Smart Notes 9/16/2009

Monte Kiffin is gearing up to play the Gators. It seems that everyone wants to know what Kiffin will come up with for Florida. I’m not sure but I wouldn’t be it would be anything magic. Yet he is taking it quite seriously:

Kiffin, an NFL assistant for 26 years before joining his son’s staff this year, said he has seen Meyer’s offense in person and was awestruck. When the Bucs had a bye week from the NFL schedule several seasons ago, Kiffin went to Colorado State to see his youngest son, Chris, play against Utah, Meyer’s former team.

“He was a dang good football coach, but I didn’t worry about it because I was in the NFL and I didn’t have to go against it,” Kiffin said. “I thought Alex Smith, the Utah quarterback, was good, but you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen Tim Tebow run it.

“I was talking to (former Tennessee coach and player) Johnny Majors one day; he’s an old single-wing player, and he and I said the more we looked at it, the more it reminded us of the old single wing. They run the single-wing plays and then the next play they spread you out. … I have spent a lot of time at the office this week.”

The edges of a defense are vulnerable against the Gators because Tebow can make defensive ends charge inside, then pitch to a back racing outside. The divide-and-conquer spread puts linebackers and defensive ends on islands.

“He’s been drawing on napkins since the spring, studying the spread, theorizing about it,” said Lynch, who visited the Kiffins in the offseason in Knoxville.

[Former all-pro safety under Kiffin John] Lynch said Tennessee’s defense has to attack Florida’s offense the way the Bucs attacked Michael Vick when he was with the Falcons. “Instincts make you passive; what you have to do in a game like this is play all out,” Lynch said.

Kiffin visited Meyer and his staff in Gainesville following the 2007 season when the Gators went 9-4. The Florida staff leaned on Kiffin for insight on coaching defense, but he will not overstate his impact on Saturday’s game.

“We can get them in position,” Kiffin said, “but I can’t make the plays, The players have to make the plays.”

There is a lot of talk about Kiffin’s “Tampa Two” defense, but I don’t really expect them to play a lot of true “Tampa Two.” In that coverage, the two safeties play deep and show a “cover two shell,” but the middle linebacker retreats down the middle, making it like a three-deep defense, which lets the safeties squeeze the outside corner routes. The advantage of Tampa Two over regular three-deep is that the cornerbacks can press and jam the outside receivers and funnel them inside. (They also can either sit shallow for short throws or retreat if the outside receiver runs deep; this is infuriating too and defenses can switch up this technique.) But the thing the Tampa Two defense does as well as anything is take the other team’s outside receivers — often their best — out of the game. For more, see this fairly informative video from nfl.com.

That’s a great strategy in the NFL because offenses are designed to get the ball to the outside guys. But with Florida? Their strength is inside to out: Tebow, Demps, Rainey, and the tight-end Hernandez. If Kiffin overemphasizes taking away the outside receivers, this plays into Meyer’s hands. Instead, expect Kiffin to do what his protege Tony Dungy did with the Colts more often than people gave him credit for: to go to a single-safety look with one of his safeties in “robber” coverage both spying Tebow and taking away inside routes. Likely Eric Berry will play the “Bob Sanders” position. Kiffin appears to be a big fan of Tebow, but he knows the easiest way to lose to Florida is to get spread out and have them run right up the middle on you; he will test to see if Scott Loeffler, Tebow’s new quarterbacks coach, has taught him anything and, more importantly, if Tebow’s new outside receivers can make enough plays. If they can, it could get ugly.

- Will the Supreme Court bless (or even hear) the dispute over the Redskins’ name? The case is being appealed to the Supreme Court (keep in mind the Court grants review in very few cases):

The long-running dispute over the appropriateness of the “Redskins” name for the Washington D.C. NFL football franchise reached the Supreme Court today. Philip Mause, partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath in D.C., representing a group of Native Americans offended by the name, filed a petition for certiorari in the case titled Susan Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc.

“This is a derogatory term for Indians that sticks out like an anomaly,” said Mause today. “No other group still has to deal with this kind of a term being used” in such a public and widespread way.

The case began with a petition in 1992 to cancel the Redskins trademark under the Lanham Act, which bars trademarks that “disparage … persons living or dead … or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.” The latest ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that the claims were barred by the doctrine of laches, a defense that acts like a statute of limitations to protect defendants from being sued for long-ago violations of rights.

- Well, he does need some help. Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman has turned to an unlikely source for some assistance (hat tip to reader Chris):

It took almost two decades, but Lake Travis head football coach Chad Morris went from cheering the Aggies to victory at Kyle Field to helping them win the season opener against New Mexico.

Morris was among those Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman sought advice from in formulating the Aggies’ no-huddle, fast-paced offense that got off 90 plays for 606 yards in the 41-6 victory over New Mexico.

“I loved it,” said Morris, who graduated from A&M in 1992 and has become one of the state’s brightest and most successful high school coaches. “I wasn’t able to go, but I read about it, and heard all about the up-tempo approach. I’m really excited for the guys.”

All Aggies seem to be excited about the new-look offense, which was a far cry from last season when A&M averaged only 65 plays and 341 yards per game. That was well below what everyone envisioned from Sherman’s pro-style attack.

Sherman, though, could directly talk to his quarterback in the NFL. Last year, A&M’s quarterbacks had his plays on wristbands. That proved cumbersome for a game plan that might entail 80 to 110 plays.

He decided in the offseason he needed to simplify the process to speed things up, yet keep the playbook.

