Category Archives: Strategery And Mechanics

Run the damn ball, a working theory

You may have noticed that Georgia’s play calling has been a wee bit on the conservative side in the early going.  Take, for example, this fairly useless series in the fourth quarter Saturday, as Georgia sat on its 24-6 lead.

  • 1st and 10 at UGA 4

    Sony Michel run for no gain to the Geo 4

  • 2nd and 10 at UGA 4

    Sony Michel run for no gain to the Geo 4

  • Timeout VANDERBILT, clock 06:00

  • 3rd and 10 at UGA 4

    Sony Michel run for 5 yds to the Geo 9

  • 4th and 5 at UGA 9

    Collin Barber punt for 33 yds, downed at the Geo 42

That led to a Vanderbilt touchdown that cut the lead to ten.  What the hell was Schottenheimer thinking then?  Evidently, he was thinking “I’d better do what the boss tells me to do”.

Georgia continues to lean conservatively with its play-calling, but Richt said that was partly on him.

“The decision to run the ball three times deep in our territory (in the fourth quarter) and not throw it, that was my decision,” Richt said. “He was honoring what I wanted to get done at that time. I wanted to try to chew up as many timeouts as possible and hopefully knock it out of there.”

One thing Richt is pretty good at is making clear-eyed assessments of where his team is at beginning a season and structuring an overall strategy to take advantage of strengths and weaknesses.  (Which is not to say his assessments are infallible, so don’t bother to go there.)  That’s why we’ve seen an aggressive approach on offense in the last two seasons, because he and his coaches were aware those defenses were flawed.  Last year was particularly masterful, as Georgia also had to adjust to having a less dynamic passing attack post-Murray.

But what if you’re convinced that in 2015, your team’s strengths are the running game (duh) and… the defense?  And that your passing game may be even more anemic than it was in 2014?  Well, you’re certainly going to try to build on two keys from last season – winning the field position and turnover margin battles – but you’re also going to ratchet back the aggression on offense.  You’re going to play to let your defense and special teams help win games for you.

You’re going to coach like you did when Brian VanGorder was your defensive coordinator, in other words.

Remember those epic 17-14 and 20-17 struggles to win games?  Remember the frustration of watching a Greene-led Georgia let teams like UAB hang around?  Remember losing close games because of missed field goals?  Yeah, Georgia won a lot of games then.  But I remember quite a bit of angst over the lack of style points in doing so.  Kind of like right now, you know?

Maybe I’m wrong.  But based on his whiffs Saturday, I’m starting to get a nervous feeling that Marshall Morgan’s going to be a lot more important to Georgia’s success than he ever has before.  And I say that knowing a common thread in all of Georgia’s losses last season was missed field goals.  Stay tuned.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics


Seth Emerson catches something.

An observation about both quarterbacks: Lambert and Ramsey both tended to have their feet set together in the shotgun before a run play, and one ahead of the other when it was a pass play. (Now if I can notice this …) Lambert did it most of the time, though not before a couple play-action pass plays, and before one run play. Ramsey did it on both of his passes out of the shotgun, but didn’t have a handoff out of the shotgun during his one series.

As dismayed as I am to see that, I’m even more dismayed that I’m posting something on this subject for the second time.

Geez, guys, it’s not like the passing game isn’t struggling enough as it is.  Do you really have to give the defense extra help?

I hope Seth gets to follow up on this at Richt’s next presser.  Can’t wait to hear the explanation.


UPDATE:  I took a look at the replay last night to see if I could catch what Seth saw.  He’s right.

The good news, such as it is, is that Lambert’s stance isn’t as pronounced as I recall Cox’ being.  (There’s also one play where Lambert went against the grain by passing from a balanced stance, but that was because the play was designed to start with a draw fake.)  It’s also not as pronounced as Ramsey’s stance.

The bad news is that it appears Lambert does the same thing under center.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

“It’s harder than ever to find a quarterback.”

This (h/t Gatorhater27) doesn’t sound too good.

Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said the new crop of college quarterbacks were flummoxed by a simple question about an “under” front, one of the most common defensive alignments. “Whoa, no one’s ever told me ‘front’ before,” he remembers one prospect saying. “No one’s ever talked to me about reading these defenses.”

Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley said he had the same results when he asked prospects a question about defenses shifting from a common scheme called “cover 2” to an equally mundane tactic called “cover 3.” Hue Jackson, the offensive coordinator from the Bengals, said he had to dumb down his questions, while Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said some QBs failed to grasp things as basic as understanding a common play call. “You have to teach these kids the absolute basics,” he said.

Even Baylor’s Brice Petty, who resented not being picked until the 103rd selection in the draft, claiming he “was thrown away like I couldn’t learn it,” acknowledges having a few holes in his game, even coming from that ridiculously prolific offense he was in.

Petty admits to grappling with tasks such as hearing and calling the play, identifying defensive backs in coverage and identifying which player in the defensive backfield was the “mike” linebacker, the central part of the defense whose location teams base their offensive line protections on. “As crazy as it sounds, at Baylor, we did not point out the ‘mike’ linebacker,” Petty said.

Petty was unfamiliar with making adjustments to the play or the formation before the snap.

“Honestly, I wish I’d done a little bit more as far as being proactive to get into a pro style [offense],” he said, singling out the need to decipher fronts or coverages. “It was things I have never seen before.”

I can see why St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead speaks of the apocalypse: It’s doomsday if we don’t adapt and evolve.

So what’s a mother of a professional league supposed to do?

NFL officials agree that the new wave of quarterbacks will need more time than previous generations, but some fret that today’s roster limits and time constraints may prevent them from getting the time they need to learn or develop. “It might become like major league baseball now, where you take a guy that you think will be able to play in three, four, five years,” said Pettine.

I think that’s what they have the minor leagues for, buddy.  Of course, those things cost money and you guys sure do like your player development freebies.

Hey, has anyone considered the possibility that the spread is college football’s secret attempt to force the NFL to drop its three-year-after-high-school eligibility requirement?


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

Mike Bobo may be gone, but balance never left.

Although it feels like Mark Richt has changed the definition.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt expects his offense to be balanced this season.

But that doesn’t mean that the Bulldogs’ offense — one that threw 14 passes and ran the ball 38 times against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday — has any plans to get that ratio closer to 50-50.

“If people just overload us in the run game, we’ve got to be able to throw it well and vice versa,” Richt said. “People just start playing two-deep and start playing coverage on us and doubling the receivers and things of that nature, we’d better be able to run the ball well. That’s what I consider, the ability to handle those situations is balance for me.”

Yay for that!  That’s the hallmark of a good offensive coordinator – take what the defense gives you… and keeps on giving you.  And when that changes, have the ability to counter.

That’s my kind of balance, too.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Friday morning buffet

Congrats.  You’ve made it this far, so nibble a little.

  • Are preseason polls better predictors of team strength than polls later in the season?  The answer may surprise you.
  • Another excellent piece from Chris Brown, this one on the power running game.
  • “A lot of kickers need coaching. Obviously I need it, and I go somewhere else to get it.”
  • We have an easy winner for Moron Of the Week.
  • Jerry Hinnen’s got a nice preview of the Georgia-Vandy game here.  Vandy’s bad in the secondary, so there’s another reason to see if Lambert can stretch the field more this week.
  • This Saturday, Florida will deploy its ninth different starting quarterback since 2009.  Between that and the musical chairs at the receivers coach position, it’s no wonder the Gator passing game has been almost nonexistent.
  • SEC coaches talking behind the backs of SEC West head coaches.
  • Even Josh Dobbs is amazed to learn that Tennessee’s last win as a ranked team came at the end of the 2007 season.


Filed under Gators Gators, General Idiocy, Georgia Football, SEC Football, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

Catch and release

Those of you who were asking me yesterday about Greyson Lambert’s release should watch this clip from Chip Towers and Seth Emerson previewing the Vanderbilt game.  During part of their conversation, you can see film of Georgia’s three quarterbacks throwing in practice.  Compare Lambert’s motion with Ramsey’s motion and you’ll get an idea of what I was referring to.  Lambert’s kind of lanky and it takes just a little longer for him to get his throw off as a result.

