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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

From the Mailbag: Turnovers, Talent and Tipping Plays

I had a mailbag written yesterday, but sadly, the computer gods decided they didn't approve. I do appreciate the recommendations from all of you on backing up my stuff a bit better. Hopefully that will be the last time I lose so much material.

Also, don't forget we're chatting live at 1 p.m. today at You can head over there now, press the 'play' button and submit your question, or just join us live at 1.

In the meantime, here are a handful of other questions out of the mailbag I figured we could get to a bit early...

Greg writes: please tell me someone asked a tough question about the recurring KO disasters. Also- Can you ask him if he will re-evaluate how the staff handles special teams in the offseason?

I think we've all given up on that one. Richt was asked about it again on his radio show and gave the same stock excuse about the young players. The funny part about this, too, is that, when another reporter asked Richt a few weeks ago exactly which players work on the kickoff team, he said he didn't know.

I also spoke with Blair Walsh, who said that from Week 1 to Week 11, there have been no major shakeups of the kick coverage unit. With one or two exceptions, it's the same players now it was in Stillwater.

So the bottom line is this: The lack of experience makes for an easy explanation, and Richt isn't likely to provide anything more in depth than that no matter how many times we ask.

MT writes: What jumps out at me more is looking at that Murder's Row of teams we are in company with. The only program you could even remotely argue having any shred of a winning tradition is Washington, and that might be a bit of a stretch too. Besides Central Florida, the rest of these schools are in relative wastelands of recruiting talent too. With the stretch of top 10 classes we've had for quite some time, I think this more than anything else is an indictment of the serious undercoaching that has gone on this season.

I think this was the overwhelming reaction to the turnovers post I had yesterday. It's not so much that Georgia is really bad, but that the company the Dawgs are keeping on that list are all programs that don't come anywhere close to recruiting the same talent Georgia does. Georgia's second-string players are more talented than the first-teamers on any of those other squads. Which makes it all the more perplexing as to how Georgia can be this bad in the turnover department.

ArmyDawg writes: I don't know how you can ask the same question over and over (and I know you have asked) but why is that Kentucky can cover their kickoffs and blast our return guy at the 15 yard line? I know that our guys are just as talented as UK's players, their kicker is not any better than ours and our kick off team has had some pretty good returns this year but for some reason they can disrupt our return inside the 20 and we can't even get in the picture on my big screen TV until the Kentucky is running past the 30. Just baffles me (and for the record I'm as big a Richt fan as you can be) but these kickoffs are just rediculous.

This is another great point. Georgia couldn't cover a kick to save its life on Saturday. Kentucky not only covered the kick to open the second half well, but it got such a good hit on Branden Smith that he fumbled at a crucial time. I find it impossible to believe that Kentucky has more talent to use on special teams than Georgia.

jferg writes: Back through the early-mid 2000's, we didn't necessarily need turnovers because A)David Greene made few himself B) Our defense just stuffed teams and created tons of 3 and outs.

I'd bet if you compared opposing offensive plays run vs turnovers created, you'll see that is where this year's team is the epic fail. i'd bet those early-mid 2000 defenses played 20-30% LESS plays and therefore their "turnover per play ratio" is much better.

That's not too hard to look up, so here ya go….

Year Off Plays
Play/TO Def PlayTAs
2009 667 26 25.7 712 8 89.0
2008 826 19 43.5 816 16 51.0
2007 874 17 51.4 868 26 33.4
2006 768 31 24.7 775 30 25.8
2005 818 18 45.4 855 29 29.5
2004 826 19 43.5 747 17 43.9
2003 1023 18 56.8 880 29 30.3
2002 981 23 42.7 934 31 30.1
2001 784 20 39.2 811 21 38.7
2000 738 27 25.7 773 26 29.7

So what do we find?

Well, first, jferg's latter assumption doesn't hold water. Brian Van Gorder's D essentially allowed the same number of plays in a season as Willie's have.

Jferg's first point, however, is certainly correct. This year, Georgia creates a turnover just once every 89 plays -- which amounts to almost half as frequently as its next worst season, which just so happened to be last year.

But prior to the past two seasons, Georgia's turnover creation average has remained remarkably similar. In 2001 and 2004, the numbers skewed slightly, but overall that average has been right around one turnover per 30 plays every year from 2000 through 2007.

So what happened? We've discussed at length that Willie Martinez hasn't changed his scheme much. So why would there be so many fewer turnovers in the past two years?

If Georgia's defensive scheme has remained unchanged for the better part of 10 years, and the takeaway average also stayed the same for the first eight of them, logic dictates it wasn't the scheme that caused things to change in the past two. So perhaps a lot more fault belongs with the players than the coaches.

And while jferg didn't specifically ask, I provided the offensive numbers, too.

The interesting thing there is that, Georgia's two worst seasons under Mark Richt directly coincide with a big increase in the number of offensive turnovers. In 2006, Matthew Stafford was thrown to the fire as a true freshman, and the interceptions dropped as the year went on. This season, the turnovers haven't improved a lick, and the win-loss record has stayed dismal.

Again, maybe the coahces are less to blame, and more of the fault for the problems should fall to Joe Cox and the folks who keep fumbling the football.

(It's also probably worth noting that if Jim Donnan had a decent QB in 2000, he probably wouldn't have been canned.)

Will writes: David, is there any way you could bring up the point the Senator pointed out on his blog recently about Cox's footwork tipping off opponents to the coaches? I just don't know how else to get that to them. If we, as fans, can see this (and confirm it in numerous game film examples from this season) it can't have slipped past other defensive coordinators.

We all owe a big tip 'o the cap to The Dawgfather, who noticed this well before most people… including Mike Bobo apparently. But even Bobo now admits… it's true!

"We did go back and look at it and it was more so in the Kentucky game," Bobo said. "It was not every play of pass-run, but there was definitely more of a stagger this past week, and that's something we've got to work to correct."

My follow up: So you hand't seen this before the Kentucky game?

"No," Bobo said. "We usually have a stagger, and he had gotten a little more square on certain plays."

So congrats, Dawgfather. You noticed something nobody else seemed to, and you did it from the stands. The next time I'm playing that naked lady photo hunt game at 3 a.m. at some bar, I want you there with me.

Again, don't forget that I'll be taking the rest of your questions today at 1 p.m. at


The Casey said...

Didn't Donnan have David Greene as a true freshman in 2000, just to go ahead and redshirt him? I don't recall exactly, but I remember Donnan saying something about that a couple of years later when he was working for ESPN. Maybe he thought he would have more time to use him later.

Anonymous said...

Amazing. Thank God for bloggers, otherwise, our coaching staff would still be in the dark. I'm practically the leader of Team Richt, and I'm still on Team Bobo, too, but it's stuff like this that makes it tough. If a blogger in the stands can see this ish, then you don't think opposing teams can? I know for a fact that baseball teams do a ton of film study, just watching THEMSELVES to make sure that they're not tipping pitches, plays, etc. Does our football team not do the same thing? If not, WHY not? It's not like the other film study we do seems to be that effective!

jferg said...

Thanks for that graph and evaluation of my question. While you're right, my first assumption is way off base. BVGs defense ran just as many plays...they just forced a lot more turnovers.

Thank you! It's stuff like this that takes us from the "fringe" by basing our opinions on conjecture, to "reality" where our opinions are based on facts and numbers.

As for this week at sure hope the defensive coaches put 8 in the box. I like our DBs against their WRs in man-coverage (with Rambo playing center field). We will need RJ in the box for perimeter help. Last week scares me about this week because we could not keep UK from hitting the corner--even when we all knew that play was coming. Our LBs were playing their ususal "stuff the middle" position instead of widening out to cover the pitch better. I sure hope our coaches AND players show up Saturday. Lord knows GT will.

John said...

A Georgia Tech ad, right below this? Ugh.

Say it ain't so.

Senator Blutarsky said...

David, the one thing I'm genuinely curious about regarding Bobo's acknowledgement regarding Cox' footwork is: did you get the impression that the coaches actually learned about this from the internet commentary?

If so, I guess they're paying more attention to bloggers and message board commenters than they let on.

the anonymous suckup said...


jferg may not have been completely off base. It does look like WM's and BVG's squads played a comparable number of snaps. But remember that the clock rules have been different in the last couple of years. I assume the average number of plays per game have dropped across the board as a result of those new clock rules, although I don't have the stats to back up that assumption. If that is the case, then WM's boys may be on the field more often (compared to the national average) than BVG's boys were. Just a thought...

rbubp said...

Also, there were different numbers of games played in those years too. 2002, 2003, and 2005 had 14 games in the pre-clock change era. What year did that change? 2007, right?

rbubp said...

"Can you ask him if he will re-evaluate how the staff handles special teams in the offseason?

...Richt was asked about it again on his radio show and gave the same stock excuse about the young players. The funny part about this, too, is that, when another reporter asked Richt a few weeks ago exactly which players work on the kickoff team, he said he didn't know.

I also spoke with Blair Walsh, who said that from Week 1 to Week 11, there have been no major shakeups of the kick coverage unit. With one or two exceptions, it's the same players now it was in Stillwater. The lack of experience makes for an easy explanation..."

This really hacks me off. This is exactly the kind of ammunition that gets the Fire Richt crowd going. A. How can he not know who plays special teams? He's the CEO, does he not ask for any kind of updates or expect any information at all?? B. After 11 games they're not inexperienced any longer. The youth think doesn't cut it any more.

Does Richt not care or is he in denial mode until the end of the season? Why wouldn't this be fixed IN-season?


the anonymous suckup said...

Good point, rbubp. The years they went to the SECCG would throw another wrench into those season stats. Unfortunately, WM hasn't had the opportunity (cough, cough) to play in an SECCG lately...

Anonymous said...

Senator Blutarsky-

Did you ever play football? Because if you didn't CMR and Joe Cox think you shouldn't say anything or notice anything because you don't know what you are talking about. :)

rbubp said...

To support jferg's case, the average number of defensive plays per game was 64.7 for 2007-2009, and 61.6 for 2002-2006. Since the clock change was meant to speed up the game, and there are fewer plays run rather than more, our defense somehow missed out on that memo, and are actually running MORE plays per game.

But do the offenses affect that? if you look at the radical differences between 2002 and 2003, a clear comparison, the plays per game difference is still unclear. Look at the offense from those two years--2002: 385 yds/gm; 2003: 380 yds/gm; and the TO margin--2002: +8; 2003: +11. Not a huge difference.

Until you get to this: the big difference in plays per game between 2002 and 2003 was probably due to the defense's yards per play. 2002 was only 4.04 while 2003 had been 4.5. So using that as a clear analogy, it seems that if Willie's defense is on the field longer, it's more likely because they allow more yards per play than for any other reason, but it would take more analysis than i have time for right now to figure that out.

But they are on the field for more plays now when you factor in the clock difference and the number of games. How does that compare to 2007, the last time the defense was competent?