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September 16, 2008

South Carolina's Open Tight End vs. Georgia

I'm no football coach or scheme guru, and I don't pretend to be one on this blog. However, here's my take on the issue of South Carolina's open tight end in the second half. After pondering this quite a bit, I really don't think we had a reasonable adjustment to make on him (beyond clobbering him at the line of scrimmage) given our personnel in that game.

Here's Why:
Spurrier went to a personnel alignment of 3 WRs, 1 TE and 1 RB. That line-up from a team like South Carolina means that Georgia is going to a nickel coverage. Our most effective nickel package appears to be the 3-3-5 look.

The 3-3-5 is what we used to terrorize Tim Tebow and Colt Brennan, and it's the look we showed when we sacked, hurried and late hit SC's QBs on Saturday. We got very little pressure from a 4-3-4 or 4-2-5 look on Saturday.

If SC is in that personnel grouping, we generally have that Nickelback over the 3rd WR.

So...What Were the Other Options for Adjustments:
  • Cover him with the Nickelback -- If we had put the nickel on SC's tight end (Cook), a linebacker would have to cover the 3rd wide receiver. A linebacker vs. a WR is an even worse match-up for us than a linebacker vs. a TE. Regardless, I'm pretty sure our Nickel is Prince Miller. At 5'-8" and 180 lbs, Miller is not physically who you want trying to handle a big tight end in the open field.

  • Cover him with 4th Cornerback -- If we move to 4 CBs, then a linebacker has to come off the field. I wouldn't trade any of our linebackers for Vance Cuff or Remarcus Brown right now. The 4th CB (6 total DBs) would've also opened up some interior runs. (Technically, we could've gone with 3 safeties and 3 CBs, but our 3rd safety is a walk-on. Drew Williams doesn't seem like a viable option on that one).

  • Cover him with a Safety -- I don't think CJ Byrd is physically large enough to quickly tackle or effectively jam a guy Cook's size. So that leaves Reshad Jones. Jones looks ideally suited to handle a big physical and fast guy like Cook. However, (to the best of my knowledge) he has never been asked to cover a TE like that in a game.
You can't "adjust" and ask Jones to do something that he hasn't YET been taught to do. That's my basic theory on it. The good news -- we've got a few weeks before we see our next big time TE (Bama) to teach RJ to play that coverage.

Spurrier is no dummy. He had an unusual weapon, and he knew how to use him. I guess Georgia could've tried jamming the big dude at the line of scrimmage, but I think they were afraid of him blowing past them deep.

Bottom Line:
South Carolina ran the ball for 18 yards on 16 carries, and they only scored 7 points. For them to even be in that game with us required their QB to play the game of his life...and he STILL couldn't create more than 7 points.

We left *at least* 11 points on the table due to sloppy play that can easily be fixed. SC left 7.

As JudgeDawg said on DawgRun, did you honestly think that Spurrier would only score 7 points? The defensive scheme wasn't the problem Saturday. The problems were defensive penalties and offensive miscues.

Am I way off? Agree or Disagree?



Muckbeast said...

I think you are right on. Yes, it would have been nice to solve the Cook problem, but then what... we're perfect? Sure, perfect is nice, but giving up 7 points to Steve Spurrier is pretty darn nice as well.

I am also not a football coach or guru, but the problems for us seem kinda simple:

1) Massively cut down on the penalties. This one should be the easiest.

2) Solve our kick return coverage problem. We are giving up an extra 10-20 yards on every kick return. Pretty soon we are going to have to always go for it on 4th downs because the 3 points we get from a field goal isn't worth the horrendous field position we give up on the ensuing kick off.

3) Figure out how to make receivers stop dropping easy passes.

We do those things, keep improving in general as a team, and I think the team can go very far.

-Michael Hartman
Blogging about Online Gaming and Virtual Worlds:

Anonymous said...

I think getting Quinton Banks back would solve this and a lot of other secondary issues. We've been missing a big hitter that makes receivers think twice when going over the middle.

