Shameless self-promotion

Apologies for the slow blogging the last few days. I was traveling quite a bit and have been spreading myself a little thin . . . . I have contributed to a few things elsewhere, so check them out:

Rich Gannon on JaMarcus Russell

Raiders Russell FootballJaMarcus Russell of the Oakland Raiders is having a rough season in terms of accuracy. Former Raider quarterback Rich Gannon offered up an in-depth critique of the young signal caller. Gannon:

“There’s been so much talk. I’ve talked to personnel people around the league. I’ve talked to people who have been at the games and there’s a lot of concern right now about JaMarcus Russell and his accuracy, his completion percentage. So I went back and did a study. I looked at his 21 starts, he’s completing just over 51 percent of his passes. And then this season, you look at his first two weeks, he’s completing around 35 percent of his passes. That obviously is not very good. I just think he’s missing too many opportunities and he’s holding back this offense right now. So what I did was I broke down every pass attempt from the first two weeks.”

Gannon then explains what he’s seeing from a mechanical standpoint.

“A couple of things are very glaring. I think, you see a lot of times he falls away from throws. He seems to bail. I think a rush up inside bothers him. He needs to get more bend in his knees when he throws. He’s very upright and not a lot of bend in his knees. It may have something to do with his weight. He seems to be more comfortable operating out of shotgun than he does under center. He doesn’t do a very good job seeing out in front of throws and I think that comes with experience, really understanding and anticipating coverages. So that’s not something he does. When you look at the offensive game plan, the passing game, I think they’ve condensed the plan. It’s not very complicated. Fundamentally, right now, he is not very sound. His mechanics, his footwork, it’s inconsistent.”

“I think sometimes he predetermines where he’s going to go with the ball. You can see that he makes up his mind very early in his drop. And the other thing is he misses a number of throws, almost a majority of his throws if you go back and look at it, they’re high which tells you that more of that weight is not on the front foot, that he’s leaning back, he’s throwing off of his back foot. These are some things that really jump out at me.”

Most depressing thing I read today

From a study of NCAA probation penalties:

… The study reveals universities who belong to conferences whose champions receive annual automatic BCS bowl bids (BCS automatic-qualifier schools) received less stringent probation penalties from the NCAA infractions committee than other Division I institutions. Also, the research indicates FBS institutions receive less probation years than FCS institutions and non-football sponsoring schools. Finally, the results suggest historically Black colleges and universities in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and Southwestern Athletic Conference (HBCUs) received harsher probation penalties than other Division I institutions.

Read the whole thing. (H/t Blutarsky.)

And yet, as bad as this is — and it is terrible — I still tend to prefer the NCAA system and am more hopeful that it can be fixed than the NFL’s current autocracy, which works as follows, at least for individual players:

Commissioner Roger Goodell determines if you have violated the NFL’s policies. If you have, Commissioner Roger Goodell will bring enforcement against you. Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine if Commissioner Roger Goodell properly determined that you violated Commissioner Roger Goodell’s policies, and then determines the punishment. If you disagree with Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ruling or punishment, you may appeal to Commissioner Roger Goodell. Finally, Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine of you have complied with Commissioner Roger Goodell’s terms of punishment and/or probation.