“So the number of signals we required probably far exceeded most high schools,” Sherman said. ” So we just started working on it and trying to come up with how we were going to communicate from the sideline to the quarterback and the receivers.”

He knew the foundation for the system was just a tape away.

“You just have to throw some high school teams on in the state of Texas and you see [the spread offense] on a regular basis,” said Sherman, who was an excellent recruiter during his two stints as an assistant at A&M. “There’s a lot of great high school coaches and I’ve seen them do it.”

As luck would have it, Morris was one of the guest speakers at the Lone Star Coaches Clinic at Texas A&M in January. Morris has a great working relationship with A&M associate athletic director for football Tim Cassidy, himself a guru of recruiting. Morris talked to approximately 700 coaches about Lake Travis’ spread offense, which had just helped the Cavaliers a second straight Class 4A state championship with Garrett Gilbert at quarterback, who is now a freshman at the University of Texas.

Sherman was impressed enough to ask Morris back to talk X’s and O’s with offensive coordinator Nolan Cromwell and quarterbacks coach Tom Rossley.

“Coach Sherman emphasized that I couldn’t be paid by NCAA rules, but I was just happy to give something back to the university,” said Morris, who as a student watched Sherman work as an offensive line coach in his first stint at A&M.

Morris was honored that a man who had coached many greats, including Brett Favre, wanted to pick his brain.

“It was a little intimidating, but I wanted to help any way I could,” said Morris, who is 155-24 as a high school coach, including a state championship at Bay City in 2000.

One day the following week, Morris spent 5 1/2 hours with A&M’s offensive staff, then another 45 minutes with just Sherman. Morris, who is in his second year at Lake Travis, came back during spring drills, then fall drills to watch A&M’s offense evolve.

And where did Morris learn his offense from? No-huddle guru Gus Malzahn, of course.

Morris started running his current offense at Stephenville in 2004, learning from Guz Malzahn, who has quickly blossomed into one of the nation’s top collegiate assistants.

Malzahn won a pair of state championships at Springdale High (Ark.) from 2001-05. He was offensive coordinator at the University of Arkansas in 2006, where his running backs were Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. He spent the last two years at Tulsa, where his offense was ranked first in total offense in 2007 and then second last year.

Malzahn is at Auburn this year. The Tigers have played just Louisiana Tech and Mississippi State, but they’re averaging 81 plays and 572.5 yards per game, which is fourth in the country behind Florida, A&M and Arkansas. Auburn last year averaged only 68 plays and 302.9 yards per game, which was 104th in the country.

The A&M players love the new-look offense.

“If you’re in shape, I think it benefits us a lot,” wide receiver Jeff Fuller said. “It wears on the [defensive back]. There were a few times where I lined up and I wasn’t tired at all and the DB was gasping for air.”

Senior offensive lineman Michael Shumard wasn’t so sure this offense would make it at first.

“When we finally got it right, I was holding my breath and going over to the sidelines to grab a whole bunch of water, and that was only the first series,” Shumard said. “I thought this was going to be a long year, but they did a great job of conditioning us and getting us ready for that. It really wore the other team down last week, and hopefully we can wear our opponents out like that consistently and it’ll give us a great advantage.”

  • BeastMode

    I think the final two quotes of the article are illustrative of a larger trend within many college systems which require their lineman and skill players to maintain a consistently higher level of conditioning. I can’t say I’m intimately familiar with the nature of most collegiate conditioning programs, my instinct is that the emphasis is often placed on speed, strength and agility over aerobic conditioning. In order to run a system like Malzahn’s efficiently, you need to incorporate aerobic conditioning, even at the expense of some bulk on the line, to maintain the physical edge to execute.

  • PaulsHealthBlog.com

    I saw Malzahn win the state championship at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, when he was at Springdale High Arkansas.

    I had never seen anything like it at the high school level. It puts so much pressure on the defense.

    Now that he has better athletes, the sky is the limit for Malzahn and his no-huddle offense.

  • Homyrrh

    Kiffin can scheme all he wants…but can’t do a damned thing for the UT offense’s trip to slaughter. Tell me you read the article on EDSBS.

  • Mr.Murder

    Maybe Auburn will force the conference to institute a mercy rule when they face non-conference opponents?

  • Rob1855
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  • Mark

    Chris,

    What and How will Monte/Ed Ogeron do vs Tebow and Florida’s Spread? How will they get the UT DEF to ATTACK Tebow and The Spread? Will they be in Reg Pers, Nickel, Dime? If Florida is in 1 Back Spread, how does he attack the Read Side? Does UT line up with the 3 Tech to the Back and Run TED(3Tech to C Gap 1st/E to B Gap 2nd)like Northwestern did with Corey Wooten vs Missouri? Or will Monte have his guys run a NAT(Nose & 3T) stunt, like Missouri did vs Northewstern? If Florida builds 2 Back with Motion, do the UT LB’s and S’s ignore the motion and stick to their rules in Regular Defense? Or will Monte/Ed line up in their “BEAR” front with HYBRID(4 LB’s) PERS and relentlessly ATTACK via Zone Blitz(5 Man Pressure), Zone Dog(4 Man Pressure), or morph into a 3-3 via the stunt game? Don’t know if UT has the PERS to get it done, but can’t wait to Tape the Game and Evaluate Monte/Ed version of stopping The Spread! “Bear Smash” is coming, just like USC did vs Illinois in the Rose Bowl….

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