Thursday, August 18, 2005

What's in the Fridge? | by Michael

I rarely venture over to the ESPN website these days, but Ivan Maisel has a great look at Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen and his scouting expertise. For what it's worth, I think the Fridge's approach to studying tendencies is very similar to Charlie's. Be sure to check out the entire article, and I'll point out just a couple things that stuck out to me.

A thread yesterday on NDNation briefly touched upon one element of Friedgen's skill with scouting. In the '99 Gator Bowl, Friedgen's scouting reports showed him how one ND defensive lineman's alignment identified whether he was planning to stunt or not. These kinds of tip-offs occur all the time in football, but it's the diligent coaching staffs who discover these tendencies more often than not.

Suffice to say, this is right up Charlie's alley, especially considering how much more complex the NFL is compared to the college game. If you listened to Charlie's post-practice comments yesterday (courtesy of Irish Eyes), he briefly discussed scouting. An excerpt:

“Pittsburgh doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out what they’re going to do. Michigan, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon. Michigan State will have played two games by the time we’ve played them. Washington three games. Purdue has a bye in there so they also will have played three games. I’ve looked at the schedule.”
Seems to me that Charlie thinks scouting in college football is a bit of a cakewalk; it's probably a little oversimplification on his part, but you have to like his confidence. (For some more concrete examples of Charlie's ability to discover tendencies and use scouting reports to anticipate what the defense will bring, take another look at our recent piece on Charlie's playcalling.)

The ESPN article has a lot of terrific insights from Friedgen, but there's one other highlight worth mentioning. The following Friedgen quote brought about a serious case of deja vu: "If I'm them, this is what I do to stop what I do."

Charlie said essentially the same thing this past week. Check it out, courtesy of Colin Burns' piece at Irish Eyes.
“I watch all the (defensive) tape,” Weis said. “Just because I’m not over there over doesn’t mean I miss anything. We tape everything. The first thing I watch after practice is the defensive tape. I don’t watch the offensive tape. I just watch them. I go back again to see what I missed because you don’t see everything. But I know from going against the defense, they present some problems to us. Then again, there are other times where I’ll go up to those guys and I’ll go to Rick and say, ‘If you do this, this is what I’m going to do and you’re going to have a problem.’ They are doing a lot more now than in the spring.”
Still, football also depends upon talent and, as much as it pains me to say it, execution. Hate that word all you want, but all the scouting in the world didn't help Maryland overcome inexperience and talent issues at quarterback last year. The Terps had execution problems; however, the difference between a good coaching staff and a bad one is that the good one will publicly blame themselves and simplify the offense to fit the strengths of its players. A bad staff will, week after week, cite player execution as a primary reason for inconsistent play while never adapting the scheme.

In the Friedgen offense, which is similar to what Charlie ran with the Patriots and will likely run at Notre Dame, a lot falls upon the shoulders of the quarterback, and it shouldn't surprise anyone that this is really the first year that we've heard offensive coaches discuss Brady Quinn's ability to read coverages. Scouting and gameplanning are vital pieces of a winning formula, but in systems like Fridge's and Charlie's, you need a smart, decisive quarterback to efficiently run your offense. Quinn has infinitely more responsibility now than he ever did in the Diedrick offense.

Watch Maryland bounce back to have a good record this year; their quarterbacks are more experienced and talented, and the Fridge should be able to put together a solid season. Likewise, watch the Irish offense put up big numbers this fall. The cogs are in place, especially at, the most important position in this offense, quarterback. Brady Quinn will put Charlie's scouting reports to good use.