Blogpoll Week 3

Rank Team Delta
1 Texas 2
2 Alabama 2
3 Florida 2
4 Penn State 1
5 California 3
6 LSU 4
7 Boise State
8 Mississippi 3
9 Cincinnati 6
10 Miami (Florida) 7
11 Virginia Tech 7
12 TCU 3
13 Houston
14 North Carolina 7
15 Oregon State
16 Kansas 7
17 Missouri
18 Florida State
19 Brigham Young 13
20 Oklahoma 1
21 Michigan 1
22 Pittsburgh 2
23 Washington
24 Southern Cal 22
25 Ohio State 5
Last week’s ballot
Dropped Out: Utah (#12), Georgia Tech (#14), Nebraska (#16).
Not too much to add here, though it is starting to be difficult to reward teams for victories over specific teams and penalize others for losses. Do I honestly think Florida State is better than Oklahoma, in a power poll sense? Not really, but FSU has played the better schedule and gets more credit for thrashing BYU, who beat OU, than OU does for thrashing whoever it has played over the last two weeks. I think Southern Cal has a lot of problems that getting Matt Barkley back won’t fix (with QB coach Jim Bates calling the plays, another guy named offensive coordinator, and Pete Carroll — coupled with the vacuum left by no Sarkisian/Kiffin — do you think USC might have too many cooks in the offensive kitchen?). And then with Boise-Cal-LSU I kind of waffle: I want to reward Boise, but the Oregon win doesn’t look as great in hindsight, they let Fresno back into the game, and the other teams have looked pretty solid. Hard to say. (And LSU’s win over Washington looks pretty good now.)
The most intriguing game to me is one where I didn’t quite know how to rank either team: Virginia Tech vs. Miami. I have VT ranked higher than some other one-loss teams. I do think Nebraska is better, and getting statistically buzzsawed by Alabama while keeping the game close isn’t bad for a team a lot of folks feel is playing the best in the country. Miami has looked great against FSU and Georgia Tech, but it’s not clear what that means. We’ll find out a lot this week.
Last, the movement at the top: Texas and ‘Bama over Florida. This is maybe ephemeral, but, while neither Texas nor Florida dominated, I liked Texas’s win over Texas Tech a lot more than I liked Florida’s win over Tennessee. And Alabama has looked consistent. More on UT-UF later.

Rich Rodriguez on the spread run game

Nothing revolutionary, but good stuff.

The wisdom of Texas Tech’s Taylor Potts

Potts, after the Red Raiders’ loss to Texas: “We’d get on a roll offensively and then get a penalty and go right back where we started,” Potts said.

“We tried to beat Texas and ourselves in the first half. In the second half, we just tried to beat Texas.”


And they gave it a pretty good effort. That is, until Sergio Kindle shut the door.

Me on Mike Leach and TTech; on the Solid Verbal Podcast

Blogging will be slow today, but in the meantime enjoy two sumptuous offerings:

Understanding coverages and attacking them with passing game

There are many qualities that a quarterback must possess. However, the most obvious is the QB’s ability to throw the football. Throwing the football requires a tremendous amount of coordination and teamwork for proper execution. The QB can make up for some deficiencies with proper reads. Whether it is the Pre-Snap Read, Reading on the Move, or Adjustments in routes, the QB’s recognition, anticipation and reaction are based upon his knowledge of the offense as it relates to what he sees.

Pre-snap read
The QB must make a “Pre-Snap Read” confirming the defensive secondary’s alignment. The PSR provides the QB with help in making the proper throwing decision; i.e., allows the QB to establish his thought process prior to the snap. There will be many times when the QB can determine what the coverage is before the snap. About eighty percent (80%) of the time the coverage will be given away by someone’s alignment in the secondary, typically the second defender inside. Even when the total coverage is not given away, through observation of particular alignments, you will be able to eliminate some coverages or narrow to a “Hard Focus” area. The QB must approach the LOS the same way every play and get his hands under the center. The PSR process includes a “Soft Gaze” left, middle and right. The purpose is to identify (1) the depth of the corners, (2) number of safeties, (3) weakside flat defender, and (4) the number of run defenders (“front”):

  • Find the Free Safety (“FS”) and Strong Safety (“SS”) to determine the type of front – seven-man or eight-man. If the safeties adjust to motion, be aware of a possible blitz.
  • Find the weakside linebacker (Whip (“W”)). This is a crucial read to recognize an outside blitz. It is the QB’s responsibility to adjust the protection to handle the outside blitz or allow the receivers to read “HOT.”

