Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hutson Mason four games in

I was being a bit snarky earlier when I suggested we're about to hear the backup QB groupies chime in a little louder. But the truth is, and I've made this point before, ten months after he left the field we're still adjusting to life after Aaron Murray. Since Mason took over the huddle we've been told by coaches, players and media that this is a different quarterback than the one we spent the last four years watching. And now it's playing out before our eyes.

But really, isn't Mason doing everything we need him to do? I went back and re-observed his performances in the Tech game and the bowl game before the season started, and my general consensus was that he may not throw the deeper routes as well as what we've been used to, but he has all the tools this offense needs. These stats didn't show everything...

...but what we saw last season was a quarterback that can easily check down to take what's being given. If he can avoid costly mistakes then there's really no reason to worry.

Two games into 2014 and it's apparent that Mason is a smart guy that can make the reads an SEC quarterback needs to. That being said, he's quick to throw the ball away after he's gone through one progression; if the first two targets are covered he's very likely to look to end the play quickly. And I don't say that as a bad thing necessarily, even with the memory of the intentional grounding call still so fresh. To me it is another adjustment, from one quarterback that was used to extending the play with his feet to another that is not as likely to do that.

But it's also worth noting that Mason has not enjoyed the depth at wide receiver that Murray had most of his career. Compare his current stats to the end of last season...

...and what jumps out? First is the zeroes in the interceptions column. He knows when what he wants to take isn't there to simply not force it. That was a lesson Aaron Murray struggled with more than his fair share, even as late as his senior season. There was a throw or two a game where he was clearly forcing something into a tight spot. Mason is not carrying this offense like Murray was. Therefore he's determined not take the wheels off with one throw of the football.

The next observation I make is that Mason's completion percentage has gone up fairly significantly while the yards have gone down. Part of that is game planning and another large part is Bobo sticking with what was working, especially in the Clemson game. After all, Mason had 75 attempts total in the Tech and Nebraska games compared with just 48 so far this season.

To some degree I downplayed the idea of not having a deep threat in the two games thus far. Even with Malcolm Mitchell's game changing ability and Justin Scott-Wesley's speed on the outside, I felt that Mason had all the weapons around him that he needed to win ball games. And that may still be true.

But now I find myself much more eager to see what that kind of deep threat can do for Mason's own play making ability. Players with some big downfield burst, like Mitchell, Scott-Wesley and McKenzie, will make it easier for Mason to make the reads and find the open targets all over the field. 

Troy has the 79th rated passing defense in the nation, are allowing 7.6 yards per attempt as well as a QB rating of 147 (96th in the nation). Look for Bobo to give Mason plenty of time to tune up against this defense before the young guys come in as relief.

Unleash #4

Offensively, Saturday should be a good time for Marshall to knock off the rust and Bobo to polish up another weapon.
"It seems like every time he has gotten the ball, there hasn't been a lot of space," Georgia coach Mark Richt said Tuesday in his weekly news conference. "He hasn't had room to go anywhere. Sometimes it's the luck of the draw when you get the ball handed to you, but sooner or later there is going to be some space for him when he gets it, and I think he'll do well.
"He's ready to go. Is anybody 100 percent after an ACL injury when they're just starting to get going?

Bauta and Ramsey bringing mops for Troy

For three seasons or more it was Hutson Mason. Now the distinction of being the most popular player on campus is shared by Faton Bauta and Brice Ramsey. And fans may see both on Saturday.
If circumstances worked out, Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said that backup quarterbacks Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta could both play Saturday.
Something tells me all those fans who once clamor end for Richt to bench Murray in favor of Mason are going to be dusting off those DawgVent credentials very soon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Humpday Hilarity - not those Trojans!

Live from a Troy AL Wal-Mart...

Richt nails the coffin shut.

I've read/seen/heard every opinion there is to have on that first and goal play call; every article, every podcast, every phone call, every text, blog post, bookface regurgitation, tweet and even some message boreds. All of those opinions are right.

