When someone sits down to write the KSR book, the moment at SEC Media Days on Wednesday morning will have to be included.
We all had a good laugh at The Wynfrey Hotel. Yours truly likely missed a golden opportunity to book our biggest guest ever on 11 Personnel to help educate Saban on some more personnel groupings. However, this confirms some of what was learned last week at Big 12 Media Days — 12 personnel could be a counter to smaller, aggressive defenses that are now populating college football.
“Look, I think things always sort of cycle,” Saban told KSR on Wednesday. “And I think that the trend has been — and in a very positive way the trend has been very productive to be in the spread and to spread the field with three and four wide receivers and four open formations and implement RPOs and lots of screens and spread the field and make the defense defend 53 yards wide and 100 yards deep, which has not always been the case when the more people that line up tight — I call it wad ball — the more constrictive you can be in terms of how you create space for offensive players to make plays.”
Wad ball is a new one, and that is going directly into my X and O vernacular. It still feels like the most optimal way to play offense and stretch the field vertically is to find a quarterback that can deliver the ball with accuracy on longer routes to go along with wide receivers that can win in isolation matchups. That is not changing but defenses are now starting to gain ground making moving the ball more difficult.
“So I do think that defenses are catching up and creating more issues with some of the things that they do, and people who get back in regular formation as we do — we never, ever abandon that.” Saban said. “That’s always been a part of what we do to run the ball. People have a more difficult time adjusting to that, which used to be the starting point of where you taught everything that you did.”
That is the kicker. Defenses are now just not built to handle some heavier personnel packages when an opposing tight end has positional flexibility. Kentucky could lean into that in their new scheme. The loss of Keaton Upshaw takes away some of that versatility, but the Wildcats are still going to heavily use the tight end position. At times, a sixth offensive line player could be called upon to create some unbalanced looks. Liam Coen could use some more beef on the field to give opposing defenses issues on a weekly basis. Mark Stoops confirmed that he wants his offense to have a physical presence at SEC Media Days.
“Me being a defensive guy for years and years, you always feel that threat, it’s always very aggravating when teams can run the ball on you,” Stoops told reporters. “So we want to have a strong physical presence but, again, get the ball down the field and create explosive plays.”
The best coach in college football history believes there could be value in operating in that kind of offensive structure. KSR was happy to help him grow the game in his own backyard.
“So I can see that there may be some movement back in that direction to more conventional type football to people that spend time on the direct runs and things that you create in regular formation,” Saban said.