Friday, January 29, 2010

A Test of Your Recruiting Mettle.....

Some are dated & arcane; ruins from another culture long ago. Some are new-fangled & fancy; embracing the modern age of technology. Almost all are bureaucratic rigmarole designed to confuse even the smartest among us. Of what do we speak? Why NCAA recruiting regulations, of course. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram published this quiz on NCAA protocol & we found it interesting. A challenge to you all: take the quiz & record your score in the comments section. The prizes: the reader with the most correct answers will be eligible to become director of compliance/recruiting coordinator for the Ivy League school of their choice. The reader with the least number of correct answers......a volunteer job on Lane Kiffin's staff. Have at it & post scores in the comments section....
-Hash (for the record my score was 15)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Some Insights & Undercover Work.....


We've been thinking a lot about our new 3-4 defense & the personnel necessary to run it. The conclusion: you need big defensive linemen, particularly at nose tackle. Where does one find behemoths of this magnitude? It's not like we can run down to the old Walmart & pick up our prototype 340 pound nose guard (belay that, we could find plenty of 340 pounders at Walmart, getting them into Tech....???). So what do we do? How can we solve this vexing problem?
We decided the best way to attack this mystery is to head west to Tuscaloosa, home of the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide, your 2010 BCS National Champions. Nick Saban worked along side our new defensive coordinator Al Groh & both are "gurus" of the 3-4 defense. Anyone who watched the Alabama defense this year had to be impressed by the seemingly interchangeable 19 gargantuan defensive linemen they employed on their way to an undefeated season. What's their secret? Well we went undercover with our camera & came up with some interesting results:

First, you gotta start 'em young. Look below at current seventh grader & Tide commit (solid verbal, according to Rivals) William Tecumsah Shuman. The in-state Tide network had Saban on this kid in fourth grade; by sixth he'd pledged his allegiance to Tide nation. Here's Billy running a 40 for Saban & Co. :

Billy T. Shuman - future Tide defensive lineman, class of 2020.....

Next you gotta feed these boys properly. This here is Miss Lurlene Tompkins of the Prattville Tompkins, for all ya'll interested. She's the nutritionist for the Tide football team. Notice she wears her allegiance on not only her sleeve but other places:


So what's Miss Lurlene's trick to getting these boys so big? "Gotta feed 'em right, ya hear". Her secret weapon:

The famous all-you-can-eat buffet.....

Now Miss Lurlene's not alone in gettin' the boys ready for Coach Saban. This here is Mr. Reginald "Tater" Morris, 32 year veteran of the Tide staff as strength & conditioning coach. Notice in the picture below how he keenly eyes the cookies & donuts, carefully picking only the best for his young men.


"This here's an important job & we spend lots a time coachin' the boys up. Hell, it takes time to get big & ready to play football. Take some of these freshman. When they get to me they can barely finish a box of double stuff Oreos in one sittin'. By the end of their redshirt year, I got 'em eatin' 12 Moon Pies & drinkin' a gallon of milk BEFORE practice. That's my job, that's what I do....". That's commitment, my Tech friends, laudable, unparalleled commitment.

But that can't be all there is to getting one's defensive line ready to play? Why of course not. There are drills & plenty of practice that go into being number one. Below are some famous Bama drills for getting the boys into tip-top form. First, big men tend toward the sedentary. I am one so I know. How does one motivate a big man? Why yes, it really is that simple, food. Coach Saban knows this & employs the famous "hold-me-back-the-buffet-is-about-to-open drill". We've already talked about the importance of the all you can eat buffet, particularly on fried catfish & hush puppy night. It's simple, says Tater Morris: "just line the boys up 50 yards from the front door of the buffet 10 minutes before they open. That 10 minutes is important; you gotta' let 'em think about what lies ahead. It's sorta' like installing the game plan for dinner. Well, just blow the horn & open the doors & ....goddamn, it's like a stampeding herd of buffalo. You ever seen a 330 pound man compete with 18 other 330 pound men to see who gets to the fried chicken first? That's some inspirin' shit, city boy." We witnessed this back in 2008:

See if you can find JFK's face in the roiling blubber? A prize for the first person that does...

That's #6 overall NFL draft pick & current Cincinnati Bengal Andre Smith in full stride on a buffet run. The earth shook as Smith trundled toward his gastronomic reward. Awe inspiring...

Now we've been talking of the need for a powerful nose tackle in our new 3-4 & no one better fits that role than Bama's Terrence "Mount" Cody, the 6'2", 370 pound mountain of love who single handedly made it impossible to run on the Tide. Here's Cody, in all his glory, being measured at this week's Senior Bowl before NFL scouts.

Note the chiseled physique, muscular striation, & moobs...

But Cody wasn't just born a nose tackle, he had to work at it. Many people actually mistook the photo below for a simple summer swim. Alas, to the untrained eye that might appear to be the case. That's really a pool of gravy Cody is diving into, through which he will swim/eat his way out of. That's modern conditioning, folks.


And he's a great athlete. The man runs a sub 5.1 forty yard dash & can dunk a basketball. Hell, he leaps over people for fun....


But perhaps nothing sets Cody apart more than his desire for the ball. He simply lives to wrest the rock away from opponents. What's the secret? "We just told him to think of the ball as a ham" said Saban. "And everytime he gets the ball we then give him a ham". That is one motivated individual....

So now we know what it's going to take to win a BCS championship with our 3-4 defense. Let's hope Tech strength & conditioning coach Eric Ciano sees this......
-Hash (thanks to The Mayor for the photoshop work)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Adios & Good Luck.....

Lovely downtown Buffalo.....

