My breakdown of USC’s offense through Chow, Kiffin, Sarkisian, etc

My weekly bit is now up at Dr Saturday. Check it out there. And, after the jump, is a video clip I made of some quick game concepts USC used under Chow that got cut from the main article for space reasons.


Get fired up: Wide receiver video from Dub Maddox

Maddox is a coach at Jenks High School in Oklahoma.

A financial crisis bailout for Auburn football?

Auburn might be getting its own reality show, but it has much bigger problems. Colonial Bank, of which Bobby Lowder, Auburn trustee and booster, was CEO, failed, was taken over by the FDIC, and now is being sold by the FDIC to BB&T Bank. Lowder was no ordinary booster: He was the “most powerful booster” in America, and had effectively hired and fired every Auburn football coach (and University president!) since 1983. (As one minor example, Lowder used to use his private jet for recruiting trips.)

Bobby Lowder, Auburn booster

Bobby Lowder, Auburn booster

Indeed, all this was significant enough for the Wall Street Journal to ask the fairly difficult (and fairly silly) question: What Does Colonial Bank’s Failure Mean for Auburn Football? One answer, at least, appears to be a diminished role for Lowder, both in terms of hands-on involvement (probably good) and money (less so):

Lowder founded Colonial in 1981, building it up through 68 acquisitions in five states. For years, Colonial had a coveted franchise, one that attracted suitors, but Lowder repeatedly rebuffed overtures, pushing Colonial to keep growing. In 1983, Gov. George Wallace appointed Lowder to Auburn’s Board of Trustees. In that position, Lowder took particular interest in his alma mater’s football team. He used Colonial’s corporate jet to recruit for the Auburn’s football team, and he was behind the hiring and firing of every Auburn football coach, according to ESPN.

In fact, from those two posts, he was arguably the most powerful person in Alabama, ESPN writes.

That is no longer the case. Lowder was forced out of Colonial last month, and his rule at Auburn seems diminished. Writes Paul Davis of the Opelika-Auburn News:

“It is over. Bobby Lowder’s Colonial Bank is dead, along with his powerful control over Auburn University. That’s terrible news for the thousands of Colonial Bank employees but wonderful news for Auburn University.

“He had personally selected a majority of the board and almost brought the University down before he drove his bank out of business. The high-handed tactics at Auburn brought probation from the Southern Association of College and Schools for his micro-management of the University, for his shutting down academic programs and for stepping out of bounds in hiring and firing Auburn coaches.”

The WSJ even includes a cheeky chart showing Colonial bank’s assets as compared with Auburn’s record. Surprisingly there is a correlation, particularly in 1993 and 1994, when the Tigers finished 4th and 9th, respectively. (Though the numbers are odd, since Colonial’s assets exploded but then shrank rapidly, and didn’t really recover until the housing boom, and we know how that worked out.)

So what do you think? Is Colonial’s bad business bad for the taxpayer, but good for Auburn football? Did we collectively wrest control of the football program away from Lowder by helping shove him out?

Smart Notes 8/18/2009

The quadruple-option, now with video. I have updated my recent post on spread-option stuff to include video of the “quadruple option” I explained there — where the quarterback can hand it the runner inside, take it himself, or throw it to a receiver in the flat or downfield on a fade. People noted some understandable skepticism regarding whether linemen might get downfield. Remember, there is a two-yard cushion or safe harbor for them. Anyway, I found video of this concept from the Calgary from the CFL.

Canadian football is pretty wide open. But this is a good look at the concept, even if the QB does inexplicably pass up an inciredibly wide-open guy in the flat.


Fall from grace: the Charles Rogers story

Reporting by Jemele Hill, hat tip to TNC. Video after the jump.


Smart Football’s blogpoll entry

For the first time, I’m participating the BlogPoll. Below is my preseason Top 25. During the season, I should post this weekly. (Technically you’re supposed to post it by Monday for commentary and then revise it on Wednesday, but we’ll see. I am happy to hear all commentary about my selections thought.) Below is my preseason ballot:

Rank Team
1 Florida
2 Texas
3 Oklahoma
4 Southern Cal
5 Penn State
6 Ohio State
7 Alabama
8 Virginia Tech
10 Oregon
11 Mississippi
12 Oklahoma State
13 Georgia Tech
14 California
15 TCU
16 Boise State
17 Georgia
18 Utah
19 Nebraska
20 South Florida
21 Pittsburgh
22 Notre Dame
23 West Virginia
24 Texas Tech
25 Nevada

Now, some words on methodology: (more…)

NFL Coaches still fussing about the wildcat

ronniebrownJon Gruden will one day run the spread in the NFL. Either that, or he will die trying. People may not realize it, but Gruden coached the run and shoot under Walt Harris at Pacific, and gave some thought to committing to that offense full time. Instead he made a career choice to focus on the west coast offense. From that perspective (two NFL coaching gigs and a Super Bowl), it worked out. But he is not averse to being wide open, and he clearly is enamored with the wildcat and what the spread guys are doing in college. (Keep in mind that his brother Jay was an Arena league player and coach for a long time.) Gruden has spent the whole offseason focusing on the spread, including attending Urban Meyer’s coaching clinic at Florida this past spring (with Bill Belichick, who raved about Gruden’s clinic lecture). Anyway Gruden is back at it now that Vick has been signed:

Gruden is bullish on the limitless NFL possibilities of the spread offense and its baby brother, the Wildcat formation. It’s become all the rage in college football, and Gruden thinks the time is ripe to bring it in a big way to the pros. . . .

