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Post SEC Championship: Alabama’s three-wide offense

Thursday November 29, 2012

One of Alabama’s favorite formations on offense is the three-wide, one-back look either from under center or the shotgun. They’ll use other sets of course all the way down to a tight I with one receiver, but they like the matchups from this formation. The three wideouts force a lot of defenses reflexively into nickel coverage, and the removal of a linebacker makes run blocking that much easier for an elite offensive line. Alabama tight end Michael Williams is an important part of their run blocking, giving Alabama essentially six good blockers on running plays from this formation. Bama could also use another TE or a blocking back as an H-back giving them a similar look. That group can handle the six-man front of most nickel defenses. If teams don’t adjust in order to deal with the potent Alabama running game, A.J. McCarron will see a mismatch on the third receiver.

Georgia’s approach to this formation will be interesting to see. Do they pull a linebacker in favor of Branden Smith, and would that linebacker be an interior guy like Herrera or would it be Jordan Jenkins on the edge? Or does it lead Grantham to move Jenkins into an end position (something we’ve seen before) in order to keep four linebackers on the field?

It’s also possible that Georgia could keep its base 3-4 defense out there. With the loss of receiver Kenny Bell, the pass threat from this formation might be handled with the base secondary and a linebacker even if the Tide take the redshirt off of Chris Black. Amari Cooper will be a defensive focus regardless of formation, and if covering Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones versus stopping Lacy or Yeldon is the choice, I expect that Grantham will take his chances with a stronger front and a linebacker or safety responsible for either Norwood or Jones.

If the main objective is to stop Alabama’s run, Georgia will usually be better served with a 7-man front rather than 6 regardless of the formation Alabama presents. We’ll see Smith if Georgia is able to force more obvious passing situations, but it’s less likely we’ll see nickel on first or second downs. TE Williams won’t jump off the stat sheet, but he’s a legitimate target for a pass. Again, a linebacker might be a better matchup there – might be. Ogletree struggled in pass coverage against Florida’s Jordan Reed, but Williams isn’t Reed, and Ogletree has improved a great deal from October in all areas of his game. Alabama will also run screens out of their three-wide sets, and Georgia’s linebackers will have as much responsibility in sniffing those out as they will in stopping the run.

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