It's awfully hard to win a football game when you're routinely putting yourself into a position to play 10 vs. 11. Watching the Arkansas game live that's what I felt we were doing. (Image: T. King came to play - By Jim Hipple)
Obviously, we're having problems with the offensive line blocking effectively or consistently. To compensate for this problem on passing downs, we're asking our TEs and/or our RBs to block for various versions of Max Protect packages. The hope -- they will supplement the OL's inadequacies and give Murray time to throw to the 2-3 WRs actually running routes.
The problem with this approach is pretty simple. Our running backs and tight ends either cannot or will not block effectively on a consistent basis. If you have a guy who isn't running a route or blocking, he's basically just a bystander. That means you're playing 10 vs. 11, and you're dead on arrival.
Some suggestions on fixing this:
B. Maybe Bruce Figgins, long considered an above average or better blocker, should be in the game on passing downs where we're going Max Protect.
C. Should Orson Charles be better utilized flexed out at WR instead of asking him to do something that he can't or won't do effectively and consistently.
D. Consider putting an offensive tackle at TE. If you're not going to send the TE out anyway, what difference does it make to have a TE in there? Get a kid that wants to and/or knows how to block on the field.
E. Maybe play 4 or 5 WR sets with some quick check down options. One of them can be a TE if you're looking to create pre-snap mismatches in personnel. I don't care who it is, but if the kid isn't going to block...send him out for a pass.
F. Consider running the guys that can't or won't block until they can't eat supper.
G. Maybe teach the kids who can't consistently how to do it or get someone else in there. Coach Dave Johnson might not have been much of a recruiter as TE coach, but his TEs could damn sure block. When Tony Ball was coaching RBs it seemed like they could pass block. What's going on with McClendon and Lilly in this area right now? (Video: That's what it should look like. Ht - Carter)
We shouldn't have to wait for Caleb King and Chapas (who are both better blockers than Ealey and Thomas*) to get healthy. These are issues our current personnel should be able to address.
We have a massive talent advantage over Mississippi State, Colorado, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. There's no reason why Georgia can't roll into Florida with only two losses. But they aren't going to do it playing 10 vs. 11. Nor are they going to do it feeling sorry for themselves or giving less than max effort.
In my opinion, we tried playing 10 vs. 11 for five years on defense with Martinez and Jancek, and it was the root of our issues. We got nothing out of the SAM linebacker spot in the 4-3 defense against the pass, and we got nothing out of the MIKE against the run in the 4-3 (with the exception of Ellerbe's run from mid-'07 - the Bama '08 game when he got hurt). That's how we rolled for 5 years, and that got a bunch of guys fired and a lot of opposing offensive coordinators pay raises.
This team can be more. But it won't be more routinely playing a man down.
All of this is fixable.
It may not seem like it right now, but it's fixable. Luckily, the schedule is set up to give us the opportunity to fix it.
Will it get fixed though? That's up to the players and coaches. It makes me nervous that I haven't already read about a players only meeting. That should've happened on Sunday at the latest.
*Not for nothing, but I've made a lot of jokes privately and a few on this blog about Carlton Thomas' size. But I'll say this for him...Near the end of the game, he stuck his face mask into some large LB's chest on a blitz and really did deliver a nice block that saved Murray from another brutal hit. However, the physics of asking a guy his size to do that routinely aren't very good over the long term. That said, I do want to acknowledge that he delivered a ridiculously good block at least once when he was grossly outmatched physically. It wasn't as good of a block as Tony Milton's legendary decleater at Kentucky in '04 to save our QB from a blitz, but it showed a lot of courage.