Thursday, June 30, 2016

How the four former Bears will fit in at Texas in 2016

Quite well, you figure. This couldn't have worked out better for Texas (as Baylor fans are all too aware) since they are now running the Briles offense and get to plug in some of the best new pieces that Baylor planned to plug into that system in Waco in Austin instead.

Read my more detailed scouting reports and fits here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Don Brown, Jabrill Peppers, and the Michigan D

One of the many reasons I'm really high on Michigan in 2016 is that they hired Don Brown, who crafted a brilliant defense at Boston College, to run their D this year with Greg Mattison.

I wrote up a piece for Athlon on how Brown's approach to defense fits perfectly with this Michigan roster and how he'll use Jabrill Peppers as a rover to muck up the works for opponents. Check it out here.

The seven route, everyone's favorite way to attack cover 4

Over at Football Study Hall I broke down how offenses use slot WRs and the seven route to attack cover 4 and the ramifications of this for the position and the college game.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Dakota Prukop, another one that got away

Over at Football Study Hall I wrote on the prospective Oregon starting QB, Dakota Prukop, a kid from Vandegrift HS (Austin, TX) that chose the Big Sky conference over competing FCS offers from in-state programs.

It's hilarious now when I see Sam Ehlinger struggle to break into the top rated circle of 2016 Texas recruits despite his prodigious skill but for whatever reason the rankings frequently seem to miss central Texas QBs.

Prukop would be lethal in a veer and shoot offense and now might prove to translate into a spread option attack so it's also amusing to see him play his football elsewhere. There's a strong case to be made for non-blueblood staffs waiting around to see what QBs develop as seniors because there always seems to be some hidden treasure that gets missed.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Josh Rosen and the OODA loop

UCLA is looking to get all up in their opponents' OODA loop next year by giving sophomore QB Josh Rosen tremendous autonomy to run the offense from the field next season.

I recall that when Peyton Manning first started running the no-huddle offense at Indianapolis a common take from commentators was that Manning wasn't going to be able to out smart a DC sitting up in the booth who'd spent years in the game and hours in film study. Then Manning won five MVPs and you stopped hearing that take as much.

The reason they were wrong is that a player who can adjust and call plays from the field is at a major advantage against a coach stuck watching from a booth because he can cycle through the OODA loop much more quickly.

The OODA loop is to Observe, Orient, Decide, Act and is a concept devised by military strategist Col. John Boyd. A re-occurring principle from warfare and competition's long history is that the side which can adjust on the fly to avoid disasters and seize opportunities is generally going to win, even if at a deficit in other areas. Peyton Manning allowed the Colts to have that advantage and generally dominated the league unless he was facing opponents that could stop him from cycling through the OODA loop, like the Patriots who always had crafty defensive players that could match his adjustments, or the Steelers who had a player in Troy Polamalu who was nearly impossible to accurately observe.

If Rosen can handle all of this, and I suspect he can, then UCLA could have a big season this year or the next before he departs for the NFL.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Texas' other QB problem

One of the less examined problems over the last several years at Texas has been the lack of effective quarterbacking on defense.

Safety is a pretty cerebral position these days and the young men who play it need a similar skill set to that of the quarterback in terms of directing teammates, understanding leverage and space, and playing tendencies. Texas has struggled to get that from their safeties, which is why a walk-on, converted cornerback is about to be a three-year starter for the Longhorn defense.

Follow the link above to read more about Texas' struggle to get this position right and where things currently stand for Charlie Strong's defense.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lamar Jackson and Lousville's upside in the ACC

Whatever Louisville's upside is as an ACC team, I think we're going to find it at some point in the next three years while Lamar Jackson is their QB.

Imagine if Jerrod Heard had a lightning release and strong arm and you're approaching what Lamar Jackson brings to the table. If Petrino can continue to adjust his offense to Lamar's skill set, much like how Mack Brown and Greg Davis had to adjust to Vince Young, I think we'll see Louisville do some amazing things over the next few years.

What exactly is a wide-9 defensive front?

Curious minds want to know...
Great question.

I remember there being a tremendous amount of hullabaloo when the Detroit Lions started using a "wide-9" technique DE a few years back. It became such a distraction that from then on out, anything good or bad that happened for their defense (usually bad) was attributed to their use of the technique.

In retrospect this was kinda funny, because the wide-9 sees a ton of usage from what might be THE Detroit university football team, the Michigan State Spartans.

Here's the deal, in normal 4-3 Over defensive fronts, the defense will align the 3-technique defensive tackle to the strength of the formation.

3-technique=DT who's aligned between an offensive tackle and offensive guard.
Strength of the formation: Typically the side with more blocking.

Whereas the Under front uses the nose tackle to the strong side, looking to squeeze plays into tight spaces, the Over front puts the 3-tech there and is looking to spill runs outside.

Here's typical Under and Over fronts with the DL techniques listed. First the Under front:
The 5-tech DE (between the OT and TE) and the 1-tech nose tackle have to be sturdy guys that can hold the point of attack while the rest of the defense converges on the ball from the outside in.

