Thursday, August 3, 2017

Dawgbone May Not Want to Hear This, But Coaching CAN'T Fix Our Kickoff Coverage

OK, maybe "can't fix" is a bit strong, but obviously Georgia's kickoff return coverage in 2016 left fans wanting. The Dawgs finished the season ranked 115th of 128 teams, giving up an average of nearly 24 yds per return.

I was perusing these stats, as well as where certain teams fell, and while I don't want to say I was able to draw some iron-clad conclusions, I found some things very interesting.

First, with respect to some teams with stacked rosters and presumably good coaches, I found it interesting that Alabama ranked 79th, Michigan at 92, and Florida at 110. On the flipside, teams that you wouldn't think would have the depth to support an excellent KO coverage team (of course, they may play a lot of starters) topped the rankings. Bowling Green, for example, led the nation. Purdue, who played a lot of talented teams last year, came in at #5.

So, it's tough to find a correlation between a team's talent and depth, and I submit that these teams aren't lacking in coaching, unless Bowling Green's ST coach(es) is a diamond in the rough, in which case Kirby should hire him tout suite.

Here's what I find even more interesting.

In 2015, Alabama was ranked a more typical 23rd. Michigan and Florida were at a mediocre, but not poor, 50 and 51, respectively.

Bowling Green went from 62nd to #1. Conversely, Georgia Southern went from #1 to #83.

So, did the teams that improved just "figure it out," while the teams that had it figured out simply forgot what the heck they were doing? I can say with a certain degree of certainty that the level of talent neither improved nor dropped off so dramatically as to cause such a great variance in ST performance.

One variable is the kickers themselves, but even here, there doesn't seem to be much correlation. Florida, who, again, was barely better than Georgia at #110, led the nation in kickoff yds/kick, and was 15th in touchbacks. Memphis was 3rd in touchbacks, and 2nd overall in kickoff coverage. So, while I know that most teams would love a guy who can kick it through the back of the end zone every time, there's still no real conclusion to be drawn as far as coverage on non-touchbacks.

OK, but what does it all mean, Basil?

I don't want to say that a more complete, talented, and deep roster won't have any effects on Georgia's kickoff coverage, and I applaud Kirby for hiring an assistant away from Auburn to be more of a consultant/adviser.

But, the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that kickoff coverage is coached pretty much the same way all around, and sometimes, chit happen.

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