Film Study: Schottenheimer has UGA's offense looking ferocious
In the week-to-week nature that is college football, you still have to marvel at just how fickle both sports media and sports fanatics are.
For University of Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert, the thrill of completing an NCAA record 24-of-25 passes in a rout of a thorn-in-the-butt division rival, South Carolina Gamecocks, has to feel like a scene out of the Twilight Zone when it was only a week ago when most felt as though he should be permanently replaced by second-string QB Brice Ramsey after opening 0-of-seven in a win against the lowly Vanderbilt Commodores.
But such is the life for a young team with a signal-caller getting adjusted to not only life at a different school, as Lambert transferred over to Athens after spending a few years in Charlottesville with the University of Virginia, but to a playbook with an offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, only three games into his time with the Bulldogs, too.
But patience is a virtue sports fans will never have in this high-stakes games of college football where a microwave-like society abides by instant gratification for nothing more than bragging rights with a buddy or coworker. Instead of sitting back and realizing just how tough it is to mesh principles of a new OC and a team filled with mostly underclassmen at the skill positions, while breaking in a transfer QB, we’d rather go the Burger King route: your way, right away. (Which makes no sense when you consider how many blunders that particular establishment has with orders!)
This whole operation is a work-in-progress, folks, but you have to be satisfied with the direction of the program especially as it pertains to the offensive side of the ball. When I went out on a professional limb and called Lambert a scheme-specific fit for a Schottenheimer-led offense shortly after his transfer to the Classic City, I did so by having working knowledge of both Coach Schotty’s scheme and Lambert’s skill set.
Where most assumed it would be Lambert’s arm-talent that would be most coveted by Schotty, in particular his ability to vertically stretch the field, I opined that it would be his ability to work the prompt-passing game in an effort to spray the ball around the yard to Georgia’s collection of pass-receiving targets. In particular, his rapid release, combined with his accuracy, would be the aspects that could get the Dawgs’ offense rolling like a well-oiled machine.
Last season’s starter, Hutson Mason, would’ve been perfect for this type of an offense as his accuracy and ability to protect possessions superseded his ability to stretch the field, whereas former superstar QB Matthew Stafford — and his Bazooka-like cannon of an arm — may not have achieved favorable results as he would’ve put the team behind the eight ball with his aggressive nature.
But where Lambert has the ability to differentiate himself from Mason is with the fact that his arm talent is more like Stafford’s; that’s how you get a scheme-specific fit for an offense rooted in West Coast principles. When rhythm and timing is the core structure of your scheme, it’s 100 percent on the play-caller to establish it.
And that’s exactly what Coach Schotty did to open the tilt with the Gamecocks.
Here’s a fairly simple concept to get the ball rolling: Y-stick. Aligned in the Gun, Lambert targeted tight end Jeb Blazevich, my preseason choice for breakout player in Schotty’s multi-tight scheme, while the the Z-receiver pretty much runs a “Clearout” not even looking for a pass.
This is a no-read concept as Blazevich was the predetermined recipient of this target from the time the game plan was set in the meeting room. However, had the underneath coverage taken Blazevich away, his secondary target would’ve been S-receiver Terry Godwin on a “Bubble.”
This is a diagram of what I like to call a “Spotlight” route. To truly be a great play-action fake outfit, you must serve the defense all the trimmings, which includes pulling your linemen in an effort to sell the run. On this particular play, it appears as though it was a called run with a built-in “Now” sequence according to how the corner was playing the Z-receiver: If he’s providing a cushion you hit the receiver on a slant; if he’s in press-man coverage you go with the called CAGE Sweep.
When your run game is, perhaps, the premier outfit in the country, having built-in “Now” routes is a must, as the defense has no choice but to follow that action. Just look at how the entire defensive front seven is swept away from the receiver, Malcolm Mitchell, providing ample room for one of the best athletes in the Southeastern Conference.
Theoretically, Coach Schotty can call an entire game based on “Smoke” and “Now” routes depending on the coverage and personnel grouping. If the defense is in zone or off coverage, and Mitchell is aligned in a two- or three-receiver set to one side of the formation, you can bet your bottom dollar he will be targeted for a plethora of screens.
This particular play all the kids will enjoy as it involves the “Whip.” No, it’s not like the dance everyone is doing these days, but it will have UGA fans dancing with excitement at the results. The first thing you should pay attention to is the motion player, Godwin, exposing the defense as being in man coverage — or some form of it — as his assignment traveled with him to the Bunch Formation. The “Z” is running a curl; the running back is running a quick flat; the detached “Y” is pressing the seams; the X-receiver is running a Whip, or Pivot, against a linebacker — albeit a very talented one in Skai Moore.
Schottenheimer did a fantastic job of providing Lambert with high-percentage throws to build his confidence and assist him with getting into a nice rhythm. When you consider just about every target touched the ball to open the game, you can plainly see how he learned from the Vandy game and implemented it against USC. It doesn’t hurt to have a bright offensive mind in head coach Mark Richt in your meeting room, either.
UGA’s offense will continue to be a work-in-progress, but we can definitely see how special it can be with Lambert at the helm. And when you consider how the defense is flying around looking ferocious, you can see why them ‘Dawgs were my pick to win the SEC Championship this season.
Check back with me when I dive into the concepts of that nasty run game the ‘Dawgs have been trotting out.