Wednesday, September 3, 2014

New Location! CRFF

So for those who do not know, I am now on the staff of OSU's SportsNation blog affiliate Cowboys Ride for Free. I expect to do an offensive recap after every game and maybe some opponent's scouting reports when conference play begins. If you want to check me out there, along with all of the other great writers, go to the website below:

I may or may not continue blogging on this site, depending on public feedback. I would still check every once and a while to see if anything new is up. Until then, make sure you subscribe to crff and make it your new favorite website!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Oklahoma St vs Florida St: The Frustration Continues..

The Oklahoma State Cowboys fell short Saturday, as they lost a squeaker to reigning national champion Florida State. Their offensive game-plan was eerily similar to their game vs. Missouri, and while a change in offensive philosophy might be too much to ask for at this point, there are certain things that could improve the Pokes' offensive efficiency. They might have scored 31 points, but we can all agree that there were some wasted drives and missed opportunities.

 I really wasn't planning to make more of these, but after the success of the blog last year (2,700+ views), hopefully someone will take a look at it. Additionally, I felt that this stuff deserved to be heard; think of this as food for thought, if nothing else.

Think of my articles as the "Captain Hindsight" of OSU football
picture credit

Obviously, it should be addressed to how vanilla OSU's offense has been. Granted, the offensive line probably limited the playbook, but if the play-calling isn't going to become more diverse, there are still things that they can do to help the offense succeed.

Looking back to last year along with this first game, the Cowboys' game-plan has consisted of trying to run it down the defense's throats instead of using their perimeter speed. Take Tyreek Hill, for example, who has already proved himself as an electric player. He is not going to be as successful used as a bruiser, constantly going up the middle. You need to get that player in open space, and you can accomplish that in ways other than inside runs and swing passes.

On the same subject, Oklahoma State's new favorite play, the wham play, is extremely limited in outcome. They also run it a lot. It would probably be safe to say that they ran the wham play 20-25 times, many with the same ol' 1-2 yard result.  They did occasionally have a solid gain from this play, thanks to Tyreek, but it's important to remember the definition of insanity. This was the same issue last year; they would seemingly waste a down getting stuffed between the tackles and the drive usually ended in a long, unconverted third down.

Here's why they had their struggles-

There were so many times when OSU got caught in a bad play but didn't have either the time or the proper in-formation audibles to change things.

This is Oklahoma State's base wham play; it's an inside zone with the play-side end being blocked by the "buck" (Y - usually TE Jeremy Seaton).  Florida State frequently had the nickel-back come into the box, leaving the slot receiver uncovered. OSU was now stuck in a play where they had six blockers on seven defenders, and the play did not have any flexibility to take advantage of the uncovered slot defender. This can be fixed. 

Take a look at the play above. Many spread teams are starting to add tag routes within their running plays. This is an example of a play that you might see an Oregon, Baylor, or Arizona run. The backside "X" receiver is running a quick curl, and the slot receiver is running a bubble. It's the quarterback's decision to decide where the ball goes. If the backside corner rolls off of the "X" receiver, the quarterback can take the snap and throw quickly to him. If the nickel-back comes into the box or shows blitz, the quarterback can take the snap and throw quickly to the uncovered receiver. If OSU is going to stick to running the same play over and over again, at least give it a little flexibility. 

To watch a similar concept in action, take a look at smartfootball's video of Ole Miss here

If you watched the video above, you'll notice that the Rebels called the same play five times in a row, each play giving a different result. Packaged plays used to be a huge part of the OSU offense. Now, they're used only occasionally. This is directly opposed to a team like Baylor, who has a pas option in every single one of their plays.

The second thing that we look out now is their wham keep play. If you remember the MSU game from last year, this play alone carried the Cowboys to victory. 

They did not use the quarterback much off of any zone reads (similar to the Cotton Bowl), but the one time they tried this play, a big mistake was made. So, if you're not using this play with any regularity, then you should be able to diversify it slightly and classify it as a short-yardage package. This could allow you to have a slightly more unorthodox formation or concept since you'd only run it a handful of times.

 When OSU ran this play in the crucial moments of the fourth quarter, the play-side receiver (Jhajhuan Seales) blew his block, allowing his corner to come up and force a fumble on JW Walsh. If you're only using the quarterback keep as a wrinkle and not as a true cornerstone of the offense, then why not go to measures that, in theory, would prevent these mistakes from happening.

The first option is to move that receiver to the other side. Michigan occasionally used this formation as a quarterback run package. Although this makes the innermost receiver ineligible, it still brings that corner to the other side, theoretically opening space on one side of the formation. Again, if you're only going to run this play a handful of times, then it's okay to use a formation like this where any potential pass play is limited.

The second option is to tell the play-side receiver to run to open space. Similar to the first play we talked about, a route paired with a run play can take advantage of defenders who get out of place. If the defense is in man, he will take his corner upfield, leaving open space for the quarterback. If the defense is caught in zone, the quarterback should have a wide-open receiver on the sideline. Auburn has used this "go" concept, much to their success. 

example 1

the corner is caught in a blitz and the quarterback throws to the uncovered receiver.

example 2

The corner sees the run and crashes towards the quarterback, leaving his man uncovered.

At the end of the day, it's still impressive to say that they scored 31 on the #1 team in the nation. Let's hope that the Cowboys can make some adjustments before conference-play begins. If their offense can become more consistent, the sky is the limit.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Option, Reinvented pt.1

Today, we'll take a short look at how the option has been reshaped in today's modern game. In this post, we will visit a new form of the triple option, coined by former U of Florida HC Urban Meyer.


By Definition, a shovel pass is when a quarterback pitches the ball to a player in front of him behind the line of scrimmage; since the ball is going forward, it is considered a pass and not a run. The name of this flicking motion has long been disputed, with many people using the terms shovel, shuffle, and scuttle. You say potatoes, I say potahtos, either way it doesn't matter. The shovel was often used as a variation of a draw for a long period of time until Mr. Meyer made it a staple of the option game.

 Just for reference purposes, this is your basic shotgun triple option out of the split

This, on the other hand, is the shotgun shovel option

Notice, instead of having a mesh for the inside option (see B back in upper picture), there is an inside shovel threat with the trailing tight end. The back adjacent to the quarterback then provides the pitch threat, creating a true triple option look.

After Meyer's stint at Bowling Green and Utah, he brought his innovation to the SEC; lucky for him, he had a 240lb bowling ball at quarterback.

Former Gator quarterback Tim Tebow became a superstar perfecting plays like this, leading his team to two national championship games. Unfortunately, his professional career was short-lived, possibly because the ball hit the turf as many times as his receivers (48% career completion percentage). Still, he is considered one of the top college quarterbacks in FBS history, and for good reason.

Here, the defensive end followed Tebow laterally, which left Aaron Hernandez wide open to bullet (pun intended) towards the end zone.

The idea of the shovel has since been tinkered with, substituting pitches with pass patterns, adding pre-snap screens, isolation routes, etc.

Here's using the shovel in the empty formation, using a play-side bubble to take place of a pitch. This variation spreads out the defense; sometimes the most effective running formations are spread out like this. 

This play uses a pre-snap read to the right hash and two post-snap reads to the left hash. If you don't know what that means, look at some of the previous posts. 

Well that's it for today. Maybe later we can explore some other aspects of Florida's (once) juggernaut offense another time. Until then, eat, drink, and be merry. Or be married. Tomato, tomahto.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Package Plays in All Forms pt.3a

In the past week or two, we have been taking a look at how specific teams use advanced concepts to move the football and score points. These advanced concepts, specifically package plays, have been all the rage in the college football world. Today, this post will continue on that path. This is the third part in the Package Play series, with the third post being divided into two subparts - this is the first.
ARIZONA STATE/ UCLA - Into the Mind of Noel Mazzone

Last post, we took a look at how Rich Rodriguez used a predominately zone-based running scheme and an outside passing threat to enhance the effectiveness of his offense. Today, we will take a look at one of the lesser-known offensive geniuses of the football world - Noel Mazzone.

Mazzone, who after a two year stint at Arizona State, took the offensive coordinator job at UCLA in 2012. Immediately the year he was hired, the Bruins increased their PPG average by roughly two touchdowns and their YPG by about 90 yards. Mazzone uses a similar scheme to Rodriguez', but includes a lot more pre-snap motion with his backs and receivers. If you haven't already read the piece on Rich Rodriguez, take a look at the post below.

This scheme above is a common play in college football, with an inside zone and an outside screen threat.

Mazzone uses motion to accomplish the same thing. Here, the left slot receiver runs across the formation before the snap and runs a swing towards the sideline. This gives the quarterback an opportunity to read the defense and observe their coverage. If the corner on the motion-man stays put and does not run with the receiver before the snap, this gives the quarterback a 3-on-2 advantage, leaving the swing route wide open (provided that the receivers all block). If the corner follows the receiver in motion, the quarterback then keeps the advantage in the box, with 5-on-5 (or with a zone read, 5-on-4). 

Here's another example of using a motion into the backfield opposed to a motion across the formation.

In this example, the "Z" receiver runs in motion behind the formation and both the offensive line and the back execute a variation of the buck sweep to the side opposite of the motion. This is a very similar scheme to the one above. If the corner on the motion receiver stays put, the quarterback throws to swinging receiver (since he has a 3-on-2 advantage). No one follows the receiver in the gif below, but the defense shifts along with the motion, putting three defenders on the right side and therefore nullifying that option. The quarterback then makes the correct decision by handing the ball off.

Mazzone doesn't only use motions - he also uses the same concepts without motions, giving him an opportunity to go at a quicker pace. 

Here's an example of the inside zone and bubble:

corner directly on the inside slot receiver (although he blitzes after the snap); leads to handoff
ASU goes no-huddle, USC forces to repeat the same defensive coverage. Osweiler quickly throws the ball to the outside, knowing that the corner is blitzing like the play before.
In the next post, we will look at Mazzone's signature package, on top of exploring the popular play-calling strategies of a successful offensive coordinator. For any extra coverage on what we've talked about today, or to learn more about the modern spread offense, go to This Oregon beat website has great scouting reports on opposing teams in the Pac-12, along with coverage on the Ducks. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Package Plays in All Forms pt.2

Last week we took a look at how the Oklahoma State Cowboys used the stick-draw to move the ball and put defensive players in perplexing situations. The Cowboys are certainly not the only team using package plays, but they made it their own by combining the quick pass and delayed run. Today, we will take a look at the combination of the zone read and the complementary flat route.

ARIZONA WILDCATS - Zone Read + Flat 

When one thinks of the triple option, they often think of the traditional flexbone and wishbone.
This is still used by a couple of college teams here and there, including the handful of service academies. But they're not the only ones running the triple option; many teams use the concept, just not in a way that you might immediately recognize.

Rich Rodriguez has long been considered an offensive guru in modern football. Not only is he given credit for accidentally inventing the shotgun zone read in a small divII college in West Virginia, but he was one of the first to combine a zone running game and a complementary screen game. 
Stay classy, Richy

Rodriguez uses the flat route, either with a bubble or a flare, to enhance the effectiveness of the running game.

Let's take a look at what I mean by this: here, the play combines an inside zone read with two slot screens. Both of them are pre-snap reads, but the play-side bubble also acts as a post-snap option for the quarterback. Let's simplify it and go through all of the scenarios: if either of the inside corners (inside the dotted circle/circle+square) show blitz or play way off of their respective receivers, the quarterback will take the snap and throw to that respective receiver, who is running a bubble. If they're playing close, then the quarterback is finished with his pre-snap reads. After the ball is snapped, if the play-side defensive end (in the dotted square) stays put when the quarterback puts the ball in the halfback's belly, the qb hands the ball off and carries out his fake, hoping to influence either the linebacker or that defensive end towards him, leaving a hole for the halfback to run through. If the end crashes, the quarterback pulls the ball out. Then if the corner (highlighted in the dotted circle+square) covers the bubble by the slot receiver all the way to the sideline, the quarterback has an open lane to run through. If that corner crashes on the quarterback, he flares the ball out to the uncovered receiver, hoping that the outside receiver properly executed his block.

I know what you're asking: "Wow, how in God's green earth can such an intricate play be ran on a consistent basis?!"
Well, it is, and quarterbacks have to go through reads like this for every play, so hopefully this will make you appreciate your favorite team's quarterback a little bit more. Unless you're a Jets fan. In which case, I'm sorry. Not for what I said, but for you being a Jets fan.

Now the marriage with the inside run and the bubble has been used by many, many teams, but the wham flat and the Y flat is something specific to the Wildcats. 

