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Thursday, August 20, 2009

OSU's Robinson Should Worry Dawgs

It's easy to look at Georgia's defense last season and use the blanket terminology that the Bulldogs were simply bad.

To be sure, they weren't good. But there's often more to the story, and this analysis of the types of opponents Georgia played may illustrate a deeper problem.

Here's a quick run down of how running quarterbacks fared against Georgia last season:

QB Rush Yds
Team Rush Yds
UGA sacks
Ga. Southern
A. Henton
26 102 3
C. Michigan D. LeFevour
7 59 1
Vanderbilt M. Adams
19 114 0
Florida T. Tebow
39 185 1
Kentucky R. Cobb
82 226 1
Auburn K. Burns
28 124 1
Georgia Tech
J. Nesbitt
40 409 0

*NOTE: For our purposes, a running quarterback was defined as any QB who had at least 80 rushing attempts on the season or would have had he started all of his team's games.

And here's a run down of how the not-so-mobile QBs did:

QB Rush Yds
Team Rush Yds
UGA sacks
S. Carolina
C. Smelley
-9 18 2
Arizona State R. Carpenter
-17 4 4
Alabama J. Wilson
13 129 1
Tennessee N. Stephens
-15 1 2
LSU J. Lee
-4 188
Michigan State
B. Hoyer
3 31 6

*NOTE: QB rushing stats include negative yardage from sacks.

A few things should jump off the page for you.

For one, Georgia had 24 total sacks last season, and 17 of them came against the slow-footed QBs, despite those games accounting for less than half the Bulldogs' schedule.

Secondly, outside of Kentucky's Randall Cobb, there weren't a ton of big games by the quarterbacks most fleet afoot, but perhaps that's not what's important.

In the seven games Georgia played against mobile QBs, the Dawgs allowed at least 100 yards of offense six times and the defense surrendered an average of 174 yards per game on the ground. Yes, the 409 rush yards by Georgia Tech skew the average a bit, but that may well be offset by the fact that both of Georgia's non-BCS conference foes fall into this category.

Compare that with the teams that didn't have a running threat at quarterback and you see a much different story. In those six games, Georgia surrendered an average of just 62 yards per game on the ground, or about one-third of what it allowed to teams with mobile QBs. In the six games, the Bulldogs held the opponent to fewer than 100 rushing yards four times, and it's probably worth noting that the worst of those performances came against LSU, which employed run-oriented Andrew Hatch on a fairly significant number of snaps. In fact, Hatch had one 20-yard run in the game on which the Bulldogs' D looked utterly helpless.

(It's also probably worth noting that the other 100-yard performance was by Alabama, which probably featured the best offensive line the Bulldogs played all season.)

Why should all of this matter?

The answer is Zac Robinson, the fleet-footed quarterback at Oklahoma State, whom the Bulldogs will be tasked with stopping on Sept. 5.

Robinson 562 rushing yards and eight rush TDs last season, making him a true dual threat. In fact, he's so good, Georgia has been studying him for months.

"We've been watching film since the springtime on him, just by ourselves studying an opponent to get a read on what we're going against," defensive tackle Jeff Owens said. "He's very athletic, he's fast and quick. You watch him run the option and he can take a hit. He's not quick to pitch it like most quarterbacks. He'll turn it up and try to run guys over."

Ah, but he can dish the ball off to a pretty productive tailback, too.

Kendall Hunter averaged 6.5 yards per carry last season en route to 1,555 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns on the ground.

That's a dangerous combination given Georgia's recent history.

Of course, recent history doesn't necessarily apply. The same players who struggled through 2008 won't all be back on the field in 2009, and a few new faces may change the overall production of the defense.

But there is one similarity -- or at least there appears to be.

When Georgia hits the field against Oklahoma State, it will do so with a pass rush that offers a lot more question marks than most fans are comfortable with. None of the defensive ends who will be active for the game recorded so much as half-a-sack in SEC play last year -- and that's yet another piece of information to take from the stats listed above.

Think about when each of those games took place. Setting aside the bowl game, for which Georgia had more than a month to prepare, there's a clear trend in regards to Georgia's run defense.

Early in the season, the Bulldogs looked decent. Sure, Tennessee didn't have much offense, but 1 rushing yard? That's pretty impressive.

As the season wore on, however, and the frustration over the lack of penetration by the defensive line grew, those rushing totals went up and up, culminating with the disaster against Tech.

When the Bulldogs got pressure, they tended to stop the run. When they didn't, all the Reshad Jones tackles in the world wouldn't have made that stat line look pretty.

The bottom line, Owens said, is that containing the run is often about following schemes, and the more frustrated Georgia's pass rushers got, the less those fundamentals seemed to matter. The mobile QB in the backfield simply exacerbated the problem.

"You need to play with a lot of aggression because it's football, but you need to play within the scheme and with great fundamentals and technique," Owens said. "You know if you're rushing upfield, you have to corral him. If you break the pocket, you know he's looking to run."

The bottom line is this: While Cowboys' all-world wideout Dez Bryant is sure to grab the most headlines leading up to the game, he might not be anywhere close to Georgia's top concern.

In fact, to hear Owens tell it, Georgia would just assume have Robinson throwing the ball to Bryant as often as possible. It's the ground game that's the real worry.

"The main thing is you have to contain them," Owens said. "For us to be successful against him, we have to corral him and put pressure on him, but play within the scheme. We can't allow him to break contain. We have to keep him in that bubble and let him throw the football. We can't let him get outside the pocket because we know he can beat us with his feet, and that's one thing we don't want him to do."


TomReagan said...

I think it's important to point out that we were running nickel against most of those teams, which really hurt us because of our DL problems.

Hopefully, with Owens back in there and another year of development from everyone else, we'll be able to defend the run out of the nickel.

Amazingly, DT is going to be even more of a premium position with the rise of the spread, or at least I think so.

Dawg Stephen said...

One thing that I really like about OK State having such a threat like that and running the option the way Jeff Owens mentions is that we are all (coaches and players included) upset over the Tech loss. So if Coach Richt and Coach Martinez are vowing to get better, this game is a fine place to do so. If Georgia holds these guys to 17-21 points I would have to think that the Bulldogs win the game.

jferg said...

That's a good point by TomReagan. If the middle of OSUs OL collapses, they will be forced to "belly out" the option which gives our D a little more time to get there OR big Geno/Kate/Owens can get a paw in there and disrupt the pitch/tackle for loss.

However, let me play DH for a moment.

One the primary problems a mobile quarterback offers is not his ability to stand in the pocket and pick you apart with his arm. It is his ability to move out of the pocket and possibly run for a few yards that makes him so difficult to defend. Therefore, having dominant DTs will only exacerbate (sp?) the problem by FORCING the QB into a mobile situation which has already been defined as his most dangerous/productive role. Dominant DTS may make the problem worse.

Let me rebut like Jferg. This is why Jeff Owens said what he said regarding the DL pressure. You have to corral the qb. Meaning the DTs hold ground while the DE's cirlce around to the sides therefore creating a pocket or coral from which the qb cannot run out of...then squeeze the pocket. This is a very disciplined defensive attack and if any of our DL get pushed off their assignment, that will allow a crease from which the qb can escape and make plays. It sounds to me like they, the DL, "get it". Do not rush upfield with hells fury and no discipline. Work as a group to round up that QB into a corral....much like a cowboy would do to cattle. hmmmmmmm

TomReaga said...

Jferg, I agree with your comments on defending, or more specifically rushing, an athletic quarterback.

My point is really that our problems against the run are because we had trouble stopping the run after pulling our third LB to defend spread offenses.

As Dave pointed out, the QBs themselves didn't gash us.

I think this post is pretty spot on, but I think that it's not a problem of defending mobile QBs, it's a problem of stopping the run out of spread offenses. It just so happens that those teams generally have mobile QBs.

jferg said...

Point well made. I guess in this situation, your LBs, safeties (who will be cheated up) and Nickel need to be very sure, open-field tacklers.

You know, a nice Greg Blue-esque rib rocker goes a long way in disrupting the option as well. Wonder if we can have he and T Davis to come in the week before the game and give some tips/motivation by watching their highlight reels with the current DBs?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the realism and the balance.


IveyLeaguer said...

Thanks for the realism and the balance.

Xon said...

Giving it a quick analysis in my own shaky brain, I'm not sure it would make much difference, but it would be interesting to break this down into two KINDS of "running qbs". I mean, GA Southern and Tech were running a triple option, which isn't necessarily about having a "fleet-footed" QB. I mean, those qbs aren't slow, but it's a different dynamic than in the spread.

Robinson is a "spread" qb, not a triple option qb. Like I said, that doesn't really seem likely to make much difference to the stats from last year (though the horror-fst worst game for the Dawg D was the triple option debacle with Tech).

Just wondering out loud...

Carter said...


As to your point about our previous safeties: you probably know Davis was converted to WLB as a rookie, but I learned last week that Jermaine Phillips also will be moving from SS to WLB.

I remember Blue getting burned in covergae almost as much as I remember him lighting someone up.

I think a healthy Q. Banks would be the best hitter in our secondary.

Hobnail_Boot said...

I fail to see why comparing sacks on mobile vs. pocket QB's is important.

Mobile QB's by definition should be harder to sack.

Anonymous said...

Tech runs the spread not the triple option.

ArchDawg said...

But mobile QB's will have more sacks precisely because they look to run more. They'll also burn you more often, too, by the way.