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Thinking Texas Football 2016: Offensive Q&A

You've got questions? We've got answers.

Howdy, Barkers!

Hopefully many of you have already gotten your hot little hands on the best Longhorn Football preview on the market.

If you have, you'll have read the piece that we put together offering an overall profile of the new offense that Sterlin Gilbert and Matt Mattox are installing on the 40 Acres.  As part of the handshake agreement whereby I left any and all Game of Thrones references out of the preview, I got carte blanche to throw a nerdy name on the O and went with The Atari 5333:

Once Gilbert and co-coordinator Matt Mattox were on board, we did a deep dive on their scheme while also noodling on a new moniker that could encapsulate what it’s all about.  Simply calling it the "Briles Offense" seemed unsatisfying even before ol’ Art made his name toxic.  We kicked around a number of options before settling on the one that we liked the most: The Atari 5333.

Now, you might be thinking that a callback to an 80’s gaming platform is a rather dated descriptor for college football’s new hotness.  But while the offense in its current form is still fresh on the scene, it derives its deadliness from the union of a couple of (relatively) old-school ideas.  It marries the power-running principles of Bill Yeoman’s old Houston Veer offense with the neon 80’s, spread-it-and-fling-it stylings of the Run n’ Shoot air attack.  And when it’s at its best, even the most cutting-edge defenses are hard-pressed to stop the bleeding.

The American inventors of the original Atari game systems basically plucked the name it out of the air because they thought it sounded cool.  But in the Japanese game of go, atari describes a situation where an opponent’s positioning leaves a particular go stone all but surrounded and a single move away from being captured and removed from the board.  The 5333 comes in from a bit of simple math: multiplying the 100 yards of a football field’s length by the 53.3 yards of its width.  Combining the two encapsulates an offense that positions its pieces to exploit horizontal and vertical space while ensuring that the defense is never more than a single snap from destruction.

We wanted to lay out the precursors, overall approach and philosophical underpinnings of the offense as well as walk through specific plays that embody some of the core concepts, both in the air:

PA Switch_New

Pure play action also plays a role, and one of Gilbert and Mattox’s favorite concepts combines a play fake with a switch from the wideouts to spring guys deep without any pesky safety interference.

As the fake to the runner is taking place (and ideally holding the safeties in the middle of the field), the outside and slot receivers switch off the line to throw an immediate wrench into any man coverage concept.  Similar to Four Verticals, the new outside receiver has a win deep/hitch up option while the guy going inside can head up the seam or break to the post based on what the safeties are up to.  The tight end blocks to effect a six-man protection while the back carries on past his play-fake to threaten a (usually deserted) flat.

...and on the ground:

Tackle Pull

Most variants of Power have at least one extra blocker on or around the line of scrimmage, but the Atari 5333 often runs best with four receivers spread as far from the formation as possible.  One solution for employing the Power principle of an extra blocker at the point of attack out of a four wide set is to utilize an athletic tackle as your pulling lineman:

Baylor made extensive use of this concept with LT Spencer Drango, and the Longhorns sport a plus athlete in Connor Williams who’s more than capable of handling the same job.  This play tests the agility of your left guard as he has to hinge back and prevent the right defensive end from crashing the party.  The center and right guard are also asked to stick one-on-one blocks, though they should both benefit from some angle advantage.  It’s also easy to tack on a quick run-pass option component to this concept with a bubble screen to the boundary since the pulling tackle won’t have time to get illegally far downfield.

Of course, even if you ran on for 5000+ words you'd only be scratching the surface of the full description of how an offense works, how it fits certain players, how it can be modified to attack certain opponents, etc.  So we thought it would be fun to put up a Q&A and let everyone who's downloaded Thinking Texas Football 2016 (and even those who haven't, but they get narrowed eyes of judgement) fire away with any questions you have in the comments. away!  And get it today.