Category Archives: Strategery And Mechanics

Georgia ain’t played ‘Bama, PAWWWLLL.

Let’s face it — Ian Boyd asks the question we’re going to have to grapple with at some point.

The question may be obvious, but Boyd breaks the answer into two parts, the right way and the wrong way to beat the Tide.

Here’s what he says you need to do it wrongly:

Urban Meyer perfected the “wrong way” to beat Alabama, Gus Malzahn utilized it as well, this path is basically to beat them at their own game. The Alabama strategy for winning is to be superior in the trenches on both sides of the ball, play elite defense, and run the air out of the football.

The downside of this strategy is that it requires turning the OL and DL into revolving doors of 300+ pound athletes, the most scarce resource in the game, but Alabama’s recruiting machine has regularly pulled it off. The upside of their approach is that if you are consistently great in the trenches then you aren’t dependent on particular skill players.

Alabama nearly just won a title with a true freshman QB at the helm who’s far from a master of their passing attack. When he’s better in that regard, they’ll of course be even more dangerous on offense, but they don’t need great QB play for their formula of elite D and crushing run game to put them in title contention.

That sounds like Kirby Smart’s current blueprint, if we’re honest, and, indeed, Boyd agrees with that:  “We can probably expect Saban’s pupil Kirby Smart to at least initially fall into the trap of trying to out-Saban Alabama.”  And therein lies the rub.  Is it reasonable to expect the pupil to surpass the master, especially when the master is notorious for not resting on his laurels?

The right way, as you can probably guess, was blazed by Clemson, and that is to combine a good defense with a dynamic passing game.

Other than 2013 Auburn, who had a first round LT, All-American FB, and phenomenal runners at QB and RB, or 2015 Ohio State who opened up their run game with a few vertical passes, not even these teams could run the ball particularly well on Bama. The Tide are going to stop the run and look to out-rush you if it kills them. You need to make sure that it does kill them, via the passing game.

No matter how many future NFL DBs or pass-rushers they stockpile in Tuscaloosa, the perfect pass can still beat them and it’s now evident that such a passing attack can be built at the collegiate level.

The hangups with this strategy is that waiting until your QB and passing game are in tip-top shape makes it harder to be in annual contention then the run game+defense strategy which is much more “plug and play.” However, the ceiling is also higher, particularly since it allows you a lane to the title that isn’t already occupied by Alabama.

Note that Boyd doesn’t say a word there about having a quarterback who’s also a running threat.  It’s all about having a passing game that can carry the offense, since it’s a given that a Saban defense will shut down the run.  (By the way, can we all agree that it was fairly impressive for Todd Gurley to rush for 122 yards in the 2012 SECCG?)

With a Jacob Eason still learning the offense and a receiving corps in the midst of a rebuild, it’s hard to see Georgia having that kind of aerial attack this season.  The question, then, is what Georgia will field in that regard come 2018.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Mike Leach ain’t got time for that coachspeak.

Say what you will about Leach, he’s good for quote material.

Leach coaches in the Pac-12 now but coached in the Big 12 and SEC previously. He said he faced the most skepticism when he coached in the Southeast.

“First, it becomes it won’t work,” Leach said. “Second, they basically say, ‘oh it’s a system,’ suggesting that people who don’t do it that way — who just run it up the middle, stick all your asses together so one hand grenade can kill everybody  — that’s the right way to do it. Since they do it the right way, they’re OK with the fact they lost.

“This is a great time to be in the SEC; everybody’s got the same offense: run right, run left, play action. And they tease themselves and say we threw it four more times a game this year than we did last year.”

“… who just run it up the middle, stick all your asses together so one hand grenade can kill everybody” — hey, when did he have the time to watch tape on Georgia’s offenses the last two seasons?

In defense of the SEC, I would suggest that any conference would perform better offensively, regardless of scheme, if it deployed better quarterbacks than what we saw last season.  Let’s not forget we’re not that far removed from two teams with their asses stuck together finishing in the top five in yards per play.

Even so, before you dismiss Leach as a blowhard when it comes to belittling SEC offenses, remember that he had a big hand in this:

Just to give you an idea of what Mumme pulled off with his newfangled attack, compare Kentucky’s offensive stats from 1996, Bill Curry’s last season there, with the 1999 stats.  Notice a bit of an improvement there?  Kentucky’s 1999 yards per game average would have ranked the Wildcats fourth in last season’s SEC (and is about 115 ypg more than last year’s UK team averaged).

One more thing about that ’99 team of Mumme’s.  The quarterback that season was the immortal Dusty Bonner, who succeeded some guy named Tim Couch.  Couch, in his last season at UK, threw for 4,611 yards in 12 games.  That total would have led the SEC last season by more than 700 yards (and Arkansas played one more game).  That 1998 Kentucky team wound up playing in the Outback Bowl and Couch was a Heisman finalist.  How many other seasons can UK claim like that?  Maybe I’m missing something, but that strikes me as a pretty good indication that a pass-based spread attack could function just fine in the SEC.

I see no reason lightning can’t strike again.  (Hell, for that matter, look at what Missouri did last season.)

The problem, of course, is that you can’t play Air Raid on defense, and that was Kentucky’s Achilles heel when Leach coached there.  Will this year’s Ole Miss prove to be different?  Hard to say, but don’t forget that Freeze has changed his coordinator on that side of the ball, too.  In any event, Ole Miss ought to be entertaining to watch this season, if nothing else.

