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It Takes Eleven

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Quoth the Raven...
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Where Are We in "The Process"? - The Offense

by It Takes Eleven

With the regular season two-thirds gone and facing an off week, this is a good time to take a step back, look at this season and consider where Bama stands compared to last season. In the most obvious area, a 6-2 record over last year’s 5-3 mark, Bama has shown improvement. However, let’s take a closer look to identify noteworthy changes in performance.

Schedule

First off, let’s compare apples to apples. Based upon its nonconference schedule, the Tide has had a somewhat tougher schedule thus far in 2007. With the exception of Georgia replacing Florida on the ’07 schedule, Bama had faced the same SEC competitors as in 2006. The nonconference opponents through eight games in 2006 were Hawaii, LA Monroe and Duke, while the 2007 team has faced W. Carolina, Florida State and Houston.

Coaches’ Views

Much has been said about “The Process”, Coach Saban’s oft-used description of his plan to return Alabama to the nation’s elite. Post-game comments after week 8 of 2006 and 2007 offer a contrast in outlook and condition. Following a disappointing 16-13 loss last year to Tennessee in which the Tide gave up 10 fourth quarter points, Coach Shula said, “It was a heartbreaking loss for our team. We felt like we had done what it was going to take to win the game. We played three-and-a-half quarters of pretty good football.” In addressing supporters during the week after Bama’s 41-17 victory over the Vols (a game in which UT was held scoreless after the half), Coach Saban offered the following: "Our team had a great win this week. It's actually the eighth game of the season and it's the first game we played a complete game. You know we had played well in the beginning of games, played well in the middle of games and we had played well at the end of games. Some of those games we were fortunate enough to win and some of them we didn't.”

Offense

Despite fan and media rumblings about offensive production, the 2007 Tide is superior to last year in many key measures. Simply put, Alabama 2007 is finishing where Bama ’06 seemed to just settle for something less. Through eight games, Bama is averaging 30 points/game, a touchdown better than the 23 points/game in 2006. Total offense is up almost 60 yards per game (414 versus 356). Red Zone performance has improved somewhat, with the ’07 squad scoring in 32 of its 37 incursions, including 14 TDs. The ’06 Tide was 29 for 35, including 12 TDs.

One of the most striking differences in Bama this year is in the number of offensive snaps per game. The Tide has averaged almost 78 plays per game this year, compared to just under 67 plays per game through the UT game in 2006. What has Bama done with these extra 11 plays per game? They’ve thrown it. Passing stats for this year show 80 more pass attempts, with 181 completions in 308 attempts for 1,949 yards and 12 TDs. These numbers compare favorably to last year, when the Tide was 133 for 228 for 1,752 yards and 11 TDs at this point. Pass completion rates are essentially unchanged at 59% for ’07 and 58% for ’06.

Despite 80 additional pass attempts, Bama has yielded 14 sacks, down from 18 at this time last year, and interceptions are unchanged at 5. QB Hurries against the offense are also flat (21 in ’07, 22 in ’06). Kudos to John Parker Wilson for his maturity and willingness to check down and take what the defense is giving him, but great credit also goes the offensive line. Whether it’s due to attitude, maturity or coaching (perhaps a bit of each), the offensive line has improved markedly in its pass protection. Backs appear better at picking up the blitz this year, too.

Although some have suggested Alabama’s not running the ball enough this year, ’07 Bama has run the ball just as much (312 for 1,350 yards and 17 TDs, or 4.4 average) as last year (307 for 1,094 yards and 7 TDs, a 3.6 average). The ten more rushing TD's show Bama's ability to force the issue on the ground this year. Again, there is much credit to be given to backs, coaches and linemen for the Tide’s improvement in rushing. Alabama does not appear to display the obvious tendencies it showed last year, particularly in short yardage situations. To the relief of Bama fans, play selection reveals good creativity, yet the Tide is almost perfectly balanced between the run and pass this year. The backs are not forced to routinely dodge defenders in the backfield, giving them the confidence to hit holes quickly.

Looking ahead, the greatest unknown at this point is the status of the five players suspended for the UT game, including two starting offensive linemen and second leading rusher Glen Coffee. Quick passes and rollouts against Tennessee negated much of their pass rush, but look for future defenses to key on new personnel. Upchurch has been impressive at times this year, and is a capable number two back behind Grant; however, he lacks the size to be the punishing power runner that Coffee is. If the suspensions end up being for multiple games, it’s possible that we may see Jimmy Johns back in the Tide backfield again before season end. Regardless of this situation, it’s clear from the Tennessee game that this offensive unit is well coached, focused and capable of winning big games.



*NEXT – Defense and Special Teams*
 

bamafan4ever

Scholarship Club
Tim, what a nice write up. I think the only other thing that you can attribute to the number of plays we have been able to run this year is the fact that we are not snapping the ball with only 1 second on the play clock this year. That was a maddening aspect of the Shula offense. The plays always seemed to come in from the sideline so late in 2006. We have also played some no-huddle this year which has seemed to help in that department as well.
 

It Takes Eleven

Thread Starter
Quoth the Raven...
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bamafan4ever said:
Tim, what a nice write up. I think the only other thing that you can attribute to the number of plays we have been able to run this year is the fact that we are not snapping the ball with only 1 second on the play clock this year. That was a maddening aspect of the Shula offense. The plays always seemed to come in from the sideline so late in 2006. We have also played some no-huddle this year which has seemed to help in that department as well.

Yeah, I agree we get to the line in much better shape this year, but I didn't have anything concrete to support it from a statistical standpoint. Throwing 80 more passes slows the game down (I thought the first half of the ut game took forever!) in and of itself because of incompletions and working the edge. I thought about OL discipline and looked at our false start and delay of game penalties. Through 8 games, we're a little better in false starts this year (11 versus 13) and delays of game (one on a punt - none from an offensive set versus three last year), but I didn't think it worth mentioning.

I also tried to keep it positive as possible and not bash Shula and staff. I thought the two quotes were very telling. They pretty much tell the whole story.

Thanks,

Tim
 
G

Guest

Clock management seems much better now. We are actually approaching the end of a half or the end of a game with timeouts still available, not having frittered them away because we had the wrong personnel on the filed or couldn't get the play signalled in on time. The staff and the offense are much more in tune, much more intense.
 

rammerjammer

Gump 4ever
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psychojoe said:
Clock management seems much better now. We are actually approaching the end of a half or the end of a game with timeouts still available, not having frittered them away because we had the wrong personnel on the filed or couldn't get the play signalled in on time. The staff and the offense are much more in tune, much more intense.

Speaking of that....Did they show CNS on the sideline at the end of the first half last week on tv? We had to blow a timeout after having just taken a timeout. He was livid, and I don't know who he was chewing on, on the other side of the headphones, but I guarantee you he wasn't saying great play call or anything like that. Needless to say that was right before we scored the TD and then had the bad kickoff and then late hit to allow them a FG right before the half.


BTW great write-up Tim ;tr
 
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