So Giff Smith is indeed leaving for Buffalo & the lure of the NFL. Frankly, we can't blame him. Passing over Giff & hiring Al Groh was a great hire for Tech. It's not really up for debate. But the consequence of this is losing Smith. Smith has been very open about his desire to be a defensive coordinator or head coach on the collegiate level. Staying at Tech might or might not have helped his chances. Leaving to coach in the NFL, the highest level of football, is a great resume builder. And the money is much better than the $189k we were paying him. So best of luck, Giff.
But this is not, as reading many Tech message boards might suggest, the end of the world. We'll still bring in recruits next year. Trust me. Giff was invaluable in developing relationships with high school coaches throughout Georgia. Those relationships are now in place & will remain strong even after Giff leaves. We'll be just fine. So who replaces Giff?
Well our guess is that linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary will take over as recruiting coordinator. This is a guess but it does make since as 1) Jean-Mary is an accomplished recruiter, & 2) coach Groh is coaching linebackers with him so he should have the necessary time to devote to the job. This would also ensure continuity in recruiting which is never a bad thing.
As for our defensive line coach we know we'll have plenty of people interested in the position. Our first choice would have been former Tech coach & current Oklahoma State defensive line coach Glenn Spencer. Evidently CPJ reached out to him but he is staying at OKSU for family reasons. Current North Carolina State linebackers coach Andy McCollum is a name in play as he's a good coach & has a relationship with both CPJ & Groh. Also in the mix is current Richmond coach & former UVA defensive line coach Chad Wilt. As names begin to emerge we'll of course keep everyone posted.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction…

As an Architecture student at Georgia Tech I studied a lot of history, art history, theory and art theory. Some of you engineering students who mistakenly signed up for an easy “Art History” A know what I’m talking about. The Penultimate Essay of all Essays on art in the modern age is Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. This essay is short and dense, and like all academic writings, after multiple readings and hours of discussion it finally dawns on you that theme of the essay isn’t all that complicated. Be patient, this will get around to football, eventually.

For all you Benjamin scholars out there, please feel free to rip my interpretation to shreds.

Back in the day, before “mechanical reproduction” (and we can know add chemical and digital to that), art object where pretty much just that, objects. There was one of them. No copies, no post cards, no photo graphs. The only way you could see it was to actually go some place and see it for yourself. In the case of religious art, which for the majority of human history most art was religious, you not only had to go some place, but you had to be there at the right time, like at the festival of the virgin marry. On that day the priest would actually take the statue out and parade it around town. And that was it man, that was your one chance to see it that year. Miss it and you’re done.

This inaccessibility, gave the work and “aura” in Benjamin’s terms. Works of art where known better for their ancillary characteristics, such as who owned it, as opposed to their inherent aesthetic s. In Benjamin’s understanding this created a cult around the object, a cult that was manipulated by a select few.

Mechanical Reproduction freed art from the cult of aura. Not only did it become possible for everyone to see images of any old statue of marry any old time they wished, but new forms of art, such as photography and film had no original. A copy of a Charlie Chaplin film viewed on the set where it was filmed was no more authentic than a copy shown in Berlin movie house. Benjamin interpreted this as a watershed moment for art. For the first time ever art was accessible to everyone. It spoke to the masses first. Objects would no longer be judge through the lens of their ancillary characteristics. Instead they would be judged through the lens of the reproductions of them.

At first reading Benjamin sounds like a typical socialist intellectual. Power to the People, all hale the machine! That kind of thing, but his feelings where really more ambiguous about his discovery. Mechanical reproduction did open up art to more people, and gave more people an opportunity to engage it on there terms, but the loss of aura also meant the loss of something. The cult which developed around an object magnified its power to coalesce individuals into a community, by creating a unique moment in space and time that only those dedicated to the cult would experience. It was a shared experience that existed outside the realm of normal everyday life. One could not be interrupted by a phone call or the pizza man at the door. You where there, and it was special. After the invention of mechanical reproduction things changed. The value of being there was undermined by the convenience of being anywhere.

Sport has dragged behind much of modern culture in this way. Despite the advent of live broadcasts, until recently, being there was the authentic way of experiencing a sporting event. Once it was done it was gone. Even into the mid 90’s most sporting events where not broadcast on television. The recent expansion of television, cable, and internet broadcasting means that a person can stay home, see more football games, and see the action clearer than some one in the stadium.

This boom in mechanical reproduction of sporting events live has shifted the understanding of sport from local, cult, experience, into a disincorporated consumption of sporting data. Through this dissemination the average fan has become more knowledgeable than ever, but at the cost of being less engaged with the actual games themselves, which is emotional and visceral in a manner that cannot be reproduced by mechanical means.

In college football this loss, or at least greatly decreased importance, of the visceral connection to an actual game has created a need for a new way of interpreting the results of a football game. It’s not surprising then that with an increase in the number of telecast games, and more exposure to more teams for the typical fan, that there has been an ever increasing demand for a college football playoff system. A play-off system would be a narrative device that would replace the visceral meaning of a live football game with intellectual meaning. A playoff system provides a common touch stone to which all fifty plus games played every week can be compared, but a playoff system would also accelerate the loss of the cult value of attending a live football game as the value of the game would not be defined immediately by the emotional impact of being there, but at a later, and in terms of its relationship to the playoff system, which can only be assessed in relation to all the other games that were played that week.

The end result would be a college football game more like pro-football in which the live games exist as a stage set for a day long television event and week long analysis. It would still be exciting to attend football games, but in a different way. Instead of being apart of a cult like act of unison, which is limited in scope, the excitement would be derived from the exhibitionism of being a part of a televised event, to be there and know that millions are watching you. From a competitive point of view, the games might as well played in an empty field house with no fans, and the results posted on line.

Regularly scheduled programming.....


We thought we might have a slow day but there's plenty going on to keep us busy. A few things to make Tuesday go a bit faster:
  • We have extended a scholarship offer to Roswell High WR Chris Boyd. Currently committed to Vandy, Boyd will take an official visit this weekend. At 6'5" and 195 pounds, Boyd has the frame to add some weight (during a redshirt year) & be the type of dominating physical presence BayBay was in our offense. Some highlights from his junior year.
  • Several VPISU boards are posting that we will play them on a Thursday night this year (in Blacksburg). Let's hope they don't have a bye week before they face us. But wait, something tells me Beamer will have his way with scheduling & the ACC office. And just for the record, in case we haven't made it clear in the past, we think ACC commissioner John Swofford is an incompetent buffoon. The term Cock Weasel applies.....
Release the 2010 football schedule....!!!!
  • Lane Kiffin has been on the job less than a week & already committed a secondary recruiting violation. Of course, the NCAA has the enforcement power of the Mexican Navy so expect to see plenty more of this. In fact, in yesterday's Fish Wrapper, athletic director Charles Loveless of Florida's Frostproof High noted, "Monte Kiffin has been very persistent. He's probably been in here more than is legal. Of course they don't pay attention to the rules." So we've got random high school coaches calling out Kiffin while the NCAA sits with its thumb up its collective ass.....Par for the course.....
  • According to the Triad Business Journal, the ACC generated $29 million in Bowl revenue this season with Tech's Orange Bowl leading the way at a whopping $18 million! After travel expenses the conference splits the revenue evenly amongst all teams. Che Guevara would be proud. Not to be picky but UNC gets $1 miilion for travel to the Meineke Car Care Bowl? It's in Charlotte, you ACC bureaucrat shitbirds!!!!! Glad those gold-plated buses came in handy for that long drive from Chapel Hill to Charlotte. Did we mention that ACC commissioner "Cock Weasel" Swofford is the former AD at Carolina. Hmmmm....
  • We've long said that the "star" system for ranking recruits is bogus. Looks like this year's Super Bowl proves our point. ESPN's Bruce Feldman looked at both SuperBowl teams & found that rankings are really a poor predictor of success. The article is here & we're not an "Insider" so we apologize you aren't privy to all of it.
  • Finally, we're almost at a loss for words over this:
Only a Georgia fan would rub himself in peanut butter before a big game....

Deadspin has the full scoop on this...this....abomination. Please remember U(sic)GA fans: incest effects us all. No sisters or cousins. Thank you for Peanut Butter Kid but one is enough.........

Rumors & Innuendo.....


There are widespread rumors floating about that defensive line coach & recruiting coordinator Giff Smith is leaving Tech to become the outside linebackers coach on Chan Gailey's staff in Buffalo. Kelly Quinlan of Rivals (a source whom we trust) is reporting that Giff has interviewed for the job but has not signed a deal as of right now. We're sure CPJ will do everything he can to keep Giff around. While we're never disappointed in someone bettering their situation (leaving for an NFL job after being passed over for a promotion, in this case) the timing could not be worse for us with just eight days until National Signing Day. Good luck to Giff whatever he decides & here's hoping we keep all our current commitments.
Oh yeah, one other word of advice: following Chan Gailey anywhere is a dubious move. Unless that is you feel going 8-8 or 9-7 is good job security. Don't say you haven't been warned. And you'll be living in Buffalo. Ponder that for a second. Buffalo. Cold, wind, snow, Yankees. A true cultural mecca, Buffalo. Hell, Macon looks civilized compared to that shithole. So Giff, put down the Jim Jones Book of Career Planning, set the NFL Kool-Aid on the table, & settle in on the Flats......we now resume our regularly scheduled programming.....

Monday, January 25, 2010

Random Thoughts & Monday Musings...

Here we go on a Monday morning:
  • On the second-to-last weekend for recruits to take official visits Tech hosted several key targets & picked up two new commitments in LB Jeremiah Attaochu & RB Deon Hill. A linebacker from Washington D.C targeted by Al Groh while he was at Virginia, Attaochu will likely redshirt & end up playing outside for us. At 6'3" & 223 pounds, Attaochu has prototypical size for either "Jack" or "Sam" in our new 3-4 defense. As many of you know we abhor the "star" system espoused by recruiting services & prefer to look at what schools have offered a recruit. Attaochu's list is impressive & includes Illinois, Minnesota, Maryland, Virginia, & Kansas State. Some highlight video on Attaochu. Welcome to the Flats.....
  • Perhaps the most surprising offer CPJ & staff have made this year is RB Deon Hill from Phenix City, Alabama. Hill has flown almost entirely under the radar during recruiting but our staff obviously saw something they really liked to extend an offer with so few scholarships available. Hill comes to the Flats from the same high school as departing OL Cord Howard & rising sophomore Orwin Smith (whom he backed-up for two years in high school). His highlight video is a good one as he shows great burst & terrific hands out of the backfield. At 6'0" & 195 pounds, expect Hill to play A-back at Tech. Looks like we have a nice "in" over in Phenix City. Welcome to the Flats.....
  • The offer to Deon Hill is proof of something we have suspected for a while now: CPJ wants to get bigger & more physical at A-back. While it's great to have smaller players like Marcus Wright & Embry Peeples at the position, we need more size as blocking is a big part of the position. Too often this year our A-backs were easily defeated in one-on-one matchups with safeties & linebackers. Getting bigger while not sacrificing any speed or ability seems to be a recent priority.
  • Speaking of Phenix City's Cord Howard, he played in the East-West Shrine game on Saturday & acquitted himself quite well. The two-time All-ACC selection at guard looked very good run blocking & did well enough pass protecting that he will definitely have a shot to be drafted this spring. We'll of course follow Cord's quest for the "chedda" & keep everyone updated....
  • A fine article on former Jacket & current Patriot Gary Guyton on the off-season & some charity work he is involved in. Good on ya'....
  • For the second consecutive year a former Jacket(s) is guaranteed a Super Bowl ring as Philip Wheeler's Colts will meet Chris Reis & Tony Hargrove's Saints in Miami. Let's keep collecting the bling....
  • Many people wrote off Tony Hargrove after he flunked out of Tech & ran into some legal issues. A great piece by NFL Films on his struggles & the adversity he faced to get to the Super Bowl.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Quick Saturday Notes....


A few tidbits before we embark on a Saturday filled with non-football related activity. The thought that we have to wait seven months to see college football again is just painful. Damn....
  • Frank Lloyd Wrong is a renaissance man: architect, music aficionado, & art connoisseur. While we're at the gun show tomorrow (Eastman's, Cobb Civic Center) there's a decent chance Frank will be taking in the sights at a local museum or some other cultural activity. We laud him for this. We particularly appreciate the fact that he does this AND writes this blog. Truly a well rounded fellow. We do feel obligated to add a new artist to Frank's pantheon of greats. We present to you THujone of Shaggy Bevo, a University of Texas board. He is the wunderkind of MS Paint. His description, in pictures, of his national championship game experience is simply epic. I'm actually tempted to buy a T-shirt (page 5 of the thread). What can I say but fucking hilarious......
  • Speaking of humor, Runaway Lane, a musical parody of the popular Soul Asylum song, is worth five minutes of your time. And here's another Kiffin musical homage. Lane Kiffin, the gift that never stops giving (kinda like syphilis, we'd imagine....)
  • Al Groh had his inaugural press conference on the Flats yesterday. He's all business but did manage to throw in a couple jokes here & there. We'll hopefully be able to find the audio but until then a couple salient points: 1) he will coach from the sidelines, not the box, 2) he'll coach linebackers along with Brian Jean-Mary, 3) "coaches with schemes & no talent are coaches of unimportant games". Well said sir....
  • Charles Perkins, the state's highest rated running back according to most recruiting services, has not only enrolled at Tech early he evidently has inherited the coveted #21 jersey. Calvin Johnson, Jon Dwyer, & now Perkins. The expectations are obvious but we think he'll have no trouble delivering.....
#21 Charles Perkins. No pressure, sir...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jail Bait....Gator Bait....Jail Bait.....


If you've ever been to Gainesville or been around Florida fans you'll know they are, shall we say, an interesting group of people. On one hand, they dislike all things U(sic)GA almost as much as we do. A laudable trait in a fanbase. On the other hand, well we need more than one hand. Let's begin with their penchant for wearing jorts (jean shorts for the uninitiated). Just not good. Ever. Florida fans can also be, shall we say, overly vociferous & vocal in their support of their team. The incessant chanting of "Gator Bait, Gator Bait" while smacking their arms together in a seizure-like motion isn't really endearing to anyone. In fact, it's pretty damn annoying. So we would like to propose a new version of the classic cheer to our Florida friends this week. "Gator Bait...Jail Bait...Gator Bait...Jail Bait". A hand motion is included: after smacking your hands together in the aforementioned seizure-like motion then place them behind your back so you may then be handcuffed. Appropos. We'd like to say it has a certain "je ne sais quoi" about it but that's not really the case as we can easily explain the genesis of our new cheer. Just this week:
  • Florida broadcaster Steve Babik was arrested this week on charges of receipt, distribution, & possession of child pornography. Babik, who is the sideline reporter for Gator football games as well as the host for the pre & post game radio show, has been terminated by the University. We thought of lots of jokes but it's kiddie porn & we just can't bring ourselves to it. All we can think of is Bernard in Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead. There's a special place for people like Mr. Babik & we're guessing you get intimate interaction with Lane Kiffin while you're there...
  • Senior linebacker Dustin Doe had a warrant sworn out for his arrest because he failed to complete 8 hours of community service stemming from two charges of driving without a license. That's 8 whole hours, Dustin. Must of been too busy pimpin' his ho's to make those appointments. Solid work, sir.
  • And not to be out done, former Florida cornerback (his eligibility just ran out) Wondy Pierre-Louis was arrested on four felony charges after attempting to strangle his girlfriend and hold her captive. He's out on $40,000 bond for all you that live in the area. Well played, Wondy....
No wonder Urban Meyer took a leave of abscence. Might want to clean things up in Gainesville......

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On Gailey, transfers, new coaches, & more.....


