2. Tebowliscious. Tebowlitude. sporting savant Dan Shanoff has launched a new blog that will be all-Tebow, all-the-time. Introducing, the TimTeBlog. Enjoy.
3. Rules, rules, rules. I recently mused about the differences in offenses between college and the pros, and Doc Saturday also recently chimed, in wondering why more teams don't use the triple-option, following the lead of the academies. There's much more to say on those topics, but one thing I didn't hit on much is the difference in rules at the various levels. One reason that the flexbone and the option offenses have been successful in college is that, in college, you can cut block downfield. In most states, cut blocking is illegal. (Texas being a notable exception.) See the video below.
Another notable rule that, in my view, limits the incentives for pro teams to be spread is the different rule for the ability of linemen to go downfield on screens. In college and high school, linemen may go downfield and everyone, receivers included, may block defenders right away, so long as the ball is throw behind the line of scrimmage. This leads to some pretty dynamic screen games, which is one of the advantages of being a spread team: you have lots of options for throwing quick screens, jailbreak screens, bubble screens, and even your more traditional ones to the runningback often work well because the defense is expanded out -- you can turn a regular play into a kickoff return. Indeed, screens are still probably the best weapon against the zone blitz.
In the pros, however, linemen may not release downfield on any pass until the ball is caught, and receivers too may not begin blocking until then either or else they will draw a penalty. Now, some teams like the Patriots have found ways to integrate the screens, but it is pretty evident that you can't run these plays as effectively if your linemen can't get downfield quickly and your blockers have to dance and shadowbox for a few counts before they actually start blocking somebody. A play like the TD below to LSU's Early Doucet, with linemen ten yards downfield by the time he catches the ball, would be called back in the NFL.
NFL teams have learned how to push this a bit, but it is still a rather important limit.
4. Juice Williams for Heisman? Bruce Feldman recently discussed Heisman hopefuls other than the "Big Three" (Tebow, Bradford, McCoy), and one name came up that caught my eye: The Illini's Juice Williams. Now, the idea that the owner of the largest noggin in college might win its most prestigious award might sound ridiculous to anyone has, you know, actually seen him play, I have thought about this and find the Juice-for-Heisman argument a legitimate one. One, his stats last year actually were not bad: 3,173 yards, 57.5% completion percentage, and 22 TDs, to go with 719 yards rushing. He did throw 16 picks, but the other thing you notice from the stats is that they definitely trend upward; he has a chance to be decent next year. And Feldman is right that Illinois has a chance to actually upset some of the other teams in the Big 10 -- the conference does not look to have any dominant teams. And, finally, as Phil Steele pointed out, the Illini's poor record seemed somewhat out of whack in light of the stats they put up; Steele pointed out that teams in similar positions tend to bounce back the next year as their won/loss record regresses to the mean. So who knows?
5. Urban Meyer, Tebow, and film study. From an old Q&A between Pete Thamel and Tim Tebow:
Q. Let’s start from the top. How much film did you watch in high school?
A. I was blessed to be at a high school where I had a good high school coach who knew football. We did watch some teams on film. I think it gave me an advanced knowledge of coverages and stuff coming into college. Still, you’re not prepared to come in here and to be able to read defenses and watch film correctly; not just watch as a football player and be like, ‘Oh, nice play.’ But you’re looking at technique and how you would play against them and all those types of things. That’s what I didn’t know and that’s what Coach Mullen has done such a good job of teaching me. In high school I did watch film, but it wasn’t with the same knowledge and diligence that I do now. . . .
Q. Coach Mullen was saying that it’s a three-step process. He watches all the games to get a feel. Then he watches the cut-ups for specifics. Then he re-watches the games to piece it all together.
A. Yeah, most of the time I do it all with him. As far as when we’re game planning for a team like we are right now. Like he was saying he watches it. Watches games to get a feel and then you splice it up and look at all the cut-ups. Then you watch all that. Then you have a good feel for them. Then you put all that back together. Then you can say, ‘This is low defense. This is under G. This is one-hole. This is why they’re doing this, because there’s a tight end on the ball. They’re doing this because there’s an extra slot.’ You can really get a better feel for it like that. If you just start with cut-ups, you wonder how this relates to a game. He’s got a really good method of doing it, obviously, with his success over the years. I try to follow it and learn and do what he does.
And this part sounds to me like a guy who has a reasonable shot in the pros as a quarterback:
Q. I imagine the translation now compared to your freshman year is drastic in terms of how you process things in your mind.
A. Yeah, I can process things a lot more. In a situation like this, my freshman year, I’d be trying to locate. Let’s look at this. (Tebow uses the laser pointer and points to the film he’s watching.) We’ve got a shade 5-9, is it under or are they calling it over to the boundary. The Sam is here, so I know that it’s field under. I know they’re calling the strength of the field, even though it’s double tight. Now I can do it so much quicker. It’s just boom. You see it and you know. It’s quicker, you process things quicker. You don’t have to think, you can just react. Especially the teams that bring pressure a lot and disguise it well. That stuff has gotten so much easier. The teams that do it well as far as changing their calls, disguising blitzes their defenses and bluffing. That has gotten a lot easier to pick up on. You can play fast and you can make a guess and you can go with that. If it’s not there, and you make a wrong call, you still have the ability and knowledge, ‘O.K., I thought it was no-deep and made a no-deep call and they bluffed out of it, all right, where’s my check down, let me go to it now.’ That type of thing. Instead of making the wrong call, and saying, ‘Oh shoot, let me make a play panicked.’ Now I really just know where to go. That’s something I thought I did a lot better in the L.S.U. game this year. That was one of my best times doing that. When they did something like that, this is where I’m going if they come or if they don’t come. Sometimes you’re having two thoughts in your mind. Depending on what’s going to happen.
5. Quick hits. How many wins does it take to secure an NFL playoff berth? ... The Senator takes on everybody's (least) favorite columnist, Stewart Mandel ... Wages of Wins recommends Playbooks and Checkbooks: An Introduction to the Economics of Modern Sports, but Residual Prolixity is not as impressed. ... Sports is in a slump, likely due to mental fatigue ... Is new Detroit Lions' coach Jim Schwartz focusing on the wrong defensive metrics?
5. Good web hosting service? The launch of smartfootball.com is nigh, as the overhaul of the site's design is almost done, as is the transition from Blogger to Wordpress. A question for web-savvy readers, though: Can anyone recommend a good (and cheap) web hosting service? I obviously want something affordable, reliable, and steady. My traffic numbers are okay but not ESPN.com levels, though I am wary of getting only the lowest bandwidth and and crashing out on peak days. This site obviously has a lot of graphics and that tends to inflate my bandwidth as well. Any advice would be appreciated.