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June 29, 2009

Defending Tech's Option

TheBirdDog is a Navy football blog that understands and follows Triple Option football as good or better than anyone.  This week, he did a write up of last year's UGA vs. GT game.  It's sort of an autopsy of what went wrong, and it looks at how difficult Johnson's triple option is to defend.

He starts by pointing out that the Triple Option as run by Paul Johnson isn't the Wishbone of the '70s and '80s, and that's relevant because he believes that Willie Martinez used some old Dave Wannstedt concepts for defending OU's option.  Wannstedt was the Miami defensive coordinator when the Canes beat Nebraska and Miami by a combined score of 71-33 from 1986-1988.  Martinez was a defensive graduate assistant on the '86 Miami team working for Wannstedt.

Wannstedt's Pitt team lost to Paul Johnson's Navy in 2007 by a score of 48-45.  In other words, the writer's point that defending Johnson's option is different than defending the Bone is a valid point.  Although, I don't think we were using the entire Wannstedt script verbatim.

The link above includes some play by play videos with diagrams that show what went wrong or right for UGA.  It also shows opportunities for Tech to improve in running their offense next year.  After reviewing his videos and reading his article, I still come up with the same opinion.  Willie's strategy wasn't fundamentally flawed to some unworkable level like many Dawg fans think.  Was it without blemish? Obviously not.

But, watch those videos and focus on our safeties instead of the ball carrier.  What you'll see is epic fail.  You'll see our safeties running into blocks aimed at other defenders.  You'll see shoulder brushing nudges instead of tackles.  Long runs followed by horse collar tackles resulting in add-on 15 yard penalities.  When Willie benched one of the starting safeties for Bryan Evans, Evans performed ok.  But we didn't have the healthy depth at safety to bench the other starter.

You're going to have a tough time convincing me that the same DB coach that instructed Jermaine Phillips, Terrell Bierra, Sean Jones, Thomas Davis and Greg Blue suddenly forgot how to coach safeties.  At some point, the player simply has to want to deliver.

And in their defense, you don't get better at tackling by not practicing tackling for 2 months.  If Richt is really committed to tackling to the ground this season instead of going "thud" all year, we should look more competent defending the option.  With healthy young players providing some depth at Safety, we can also pull our starters before they are in total meltdown mode. 

Will we defend the option like LSU did with a month to prepare?  I doubt it.  But we can look better.

Tech will improve offensively as well.  But our team's tackling was so bad from mid-season to Thanksgiving that the opportunity for improvement defending the run in any form is extremely high.

PWD

(ht - Nathan)





32 comments:

PTC DAWG said...

"At some point, the player has to simply want to deliver".

WELL SAID...

AuditDawg said...

I've been making this same argument for those Braves fans that want to fire Terry Pendleton for the anemic offense. I thought the comments by people like Reshad Jones and Rennie Curran last year hit the nail on the head when they were supporting their coach. Their basic premise was that Coach Martinez can't make tackles for them, he can't shed blocks for them, and he can't make the right reads for them. At some point they have to step up to the plate and deliver.

Dawg93 said...

Great post, Paul, completely agree with all of that.

Anonymous said...

Audit - your point is well noted, however, if a coach can't recognize the players that can/want "to step up and deliver", then we still have a coaching problem.

It's not all low-hanging fruit, so someone has to shake the tree to get it to fall. That someone is Martinez and, ergo, Richt in the form of firing Martinez if we can't change the results this year. Martinez's job literally depends on the Tech game this season. Just my opinion.

Dante said...

I don't know. Losing games you have no business losing sounds like "the entire Wannstedt script" to me.

PTC DAWG said...

I don't think any ONE game has a Coach's job riding on it...maybe that's just me, but I don't see UGA going 1-11 and beating GT and everything being fine in Athens. :)

the tri guy said...

Yeah, looking at that make me want to puke. I think that Les Mile's version of how to defend the option is most effective.

Historically, people have said that you defend the dive first, the QB second, and the pitch last.

I remember Miles saying that you beat the option by stopping the dive first, taking away the pitch, and killing the QB the entire game each time he is forced to turn it up. It's more of a Jimmy-n-Joes approach than X's and O's, but I think it's the most practical.

Ball-U-Dawg Triangle said...

Interesting note by the author of the article in the "Comments" section. It suggests an argument UGA fans have been making regarding the effectiveness of this offense over time:

"Martinez won’t need to see this site. He won’t do the same thing next year. That sort of alludes to a point I made in my last post about the effect of defensive coordinators getting familiar with the offense… Even if there’s no “right” way to defend this offense, there are a lot of wrong ways. The more you see it, the more you learn what the wrong ways are, and avoid them."

