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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

From the Mailbag: Turnovers, Talent and Tipping Plays

I had a mailbag written yesterday, but sadly, the computer gods decided they didn't approve. I do appreciate the recommendations from all of you on backing up my stuff a bit better. Hopefully that will be the last time I lose so much material.

Also, don't forget we're chatting live at 1 p.m. today at You can head over there now, press the 'play' button and submit your question, or just join us live at 1.

In the meantime, here are a handful of other questions out of the mailbag I figured we could get to a bit early...

Greg writes: please tell me someone asked a tough question about the recurring KO disasters. Also- Can you ask him if he will re-evaluate how the staff handles special teams in the offseason?

I think we've all given up on that one. Richt was asked about it again on his radio show and gave the same stock excuse about the young players. The funny part about this, too, is that, when another reporter asked Richt a few weeks ago exactly which players work on the kickoff team, he said he didn't know.

I also spoke with Blair Walsh, who said that from Week 1 to Week 11, there have been no major shakeups of the kick coverage unit. With one or two exceptions, it's the same players now it was in Stillwater.

So the bottom line is this: The lack of experience makes for an easy explanation, and Richt isn't likely to provide anything more in depth than that no matter how many times we ask.

MT writes: What jumps out at me more is looking at that Murder's Row of teams we are in company with. The only program you could even remotely argue having any shred of a winning tradition is Washington, and that might be a bit of a stretch too. Besides Central Florida, the rest of these schools are in relative wastelands of recruiting talent too. With the stretch of top 10 classes we've had for quite some time, I think this more than anything else is an indictment of the serious undercoaching that has gone on this season.

I think this was the overwhelming reaction to the turnovers post I had yesterday. It's not so much that Georgia is really bad, but that the company the Dawgs are keeping on that list are all programs that don't come anywhere close to recruiting the same talent Georgia does. Georgia's second-string players are more talented than the first-teamers on any of those other squads. Which makes it all the more perplexing as to how Georgia can be this bad in the turnover department.

ArmyDawg writes: I don't know how you can ask the same question over and over (and I know you have asked) but why is that Kentucky can cover their kickoffs and blast our return guy at the 15 yard line? I know that our guys are just as talented as UK's players, their kicker is not any better than ours and our kick off team has had some pretty good returns this year but for some reason they can disrupt our return inside the 20 and we can't even get in the picture on my big screen TV until the Kentucky is running past the 30. Just baffles me (and for the record I'm as big a Richt fan as you can be) but these kickoffs are just rediculous.

This is another great point. Georgia couldn't cover a kick to save its life on Saturday. Kentucky not only covered the kick to open the second half well, but it got such a good hit on Branden Smith that he fumbled at a crucial time. I find it impossible to believe that Kentucky has more talent to use on special teams than Georgia.

jferg writes: Back through the early-mid 2000's, we didn't necessarily need turnovers because A)David Greene made few himself B) Our defense just stuffed teams and created tons of 3 and outs.

I'd bet if you compared opposing offensive plays run vs turnovers created, you'll see that is where this year's team is the epic fail. i'd bet those early-mid 2000 defenses played 20-30% LESS plays and therefore their "turnover per play ratio" is much better.

That's not too hard to look up, so here ya go….

Year Off Plays
Play/TO Def PlayTAs
2009 667 26 25.7 712 8 89.0
2008 826 19 43.5 816 16 51.0
2007 874 17 51.4 868 26 33.4
2006 768 31 24.7 775 30 25.8
2005 818 18 45.4 855 29 29.5
2004 826 19 43.5 747 17 43.9
2003 1023 18 56.8 880 29 30.3
2002 981 23 42.7 934 31 30.1
2001 784 20 39.2 811 21 38.7
2000 738 27 25.7 773 26 29.7

So what do we find?

Well, first, jferg's latter assumption doesn't hold water. Brian Van Gorder's D essentially allowed the same number of plays in a season as Willie's have.

Jferg's first point, however, is certainly correct. This year, Georgia creates a turnover just once every 89 plays -- which amounts to almost half as frequently as its next worst season, which just so happened to be last year.

But prior to the past two seasons, Georgia's turnover creation average has remained remarkably similar. In 2001 and 2004, the numbers skewed slightly, but overall that average has been right around one turnover per 30 plays every year from 2000 through 2007.

So what happened? We've discussed at length that Willie Martinez hasn't changed his scheme much. So why would there be so many fewer turnovers in the past two years?

If Georgia's defensive scheme has remained unchanged for the better part of 10 years, and the takeaway average also stayed the same for the first eight of them, logic dictates it wasn't the scheme that caused things to change in the past two. So perhaps a lot more fault belongs with the players than the coaches.

And while jferg didn't specifically ask, I provided the offensive numbers, too.

The interesting thing there is that, Georgia's two worst seasons under Mark Richt directly coincide with a big increase in the number of offensive turnovers. In 2006, Matthew Stafford was thrown to the fire as a true freshman, and the interceptions dropped as the year went on. This season, the turnovers haven't improved a lick, and the win-loss record has stayed dismal.

Again, maybe the coahces are less to blame, and more of the fault for the problems should fall to Joe Cox and the folks who keep fumbling the football.