Now the typical Over front, the most popular front in the Big 12 and possibly college football in general:
Now you have a DE lined up just inside the TE and it's hard to double-team either him or the strongside DT because that player is a 3-technique. The goal here is to force the offense to either run the ball weak or to spill the ball outside.

Over teams today typically rely on Quarters coverage as well and make the safeties an active part of the run defense, so they're spilling the ball wide where their safeties can run things down.

This style of defense was really made popular by the famous Miami Hurricane teams of Jimmy Johnson and this is where the concept of "turning linebackers into DEs and safeties into linebackers" came from, because the design of the defense was to use pressure at the point of attack to turn the game into a test of speed.

Naturally the Over front, with it's focus on team speed, is more popular in the Big 12 than the Under front which requires finding some big sturdy defenders of the sort that are harder to find in the demographically challenged Big 12 recruiting landscape.

Now, a "wide-9" technique is exactly what you would guess, a DE (or OLB) who's lined up way outside of the offensive line or tight ends. A "7-technique" DE would play on the outside shoulder of the TE, but a wide-9 plays well outside:
You'll see OLBs line up as 9-technique players all the time, but it's not a huge deal because the 3-4 DE will be in a 5-technique or a 4i-technique. When you use a wide-9 in the Over front you've just given back the opportunity for the offense to double team your 3-technique (and your nose-tackle) and potentially blow open a hole in the middle of the defense.

The advantages of lining up a DE (or OLB) in a wide-9 are that it's easier for him to turn the corner and win the edge, either in the pass-rush or also against the run.

Michigan State uses a 9-technique strongside end in their Over-4 defense and he basically uses the extra space to allow himself to maneuver more easily and blow up what the blockers are trying to do.

Any follow up questions?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Chad Kelly and the Ole Miss O

Last year I was concerned that Ole Miss couldn't win because they were a "finesse spread" but with Chad Kelly they looked much more like an Oregon offense that was effective running the ball thanks to spread-option principles.

The Rebels lose NFL talents in LT Laremy Tunsil and WR Laquon Treadwell but Kelly is back and he's an ideal spread-option QB. If that defense is better this year I could see Ole Miss again competing for the SEC Western crown before ultimately falling short to Alabama.

Monday, June 6, 2016

What the 2017 Big 12 will look like

My man Chris Hall did some nice work recently at Inside Texas talking about the Big 12's decision to add a championship game starting in 2017 without adding additional programs to the league.

I explained on this blog before why expansion was basically a non-starter because there aren't any teams that add major TV market revenues that would make splitting the pot 12-ways rather than 10-ways an appealing option.

That article, "4 facts about the future of the Big 12" should be useful now if you aren't familiar with some of the underlying factors that are going to dictate how things go from here.

Adding a championship game is catching a lot of flak because one of the inevitable consequences it will have will be eliminating a Big 12 team from the playoffs that otherwise would have been "in." At some point in the future, Texas or Oklahoma will be the consensus no. 1 team in the Big 12, they'll play one of the northern teams in the title game, and they'll get upset. The result will be that no Big 12 team enters the playoffs that year.

Given enough time and that's going to happen, it's a mathematical certainty.

But the league is adding a game anyways because it's going to be entertaining and will create more revenue for the league. If you've been paying attention to what's going on at Baylor right now you know that this is ultimately all about money.

One positive from this is in scenarios like we saw in 2014 when TCU vs Baylor was the de-facto Big 12 championship game and it occurred in Waco. That's not really fair to TCU, who would have had a reasonable argument IF they beat Baylor in a end of year championship game that narrowly losing to the Bears mid-year in Waco but then beating them at a neutral site made them the true champions.

I happen to think Baylor was the better team that year but still, a neutral(ish)-site championship game clears issues like that up.

Here's where that becomes a problem though...Texas and Oklahoma already play their game at a neutral site and everyone is used to that game carrying the utmost importance regarding who wins the league.

In the future realignment of the league designed to create divisions and a championship game, Oklahoma and Texas cannot be in opposite divisions.

They have to be kept together or else you sacrifice the Red River Shootout and it's place of importance in the season. Since Texas and OU are absolutely calling the shots in this league you can bet on that game being protected. So here's how I'm expecting the divisions to shake out:

Separating Oklahoma and Oklahoma State isn't a great idea either because then you have the problem of an immediate re-match every year after Bedlam. Either they need to be kept together or else the game needs to be moved.
Instead, let's go with TCU, which should guarantee a little more division-parity so long as Patterson is sitting on the throne in Ft. Worth.

This is the divisional alignment that makes the most sense, and since everyone is still playing each other it's no great sacrifice for TCU. In fact, that's a pretty nice spot to be sitting in. Tech or Baylor would probably love to be in that spot but TCU is more eastern than Tech and more northern than Baylor so this is the best fit.

Should all be quite interesting and hopefully entertaining.