It certainly hasn't been as slow as we expected after the season ended. There's plenty of stuff going on out there to keep us busy & interested. A few things on the radar:
  • Chan Gailey is the new head coach of the Buffalo Bills. By all accounts Chan is a very nice man & we wish him well in Buffalo. We were, for the record, proponents of letting Chan go. He just wasn't the right fit for Georgia Tech or the college game. We'll leave it at that. Tech grad & uber-blogger Orson Swindle summed up Gailey's time on the Flats perfectly: "Chan Gailey Equilibrium, a mathematical figure equivalent roughly to 7-5. (If Chan Gailey plays you in anything, by the way, he will win exactly 58.3 percent of the time. We all have talents. Chan’s is having a mathematical tendency associated with everything he attempts.) Tech’s problem hasn’t been tight or loose scheduling–it’s been Chan Gailey, who will get you the same product every single time no matter if he’s fielding a squad of Nandralone-fueled sex offenders or a team of sleep-deprived midgets. Either team would lose inexplicably to UNC before handing Miami a shocker loss to finish at CGE, because that’s what his brand of football is designed to do." This is so true. For the record, Gailey is now being paid by 3 football teams: the Buffalo Bills as head coach, the Kansas City Chiefs who fired him as their offensive coordinator last year, & Georgia Tech, who owe him just over $1million per year through 2010. Any of you that think Ol' Chan ain't smart choke on that one & let me know if your last three employers are still paying you. If there's a bad guy in this scenario it's not Chan, it's former AD & generally nefarious turd Dave Braine. Between the Gailey contract extension & Paul Hewitt's "roll-over contract for life" Braine saddled Tech with a huge financial burden.
Please direct your considerable vitriol at this fellow.........
  • On the good news front former Navy QB & current Austin Peay graduate assistant Craig Candeto will be named the new offensive graduate assistant at Georgia Tech. Candeto replaces Lamar owens who was promoted to A-backs coach. The MVP of the Mids in 2002 & 2003, Candeto will work with the quarterbacks & B-backs. He also has flown F-18/1 Hornets in combat so don't fuck with him or he'll bring the fury on your ass. Welcome to the Flats, sir. And we're glad to see CPJ's loyalty to his former players. Speaks highly of him....
  • Speaking of Paul Johnson & loyalty, he's been showing Navy some love. Running back Jon Lee of Appalachee is a fine player but with our limited scholarships this season just wasn't going to get an offer from Tech. We'd love to have him as a preferred walk-on but he'd like a full ride. So instead of just cutting the cord, CPJ hooked Lee up with Navy & got him a scholarship opportunity. It's this type of honesty & commitment to student-athletes that goes a long way in building a program. We're unabashed Johnson fans & this is but another reason why. According to Lee: “I haven’t heard much from Vanderbilt but I’ve talked a bit with Coach Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech. He really likes me and if the numbers were there he would offer. I know they have only twelve scholarships to give out and they have one running back already committed to them. They are going a bit heavy on defense this year so running back isn’t a position they can afford to hand out extra scholarships to recruits. I totally understand and really am thankful for everything Coach Johnson has done. He and the staff got me lined up with Navy and I appreciate that from them. Coach Johnson has always been up front with me and told me no matter what he will be looking out for my best interests. He could have just walked away but he didn’t and that shows he is a man of character.”
  • Rising senior running back Lucas Cox is switching positions & will play inside linebacker this spring & next Fall. Cox is a warrior who has always done what's asked of him & what's best for the team & this move should get him on the field more in 2010. We expect with his size & willingness to take on guards (it's genetic, see brother Mike, currently of the Kansas City Chiefs) Cox will be a welcome addition on the defensive side of the ball in 2010.
#36 Luke Cox on Yellow Jacket Alley with quite the sporty coiffure......
  • Junior offensive tackle Clyde Yandell has chosen to tranfer out of the program in search of more playing time. Yandell was highly regarded as a pro-style pass blocker on arrival at Tech but never really found a spot under CPJ. He did play several series in the ACC championship game when Phil Smith & Nick Claytor wre hurt & acquitted himself well. We'll always be grateful for that. Best of luck, sir.......(Our scholarship situation is in a state of flux. Our best guess is 19 available).
  • Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele's brief flirtation with Tennessee yesterday may prove helpful to us. Evidently Dabo had his other assistants calling current commitments & recruits telling them of Steele's departure. When he decided to stay, Dabo then called the recruits back. Rest assured one of the most important things for recruits this close to signing day is the stability of your program, particularly the coaching staff. If this puts a hint of doubt into a kid like Justin Parker or Darius Robinson's mind we may well be able to flip them.
  • We have tentative spring practice dates. It will begin on March 29 & end with the T-Day game on April 24th. We'll publish dates & practice times once we get the official word.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Our Condolences Buffalo...


The 3-4 Opus starring Al Groh......



Warning: Actual Football Content. Another warning: this is a ridiculously long post. War & Peace-esque, if you will. But if you really dig defense you're in the right place. Let me preface this post by saying I am neither a football coach nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn last night. I'm writing this as a primer so we'll have an idea of what changes we will see on the defensive side of the ball next season. Please post any corrections/comments if I've missed something. If you have a question I'll try & answer it.
So we've hired former UVA head coach Al Groh as our defensive coordinator and things will doubtlessly change for the better on the defensive side of the football. Groh is widely regarded as an excellent defensive coach, having worked under Bill Parcells & Bill Belichek, two of the greatest defensive minds ever, in the NFL. Alabama coach Nick Saban is also from this lineage so we know it works in college football. That coaching tree is known for its use of the 3-4 defense which seems to be gaining popularity in college football having been a mainstay in the NFL since the early 80's. So what is the 3-4 and more specifically how does Coach Groh like to run his defense?


Standard 3-4 alignment

The standard 3-4, as you can see above, has three down lineman (two defensive ends & a nose tackle) & four linebackers along with a secondary of two safeties & two corners. Groh calls his defense a "Stack Cover 2". First some strategery. The overall defensive philosophy of the Parcells/Belichek 3-4 from one of Saban's LSU playbooks (courtesy of Smart Football):

"[Our] philosophy on first and second down is to stop the run and play good zone pass defense. We will occasionally play man-to-man and blitz in this situation. On third down, we will primarily play man-to-man and mix-in some zone and blitzes. We will rush four or more players versus the pass about ninety-percent of the time.

In all situations, we will defend the inside or middle of the field first – defend inside to outside. Against the run, we will not allow the ball to be run inside. We want to force the ball outside. Against the pass, we will not allow the ball to be thrown deep down the middle or inside. We want to force the ball to be thrown short and/or outside.

