Smart Links – Georgia’s Pass Protection, Super Quarterbacks, Macho Camacho, Under Defense – 12/5/2012

Why did Georgia lose to Alabama? What if I (or, more precisely, Coach Hoover) told you it was poor runningback pass protection fundamentals.

Johnny Football and the era of Super Quarterbacks, with some quotes from your humble editor.

Under defense from Pete Jenkins.

– Brady Hoke has sought to bring “Manball” (not his phrase) to Michigan. This is not Manball.

Taxpayer spending on stadiums.

Mustache transplants. Don’t tell Purdue.

Macho Camacho’s wake sounded… interesting: “‘I am the actual girlfriend of Macho, and those who don’t like it better not bring it,’ Cynthia Castillo, who claimed to be Camacho’s girlfriend at the time of his death, told ESPN Deportes.”

Trampoline to work.

Good photos of 2012.

Should Georgia Have Spiked the Ball?

The best game of the season — and one of the best conference championship games I’ve ever seen — came down to one final bizarre play: Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray scrambled his team to the line at the eight yard line, dropped back, and threw a fade route to receiver Malcolm Mitchell. The ball, however, was tipped at the line by Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, and it fluttered and landed in the hands of Chris Conley a few yards short of the end zone. Conley instinctively caught the ball, was tackled, and the game clock expired.

Tough call

Obviously, that’s not how Georgia drew it up. And, immediately, led by Gary Danielson, the chorus began: Georgia should have spiked the ball instead of running a play. But I’m not so sure. I think spiking it would have been fine and maybe even advisable, but what I don’t think a spike would have been is necessarily outcome determinative. Richt and his staff had a reason for not spiking the ball, and having the ball tipped and then caught by some other receiver very easily could have happened after a spike as well. Per Blutarsky:

To Spike or Not to Spike. That is the question.  Actually, I’m not sure why spiking is such a slam dunk decision in minds of many people today.  If you read Weiszer’s post on the play, you get a valid rationale for what they called…

“We were moving the ball effectively. By the time we got down to the red zone we didn’t really want to spike the ball. We wanted to keep the personnel they had in the game. We decided to hurry up and get to the line and get another play off. There was a little bit of confusion.”

… and you get an explanation for why it didn’t work out.

Mark Richt on spiking the ball: “Well, spiking the ball takes time. We had plenty of time to call play, so we called the play and we were taking ‑‑ the goal was to take a shot at their back right end of the end zone and the ball got batted, the ball got tipped and it landed to a receiver that was running a speed out.”

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Most Popular Books Bought by Smart Football Readers in 2012

I’ve included here a breakdown of the books purchased over the last year by Smart Football readers. I get very minor referral revenues from Amazon purchases and, as a result, I am able to track which books are purchased by readers. The data is entirely anonymous but it provides, in aggregate, some interesting information.

The Most Popular Books Bought by Smart Football Readers in 2012

And below is the same chart, but excluding my book, The Essential Smart Football (which you can read more about here):

Below is the full list. Note that I simply included the top books and did not include a separate “other” category.

New Grantland: How Stanford Shut Down Oregon

It’s now up:

But head coach David Shaw and defensive coordinator Derek Mason also had some wrinkles up their sleeves, specifically old-school principles that defenses have used for decades to stop option teams. Oregon is not a true “triple option” team, but their fast-break style of offense forces defenses, just like those option teams do, to account for every offensive player. This made Stanford’s impressive performance remind me of some old quotes from Iowa’s great (former) defensive coordinator Norm Parker when his team faced a true triple-option team, Georgia Tech, in the 2010 Orange Bowl. In that game, which Iowa won 24-14, Parker’s defense held the Yellow Jackets to 155 yards of offense — just under 300 yards less than their season average — and one touchdown.

Parker explained that it’s not about inventing some new defensive scheme, but about being schematically sound: “You only have 11 guys out there. When they are balanced, you have to play five and a half guys on one side and five and a half guys on the other side.” If the offense is unbalanced, with additional blockers or receivers to one side or the other, the defense must “match” them and not allow the Ducks to get extra numbers or leverage. “You have to change up how you are covering it,” Parker explained. Being sound is the most important thing. “What they are looking for is for you to make a mistake.”

Read the whole thing.

Stanford Coach David Shaw on Oregon’s Offense

My affinities are well known, but I think all offenses should strive for this description:

“The thing is, it’s not complicated,” [Stanford head coach David] Shaw said of the Ducks’ offensive scheme. “It’s just complicated during the game. The adjustments they make are so subtle that you don’t realize it until they’ve scored three touchdowns on you. You change to try to cover what they’re doing, and they make another change.

“They spend a lot of time looking at you. They run simple plays and however you’re stopping their simple plays, Chip takes advantage of what you’re doing, which is the brilliance of the simplicity.”

New Grantland: The New Old School: The Success of Chip Kelly’s Oregon Offense

It’s now up at Grantland, and I can safely say it’s the most definitive piece on Chip Kelly’s offense I’ve written:

Kelly’s anecdote about his old high school team suggests another possibility. Chip Kelly’s offense works not because it’s a gimmick, but because rather than choose sides between old and new, Kelly’s teams straddle history. Oregon is successful because it does well what good teams have always done well, albeit with a slightly more modern wardrobe.

“We spread the defense so they will declare their defensive look for the offensive linemen,” Kelly explained at that same clinic. “The more offensive personnel we put in the box, the more defenders the defense will put in there, and it becomes a cluttered mess.” Twenty years ago, Kelly’s high school coach ran the unbalanced, two–tight end power-I, so he could execute old-school, fundamental football and run the ball down his opponent’s throat. Today, Kelly spreads the defense and operates out of an up-tempo no-huddle so he can do the exact same thing.

