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Jumbo Package: Refuting conventional wisdom, and other Alabama Football News

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Sarkisian recovers from heart surgery; and new studies show that running the ball early does not, in fact, wear out a defense

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Chick-fil-A Kickoff - Duke v Alabama Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, 46, underwent a heart procedure last week in Birmingham, the school announced on Tuesday. Sarkisian’s issue was unknown prior to exams that were performed on the Crimson Tide coaching staff last week.

“The Alabama football coaching staff participates in an annual executive physical,” the school said in a statement. “During Coach Sarkisian’s physical last week, it was determined that he needed a procedure to correct a congenital cardiovascular anomaly before it became an issue. Coach Sarkisian underwent a successful procedure this past Thursday (July 2) in Birmingham. He is back home in Tuscaloosa and is expected to make a full recovery.”

Sounds like this was more a preventative thing than an actual issue Sark was having. Hopefully he recovers swiftly with no complications.

Steve himself, meanwhile, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make it a recruiting pitch:

Auburn remains little brother to Alabama football.

Alabama football came out with new LED stadium lights before the beginning of last season, and they were a huge hit. The Crimson Tide only got to use them for one game, but fans and opposing teams took notice. It didn’t take long for Georgia to try to steal the idea and implement their own lights, and now Auburn has done the same thing.

A year after the Crimson Tide got their own light show, the Auburn Tigers have added lights with team colors to their stadium. They can switch from team color to simple white, just like the lights at Bryant Denny. In fact, watching their hype video will only give you nostalgia for the video released by the Crimson Tide last summer.

Little brother gonna little brother.

Who has not one, but two top 25 QBs? #AlabamaDoes

“Young is so smart on the field, so patient and calm and then so calculating when it’s time to make a decision that he just frustrated the bejeezus out of every defense. Other than his size (6-feet), Young has absolutely no weaknesses,” Gorney told Yahoo Sports.

“He’s accurate, he’s on time, he can dissect defenses, he’s a quiet leader and time and again he just gets the job done. Mac Jones is entrenched and has waited his turn for the starting job but if coach Nick Saban wants to put the most-talented quarterback on the field with the most potential for the next three years, Young would start from Day 1.”

Bryce won’t be #24 on lists like this for long.

As you can see below, Wills’ agent, Nicole Lynn, tweeted a picture of Wills signing his fully guaranteed 4-year contract with $19.7 million:

Per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, the signing bonus is reportedly worth $11.889 million. There is a fifth-year team option on the deal.

$20 million dollars fully guaranteed. It’s a good time to be a first round draft pick, that’s for sure. Wills is now totally set for life, even if the worst happens and he washes out of the league.

Modern college football is all about offense. Any game that doesn’t feature at least 40 combined points is getting dubbed a “snoozer” by just about everyone, but that wasn’t always the case. Before the days of 65-touchdown seasons and 819-yard performances, one adage meant everything: defense wins championships.

Unless you’re the Oklahoma Sooners, you understand that simply fielding a competent defense is critical to winning. That being said, football of the past revolved around elite defenses and just-good-enough offenses. I’ll direct you to the 1979 Sugar Bowl game for proof.

This article will be a fun nostalgia trip for those of you around for the Penn State “Goal Line Stand.” I personally missed it by 15 years, but I’ve heard it talked about so much over the years I feel like I basically witnessed it.

On the subject of conventional football wisdom like the aforementioned “defense wins champions,” check out this statistical analysis on the concept of “body blows:”

20 years of statistical data with NFL competition (where competition is generally fairly even, so we don’t have to account for cupcake games skewing data), and it’s pretty conclusive that the idea of “wearing down a defense” with the run game is nothing but a myth.

It’s a concept that never really made sense to me. Why would the defense get more tired than the offense, when they are running the same distances and having the same collisions? If anything, teams substitute their defensive linemen a whole lot more than offensive linemen, so shouldn’t the offense be more tired? On top of that, it’s widely agreed upon that the running back position is the most susceptible to wear and tear from all the hits they take... which points right back to the “establish the run” idea hurting the offense more than the defense.

Expanding on the idea, Ben Baldwin did a statistical study a while back about the effect of rushing the ball on the potency of play-action:

We have an ever-growing body of evidence that teams don’t need to run often — or run well — to set up play-action. Play-action works for teams that run frequently, infrequently, well, or poorly. For the vast majority of teams, it just works. From 2011 to 2017, 196 of 224 team-seasons had higher yards per play on play-action dropbacks than on non-play-action dropbacks. This includes teams like the 2017 Lions (9.4 yards per play-action play, No. 30 in rushing DVOA) and 2015 Jaguars (1.7 more yards per play on play-action dropbacks despite being No. 28 in rushing DVOA and only running 31 percent of the time).

Baldwin also has a couple of other pieces on related subjects that, to be completely honest, changed my mind on a lot of these traditional concepts that I had held up until 2018.

It’s what led to me writing this article back in January when everyone was complaining about the Alabama offense scoring too much.

All of that said, I also think that there is always a reason for conventional wisdom. While these studies are looking at an NFL level where all players are in peak physical condition, much of the wisdom likely stems from a high school level. If a powerhouse school is playing against a supremely overmatched in-state pushover, then running the ball at them until they quit tackling might be a very valid strategy. Of course, if their conditioning is that bad, then why not just run a bunch of cross-field drag routes and gas their DBs?

The other reason I think it has become ingrained in the minds of coaches is because, when a team is winning in the later stages of the game, it IS in their best interest to run the clock out with as few plays as possible to give the other team less chances to make something happen. In a positive feedback loop, everyone begins to associate winning with running the ball, and here we are.

Ultimately, it comes down to many of the same concepts we’re accepting more quickly in basketball. It doesn’t matter the total points you score or give up. It’s how your points-per-drive efficiency compares to your opponent.