Wrinkle (noun)- 1) a small ridge or furrow made by the shrinking, bunching or contraction of a smooth substance 2) a little used formation, personnel grouping, or play in American football designed to create strategic advantage, often by surprising the opposition.
One of the great things about the beginning of fall practice is the chance to consider new personnel, position changes and other similar tweaks that can help or hurt the home team's chances during the coming season. I thought that now might be a good chance to consider some of the little wrinkles that could pop up this season, before the likes of the Daves (Ching and Hale that is, not Neal, Archer and Baker) ruin it for us with actual first hand observations.
One that I've been thinking about over the summer is a two tight end set with Aron White and Orson Charles. I imagine that having those guys on either side with A.J. Greene (and perhaps Marlon Brown) split wide could make a difficult grouping to defend, especially inside the opponent's 20. That's a lot of big, physical receivers to defend in a short field. The only major impediment would be Charles's and White's so far undemonstrated blocking skills. But if the young tight ends show that they can handle those duties, this formation could be a great way to get a lot of serious offensive weapons on the field at the same time.
Since everyone has to have a Wild[insert mascot here] formation these days, I don't see why we should be any different. Sure Logan Gray is one obvious choice for this role. But don't forget that redshirt freshman safety Bacarri Rambo was an excellent option quarterback at Seminole County High School, and the scout team quarterback prior to last season's finale of which we do not speak. I'd be only mildly surprised to see Rambo take some snaps back there.
Whatever possessed God in heaven to make a man like Rambo?
I also like the idea of Carlton Thomas motioning out of the backfield to a slot receiver look. The kid is great in space and has good hands, so I think this might be a nice way to get him the ball and let him make things happen. We did this some with Knowshon last season, though admittedly it was often as more of a decoy than anything else. I especially like the idea if Thomas is paired with Shaun Chapas, who's perfectly capable of staying in the backfield as a single tailback when Thomas moves out, or serving as the traditional fullback when both stay put.
On the defensive side of the ball I think it's safe to say we'll see one or more guys traditionally tabbed as linebackers line up at defensive end, at least in the nickel package. Daryl Gamble and Marcus Washington (both of whom played some defensive end during spring practice), and Darius Dewberry are probably the leading candidates here. It hardly even counts as a wrinkle when we all know it's coming. The question will be how often we see this look and how successful it will be.
Another thing to keep an eye out for on defense is safety/linebacker Nick Williams moving around. Coach Richt hinted over the summer that he could be used at either position and has the ability to learn both. That versatility makes possible some interesting looks. For example, Williams could be used in the same safety blitz packages that Thomas Davis was during his time in the Clasic City. One benefit of having a 225 pound safety coming on the blitz is that it generally takes more than a glancing blow from a tailback to slow him down. And heaven knows we don't need any more slowing down on the way to the quarterback.
And finally, the one you're probably least likely to see: the J-K-G defense. That would be a 3-4 defensive front with Jeff Owens, Kade Weston and Geno Atkins up front. It's intriguing because those three form the most talented trio of defensive tackles we've had in years. Getting them all on the field at the same time would make for a formidable group. And with at least 7 experienced linebackers (Curran, Dent, Gamble, Dewberry, Washington, Hebron and Dowtin) we shouldn't have any trouble putting 4 good ones on the field at any given time. Will it happen? Frankly I'd be shocked. Willie Martinez, as you may have heard, has a defensive system which he believes in and is not likely to change. Still I think that if we came out in this look it would really throw an opposing offense for a loop.
So what do you think? What unconventional football warfare would you like to see employed between the hedges in 2009? Until Free Form Friday . . .