Also, when Southerland comes back, the offense will run a lot smoother. Missing the best FB in the country hurt us on pass protection, plus he would have opened some holes for Knowshon.

We've been without more great players due to injury this year than the other elites in cfb.

Anonymous said...

Ron Jaworski, is that you?

Bop said...

What the heck, my newborn doesn't want me sleeping right now so I'll chip in my 2 cents on this:

You just can't let a TE get off the line untouched. Gotta chip him and get him out of rhythm. I personally like a Sam LB with good technique in coverage against a good receiving TE. Dent was close a cpl of times. We just haven't had that great Sam in coverage since Boss left. For fun, dig up some film of Boss against UT and Jason Whitten. Text book. Its funny because I used to think "that Whitten kid is huge, but he ain't real good". Obviously Whitten is now an All-Pro. Just a testament to how good Boss was.

The play where Cook took one down inside the 10 was just a misplayed down by Rennie. Pretty sure we were cover 2 and Rennie took a look into the backfield that cost him. If he turns, runs to his spot in coverage, that play might end up incomplete. He simply got caught looking at the QB. Tony Gilbert was GREAT at that coverage even with less athletic ability. I'm not at all worried about Rennie in this situation as the season continues.

The big gain after the 77 yard BOMB by Mimbs was simply a blown coverage by Dewberry. Everyone was in man...except Dewberry. SOS could have pulled someone out of the band and he would have been open on that play.

It's definitely something that can be fixed and repped in practice. Plus, the Cook kid is an amazing talent. The play at the sidelines with Reshad in coverage was simply a great catch. Sometimes no matter what you do, you can't stop a great player (ie Randy McMichael '01 Tennessee). Cook is the second coming of L. Pope.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Carter about getting Q back. Bryan Evans has always been unreliable and he seems to be the guy that Offensive Coordinators are going after. He has helped by making several bad decisions in coverage. Prince has never been a favorite but I have been pleasantly surprised by him thus far.

Anonymous said...

You guys are dead on. I just rewatched the game (fast forwarding thru most of it) and the penalties and drops bother me most. Chandler must've been a little nostalgic b/c he re-created his LAST early season nightmare. The mistakes by Samuel, running DEAD into E. Cook and then not laying out for that SURE FIRE td pass (LundQ and Danielson say Staff overthrew, I say the receiver has to make it happen in that situation) are going to be learning opportunities. AJ Green is just a phenomenal athlete. The turn around grab he made was a beauty. The one Durham bobbled sliding out of the end zone was a tricky catch. I feel 5 out of 10 of those he catches.

All in all I have to say that watching the game a second time, minus my emotions, gave me a much better feeling about our team's performance.

Hey, anyone else realize that, numerically, Moreno and Stafford are 24/7??? Damn I'm up late... haha

Anonymous said...

Paul, I read your comments about the Dawgs over on the scout Arizona St. site. When you say we've got problems with our corners I wish you had at least made sure the guy knew Asher was not a problem. I haven't seen him get beaten too much all year and he's made some great tackles in the open field where he has to get the guy or it's a long gain. The guy has played lights out for three games.

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem with pass coverage is because we are giving their QB too much time. We need a pass rush!

BTW, SC got 187 yards passing in the last 4 minutes of the game.
Why, that crap of rushing (3) men?
I never have understood that. Why you give a QB that much time to pass when he has no TO's and 80 yards to go?

Hunker Down said...


No pressure on the QB in the 4th quarter was equal parts scheme and the players being tired. It is the first time we have noticeably missed Jeff Owens on the field. The back to back 3 and outs by our offense certainly didn't help matters. I know we dominated TOP, but not in the 4th quarter.

All this talk about difficulty covering such an athletic tight end makes me glad that we won't face Cornelius Ingram this year (not glad that he is hurt - just glad we won't face him.)

Anonymous said...

Hunker down,

I'm not a coach but, if we had of rushed 5 or blitzed Smelly he would not have had time to throw down field. He would have been limited to something short. We just can't allow 30-40 gains in that situation.

