|Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images|
Offense: 21 and 12 personnel. Run based.
Defense: Cover 1 with Cover 3 change-up.
Leidner Option Reads
I didn't think Leidner looked good in a lot of his reads. It's a fine line in non-conf, you don't want to wear him down, but need to get him live game reps to get him up to speed. Thought there were a few times he wasn't on the same page with his blocking and read the wrong player, and a few other times he got caught in some scrape exchange situations.
TCU isn't a team that will sit back. They do a lot of pattern matching on the back end and keep the coverage variations minimal so that they can play at a high speed. This means when they blitz, the QB needs to understand where that pressure is coming from, and area where Leidner needs to improve. For example, there was a play where pressure came up the gut and he was looking to the single receiver side where pressure didn't come from. This receiver is pressed at the LOS and in no way open, yet he stares him down until trying to escape the pocket and gets sacked. Meanwhile, two receivers are wide open on quick breaking routes back toward the QB. Understanding the coverage, understanding where the pressure comes from, and keeping eyes down field, and that's not just a nice gain, it's a gain where if the receiver can break a tackle it goes for big yardage.
Mirrored 2x2 Pass Concepts
I don't like mirrored 2x2 concepts, mostly because it doesn't dictate where the QB should take his eyes and it takes advantage of the same concept (complete with weaknesses of the concept) on both sides of the field. On one of Leidner's INTs, he had both guys coming open on dig routes underneath. He chose the short side of the field, but the MIKE was sitting underneath and was forced to throw high. The ball still should have been caught, but that's a tougher throw (partially because the RB is leaking up through the middle of the LOS). But in this case, the farther throw, was more open, away from the MIKE. But Leidner isn't making a read here against a 2-high look to choose which side of the field. He's essentially going by feel: "which side do I feel will be more open". That doesn't help a QB, IMO. It doesn't free him up. It puts him in a position to make a mistake.
Minnesota took some shots down the field, and that was the right move. I'm critical of some of the route concepts they chose to run (more on that in a bit), but with the way TCU plays defense, you have to stretch them deep or it is very difficult to run the ball. I thought, for the most part, the run-pass balance was on target. But at some point you have to be more efficient completing some of the passes. Minnesota wasn't able to get a ton of separation on the outside, and I think one thing they may need to start looking at are things like stack routes and deep crossing routes to give Leidner a bit easier angles to take his shots, rather than skinny posts and streaks off of PA.
Struggling to Run the Ball
The OL wasn't great, but at the end of the day, TCU just outnumbered the box for the most part. I would have liked to have seen Minnesota attack the edge more to try to widen the TCU front a bit, but TCU's 4-2-5 defense can make that difficult at times. Get some offset I pistol looks with a jet sweep motion to get the FB to seal that box safety, or things of that nature. WR screens are a little harder by alignment as well, but you have to play some games with the receivers and TEs in space to stretch TCU horizontally.
Routes vs Pattern Matching
Minnesota ran a lot of inside-to-outward going routes. TCU runs a ton of match-up coverages while trying to wall off the inward breaking routes. That means they are facing the sideline and can break and undercut routes quickly. Minnesota doesn't attack the intermediate middle a lot because they are so run heavy and Leidner isn't great at reading defenses (not many college QBs are great at reading underneath coverages in a run heavy offense, there is a lot of wash there), but that's the weakness. Get across the defense's face and make them turn and run rather than allowing them to break down at everything. If you want to go outside, it has to be from an inside alignment and over the top so you have room to gain separation. But otherwise, you are trusting your receivers to stop their forward momentum, turn, and accelerate faster than a defender can go in the direction they're already facing.
Cover 1 Vs Mobile QB
Cover 1 has issues with QB runs and Minnesota took the brunt of that a bit. You blitz the 5th man against a spread look and if you aren't gap sound the QB has taken off with the defense's back to to the ball and it's a big gain. You have to be dialed with your blitz package and cannot let a QB step up and through. If anything, force him deeper and break outside, because then at least it begins to define his intentions a bit more. But allowing him to accelerate straight forward because your LB twist doesn't get to the farside A-gap is tough. It's tough for your LB, it's tough for your DBs. I think, personally, that DL stunts are more in your favor if you want to manufacture some pressure. A LB can come on the blitz, but let him read the offense for a half beat (delay his blitz) so that he can read the OL's intentions on the play and get in position to defend run and pass.
Coverage had some issues getting in-sync. For example on the fade TD, the CB never got completely in phase. Had separation between him and WR, so when he turned to look for ball he kept backpeddling and never got his body into a position to control the receiver and make the catch difficult. Control receiver with body and then find the ball.
Worse yet, several times they were in-sync and they got handsy with receivers, that will result in PI calls, and at times didn't even get hands up to challenge throws despite being in phase (I don't know why Eric Murray did this several times, get your hands up, don't just run with the guy). Boddy-Calhoun did a good job waiting to get into the receivers body, back and phase, and then looking for the ball, and he got an INT. He got in phase and then located the football and at worst gets a PBU because he gets his hands in there.
Still not good enough in cover 3. Not tight coverage. It's an understandable change-up from the Cover 1, but the defenders need to do a better job of playing the man in their zones.
- Leidner looked rusty on his option reads
- Leidner needs to do a better job of understanding pressure and where his hots are
- Run game struggled because Minnesota couldn't connect on deep throws
- Routes need to get across the defender's face, not allow defense to wall off inward routes
- Cover 1 struggles against mobile QBs
- Coverage issues from the DBs getting in-phase and locating the football with eyes and hands