Category Archives: Strategery And Mechanics

Today’s other quarterback

Here’s a deep dive into what Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham brings to the table.  You’ve got to be impressed with that arm.  But he can be rattled.

You have to think Tucker’s going to have a few exotic blitzes nobody’s seen before ready to dial up.  Should make for an interesting afternoon.




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

New tricks from an old dog

Raise you hand if you ever thought at any time last season that Jim Chaney would be associated with the concept of cutting-edge offense.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

The dilemma of making Fromm beat you

Will Muschamp, just on the receiving end of that approach, has nothing but good things to say about Georgia’s freshman quarterback.  Especially his smarts:

Yet in Georgia’s first two possessions last Saturday, which consisted of 21 plays for 136 yards, Fromm threw nine times and left Muschamp just as marveled by the quarterback’s intelligence as his talents.

“You’ve got to make extremely quick decisions with the ball in your hand as far as handing it off, pulling the ball or making an accurate throw in tight space while a receiver is running,” Muschamp said. “It’s extremely difficult, and I thought he really managed those first two drives, because he took their offense down the field primarily throwing RPOs. We were obviously committed to stopping the run, which left some one-on-ones, and he was very accurate with the football.

“You’ve got to tip your hat to him on that.”

You can pick your poison as a defensive coordinator, but Chaney’s done a good job as the season’s progressed of taking what defenses are offering his offense.  The RPOs have obviously been a significant component of that success.

As I’ve noted, one of Fromm’s strengths is his acuity making pre-snap reads.  Can Auburn pull off enough trickeration after his read to affect Fromm’s play?  Fromm has certainly had those occasional moments from week to week where he reminds us he’s still learning;  South Carolina had a couple of opportunities to pick off passes when the defensive backs shifted to press coverage at the snap.

Still, he’s been sharp enough all season long.

“I think playing in that Notre Dame environment was really good for him because that was one of the tougher environments,” Smart said. “Early in the Tennessee game was that way. He continues to improve each day, and this will be another tough environment. He has to make good decisions. He has to execute the plan. He has to be able to give the playmakers the ball.

“As long as he does those things and makes good decisions, we are a pretty good football team.”

Should make for an interesting chess match.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Keeping Fromm’s jersey clean

In terms of yards per play, the conference’s second and third ranked defenses face off on the Plains Saturday.  While the results are similar, if I had to point my finger at the biggest difference between the two, it would be in terms of disruptive plays.  Auburn is second in the SEC in sacks; Georgia is eleventh.  Auburn is also a couple of spots ahead of Georgia in tackles for loss.

If we like to think of Georgia as taking a more ensemble approach to playing excellent defense, with Auburn, it starts with Jeff Holland, who is having a remarkable year at outside linebacker.  Holland currently is tied for first in the conference in both sacks and tackles for loss.  You’d better believe the staff is spending plenty of time this week scheming to keep Holland from making Jake Fromm’s life miserable.

The scary thing about Auburn’s sack game is that when the sacks come, they come in waves:  20 of the team’s 26 sacks occurred in four games.  It’ll be a real test for Georgia’s offensive line, particularly for Wynn.  You have to figure Holland is going to merit extra attention in pass protection.  The question is what else Chaney and Pittman will have up their sleeves.

I would expect a heavy dose of RPO plays to neutralize Holland’s speed rush, along with some power running to leverage that he’s a little undersized on the edge.  All of which sounds nice on paper, but he’s been a helluva player this year.  We’ll see who gets the best of whom.


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

The same old song: run the ball and stop the run

I made a little fun of Auburn’s defensive tackle the other day for the way he described the task at hand, but at heart, he’s right:  if the Tigers can’t slow Georgia’s running game down, it’s going to be a long day for the home team.

To its credit, Auburn’s done a good job defending the run this season.  Texas A&M averaged 4.21 yards per carry and that’s the best any opponent has managed this season.  By comparison, Georgia’s defense has yielded a higher average in three games.  Common opponents are a mixed bag:  Mississippi State did better against Georgia on the ground, but Missouri was better against the Tigers.

The difference in the game, at least with regard to how successful both teams are running the ball, may be depth.  Georgia is in far better shape, with all five backs healthy and contributing.  Auburn can’t really compare there.

Auburn has worn down its share of opponents the past couple of seasons with Johnson and Pettway, but the two were never at full strength at the same time this year. Pettway, a 6-foot, 235-pounder, led the SEC last season with 124.8 yards a game but missed three contests due to injury, including the 13-7 loss at Georgia.

Pettway already had missed three games this year before the Oct. 21 trip to Arkansas, where he rushed 11 times for 90 yards and three touchdowns before sustaining the season-ending setback.

The 6-foot, 212-pound Johnson has rushed for 868 yards this season, with a whopping 704 coming in the last four games. He is coming off a 29-carry, 145-yard performance in last week’s 42-27 win at Texas A&M, and he also had five receptions for 29 yards.

“KJ is one of our best players, and you can see it in the way he plays,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Tuesday in his weekly news conference. “He is a physical runner and a very smart player. In that fourth quarter, he just willed his way, and the special ones have that.

“He’s definitely in that category of the special running backs we’ve had here.”

