Horse Collar Revisited

Interesting picture used by AL.com to highlight their story on Jake Holland and Kris Frost…

This one may have been better to use…

 

Hey, I’m no fan of the horse collar tackling rule.  I’ve been watching football for almost 40 years, and I don’t recall seeing a single player being injured by this kind of tackle.  But, hey, if you’re going to have a rule, you might as well enforce it.  I’ve certainly seen worse horse collaring calls.

 

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“Alabama has been stewing for a year dude”

I think this sums it up:

Asked if distractions from the saga of allegations that surfaced this week surrounding D.J. Fluker and potential improper benefits would be a problem for Saban and the Tide, Pollack had this to say: “Alabama has been stewing for a year dude,” he said. “If A&M beats them, it ain’t because they’re distracted. Nick Saban is a task-oriented guy.”

Keeping Manziel in the Pocket

Back in August, ESPN did a piece on some things Johnny Manziel was working on related to actually playing football:

The area in which he can make serious strides this year is his pocket presence.

“That’s what we focused on throughout the spring because we know what Johnny can do when he’s outside the pocket, running the ball,” Spavital said. “I try not to let him scramble in practice and he gets frustrated at times and you’ll see some pretty wild plays out there, but he’s been staying in the pocket, going through his progressions, and I think it’s making him a better pocket passer.”

At first glance, this doesn’t make sense as we noted back then:

Um, okay.  Let’s review here.  Last year, Manziel passed for 3,706 yards, second only to Georgia’s Aaron Murray (though Murray had one more game). But…and that’s a big but, he also rushed for a conference-best 1,410 yards and 21 scores.  That’s more touchdowns than Cam Newton had in 2010, and almost as many yards in one less game.

I’m so smart (sarcasm) that I finally figured out what this is about.  What it isn’t is Manziel working on becoming a better pocket passer so he will be a better NFL quarterback.  And it’s not necessarily about preventing an injury to Manziel.  No, what it’s about is addressing what the Aggies think other teams will do this year to defend against Manziel:

Part of that preparation was devising ways to stop Manziel, who was simulated in practice by backup quarterbacks Luke Del Rio and Cooper Bateman. Surely, Blake Sims, a former receiver turned quarterback, played the part of Johnny Football as well.

Saban said the goal won’t necessarily be to turn Manziel into a pocket passer, but to tighten up the containment around him and negate the potential for big gains. Treating him like a normal quarterback won’t work. If the defense does, another 20-0 hole could be in Alabama’s future.

“I told our players, I said, ‘There’s a lot of NFL games on Sundays. You want to watch the quarterback, go watch those games. But if you start watching this guy in our game, you’re going to get busted,’” Saban said. “It happened in our game last year. We’ve got people covered pretty well, you look back at the quarterback and their receivers do a good job of extending the play and getting away from it. He finds them and makes big plays.”

There you have it: “tighten up the containment around him.”  If you want to see what “failing to tighten up the containment around him” looks like, check below…

Paybacks

Alabama football under Nick Saban has lost precious few times, especially since the 2008 season.

And when there is a loss, there’s usually a payback to follow”

* Alabama loses the 2008 SEC championship game to Florida, 31-20, and one year later that loss was avenged 32-13.

* The Tide lost the 2010 Iron Bowl and everybody knew what was coming in 2011.

* LSU won the game of the young century in 2011, but received some serious payback in the national championship game.

That brings us to this week’s opponent, Texas A&M.  In 2012, the Aggies captured lightning in a bottle in the inaugural SEC season.  Along with a new coach, Kevin Sumlin, and a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, Johnny Manziel, the Aggies stunned the Tide 29-25 and seemingly derailed ‘Bama’s back-to-back title aspirations.

And since the clock struck all zeroes that evening on November 10, 2012, everyone in the college football world has been waiting to see if Alabama can deliver a payback to Johnny Football and the Ags.

