Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Falcon Football Preview: The Offense

After about 10 years with an identity as an offensive football team, last year the Falcons turned that around a little and became known as an inoffensive football team. The tale of woe (FBS rankings...out of 120 teams).:
  • 100th in scoring offense
  • 120th in rushing offense.
  • 115th in total offense
  • 105th in pass efficiency (we were 51st in passing yards, but that was based on volume of attempts).
  • 107th in sacks allowed
You get the idea.  A pretty rough year and it could have been worse.  We actually outscored our offensive performance.

So, what happened?  A lot of people will point to the QB position, but I think it is pretty clear....the problems at the offensive line prevented us from knowing how good our QBs were.  Schilz was effective early, and then as the line fell apart, his productivity fell.  He may or may not be a great QB, but you can't tell based on the way he had to play.

He was also a R-FR starting D1 for the first time.  In this post, I compared his freshman numbers to Zac Dysert, who has, I think we can agree, turned into a pretty good QB.

Running is another example.  Willie Geter was almost always dodging tackles before he hit the line of scrimmage.  If we had a worse RB, we'd have had an even worse running attack--and that was, mathematically possible.

It was simply an impossible year for our O-line.  They were thin to start with, and then tackle Blaec Walker had a career-ending injury and our best lineman, Scott Lewis was injured in camp and Ben Bojicic, was injured and out for a few games.  At some points, the Falcons had a player who had converted from D-line during the spring, a player who converted from d-line during the season, and a true freshman on the line.  Starters Donahue and Toresso both graduated, but some players are coming up and two JUCO players were added.

The reports from camp are that the line is playing better, but what else are they going to say?  And, there have been some reports of the D-line dominating the O-line.  Even in the spring game, BG had to go to max protect to get a passing game going.

I fully expect the O-line to be better this year.  Even just keeping Bojicic healthy the whole way will help immensely.  Other players are gaining experience and they are used to playing next to each other, which is vital on the o-line.

(For some reason, we left a big hole in our offensive line recruiting.   The year Bojicic came in, there were only two, and the other one is not with the program.)  That's counter, in fact, to the way we played during the halcyon days of the Meyer/Brandon era, a time in which we put two lineman in the NFL but 0 QBs or WRs).

Even if the line is better, the question is, how much better?  I think the question will determine how far BG's offense can go.  Without stronger run blocking, BG is likely to still suffer at the RB position, no matter how good their new RBs turn out to be--but, none of them has proven to be as strong as Geter is.  If they don't get holes, than BG will struggle to run the ball.

And all that will make it very difficult to pass, regardless of who the QB is.  Teams won't need to load the box, which will make the numbers game work against us, and if there is no protection for the QB, then they will find it difficult to find open receivers.

Now, that's pretty negative.  On the plus side, BG has a deep and experienced WR corps....if the QB has time, then BG has the ability to move the ball.  If the running game can go anywhere at all, we get a little more dangerous.  At QB, Schilz was effective last year until the line fell apart, but has to shake off a freshman season where he was injured and a human tackling dummy for much of the year.  Coach said he had quick feet and didn't trust the pocket as the season went along, which is natural when a QB gets hit as much as he did. Trent Hurley, R-FR, has looked good at times as well, and could earn some playing time.

One thing we can be sure about.  Every time Schilz or Hurley throws a pick or misses an open receiver, fans will want the other one brought in.  Cannot be avoided.

Either way, if BG doesn't win more battles up front, it won't matter who plays QB and WR.

I think the offense will be better...we won't rank near the bottom in all those categories again.  And who knows where the ceiling is....college football players can change a lot.  If I had to project the most likely scenario however, I would say that it is that the offense will go from bad to average, and hope the defense (see tomorrow) improves enough to help bring games into the winning range.

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