Johnson has been a touchdown machine this season, reaching the end zone 15 times as a rusher and once as a receiver. Yet his 150 rushes the past six games is more than Chubb’s 140 through nine contests.

Auburn’s backup running back now is sophomore Kam Martin, who has 46 rushes for 310 yards (6.7 per carry) this season. Martin amassed 136 of those yards in the 41-7 opening win over Georgia Southern.

If it’s a slugfest, I know who’s going to have the fresher running backs in the fourth quarter.

Of course, a running game isn’t solely dependent on the backfield.  The offensive line has a definite role to play.  That doesn’t favor Auburn either.  Georgia’s line has been together on the field, with minor exceptions, since the season’s third game.  Auburn’s been juggling starters all season because of injury issues.  Those sound like they’ll likely continue Saturday.

Injured Auburn offensive linemen Mike Horton and Darius James are expected to return to practice Tuesday, but their status for Saturday’s rendition of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry remains to be seen.

Horton (ankle) and James (leg) both started against Texas A&M before exiting early in the game due to lingering effects from their injuries, which they sustained weeks earlier.

“Everybody, we’re expecting to practice today,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “We may not know exactly what they means, who’s going to start and all that, until we get to Thursday or Friday. I know the two we had to pull out in the game, I know they’re great competitors. I know they want to play this week.

“They’re going to do everything in their power to do that, but we’ll just see where that goes.”

Not exactly the voice of optimism there.  If those two can’t go, that would make for the sixth different starting lineup Auburn has fielded along the offensive line this season, although to be fair, the line played pretty well against TAMU after they went out.  (Although it’s worth mentioning that the Aggies haven’t been as good stopping the run this season as Georgia has.)

If it’s a race to make the other guy one-dimensional, then, you have to say circumstances favor the Dawgs.  And that’s definitely the goal.

Like any team, Georgia’s primary focus will be to stop the run since that’s what Auburn primarily wants to have success with. And when Georgia can slow the run down and force a team into throwing the ball more than it would like, it has generally fared well with its outcome.

Nationally, Georgia ranks fifth in rush defense by allowing only 89 yards on the ground per game. In games where Georgia held its opponent to less than 100 rushing yards, it forced teams into a completion percentage of only 57.7. Three teams have run for over 100 yards against Georgia this season – Appalachian State (136), Mississippi State (177) and Florida (183). Yet in those games, the opposition has only have completed only 51 percent of its passes for an average of 105.7 yards.

Point is, Georgia has taken at least one aspect away from every offense it has faced.

Inside linebacker Roquan Smith said Georgia will do its part to limit Johnson and the Auburn rushing attack first.

“We just have to make those guys one dimensional,” Smith said. “If we stop the run, we make you one dimensional and you have to put it in the air. I think (Johnson’s) an awesome runner. He runs with his pads down. He’s a great guy, he leads the SEC in rushing (touchdowns). He’ll be a great challenge for our defense.”

I don’t think there are any great secrets about what Georgia needs to do on defense — maintain containment on the edge, force the runs back to the inside and keep Stidham from burning the secondary on deep passes.  That won’t be an easy task, as Auburn is the SEC leader in plays of 20 yards or more from scrimmage in conference play.  Georgia’s been excellent at stopping those kinds of gains, though.

It’s gonna be a real test of will imposing.


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

My favorite play from the Florida game

Sony’s last touchdown run.  Aaron Taylor breaks it down.

The best part of it was that Randy Shannon actually called a good defensive set for the play, but it went downhill when Michel ran right by the run blitz.  From there, it was off to the races.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Running back by committee

Georgia and Alabama are the top two teams in the country.  Not coincidentally, Georgia and Alabama also have the greatest depth at running back in the country.

“It’s pretty simple,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart began, “you have a three-year window [before getting to the NFL]. A lot of the greatest backs don’t want a ton of physicality on the body. You want to share the load. They’re going to judge you based on the carries you get, not the ones you don’t get.”

Smart is not only a former Saban assistant but a disciple. He has landed his own set of superstar backfield talent. Helping replace Sony Michel and Nick Chubb will be top-10 talent Zamir White and Dalvin Cook’s brother, James Cook.

“They’ll draft a guy on 10 carries if he carries it really good those 10 times,” Smart said. “We sell kids on that. You’re going to be fresh. The pros are going to see you as a valuable asset. You’re going to share the load.”

You’d think that’s a tough sales job on the recruiting trail and even once the studs arrive on campus, but Nick Chubb’s bought in to the benefits.

The injury questions are also gone now. Chubb isn’t talking about any lingering effects of the leg injury. Instead he’s talking about how fresh he is for the stretch run.

Chubb has carried it 120 times this season, well under pace of his career-high 224 carries last season, when he averaged a career-low 5.0 yards per carry. A deep backfield and lopsided wins have helped that.

“I feel great. I feel better now than I did at the beginning of the season,” Chubb said. “Just how I’ve been sharing the load, and not playing full games, that also helps. We’re doing a great job of taking care of everybody, I think.”

No doubt winning helps the buy in, but if you’re running power football as your base offensive scheme, you aren’t going to win consistently without quality depth at running back.  A happy chicken vs. egg story, in other words.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics