How will we know if there’s progress on defense?

Assuming the defensive stats improve as the season goes along — and, damn, they’d better — will it be due to Georgia’s players getting better, or opponents getting easier to defend?

The Georgia secondary has been particularly lit up, giving up six pass plays of 30 or more yards this season after allowing only 10 total last season and eight in 2014 under coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

“I’m not here to point fingers,” defensive tackle DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle said. “We’re all a defense, we’re all together so not the back end giving it up, the whole defense is giving it up. Maybe if the D-line got more pressure, the back end wouldn’t have to cover for so long. I put it on all of us. It’s something we all have to work on and get stronger together with.”

Georgia’s secondary hasn’t been helped by the pass rush. The Bulldogs are second to last in the SEC with four sacks.

Davis chalks up this year’s growing number of big plays allowed from a secondary perspective as a lack of “eye discipline” and breakdowns in technique and fundamentals. For one-on-one matchups, Davis said that’s “squeezing guys off, getting our head around and making a play on it.”

The good news for Georgia is it may have faced its best offenses.

Missouri and Ole Miss are ranked fourth and 17th nationally in passing yardage and North Carolina is No. 13.

Of the eight remaining games, Florida is the highest rated passing team at No. 40. The rest are 82nd and lower.

None of the teams left on Georgia’s schedule rank in the top 50 in total offense. Tennessee is 85th and the Bulldogs schedule still includes Georgia Tech (117), Vanderbilt (121) and South Carolina (124).

Maybe October and November will be more inviting than September was for Georgia.

Hopefully, the correct answer is both.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Land of hope and dreams

Tell me something:  who’s more delusional, LSU for putting out feelers to Urban Meyer and Nick Saban regarding its open coaching job, or the Big 12 for believing until a couple of months ago that it could sweet talk Clemson and FSU into joining the conference?

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Filed under Big 12 Football

“Just go hit someone.”

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Well, you don’t see this every day.

Georgia coaches raised a few eyebrows during last week’s game against Ole Miss when nose tackle John Atkins and defensive tackle Julian Rochester each received an offensive rep for the Bulldogs on a key fourth-and-1 play.

It just wasn’t clear at the time how off the cuff the call to put them on the field was.

“It was just thrown out there,” said Atkins, who revealed the decision came directly from head coach Kirby Smart, despite the fact the Bulldog junior claimed the team never worked on the play in practice.

Atkins got to talk about the play, but it sounds like Rochester got the key block down.

Actually it was Rochester, who lined up at tight end, who executed the most important block. Lining up at tight end on the right side outside of tackle Greg Pyke, he dominated his man. Chubb cut outside around right end, then juked a closing defensive back to take the ball straight up the hash marks for the big gain.

Which is not to say Atkins wasn’t a contributor.

Atkins laughed that the call to go in came so quick, he didn’t have time to think about messing up.

“When I went out there, I just thought back to when I was in high school – just go. Just hit him,” said Atkins, who joked that he actually graded out well on the play.

“I ended up getting two points,” he said. “I think that was pretty good.”

I’d laugh, but when I reflect on what this says about what the coaches think about their existing o-line depth, it’s not so funny.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Football lives matter.

Hmmm… wonder if Nebraska Regent Hal Daub had as much of a problem with Lawrence Phillips suiting up as he has with the three Nebraska players who dared exercise their freedom of speech.

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Filed under Political Wankery

Yeah, it’s personnel. Just not in the way you mean it.

For those of you who keep arguing about Georgia’s talent level and how much of a factor that is in fueling our current angst, I think you need to realize that even though the Dawgs are still running a pro-style offense, it’s not the same one that Richt directed last season.

Georgia has succeeded in the run game in the past without dominant offensive line play. The Bulldogs averaged 227 yards rushing over the last two seasons with an offensive line generally considered moderate in overall talent. But Mark Richt’s teams utilized a zone-blocking scheme that required less one-on-one matchups.

Head coach Kirby Smart’s employs more of a road-grading philosophy. He was asked if UGA’s offensive line deficiencies were something that can be schemed around.

“I think it’s hard to scheme around fundamentals of football,” Smart said. “I think blocking and tackling are the number one things that you have to be able to do in football. … We’ve got to be able to block really well. That’s important. That’s a key cog in order to be able to run the ball.”  [Emphasis added.]

They tried “scheming around”, with those three-tight end formations buttressing the offensive line.  The real issue is that the linemen they have to work with were recruited with a different blocking philosophy in mind.  Smart’s right — there’s only so much you can do until Pittman can sort things out.  Which, judging from what we’ve seen so far, may take some time.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Aiming high

This is ambitious.

If Orgeron doesn’t earn the job, sources tell FootballScoop that LSU’s committee believes they can and should land a home run. “Their sights are on national championship caliber, proven head coaches,” a source with knowledge told FootballScoop this morning. During the initial, exploratory phase, we are told to expect LSU, through representatives, to gauge the interest of some of the top coaches in college football, including Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman. Right or wrong, sources tell FootballScoop that LSU believes they will be able to attract a coach of that caliber.

Although the finances of LSU always seem to be changing, I have no reason to believe the powers that be at LSU will struggle to obtain whatever funding they need to attract the right coach. A source we spoke with this morning didn’t bat an eye when saying “Money will not be an issue here. Donors are ready to take care of a championship caliber coach appropriately.”

The state of Louisiana is going broke, but throwing tens of millions of dollars at a football coach doesn’t seem to be an issue.  Getting one of those names to come, though, may be a different story.

In a coaching search, prospective coaches want to know who their boss truly will be. There is no question that Tom Jurich is calling the shots at Louisville. No question that Gene Smith calls them at Ohio State. No question that Bill Moos does the same at Washington State. At LSU, there are a lot of folks who are involved. Yes, sources tell FootballScoop LSU has already arranged a “committee” to lead the process in this search. LSU leadership apparently doesn’t trust Joe Alleva to get on a plane, go have dinner with their target, evaluate him and make the offer / seal the deal as necessary.

Maybe they can use Greg McGarity’s search firm.

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Filed under SEC Football

The early tale of the tape isn’t pretty.

Jason Butt points out a few statistical shortcomings.

Georgia has given up 18 plays of 20 yards or more through its first four games of the season. Eight of those big plays came against Ole Miss, which included a 23-yard pass from Chad Kelly to Evan Engram on the Rebels’ first play from scrimmage and a 41-yard rushing touchdown by Kelly in the third quarter.

Taking it a step further, nine of the aforementioned plays have been 30 yards or more. Four have been longer than 40 yards.

Through Georgia’s first four games a season ago, the Bulldogs only gave up nine plays of 20 yards or more. Of course the schedule was significantly lighter, with games against Louisiana-Monroe, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Southern to open the season.

The Bulldogs did begin to give up big plays last season in October as they surrendered 23 plays of 20 yards or more in games against Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri and Florida. But that stretch can be considered tougher than what it has gone through this year, with North Carolina, Nicholls State, Missouri and Ole Miss up first.

To put it more bluntly:  last season, Georgia finished tied for sixth nationally in opponents’ long plays from scrimmage; this year, the Dawgs are tied for seventy-sixth in that category.  Not a good trend, in other words, even taking scheduling into account.

Of course, that got me started wading through cfbstats.com.  Here are three more depressing rankings on the offensive side of the ball — depressing, but not necessarily surprising:

  • Sacks allowed:  14th in 2015; 109th in 2016
  • Passer rating:  57th in 2015; 107th in 2016
  • Offensive yards per play:  40th in 2015; 99th in 2016

It’s early, I know.  And we can hope Georgia is merely going through a transitional phase.  But while some of the decline can be chalked up to scheme changes on the o-line and in the secondary, as well as the growing pains being suffered with a true freshman starting quarterback, it’s also a little disturbing to hear a Process disciple acknowledging a third of the way into the season that there are issues with his team’s mechanics.

Kirby Smart offered a simple solution to Georgia’s big-play problems during the first third of the season.

Coming off a game in which Mississippi gashed the Bulldogs with big-yardage gains, Smart knows his defense to hold up better with Tennessee coming to town at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

“Tackle better,” Smart said. “I mean, the offenses we play, they get explosive plays on everybody. It’s more about limiting those. Like you mentioned, how do I give up less? If we tackle better, and you take nine of the 15 missed tackles away, then you take away about seven big plays. I think that’s the most important thing.”

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Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics