Defensive questions and other observations

I know it seems strange, but I enjoy watching our games in slow motion after we lose…and I’ve had a lot of bizarre enjoyment this year. I’d much prefer to watch us win but when we don’t, I like to understand what are the problems so I can cut through all of the crap that typically shows up in sports commentary and develop my own opinions.

Some observations that I think are the bigger dilemmas the coaches face:

Offense - It’s not the play calling, it’s the execution…particularly QB accuracy.

Execution…perfect play call for Boyd on goal to go and he drops a well thrown pass. No drop he likely scores.

Not finding the wide open receiver…and there has been plenty of time. A number of the targeted covered 50/50 calls (and other pass plays) had wide open, deep, waving their arms receivers that didn’t even get a look.

Lots of good center middle pass calls…open receivers with coverage and QB just misses.

Run game with Boyd is not bad, including middle runs. Whaley is too slow and indecisive in the hole.

Hurry up plays are largely ineffective. Stop hurrying.

The 50/50 deep ball (which we love to throw after a first down) is not working out to 50/50. It’s more often a wasted play into coverage and invites an interception with our QB’s accuracy issues.

Youth - We are clearly making a number of mistakes with new and younger players…Oline occasional whiffs, receiver routes, QB decision making.

  • I do think we could use more creativity, but it has to be quick hitting. Our line is playing reasonably well, despite size issues, but not built for long strains. Having said that, if you can’t execute a slant, executing a more complex play invites disaster.

Defense: Scheme and coaching seemed to be the biggest issues

Linebacker execution or approach is the biggest on film issue that I don’t get.

Clearly Chavis is trying different approaches, but linebackers, and for that matter defensive ends, are routinely in the wrong place, early. You can’t make a play on the edge if both linebackers are in the A gaps and then tripping over each other to back out and pursue a wide run. We have to be the easiest team to run on by just giving us misdirection in lots of ways. Just a little linebacker patience and staying off of and out of the line would help. We want to attack, but we are getting killed with being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I expect Auburn to absolutely kill us in that regard. *Caveat - our linebacker speed is not great and it’s hard for them to recover…not much to do there.

Defensive line: To be fair Kentucky had a very good offensive line and routinely got to the second level…in fact they dominated. Just observing, I think this is a size issue in the middle and a discipline issue on the edges. Designated running QB’s are a nightmare.

Misuse of safeties - clearly needed safeties down in the box to support the run game…and when we did it was effective. Needed them to also cover the occasional very effective middle throw behind the linebackers to a tight end. I can tell Chavis is trying to keep from giving up the deep play or run, but against kentucky they just ground us up. He thought he could get it done with a bear front, but it wasn’t enough due to kentucky’s oline dominance. *Any team will occasionally connect on the covered deep ball…and kentucky did…but that’s no reason to not use safeties where you need them.

Youth and late defensive calls. There are way too many times our dbacks are misaligned, know it, and are still waiting on a call from the sidelines.

So either Chavis is a genius and this is just a function of talent/depth and youth, or his scheme or overall approach just isn’t great. Either way less out of position attack in favor of gap control and discipline seems to be needed in multiple games. I’m quite sure Chavis knows it, and therefore maybe it’s just not fixable without creating a serious problem some other way.

I expect Auburn to be a beat down, but I hope some of the above looks better on the next tape I watch.

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Good stuff. Enjoy the analysis. I don’t know how you do it, I can’t watch a game we lost.

What about the OL? Other then the breakdowns at the end when Hicks was pressured I thought they played well enough to win.

The young DEs are going to be good someday, but other teams sure take advantage of them on the outside. I can see Auburn hitting multiple big runs on jet sweeps.

Hmmmm…all that analysis and no mention of bad tackling technique?

Guess slow motion makes our tackling better, I might need to rewatch the games in slow motion to make me think that’s not THE BIGGEST ISSUE WE HAVE.

Great analysis!!! Being out of position at the start makes tackling much more difficult, but tackling still isn’t good.

Hey Navy,

Sometimes I just get sick of the fire the coach spewing etc… and I just like to know what the coaches and players are seeing and doing and have found it’s really hard to do in full speed. We tend to watch the ball vs. all of the other players. Line execution and linebacker decision making is really hard to see full speed.

The Oline clearly played well enough to win. They aren’t dominating, but they opened plenty of holes and they gave the QB’s plenty of time to throw. Sure they had some busts, but it wasn’t routine.

Not all the D ends are young, but it appears that too often they were giving up the edge by leaning in to put on pressure in this game and others. Made sense against A&M as Jimbo wants Mond to be more in the pocket. Against Kentucky’s QB you want him to throw it or allow more time for the pocket to collapse vs. flushing him out early, or for that matter having a designated run go right past you because we tried so hard to push towards the middle.

Auburn, just like Kentucky will kill us not just on the obvious sweeps but by using multiple ways to create over pursuit. Sometimes it’s a faked middle run, or faked power right or left…basically anything that creates the appearance of direction in one way or another.

We made some really good open field tackles in the first half. In the second half, there was bad tackling, mainly driven, I thought by poor angles. Fatigue played into it a bit, but there were several mental mistakes which put defenders into those bad angles.

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Thank you for the breakdown here. Maybe other fans here will read it. These guys aren’t stupid as coaches. They are trying. Youth, inexperience and a lack of talent is a deadly cocktail we are having to deal with. Good thing is these kids should be really good in 2 years.

Someone once said that Freshman are not Freshman later in their first year. Hopefully we will see major growth in these last 6 games if they don’t let go of the rope. I think the most of the players that let go of the rope last year are gone.

Seems they have the right attitude and continue to work hard,and hopefully that results in 2 or maybe 3 more wins…

Everyone was saying Tex AM would beat us by 40 points are so. These Hogs may just surprise a few folks with how close they play Auburn…

I tried to condense the analysis into the major or repeating issues not every mistake or issue that occurs.

There were some missed tackles, but missed tackles when they occur stick out like a sore thumb and there always are some. If they occur on a big gainer downfield they are really noticeable. You can always point to one play or another for any issue. However, without charting it, I don’t think missed tackles were a general or repeating problem.

There were some good open field tackles and there were some really good tackles made by guys who were not in good tackling position for a variety of reasons but made them anyway.

I see the defensive ends make mistakes. The linebackers (both of them) try to move them on their slides. Sometimes they move, sometimes they don’t. And, I know Steve Caldwell is a GREAT coach, not a good coach. He will continue to develop those young ends. It’s no fun to play freshmen starters at defensive end in the SEC. That is more or less where every offensive game plan starts with as they prepare for Arkansas. But that’s who they are going to continue to play, all those freshmen ends, along with Gabe Richardson.

I have not seen Scoota make a lot of plays. In fact, he sometimes misses angles and plays. He has made those plays in the past. Sitting out spring practice with foot surgery and missing a lot of scrimmages in the fall probably hasn’t helped him, but he’s still the best option at linebacker.

I thought Bumper Pool played really well last week at Kentucky. He has more tackles at this point in the season (40) than he had last year (36).

Agree with you Clay on Pool he played hard, as I think all of them do. Although, I still don’t understand why we sometimes jump gaps before the qb/running back read has completed, unless it’s a blitz. There was too many times Bumper was making a great tackle from a bad angle after yardage was gained due to not anticipating or allowing the play to develop. Maybe you just can’t do that and you take your chances. If that is the case we took way too many chances.

Scoota is clearly a step slow against misdirection and coverage. Don’t know if that is injury or what. Love all those guys but it’s a tough situation out there.

We need some more meat in the middle to help out those ends.

I appreciate the analysis. No way I could do that. It is hard enough to watch the first time around. Thank you.

I disagree that the Oline is playing well enough to win. They are better. The reason I say that is on the scoreboard or perhaps I should say, not on the scoreboard. We all saw the last two plays on offense, and they were extremely bad for sure, but that is not what I am talking about or at least only a part of it. What I am talking about is not finishing drives for TDs. Sure it happens it all teams, but when it happens over and over, it is the biggest symptom of ineffective Oline play. To score down there, you MUST block and block well. Everything is condensed. There are always a few trick plays that can work and they are fun, but that is not how you consistently score. You do that with SOLID blocking of the right people, and solid execution of the play, regardless of whatever play is called.

We are unable to score consistently in the Red Zone. To me, that signals ineffective Oline play. Change that, and you will see TDs.

Don’t disagree on how important line play is and they will look worse against better fronts like the one they will see this weekend. Oline is key to effective offense. Every coach we’ve had has had good years when we had a good Oline no matter their style.

