That Pistol Thing is Working

By Jason Priestas on October 6, 2008 at 2:00p
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The situation: Three minutes into the opening quarter Saturday night, the Buckeyes with the ball at the Wisconsin 33 yard line staring down a 2nd and 5. Hartline and Robiskie are split right with Ballard lined up on the left side of the line. Pryor is lined up in a short shotgun with Beanie to his right and Boom behind him.

Pryor and Boom begin to move right with a read to an inside handoff to Beanie. When Pryor spies the end and linebacker staying home to contain him, he releases the ball to Wells who receives excellent blocking from his line, beats one guy at the second level and then bursts into the secondary before riding a stiff-arm the final five yards to paydirt.

I weep every time I see a replay of this.

Now we've piled on the offensive strategy and playcalling at times, but you have to hand it to the Buckeye staff for putting their own twist on the standard Pistol package. It is Ohio State, so they substituted the 3rd receiver for an extra running back and have lined him up next to the quarterback (more dust!).

Tressel and Bollman have also introduced a read option wrinkle into the formation and when the personnel running that read are two former Army All-American Bowl MVPs, the results can be deadly.

Pryor has the option as to whether to make the inside handoff or to keep the ball for himself or a pitch to Boom around the end. If the outside linebacker and end bite hard on the inside action, Pryor's going wide side with a pretty good young runner available for the pitch. If that side of the defense stays home, the Buckeyes find themselves with Beanie Wells along with six blockers attacking seven defenders.

The read isn't perfect yet -- it was a confused read handoff out of the shotgun that resulted in a near turnover at the beginning of the go-ahead drive Saturday night -- but you can imagine why this play is a defensive coordinator's nightmare.

They have to respect Pryor's speed around the edge. They're coaching their outside guys to watch for that and to sit on it, but this leaves the rest of the of the box to take on Wells and his hogs. When Beanie starts to chew up yardage there, the defense will have to commit safeties and other elements towards stopping that, leaving the corner open for Pryor or Boom.

And we're not even talking about throwing out of it yet. If the safeties play up to stop the rushing options, the receivers should find themselves in man coverage which is where that whole I'm-running-no-I'm-not-I'm-throwing-go-deep! things comes into play. Routes into the man coverage, sideline patterns to take advantage of the roll, tight end drags and some of the aforementioned run, then throw bombs. It may be a few before Pryor gets to where he can execute all of those options, but you know Tress has something through the air tucked away for Michigan (and probably a little somethin'-somethin' for Penn State).

A lot of these same principles apply to both a traditional option and the read out of the shotgun. Pryor allows you to do all of these things with an expectation of doing them well. With Beanie back there, it almost isn't fair.

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