The PSR is only the first step in the throwing decision. The QB must identify the primary defender (the “Key”) to read (“Hard Focus”) and determine where to throw the ball. The Key is determined by the pattern and the related PSR. The ball is thrown based upon what the Key does within the QB’s line of sight. For example, on a strong side route the PSR must identify the SS. Upon the snap the strong safety can either man-up, cover the flat, cover deep third (1/3) or cover deep quarter (¼), and it is the SS’s action that allows the QB to decide where to throw the ball. Depending upon the route, the SS’s action might change the key (Reading on the Move [“ROM”]) to the Corner (“C”) or FS. The QB will make their throwing decision based upon what happens in his Hard Focus area and the related routes within the “line of sight”; i.e., does the Key rotate, invert or play man. When the QB keys defenders, not receivers, there are fewer throws into coverage.

Basic Coverages

A brief summary of coverages, including strengths, weakness, and how to attack them follows. The summaries include a place (“Patterns”) for the coach and QB to write in their specific routes to attack the coverages. These are the basic coverages: Invert (“sky”); Rotate (“cloud”); Two Deep, Man Under Two; Man with a Free; Man – Zero; Quarter, Quarter, Half; Zone Blitz; Robber; and Prevent.

Three Deep – Invert (“Sky”)

The PSR is based on the alignment of SS and C on the strong side. Teams will typically define the TE as the strong side, however a scouting report will provide this information. If the SS is aligned with less depth than the C, the read is an invert by the SS; i.e., the SS is covering the flat, if a receiver is in the flat. Confirm 3D coverage by the alignment of the FS. If the FS is off the hash and favoring the middle, assume that it will be a 3D. Also the QB must be aware of the weak side, if the Weakside Linebacker (“W”) is in a stack (lined-up behind a defensive lineman or end) or walk (off the LOS outside the end) position, it denotes a soft corner, with W responsible for the weak flat. If the end (“E”) is up on the LOS or in a three (3) point stance, assume he will rush. If you are throwing to the strong side upon the snap you can determine whether E is coming or has curl or flat.

– Strengths

  1. Safe – always three deep
  2. strong side force against the run
  3. SS can get under an out and may be able to get under a stop or flat depending upon the wide receiver splits
  4. can cover eight zones with a three man rush
  5. can still bring four with strong side contain and have seven in coverage

– Weaknesses

  1. Versus eight in coverage the defense can only rush three with five or more to block them
  2. four defenders underneath to cover the six zones – large curl and horizontal seams
  3. no leverage on wide receivers; i.e., cannot bump or push inside
  4. possibly late to cover stop and flat, both weak and strong
  5. cannot cover a strong side flood route (three or four receivers in the pattern) without E, then it is a three man rush
  6. weak flat
  7. weakside force

– How to attack it:

  1. Stretch vertically and horizontally
  2. plenty of pass protection
  3. throw in the alley created by sending three on two in the perimeter (“flood type” routes)
  4. weakside curl & flat
  5. sprint away from SS

Three Deep – Rotate (“Cloud”)
The goal of this coverage is to take away the short passing game or protect against the wide side of the field when the offensive formation is strong into the boundary (short side). The PSR is based on the alignment of the SS and the C. The SS must be deeper than normal in order to cover the deep middle or deep outside (is aligned deeper than the adjacent C), the read is a rotate by SS; i.e., SS is covering the deep middle or outside. Also, in this coverage the C to the side of the rotation will be tight (up close) on the wide receiver as they have the flat. The secondary can disguise this by having both Cs up and on the snap the away (from the rotation) C back peddles to deep third [1/3] quickly (“bails”). However, we can determine the side of the rotation by the position of the Outside Linebacker (“OLB”). The OLB, whether W or S away from the rotation must be stacked or walked off as they have flat away from the rotation. You can confirm the 3D by the alignment of the FS. If the FS is off the hash and favoring the middle, assume 3D.

– Strengths

  1. Safe – always three deep
  2. force (to the rotation) against the run
  3. leverage by the C (shut down weak flat or out)
  4. can cover eight zones with a three man rush
  5. can still bring four with force and contain to the rotation, and have seven (7) in coverage
  6. easy to disguise (more…)

Banking 101 with Mike Leach

That’s just how the deal is.

H/t Double-T Nation.

