This article will hopefully provide a ton of intel going into the National Championship Game, that will not only identify keys to watch for, but will also foreshadow things to look for in the Oregon defense under Coach Dan Lanning. It will also mark the GameDay thread over at the Our Beloved Ducks forum where we discuss the information below and the game before it begins, during and afterward. In writing this article I was fortunate to speak with a knowledgeable Bulldog fan in Ian Miller who also has posted as “BengalDawg” as he now lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.
There are significant questions about the betting line in this National Championship Game, so I like to consult with my favorite site, Super Bowl LVI betting guide by Twinspires for much more information and a little gaming action. The questions revolve around the defensive strategies that Georgia will employ, as well as the health of some key players I will discuss below.
The biggest question for the game concerns the secondary and pass defense of Georgia, since Alabama slapped 41 points on the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship, primarily through the air. Let’s look first at the players in the secondary and the challenges with them as provided by Mr. Miller who also played college football. He noted that a walk-on safety came into the game against Michigan because of a “targeting” penalty in the first half on starting safety Chris Smith, who will now be playing the entire Championship game against the Crimson Tide.
Mr. Miller explained that Georgia is thin in the secondary for a couple of reasons:
1) Injuries – The Bulldogs lost Chris Smith a starting safety for about half the year to multiple minor injuries. Georgia also lost Jalen Kimber, their best cover corner to a torn labrum in pre-season.
2) Portal Attrition– Tyrique Stevenson (starting slot CB) transferred to Miami. Major Burns (2nd string safety) transferred to LSU. Daran Branch (2nd string safety) quit football.
3) Draft – Four players eligible to return went instead to the NFL Draft. Eric Stokes (1st RD Green Bay), Tyson Campbell (2nd RD Jax), Richard LeCounte (5th RD Browns), Mark Webb (7th RD Chargers)
The BengalDawg Take: “We have a decent starting five, but depth is an issue. Bama will also be without their No. 2 WR in John Metchie, so I’m hopeful we can scheme to cover their elite receiver Jameson Williams as Cincinnati did, and take away some of the passing threat.”
A Breakdown of the Bulldog Secondary from BengalDawg
Cornerback: Our best corner is Derrion Kendrick who is a one year rental from Clemson, and we are very thankful we have him as our freshman would have been tested early without him. Not great, honestly, but benefits from our front seven being NFL-caliber.
Cornerback: A redshirt freshman is Keele Ringo, a former 5 star, and No. 1 overall corner in the recruiting rankings. He is an excellent raw athlete with zero technique who will be exposed by a great route runner. His athleticism hides how raw he is.
Star: Great coverage inside of ten yards is given by Latavious Brini/William Poole. Losing Stevenson to Miami last offseason hurts here, as he was an excellent slot cornerback but wanted to play outside and we weren’t giving him that chance.
Boundary Safety: A hard-hitting safety and the best in the secondary is Lewis Cine, who will likely be drafted in the 4th/5th round in April. (Not super fast though)
Field Safety: While he is better than the walk on, Chris Smith is not going to be all SEC anytime soon, as he is very average at everything.
Georgia’s Defensive Game-Plan for the Championship
BengalDawg explained that the Georgia secondary is the weakest part of this team, and the Crimson Tide were the first opponent to exploit that. He felt that the Bulldogs went away from what had been working all year in order to reign-in the dangerous QB scrambles via some “Spy” coverages. The Georgia game plan for the SEC championship appeared to be to use linebackers to supplement coverage, rather than to force pressure as they had been doing all season. The Bulldogs also used simulated pressure, dropping defensive linemen into coverage, a tactic that consistently resulted in Lanning’s defense getting burned.
He felt that, “this led to Alabama quarterback Bryce Young having all day to pick us apart, as we went too vanilla. I’d expect this game we apply pressure to alleviate stress on our weakest unit, the secondary.”
It was reported that the coaches apologized to the team after the loss and promised to “return to Georgia Football,” which they certainly did against Michigan. BengalDawg strongly believes that the way to slow down the passing attack of Alabama is to unleash the entire package of blitzes. The Bulldogs are very skilled in disguising their blitzes, and what you see below are a couple of examples to watch for.
This where I have the fun in doing some quick analysis, and I want to emphasize that we at FishDuck will go into depth on these in the off-season. Above is the “Overload” concept where the Bulldogs set up three-blitzers-overwhelming-two-blockers which is a common theme for Georgia, and this time it is on the perimeter. The objective is for the three Bulldogs to tie up the Clemson right offensive guard and tackle so that one rusher has a clear shot at the quarterback.
Some coaches call this (above) the “Storm-Blitz,” while at Georgia they call it the “Rain-Blitz.” Sounds like a scheme that will fit the Oregon climate just fine!
This Inside Linebacker Blitz above is clever because the key player (the Nose Tackle) is not meant to be freed up but is the one who is creating the three-on-two Overload on the right side of the Clemson offensive line. He gets the attention of the Tiger center, (orange arrow above), taking on the left shoulder of the center and charging the “A” gap on Clemson’s left side. As that ties up the center for the Tigers, it creates an imbalance of three Georgia linebackers rushing versus the right guard and tackle of Clemson. This was a nasty big sack and tackle-for-loss for the Bulldog defense.
It has been reported that both the right guard and right tackle of Alabama were injured in their victory over the Bearcats, and it is unknown if they will be healthy for tonight’s game. Might they or their replacements have trouble with the above blitz?
Think Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe might match up well with this blitz above? We have an experienced Nose Tackle in Popo Aumavae to disrupt opposing centers to make it happen, and it will be fun to watch for this blitz tonight as well as next September 3.
In the Blitz above, the Nose Tackle is now one of the rushers as he moves forward at the snap of the ball and then “twists” (red curved line and arrow above) around the Clemson center (orange arrow) who is occupied by a Bulldog defensive tackle. That puts the Nose Tackle and two rushing linebackers (red arrows above) in a three-on-two overload versus the left offensive tackle and guard for the Tigers. This blitz forced a quick errant throw and a win for the defense!
While most teams run blitzes similar to these, what sets the Bulldogs apart is the talent to beat the blockers, the superb disguising, and the discipline in carrying out their role only in the defensive play. The Bulldogs have many more blitzes involving safeties and corners that we’ll explore over the coming months, but the three above are a good start in learning the Dan Lanning defense. It will be an exciting off-season because…
“Oh, how we love to ponder about Dan Lanning with…Our Beloved Ducks!”
Charles Fischer (Mr. FishDuck)
Top Screenshot from The Coordinator Video
Charles Fischer has been an intense fan of the Ducks, a season ticket holder at Autzen Stadium for 35 years and has written reports on football boards for over 23 years. Known as “FishDuck” on those boards, he is acknowledged for providing intense detail in his scrimmage reports and in his Xs and Os play analyses. He and his wife Lois, have a daughter Christine, reside in Eugene Oregon, where he was a Financial Advisor for 36 years and now focuses full-time on Charitable Planned Giving Workshops for churches and non-profit organizations.
He does not profess to be a coach or analyst, but simply a “hack” that enjoys sharing what he has learned and invites others to correct or add to this body of Oregon Football! See More…
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