… Finally, our job is to take the ball away from the opponents’ offense and score or set up good field position for our offense. We must knock the ball loose, force mistakes, and cause turnovers.Turnovers and making big plays win games. We will be alert and aggressive and take advantage of every opportunity to come up with the ball . . . . The trademark of our defense will be effort, toughness, and no mental mistakes regarding score or situation in any game."

Expect Tech's defense next year to adhere to the same mantra. Our goals will be the same: defend from the inside out, focusing on the run first & the pass second. We'll be much more of a "bend but don't break defense", focusing on limiting big plays & forcing opponents into sustained drives where they are more likely to make mistakes. How do we do that? Let's start with our defensive line.

The single most important player in a 3-4 is the nose tackle. It all starts with the big fella' in the middle. In our new scheme, the nose tackle will line up in a "0 technique" (head up directly over the center) or in a "1 technique" (angled in to the outside shoulder of the center). First & foremost, the nose tackle must control the two gaps on either side of the center & demand a double team. That's his most important job. If he can be blocked by a lone center or guard the integrity of the defense falls apart. How do you command a double team? Well, you have to be big. And very strong. The ideal nose tackle in a 3-4 is short by football standards and very heavy (generally a minimum of 300 pounds). A low center of gravity & the ability to hold one's ground are essential traits in a 3-4 nose tackle. Coach Groh also preaches what he calls "violent hands" & begins each practice with a series of drills that focus on our defensive linemen using their hands to keep the offensive line away from their bodies, thus making them harder to block. So who will play nose tackle for us? I expect redshirt freshman J.C. Lanier to start there in the Fall. Lanier has fully recovered from shoulder surgery this fall & possesses good size & strength at 6'2" & 315 pounds. I'm sure mammoth RS sophomore T.J. Barnes (6'7", 340) will get a look at NT but he'll have to work a great deal on keeping his pad level lower if he wants to play there next season. Leverage is key for our NT's. Perhaps the best fit at nose tackle is incoming freshman Shawn Green. While Green will most likely redshirt in order to get bigger & stronger, it wouldn't surprise me if he pushes onto the 2-deep depth chart this Fall. Green has prototype NT size (6'1" 295), a terrific build for the position (low center of gravity, strong base) and a very quick first step. He reminds me of a young Vince Wilfork (ThugU/Patriots) - I expect big things.
As far as our defensive ends, they will need to be a little bigger than what we've been used to in the 4-3 as in Groh's defense they will spend a majority of the time playing a "5 technique" (head up on the tackle). Explosiveness off the snap will be paramount as will power - playing head up on the tackle it is pretty difficult to speed rush - that's the outside linebacker's job. Expect our ends to be in the 270-290 pound range as they will be locked up one-on-one with offensive tackles the majority of the time. I expect Jason Peters, Robert Hall (pending his knee being healthy), Izaan Cross, Logan Walls (particularly on obvious running downs), & Emmanuel "TooTall" Dieke to battle it out on the two-deep depth chart this year. Watch incoming freshman Denzel McCoy here in the future. Our most highly touted recruit this year, McCoy projects as a great 3-4 defensive end in the future. He'll most likely redshirt but I expect big things down the line.
One note on coach Groh's philosophy concerning defensive line play. The job of the defensive line in Groh's defense is to keep their pads parallel to the line of scrimmage & occupy blockers, thus allowing the linebackers to make plays. Covering the offensive linemen is the idea - "no creases" is the mantra.
The playmakers in a 3-4 defense are the linebackers. In Groh's 3-4 the outside linebackers are "Jack" & "Sam" while the inside linebackers are "Will" & "Mike". Expect the defense to line up with the "Jack" linebacker on the weak side, followed by "Will", "Mike" & then the other outside linebacker, "Sam", in that order across the field. The "Jack" & "Sam" generally line up one yard outside the offensive tackles on the line of scrimmage. The "Will" & "Mike" or inside linebackers play four yards deep & head up on the outside eye of the offensive guard. One interesting thing to note is that Groh defines the strong side of the offensive formation differently than most defensive coaches. Traditionally the strong side of the offense is the tight end (TE) side as the TE is an extra player on the line of scrimmage. This is the case in Groh's defense unless the offense has a slot receiver (read 2 receivers) on one side of the formation. If that is the case, the two receiver side becomes the strong side. The reason for this is how we scheme pass coverage which I'll get into later but essentially the "Sam" is better in pass coverage & this will allow him to drop into the flat & defend against the hook, curl, or quick slant. A quick break down of the linebackers:
  • "Jack"- this is our hybrid LB/pass rush specialist. Think James Harrison of the Steelers or even Lawrence Taylor (who Groh coached with the Giants). Will need to be bigger than an average linebacker. Michael Johnson would have been perfect in this role. Expect Egbuniwe, RS freshman Euclid Cummings & Chris Crenshaw, and Albert Rocker to get a shot here. Perhaps the frontrunners here are perpetual Jacket A.T. Barnes & Osahon Tongo. Barnes has struggled with consistency throughout his seemingly endless career but this looks to be a great position for him. Tongo was an undersized, pass rushing end in our 4-3 & projects to have the size & speed for the position. In the future incoming freshman Anthony Williams will be a good fit at "Jack".
  • "Mike" & "Will"- these two, along with our nose tackle, form the triangle that is the heart of our new defense. They must be physical players who can stop the run by reading the flow of the play, evading or shedding blocks, & then make a tackle . This is emphasized by the fact that there will always be an offensive guard that is not "covered" by a defensive lineman who will fire out & try to block one of them on every running play. So they must be able to take on this guard, defeat the block, & make the tackle. Expect bigger, more physical linebackers in the middle going forward. Brad Jefferson, at almost 240 pounds, will likely start here. Kyle Jackson, although a little undersized, also has a shot depending on how his foot heals. Lucas Cox is moving to LB from A-back & will also get a chance at one of these spots. Other names in the mix include Hash favorite Julian Burnett & B.J. Machen.
  • "Sam" - Our other outside linebacker will have the obvious run stopping responsibilities of the other LB's but also be more involved in pass coverage. If Barnes doesn't win the "Jack" spot I could see him here along with Stephen Sylvester, Malcolm Munroe, RS freshman Brandon Watts, & true freshman Quayshawn Nealy.
On to the secondary. As I said earlier, Groh calls his defense a "Stack Cover 2" meaning that in the secondary we will line up in a Cover 2 shell the vast majority of the time. That does not, as I'll demostrate later, mean we will always play Cover 2. As defensive guru Yoda likes to say: "tricky bastards, you shall be". So let's start by examining Cover 2. Cover 2 is a zone coverage scheme that simply divides the deep portion of the field (a minimum of 8 but generally 12-15 yards from the line of scrimmage) into zones which your two safeties then cover. The underneath area of the two zones will be covered generally by the cornerbacks or linebackers. Here's a good diagram of Cover 2 in a 4-3 scheme. The front four don't really matter to us at this point so this works as a good example:

