Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Mr. President, The Works cannot allow a quarterback gap

Good news, Chris! You're off the hook! Well, sort of. OK, not really.

QBin'. Since early last season--when it became apparent that guys like Jon Crompton, the shell of what had once been Chris Todd, the QB du jour at Vandy, and Chris Smelley were all holding down starting jobs in a conference that was busy shredding them up and spitting them out--the default setting for analyzing the SEC's strength at the quarterback position has been "Uh ... what strength?" Yours truly took that position at SK last year, and Blutarksy updated the same viewpoint for the current summer situation this week. This prompted Dr. Saturday to look at the state of quarterbacking across all six BCS conferences and conclude ...
If you break down the starting quarterbacks in every conference, though, that ratio of quality to uncertainty by my count seems about par for the course ... (I)t's no surprise that the high-flyin' Big 12 is the standard bearer of star passers, but everywhere else, there are a lot more question marks and guys just hoping to hold down the fort than genuine assets. Which should be expected -- that's the case in the NFL, and they don't even have mandatory turnover every two or three years.
In short: the SEC's quarterbacking really isn't any worse than you'd expect. But what I find interesting here is that DocSat seems to be ignoring his own findings, as reproduced by this chart:

A full 8 of the SEC's 12 quarterbacks here either fall into the "new" or "not viable" categories, a ratio that only the Pac-10's 6/10 even comes close to. The SEC is the only conference here whose "not viable" situations outnumber the "proven" quarterbacks, the only conference tied for the bottom of the chart in both "proven" and "viable" commodities. On top of that, we can be honest here, the SEC's "new" quarterbacks aren't like other conference's quarterbacks. With all due respect to Larry Smith, Greg McElroy, Jordan Jefferson, and Joe Cox, Ryan Mallett's the only n00b in the league who might stand shoulder-to-shoulder to the likes of Corp at USC, Korn at Clemson, Potts at Texas Tech, etc. By midseason, the other five conferences are much more likely to have a "new" quarterback slide into those "proven" and "viable" categories than the SEC is.

So maybe the SEC's quarterbacking isn't quite as bad as it's made out to be ... but if you're asking me if there's a gap, yeah, I'm afraid I'd still have to say there is. (Year2's also looking at this issue at TSK, measuring whether the league's quarterbacking has declined in the last five years. Halfway through the research, the conclusion: oh yeah.)

Get smart. Both posts this week from Smart Football this week were gems, as always, but for our purposes the real meat is in this breakdown of what makes the coachbot's defenses coachbot-worthy. Every nugget available in the post--from the basics of "Cover 1," the most prevalent defensee in the SEC, to Saban's coaching techniques of his back seven to his play-calling tendencies--is gold. What interests me most is is the apparent success Saban's "Cover 1 'Robber'" should theoretically have against the spread--what went so wrong, then, against Utah? And can Auburn reproduce that somehow? The Utes' no-huddle approach is probably a good start (says Terrence Cody), but what else went right for the underdog down in New Orleans? I have this sneaking suspicion that Auburns' coaches are trying to figure those things out as we speak. (Finding a quarterback who can play half as well as Brian Johnson is probably a good first step.)

Don't forget that second post I mentioned, in which Chris examines what makes Paul Johnson such a successful play-caller.

Really? That was my first response to TSK's decision to place Florida-Ohio St. atop their list of the 10 best SEC-Big 10 games of the past decade. I mean, Iowa-LSU was decided on a last-play Hail Mary ... Michigan-Alabama went into overtime and was the game where Tom Brady secretly became Tom Brady ... even that Georgia-Purdue Outback Bowl comeback in 2000 was much more memorable than anything that happened in the last 15 minutes of Florida-OSU.

So why Florida-OSU? This is why:
The national perception that the south has an iron grip on any and all "speed" and the north has a lockdown on slow, clunky, unathletic corn-fed Baby Hueys would rear its head once again as a result of this game's outcome. Anyone who watched would see that the only discernible speed difference was on the lines, and it's accepted fact that the SEC routinely churns out the best defensive linemen. This game, however, gave ESS EEE SEE fans a whole new bravado, in which their players were of a superior master race of athletes the likes of which simply are not seen in other conferences. While these people are generally seen for what they are (morons, like I was), it won't stop the media from repeating the meme every time a big game happens between a Big 10 and SEC team. You have this game to thank for that these days.
It wasn't the best game. I think both the JCCW and TSK would agree on that. But it was certainly the biggest one in changing the national perception of both leagues, for better or worse.

By the by, the above quote came from Sam of (relatively) new Buckeye blog We Will Always Have Tempe. Sam's definitely the enjoyably clever sort, and this week coined the term "God's Conference" for the SEC in the wake of the quarterback discussion. He's using it ironically, of course, but it's too good a turn of phrase for the rest of us not to put it to good, unironic use just to get under the skin of the rest of the country, right?

BlAUgosphere. PPL is doing yeoman's work tracking down the remnants of the Auburn recruiting class of 2006 and providing one of his regular Big Show updates. That '06 class has produced some terrific players, but what's notable about it for me is what happened at wide receiver--three heavily hyped recruits in Tim Hawthorne, Terrell Zachery, and Chris Slaughter, and to this point not one of them has panned out.

