This kid ain't the real problem (Image: Hipple)
Football isn't a game of yardage. It's a game of field position. That's why hidden yardage (non-offensive and defensive stats are so critical). Field position is also driven by those less obvious / hidden stats such penalty yards per game, punt/kickoff returns and coverage and turnovers allowed and created.
The Bulldogs have enormous opportunities for improvement in all of those areas. Over the next week or two, we'll look at some of the stats behind those areas. But first let's start with Kickoff Coverage.
Yesterday, Rex Robinson, former All-American kicker for UGA's national title team in 1980, explained how the NCAA has legislated touch backs nearly into extinction. He also talks about Georgia's directional kick strategy and compares it to a golf swing. Go read it and then come back.
Rex also talked about NCAA changes over the years such as moving the kickoff back from the 40 to the 35 and now the 30 yard line while shrinking the kickoff tee from 2 inches to 1 inch. He explains that what is being asked of our kickers in the directional kick strategy just doesn't work.
Here's more math / geometry / facts for you to add to his points.
- 75 yards is a Long Ass Way -- FG kickers are considered exceptional if he can nail a 50 yard kick through an 6 yard wide goal about 60 percent of the time. The corner of goal line is 75 yards from the center of the field at the 30 yard line, and our kickers are being asked to kick the ball into an area not dramatically wider than the goal post. While also being asked to kick it higher than a FG attempt AND being asked for the ball to not bounce out of bounds.
- The Best Aren't that Good - The Gamecocks landed an SEC best 25 touch backs last year which was 41 percent of their attempts. The third best percentage of touch backs was only 14 percent from Vanderbilt. That's a staggering drop off. Most of the SEC was in the 5-10 percent range. As Rex pointed out, the incoming JUCO kicker / hopeful kickoff savior only got 38 percent of his kicks as touch backs.
- Sidelines are Fickle - As Rex points out in the comments section of his post, the ball has a tendency to go out of bounds when it's kicked near the sideline. It's no different than throwing a fade pass or deep ball along the sideline.
The other team will attempt a kickoff return 60 percent of the time even if your guy has an ENORMOUS leg. If his leg is merely mortal, it's coming out 85 percent of the time or more. To me that means...
It's not a KICKER issue.
It's a COVERAGE issue.
It's a COVERAGE issue.
Which brings me back to my age old issue with this coaching staff. If you know the ball is going to be returned...and by strategy we're only kicking the ball to the 5-10 yard line each attempt...then put faster guys on the field to cover the darn kick.
It doesn't take a physics major to know that back-up fullbacks, long snappers, and walk-on safeties aren't as fast as Brandon James or Trindon Holliday. And third team QBs, while fast, aren't ideally suited for violent collisions, either.
Last year, Georgia finished 11th in the SEC in Net Kickoff Coverage at 40.3 yards. That means our opponents started post-kickoff (not including penalties on either squad) at the 29.7 yard line. That's 7 yards worse than the best in the SEC.
If you essentially spot the other guy a first down every time you kickoff, it's dramatically easier for him to score. What does 1 first down matter?
If your defense holds the other guy to 3 first downs from the 20 yard line, the offense will most likely be punting. HOWEVER, if you hold them to three first downs from the 30 yard line, they now have options like:
- A. Go for the Field Goal
B. Go for it on 4th Down and extend the drive
C. Punt deep inside your own 20 yard line
Kickoff Coverage for SEC teams in '08