Friday, August 01, 2008

The Works, Sacks Fifth Avenue-style

I apologize for that subject line. I offer you Q. Groves torching poor, poor Alesana Alesana in last year's K-State game as compensation, because you probably didn't realize you needed to watch it again:

Fixing what's broken. It would be a pleasant and comforting thing if the 2007 Auburn offense had just one major problem, a single Achilles heel that Tony Franklin could fixate on and remedy, thus producing overnight (well, over-offseason) the 2004esque Platonic ideal of Auburn Offense.

Unfortunately, an offense doesn't sink all the way to 97th in the country without taking on water in more than a few areas, and it won't surprise anyone that one of the great big gushing leaks for Auburn last year was pass protection. In a typically excellent bit of wonkery, RBR's OTS showed this week exactly how deep the problem ran with this post on SEC sacks-per-pass-attempt. The numbers coldly confirm what Auburn fans would have guessed without them: Cox got hauled down at the kind of rate usually reserved for the statues of deposed iron-fisted dictators. (uh ... zing?) Only Ole Miss was worse. OTS summarizes:
[I]t was to be expected. Brandon Cox held onto the ball too long, and had all of the mobility of a piece of Civil War era artillery. Combine that with true freshmen starting on the offensive line, and it's a formula for a very high ASR.
Here's the two pieces of good news: first, despite Groves's general ineffectiveness over the last half of the season, Auburn still posted a decent finish in this metric on the other side of the ball. More to the point, at this stage it doesn't appear the 2008 Auburn offense's pass protection numbers are going to have even a passing resemblance to the 2007 version's. Like, people who see them out together are going to wonder if their Mom got busy with the milkman, and stuff.

For starters, the mewling babes that began last season on the offensive have grown into grizzled (i.e. "possessing the qualities, viz. size and strength of, the grizzly bear") veterans who get their due bit of fluffery here. There's another decent quickie o-line overview here, which points out that after a regular season of Auburn's QB's going down once every 12 dropbacks or so, the Tigers allowed a single Chick-Fil-A Bowl sack on 44 different pass attempts.

Some of that is the line improving, yes, but a swing that large also of course has to be attributed to Franklin calling plays that don't ask a skittish and less-than-100-percent-at-all-times quarterback with the footspeed God gave the three-toed sloth to make a five-step drop. His philosophy's not one that lends itself to big negative plays, and particularly with Shifty McShifterson Burns at the helm, it looks quite safe to me to say we're not going to see many sacks this fall.

True, we might not see many 45-yard bombs or breakaway touchdown runs down the sideline, either. But after spending the better part of two entire seasons expecting to lose seven yards every time our quarterback drops back, I'm not complaining.

As for those other issues ... The Countdown-to-Kickoff slipping under a month seems to have roused Will from his summer slumber, always a good thing when it means posts like this one on the ongoing evacuation of the rubble of the newspaper industry. Even better is this look at the Borges-to-Franklin transition, and why the previous regime failed. His answer--as the breathless TV announcer says--may surprise you:
While it's reasonable to think some of the difference was due to the natural progression of defensive coaches on the other teams getting more familiar with Borges's schemes, I think it's clear that losing Anthony Mix, Devin Aromashodu and Ben Obiwankenobi after '05 and Courtney Taylor after '06 was what really spelled doom for the Gulf Coast Offense.
Will is persuasive as always; I cosign and encourage you to read the rest, though I'll cop to being more optimistic about the Spread Eagle than I believe Will to be.

That said, that optimism wasn't helped by the same (rather excellent) Tony Barnhart Q-n-A with Franklin that Will seemed to find encouraging, principally because any time an Auburn OC says they'll "throw first and run second" I break out in hives. Here's to hoping that first throw is a hitch to Super Mario Fannin. (And oh, while we're sorta discussing Barnhart, I'd also recommend his piece on his visit to Troy.)

Jeff Lebo Firing Watch now at: 212 days. That's assuming a season-ending Auburn loss on the first day of the SEC tournament, which opens March 12, and that Jacobs doesn't prolong the inevitable by more than a day.

Sure, it's a little premature, and probably a bit cruel. But after Lebo couldn't even keep arguably his best player motivated enough to meet what's likely the team's most basic requirements, does anyone not immediately involved with the team see anything other than another hardscrabble 14-17 season this winter? Is there any way we're not headed for talk from both sides at its end about it being "best for Auburn to move in a new direction"?

I don't have anything against Lebo and I'll be delighted if he somewhow pulls an NCAA Tournament season out of a magic hat he's been hiding for the last few years. But it's simply an out-and-out falsehood to claim he's done anything more with the mess he inherited than push it into the corners of the room. It's still there. We can still see it. And it's too bad, but particularly by the end of next season, he'll have had enough time to get it clean.

Auburn-related material you should read. 1. My expectation that Bo Harris won't be too dearly missed seems to be backed up by Charles Goldberg's look at the linebacking depth chart, where your second string consists of a well-respected senior (Harden), a sophomore who basically everyone expects the proverbial "big things" out of (Bynes), and Merrill Johnson. Now if they'll just stay healthy, knock on Yellawood. 2. Summer updates on the quarterbacks shouldn't be the least bit enlightening--what have they done other than throw 7-on-7 drills since the spring?--but I thought Jay Tate's looks at Burns and Todd were worthwhile anyway. 3. Great work by the Auburn sports info department in putting together this page on Auburn-affiliated Olympians. To answer the Auburner's question, though, country comes first, and it's not close. It'll be sweet if Margaret Hoelzer fends off Kirsty Coventry for the gold in the 200 backstroke, but it'll be even sweeter if somehow the USA sweeps the event, Coventry's orange-and-blue roots notwithstanding.

SEC-related material you should read. 1. The National Championship Issue produces another sterling heavy-on-the-numbers research post, this time focusing on which conferences feature the most top-to-bottom parity and showing the SEC doesn't live up to the old "anyone can beat anyone" saw as often as we might think. C'est la vie. 2. If you haven't heard, the Raycom-nee-Lincoln Financial-nee-Jefferson-Pilot telecasts will now be in HD, with the RazorBloggers also pointing us towards Clay Travis's entertaining response. As someone who'll get their 12:30 kickoff fix via the "magic" of ESPN GamePlan, I'm not yet certain those beautiful high definition images of Bobby Johnson will actually find their way through all the various satellites and cables and digital hoo-ha to my TV, but I've got my fingers crossed. And hey, speaking of Johnson, 3. he said the 2008 Vandy offensive line with zero returning starters will be better than the 2007 line with five returning starters and a first-round NFL draft pick. Whatever you say, Bobby. 4. Rocky Top Talk has a neat little series on the single wing and how it might be applied to the Vols.

Aaaaaaand finally, on a personal note for any BSC grads out there, a Princeton Review survey offers us the headline we've somewhow always known was coming. Whatever, man--we indies were having a cooler time in the Cellar anyway.

No comments: