Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pick 6: Week 5 (Mississippi State)

Week 4 Wrap-Up:

Touches: Demps
Yards and Receptions: Hernandez
TDs: Demps and Thompson
Margin: 3

Defensive Points:

Cunningham 1 (for 2 sacks)

Weekly Participant Points (Total):

Mary 5 (24)
Sean 5 (20)
Galapagos 4 (15)
Michael 5 (9)
Mark 4 (5)
Brad (9)
John (4)

You can use the 'comments' section of this post to enter your selections against Mississippi State.

Here are the categories/scoring:

Defensive scoring (you make 2 defensive picks like you do for the other categories):

8 Tackles (solo and assisted)= 1 Point
1.5 Sacks= 1 Point
1 Interception= 1 Point
1 Score (TD or safety)= 1 Point

And here are the other categories:

Yards from Scrimmage
Touches from Scrimmage (runs + receptions + passes)
TDs (including returns/blocks)
Point Margin (list one guess--earn 2 points for being within 3, 1 point for being within 6)
(No QBs)

Play On!

Differences with New Offensive Coordinating

First, from EDBS, on not coaching offense from the Booth:
Understatement. It’s always fun. The Orlando Sentinel gently suggests Florida misses Dan Mullen in the booth. Answer this: has there ever been an offensive coordinator who was better from the sidelines than one from the booth? Did we ever see Norm Chow looking up from his sixth brilliantly called touchdown of the day when he wasn’t glowering menacingly from behind the plate glass of the booth? When we think “brilliant offensive coordinator,” we inevitably see someone working silently from the aseptic, quiet environs of the booth, watching dots move around on the field like an indifferent, all-powerful deity. When we think “offensive coordinator on the sidelines,” we see Ed Zaunbrecher. Two fun facts! Steve Addazio calls the offense from the field, and is leading an attack tallying 18 points less than last year’s epic slaughtering crew.

A few commentators brought up Spurrier as a counter-example this.

Here's the Sentinel piece.

This part doesn't sound good:
Meyer says Addazio is doing a "heck of a job."
(Remind anyone of something?)

On the new setup vs. the old:

"The only person who's going to get heat is me," Meyer said. "We're just maneuvering through a difficult part of the schedule. We're trying to get some things worked out."

Not much has changed with the play-calling process.

Florida still calls plays by committee, with Meyer having the final say.

First-year offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, also the offensive line coach, still calls the running game but is more immersed in the overall scheme. Meyer says Addazio is doing a "heck of a job."

Wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales still organizes red-zone offense.

The Gators still draw plays Thursday and Friday they'd like to run early in the game.


Mullen was an extra voice of reason from the press box. Mullen had no problem telling Meyer no.

At last year's FSU game, the field at Doak Campbell Stadium was soaked and Meyer wanted to run Tebow all night. Mullen convinced him to stick with the passing attack because players looked unaffected by rain. The Gators won 45-15.

"That was eight years of being able to say that," Meyer said. "Not many people will say that to me during a [game]. Steve will. Billy Gonzales will."

And you thought Mullen was the overly careful-conservative of the bunch.

More hurry-up?:
After Arkansas flustered Florida with different blitz packages, Addazio said the Gators will rely more on hurry-up offense to avoid "standing there so long watching."

"We have to change tempo," Addazio said.

Still getting comfortable? Really?:

Three offensive assistants have been with Meyer for two years or less, which makes transition inevitable. Quarterback Tim Tebow is building chemistry with quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler after three years with Mullen.

"It's going to take a little time to just get used to each other," Tebow said.

The Pat Dooley Show with Billy D.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Stop Punting!

Here and here:

Pulaski Academy does not punt.

I first heard about Pulaski from Peter Giovannini of Morrilton, Ark., a high school football official who wrote me to report in astonishment that he had just worked a conference championship game in which the winning team never punted, even going for a first down on fourth-and-6 from its own 5-yard line early in the game. "As a devotee of TMQ, I thought you might like to know at least one coach in the vast football universe has experienced the epiphany and refuses to punt the ball away," Giovannini wrote.

That team was Pulaski -- 9-1-1 after having just won its opening-round game in the Arkansas 5A playoffs. Coach Kevin Kelley reports that he stopped punting in 2005 -- after reading an academic study on the statistical consequences of going for the first down versus handing possession to the other team, plus reading Tuesday Morning Quarterback's relentless examples of when punting backfires but going for the first down works. In 2005, Pulaski reached the state quarterfinals by rarely punting. In 2006, Pulaski reached the state championship game, losing by one point -- and in the state championship game, Pulaski never punted, converting nine of 10 fourth-down attempts. Since the start of the 2006 season, Pulaski has had no punting unit and never practices punts. This year, Pulaski has punted just twice, both times when leading by a large margin and trying to hold down the final score. In its playoff victory Friday night, Pulaski did not punt, converting three of four fourth-down tries.

"They give you four downs, not three," Kelley told TMQ. "You should take advantage. Suppose we had punted from our own 5. The odds are the opposition will take over at about the 35, and from there the stats say they have an 80 percent chance of scoring. So even if you only have a 50 percent chance of converting the first down, isn't that better than giving the other side an 80 percent chance of scoring?" For fourth-and-short attempts, the odds of converting are a lot better than 50 percent.

As TMQ endlessly notes, NFL teams convert about 75 percent of fourth-and-1 tries. Yet highly paid professional coaches endlessly send in the punt unit on fourth-and-1, handing a scoring opportunity to the opposition. In the 2006 edition of my annual don't-punt column, I summarized the odds this way: "Nearly three-quarters of fourth-and-1 attempts succeed, while around one-third of possessions result in scores. Think about those fractions. Go for it four times on fourth-and-1: Odds are you will keep the ball three times, and three kept possessions each with a one-third chance of a score results in your team scoring once more than it otherwise would have. Punt the ball on all four fourth-and-1s, and you've given the opponents three additional possessions. (It would have gotten one possession anyway when you missed one of your fourth-and-1s.) Those three extra possessions, divided by the one-third chance to score, give the opponent an extra score."

Kelley says that when he began to shun the punt, people thought he was crazy: "It's like brainwashing, people believe you are required to punt." Players and the home crowd needed to get acclimated to it. "When we first started going on every fourth down," he says, "our home crowd would boo and the players would be distressed. You need to become accustomed to the philosophy and buy into the idea. Now our crowd and our players expect us to go for it, and get excited when no punting team comes onto the field. When my 10-year-old son sees NFL teams punting on short yardage on television, he gets upset because he's grown up with the idea that punting is usually bad."

Preparing the players for the no-punting future of football is a practical concern. If a coach unexpectedly kept his offense in on fourth down in his own territory, and failed to convert, the crowd would boo and the defensive players become demoralized. If the defensive players understood that a no-punting philosophy occasionally would hand great field position to the other side but overall would keep the other side off the field, they would buy into the idea. Imagine, in turn, the demoralizing effect on the opposition if its defense stops its opponent after three downs, only to realize that no punt will follow. For the 2007 edition of my anti-punting column, the stats service AccuScore did thousands of computer simulations based on 2006 NFL games and found that, on average, rarely punting added one point per game to the score of the teams that didn't punt, while not adding any points to their opponents' final scores. Computer simulations showed that rarely punting amounted to roughly one additional victory per season at the NFL level. At the college and high school levels, the bonus might be even higher.

Why do coaches punt on fourth-and-short -- and worse, when trailing or in opposition territory? "Most punting is so the coach can avoid criticism," says Kelley, who has coached Pulaski for five years and got his start in high school coaching in football-crazed Texas. "If you go for it and fail, the first question in the postgame press conference will be, 'Aren't you to blame for losing the game because you didn't punt?' If the coach orders a punt, the media will blame the defense." TMQ has always speculated that the desire to shift blame explains why big-college and NFL coaches send in the punting team. But take note, these days, the media and the postgame news conference are factors even at the high school level.