[…]

Time will undoubtedly tell whether Kelly’s offense can work in the NFL, but my vote is that it will. It would require Kelly finding the right players, but a Chip Kelly–coached NFL team would win for the same reasons that the Chip Kelly–coached college team wins. Behind the speed, the spread, the Daft Punk helmets, and the flashy uniforms, Oregon ultimately wins with old-fashioned, fundamental, run-it-up-the-gut football. I think everyone, even fans of the spread offense, can appreciate that.

Read the whole thing. In addition, I’ve got some additional stuff I left on the cutting room floor that I hope to put on the site in the coming days.

Nick Saban on Texas A&M and Kevin Sumlin’s “Freeze” Play

Gotcha that time, didn’t I?

But Saban isn’t content to merely have his most productive defender on Johnny Football duty. Thursday night, he pulled a page from Texas A&M’s playbook and tried to recruit a 12th Man to help eliminate one of Sumlin’s most effective schemes. “There is one aspect of this game that nobody has said anything about,” Saban said. “These guys have a hard count, and they’ve gotten the other team to jump offsides an average of at least four times a game. One time at Houston, they had [an opponent] jump offsides 11 times in a game. Now, they don’t just get you to jump offsides. When you jump offsides, they do what Sam Wyche used to do at Cincinnati. Everybody runs a takeoff. So they throw the flag. The defense is offsides. The defensive players stop. Everybody takes off. Free play. And they throw it up. Three or four times a game. … These guys have to communicate some kind of way. They can use hand signals. We can make it difficult for them. Those kind of things affect them as well create a lot of passion and enthusiasm for our players with the kind of atmosphere we create in that stadium Saturday. I’m telling you, this is the most important one of the year from that standpoint.”

That’s from an excellent piece on this weekend’s matchup between Alabama and Texas A&M, from Andy Staples. Make sure to read the whole thing. Also, how do we think Saban knows about the game when Sumlin and Kingsbury were at Houston? Was that part of their game prep?

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Oklahoma’s Fake-Screen-and-Post and Other “Pop” Screen Passes

Oklahoma didn’t have a great showing versus Notre Dame, but they did show one cool play: a fake screen and downfield pass, complete with pulling lineman in the fourth quarter, which directly led to an Oklahoma score that tied the game up at 13-13 (after which the wheels promptly fell off for OU).

On the play, Oklahoma lined up in a four wide set, and sent the runningback in motion to the left, to draw attention from the defense. You can see Manti T’eo heading that way just after the snap. The outside receiver to the right runs his screen path: two steps up, retrace your steps down the stem and back to the quarterback. Meanwhile the right guard also does his screen action: pass set and then release flat down the line of scrimmage. The rest of the linemen, however, pass protect (Notre Dame did not show a blitz, and if they did it would have made some sense for OU to check out of the play), and the other three receivers release downfield.

The outside receiver to the screen side, Jalen Saunders, releases outside as if he is blocking the screen, then runs straight downfield. Once he hits a depth of 8-12 yards he can adjust his route. If the defense is totally faked out with no safety in the picture, he’d just continue down the seam. As it was, the safety was still over the top, so he flattened his route into more of a post or dig, and caught the ball behind the fooled linebackers for a big catch and run. (Go to 1:44:10 if it doesn’t load there automatically.)

This is not the first time I’ve seen this specific play, nor this breed of fake-screen combined with a downfield route. I saw Houston, under Kevin Sumlin back in 2009, run this exact play. In that play, the defense was so fooled the receiver simply kept his route vertical for a touchdown, whereas Saunders flattened it under the safety in this example.

screen

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New Grantland: AJ to T.J.: Breaking Down Alabama’s Game-Winning Play

It’s now up at Grantland:

On second-and-10 with just under a minute remaining, LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis called what looked like an all-out blitz. McCarron had just completed several passes to the trusty Kevin Norwood, and Alabama was in range for a long, game-tying field goal. In calling an all-out blitz, Chavis seemed to be falling into the trap legendary coach Bill Walsh noted when an offense gets into the scoring zone:

The defensive coach is trembling because the head Coach is walking toward him. The head coach says, ‘Blitz, stop them now. Blitz, they are killing us.” … Most people get desperate, some people panic. Teams go to a man to man coverage, teams will blitz…. You show your team what you think is best in this situation. We will use the same ones all year, but we are going to practice them… Now when your team comes out of the huddle on the 18 yard line, the guys are saying, “Look out for the blitz, here’s our chance to score.”

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Cincinnati’s Post-Handoff Jump Pass

While Tim Tebow may have been the guy who made famous the so-called “jump pass”: where a run-threat player runs towards the line on a run-action before raising up and tossing the ball to a (hopefully) wide open receiver. It’s an extreme form of a play-action “pop” pass over the middle, and with guys like Tebow in charge it had a single-wing twist.

And so the play has existed, largely as a novelty, for the past few years. Until this past weekend. Cincinnati ran the coolest spin on the jump pass that I’ve seen: they lined up in a tight I-formation, handed the ball to the deep I-back, who then threw the jump pass. And watch the tight-end: he kicks out the end man on the line of scrimmage before releasing — no, free releasing — to the middle of the field where he was wide open.

And watch the right guard, as Cincinnati really sells the play-action by pulling a lineman to fake the “Power-O” play.

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