“I wanted to use it last year, but we had some injuries and shied away from it a little bit,” Gruden said. “But it’s been something I’ve been studying.

“When you pick up a college tape, 90 percent of those guys, you never see them under center. Ever. All you’re seeing is spread-read options. There are guys like Tim Tebow, who is going to be coming out next year, somebody is going to take him, and somebody is going to have a plan for him. Vince Young has struggled the last couple of years. But he was wicked in that Rose Bowl game against USC. He ran for 200 and threw for 200.

“Then there’s Vick. He’s certainly a candidate to run the spread. Everybody’s got a guy [who can run it]. Brad Smith with the Jets. Michael Robinson in San Francisco. Isaiah Stanback in Dallas. Everybody’s got a guy that can throw a little bit. I think there’s a wave coming.”

I’m inclined to agree.


The zone-read, gun triple-option . . . and the quadruple-option?

White_readerIt wasn’t long after the zone-read was invented that coaches began dabbling in ways to turn the play into a “triple option” — i.e. with a third possible ballcarrier based on a second quarterback read. Both Rich Rodriguez and Randy Walker started doing it early on, and by the time Urban Meyer was running his spread at Utah, the idea of having a “pitch back” or “pitch phase” for the quarterback if he pulled the ball after reading the defensive end was here to stay.

Now, this enhanced spread run game should not be confused with the true triple-option stuff, as veer offenses, like Paul Johnson’s flexbone, have certain blocking scheme advantages in that the guys being “optioned” are specifically avoided so as to enable double-team blocks on other defenders — an advantage not present with the zone-read. (This is one reason why many spread teams, including Urban Meyers’s and Rich Rodriguez’s, run the veer nowadays.) But there is no question that, as the spread has gotten older and more entrenched, the cat-and-mouse game between offense and defense has also evolved.

The current evolution has us with the zone-read-triple with a pitch back, and its more nascent cousin, the zone-read triple with a bubble screen. But some coaches are working on even more exotic spread permutations, including what can only be described as the “quadruple option.”


Smart Links and Notes 8/17/2009

Robert Marve showcases the talent that made him, uh, highly sought after. He might not be as “traditionally” accurate as former Boilermaker Drew Brees, but Marve is making good use of his year-in-wait at Purdue. Ht (Rivals).

– Trojan Football Analysis shows, not tells, you how to run the Airraid. I’ve discussed the Airraid offense quite a bit, but TFA delivers the goods with video clips of all of Mike Leach’s favorite concepts. An example is below:


It’s here:! Tell your friends

The transition, far too long in the works, is now complete. I will now be posting exclusively here at, as I had outgrown the old blogspot location. So update your bookmarks, links, and feeds. To immediately quell any fears, the blogspot site will remain open in perpetuity, as porting over all the archives was too hard and I also had no desire to shut any of that stuff down. Moreover, if you want to refresh your memory of some of the old site’s greatest hits (and keep up with what I’m writing elsewhere around the web or in print media), check out the Featured Articles page above.

Other than the new location and fancier digs, everything else should remain pretty much the same. I’ve flirted a bit with becoming a blogger for someone else’s platform, but for now I think it’s best to stay independent and just try to improve this site’s quality and visibility even more. I’m not quite yet, but the site’s readership has grown with an increase in my posting. In July 2007, we had a mere 10,000 hits; in July 2008, 20,000; and last month, July 2009, we had 170,000, and eight-fold increase over the prior year. I’m convinced that number can double at least another time.  I should have plenty of time to update frequently, at least until November, when my real job will pick up speed. But overall, it should be more of the same.

Of course, I’ve been writing a bit for Dr Saturday every Thursday, which will continue, and I hope to increase my reach elsewhere in the web as well. Moreover, I want to regularize a few features here, including possibly a detailed breakdown every Tuesday here, similar to what I’ve been doing for Doc Sat.

Lastly, I just want to thank all the readers here for your support and interest. I’m always amazed at how knowledgeable the commenters and emailers are, be it statistics, football history, or schemes and strategies. I’m convinced the Smart Football community is the smartest one on the ‘net, and that has very little to do with me. Stay tuned for plenty of content this week, and feel free to let me know what you think of the new design, and any suggestions.