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Comment 24 Apr 2014

I don't agree with your argument that Michigan ran too many formations last season.  Formations are cheaper to add than plays in terms of time spent to learn.  Also, all of the college offensive coordinators that I have been around script their first 10-12 plays to make sure that they show all of the formations they intend to use for that game.  They do this so they can see how the defense is aligning to each of their formations in order to determine what formations are most advantageous to use going forward in the game.  In fact, Michigan State used more than 8 different formations on their opening drive vs. our Buckeyes in the BTen title game.  Were they overloading their players too?

Michigan's offense was bad last season, there is no doubt.  However, I do not believe that too many formations/schemes were the issue.   

Comment 28 Mar 2014

Good writeup and analysis mostly.  However, I strongly disagree with the analysis of the Penn State clip.  It is stated that Schutt makes a great play and then because Shazier pressed his gap too quickly he left an opening to the back side of the play.

In reality, Schutt was too aggressive and overpenetrated, giving the running back an easy read and giving the rest of the OSU run defense more space to defend along the line of scrimmage.  Shazier was actually perfect in how he pressed his gap.  The backside of the defense was compromised because Bennett got put on the ground and Spence allowed himself to be driven 2-3 yards off the ball which opened even more space along the LOS.  This breakdown was not on Shazier in the least.

Comment 25 Mar 2014

"Popularized by Jimmy Johnson at the University of Miami, a 4-3 over front shifts in the opposite direction as the under. The defensive line moves a half gap towards the call, with the linebackers shifting away to compensate. Also known as a stack alignment, the defensive linemen cover up most offensive linemen, allowing all three linebackers room to roam and flow to the football."

The 4-3 over and 4-3 Stack are actually separate defensive fronts with different responsibilities for the linebackers.  The 4-3 over descends from the Eagle front, which used the Pod flipping that you talked about.  This is the defense Penn State ran for years under JoePa.  The 4-3 Stack is what Jimmy Johnson popularized and what Michigan State bases out of.  These defenses are similar in that they both have 4 DL and 3LBs but there are key differences in how they are executed in practice.

Comment 12 Mar 2014

I did not state that the scheme was too complicated.  I merely stated that the scheme was way more complicated than what was presented here.  For example, many of the rules presented here change into something different vs. 3x1, vs no WR, vs. Motion, etc.  I did not state this fact to attack your article, just to respond to other comments that were shocked by how easy and simple the coverage seemed.

Comment 12 Mar 2014

To me it looks like a 6 man blitz with Cover 0 behind it.  They crash the DEs down hard inside and then bring the OLBs off the edge for Braxton.  MLB has pass responsibility for Hyde and when he sees run he can flow freely to the play.  This is a blitz for the zone read, that is obviously what they were expecting. 

Comment 12 Mar 2014

"Ross makes it sound easy"

- It is way more complicated than what is here.  Ross only gives one set of rules for the players...in reality they have multiple checks to every type of surface (TE+WR, 2 WRs, 3 WRs, TE+2WR, 0WRs, etc) that they will see in a game.  So they have to diagnose the formation to get lined up, diagnose the surface for their check, adjust to any shifts/motions, and then execute their assignment that may have changed 0.2 seconds before the ball was snapped.  So imagine you had to figure out a calculus problem in a limited amount of time but the problem morphed into a new one just when you were starting to devise a strategy for solving the original.

Comment 10 Feb 2014

For all intents and purposes he already has.  Later in the year he was lining up inside most of the time and would only rotate outside on certain occasions.

Comment 09 Jan 2014

On the Trips 4 verticals TD to Watkins I disagree a little bit with your analysis Ross.

OSU is playing "Special" coverage to the trips side (a common Nickel adjustment to trips). 

Special coverage puts the corner man to man on the #1 receiver.  The Nickel man and deep safety to that side then play a Cover 2 "Read it" scheme vs the #2 and #3 receivers.  This is a combo coverage where they both read the #3 receiver. 

The Nickel man will stay on top of #2 unless #3 runs an out-breaking route within 5 yds of the LOS.  If #3 breaks outside the Nickel man will immediately release #2 up the field and come down to make a play on the #3 receiver. 

The deep safety (who is also reading #3) has a rule to cover the #3 receiver man to man on anything vertical (past 5 yards.)  If the #3 receiver breaks outside then he will play over the top of #2.

With these rules in mind it can be seen that the deep safety would have jumped any route by the #3 receiver over 5 yds, regardless of what Josh Perry did or did not do.  Vonn Bell simply made a freshman mistake and either didn't read his key or just got lost.

Comment 04 Oct 2013

I have a great idea of what play was run, it's right there in front of anybody who watches the whole play and not simply a slow motion GIF.  I usually give ignorance a pass but saying he for sure took a cheap shot without understanding the concept of an offensive football play is irresponsible in my book. 

Comment 04 Oct 2013

I understand what you are saying.  The play happened far away.  Many modern offenses, including OSU's, have multiple options on a single play.  My point is simply that they receiver did not know for a fact that the ball was handed off. 

The play would have been called something like "14 Read Bubble" meaning that the QB has an option to either give the ball to the RB, run the ball on the read option, or throw the screen.  To the guy who made the cut block this means he has to block his man no matter what.  In his mind the ball could be thrown out on a screen in which he would have been the key block.

The guy in the back putting his hands up...he can see the play...his job on the play was to look for the ball.  This allowed him to see it handed off and adjust his actions.  When your job is to block a man (potentially a key block) you don't have this luxury.

Why is no one screaming about the other Texas wideout who lunged out to block his man?  Is it because he blocked high?  Or is it because he got to his man a half second before Davis threw his block?  They both blocked guys who were slowing down a long way from where the ball actually went.

Comment 04 Oct 2013

Wide receivers are coached to "break down" before throwing their blocks so the defender doesn't simply run around them.  This is the deceleration part.

Comment 04 Oct 2013

He wasn't pursuing the inside run part of the play.  How is Texas's receiver supposed to know that the ball was handed off and that the QB may not be getting ready to flick it out to his screen guy?

Comment 04 Oct 2013

Well, on an interception return it is not legal to block below the waist so in that case it would not be okay.  Rules are rules.

Also, how can you say he was trying to injure the player?  I used to coach some college ball and the block he executed is exactly how we coached our receivers to cut block.  The only thing that makes it unsafe is the laziness of the defender.  He had every chance to see the block coming and defend against it.

Comment 04 Oct 2013

A few things:

A)  Cut blocks are legal unless the offensive player is "cracking" back inside.

B) There are no rules stating that you can only block a man within "x" yards of the football

C) Texas's receiver #8 ran a screen path...meaning that it's possible that this was a packaged play and the QB could have pulled the ball out and ran/thrown the screen.  Davis has no clue if the RB or QB has the ball.  And if the QB has the ball attacking the edge he has no clue if the QB may flick the ball out to the screen man.

D) Iowa State's defender gave up on the play before it was over.  Does his laziness turn him into a "defenseless" player?


Comment 05 Sep 2013

"The back seven aligns their strength to the wide side."

In 99% of nickel packages at the college level the defense is not divided into front 4 and back 7, it is divided into front 6 and back 5.  The front 6 align to the run strength or the field based on the call and the back 5 align to the passing strength or field based on the call.

Also, the nickel man (star in OSUs defense) will go to the side with the most fast receivers in base nickel defense, not necessarily on the wide side of the field.  The only time the nickel man will play strictly to the field is when a field blitz is called.

Also, early in the game when Buffalo was dinking and dunking...at least the first drive...Ohio State was playing Cover 3, not cover 4 or cover 1.  This would make the quick hitting outs and hitches the responsibility of the curl/flat defender and not the corner.

Comment 22 Jun 2013

Kid has solid arm strength, good speed, and a tough running style.  Average cutting ability, looks like it takes him an extra half step to get a solid change of direction.  His hips are great in the pocket but his throwing mechanics and follow through need some work.

When he does everything mechanically correct with his body weight he can throw darts. (1:00 and 2:38 in the highlight tape)

Sometimes his body weight drifts off to the side instead of propelling the ball down the field.  This leads to a drop in velocity giving good defenders more time to close.  Go watch youtube highlights of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, even Braxton Miller.  When they have time to set their feet they are driving their body down the field with their back foot, not drifting off to the side.  (Watch Collier's throws at 1:13 and 1:24 to see this drifting leading to a velocity drop.  It's a slight difference and means next to nothing in high school but it's one of the differences between average and great in college.)

Everything from the waist up seems to be good when he is running or throwing.  He may still be growing into his boy so the hiccups in his lower body mechanics may go away as he gets more coordinated naturally.

Lets also remember that this is a Junior highlight tape.  This kid will have a couple of years of improvement/coaching before he sees the field as a Buckeye.  He is not there yet, but with the right mindset, he could definitely develop into something special.



Comment 08 Jun 2013

You go trips they will man up the backside corner 1 on 1.  Then the backside safety (away from trips) will actually read the 3rd receiver (most inside) to the trips side.  He will match #3 vertical.  If you run trips your options are to look at the 1 on 1 backside (and if their guy is better than your guy that's not very good) or throw a short or outside route to the trips side.  Short routes don't gain many yards and outside throws are the toughest.  This style of defense makes the offense make plays, nothing is surrendered easily.

Comment 31 May 2013

The system Alex Gibbs used to so much success in Denver and Atlanta is different than Bama's.  Gibbs really focuses on the Wide (Outside) Zone as his bread and butter and uses the Tight Zone more as a counter.  His system stresses horizontal movement and bets that a defense cannot keep its run fits while being stretched to the sideline.  Then, when he gets them flowing outside he hits them with the inside zone for a gashing cutback run.

Bama on the other hand uses the inside zone as their base and they run it more as a vertical play than Gibbs.  Their linemen take heavier steps and use their physicality to manhandle the opposition whereas Gibbs has always favored smaller, quicker men who could beat an opponent with body position and leverage.

These differences may appear slight but to a defender they are like night and day.

Comment 17 May 2013

"I just didn't understand how that was still a 'Snag', 'Smash' or 'Double Crosses' concept. The left side of the field seems to run a 'Snag' but it has nothing to do with the play, it was just a decoy."

The play is called something like this: "Thunder Right 51 X Snag Z Slant"

Thunder Right puts the Z and Y on the right with the other receivers in a Spread Bunch on the left.  51 is the pass protection (5 man protection with the man on the left side, zone on the right).  X Snag means that on the X side the receivers are running the Snag concept.  Z Slant means that on the Z side the receivers are running the slant concept.

Snag is easier to execute vs. Zone.  Slant is easier to execute vs. Man.

Braxton comes to the line.  Pause the video at :02.  Every single defender is within 6 yards of the line of scrimmage.  Each split receiver has 1 defender lined up over them.  This looks like man.  Since Braxton gets a pre-snap read of man he simply disregards the snag concept and throws the slant concept.  It is a slant, the reason it looks kind of like a go route is because Braxton waits longer than normal to make the throw since a linebacker dropped under the original route.

The reason the snag route wasn't just a decoy is because if Penn State had shown a zone coverage pre-snap Braxton should have looked to the snag side.  In this case the slant concept would look like a decoy.

Herman packages a different concept on each side so that we have an easy play to execute, in theory, no matter what the defense does.  Hope that helps. :-)

Comment 17 May 2013

I'll throw in my 2 cents, I hope it helps. :-)

It's important to remember that defenses are just as complex as offenses at the collegiate level.  They have answers on paper to everything an offense can do.  Watch the clip of the sprint out snag completion vs. Michigan.  Michigan runs a zone blitz, leaving themselves a player short in pass coverage yet they still have 3 defenders for 3 receivers at the top of the screen.  They accomplish this by "flooding" their zones to the 3 WR side meaning that the underneath defenders push their zones farther over than they normally would vs. a balanced formation.  However, 2 of Michigan's defenders lose their footing leaving 2 OSU receivers wide open.  Execution.  If nobody falls down Braxton is given a choice between throwing #86 a jump ball and trying to fit in a tough pass to #6.  

What if Michigan had not zone blitzed and simply played cover 3?  They would have had yet another linebacker flooding his zone to the 3 WR side, making the play even tougher to complete.  Yet on paper it looks like there is no way a Cover 3 can cover snag.  Hence why games are not played on paper.

Take Snag vs. Cover 2.  In a cover 2 defense you have a flat defender, a deep 1/2 defender, and a curl zone defender to each side.  In the snag route you have a deep corner route (covered by the deep 1/2 player), a flat route (covered by the flat player), and a min-curl or "spot" route (covered by the curl player).  In theory Cover 2 should be just fine vs. Snag.  However, that does not take into account how difficult it is for a deep 1/2 safety to cover the corner route.  In order to assist with this many Cover 2 teams have their corner "sink" underneath this route to force the QB to make a tough decision on where to throw the ball.  I have also seen staffs where the Corner is coached to "bait" the QB by playing heavy on the flat route and then sinking underneath the corner route at the last moment to go for an INT.

Hopefully these few examples help illustrate that football is not a rock/paper/scissors game.  Certain defenses are easier to execute vs. certain plays and certain offensive plays are easier to execute vs. certain defenses.  But in the end coaches are going to teach schemes that can work against everything.  Hence why football strategy is not necessarily about WHAT you do but rather HOW you do it.