Cover 2
There are, of course, hundreds of variations on this. Some you will see from us:
  • Cover 2 Zone. Expect to see this a great deal, particularly on 1st & 2nd down. We'll generally rush four & drop the other players into pass coverage where they each have a zone or area of responsibility. One note is that Coach Groh & those from the Belichek tree of coaching use the concept of pattern reading extensively. I'll get into this superficially in a bit & more in depth in a separate post as it's a very detailed concept that I've just scratched the surface of. Below is a diagram of Cover 2 zone:
Cover 2 Zone (our fourth LB, "Jack", is rushing the passer)
  • Cover 2 Man Under. A Cover 2 shell deep with man-to-man coverage from the cornerbacks & linebackers underneath. A strong variation which we will use frequently if we feel our corners have a favorable match-up with our opponents receivers. Groh prefers this on 3rd down & intermediate distance.
  • Cover 3. We'll use this to try & confuse quarterbacks as we vary coverage. The field is divided into deep thirds where three players then have zone responsibility (usually both corners & the free safety). A variation on this is the famous Tampa 2 where the middle third of the field is covered by the dropping middle linebacker.
Cover 3
  • Cover 1 Robber. A very aggressive coverage that is ideal when you can bring pressure on the QB. Man-to-man underneath (corners on WR's, LB's on the TE & RB) with a lone safety having deep responsibility and the other safety (the robber) patrolling an intermediate area 8-12 yards deep off the line-of scrimmage looking to either read the pattern or the QB & create an interception by getting a great break on the ball before it's thrown. The idea is that the pressure from the rush hurries the QB & he does not see or account for the "Robber" who is then able to make a play. Nick Saban loves him some Cover 1 Robber (a great breakdown by Chris Brown at Smart Football).
Cover 1 Robber
  • Cover 0. Straight up, good old fashioned man-to-man. Groh prefers zone & I seriously doubt we'll play much Cover 0 as the entire object of our defense is to limit big plays.
There are a couple more aspects of secondary play we need to discuss. The first is relatively simple & that's run support. In the 3-4 (as with almost every defense) the cornerback's role is to force the play to the outside while the safety fills the gap left by the corner & makes the tackle. This is obviously easier said than done but that's the scheme. The other concept, which is new to our defense this year, is pattern reading or pattern matching. This is a very advanced concept that has come into favor over the last several years. It's interesting to note that the coaches in the national championship game this year (Saban, Smart, Muschamp) are some of the biggest proponents of pattern reading. So what is pattern reading?
Well, in a nutshell, in the traditional 3-4 zone defense players would simply drop to a pre-assigned spot according to the coverage & wait to see who came into their zone or read the quarterbacks eyes to see where he is going with the football. Pattern reading throws the idea of dropping to a specific landmark out & stresses understanding pass route combinations (patterns) thereby giving the defense advanced knowledge of what is going to happen. For example: you are watching film on an upcoming opponent. On 3rd & 7, two WR are lined up wide with one in the slot. The play begins & the slot receiver runs a go route, a direct line down the seam. The outside receiver simultaneously runs a crossing pattern into the space cleared out by the slot receiver. The idea of pattern reading is that you train your players to recognize this pattern & react to it accordingly. According to most coaches who teach pattern reading, defenders can have a pretty good idea of what's coming at them by reading the first four steps of the slot receivers route ( the premise is that a pass route is basically formed after four steps). By knowing the route the slot receiver is running (& the down & distance) the defender has a pretty good idea what other routes make up that pass pattern for all players on the field. In essence, you are much more proactive in getting to spot the ball will be thrown than reactive to what the offense is trying to do. If you can beat the WR to the spot it's much more difficult to complete passes. For a much deeper look at pattern reading try this post on Barking Carnival.
So who plays in the secondary next season? Expect Mario Butler, Tarrant, & Rashad Reid to hold down the corner slots with Rod Sweating getting some action on obvious passing downs. At safety, Cooper Taylor returns on the strong side to compete with Mario Edwards while senior Dominique Reese & RS freshman Jemea Thomas battle at free safety. One name to watch out for is true freshman Isaiah Johnson from Sandy Creek. Johnson enrolled early & will go thought spring practice. If he can put on a little weight he's got a real nose for the ball & could see time as a true freshman next season.
Lastly, expect our Cover 2 to be aggressive. One of Coach Groh's fundamental tenants of his defense is to deny "vertical entry" into the secondary. This is, of course, logical, as most big plays are vertical & our entire focus is to limit big plays. How do you deny "vertical entry"? Jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage. We will always try to deny clean release off the line & make it harder for the WR to get into his route.
One of the great advantages to a Cover 2 shell in the secondary will be our ability to disguise coverages. The Cover 2 shell is recognizable but we are able to play all the coverage schemes mentioned above out of the Cover 2 shell. This forces a quarterback to read the defense after the snap, making his job significantly more difficult. Another advantage of the 3-4 is the ability of the defense to bring pressure on the QB from multiple areas, i.e. the zone blitz. Invented by Steelers defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau, the zone blitzes disguises where defenders are coming from while blitzing & makes it harder for the offense to pick up. Expect some but not a lot of blitzing this year. We'll frequently rush the "Jack" but in the 3-4 that's really normal, not a blitz. I expect Groh to begin conservatively & adjust from there. For more on zone blitzes try these two articles here & here.
Wow, we're glad we got that off our chests. Hope you find it helpful & accurate. In sum, expect a better defense from Tech next season. How do I know? Well if you're a numbers person the most accurate way to measure defensive performance between two teams & take into account personnel differences, number of plays, time of possession (our offense led the ACC, UVA's was last), etc. is yards per play. Last year Tech gave up a whopping 6.1 yards per play. Virginia allowed 5.0 yards per play. When you factor in time of possession, number of plays, etc. it's empirically clear we have upgraded on defense. For those of you that don't care about numbers it's pretty obvious the respect Al Groh has as a defensive coach around the country.
There are a couple traditional weaknesses in the 3-4. The first is the 2-tight end set. By having a tight end on either side you essentially tie up the outside linebackers & make it harder for them to react & make plays. The second is the power running game up the middle. Because a guard is uncovered, you have a weakness up the middle if your inside linebackers can't take on that guard then shed the block & make the tackle. For our 3-4 to succeed, our inside linebackers must be able to shed blocks & make tackles.
So expect a bend-but-don't break style of defense that is fundamentally sound. Our goal will be to limit big plays & force the offense to earn points through short gains. The more repetitions for an offense, the more chance for an error or for us to make a big play. It's allowing big plays on defense that really hurt us this year. Hopefully this post helps you figure out some of what is going on. A word of caution: be patient. This is a major scheme change. We will need our players to learn the new scheme (takes time...) and we will need to recruit players more specifically suited to play in this scheme. The hiring of Al Groh & switch to the 3-4 will not all of a sudden turn us into the Super Bowl winning defense Groh had with the Giants in 1990. Will we be improved? I guarantee it. But keep the expectations reasonable.
Some other good reference material on the 3-4 is here, here, & here. Please share this & the blog with friends, enemies, etc.....Spread the Good Word.....
-Hash