Elsewhere, just days after the Auburner changed their banner in support of "Frenchy" Pierre-Louis, France's football team received the beating of all beatings in an international gridiron tournament. Coincidence or not? As Alcoa once said, you make the call.

Etc. Tennessee fans thought the second half of last year's Tigers-Vols game was the biggest "lasting memory" of the failed Clawfense experiment ... at friends-of-the-JCCW Oh Brother Radio, a flux capacitor predicts Auburn will win the Iron Bowl on a trick play called the "Luper Trooper Super-Duper Pooper Scooper"; we can only hope ... and for you soccer fans out there, here's the top 10 goals from the Confederations Cup set to Michael Jackson. Can't go wrong there.


Acid Reign said...

.....My answer for why Utah was so successful against the Saban D was that they attacked the outside defenders, especially on first down. With the spread, the outside receivers were lined up near the sideline. Saban's guys are taught to line up inside, in that instance. They are in zone, of course, in run-stopping mode, on first down, and aren't pressing/jamming. The Utah QB would take the snap, and just rifle it out there to the end. Despite the idea that you can't run an out, off a wide split, Utah did it. Bama's corners were dropping into zone coverage, and they couldn't recover and make the tackle before the receiver had picked up seven or eight yards. I kept expecting Bama to adjust on this, and they didn't. Any time Utah needed a play, wham, that ball was thrown outside quickly.

.....We saw Gus Malzhan trying to exploit corners, during A-day. An early down staple of his base offense was the quick screen outside. Malzhan did it a bit differently, with a slot receiver getting the ball, and an end blocking down on the corner, but it was the same idea. Attack the edge. Unfortunately, we saw such balls sailed into the bench, or bounce-passed to the receiver, way too much...

Marcus said...

This doesn't have much relevance, however since you mentioned QB's, Smartfootball, and eluded to how blue-chip WR's have not panned out I'll run with it.
After reading Smartfootball's pieces on the Franklin and Malzahn offenses, it got me thinking. Is it possible that maybe our QB's (Kodi in particular) are not as bad as it seemed last year? Could it be the WR's were as much (or more) to blame? According to the description of Franklin's air-raid style offense, the WR's have a lot of lattitude in their route running. Maybe they were the ones making the poor choices.
I pose this question to anyone with any football knowledge as a way of helping me sleep at night in the hope that Malzahn's offense, while still in the "spread eagle" mold, will hopefully be substantially different than Franklin's, and hopefully result in better QB performance.
Full disclosure: My understanding of offensive schemes is pretty much limited to picking plays in Maddden and thinking "run right", "run left", or "throw it deep to X", so the Smartfootball stuff is often way over my head.

KungFuPanda9 said...

Marcus, last year's WR play was not stellar. So you have a point. But Kodi's problems were not soley due to the WRs.

There were a number of variables that contributed yo our breakdown last year. Foremost was the mommy/daddy coaching squabble that filtered down to the team taking sides and causing a division.

Each of the QBs had his backing from different sides of the divide.

Kodi's strengths were his ability to run and a strong arm. Weaknesses were stress-induced tunnel vision which allowed him to check one receiver and either run or throw, sometimes into double coverage.

Now, he was not all bad in the air. Sometimes he made incredibly accurate long-range passes into double coverage for a completion. Other times he brain cramped an easy one 15 yards out. So his inconsistency became an issue.

Back to the mommy/daddy thing. Play calling was atrocious. We would be making excellent progress down the field with a particular strategy. Then, for some inexplicable reason, we'd change strategy, often combined with a QB change, and progress would halt.

So, I'm not going to blame Kodi Burns for last year's melt down. He has a definite set of skills which can be maximized by Malzahn. However, he is not, as of yet--at least by A Day's performance, a well-rounded stand-alone SEC caliber QB. (That's a lot of adjectives, but each one tells a story.)

Kodi needs to develop a feel for the ball when passing. A ball which flops around in the air, as opposed to a smooth spiral, is difficult to catch. Couple the lousy flight characteristics with being hard-thrown, and you are making life difficult for your receivers.

WDEwg said...

I'm not prepared to let the receivers off the hook, but as Acid Reign points out- -if the ball is delivered 10 feet over your head, or skipping at your feet- -not really much they can do.

Do I think that Trooper will make an impact on the existing WR's? Yes.

Do I hope and pray that Malzahn can pick the right guy, and then coach them up? Yes.

PS- Jerry. The closing comments to the All Sports Trophy, complete with appropriate spacing- -slayed me.

jrsuicide said...

i'll back up Marcus on the WR's screwing Kodi last season. how many of his passes did we see hit a guy in the hands and then end up on the grass? far more than i was willing to count.

but still Kodi was pretty bad as well...i say spread the blame to everyone.

Marcus said...

To be fair, I wasn't necessarily trying to "blame" the WR's. Just wondering if Franklin's system, which (as far as I can understand it) allows the WR to make decisions about running routes (something about running to open grass or some such) could have put too much of an onus on the WR's, which combined with bad QB play, exploded into the poo-poo storm that was the AU 2008 offense.