Anonymous said...

Exactly Tri,
Knock the snot out of the QB. When he runs, he's fair game. Let the other 10 guys worry about the ball. After 2 or 3 big hits, the option for some reason doesn't seem to work as well. And wrap up the tackle.

j.leonardjr said...

I found this part quite interesting, "The other thing Johnson achieved from the twins formation was a bit of sleight of hand. The cornerback followed the WR to the other side of the field to cover him. But the inside receiver in the formation was ineligible! Both receivers are on the line of scrimmage; only the one on the outside is eligible. The defense had a CB covering someone who wasn’t even allowed to catch a forward pass. In essence, the formation took a defender out of the play without even having to block him. Martinez never adjusted."

Hopefully the coaching staff will at least notice this ploy next time. I have no clue how many times they actually used this formation but nice job by Johnson to makes us waste a defender.

DaryllG said...

"You're going to have a tough time convincing me that the same DB coach that instructed Jermaine Phillips, Terrell Bierra, Sean Jones, Thomas Davis and Greg Blue suddenly forgot how to coach safeties. At some point, the player simply has to want to deliver."

I see your point, but what also must be noted is that this same coach you're defending has now had several years of consistent decline in the production from the very line he coaches. And we're not just referring to one or two players either; its coming from all of his players. Obviously there is a lack of coaching fundamentals. At some point the coach has to be held responsible for the continued decline in production. We lose again this year, and i don't see how he stays in Athens.

Hobnail_Boot said...

re: Missed tackles, etc.

It happened against UK and Auburn too. The D was flat worn out and under-prepared for the home stretch of the season.

Point being, Tech caught us at the best possible time. Yet they only beat us by 3.

goalinestalker said...

Stafford's pick 6...Fumble on 2nd half kickoff...D was out there way to long in the second half...Honestly our safeties tanked it against LSU they should never scored 38pts on us. Piss poor tackling! Go back and watch Thomas Davis...Sean Jones...Blue etc.. we had some guyz who would flat out put the hat on you! I am convinced however you make your own luck! David Pollack endzone pick against SC...Greene in Auburn...Sean Jones scoop and score in Knoxville...I believe this version of UGA will no doubt
be defined by week 3...If we handle our business in Stillwater we win 10 if not 7 wins at best

Normaltown Mike said...

I'm of the "Johnny & Joe's" camp. It's been said many times but its worth repeating: Our 2 starting safeties were the top rated safeties in the state in the given year they came out. We know recruiting is an inexact science. This has become a particularly obvious "miss". We've gotten lucky with 2/3 stars and we've gotten little production out of the 4/5 Stars before. It happens.

For those who think CWM "won't make adjustments", watch the Bama game and you'll see a dramatic change in the agressiveness of our D fense once CWM realized our front 4 was gettin dominated.

Ask yoself this: If the defensive personnel from any team b/w 2000-2005 was playing Tech last season, would the outcome change? I think the answer is easily yes.

Anonymous said...

Guys ... we had one tackle for a loss in this game. 1! The game was not won or lost by the safeties -- it was lost by our inability to disrupt their running game. GT executed their game plan with minimal disruption by the DL or linebackers.

goalinestalker said...

First play of the second half is a perfect example of poor pursuit angle's by our safety...trust me I am a firm believer you win or lose games at the line of scrimmage however we were playing like we had never seen a toss sweep! Watch LSU in the there bowl game they were hitting tech right in the mouth on every play! We just bitched out in the second half bottom line! See first half Alabama last year or our last visit to Knoxville. I can't explain it we just layed an egg! Go figure?

Mike In Valdosta said...

This year's shirts need to say "Finish the Drill. WRAP UP!"

Quinton McDawg said...

Anon 4:44-
Our D-line was holding up just fine against Tech. They dominated the first half and the Bird Dog post pointed out that it didn't want to embarrass a GT lineman for the horrible day he had. "Tech was getting dominated at the line of scrimmage." I only remember one big play up the gut. Everything else was outside, where the safeties and OLBs have to play their assignments.

Anonymous said...

I just dont get the company line of not tackling to the ground. Did Reshad Jones suddenly forget to tackle because we quit tackling to the ground in practice. Heck, I am 45 years old and I only played HS football and I don't need to practice to know better than to try and BUMP somebody out of bounds with my shoulder.
In other words, I don't buy the line we didn't practice tackling to the ground as an excuse. Our players should not forget how to tackle.

Dawg19 said...

I agree with Anon 6:31.

I never played above high school, either. But I was taught in mighty mite football in the 70's to put your shoulder in to a ball carrier's midsection and wrap up his legs. I don't know anybody who can run with his leg's immobilized.