Pulaski Academy is providing real-world evidence of the future of football. The most important innovation in years is being field-tested by the Pulaski Bruins, and the test is going quite well. But don't just take Kelley's word for it. The decisive snap of Illinois' upset of No. 1 Ohio State on Saturday came when the Illini, leading 28-21 with six minutes remaining, went for it on fourth-and-1 in their own territory. Sports radio generally called this a huge gamble. Actually, it was playing the percentages; Illinois converted and held the ball for the remainder of the game. Had Illinois boomed a punt, the Buckeyes would have been in business. On Sunday, while trailing at Washington, Philadelphia went for it on fourth-and-1 in its own territory in the second half -- Fox television announcer Daryl Johnston called this "a huge gamble!" It was playing the percentages; the Eagles converted, and they scored a touchdown on the possession, igniting a comeback. Trailing 10-2, Buffalo went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Dolphins' 24 in the fourth quarter: a conversion, followed by a touchdown on the possession, keyed the Bills' comeback. Leading defending champion Indianapolis 16-0, San Diego went for it on fourth-and-2 at the Indianapolis 37, converted and scored a touchdown on the possession, going on to win by two points. Three times Jacksonville went for it on fourth-and-short in Tennessee territory, all three times converting and going on to score touchdowns; the Titans went for it on fourth-and-short twice in return, once failing and once scoring a touchdown. As noted by reader Rene Derken of Leuth, the Netherlands, Green Bay went for it twice on fourth-and-short in Minnesota territory, both times scoring on the possession -- but Minnesota punted from the Green Bay 42. Carolina went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Atlanta 20, and the play reached the Falcons' 2 before the Panthers' runner fumbled. Yes, New Orleans failed on a fourth-and-1 attempt in its own territory and went on to lose, and San Francisco failed on a fourth-and-1 on the Seattle 2-yard line when trailing big. But of the high-profile fourth-down tries in the NFL and in the Illinois-Ohio State game this past weekend, 10 were a total success, one a qualified success and three a failure. Not too shabby, compared with passively punting the ball.

And consider the punts that boomed when a play should have been run. Trailing 10-0, San Francisco (2-6) punted on fourth-and-1 from their 48-yard line and several minutes later was trailing 17-0. When the game was still tied, the Giants punted on fourth-and-2 from the Dallas 45. Not coincidentally, by game's end they were desperate for points.

Klosterman on Innovation in, and Love For, Football

Passing, Trust, Etc.

From here:
Last year, Florida had three players with 30 or more catches. In 2007, four Gators had 30 or more receptions.

This season, Hernandez and Cooper have combined for 51 catches for 693 yards and five touchdowns. Starters Brandon James, David Nelson and Deonte Thompson have accumulated 20 catches for 299 yards and four touchdowns — three from Thompson.

Outside of Hernandez (28 catches) and Cooper (23), no other receiver has double-digit catches, and only Thompson has 100 yards (127).

Meyer insists it's not a talent issue and that a few factors have played into the pedestrian numbers by Gator receivers.

For one, Meyer said defenses are causing protection issues for his quarterback. Defenses are giving unexpected looks to Tebow and his line. Players are getting open, but Tebow isn't getting enough time.

Poor protection is also causing Tebow to hold onto the ball a bit longer, causing him to try and make more plays with his feet. Meyer said it can sometimes be an issue to have Tebow hold onto the ball, but he can't blame his quarterback for trying to play smart.

"He’s not a guy that’s going to go take that shot if it’s not there," Meyer said.

Meyer said that while a heavy amount of the passing game has been directed to Hernandez and Cooper, not all those plays have been specifically called for them. They're getting open more because opposing defenses are dictating that.

Tebow took some of the blame for the receivers' numbers, saying his running mentality has caused him to miss open guys. He added that his trust in them isn't a problem.

"In some of those situations it’s me tyring to make a play instead of throwing it away," he said. "I don’t think it’s not having confidence in some of the players," he said. "I have complete confidence in all those guys who are out there playing."

