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Building An Offense Part 2: From Whence The Grass Doth Grow

Boy, I hope you like animation.

This post will probably be the most graphic intensive I've ever done, so if you are pregnant, have a weak heart, or think that these posts are just my way of masturbating publicly, please leave now.

Prologue - Why our 2006 offense failed. I recommend reading this first if you haven't so some of this makes more sense, thought it's not necessary.

Episode 1 - The basics

Obviously, you can't beat a team using one formation and one play, no matter how hard Greg Davis tries. Advanced, modern defenses these days have tendencies to try and stand in your way when you run the football, so it's important that your playcalling keeps them on their heels.

With an inexperienced QB, you want to keep the offense simple. But those aforementioned defenses like simple, so you also have to have variety. Simplicity and variety don't often go together, but truth be told you only need 3-4 plays in any given category. Two plays gives defenses an easy either/or option that makes your offense easy to read, no matter how well the two plays work off each other on the chalkboard. Our most important category - basic run plays - is pretty easy to do. You need to have plays that have multiple points of attack:


The great thing about zone blocking is that it forces your entire defense to defend it. The great thing about the option is that is requires your entire defense to defend it. Naturally, these two things fit together as well as Southlake Carroll and SUVs with DVD players in them. It's not unstoppable by any means, but we have a tremendous base from which to poke and prod to look for weaknesses on every single snap.

Any respectable defense will not be so cooperative as to stand motionless while we go about our business, so it's important to not tell the defense where you're going. No matter how genius a play you draw up, defenses will have an answer. You score by keeping them off balance. So the next step is drawing up compliments to your base play. I have chosen what I want to run the most, and rely on. This is likely what defenses will look at first, since I'm going to run it 30 times a game if you can't stop it. If you can stop it, I'm running plays based on why you're stopping me.

Say the defense is keeping it's weakside DE at home, meaning the QB will hand off to the zone RB. Meanwhile the rest of the front is crashing hard to the run direction, outnumbering the OL with alignments, and beating it to spots:


This example is extremely specific, but I just wanted to show one way this play could be stopped. They are using one DE and OLB to stop the option threat, and using everyone else to sell out against the zone with hard slants and alignments. Greg Davis allows too many teams to sell out by not understanding how to punish the weaknesses they leave. For this example, we want to hit the crease between the weakside DE and the rest of the front that has sold out so hard to the zone. This is where our second play comes from, the weakside veer:


The veer is such a good complement because it's still the triple option with the same read, but instead of zone blocking, we're pushing defenders away from the play with angles created by formation and the defense's expectation of the zone. This is a prime example of telling the defense in no uncertain terms that they may not sell out against us. If they want to follow the linemen, then we'll just seal them from the play and run them off into the distance. Unlike the zone/counter option we employ that can be seen in the post I linked above, we give the defense clear keys to read the play and destroy it before our guys have a chance to set it up. The zone/veer combo works better, I think, because the first moments gives the defense nothing. Watch the first10 frames (roughly one second) of the each play:


If you sit there and really look you can tell tiny differences. If you have .8 seconds on a football field then you probably can't. You are going to follow your keys like you've been taught. LBs are often told that OL don't lie. For Greg Davis that is true, you just follow the guards to the football. For us, that's not the case, because we are using influence blocks to lie to the LBs long enough to open up that gap. If the DE crashes then we have the option. It's fool proof!

Now the defense is going to be on it's heels a little bit. They'll be skittish about being aggressive. They'll be running sideways instead of pressing the LOS when they read run. So now I want something that attacks a little faster, and a little more powerful, than the option plays:


There is a lead blocker and everything. Obviously the RB will need to be able to block, so we'll teach him to dive at knees. He probably won't have the size to block any legit LB. I also put a zone read type deal in there to keep the defense from collapsing on the RBs. The whole point of our run game is to keep the defensive front spread out so we can attack creases they leave. Prying the DTs apart will help, and the OL will be to spread, I think, to really option off the DE. The QB will have to far to run. So if we make the DT the read, he can run more of an off-tackle slice action and be headed upfield quicker. The MLB might be a problem depending one how he aligns and how he reacts, but we can shuffle around blocking schemes to fit our best guess as to what he's going to do.