Alabama, as we know, came back to defend it’s title as the crazy football world righted itself by season’s end.  Perhaps that took some of the sting out of losing to A&M, but there’s still a ton of stuff that makes you sick to your stomach when you relive it.  The Aggies beat Alabama fair and square; they won the game and the “W” belongs to them.  But in doing so, there were enough “what ifs” to fill an off-season worth of nightmares.  Take for example…

* Alabama’s defense lost their collective discipline in the first quarter and the Aggies roared to a 20-0 lead.  At the time, that didn’t extrapolate too well.  I had visions of what A&M did to Auburn dancing in my head.  The remaining three quarters, though, ‘Bama outscored A&M 24-9.

* Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was downright stingy with the football all season, but threw two costly interceptions.  One came in the deluge that was the first quarter and the last came on the potential game-winning drive with less than two minutes remaining in the game.

* Another back-breaking turnover came earlier in the fourth quarter on a fumble by T.J. Yeldon.  A&M had just missed a field goal attempt, but was still leading 23-17.  Alabama had a bit of momentum and could have taken the lead for the first time.  A 50 yard pass from McCarron to Amari Cooper had ‘Bama in business at the Aggie 38, but Yeldon fumbled at the end of an eight yard run.

* On fourth-and-one, with less than a minute to play, the Tide jumps off-side, giving the Aggies a first down and a chance to kill the clock for good.

And the game was played one week after one of Alabama’s all-time best wins, a 21-17, last-minute win over arch rival LSU.

But also let this soak in: Through three quarters last year, Johnny Football was 21-of-23 passing, including this gem:

21-of-dadgum-23.  That’s downright Stephen Garcia-esque.

He was playing out of his mind and the Tide defense had trouble stopping him all day.  He didn’t commit a turnover, threw for two touchdowns and rushed for 92 yards.  That’s enough to win a guy a Heisman.  All-in-all, the Aggie offense had the ball 12 times, scored on five of those times, ended halves with two, and missed a field goal with one.  The Tide defense forced three punts – all in the second half – and had one fourth down stop.  Basically, until making some adjustments at the half, the ‘Bama defense couldn’t get off of the field.

So as we look forward to some payback, we’re left to ponder life without the turnovers and what might have been.  We’re left to ponder whether the next game will look more like the 2012 first quarter or the last three.  We’re left to wonder if Manziel will hit 21 of his first 23 passes.  And we’re left to wonder if the ‘Bama defense will play more disciplined football from the opening kick, or if they’ll wait until after half time again.

 

Manziel the Pocket Passer?

After months of off-the-field news, ESPN.com put up a piece on Sunday about Johnny Manziel’s on-field performance:

So, how do you tell the Heisman Trophy winner to do better?

“All you have to do is watch video,” Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said.

What does the video reveal?

“You saw him progress as a quarterback as the year went on,” quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital said. “Those first five games or so, he was just freelancing and doing his own thing.”

Sumlin has noted several times in the past year that Manziel was a better quarterback in the second half of the season. His grasp of the offense and ability to throw downfield have improved.

The stats support that assessment. In the final six games, Manziel had a better completion percentage (73.4 percent, compared to 63.8 percent in the first seven), more yards per attempt (9.31 vs. 7.95), a better touchdown-to-interception ratio (12-to-3, compared with 14-to-6) and, as a result, a better passer rating (169.5 vs. 144.5 to 169.5).

That’s all fine and good, but this next blurb caught my eye:

The area in which he can make serious strides this year is his pocket presence.

“That’s what we focused on throughout the spring because we know what Johnny can do when he’s outside the pocket, running the ball,” Spavital said. “I try not to let him scramble in practice and he gets frustrated at times and you’ll see some pretty wild plays out there, but he’s been staying in the pocket, going through his progressions, and I think it’s making him a better pocket passer.”

Um, okay.  Let’s review here.  Last year, Manziel passed for 3,706 yards, second only to Georgia’s Aaron Murray (though Murray had one more game). But…and that’s a big but, he also rushed for a conference-best 1,410 yards and 21 scores.  That’s more touchdowns than Cam Newton had in 2010, and almost as many yards in one less game.

And now the Aggie coaches want Manziel to be more of a pocket passer?

Sorry, folks.  I just don’t buy this one.  Manziel isn’t the tallest of quarterbacks, but he is one of the quickest.  Sitting him in the pocket would be a defensive coordinators dream and it ain’t gonna happen.