Week 14: Crazy Rivalry Saturday Pt 2 – A look back at the coaching – Auburn/Alabama

Posted: December 2, 2013 in Weekly Reviews
Gus Malzahn
hi-res-6805634_crop_northGus Malzahn. The master of masters. The one who may be leading us into a new age of Football. Will he one day be held in the same esteem as other great innovators such as Alonzo Stagg, Pop Warner, Fielding Yost, Knute Rockne, Rusty Russell, Francis Schmidt, Clark Shaughnessy(George Halas), Paul Brown, Sid Gillman, Bill Walsh and Mouse Davis?  
He’s not only incorporating PS ideas on Offense – and been doing it for years – he has now done the same on Defense as well as Special Teams. Once a very complicated OC, who sometimes did too much, Malzahn seems to have totally incorporated KISS as a Head Coach. Wise move.
First at Arkansas State, then this year at Auburn, Malzahn’s schemes are now simple and direct, while still providing amazing flexibility and variety. It became quickly apparent at Ark St that Malzahn wasn’t one of those Offensive Gurus who was going to keep his nose out of the Defensive schemes. Great aggression, disguise and variety both before and after the snap, have been the hallmark of Malzahn’s defenses his last 2 years as Head Coach. Having an experienced and aggressive DC in Ellis Johnson this year only makes Malzahn’s job easier. 
By the way, the last play of the game on Saturday was not a random act. In fact, none of what Malzahn does is random. He MADE Cam Newton. Lets be straight about that. I can only imagine what he would have done with a talent like Terrelle Pryor.
large_collegeandmagnolia.com.full.28690Kurt brought the following article to my attention. It amazes me how easy it is for random writers and fans to misunderstand all that goes into the great plays they see on the field. Here’s a quick breakdown:
Chris Davis’ game winning return. This was NOT  the sole design and execution by one, Chris Davis. Malzahn knew that the longer the FG, the more important the blocking, since the trajectory of the ball is lower from further out. It’s simple physics. So what does this mean?
It means that Alabama was going to have their Big Boys in for maximum protection. This means slower guys, which means that a fast DB like Davis may have a chance for a return if the long FG attempt lands short. Nick Saban said he had told his team to “fan out” on the coverage as there was a return man in the endzone. The problem may simply have been the personnel grouping on the field. Look at a replay – slow, heavy guys that had no chance to catch Davis. 
This was not something Malzahn planned for throughout the week, but his ability to think outside the box and look at ALL possibilities in the game is what leads to such plays. This is ALL Malzahn and has NOTHING to do with Lady Luck.
Nick Marshall is NOT a great QB! Again, Malzahn. Look at the game tying TD pass by Marshall. A read option with a pass option if he keeps. Marshall “kept” and at the last second decided to use his 3rd option and pass to a wide open player for an easy TD. I could have thrown that pass.
Marshall is a great athlete – not QB. Malzahn incorporates so much misdirection, play action, out of different sets and yet keeps it all so simple. He’s mixing in some Quick Huddle this year to go along with No Huddle, Hurry Up and Frantic Tempo. The variety and flexibility of this Offense is off the charts and could make many athletes out there great stars.
And what’s more – IT’S FUN! 
Tre Mason – you are not alone. Malzan’s blocking schemes in his PS Offense enables even the most average blocker to look great. Same with the RBs. How is it that from play to play there is one missed block after another and still Auburn can rack up big yardage on the ground against Alabama. Power Spread schemes are so potent that perfection is not necessary. This is BRILLIANT! FREEDOM FROM MISTAKES! This is why real top talents like Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde are so unstoppable in simpler PS Schemes. 
Remember, the Power Spread was first used as a type of Offense to help level the playing field when a team has less talent. Urban Meyer was the first to combine Top Talent and PS. It’s been unstoppable ever since. This isn’t Mason, nor the Oline. IT will happen again next year and the next and the next…. and on and on until defenses figure out a way to stop this Offense. Malzahn, right now, is the best at it. 
 Auburn DLine in the 4th Quarter. IT WASN’T JUST THE DLINE!! There were LBs and sometimes DBs up on the line of scrimmage at different times throughout the game. The pre snap movement and post snap deception was incredible. Credit again to Malzahn and his work with DC Ellis Johnson. At times they got badly burned as the talent difference was pretty significant for today’s game. Alabama of late has had some of the greatest recruiting classes ever. Still, they could be stopped by Schemes. Better use of Space, Time and Team always gives a lesser talented team a chance.
I’m excited for this writer as he should be ecstatic over the Auburn upset, but the misconceptions of what’s really going on out there can reach epic proportions.
It reminds me of when I got in an argument at an Auburn bar for suggesting it was Malzahn not Cam Newton who has made this offense great. We love our stars. Plus, it’s the first thing we see on a playing field. Players make plays. Coaches make sure they are in positions to make the best plays possible.
Nick Saban
5d308f608a036125420f6a706700f1b6Lastly, I want to comment on Saban’s post game press conference. I was really impressed. He was obviously crushed, but his words at such a tough moment really embodied why he’s had so much success. All he talked about was TEAM. He sees the big picture and how it all fits together. How to keep it simple, yet be progressive. Remember, he was a one time Defensive Guru before he was a Head Coach. He leaves no stone unturned.
The problem is that the PS stretches the space and time so much that there are some “stones” in Saban’s repertoire that are now being left unturned. Think of it like this: Saban has maximized all phases of the game as he knew it – on and off the field – in Space, Time, Team. Now, the Space has been stretched, the Time is being manipulated and even the TEAM is taking on bigger dimensions. 
Saban is brilliant – one of the greatest College Head Coaches of all time. Still, if he doesn’t keep progressing with what’s happening he’s going to be left behind. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Will Nick eventually go back to the NFL, where progression is much slower and stagnant? He can prove his worth in the Big League without stretching his known horizons that much. Some of his PS ideas on Defense and even on Offense could prove lethal at the NFL level. 
I will say this: When he goes up against coaches like Malzahn and Meyer he is going to struggle. He has the talent edge, but no longer the scheme edge. Whether he will catch up, remain steadfast in his former beliefs or head to the NFL remains to be seen.
  1. […] Crazy Rivalry Saturday Pt 2 – A look back at the coaching: Auburn/Alabama […]

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