The last play is needed because we don't really have a way of hitting the edges quickly. I want to be able to get the ball into a RB's hands on the perimeter, basically creating a race for yardage with the defense:


Another easy read. The QB is only trying to bait the DE, or whoever the end man is, and distract him long enough to make the pitch. The OL will have to get out in front in a hurry, just trying hard to slow down the LB best they can. This isn't really a great big yardage play, but like the WR screen, it's good for a quick 4-6 yards if you yank it out at the right time, Tate Pittman style.

This is our basic philosophy. Attack as many points as you can then focus on the ones they leave open. Divide and conquer.

Now that we've installed a base run package, its time to transition to the passing game. This is where it gets tricky, because I chose an inexperienced passer who may or may not be able to hit the Godzillatron from 3 feet away in an actual game. One good way to handle a bad/n00b QB is follow the method used by OU in 2006 with the impotent Paul Thompson. A method I like to call RSD - Run, Sidelines, Deep.

  • Run - Obviously your first option with a bad/n00b QB. Very low odds of an interception.
  • Sidelines - The middle of the field is dangerous. Guys can pop out of nowhere, and it's usually the most crowded area. If you watched any OU games in '06, you saw that about 80% of OU's passes were outs, comebacks, or curls. There are a few good reasons for this. One, there aren't as many dudes out there. If you run, the other team will move a safety into the box, meaning 1 on 1 coverage outside. At that point there isn't even a read, it's all drills and timing. So we want to run, run, run, until the defense tries to outnumber us, at which point we start hammering them outside with timing routes that we have recorded into the player's muscle memory.
  • Deep - The last step in the process comes after we have forced the defense up to stop the run, and the CBs have started squatting on the short and medium curl- based routes. Once the CBs start getting antsy, that's when we got over top. I have made a handy dandy guide to RSD:


The Oscars are coming up, right? Anyway, in order for this stuff to work, we need to be able to do it when the opportunity arises. That's why those three things will be the first and most often things practiced. If you can't run against a soft front then the rest of it falls apart. Teams are going to try to force you into the things you don't do well. Last year team after team gave us 6 or 7 man fronts and kicked our asses anyway when we tried to run, meaning there weren't many opportunities for big plays because nobody had to sacrifice anything. For any team, that's unacceptable, but for us, it's doubly so because there is no way in Mitt Romney's perfect but suspended haircut that we will be able to pass with Chiles against a team that is looking for it. Every yard we get in the air will have to be off the threat of the run. So first we R, then we S, then we D.

The first step is the simple WR screen, from Part 1. It's basically a long handoff, good for 4-6 yards on average. We'll spam the shit out of this if the defense lets us. We want them as wide as possible.

To diagrams all the other passing plays possible would be, like most of my crap, a tremendous waste of time. So for now, we just want three basics:


The curl. Easy read based on who the SS follows. He either chases the TE to the flat, leaving a void behind him, or sinks into the zone, leaving the TE open.


The hitch. If the SS sinks with the seam route, the hitch will be open, and vice versa.


The out. It's an easy read, again based on what the SS does in coverage. This is a tough throw compared to the other ones and will receive the most drilling in practice. All of these are also dependent on the WR being able to keep the space between him and the CB. This is why all three steps to RSD are so important. We have to run well to keep the outside 2 on 2, and we have to be able to convert deep balls to keep the CBs back. We know Quan and Shipley will be able to do anything inside of 15 yards, it's the deeper stuff that worries me. Jordan may have lost a step with his surgeries (I honestly don't know if he has or not), but he still adjusts in the air as well as anybody on campus, and he has White Boy Hands so you know he'll bring down some fades. If a young guy steps up then we can put put one of them in Quan's spot and move him into the slot, where his blocking ability and sure hands will be of more use to us. In the meantime, Irby fills that role of secondary target until we unearth a deep threat.

This post is plenty long now so I'll cut it off here. Part 3 will be a) blending the run and the pass together to make a more cohesive look for defenses to worry about, and b) adding a few wrinkles. We don't want them to catch on to what we're doing, and since we're a rather simple offense, we need to take great care to add as much misdirection as possible.

To quickly summarize:

1. Run -

  • Zone read option/veer
  • Off-tackle read
  • Speed option

2. Pass -

  • WR screens
  • Curl/out routes

3. Hit them deep -

  • Hit them deep

See ya down the road.