You may have the best defensive secondary in the world but, with no pressure on the QB he will be successful most of the time.

Colt Brennen is a great passer who had very good receivers. He only had 2-3 seconds to do something because Howard was in his face.

I think we need more pressure or good passing teams are going to give us fits.

I hope that we can get some pressure on Carpenter or we're in for a loooong night.

Anonymous said...

I’m not an Xs and Os guy so I may be a bit off. My interpretation of our “defense” is that we rely on the 3/4 man rush to generate pressure. Our LB and DB play the soft zone. I’m guessing that Martinez is willing to give up a receiver settling down in the soft spots of the zone and he’s hoping that pressure on the QB causes an errant throw as to where the receiver basically sitting open with 5 yds of cushion from any defender will have a hard time making the catch or at least we are keeping everything in front of us.

What I noticed in rewatching the game was that if we were man to man, we seemed to be doing a lot of bracketing but that the second player was often just too slow in coming over for help. And that goes back a bit to pass rush - Smelley was just too comfortable and could put the ball on the spot every time.

To me, the bottomline with the defense is I think you are seeing the result of not having a dominant defensive end (combined with lacking Jeff Owens). Someone can correct me, but Willie's always run the soft zone but last year when Marcus Howard exploded, you suddenly saw it be more effective when there was a more dangerous pass rush to disrupt the passing game. We are getting eaten alive with the dink and dunk passes against our soft zone. If Smelley is hurried more often, I don't think he's as accurate in those throws in the 4th quarter.

Anonymous said...

If you can't get there with four, you sure aren't going to get there with three.

We were most effective in the second half against the pass when we blitzed and covered tight.

Unknown said...

I did tell him that I thought Asher Allen was good. But I am worried about the other CBs.

That may not have come across in the interview. I haven't read it yet.

Anonymous said...

The thing that bothers me is that everyone knew they were going to Cook. He was going to be a huge weapon. It's like we didn't even prepare for that.

Unknown said...


Direct correlation between 3 man front and big plays for USC. The Moe Brown TD is the ONLY big play I can remember with a 4-man front. And it came on the heels of completing a HUGE 3rd down with a 3 man front.

Also, USCe entered that game dead last in the SEC in rushing offense. And left the game dead last. We didn't stop McFadden and Jones on Saturday.

Anonymous said...

Still need to find a way to prevent it, or else every other school will torment us with their TE roaming free in the middle.

Trey said...

I hate to disagree with you PWD, but you can't leap to "the scheme worked" because you held an inept offense to 7 points. Did the team win the game? Yes. Did the defense get exposed? Yes. Was the win due primarily to the ineptness of the opposing offense when it mattered... i.e. turnovers inside the five? Yes. Against a team that can run the ball better than South Carolina and pass the ball better than South Carolina, Georgia's defense will get lit up. LSU comes to mind. Florida comes to mind. Alabama comes to mind. I'm not certain Arizona State won't be able to move the ball up and down the field.

Here's the problem (and, it is with scheme): Football is about mismatches. If you are resigned to cover a tailback (split wide) or tight end with one of our linebackers in man coverage, you are throwing up a white flag to the quarterback. That is a mismatch every time. Instead of playing 2 deep, drop a safety down and play cover 1. That frees up a linebacker to roam an underneath zone, spying the quarterback, making sure anything underneath is punished to the fullest extent allowable under the law. You'll have a safety acting as the fourth corner covering that tight end/running back, and you'll still have the three wide receivers covered with corners. This coverage is pretty basic, and I'm pretty sure I've seen them run some variation of this. When we blitz, we play cover one, so why not when we don't blitz? We can cover with six and still have five rushing the passer. Is it because our safeties cannot handle it?