Having said that, Boyd dropping a well thrown ball in a goal to go situation that would likely have scored has zero to do with oline play and more to do with executional mistakes…and we have too many of those. See Starkel mistakes in the red zone, etc

I would argue that lack of execution hoes back to coaching. If players are wider open and the quarterbacks aren’t finding them then it must happen at practice as well. So the coaches should have put the team in those situations in practice and prepared them so they can execute. It’s one thing when the quarterback can hit an open receiver in practice but just can’t make a good throw in a game. That is on the player. But it is coaching if a receiver is standing wide open waiving his arms and the quarterback never sees him because he has not been conditioned to recognize where the open receiver should be. I watch a lot of slow motion replays as well. My take is that the quarterbacks don’t feel they have time to do their progressions and they have determined who they are going to pass it to before it is snapped. They don’t trust the line to give them the time. Is that lack of coaching he lineman and backs to block or is it lack of SEC talent on the line?

That missed tackle on the Texas A&M QB when covering his possible run was Scoota’s only responsibility really stands out. Mond cut back and Scoota over pursued and never laid a hand on him. That was a 3rd and long and another failed and badly needed 3rd down stop for the defense. The fact that he is our best tackler really tells the story on this defense. It was late in the game, our lack of quality depth meant he had played too many snaps already, and he seemed to be tackling better early when he was not worn down.

that play really stood out. critical 3rd down, and of course we give up another 3rd and long.

And Scoota waaaaaaay overran, his hips were still pointing to the sideline when Mond was running inside of him. Hard to understand that play. Fatigue? still not fully back from surgery?


I admire anyone that can watch a Hog’s game in slow-motion, my DVR is usually headed in the opposite direction.

What a great thread. Thanks NC for starting this.

I also rewatch all the games…but I haven’t rewatched this one yet. Been too busy and was to upset.

I read on Hogville (I know…shouldn’t do that) about how good a job our O-Line is doing because they limit sacks. Sorry…thats at least partially a product of playcalling, not how good the o-line is doing. if you throw the quick game almost exclusively you can eliminate sacks. We saw Portland State and San Jose do exactly that.

The inexperience and arguably lack of talent on the o-line is limiting the run play calls. Last year you saw Froholdt pull alot. How often do we pull linemen now? Not often, because then we do bad stuff happens. That said, I do think we abandoned just turning and handing to #5 at times the last 2 weeks. I can’t prove this, but I do believe we would have scored at least one more TD early versus UK if we had just fed Boyd more. He was hot picking out his lanes. I remember screaming at the TV at one point “give the ball to Boyd! Why are you being cute?”

So, I say the o-line plays well at times…and give them credit for it. But they do make busts at inopportune times…and I am afraid they will be flat out whipped the next two weeks.

I agree about Scoota. That dude plays with his whole heart and soul, and he may get back to his old self at some point. But his injury and lack of practice seems to have cost him a step, and he is probably subconsciously trying to make up for that with anticipation…which is making him wrong too often. I hope he can still make the NFL. Based on previous years. I suspect he will regain that step.Injuries to feet and knees take awhile to completely recover from. I wonder if Burks is totally as fast as he was before his knee. He’s plenty fast regardless.

Defensively, we are in the wrong spots alot. Alot. I don’t think that’s lack of physical ability. Nor is it necessarily bad coaching. I suspect its mainly a product of playing some kids before they are really ready and have a foolproof understanding of what is a pretty complex scheme. Yes, Bama sometimes plays freshmen on defense. But when they do, said kid is SO GOOD and smart they have beaten out good upperclassmen.

That’s not the case with us. Our freshmen are playing because that’s what we have.

On depth and fatigue, I know our effort has been better, but it does seem we get a bit sloppier as the game goes on. Maybe the coaches can do a better job resting our better plays in the first half so they are better ready for the second half. If we are going to play a lot of man, which we do, Malzahn should really make those linebackers work in the first half. I know I would. I expect to see a lot of sweeps, reverses, and slants over the middle in the first half.

Regardless, this is an excellent thread and why I am on this board.

Thanks Maestro

Just my observations but we have been running a number of plays with guards pulling, quite a few. Stromberg moves really well and you can tell they are trying to utilize that.

I think you are right about qbs getting the ball out quick. It’s also true there have been a number of pass plays where they have quite a bit of time and don’t use it for progressions or just don’t see the receiver. Not sure what the issue is but Starkel seems to be struggling with vision. It seems that sometimes he doesn’t see the end or blitz pressure coming. Having said that, I’m sure the coaches are preferring to let it fly quick than take a sack or just throwing it blind.