I would add that it's also about trusting the passing pocket. Tebow seemed to often bail it too soon even when he maybe had time to check another receiver.

Tebow And Mullen

Ten months ago, Megan Mullen was packing up her husband's office at the UF Football Complex when a confused Tim Tebow entered.

Former Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen and his wife were starting to move on.

Tebow wasn't ready for that.

The Florida quarterback wondered why Mullen had to leave.

He asked Megan why Mullen took the first head-coaching job available.

He even asked if Mullen, now Mississippi State's head coach, really thought he would defeat the Florida Gators when the two collided Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Starkville.

"It was the first time I ever saw his youthfulness," Megan said. "He's so mature and beyond his years in everything, but on that day he was an emotional young man."

Getting Offensive With Demps

From here, by the author of TIMTEBLOG:
At the snap, the number called wasn't Tebow's, but Jeff Demps', who scampered into the end zone untouched around the left end. Tie game. Momentum shifted.

Even for Tebologists who follow No. 15's every step, this felt like a moment of clarity for offensive coordinator Steve Addazio: Florida doesn't have to depend entirely on Tebow to win games. In fact, recent history tells us Demps' stiletto style is a necessary contrast to Tebow's sledgehammer -- it wasn't until Demps and Chris Rainey emerged late in the win over Arkansas last year that Florida's offense really spread its wings and took off into the death phoenix it would become en route to the SEC and BCS championships.

People keep saying that this team is missing its "Percy Harvin," that versatile figure who can stretch the field in the passing game, and the Gators have already held below 24 points -- their lowest point total throughout 2008, against Oklahoma in the BCS title game -- three times. I would argue, though, that the game-tying moment on Saturday illustrated why Jeff Demps is as dangerous as Harvin -- if not as a receiver, then as a runner, and as a change of pace from the onslaught of Tebow that often defines the Gator running game. It is worth asking why Demps doesn't get more touches per game.

Tebow would be Tebow on the Gators' final, game-winning drive: A couple of runs right in line with his four-to-five-yards-per-carry adjusted average for the game, with a couple of completions to Riley Cooper (including the key play on 3rd and 10 to put the Gators in field-goal range -- a great play, but hardly a "Heisman moment.")

The point is this: Even if Arkansas was the "trap" game -- although if you win, it's positioned in hindsight as a "wake-up call" -- it is clear that both the coaches and Tebow are going to ride Tebow's legs all the way to Atlanta for the SEC title game. Theoretically, I would love to find out if Tim Tebow could win an SEC title (or BCS title) all by himself. As a practical matter, he can't. Now that Tebow has re-established himself as the team's thunder, it can't afford to forget about the Harvinesque lightning of Demps.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Getting Away With It

The great EDSBS had this spot-on post, with an accompanying song by one of Ode's favorite groups. The thick of it:

The dazed aftermath doesn’t shield a few essentials about Florida, though. Something is terribly palsied in the offense, in the execution, and in the playcalling. Arkansas played like mad bastards, especially Dennis Johnson the rolling water buffalo on rails, last seen bowling through the entire Florida defense, and wideout Greg Childs. The playcalling is relentlessly uninventive, and the line buckled under pressure from the Razorbacks’ d-line, the other set of Ro-beasts hounding Tebow and sacking him six times. This offense is, in the words of Sophocles, “kinda shitty.”

Arkansas deserves not your pity, nor any opining about the officiating. If they hit two field goals, they win this game, horrific calls and all. The one irritating us most: another inane taunting penalty in the first half, moving SEC officiating further away from the application of rules from a handbook, and more towards the spontaneous review of interpretive dance.

They didn’t, and now Florida will fall to where they properly belong: number two at best, and possibly three if you’re partial to Texas. If they faced Alabama tomorrow, the Gators lose by ten. There’s time to improve, but the problems go deeper than Percy Harvin demonstrating his mutant skills in the NFL. For now, we’re the Iowa of the SEC, and like Iowa, we’re getting away with it for the moment. As dirty as it feels, it is better than the alternative.