I thought the problem was with Brandon Miller last year being beaten perpetually in his man/zone coverage (and then missing the tackle). Apparently, it wasn't just him. Our coaches are asking our linebackers to do things that only the best professional linebackers are able to do: cover somebody that runs like a gazelle. And, not surprisingly, they are failing pretty regularly. This is a serious flaw that needs to be rectified, or it will get exploited by the better teams... which equals losses.

Anonymous said...

Agree with ^^.

This is characteristic of a serious problem. Can't be explained away or fixed by saying "yeah but we won the game!" It was a sloppy game, and we need a defense that can handle mismatches and wide open tight ends if we want to beat good teams. (So. Carolina is NOT a good team).

Appreciate the attempt to see the bright side, but all was dark on Saturday. Except the W.

Anonymous said...

My poroblem with the open tight end is one that I continue to have with Martinez and our defensive coaches: we do not adjust well. If we have a superior game plan, we use our great athletes and give the opposing offense trouble all night. If we don't have a superior game plan, we don't make any adjustments mid game. Van Gorder (even though he may be a little crazy) was a master at making mid game adjustments. The opponent may score a TD on the first drive, a FG on the second, and not make it past the 50 the rest of the game. Our defense got outcoached by Steve Spurrier on Saturday. He saw an opportunity, exploited it, ands we made no adjustments. Our defensive stats will continue to be near the top of the nation because we generally have superior athletes who our coaches develop. However, we will lose important games somewhere down the road if we continue to get outcoached and fail to adjust.

Anonymous said...

A more consistent pass rush would have solved all of our problems in the fourth quarter against SC. Howard was pass rushing beast, but was undersized and was a perceived liability against the run. However, I thought he actually held up fine against the run too as the season went on. Do we have any LB that's buried on the depth chart that could give us that rush if we switched him to a pass rush DE?

Anonymous said...

The realist is right. and PWD, although I liked your analysis, the trick to solving a TE/LB mismatch is to go zone. It's that simple. And a zone such as the cover 1 scheme described by the realist fits the bill exactly. We don't have to sit there and take our lumps by manning up on the TE with an LB as we did those last two drives of the 4th quarter. Make the necessary adjustments and let the robbing safety make a play on the ball.

Also... not quite related but just something I can't stop thinking about. Why the hell is Richard Samuel still playing offense? I love the kid. Polite, hard working, unreal athlete... but he is not SEC RB. He can't move laterally and has not shown that he possesses any sort of ball carrier vision to speak of. He runs like a FB, which is fine, but he should not be getting carries over CK. I would love to see Richard at linebacker... I'm just not sure when this experiment at offense will end.

Anonymous said...

PWD, by "Drew WIlliams" are you referring to Andy Williams #47? If so, he's no longer a walk-on. He earned a scholly this spring.

Anonymous said...

IF our offense hadn't gone 3 and out twice late in this game, this wouldn't even be an issue. The O needs to step up and help out.

Anonymous said...

X's and O'x aside, Spurrier is scoring 9 1/2 points per game against us since he took over in Columbia. I'll take our odds against that average every single time.

Anonymous said...

The way I see it, we were pretty vanilla on defense. I mean if you can't get to the QB with four then send 5-6 on every down.

If the philosophy is to rush the QB to allow the soft zone to work then the the number one priority is to rush the QB. If you have to play man to man and rush 5-6 every down then make your philosophy work.

Football is about imposing your will on others. In other words we have make our philosophy work.

What happened on Saturday was we switched philosophies and allowed SOS to impose his will on us. The only reason we won was because we are actually better than they. We went from saying we are going to put pressure on the QB to saying well we hope that we can match up with their receivers and keep from getting beat deep.

Your defense is built around a philosophy. If you deviate from that philosophy then you give up your defense and defensive mentality. This is why our players were so tired. They knew we weren't playing our game and tried to compensate by working harder to fit the new defensive philosophy.

I say if we are going to depend upon a pass rush then by any means necessary lets depend upon the pass rush.

Final thought: The best defense is a good offense. Not to be confused with Stafford and Co. but with an offensive defense that imposes its will upon the opponent.

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