Smart Notes 9/17/2009

Credit where it is due. Trojan Football Analysis shows that Ohio State’s defensive plan against USC was creative, as they came out in a completely different look than they normally do. Trojan offensive line coach Pat Ruel observed that, “Half [of OSU’s] line was playing a Bear front and half was playing an Under front and they were stopping our outside zone running plays.” Offensive linemen Jeff Byers added, “We spent all night trying to adjust to what they were doing up front. They did not come with the stuff we practiced against.” The fact that the offense, Tressel’s main focus, didn’t do the same still troubles me.


– Myles Brand, president of the NCAA, has passed away. There are many sports related obits (including this one from the NY Times), but don’t forget that Brand made serious contributions to his field as a philosophy professor, including “well-known work in metaphysics and epistemology, especially action theory, as a professor at places like Pittsburgh, Arizona, and Illinois/Chicago.”

Rethinking Fourth Downs. From Brian Burke:

Imagine that for decades no one ever thought of the punt. Teams knew nothing else than to run or pass on 4th down. And then one day it’s invented. Some guy comes up to a coach and says, “Kick the ball on every 4th down and the other team gets possession 37 yards further down the field.” The coach would think he was crazy: “Wait, you want me to give up one quarter of my opportunities for a first down on every series…just for 35 yards of field position? Do you realize how much that’s going to kill our chances of scoring?”

[T]hat coach would be absolutely right. . . . Every single serious study of 4th-down decisions has found that, in most situations, teams would be better off by going for the conversion attempt rather than kicking. . . .

. . . I also think it has something to do with what economists call Prospect Theory. In short, almost all people tend to fear losses far more than they value equivalent gains. In this perspective, a punt is considered the “break-even” decision. A failed conversion attempt is seen as a loss, and a successful attempt is seen as a gain. But the loss is feared disproportionately, and the result is clouded decision-making.

– Who does a good job in NFL free agency? Via Pro Football Reference Blog.

– Why are people successful? What motivates? Wilbon:

It’s now a rather famous anecdote in the life and times of Michael Jordan that he was cut from the varsity when he was in high school. You think that’s merely a footnote more than 30 years later? You think Jordan’s forgotten the details or is willing to let go? Guess whom Jordan invited to the Hall of Fame Friday night? Leroy Smith, the kid who took his spot on the high school team. Jordan said he’s still saying “to the coach who picked Leroy over me: ‘You made a mistake, dude.’ “

– A story about quasiparticles. From Gravity and Levity:

Imagine, if you will, that you are an alien from some advanced and distant civilization. You find yourself fascinated by humans, whom you observe from your own planet through an ultra-high-powered telescope. As individuals, you think you know what humans are like: at least you have a sense of their characteristic size and patterns of motion. But you are puzzled by the behavior of large groups of humans. You therefore decide to make a study entitled “the properties of large, densely-packed groups of humans”. You begin your study by turning the gaze of your telescope to the biggest, densest group of humans you can find: the crowd at a football stadium.

The collection of humans inside the football stadium seems at first to be an enormous, chaotic, impossibly-complex collection of individual movements. But after a long period of observation, you see something truly remarkable: the humans begin doing “the wave”. What a startling observation this would be! From 80,000 humans packed together and moving around in a hopelessly complicated mess arises something remarkably simple: a single wave, which moves around the stadium with its own characteristic size and speed. You complete your study by observing “the wave”, writing down laws that describe its size and speed, and trying to predict when and where it will occur in the future.

– “It’s the downside of celebrity without the upside of it.” College athletes under the (social networking) microscope.

– A history of violence. Urban Meyer and Kiffin the Elder have a good relationship. How will that manifest itself when the Son of Kiffin, with Dad in tow, faces the Gators?

– This is unfortunate. “Fatty acids derived from pork bone fat are used as a hardening agent in crayons and also gives them their distinctive smell.” Ugh.

A little late, but I love this. Old media covers from the WizOfOdds.

– Statistical sagas [edited]. The Doc wonders how Georgia beat South Carolina despite the stats; Blutarsky notes that he might not have been paying enough attention to the right ones, and Dawgsports notes that the problem might be in focusing too much on the box score.

A Rand row. Jonathan Chait vs. Will Wilkinson on Ayn Rand.