Kirby’s Offensive Strategy

This little essay was included in the 2018 season preview. It was intended as a commentary about tight end usage in the offense, but ended up just being a summary of Dawgs offensive strategy for you to reference.

We won’t know much about how James Coley thinks about offense until Vanderbilt, but it’s always been CKS making the arragements.

I doubt much will change.

A Note on the Tight Ends

The preoccupation with the tight ends is almost as baffling to me as enforcing a schedule for winning a title on Kirby Smart. Every place I turn someone is asking when the tight ends are going to get involved in the offense. Folks, what you saw last year was one of the top-15 passing attacks in the nation. But so long as you want to belabor the point, a few notes on our offense.

This is inside zone. About 90% of college offenses incorporate some version of it as their base offense. It’s not pretty below, but like Coach Boone says – “It’s like Novocain, just give it time…always works.”

The Dawgs have a number of inside running concepts, but a lot of Chaney’s play-action and RPO designs come from this look.Inside zone is Jim Chaney’s true north. It’s where we’ll start each game and where we’ll try to get back to if a defense is denying it from us. This is a power running football team and that identity comes directly from CKS. It’s been that way in some form or fashion for as long as I’ve been watching Georgia football, but especially so now.

If SEC football is chess, the defense makes the first move. In the event that we’re playing Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, or any of the other Rip/Liz teams, typically you’ll see opposing defenses try to take inside zone away from us by rotating a safety down into “the box” and beating it with numbers. If they have one more than you can block, math says they win.

From the point they commit the extra player, Coach Chaney’s charge is to get that extra man out of the box so that he can get back to running inside zone. There are a number of ways to do that, but typically you would do it by targeting defenders that are in conflict by the alignment.

First off, you have the corners out on islands matched up against receivers. Javon Wims had an enormous year last season feasting entirely on single coverage matchups afforded him by defenses loading the box to stop inside zone. This season you can expect Riley Ridley, Demetris Robertson, Matt Landers, Terry Godwin, and others to be factors for the same reason. They all have either the size, athleticism, or both to win in one-on-one matchups.

You’ll also typically have a defensive back or linebacker who is truly in conflict, with both a gap responsibility in the run game and matchup responsibility in the pass game. This is your “chicken” for the RPO plays that have become the fashion in recent years. He is vulnerable in the space behind the second level of defenders. In the example below, everyone in the second level and the high safety bit on the run action.

Finally, you’ll have a single high safety who’s job is to make sure no one gets behind him. Speedy slot receivers that can test the seam or beat him to the boundary are a massive advantage in the offense’s favor. 52.5 yards is a lot of ground to have to cover by yourself when the Dawgs have speed challenging you from both sides of the formation.

That free safety getting beat will signal to a defensive coordinator that it’s time to start rethinking strategy and personnel. The defense will need to get “smaller” by bringing in faster personnel and “expand” to cover the amount of space the offense is dictating.
Often you can stop right there. When the defensive coordinator has brought in an extra defensive back or rotated the second safety back out of the box, the Dawgs can go right back to inside zone. And that is the dance.

Whether the tight ends become a receiving threat this season is more to do with matchups than anything else. Certainly with the amount of speed and play-making that the Dawgs have on the outside, defenses are going to have to decide who they take away. And I doubt that decision will be the tight ends. There will be moments where Coach Chaney will be able to use the tight ends to beat in-the-box defenders who are committing too willingly to the running game. So those of you clamoring for more tight end involvement may well get your wish.

But it’s important to note that isn’t the point. Offense isn’t about making sure everyone touches the ball. It’s about placing defenders in conflict and taking advantage of them. Whatever player benefits from the defender’s conflict gets the ball. As the ole cliche goes, you gotta take what they give you.