None of them are as right as this:
“I just want to make it real clear that I think Mike Bobo is one of the best coordinators in America and one of the best play-callers and I got full faith in the guy. It’s just like I’ve called many games in my career. I’ve never called a perfect game and they’ll be certain situations I’ll go if I had to do it again, I’d do this, that or the other but as head coach after sleeping on it or not even sleeping on it, I kind of wish I called timeout, grabbed that offensive unit and said, ‘Boys, we’re going to knock this thing in right now, let’s go. I feel like that’s what I could have done and if I had to do it again, that’s what I would have done.”
“I knew what the call was, the call was good. The call was something we worked on. It wasn’t like we just called something that didn’t have a chance and all that kind of thing. The biggest thing I’ve called enough plays in my career to know there’s never a perfect game and everyone would have been cheering if we had scored. Third-down, if we had hit the right guy, it might have scored on that and everybody would have cheered and no one would have said, “Aw, that’s a horrible call.’ The calls that are the best are the ones that work. I know that and that’s just part of the business. For someone to think that I had less than full faith in Mike, that was the issue. That’s what I’m talking about. I just want to make that clear to everybody. Appreciate y’all.”
In that one minute or so, the head coach reiterates his faith in his longtime assistant and offensive play caller (which he should), takes responsibility for not stepping in as the head coach (which he should), puts the whole matter in perspective (as only he can), and closes the door on a difficult loss and subsequent three day meltdown.

For which I'm thankful.

RIP Williams-Brice angst.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What accountability looks like, part two

I'll admit I didn't think he'd show up for the media session. Seeing that tweet from Emerson, and especially later when I read more on what he said, makes me feel much better.

Why not? Here's a couple more:

What accountability looks like

Old dog, new trick

Coach Richt showing us older Dawgs that we can learn from past transgressions.

Putting Gamecocks in the rearview

Ready to move forward. And I feel like we probably will be able to later today when (hopefully) the coordinators are made available to the media. Had that happened Saturday night in Columbia I think there still would have been some gnashing of teeth, but at least we would've heard from the two guys that were making the decisions and designed the gameplan.

Sure, the truth is we're not likely to hear much of anything that will stop the message boreds and the twitter from bleeding a death of rage and self-destruction. But leadership should have a face in both good times and bad. I'm fairly certain we'll hear from Bobo. Coach Pruitt evidently decides when he is and when he isn't available for the media. If he chooses not to sit in front of the cameras on Tuesday after two of his players answered questions Saturday night, that's a much bigger issue for me than why his gameplan didn't work in Columbia.

A tweak versus major alterations

When it comes to sussing out the flaw in the offensive coaching mindset Saturday, Emerson nails it.
And in the game’s biggest spots, Georgia’s coaching staff didn’t give the ball to Gurley. You do have to credit South Carolina’s defense, which successfully keyed on Gurley, especially as the game went on. And you understand Mark Richt and Mike Bobo’s desire for balance and keeping the defense honest.
But sometimes that goes out the window when you have a talent like Gurley, and sometimes you can out-smart yourself. Richt, in his postgame press conference, made clear he regretted the play call on first-and-goal from the 4. Bobo probably does too, although we'll have to wait until the next time he speaks to the media to find out, as he and Pruitt again weren't available after the game.
Bobo tried to outsmart himself at times, despite calling a great game in my opinion. And Richt failed to step in and overrule when necessary. But that's a tweak. That's a minor adjustment in the mindset that's between the headsets.

What Pruitt has weighing in his mind is more complex.
Georgia’s secondary looked like last year, players not close to open receivers, poor tackling, and just deficient in talent.
Jeremy Pruitt was out-schemed by Steve Spurrier and his son, who harkened back to their 2010 win over Alabama (when Pruitt was secondary coach) and predicted in gameplanning that they could exploit the middle of the field. They did, as Georgia’s safeties and linebackers pinched the outside, and South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson (with no pass rush coming at him) had time to find receivers in the flat.
Troy should be an opportunity to play some people and build some confidence. Tennessee's offensive line is young. South Carolina's offensive line played a great game, much better than I anticipated. And now it's painfully obvious that this defense will live and die by its pass rush.