BIG ALBANY DAWG said...

Amen brother. Right on point.

Scott said...

Why Willie Martinez, who is also the DB coach, is still with this team is a testament to the Harry S Truman quote, "if you want a friend, buy a dog!" I would rather have Mark Richt grow a pair and dump Martinez for a dog, cat, or anyone that can coach defense!!

sUGArdaddy said...

You don't forget how to tackle if you don't practice it, but you sure don't get better at it. You do lose that aggression that comes with practicing tackling. It's just part of the game. We lost that edge.

It was just one of those deals. Everyone (coaches and players) have to get better. I believe they can. I believe we will. Coach Martinez also coached that band of crazy men that tormented the likes of Tebow, Cox, & Brennan to finish off 2007. He hasn't forgotten how to coach. I think we got lazy in 2008 in a lot of ways. Let's hope we learned our lesson.

Go Dawgs!

Jamelyn said...

Everyone really have to get better both the coaches and the player.
Without the one the other is weak .
Its always a team work

Dante said...

As far as Georgia playing poorly on the edges, you can't blame practice in the 2008 season unless our 2008 defense magically transported themselves to Neyland Stadium for the 2007 Georgia vs. Tennessee game. Same thing. Everyone behind the d-line learned to keep their lane by watching film of Florida drivers. We could've had 0 tackles for a loss and still won the Tech game if the safeties didn't have to run across half the field to tackle a guy who had a 50/50 shot at ending up with the ball.

I'm also in the camp of knock the everliving snot out of the QB each and every time you can legally do so. I'll gladly gamble that he can't handle that for too long.

dawgnotdog said...

I sat in the stands and screamed about us covering an ineligible receiver that entire day.

That did it for me.

Martinez must show tremendous improvement this season or be gone.

baltimore dawg said...

as i've said before, i'm a lot less worried about a game in isolation (even this one) than i am about what appear to me to be obvious trendlines that emerged against wvu in the sugar bowl (or even against auburn that year).

i think that there are a lot of reasonable arguments in defense of wm's tenure, no doubt. but i can't escape the conclusion that he's an utter mediocrity and that we're just kind of stuck with him.

Melinda said...

I think it's one thing for the coordinators to understand what scheme to use to stop the flexbone, but it is another thing altogether to get the players to execute. They are being asked to play assignment football and be very, very patient... when the rest of the teams they face, they will be playing fast, fly-to-the-ball, athletic defense.

Georgia made a lot of mistakes in that game, but per the film, so did Tech... quite a number of missed blocks, moderate gains, that had the right player been blocked, would have gone or much longer gains.

It's going to be a tough game, while Georgia can make adjustments in defending it, I don't see Tech just throwing up their hands and not making their own adjustments. I think Birddog pointed out some pretty good countermoves by Johnson in that game. Rutgers played Navy every season and still lost to them last year. Air Force and Army, who have the most want-to to beat them and by all rights probably spend most of their spring and summer practicing specifically against Navy's O, haven't won one in the last 6 years.

We can all discuss it six ways to Sunday, BUT it does all come down to execution on gameday.

Farsider said...

Like in most offenses, it's so much about line play. LSU demolished Tech at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, which is reflected in the score. I agree that hitting the QB hard, legally and often is part of the option defense playbook. But it appeared to me that Nesbitt usually shied away from contact anyway. Looked like LSU strategy was to stop the fullback dive and the wide pitch man. Worked like a charm. Tackling killed Dawgs last year as much or more than CPJ adjustments.

Anonymous said...

How can a college coach continue to cover an ineligible reciever for an entire game and get to, not only keep his job, but get a pay raise?

The ACC and SEC Blog said...

That was a good read. I think it comes down more to Jimmys and Joes than Xs and Os when defending a spread option attack. Tacckling is big, but dominating the LOS is even bigger, especially with big fast DTs like LSU had.

If Willie Martinez has another poor year and he is retained again, does that up the heat on Richt at all?

Gen. Stoopnagle said...

Paul, thank you for the link and your comments. I think you're bringing some sanity to the Willie Martinez "issue."

I'll have to agree, however, that the defense will need to produce this year in a big way. Barring short fields after TOs by our O, there can be no excuses on D in '09. Otherwise, I just don't see how Richt can keep WM on staff.

@tri guy: LSU can Jimmy-n-Joe with almost anyone - especially Tech - and given our recruiting ratings the last 5 years, I'd think we could do the same. But we have to keep DLs in school to make it work.

ACC/SEC Blog: Yes. That and 2-6 in Jax and 5 years since an SECCG appearance/win. You can't stand still in this league or you're finished. Ask Tubs and Fulmer.

 
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