(It's also probably worth noting that if Jim Donnan had a decent QB in 2000, he probably wouldn't have been canned.)

Will writes: David, is there any way you could bring up the point the Senator pointed out on his blog recently about Cox's footwork tipping off opponents to the coaches? I just don't know how else to get that to them. If we, as fans, can see this (and confirm it in numerous game film examples from this season) it can't have slipped past other defensive coordinators.

We all owe a big tip 'o the cap to The Dawgfather, who noticed this well before most people… including Mike Bobo apparently. But even Bobo now admits… it's true!

"We did go back and look at it and it was more so in the Kentucky game," Bobo said. "It was not every play of pass-run, but there was definitely more of a stagger this past week, and that's something we've got to work to correct."

My follow up: So you hand't seen this before the Kentucky game?

"No," Bobo said. "We usually have a stagger, and he had gotten a little more square on certain plays."

So congrats, Dawgfather. You noticed something nobody else seemed to, and you did it from the stands. The next time I'm playing that naked lady photo hunt game at 3 a.m. at some bar, I want you there with me.

Again, don't forget that I'll be taking the rest of your questions today at 1 p.m. at


Anonymous said...

How could Dawgfather have noticed that? I don't believe he has been in the arena has he?

Anonymous said...

8. Turning it over in bunches: Georgia is 119th nationally in turnover ratio. The only team worse is Miami (Ohio). The Bulldogs are minus-18, which includes just eight takeaways and 26 giveaways. David Hale, who covers Georgia for The Macon Telegraph, did some research and discovered that the Bulldogs’ turnover ratio this season is the 11th worst of any FBS team over the last decade. You knew it was bad, but that’s really putting it into perspective. Of the 10 teams that were worse than Georgia this decade, nobody finished with more than four wins. The Bulldogs have six heading into Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech.

This was quoted by an espn reporter. Sounds like we wont have David for long. Thanks while it lasted Mr. Big Shot espn quotable macon telegraph writer you.

Matt Christie said...

Well maybe it's better to be out of the arena to notice these things? Not so close to the players and all.

The thing with Joe's footwork points to a lack of discipline, preparation and attention to detail in the whole program. I mean come on! A 5th year senior making that kind of mistake is inexcusable! Thats the problem with the whole team. Even high school our coach's would have not let something like that go. This is big boy football, not a bunch of 8 year olds. That kind of thing can not happen. Maybe if they would pay attention to details and little things like that the whole program would be better off.

Anonymous said...

What to watch in the SEC week 13

Anonymous said...

While our coaching staff didn't notice it, you can bet the better coaches of apposing teams noticed and took advantage of it.

Anonymous said...

David -- Another stat I'd be interested in seeing is touchdowns to field goal ratio allowed by the defense. I don't have hard stats but it seems to me that in the last couple of years if you got in the red zone against Georgia you scored a touchdown. Kentucky scored 5 TDs no field goals. Turning TDs into field goals has a big impact impact on the game. It also seems to me that turnovers the last two years almost always lead to touchdowns against our defense. You need a defense that can sometimes turn bad turnovers into field goals or even occasionally get the ball back with no damage. That would be another stat -- points allowed per turnover. Maybe I'll research these if I get some time over Thanskgiving.

Anonymous said...

David: I, too, love playing the naked lady photo hunt in bars. I knew that we were long lost friends.

David Basham said...

From our abysmal KO coverage to the fact that the coaches didn't notice Joe Cox's foot patterns, there is little reason to have any confidence in this staff anymore. Not only can they not see the forest for the trees, they can't even see the bark on the same trees. Pathetic.

Left to Right said...

I frankly don't believe Bobo when he says Cox hasn't been tipping run vs. pass in previous games. I wish I had saved my recordings of earlier games!

Anonymous said...

David - can you clarify something? When Bobo says "We did go back and look at it..." in regards to Cox's footwork, does he mean they noticed it going over the film after the game? Or They noticed after someone (like you) raised a question about it?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your great insights.
However, dont you think that now, on some level, we're overcomplicating and over-dissecting what's happened this year? (and I dont mean your reporting, b/c your reporting is fantastic. I just mean the fanbase in general.). For my money, just about all the problems come down to these three things: 1. Poor QB play (primary source of our turnovers); 2. Poor defense (thus, allowing points and losing games); and 3. Too much youth (contributes to both turnovers and poor defense).
As for next year, #3 will get better by default; #1 and #2 will be the question marks. Here's hoping Richt brings in someone to address #2 and that #1 will improve (b/c, quite frankly, despite the fact that i think Joe is a good kid and the best we've got this year, it can't get much worse).
Your thoughts on those 3 "big picture" points?

Anonymous said...


Can you ask how much time our offensive and defensive staffs spend on providing feedback on how to attack each other's schemes vs. how much time they spend on their next opponent?

I find it difficult to believe our own defensive staff didn't pick up on this.

Doug said...

Left to Right said...

"I frankly don't believe Bobo when he says Cox hasn't been tipping run vs. pass in previous games. I wish I had saved my recordings of earlier games!"

You can watch them here: