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Thursday, September 10, 2009

You've Got Your Plan, I've Got Mine

We've talked a good deal about all the conflicting messages coming out of Georgia's locker room this week, but I came across another example last night that almost made me laugh out loud.

First, I suggest you check out the quotes from "Fifth Quarter Show" regulars that The Senator has on his blog regarding Georgia's kickoff philosophy. (Warning: If you're subject to sudden mood swings, violent behavior or you've already consumed more than six ounces of bourbon today, don't read this.)

"If you’re wondering what happened, former Georgia players A.J. Bryant and Kelin Johnson, now regulars on the “Fifth Quarter Show,” put it all into perspective. Both of them played on special teams for Fabris, and they said that it wouldn’t matter whether the Dogs had a kicker who could put it in the end zone or not; Fabris likes “the challenge” of directional kicks. That’s just Coach Fab, they said, get used to it."
So... Jon Fabris likes "the challenge" of directional kicking? Yikes.

Anyway, for obvious reasons the kickoff strategy is a hot topic of conversation for fans, which is why I asked Mark Richt whether the results last Saturday, which included a long run back by Perrish Cox to set up a touchdown, swayed his opinion any. Here's what he said...

“The fans want the long kick, but the longest kick had the longest return. The kicks that were a little shorter had the better hangtime and ball placement, and we covered those better."

So... long, line-drive kickoffs = easier returns for the opposition. Short kicks with lots of hang time = easier coverage for Georgia. Got that?

OK, flash forward to a question I posed to Tony Ball about why Branden Smith twice returned kicks that were deep into his own end zone. Here's what Ball had to say...

"After asking (upback Shaun) Chapas about it, he felt like with them being line-drive kicks, that kind of threw things off, so there was some dynamics there that he had to make some decisions. ... I felt like the one, in particular, he should have kept him in the end zone where he was really driven back, but even (Justin) Fields, my fullback, told me that the line drive kick kind of threw him off and there was too much separation between the returner and my fullback."

In other words, when Georgia is returning a kick, it's much tougher to field those long line drives than if, say, Oklahoma State had punted short with lots of hang time.

So the thought process among Georgia's kickoff coach is that short, high kicks are harder for the opposition to return.

The thought process for Georgia's kick return coach is that long, low kicks are harder to return.

I would love to hear Fabris and Ball discuss this with each other.


JRL said...

What a disgrace - a talent loaded D1 team with H.S. coaches or egomaniacs setting policy.

I suppose we will one day soon see Owens and Atkins playing CB when it's 3rd and 15 - just for the challenge.

MikeInValdosta said...

It's like we have fallen down some rabbit hole into Alice's wonderland.

The coaches should all be taking the same pill. Preferably, the ones that mother gives you

JimDandyDawg said...

I'm guessing Fabris will defend his comments by saying the "challenge" is for the other team returning the directional kick. If we lose to S Car, the whole Bulldog Nation is going to come unglued.

Travis said...

Every time Tony Ball opens his mouth, all i hear is 'i don't know my job, or understand college football dynamics. please fire me'

mp said...

There was a comment in the GTP post that hit the nail on the head: the issue of angle and depth of kick is moot if the coverage isn't better.

The gyst of the comment:
This, “Just kick it into the endzone, dammit!” attitude assumes that a kickoff into the endzone will automatically be downed, and that is not a valid assumption.

The key to our kick coverage woes is having the right personnel on the field to not allow long returns."

Anonymous said...

well...since the ball is kicked from farther out now,we don't have a kicker who can put it through the end zone...that would solve a lot of problems by the opponent starting on the 20...of course,the rules were changed to get more return excitement into the game (I don't like the change,personally).

until we find a kicker with a stronger leg(they are a few around),we will have to live with directional kicks.(I'm not real happy about that either but I can't do a lot about it!).

later,old dawg

David Jones said...

I interpreted Ball's comments a little differently. I think he was saying that just as oSu returned the long, low kick the best, Chapas and Smith were assuming they could get a good return because of the same low, fast kick. In other words, the players assumed the blocking would be better or the coverage from oSu would be worse.

Texas_Dawg said...

This is just horrible journalism, DHale. You're better than this.

Richt was correct: the longest kick Saturday burned us the most. Just as it did in the last 70+ yard return we gave up: @UK last year (kicked low and to the goalline).

Ball was simply addressing some specific kicks where Smith and Chapas struggled. But in the long run that isn't going to be the case... and OKST should know as they were 110th in kick return yards allowed last year.

You are getting caught up in the ignorance of the herd here, David. A deeper study of CFB kickoff numbers absolutely supports the strategy Richt and his staff employ. (And Florida only kicked the ball less than 2.5 yards longer than UGA on kickoffs on average last year. Their coaches aren't idiots either.)

Step back and think a little even if the UGA message board mobs don't want to.

David Hale said...

Texas, I respect your opinion, but there are plenty of people who know a lot more about this than either of us who disagree completely with Richt's philosophy. This isn't message board fodder. It's an honest disagreement about how to handle it, and the difference in statements between two coaches on the same team shows that there's rationale to support that disagreement.

Texas_Dawg said...

There is no difference in statements. There is one coach talking about some problems with specific kicks and another talking about what has happened on some recent long kickoffs of ours.

And yeah, I've read the Butler/Robinson posts as well. They too demonstrate a serious misunderstanding of the CFB statistics on kickoffs in addition to their not being at practice every day plotting the trajectory, distance, return, etc. of every single kick. (Sweet, guys... you saw some balls bounce through the endzone from the bridge. Great. What was the hang time? What was the trajectory? What were the percentages? Etc.)

David Buehler was the only kicker in ALL of CFB to produce a touchback with a majority of his kicks in 2008. The only one. And he was drafted in the 4th round for it. (That ain't Blair Walsh... yet.)

So that leaves you with basically every single CFB kicker leaving the ball short of a touchback but with a lot of room to run on the large majority of kickoffs. And that's why even teams like Florida kick the ball high and towards the sideline.

MikeInValdosta said...

Isn't the problem the average starting field position of the opponent?

If "directional kicks" were producing I do not think anyone would complain.

I would not care if it were squib kicks, if they were getting the job done.

Anonymous said...

Just find ten guys with the ability and desire to outrun or shed blocks and get downfield faster.

The Hawkins said...

I read your blog EVERY day, David. And I have for a long time. I thouroughly enjoy all the information you put out. But this is the first post where I cringed because it felt like you were trying to stir something up or at least fan the flames a little. The message boards are full of this junk. I hope I've read too much into your post and that was not your intention. I keep up with your stuff for the facts and not the opinions.
Thanks for all the good stuff though, David.

David Hale said...

Fair point, Hawkins. I understand what you're saying, but I assure you that wasn't my intent. I simply wanted to underscore that Georgia's coaches don't seem to ever offer a reasonable explanation for their philosophy beyond simply saying, "this is what we do." I wanted to show the juxtaposition between what two coaches on the same staff had to say, but I do apologize if it came off seeming like pot-stirring. Not my intent, but I'll try to pay closer attention to that next time. Thanks for the comment.

The Hawkins said...

Thanks for the clarification, David.
Again, I appreciate your work.