Dumbest thing I read today

From an “SEC assistant” via Tom Dienhart about Alabama’s “unsound” secondary (h/t Orson):

SECONDARY: Their weakness might be their secondary. They lost some guys who were chemistry guys in the back end. Schematically, they do a lot of different things. They do some things I couldn’t get away with because I don’t have some of the players who can just make plays. They do some things like Florida where you go, ‘Holy cow, that’s not very sound.’ But it ends up in a 2-yard loss.

Setting aside the fact that a large portion of this is meaningless, the takeaway point appears to be that the scheme is unsound and/or undisciplined but Saban just “has the players” to make it work. Uh, what? (Let’s leave aside the Lane Kiffin inflammatory analysis of the SEC Championship game that Florida has better players while Alabama has better coaches.) I simply do not agree. I’ve seen Alabama play a lot, and “unsound” is not the word I’d use. Aggressive? Sure. Do they play a lot of man coverage, which takes talent to be able to use? Yes. But unsound implies that they just make things up. I don’t know who the SEC assistant is, or if it got lost in translation to Dienhart, or what, but this just strikes me as an unbelievable form of analysis.

But, if you don’t believe me, you be the judge. The film isn’t from this year, but if they’re unsound, what should it matter? (H/t Brophy for the clips.)

  • ben

    haven’t you made basically the same point about oklahoma?
    “Indeed, Stoops is willing to go completely unsound in his zone-blitzes; in the National Championship game against Florida, one of Tebow’s interceptions came on a play where the Sooners blitzed six guys and played an inadequate zone coverage. While there are holes in the zone, Stoops figures that it is not easy for the quarterback to identify these while multiple defenders are breathing down his neck — the chalkboard is one thing but the game is another. Thus the onus would be on Hall — and BYU’s line and runningbacks — to protect long enough to find the open receivers.”

  • That’s totally different than what this assistant said. He said their secondary was a weakness because they were unsound in the sense that the athleticism takes over. Plus, I’ve seen Stoops do that — and he did that vs. Florida and hoped for confusion — but not so much Saban. And, finally, it’s really hard to make heads or tails of the quote, but what I was referring to that Stoops did was to zone blitz and then just sort of hang a few guys back and hope the QB didn’t find the holes. Saban puts a bigger premium on yes, mixing up the pressures, but also staying disciplined in the pattern reads, distribution of defenders in relation to the receivers, etc.

  • DrB

    I thought the same thing when I read this part of the article yesterday. “Unsound” is definitely not a word used to describe a Saban secondary.

  • ben

    eh, i think you’re taking the quote a little too literally. you may be right that schematically bama just doesn’t do too much of this stuff, but that quote isn’t nonsensical

  • Will

    2 thoughts:

    1) Depending on how you look at it, a lot of zone blitzes can be seen as “unsound” – the typical 3 deep 3 under fire zone blitz looks very vulnerable to 4 verts on paper, but the technique of pattern reading and the athleticism of the defenders makes the defense work. Likewise, when teams blitz from a standard cover 3 shell and simply abandon one underneath zone, that is also unsound in a sense but it puts the onus on the QB to find the open zone, which he can’t always do before the free rusher gets to him. I think this is what Chris was talking about in the post on Stoops. What is or isn’t unsound can be a matter of opinion and terminology, especially in regard to zone blitzes.

    2) I have noticed a lot of college teams this year failing to “cover down” on all receivers, especially against trips, and I’ve been surprised at how relatively few times offenses have used the hot throw or bubble screen to combat this. To me, failing to cover down and aligning outflanked by 1+ man are the prime examples of unsound defense, but in both cases a superior athlete can still make it work. (I’ve heard that when playing option defense in high school, Bo Jackson was assigned to both QB and pitch. Some athletes can make “unsound” strategies work.) Maybe defenses are starting to align based on their top athletes rather than strict numbers? This may be what the unnamed assistant was trying to say and failing to make clear.

  • Sam

    To a lot of guys — and i am guessing the unnamed assistant is not at Alabama or Florida — “sound” defense means covering all your bases; even with great athletes, every scheme, coverage or stunt has a weakness than can be exploited. However, when you have great athletes, covering all your bases means something different than it does when you don’t have the personnel. That’s what Stoops was counting on in the cited example, and Saban is more calculating than Stoops.

  • js

    1. The coach in that article sounds so bitter I take that whole thing with a grain of salt.
    2. After reading that again, I think he might just be meaning the difference between last year’s Rashad Johnson and this years Mark Barron. Johnson sees the field like a coach, always in the right spot, while Barron might be the best pure athlete on the whole Alabama team and gets away with being in poor position.

  • TR

    As a logical matter, examples of sound defense are no answer to a guy who says that the defense is sometimes unsound. All you really said is “do you really think Saban plays unsound?,” which is just an appeal to authority. And then you showed some film.

    I think it would have been just as good to say that if Saban is unsound, maybe somebody in the SEC would have figured out how to exploit it by now. Or, perhaps, the definition of unsound changes when your guys are just that good. Any coverage that depends on me executing, for example, would be unsound.

  • Wide Tackle Six

    Bama will stop the run. Can Florida successfully throw when they need to against tight gambling press coverage?

    MeElroys first read should be Julio Jones, his second read be Julio Jones and his third read should be Julio Jones.


  • stan

    The whole idea of “unsound” is dumb. Can I play cover 3 and rush 6 and be “sound”? Sure, if I understand the risks and play it because of my scouting and an intelligent cost/benefit calculus [e.g. it’s 3d and 18, the FB is really slow, the TB has bad hands, the QB doesn’t throw hot, they can’t protect against 4 rushers weak and I know what patterns they like to throw on 3d and very long]. A coach on the outside simply cannot make an intelligent judgment about soundness by looking at tape.

  • OldSouth

    Much ado about the ambiguous word “unsound?”

    Just take its most probable, plain interpretation, which is what Chris did, and lay off the formalistic, masturbatory logicisianship

  • Jeremy

    I’m still trying to figure out what “chemistry guys” are. Was that their major or something?

    I truly believe that sportswriters have somehow all become dumber in the past week…

  • Cowboy Fan

    Can you write up the Oregon zone read? Saw them for the first time since last year’s Holiday Bowl, and they seem to be running it differently (especially with the pitch option) than OSU did then, or at least more effectively.

  • gee….I can’t get over all the fundamentally ‘unsound’ DB play by Alabama in this game…..

    what a f***ing joke of a writer this guy is.