding a defense in keeping opponents from crossing its twenty.  So does stopping teams on third downs, though.  All of which has been a mixed bag for Georgia over the past few seasons.

All I’m saying here is, if indeed this is something that matters to Smart — and his track record at Alabama would indicate that it does — there’s a lot of work across the board left to be done.

Starting this spring.

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Wrinkles on top of wrinkles

In light of Friday’s quickie post about tight end teasing, this Ian Boyd piece on the role of tight ends in the evolution of what he calls college’s pro-style spread is definitely worth a read.

It would be nice to hit a spot where Georgia’s offense can use twin-tight end sets not to provide extra grunt on runs up the middle against a stacked defense but as a legitimate threat in the passing game.  There’s no reason Chaney shouldn’t be able to deploy Blazevich and Nauta the way Michigan used Jake Butt.  Well, except for the o-line needing to step up its blocking game…

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