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Filed under Mike Leach. Yar!, Strategery And Mechanics

Notre Dame, joining the RPO revolution

Looks like Smart and Tucker are going to have their work cut out for them when Georgia travels to South Bend next season.

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Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

If you’re gonna take ’em down, take ’em all down.

I love “what-if” strategy questions like this:

Love to hear somebody ask him about that at his next presser.

Although Dabo Swinney said Alabama sort of tried that.

Swinney said Tuesday that there was defensive pass interference on Clemson receiver Artavis Scott, who made contact with Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey and created some traffic that another Alabama defensive back got caught in on Hunter Renfrow‘s 2-yard TD catch with a second left Monday night…

“Yes, it’s a rub play, it’s a pick play,” Swinney said Tuesday. “Artavis was actually trying to go pick the guy, but he couldn’t get there because he got tackled. I mean, literally, the guy tackles him.”

Boy, it must suck when you’re trying to run an illegal play and the other team commits a penalty to thwart that.  At least they got the winning touchdown out of it.

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One thing talented depth will get you

Here’s a little tidbit from a USA Today story about how Dabo Swinney went about fixing Clemson’s special teams’ shortcomings after last year’s national title game.

Though Alabama’s trouble converting field goals over the years receives a disproportionate amount of attention, the Crimson Tide are largely excellent on special teams because the depth of talent allows for Saban to employ several former five-star recruits — some of whom are a year away from being front-line players — on coverage teams. The Crimson Tide haven’t yielded a kickoff return score since the 2014 season opener and only had two punts returned for touchdowns in the last four seasons. Meanwhile, over the same span, Alabama has scored 12 special teams touchdowns.

The Crimson Tide were able to exploit that advantage last year against Clemson, which ranked 115th in kickoff coverage defense and gave up three touchdowns, revealing the overall immaturity of Clemson’s roster as a national contender.

Hey, guess who was 115th in kickoff coverage in 2016?

Therein lies the rub for Kirby Smart, who certainly saw first hand in Tuscaloosa what all that incoming talent built on Alabama’s coverage and return teams.  But as Clemson showed, that doesn’t happen overnight.  Then again, Clemson improved to 48th nationally this season.

Anyway, read the article in its entirety to see what Swinney did last offseason to address the problem.  I don’t doubt that Kirby will take a hard look at shoring up an area of real weakness, one that cost his team a win or two.  Whether the fix takes or not is just another thing we’ll have to watch for.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Always be creating.

If you don’t read anything else in preparation for the national title game, read this brilliant Chris Brown post about the latest wrinkle to come out of football’s strategic petri dish, what he calls the “toss read”.

And when I say the latest, I’m not exaggerating.

The latest evolution in the Inverted Veer/Power Read is a very 2016 story. The first coach I’d ever heard of running this play I only know of as “coachfloyd” on the CoachHuey football coaching message boards, and the first couple of times I read his text-only descriptions of his team’s new spin on the Inverted Veer I honestly couldn’t visualize what he was describing. (A pitch? What’s the technique? How does the read work?) And yet within a few weeks various high school teams had already installed the play — seemingly on the basis of these message board posts and word of mouth — and within a year a variety of big time college programs were each using it, including both Alabama and Clemson.
If they were still using pen and paper to draw this kind of stuff up, the ink wouldn’t even be dry yet on this baby.

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Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

Gary Patterson appreciates all the help he can get.

Most coaches act like they never read anything in the media about their teams or games.  Not TCU’s head man.

Patterson made no bones about the fact he reads what is said – including something by a Georgia player the day before. At one point in the press conference, when he was asked about some potential strategy, Patterson declined, saying he didn’t want to divulge anything.

“Kirby Smart’s sitting over there so I’m telling him everything,” Patterson said. “It’s kind of like how I was reading in the paper that one of their offensive linemen in the media talked about our slanting. … Right now I’m not giving Georgia anything. They don’t need much help.”

That appeared to be a reference not to an offensive lineman but to Georgia tight end Jeb Blazevich, who was offering a compliment to TCU’s defense. Blazevich said the Horned Frogs were “really good at slanting. I feel like they’re really good at winning their gap when they do slant. There is a field blitz where they slant hard to the boundary. They’re a little bit more unorthodox compared to what we’re used to.

“We’re used to huge guys right up in your face. They’re kind of smaller guys backed up off the ball, but they make up for that. That’s where their niche is—their speed and slanting in the gaps and flying around. I think they play well together. It looks like they have a lot of fun. I know they have a lot of speed off the edge. I think that’s the biggest thing we’re going to have to overcome, just adapting to their speed because they don’t have the size advantage that a lot of other teams have.”

On one level, I don’t think this is that big a deal.  Patterson knows better than anyone, including Blazevich and Georgia’s staff, what he runs on defense, so I doubt this has any significant effect on TCU’s scheme and preparation for today’s game.  But from a mind games standpoint, letting Georgia’s players and coaches know that he’s aware of what they’re prepping for, maybe that plants a small seed for overthinking on a play or two.  Who knows?  When you’ve been around the block as many times as Patterson has, you take any edge you think you can get.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics