Monday, September 30, 2013

Inside the Playbook: Meshing the Zone Run with Simplified Pass Concept

This is a link to a preview that I did over the summer. After several teams ran quite a bit of the mesh concept to start the year, I figured it was a good time to link it here.

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Running the Mesh Concept
In short, the first inside receiver has an aiming point just in front of the MIKE's drop. He must cross in front of the MIKE so that the MIKE is not in a position to defend him and is also unable to reroute the underneath crossing route. The second crossing receiver will aim for the short side shoulder of the other crossing receiver, making sure he doesn't get rerouted by a LB.
The receivers will then continue across the formation working to gain distance horizontally, stretching the LBs, and looking for voids in zones for the QB to see. It's typically an easy read because... There will also usually be a flat receiver to stretch the defense horizontally.

92 Mesh Concept
The outside receivers will essentially run corner/fade routes, depending on the safety coverage and their splits. If the sense man, they'll break it off and run an out route. This concept stretches the defense horizontally and vertically.
Listen to an explanation here.
The reads, at least for Leach, are to read the corners and work back to the mesh and then finally to the flat. I believe that is the case here as well.

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Follow the link to Maize n Brew to read the entire preview on Penn State (which applies to other teams as well)


Friday, September 27, 2013

Inside the Playbook: Wisconsin's Heavy Use of Play Action (BDS Exclusive)

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.


Post-Corner Concept
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.

Film Review: How MSU Adjusted Their Cover 4 to Shut Down Notre Dame

Michigan State is known for their use of the Cover 4 defense, pretty much all day every day. While they occasionally make forays into other defenses, it is more often the nuanced changes they make within their cover 4 that confuses offenses. Against Notre Dame, the Spartans rolled up their safeties and played them a bit tighter to the #2. We'll look at how this affected Notre Dame, how the Fighting Irish tried to counter this, and how Michigan State was still able to hold down their offense.

Cover 4 - ND's Initial Attack
Previously I have written about MSU's defense, both their front and their favorite coverage. Against Notre Dame, Narduzzi and Dantonio made a nuanced adjustment with how they played their safeties.
One of the constraints offenses run on MSU's defense is the bubble screen to the field side. They attempt to draw the OLB in against the run and bubble outside, putting him in a quandary to defend both inside and out and be responsible for a lot of open space.
Narduzzi has adjusted his cover 4, even prior to this game, to defend this. MSU's corner will almost always press to the field side. This prevents the WR from getting any distance between the CB and the bubble receiver. It also forces the WR to block immediately and hold that block longer, something most WRs aren't necessarily good at. This is an adjustment to prevent any sort of immediate horizontal stretch passes such as the bubble screen.

But on top of that, look how close to the LOS the safety is playing. Cover 4 safeties will already play relatively down hill, but this safety is essentially lined up in man coverage and there is no hesitation once the slot receiver begins bubbling outside. Throughout this game on the field side, MSU committed their safety almost immediately to coverage, partially because they simply did not respect ND's ability to run against MSU's front 7 alone, but also to take the #2 out of the game completely.

To continue reading about how MSU adjusted to take away ND's #2 receivers, as well as how Notre Dame attempted to adjust, follow the link to The Only Colors


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Inside the Playbook - Wisconsin's Use of Two RBs in a Single Formation

Wisconsin has found a creative way to get both running backs – Melvin Gordon III and James White – on the field at the same time. Being two of the better RBs in the country, having only one of them on the field fails to maximize a lot of what the offense can bring to the table. Against Purdue, Wisconsin ran jet sweep motion with an inside zone look from the RB several times to threaten the outside and the interior with their two RBs. They also did a few other things. In this article we are going to look at what this play concept brings to the table, along with two important plays that Wisconsin has run off of it already, and one play you can expect them to run against OSU if they start getting behind the chains and the Buckeyes start pinning their ears back.

Inside Zone

I'm drawing up this in a ace double wing, but these plays were also run out of your standard ace formation and a balanced solo formation. We'll get to those later. But the inside zone and the end around can be run from any of them.
Note that the blocking is away from the jet sweep. This puts the linebackers in a bind. Because the end around is already up to full speed, that player can attack the edge without the help of much blocking. Now, the inside zone in its own right is a perfectly fine play. To top it off, the backside LB will likely be tasked with stringing out the jet sweep, but part of the inside zone is the cutback to the backside A gap. With the backside defensive end attempting to shoot up to make the jet sweep gain depth and the backside LB tasked with stretching the play out, the cutback lane for the inside zone is wide open if the other LBs do their job to get playside. But if they hesitate, the inside zone will gash them for big chunks of yards.

End Around


As you can see, it looks exactly the same as the play before. In fact, I just changed the arrows on the defenders, because the look is exactly the same down to the blocking scheme and everything. I discussed this a bit previously in the inside zone section. But the backside LB will be tasked with stretching out the end around. But he is also responsible for the backside A-gap when defending the inside zone. He is put in a quandary.
If he doesn't stretch out the end around and Wisconsin gives, then it's going to be a huge play as the whole defense is sealed inside and White just needs to beat a safety. If the LB attempts to string out the end around but it ends up being an inside zone give and Gordon cuts it back in the designated cut back lane, then he is quickly into the second level and onto the safety with one man to beat between him in the end zone.
To counter this, defenses will start to put more defenders in the box. But Wisconsin has some answers for this.

To read what else Wisconsin will do out of this formation, and how they'll use both players as decoys to pick up big gains, follow the link.


Film Review: Looking at Gardner's Struggles in the Pass Game

Michigan showed some recurring issues on offense against UConn, and none crept up more obviously than Gardner's lingering problems with throwing the ball accurately. My presumption has been that he is mentally affected, and this has caused him to struggle with his timing and his mechanics. Since the last quarter against ND, he has looked markedly differently. He is staying on reads longer, he is aiming his passes, and he is really trying to fit the ball into areas even when he has other receivers open. In this article, we will narrow the look to UConn, and see what it will take to get DG back on track.

Play 1
This play is going to be Gardner's first INT against UConn. Michigan is going to put two receivers on each side of the formation and run a simple mesh concept. I discussed the mesh concept a bit in my preview of PSU. Gallon, correctly reading zone, sits between two zone defenders. Gardner comes of his first read, which appears to be Funchess, and comes down to his second read in Gallon.

But watch Gardner's feet. When he steps deeper into the pocket, his front foot opens up his body and he is pointed near the sideline. On top of that he doesn't step into the throw. By throwing across his open body and not stepping into the throw - his body weight fails to transfer forward to bring his release point to a proper angle - it causes the ball to sail. He's double compounded things that will cause the ball to go high. His lapse in footwork has forced the ball high.


To see four more plays from Gardner against UConn, and what mistakes he made, and what improvement he was able to manage, follow the link to Maize n Brew.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Inside the Playbook - Wisconsin's Run Game

This is all going to get quite confusing here. But in this piece and another future piece, I will preview Wisconsin for the blog Land-Grant Holy Land, an Ohio State Website. Yup, that's happening.

Over the past, oh, I dunno, let's just leave it at over the past, Wisconsin has been known for their potent run game. While Alan Ameche, that old Iron Horse, isn't walking through to run his offense any time soon, the Badgers seem to be doing pretty well dating back to the Alverez era, er, the Alverez coaching era, er, that first time Alverez was coaching Wisconsin on the sideline and, well, this introduction is all over the place. And I have a great Alan Ameche story for those willing to hear, for those who like old timey stories that may or may not be true about really old Wisconsin Heisman Trophy winners.

Bread and Butter
I don't want to get too in depth about how these plays work, and instead spend time how they work off each other. In several places, I have previously discussed inside and outside zone runs. You can also see a lot of the blocking rules here.

Outside zone is the Badger's favorite run play. We'll discuss a big reason it has been so successful in a bit. Here's a diagram:
To counter that, sometimes Wisconsin will run inside zone. Initially inside zone looks very similar to outside zone, but it will end up being a more drive blocking scheme, with the option of cutting the play to the backside.
Follow the LINK to learn more about Wisconsin's Run Game, how they use Power O as a counter to the zone, and how they use two TEs to force the defense into real predicaments. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Coaching Points: Week 4 Round-Up


Michigan State

Against a formation with three receivers on one side, you almost want your cover 3 to become cover 6. FS should slide 3 receiver side otherwise the deep third CB will be left in a bind, and that's what happened on SJSU's long TD pass. FS didn't help in seam.

I guess that's why Minn is running mostly cover 1 press man. Played cover 3 and got beat between two zones, neither defender covered a man.

The biggest area I'm disappointed with Minn is their DL. Thought they would be better there, but getting leveraged fairly easily.

Power O by Minnesota. Extra blocker with QB run. Good push by Minnesota; SJSU not doing a good job with leverage at point of attack. Minnesota blockers do a really good job so far of getting squaty at the legs and driving the DL.

TD that came from the slot WR. If you're pressing inside the hash (receiver lined up on hash, but you have inside help and man outside, so no outside help, so rule applies) never let the man escape outside that easy. When turning in press coverage, if playing outside release, you need to jab WR off balance and slide arm/shoulder in front of WR shoulder. WR can't run through your shoulder, knock off timing at release and after. Giving free release then trailing with only inside help = TD.

Some technique issues from Minnesota in their press. Need to do better job cutting off once WR commits and need to use arms better. Also, the above.

As I said, Minn pressing, daring SJSU to win over the top. They are doing a poor job turning off their press, not cutting off body. Easy TD

Minn is going to use jet sweep motion to threaten edge all year. RBs and QB both don't really threaten edge, lots of fakes and gives to WRs

Looked like the left side of the line screen released for Minn, but QB never took his eyes off pressure. Pressure must stay in peripheral. This is typical for a young/inexperienced QB though.

Another zone read from the pistol from Minn. FB passes on DE on an arch release, the DE puts himself in position to do nothing, FB gets key block to spring TD.

Minnesota with a nice Veer option look. Nice read of BSDE crashing down, QB pull, easy yards.

Ohio State
Not much to take from OSU. When I watched they were very vanilla on defense, almost all man-free coverage and aggressive on the outside.

Offense showed shovel pass again this week. That is a favorite of Meyer. He used it a bit last year but not as much as he'd have liked to. Interesting twist is they are running it mostly to RBs this year rather than TEs because they lack good athletes at TE. Lots of speed option looks with split backs. If QB rolls away from a single shotgun back though, you should always expect shovel pass. Happens probably more than half the time.

Purdue has some athletes at DB. Lack some technique, but they are athletic. Surprised Wisc isn't attacking LBs more.

Inside zone, just beat hat across hat. Purdue has a good disruptive DL. Will be interesting how Wisc gap blocks to slow them down. *This was early on. Wisconsin didn't end up needing to go to gap scheme to slow down Purdue much as I think their defense just got tired. I think Wisconsin will need to do a bit more gap scheme against better teams and Purdue needs their LBs to help out the DL.

Borland puts his body in perfect position to break on out or wall off Purdue receiver from getting back inside. Almost got an INT. Looks good in pass coverage.

That route isn't changed because QB struggling. Purdue playing off man, that changes route into an out as CB can cover corner.

Stave had a few misreads of coverage. At one point he had to read man. Needs to do better with eyes to look at coverage not TE. He knows TE's route, shouldn't have to stare it down.

That PA play has been in Wisc's playbook forever. Make it look like post-drag, bring drag back to sideline. Great 2-man route concept off PA (this will be discussed fuller at Bucky's 5th Quarter this week).

Purdue sniffs out Power O run. Two defenders get to White, White shows great footwork and uses hand to push tacklers past. WOW. White is alright FWIW.

Great swim move by Wisconsin. Was able to get the Purdue OL to reach on his block, Wisc DL got into his outside half, got his hands over top and beat him to the QB

Friday, September 20, 2013

Film Review: Struggling in Coverage

ED - Sorry this is late this week. Had some trouble actually getting around to the game.

Michigan's defense, for the second straight game, struggled to apply pressure on the QB. Seth over at MGoBlog took a look briefly at the front four, so I won't discuss that much here, but there are other reasons that the defensive line failed to generate many statistics. As I've stated several times now, the defense needs to work as a unit in order to be successful. Every person must succeed at their assignment, and if they don't then there will be breakdowns. Then the pressure from the DL won't get home before the QB can get the pass off. The back seven in pass coverage is just as responsible for generating pressure as the front four. In this piece, we are going to look at how Michigan struggled in the secondary against Akron, and what must be done to fix it.

LB Drops
Here, Michigan is in a Tampa 2 defense, where the MIKE will drop into the bubble between the two deep safeties, preferably to take away post and digs across the middle. This is one way to prevent those timing passes that ND gashed Michigan with.
The problem here isn't the initial drop - which gains Bolden good depth - it's his eyes. Typically in zone coverage, you want to be looking through the receiver in your zone to the QB. Obviously, for Bolden, that's not possible. But he still needs to cover his receiver. He instead peaks in the backfield, breaks his route off flat, and the ball goes over the top of him. His drop itself isn't bad; he gets in the position he needs to be. But he fails to find the receiver in his zone to realize he's running a post rather than a dig, and it results in an easy deep completion.


To read more, follow the link to Maize n Brew


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Week 3: Coaching Points Round-Up

Only got to watch a few games again last week. I'll post my thoughts.




  • Purdue looked like a better unit on offense, more rhythm in the pass game. Ran lots of crosses and routes from the backfield to take advantage of ND's struggle in underneath coverage.
  • QB stares down receivers too long. Needs to do a better job of controlling defense with his eyes.
  • DL may be one of the best in the B1G. Got pushed a few times against ND, but for the most part were disruptive.
  • LBs sent on a lot more blitzes. They struggle in coverage and struggle reading and reacting. This takes a lot of that out of their hands and just lets them play ball.
  • Can be exploited a bit on the edges of their defense.
  • Wisconsin's QB has been inconsistent on the move. His mechanics get much less consistent from there.
  • Wisconsin really attacking with corner routes. A lot of smash type concepts and taking advantage of the cover 2 look from ASU.
  • 3 man front has done relatively well against the spread attack. They still seem more like 4-3 linemen playing in the 3-man front though. Better at beating blockers than holding up and reacting. But they are improving and further along than I expected with their 3-man front gap control.
  • Idea on last play was good in theory, but I don't like running it. Too much not in your control when you do that. Just let your kicker kick the ball. The angle from that distance isn't changing much. Obviously hindsight is 20/20, but I think you make an extremely safe pass (likely just chucking it OOB) to use up some clock, and that's it. Don't even give the clock a chance to run.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

B1G Blog Round-Up: 9/14/13

In these somewhat weekly round-ups I'll try to link all the technique/schematic articles from around the B1G. If you have others that you've seen over the course of the week, feel free to tweet, leave a comment, or e-mail me. I'd like this to be a single place to find all these sorts of things. Thanks!

FWIW: In the future I won't list teams I didn't find anything for, just listing this time so you know I'm checking all the teams plus future B1G and for whatever reason ND to an extent.

  • I know Indiana isn't much of a football school, but with their offense and their Head Coach - and their lack of defense - it's a shame they don't have much in depth discussion on it.
  • Illinois will hopefully get a look this week. Think lots of people are interested in what's happening there.
  • BHGP uses vine to look at both sides of the ball. I don't like using Vine here (I prefer youtube), but you get some things from it. OFFENSE and DEFENSE
  • Of interest for next year. Not seeing much here though. May need help to find stuff.
  • Maize n Brew goes over DT technique and why Michigan struggled to hold up against ND's power blocking scheme.* LINK
  • BDS looks at the Y-Stick concept, the Z-Snag concept, and how Michigan utilized it to score the game sealing TD.* LINK
  • MGoBlog discusses how ND originally shut down UM's Zone Stretch and then how Michigan countered. PART 1 and PART 2
Michigan State
  • The Only Colors looks at how strip sacks occur. LINK
  • A team I think a lot of people are interested in.
  • Corn Nation looks at the ways Nebraska has expanded on the inverted veer scheme.* LINK
  • Sippin' on Purple focuses on their pass rush technique here. LINK
Notre Dame
Ohio State
Penn State
  • Over at Black Shoes Diary they detail how PSU is struggling to convert on 3rd down. LINK
  • Not sure Purdue fans are too excited about schematic things and not sure Purdue has much technique at this point. DL is legit though, someone should look at them.
  • Nothing here.
  • Very surprised I didn't find anything quickly from Wisconsin. New coaching staff doing a lot of the same and some new. I'd be very interested in seeing some schematic breakdowns from them.
* Space Coyote Post

Friday, September 13, 2013

Escaping the Pocket and Scrambling


The scramble, or as Borges calls it, the third play has been a huge asset at times to Michigan this year, as well as a liability at other times. In this article, we are going to discuss some scramble rules. This includes how to the QB can utilize different escape moves, how the QB will throw on the run, and how the WRs react to QB movement.

Escaping the Pocket
First, let’s get a basic thing out of the way as far as pocket movement. This is not an escape move, but climbing in the pocket does a few things: it helps a pocket naturally form around the QB; it makes the QB into a non-stationary target; and it helps guide the QB’s eyes and timing. Some will call this “hitch stepping”, I prefer to call it “climbing the ladder” or “climbing in the pocket”. In my opinion, the hitch step is the weight transfer at the end of the drop in which your weight goes from your front foot and you hitch both feet forward to transfer the weight onto your back foot to prepare to throw.

Climbing in the pocket is a bit different. As much as possible, as a QB, you want to remain in a position where you are ready to throw. What that means is that your weight remains on the back foot as much as possible and your stride keeps you balanced and prepared to step into a throw. So to do this, you will step forward with your front foot and pull yourself forward, or climb up in the pocket, rather than pushing off with the back foot, which would lead to a transfer of weight forward. By pulling forward, you keep your stride more balanced you keep your back foot down longer, and you are more prepared to throw at any moment.


Continue reading this at 247 Sports by following the link below


Inside the Playbook: Y-Stick, Z-Snag, and Things That Look Like it But Aren't (A BDS exclusive)

Michigan ran a two plays last Saturday against Notre Dame that where the same exact concept. Intended to take advantage or the Irish getting lost in zone or getting rubbed in man, these two plays are the Y-Stick concept and the Z-Snag concept. Both are essentially the same play but with different receivers running extremely similar routes to similar parts of the field. Michigan would run it once early to see what Notre Dame was giving them. They’d run it a second time but get presented with a different look. They’d run it a third time for a huge pick up as they saw what they originally saw early in the game. Then they’d run it a fourth time, or, they’d present it a fourth time, but then run something very different for an easy TD.

Y-Stick Pass Concept
The Y-Stick Pass concept is relatively new as far as concepts go, but also fairly common. A staple within most West Coast Offenses and Air Raid Offenses, it provides the QB with simple reads and can attack both man and zone coverage. MGoBlog talked about it in their offensive UFR and Borges talked about it in the press conference. Here it is drawn up:
(Click to embiggen)

This is how Michigan ran it on Saturday. Most teams will run a corner route on the Stick side, but it isn’t a requirement. What Michigan is doing is running a single high safety beater opposite of the snag concept instead. This includes two quick outs and a fly/seam/post option route on the outside.

Here, Gardner’s (Michigan’s QB) first read is the weakside safety. If he’s dropping single high, DG knows it’s either man under or cover 3, in which case he has an easy coverage beater to that side.  The outside route should run any defender off on the outside. If that defender cheats off, Gallon will be open against a safety, likely for a back shoulder fade or something. If they remain in their coverage, the #3 receiver is the first read. He will also be a hot read on any interior blitz. He is the first read because a) he’s an easier throw; and b) because the outside receiver running an out will take the defender with him, vacating the area behind him for an easy pitch and catch. If that defender doesn’t vacate, and easy out into the flat will be open for Gardner.

Gardner hits his out before he even breaks, for an easy pitch and catch.

You can also note something that Borges sees in the play: the fact the the RB isn't being picked up out of the backfield. You'll see how quickly Gardner goes through his reads on the next play, he knows what to anticipate.

The second time they run this exact same play, Gardner’s eyes again take him to the weak side safety, but this time he reads a two deep look. This means cover 2, cover 4, or cover 2 man under, in which a LB will be forced to pick up the RB or TE, either one being a mismatch on their route. The QB’s eyes will go directly from the weakside safety to the flat defender.

Against man, the RB has a head start on the LB to the flat with his swing route. On top of this, the LB is also essentially picked by the Stick route. As an aside: A stick is typically a 6 yard and turn back inside, and if you do not catch the pass right away, you will start working back out toward the sideline. Against zone, working back out is to find a hole in the zone to settle in; against man you’re just trying to get open. It is named “stick” because it means “get to the sticks” or the first down marker. So this means if the TE defender and the defender on the RB switch, the TE will easily wall off the LB and should have an easy catch himself. So by keying the flat defender, if he follows the TE inside, the QB will throw the swing. If he switches off, he’ll look for the stick.

It’s really the same against man. In cover 2 he’ll read the corner in the flat. If the CB squeezes inside, he’ll throw the swing. If the CB stays on the RB, he’ll wait for the TE to seal the LB and throw to him. On the other hand, if the CB drops into a cover 4 look, he’ll move his eyes to the LB who is responsible for covering the flat and read him much the same way.

The second time Michigan ran the same play, the Y really squeezed his route and pulled the CB with him, leaving a huge vacated area for Gardner to hit his first receiver in his progression (progression goes RB and then TE; if there is a corner route on top of it, it’ll go RB, Corner, stick) and get a huge gain.

Z Snag Concept
You will see here, that where the receivers end up, this is essentially the same exact play but with different receivers. The Z receiver will slant inside to get into the same spot a Y-TE would. But he again puts a foot in ground, breaks back to the ball, and if they ball isn’t there he goes back to the sideline. The RB runs his swing route, and a third receiver, here the Y-TE, runs the corner route to hold the defense deep and prevent a safety from cheating the underneath routes and putting the cover 2 corner in a position where the QB can pick on him.

On the backside, Michigan is running a fade-out combo, designed to either get the slot open against an inside defender or have the outside receiver in single coverage. It would mostly be utilized as a hot route or alert route if one of them had a favorable match up. As is, in this play scheme, it’s being used to hold defenders and get the defense away from the side they want to pick on.

So you can see how this is pretty much the same exact look but a little different for the QB.

Here, Gardner is trying to hit the Z-snag as he thinks he sees the CB covering him playing hang coverage, or flat and outside, giving an inside release. Because of this he progresses from his first receiver (the RB) and moves to his second in the progression (the snag), but the defender covering the flat undercuts the route, so Gardner decides to scramble.

For what it’s worth, the TE here is an alert route, where you attack if you like the match up. The defense was essentially bracketing the TE, with the initial defender slowing his timing and playing outside, and the single high safety flowing over the top.

The Same Play But… Oh Wait, It’s Not the Same Play At All.
Michigan starts off in a “Gun Pro Split-Squeeze Stack Divide” formation (they likely have a nice, short little nick-name for it). “Gun” here means shotgun; “pro” means you have a WR on opposite sides of the formation and a single TE; “split” means that TE is split; “squeeze” means they are lined up tighter to the line; and “divide” is the 2 back set. One of the backs – who is actually a WR – motions out so that it is a “Gun Trips Split-Squeeze Stack”. This motion reveals what Borges, Michigan’s offensive coordinator, already believed: that at this area of the field, near the end zone, Notre Dame would be in man coverage. Well now Gardner knows it as well.

Here's the Video

Here’s how the play looks coming off at the snap.

This looks familiar and the defense thinks so too. The nice Notre Dame blog "One Foot Downbreaks this play down to a degree, and comes away with the complaint “why the hell are you all playing outside the person your defending?!” While, seriously, why the hell are they each playing outside the person they’re covering when they are in cover 0, you see what they see above, and it looks extremely familiar. It looks like…

But it’s not that. Here’s what it really is, with the dashed lines showing the previous concept and the solid ones showing what it really was.

And the play alone

Yeah, this is a set up. Herbstreit claims Dileo, the Z receiver, runs an option route, because that’s what it looks like, but it’s not. Dileo runs his stick, turns back in to the ball, fakes outside like he would on a stick, and then comes inside for a wide open catch. On top of that, you know it isn’t an option route because of Jackson’s, the F receiver, route. If it was an option route, Jackson would either completely vacate the area so Dileo could work alone, or he’d come back inside flat to either run double ins if Dileo optioned inside, or would provide a rub if Dileo broke outside (he would break away from where the defender lined up). This isn’t an option route, this is Borges setting up the defense.

So this shows the various ways you can give your QB the same look from multiple sets and with multiple receivers, pick on certain things a defense is doing without getting overly repetitive, and then when the defense adjusts after getting burned, you burn them again by setting them up. And this is all gathered from the second offensive snap of the game. Three crucial plays in three crucial situations, all seen on film and confirmed from one play on the first drive of the game. This is what getting first downs allows you to do, the places in the playbook where it allows a OC to go. This is how a good OC scripts his early plays, so he knows what the defense is presenting to take advantage later.

A plan for a plan for a plan. A reaction to a defensive reaction to a successful play and scheme. Like most OCs, Borges sits up in his high box twisting his maniacal mustache that doesn’t exist – unless it does exist, then they are likely a walrus and not likely to be an evil mastermind. But like most OCs in this situation, he laughs so boisterously that the opposing coaches can hear it like the triumphant horn of a rival, warring country. When the laughter stops, he says things like “indubitably”, then follows it closely with “you mother f***in’ c***s***in’ dirty rotten piece of sh** wh*** bastards,” because he’s finally able to release his pent up anger in deviation from his normal nerdish, chess-player exterior. That’s the life of an OC when things work. And when things work it’s pretty damn awesome to be the one calling the plays.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Film Review: Michigan's DTs Struggle Against Doubles

After Brian at MGoBlog apparently hacked into my computer and stole the idea for my article, unfortunately, you will now need to purchase the Maize n Brew decoder ring to read future posts. If you think I'm just joking... Be sure to drink your Ovaltine. Yes, I'm going to make some money off of this if I'm doing it. We'll call it the Stephen M. Ross Maize n Brew Decoder Ring presented by Stephen M. Ross and "Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut, Sometimes You Don't" Almond Joy and Mounds. This is the future.
Anyway, today we are going to look at why Michigan had trouble against the Notre Dame's inside run plays. Much of the time, Michigan was in nickel personnel with two 3 techs with an over front. Let's take a closer look.

Play One:

Notre Dame runs Power O without a FB. Essentially, the playside TE will block the DE instead of a FB. The backside OG is still pulling up through the hole and out onto the LB. Michigan, in an over front, means they are leaving Black open to be doubled. Black gets doubled and driven out of the hole with relative ease. His initial attack is good, as he attacks a single blocker, but he can't split and the doubling OT is able to get his shoulders turned. Once the shoulders are turned he can't hold up and is actually driven all the way back into Morgan, essentially putting three blockers on Morgan. Morgan could do a better job getting over the top, but he can't go too lateral as he has to fill as Ross is forcing the play back into him. Ross does a good job of meeting the pulling OG in the hole, but he dips his eyes and loses the runner. You can tell he's attack with outside arm free, trying to force the play back inside where it doesn't want to go (he's not letting the pulling blocker to seal him inside as he wants). He tries to fight across the blocker, but by the time the RB is on him he can't shed off the blocker well enough to slow the ball carrier.

To look at the whole breakdown of all five 2nd half runs that gashed Michigan, and the consistent problems presented to Michigan's front 6 against ND, follow the link.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Inside the Playbook: Nebraska and Running Triple Option off the Inverted Veer Look

Over the past few years, Nebraska has done some creative things with the spread option run game. The veer play, once a staple of many triple option offenses as Nebraska fans know, has made its way into spread football via the "inverted veer". Once teams started figuring out the straight veer play, teams started incorporating a veer triple option, which one of the ways Cornhusker teams of the ‘90s moved the ball at will on over-matched opponents. It is no different in the spread system. In the past few years, I've seen Nebraska do two different things to counter the inverted veer version of the scrape exchange defense. In this article, I will highlight those two plays.
First, let's start with the basics of the veer read. I'm assuming I don't need to spend a large amount of time explaining the system to this fan base, so I'll only touch on the basics.
From under center, the QB will step laterally at a 4 O'clock position. His eyes are immediately drawn to the playside DE. Meanwhile, the RB is taking a direct line off tackle, well inside of the defensive end. The QB is reading this defender, and if he crashes down to squeeze the RB's hole, the QB will pull the ball from the RB's belly and keep it around the edge.

To continue reading and to see how Nebraska utilizes the old fashion veer triple option out of the spread and how they utilize a bubble off the inverted veer look, follow the link.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Week 2: Coaching Points Recap

Wasn't able to watch much football last week, only the Michigan game. So only they get a recap today. Sorry if you're looking for more. Will try better next week.

Click the link for the recap.


Friday, September 6, 2013

What Must Be Done for Michigan to Run on Notre Dame

On 247 I have a post up explaining how Michigan needs run game variety to find success on the ground against ND.

Notre Dame runs a 2-gap 3-4 defense with three very large men anchoring the defensive line at the point of attack. Because of that, combined with their fast flowing LBs, they formed one of the best run defenses in the country last year and will likely be similar this year. Michigan, now looking primarily like a zone running team, will need to find success with a run game variety if they want to move the ball on the ground under the lights. In this post, we will discuss how Michigan will mix up the zone stretch with the lead counter and why that will be essential to rack up rushing yards.

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Follow the link for more.


Inside the Playbook: OSU's Corner-Post Route

Originally I had thought Buffalo played this with Cover 6, which is essentially Cover 4 to the top of the screen (twins side) and Cover 2 on the bottom. But it's difficult to say. This could be Cover 3, it could Cover 0 with two drops underneath. Regardless, this is a play that was designed to attack both 2-high safeties and single high defenses, and at this point it seemed that Buffalo had begun running more 2-high looks to prevent the big plays. But a play shouldn't just work against a single kind of defense, and I'll try to explain why it worked so simply here as against this defense as well. What's interesting about this play is that it isn't originally a spread concept. I actually stems from many other offenses. In the West Coast Offense it's a scissor concept. You'll see it in run and shoot and other offenses as well. So both of these pass concepts are borrowed, but with the run threat provided by the spread, it becomes easier to read and predict the defenses.

Here's the video:

Follow the LINK to read the rest...


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Film Review: Pass Protection Breakdown on Gardner's 2nd INT

Over at Maize n Brew we detail what happened and why on Devin Gardner's 2nd INT against CMU. Good for examining pass protection with the use of TEs and H-Backs.


Inside the Playbook - OSU Attacks Defenses Deep Part 1: Post-Fly-Drag Concept

Over at Land-Grant Holy Land, I've written a piece detailing how OSU's offense will attack single high coverage. Many teams feel forced to play single high defenses because of OSU's run game, if opposing defenses can't get pressure, the post-fly-drag concept floods a deep area of the field, making it nearly impossible to stop regardless of coverage. It also affords easier reads for Braxton Miller.

This play will also be run by many other teams and relates to more than just Ohio State. So even if you aren't a Buckeyes fan, it is worth checking out.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Film Review: Gardner's First INT against CMU

In this post we look at the reasons for Devin Gardner's first INT against CMU. Here, it comes down to the his eyes on the play, and how it takes the NB to the ball.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Coaching Points: B1G Roundup
Link Here

Michigan State
Link Here


  • OTs doing a good job keeping very clean pocket. WRs need to help T-Mart out on that scramble. Work needed on scramble drill
  • TE should flatten out that route to give T-Mart easier pass and an easier catch for himself. Post snap route adjustments need to be improved; defender in the seam, you square in your seam route to put yourself in open grass
  • DBs aggressive. Earned black shirts. Like how physical they play. May have to play more zone to involve in run support.
  • UNL DTs still problem in this D. DBs doing job. Can't be successful with poor DT play. Pushed into LBs on run. No push on pass
  • Starting to run more BCB blitz, used slant line to try to stop run, fill gaps, and get some pressure. QB can step into pocket because no interior push. DTs need to be more aggressive at snap. Passively 2-gapping is getting them pushed.
  • TE didn't seal well on a play, but continued to drive defender and didn't let him shed. Effort beat skill and resulted in big gain.


  • Lot's of Diamond formation with Siemian. Can't say I'm a fan. Give him formation where he can threaten D with his arm more. Can't threaten seams or crossing patterns with the depth and lack of width from the wings. More of a run and PA formation. Would like to see them use more rub routes and zone overloads to utilize Siemian's arm.
  • Would usually complain about the WR here. He didn't get good separation from the sideline, defender can easily use the sideline as an extra defender. Good think Siemian is a super G at QB and can still hit the pass for a TD. But WR can still help him.

Ohio State
Link Here


  • I think the front 4 is solid here. Don't get pushed around much, hold up well at the point of attack.
  • LBs killing Purdue. Do not read, react, and fill well at all. Easily get blockers out on them and sealed, giving big running lanes for ball carriers. Also struggling in coverage.
  • DBs have some athletic ability, can move well. Need to work on technique. Work in progress. They have potential though, just need practice.
  • Offense is still very raw and uncomfortable. Need a lot of work. They have some units on defense. Have some potential in places. May be a longer than wanted rebuild, but it's necessary I think.


  • Wisconsin still mixing in a lot of inside zone. Utilizing Power O more than they have in the past. Really messes with defensive keys, down blocks look an awful lot like inside zone reaches initially, but the play is to the opposite side. Guards doing a really good job pulling so far.
  • 3 man front holding up better than expected. UMass warning applies. Still, against spread teams it looks like they will be able to utilize it well. Still in wait and see about power formations with FBs, but down the line it should help against multi-TE sets as well.