Part of what makes Wisconsin’s offense so difficult to stop is the pass off the run action. In last Saturday’s game against Purdue, Wisconsin showed one of their two favorite three man routes out of their wing formation (single back, two TE to the same formation, two WR to the other side), which is their favorite formation to run their outside zone stretch running scheme. We’ll look at how Wisconsin will use run action, and the same initial route look to attack both sides of the defense, to the playside and away from the play action.
Coverages Wisconsin Should Expect
Out of the wing formation, you can expect to see anything but cover 3 (at least during normal down and distances). That’s because of the inherent weaknesses of a cover 3, namely: run support suffers because you are three deep across the back and your force defenders must also cover the flat; and its greatest weakness in coverage is the underneath seam, which is easily exploited by the two TE side.
So what you want out of a route concept is that will beat man-free or a two deep zone. Wisconsin will be able to do both by developing a running threat and then keeping blockers in to allow routes to develop downfield off of run action. We will discuss two of these plays here.
Post-Deep Cross Concept
I’ll first draw this up how it is run out of the wing formation, and then say how it’s adaptable to several other formation types.
This pass, as previously stated, will use run action and keep 7 blockers in the formation. That means only three receivers are running routes. The run action will look like outside zone to the strong side, but the playside OG will pull around to seal the backside of the defense. The QB will quarter roll, meaning that he will stay within the pocket rather than trying to get to the edge. This is to help maintain the pocket and allow the routes to develop. It also allows him to square his shoulders better to push the ball deep.
The outside WR (X) will run a simple post designed to split two deep safeties. If it’s single deep, the post will work to get behind the single deep safety.
The Z receiver will run a deep cross. Against a two-deep split, the deep cross will attack the bubble behind the rolled up corner and to the sideline of the safety. For what it’s worth, even if the defense is in cover 4, they will check to cover 2 to the two tight side against what is called a knob formation. Against man free, it’s likely that the defender will try to stay to the inside. The sideline should be open on the deep cross, and with the play given time to develop, he should come open on the far side.
To hold the cover 2 corner up to the line, the wing H-back will initially block the edge and then leak out. This way, the defense has three routes attacking two defenders: the safety and the rolled up corner. The only thing that can effectively stop it is perfect coverage that gets upfield and in front of the receiver.
I’ve discussed this play on Land-Grant Holy Land previously, and the concept is the same here but has a much different set up. The play is doing the same thing as the post-deep cross route concept, but it is attacking away from the run action.
Here, the initial look will be a lot like the post-deep cross concept. However, the X receiver will make his route a little more vertical. Against two deep coverage, X will still run a post but will be attempting to hold the safety away from the run action. Against single high safety he will once again try to get over top of him to wall him off from helping over the top of the corner.
Here’s where the announcers were wrong Saturday, making a claim that Wisconsin flattened a route to make it easier for Stave. Well, that’s not at all true. The route was flattened because of the coverage. Against cover 2, he will run the post-corner route to attack between the safety and the rolled up CB. Against man he will flatten the route, turning it into an out or even coming back to the ball a little bit. On Saturday, the CB was playing retreat coverage and the WR broke back off the drag-look, the CB was playing over the top to take the deep cross away, and was left behind by the route breaking to the sideline.
The Y-TE will act as if he is attempting to block the second level and will leak out to the backside. This will put the cover 2 corner in the same predicament as discussed in the Post-Deep Drag concept.
In Other Formations
By adding a vertical route to the playside of the post-deep cross concept, it takes away a deep third CB, now that a defense sees three WR, they may be inclined to run cover 3, and this helps make up for that.
If you put a WR on the front side of the play, you can still run a post-corner concept, but just have the post be a little flatter to attack the same safety.
So here are two adaptable plays that utilize only three receivers, keeping in blockers, and threatening the run. By establishing a run game, the pass game becomes significantly easier, the defenses get more predictable, and these plays provide the QB easy throws to open receivers.