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Monday, July 27, 2009

Smart Links and Notes 7/27/09

1. ESPN's Bruce Feldman asks a panel "What makes a great college coach?" (Insider required.)

"He must be able to develop players. Good X's and O's can only put players in a position to succeed; they must also be taught the tools to actually do so. This requires that the coach be a great teacher of technique, drive, and desire (and if he is head coach he must be able to teach his players and his coaches those things as well), and to be a great teacher the players must also know that he cares before they will listen. Styles may differ -- compare Pete Carroll to Bear Bryant -- but the players must be willing to run through a wall for their coach."

That's my answer. Other contributors Feldman asked included former GA coach Jim Donnan, Rod Gilmore of ESPN, Jim Hofher Delaware's OC, and Phil Steele ("My No. 1 judge of a coach is how often they outperform my magazine's expectations."), among others.

2. Brophy chimes in with more on the "robber" coverage, as a jump-off from my recent bit on Va Tech's D for Dr Saturday. He includes some classic coaching tape of Virginia Tech vs. Syracuse in 1998 (McNabb was QB for the Orangemen).

3. The Blue-Gray Sky breaks down -- and is down on -- Notre Dame's use of the draw play. They do a nice job, but I'm confused why they are so down on the draw play. Michael points out that the play's average in 2008 was 4.9, which was down from a high of 5.3 yards per carry in 2005. That's true that it was down, but that's still a pretty good average for a team that averaged a paltry 3.27 yards per carry. (And if you take Jimmy Clausen's 54 "carries" for -74 yards out of the equation, ND still only averaged 3.92 YPC.)

Notre Dame's problems with the rush appear to be two-fold: one, they just need to get better at blocking up front, and maybe BGS is right that just committing to the inside zone or some other play will make them better; and second, the pass game is not as dangerous as it was, as in 2005 Brady Quinn averaged an impressive 8.7 yards per pass attempt (unadjusted). If I were them I would focus on a simpler base of run plays: four or five at the max. Anyway, check out the original post.

4. I agree with the Senator: The Tebow-gate vote scandal was anti-climactic (Spurrier: Uh, I didn't care enough to do it myself and someone else either got cute or lazy and I never looked. In fact, I never look.) As I take the Senator's point to be, do we care if coaches don't really bother with these things? I sure don't. I always figured the "Coaches poll" -- in its various forms -- basically just stood for "someone over there at the coaches office and/or athletic department of that school," and that was good enough for me. It's more of an issue of who else you'd want to ask.

5. File this in the category of strange ideas: Zach Zaremba wants Southern Cal to switch to the spread offense.
The Trojans have the athletes to run this prolific offense, so will they get behind the eight ball, or follow suit as so many teams have already done and install the offense of the 21st century?

Powerhouses such as Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Florida and West Virginia have made the switch. When will the mighty Trojans?

Uh. There's more there, but the argument seems to be that USC isn't scoring as many points as, say, Oklahoma or Florida, and they haven't won a National Title in four years. But that doesn't make much sense: USC lost to Oregon State last year, in a single defensive breakdown, and Stanford the year before, in just a fluke game (many spread offenses have had similar breakdown games). Relatedly, this really can't be an issue of being wide open enough, as USC throws the ball plenty and does -- contrary to what the article says -- use four and five receiver sets (though not with the frequency of a team like Florida).

The other reason of course that USC hasn't won a title game over the last four seasons (aside from facing Vince Young), is that the Pac-10 has let USC down: Florida, which won two of the last three titles, had a loss each season, and LSU lost two games. It's a strength of schedule thing.

Anyway I'm getting off topic. The article is weird, and based on an equally weird premise: "The spread offense is the most popular offense in football today." That, to me, is a good reason not to run the spread. Look, the issue with pro-style offenses versus spread offenses is that spread offenses, where the quarterback is a dynamic runner, can get an arithmetic advantage. But that doesn't make dropback passing obsolete; if your guy is Peyton Manning or Tom Brady -- or the college equivalent, like Leinert or Carson Palmer were -- then you are more than dynamic enough. It's not easy to find guys with that kind of passing ability, but USC definitely can.


Michael said...

Chris, thanks for linking our post on the Irish draw plays, the 3rd article in a series where we just look back at every run in the playbook.

It's not that we're down on this series of runs so much as we feel it's necessary to have a well-balanced running game. Last August Weis said he was going to "pound it," but then that didn't work and he was forced to adjust.

In the past, ND has relied too much on the draw. In order to become a BCS bowl team, they are going to need to improve the running game across the board. The next article, on ND's stretch play, will hopefully show that. ND averaged less than 2 yards per carry running left with that, and yet they continued to call it time and again.

OldSouth said...

Chris, you're too smart to waste time on things like that USC article. I know you don't want to be high and mighty, but you addressing that USC article is like Kinsey debating a sex year old on whether or not babies come from storks.

I, however, don't know as much as you, and therefore have no trouble pointing out a few more of the staggeringly horrible parts of the article (I had to check twice to make sure Mandel didn't write it):

-Implying all spread offenses are basically the same by not distinguishing between them. This gets worse when you make claims like "Sam Bradford proves that spread offenses can produce NFL players." As if what Oklahoma runs uses a quarterback that even remotely resembles a team like Michigan.
-Lumping in Houston Nutt and Jim Tressel with the spread coaches. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I remember seeing them in the ace or I most of the time, and a handful of spread formations as a change-up is not the same as a full-scale offensive philosophy overall, as the article applies.
-Using Virginia Tech as an example of good offensive anything
-Ignoring obvious cases that contradict him (i.e. awful spread offenses)
-West Virginia is not a "powerhouse," and it's misleading to place WVU and Michigan as two different teams switching to the spread (why not use Oregon?)

Mr.Murder said...

The draw works so good because the Irish are in second and long all the time. So, teams can give up a yard or two extra, seeing them set up for a pass.

Thus the number isn't as statistically relevant.

It's like trying a sac bunt with two outs.

Anonymous said...

VT doesn't run the spread. They have run more 3 receiver sets in the past few years, but this is not a spread offense.

Anonymous said...

Please don't link Bleacher Report articles. It hurts your sites image.

AERose said...

"This gets worse when you make claims like "Sam Bradford proves that spread offenses can produce NFL players." As if what Oklahoma runs uses a quarterback that even remotely resembles a team like Michigan."

Nevermind that Sam Bradford isn't an NFL player. By virtue of the fact that, you know, he won't play a single down in the League for a year at least. How wonderfully dull.

Anonymous said...

Please please PLEASE never post links like that USC article again. The ignorance of the media and fans never fails to get my blood boiling.

Really, posting that article is like a chess grandmaster taking time to seriously play a four year-old. It's unbecoming of you.