Monday, January 18, 2010

Random Thoughts & Monday Musings...


It's Monday, a holiday, & frankly there's not a lot going on out there. I've been working on the comprehensive "Al Groh 3-4 Defense Opus" which should come out this week. The soundtrack includes both Lil' Wayne & Ride of the Valkyries so we've got that going for us. Coaches are on the road for in home visits this week as recruiting really heats up before signing day on February 3rd. Some news/thoughts:
  • Rising senior defensive back DeRon Jasper will be graduating this spring & forego his senior season of eligibility, giving us 1 scholarships for this year. Congratulations & best of luck.
  • Senior defensive back Corey Earls will spend spring practice at his original position of wide receiver.
  • We have our first & hopefully only academic casualty of the year as redshirt freshman safety Brandon Leslie has remained at home in California & not enrolled this semester. That puts our scholarship availibility at 19.
  • Subtract one scholarship as we understand sophomore B-back Preston Lyons, who transferred from Colgate to Tech & attended school on a Hope scholarship this season, has been placed on scholarship. Congratulations & well earned, sir....
  • We have offered Atlanta Westlake CB Darius Robinson a scholarship. A Clemson commit, Robinson grew up a Tech fan. He'll take an official visit next weekend & hopefully we can flip him.....
  • South Carolina LB Justin Parker is still our number one target & he'll get an in-home visit from CPJ, Coach Groh, & Brian Jean-Mary tomorrow. Parker has narrowed his choices to three schools; LSU, Clemson, & Tech. He'll be here next weekend to take an official. At 6'3" & 230, Parker is a perfect fit in our new 3-4 defense at inside linebacker & might have a chance to play as a true freshman.
Why be a Roughrider when you can be a Jacket...?
  • Word on the street is that Springville, Alabama offensive lineman Chase Hughes did not enroll early at Ole Miss in hopes of receiving an offer from Tech. A lifelong Jackets fan, Hughes projects at center or guard on the collegiate level. We expect an offer soon.
  • CPJ will head to Albany on Wednesday & visit A-back prospect Tony Zenon. We have heard the staff wants to trend toward bigger A-backs (Orwin Smith vs. Marcus Wright, for example) so it will be interesting to see if Zenon picks up an offer.
  • A good article on Al Groh's decision to come to Tech & the criteria he used to make that decision.
  • We are all in favor of adding the verb "kiffined" into the lexicon of every day life. An example: you're at the bar & have bought a hottie 2 drinks. You leave for the bathroom & by the time you get back she's hanging off some other guy. You just got kiffined. This video should help.
Poor Tiger. To be compared to Kiffin is pretty low....

Enjoy the holiday & as we said earlier, lots of interesting stuuf on deck including SEC scholarships/running off players, the Groh 3-4 opus, & a look back at the recruiting class of 2005. Word.......