Georgia Football: It's Time to Back Off of James Coley
The Georgia Football fans are still licking their wounds from the Dawgs devastating SEC Title game loss to the LSU Tigers. Part of the fans' healing process is looking for people to place the blame for the defeat. However, James Coley is not the person the disgruntled fans should turn towards.
The Georgia Bulldogs were not at their best in any phase of the game Saturday while falling in defeat to LSU. Rodrigo Blankenship uncharacteristically missed two field goals. Defensively the Dawgs surrendered a season-high 37 points. Yet, it is the team's anemic offense that is catching the majority of the heat.
In similar situations in which an offense fails to deliver, the offensive coordinator typically takes the brunt of the criticism. However, Georgia Football fans should look in another direction for why the team was unable to score big against the Tigers.
Georgia Bulldogs offensive coordinator James Coley called a good game Saturday. He came out aggressively, dialing up a play that opened up wide receiver Tyler Simmons for what would have been a huge gain to start the game. Unfortunately, Simmons was unable to come up with the catch.
Later on that same drive, Jake Fromm and Matt Landers barely missed on a deep sideline pass that would have placed UGA at the LSU 20. Then, Demetris Robertson was unable to scoop a low throw from Fromm off the turf near the LSU 25 yard line.
That's three times on the first drive alone that Coley's play call schemed the Dawgs open for potential momentum-shifting plays. He can not be faulted for the team being unable to execute those plays.
More than just dialing up big plays, James Coley did a good job of calling man beating plays against LSU. He designed several plays that were slant routes or crossing routes towards the inside, paired with a flat rout to the outside. Things that Georgia fans have been screaming for all season.
LSU often covered up the inside route and gave up the short flat route, opting to rally to the ball and using the boundary as an extra defender. Coley used this strategy to get running back D'Andre Swift two catches, allowing him to get the ball outside in space rather than inside in traffic where his injured shoulder would be in harm's way.
James Coley also called double-crossing route concepts - or a mesh concept - multiple times against the man coverage heavy Tigers. One noticeable instance was on a red zone possession in the second half. Unfortunately, Jake Fromm was impatient and forced an incompletion to the right side. The CBS television broadcast immediately pointed out that George Pickens had broken free to the left after the two crossing routes intersected and it would have created an easy pitch and catch for the Dawgs. Again Coley dialed-up open receivers, but the play still must be executed properly.
The one single play call that I understand the backfire he's receiving was a Brian Herrien draw play on 3rd & 9 late in the first quarter. The play gained only two yards and led to a missed 52-yard field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship.
Other than that I would have like to have seen Coley better establish a one-two punch on the ground with Zamir White or Herrien as Thunder and James Cook as lightening. However had the big plays Coley dialed up early been executed properly, establishing the run next would have been much easier.
Ultimately James Coley should be commended for the game he called against LSU. He was working without Lawrence Cager for the game and George Pickens for the first half, all while offensive centerpiece D'Andre Swift was a shell of himself. Add in the fact that explosive Dominick Blaylock suffered a first-half knee injury, and Coley just did not have many tools in the chest.
Yet time and time again Georgia Bulldogs pass-catchers broke open in Atlanta. Unfortunately over and over again a throw was off target, a read was missed, or a makeable play was not made.
James Coley certainly has room for improvement. He needs to incorporate more bunch sets and stack formations to combat opponents playing press-man coverage with a loaded box against the Bulldogs. Making the tight end a bigger threat in the gameplan will also make the Dawgs more difficult to defend. He needs to continue to incorporate more creative and innovative plays and sets into the UGA playbook, and most importantly Kirby Smart needs to allow Coley to balance the offense by throwing the football more.
The Georgia Bulldogs definitely did not get the results they were looking for from their offense this season. However, James Coley showing the ability to adjust as the season wore on should not be overlooked. He should be given the opportunity to watch the film and the freedom to adjust accordingly.
Most importantly Coley is one of the nation's best recruiters, particularly in South Florida which is one of the country's hotbeds for producing collegiate football players. That alone will soon make him a candidate for coaching positions with other teams.
Georgia Football fans should not want to run him off after one year in a new role. Just like players can study film, develop and improve so can coaches. I have every reason to believe that Coley will do just that. Aside from that, the Bulldogs must get more playmakers in the passing game to help him execute his schemes.
James Coley can lead Dawgs to water, but he can't make them drink.