It’s not a bad release.  (Remember the hitch Mettenberger had in his throwing motion when he came to Georgia?  That was a bad release.)  It’s not the most efficient, either.  Yes, we’re talking split seconds here. But when you aren’t the most mobile quarterback in the world, sometimes those split seconds are a big deal.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Just go for it.

Andy Staples watches Kevin Kelley’s team – you know, the one that (almost) never punts – go to Highland Park (Texas) High to win a game convincingly against an opponent that hadn’t lost at home since 1998 and can’t help but wonder about something.

• The Bruins don’t win because they don’t punt or because they attempt onside kicks every time or because their receivers routinely lateral on plays that aren’t the last one of the game. They win because of the attitude Kelley’s approach instills on Pulaski Academy’s sideline and the mindset it instills on the other sideline. The Bruins always play as if they’re down 10 with 90 seconds to go. Think about all the points you’ve seen scored in that type of situation. The offense plays as if it has nothing to lose. The defense tightens, playing to protect the lead rather than to advance the cause. That’s every minute of every Pulaski Academy game.

• Why hasn’t some college coach whose team is perpetually doomed by history and circumstances tried this? Instead of playing conventionally, losing and getting fired every three-to-five years, why wouldn’t David Beaty at Kansas or Darrell Hazell at Purdue try something dramatic in an attempt to close the talent gap between their teams and their opponents? Nearly every great football innovation has come out of an attempt to close a talent gap. Turning the psychological tables the way Pulaski has might be the next great innovation.

The crazy part about Kelley’s system is it isn’t crazy at all. It’s based entirely on math. Each yard line has an expected point value. Each down-and-distance has an expected rate of success. Punting average is easily calculated, as is punt return average. Years of football data have created these numbers, and while they differ between high school, college and the NFL, they do not differ as much as you might think. It’s fairly easy to use these numbers to create a do-I-go-for-it-on-fourth-down formula similar to the do-I-hit probability combinations in blackjack…

… So, why are college coaches—especially the ones whose teams are likely to lose most of their Power Five-versus-Power Five games anyway—so reluctant to try something the math suggests could work?

It’s not because math is hard, especially in this day and age of iPads and support staffers.  It’s because most coaches have an incentive to be cautious.  The pay is good and there’s always the next job around the corner if the current one doesn’t work out.  You don’t want a reputation of being that guy, the one who gets known for having used a crazy strategy to try to win.  It’s so much safer to hire retreads like Karl Dorrell and predictably lose with an offense that couldn’t get out of its own way.

The irony, of course, is that there are examples of contrarian thinking paying off on the college level.  As Staples observes,

Some coaches have done just that, but that requires imagination on their part and faith on the part of the administration that hired them. Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson is the only Power Five coach who runs the option as his base offense. Despite middling results before he got there and academic requirements that limit which recruits he can take, Johnson has won an ACC title. Last year his team went 11–3, won the ACC Coastal Division and pushed then unbeaten Florida State to the limit in the ACC championship game. The option takes away the need to recruit blue-chip quarterbacks, allowing Johnson to pull from the far deeper pool of athletic high school quarterbacks who would have otherwise been moved to tailback or safety in college. It also changes the math for offensive linemen. It’s tough to find ready-made 315-pounders. Alabama and Ohio State are going to get those guys. But the option puts a premium on speed and athleticism for linemen. There are far more lean(ish) 265-pound high school linemen who might grow into 300-pound monsters, and Johnson can recruit from that pool.

I’m not going to claim there aren’t limits on how far Johnson can go with the triple option.  But it’s hard to argue that Georgia Tech isn’t a more successful program right now than Vanderbilt, even taking into account the relative strengths of the conferences they play in.

Take a chance, fellas.  What do some of you have to lose?  And who knows?  You might even find that your fan base likes it.


Filed under Strategery And Mechanics