Spring Football Mailbag (Part I) May 7, 2010
Thanks for all the questions. Like last time, please understand that if I don’t get to your question, it was either A) a repeat, or B) a really dumb question. Maybe back in August I would answer the dumb questions, but today, sorry. I’m a pretty big deal now.
Who am I kidding – of course I’ll answer all the questions, likely over 3 posts. It’s May. I have to write about something. One can only analyze Chasson Randle’s decision timeframe and Michael Buchanan’s body changes so much.
What are you seeing from the DBs as far as coverages go? Will we see man? Will we stay in zone? Will we press receivers (especially in the slot)? I don’t have an opinion as to which way is the better way to go, but I do know that pressure on the QB will help regardless of what we do in the Defensive Backfield. What can we expect to see?
~ Matt in Chicago, IL
For the most part, I think it will look nearly exactly the same on the snap of the ball. A basic 4-3 with the outside backer sometimes setting up right on the line of scrimmage. Safeties shade the heavy side of the field and corners give a cushion.
After the snap, however, I think you’ll see some changes. Corners taking away the inside to maybe jump a route. Defensive ends dropping into pass coverage while the outside backer blitzes. Maybe even some much-anticipated press coverage from the corners.
I saw a Clemson writer describe Koenning’s defense as “bend but don’t break with a purpose”, and that purpose is this: force some game-changing turnovers. That’s (hopefully) the biggest change you’ll see this fall. A defense that isn’t as “safe” and gambles a little more in hopes of taking away the ball. And I hate to say it, but when a defense is learning to do that, they will inevitably give up big play after big play. The Missouri game frightens me.
With the offensive line being such a question, what is the thought process behind moving Andrew Carter to TE? I thought he was highly regarded as an OL. I know we lack depth there, but shouldn’t Davis, Lattimore, and Ellington be enough? Does Petrino’s offense often use the TE as an extra OL? Just seems like a waste of a talented lineman to me….
~ Travis from Pitman Township
Petrino likes to use twin TE sets (as do most pro-set offenses). I can only imagine the phone call a few days after he was hired.
“Ron, it’s Paul. Listen, I was looking over the roster, and I noticed a few typos. For example, it says that we only have 3 tight ends on the entire team, and one of those guys is the one you said would be my fullback…”
London Davis, Zach Becker, and Justin Lattimore. That’s it. My Arkansas buddy told me that Petrino will use two tight ends on running plays “so that he can get a 6th offensive lineman on the field”. Light bulb. Andrew Carter is probably the most athletic offensive lineman we have on the roster, so outside the tackles he goes. I’m not sure if the move is permanent, but we needed a fourth, blocking-centric tight end, and Carter was the best fit.
When I allow myself to dream, Andrew Carter is a blocking tight end for two years (playing at around 285) before bulking up to 305 and starting at left tackle his final two years. (I have no idea if he has the arms or stability to play left tackle. But many, many successful college left tackles started out as tight ends and moved to LT because of their footwork.)
Please tell me sir, how an already lost offense loses three players to the draft AND Juice Williams is then expected to perform better than the year before?
~ Eric Loy
Better question: Please tell me how an offense that had 3 NFL draft picks and a senior quarterback who had put up 3,892 yards of total offense as a junior can finish 81st in scoring offense? Does that make any sense whatsoever?
The answer to both of our questions is found in my least favorite stat: yards vs. points.
Illinois Total Offense vs. Scoring Offense under Zook:
2009 – Total O: 47th; Scoring O: 81st
2008 – Total O: 19th; Scoring O: 40th
2007 – Total O: 34th; Scoring O: 58th
2006 – Total O: 57th; Scoring O: 88th
2005 – Total O: 72nd; Scoring O: 107th
Five consecutive years with point totals nowhere near the yards we’re putting up. We were saved in 2007 by a top-25 scoring defense (they’d bend but rarely break), but for the other years, points were nowhere near yards. It’s a pattern that has lasted 5 years.
It’s worth noting that defensive scores count towards “scoring offense”, and our failure to create turnovers has seriously hindered this statistic, both in defensive points and short fields. But you nor I nor any other Illini fan need to think very hard to remember long, meaningless drives by our offense resulting in no points.
Here’s a fun fact: Illinois was 47th in total yards but 81st in total points last year. Your friend and mine Dave Wannstedt’s Pitt team? Worse than us in total yards (52nd), but 21st in total points. National Champion Alabama? Only 5 spots ahead of us in total yards, yet 22nd in total points. The kicker? We were 62 spots higher than Minnesota in total offense (47th vs. 109th)… yet they put up more points than us.
You want to know how we can expect this Petrino offense to improve despite the player loss? By scoring points at the end of drives. Simple as that.
I hate the mizzoo football game. Will we win this game ever?
~ James in St. Louis
You and me both, James. I was in Columbia, MO for business again last week, and the mere sight of the “tiger tracks” painted on the pavement leading towards the campus nearly made me vomit.
That game is the bane of my existence. It ruins the beginning of every season. It destroys what used to be a great holiday weekend. My Mizzou coworker gets to gloat, and I’m left mumbling something about basketball.
With the series ending, we have one last chance to beat them. (Do you realize how awful that is? Missouri football in the 70′s, 80′s, and 90′s was Indiana-bad. I still haven’t gotten over the fact that when I say “we have one last chance to beat them”, I’m talking about Missouri.) In this final attempt to come away with a victory, it will be our first game with a new offensive scheme and a revised defensive scheme. And green players. And a freshman QB. And an offensive coordinator calling plays for the first time in his life.
So no, James, I don’t think we will ever win this game. And that makes me taste the sad. Just once I want to walk past my Mizzou coworker on the first Tuesday in September and listen to the silence. Just once I want to enjoy my bratwurst at the Labor Day family get-together. I’d give anything, up to and including body parts. But I don’t think it will ever happen.
But if it does……