The "wham" block is when an eligible receiver (not a lineman) blocks the back-side (in the shotgun, the play-side) defensive end, who is left unblocked by the offensive lineman. After a while, teams started using the same block on a zone read. Take a look at the diagram below.
If the end stays, the FB blocks him and the QB hands off; if he crashes, the FB climbs up and makes a seal block for the QB.
Take a look at it used by the Cincy Bearcats
notice how the fullback blows up that unblocked defensive end

here's a case where he pulls

end crashes, fullback moves up to block the first man in a blue jersey

Now Rodriguez altered the concept slightly, with a fullback or tight end running a flat route instead of a slot receiver.

Here, the fullback runs off of the butt of the tackle and releases into the flat. It's a new variation off of the triple option.

Here's where the flat is uncovered
'backer crashes, tight end left open

and here's where it is covered
DE crashes, linebacker covers TE, opening a running lane by the QB

Even after a 7-5 season, the Wildcats are a team to watch going into next season, for their schemes if nothing else. I also watch them for their unique uniforms, but that isn't usually a common reason to watch a football game.

Well, that wraps it up for this lesson, and hopefully you're not too bored out of your mind. Also, a message from captain hindsight - this post might have not been great for all of you visual learners with slow wi-fi, the gifs helped demonstrate what I was talking about. But anyways, I hope you enjoyed this post (we're up to 2000+ viewers!) and have a happy, happy holidays, whether it be Christmas, Quanza, Festivus, or otherwise. 


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Package Plays in All Forms, pt1

I have long mentioned the concept of the  package(d) play; a strategy of using multiple concepts in one play. The objective is have the defense, either using in pre-snap or post-snap reads, decide where the ball goes. Football, believe it or not, is all about numbers. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona head coach and pioneer of the package play, preaches both the importance of putting the ball where the offense has a numerical advantage and getting players in open grass situations. Any given area of the field where the offense either outnumbers or has the same amount of players as the defense is considered a numerical advantage. This week, we will explore how specific teams use different schemes to achieve that goal - have the numerical advantage. Today, we will take a look at the Oklahoma State Cowboys.


Dana Holgorsen is credited for being the offensive engineer of the Air-Raid offense. At Oklahoma State, starting in 2010, he was one of the first to introduce new schemes on a national scale. This includes the Pistol Full House formation, the jet shovel, and most notably the stick-draw. You have seen all three of these concepts at least once while watching recent college football. Both the NCAA and the NFL are copycat leagues - if something works, you can bet it will be picked up by a multitude of teams in the near future. This was no exception; the Pistol Full House, for example, features three backs in the backfield with two lone receivers split out wide. This formation has spread like wildfire around all forms of football - high school, college, and even the NFL. Unfortunately, Oklahoma State hasn't used these concepts as much as they used to, since their personnel drove them in a different direction offensively. Still, Holgorsen deserves to be appreciated. 
He used the majority of concepts when he was at Houston, but virtually no one on the national stage was paying any attention to Houston. Not to be blunt, but were any of you watching Cougar football in 2008? I didn't think so.

the concept here is for the quarterback to read the defender shaded over the inside slot receiver. This is a post-snap read. When I refer to either a pre/post-snap read, I mean that the quarterback looks at the position or movement of a specific defender, either before or after the ball is snapped. In all of my diagrams, a dotted circle indicates a pre-snap read (isolation route by the X receiver), and a dotted square indicates a post-snap read.
 *Note - in many of these concepts, if there is an isolated receiver on the back-side of the play (the X in the picture), he is almost always running an isolation route. This route can be a number of things, but the concept is that if the cornerback on that receiver is playing at least seven or eight yards off of the receiver, the quarterback can take the snap and immediately throw to that receiver. This is still considered a numerical advantage, and the receiver is expected to catch the ball and make a play in open space. 
Back to the play: the three receivers on the right are running what is called a "stick" route combination. The outside (Z) receiver is running a streak in attempt to push the safety upfield and prevent him from cluttering the quarterback's read. The outside slot (osl) receiver is running a quick out, and the inside slot is going a yard upfield and then "sticking" back to the quarterback, hence the name. Inside the tackles, the offensive line is running a draw play. The concept of a draw is to get the defense thinking that it's a pass and then surprising them by running the ball. Holgersen, the smart devil that he is, put them into one play. If that linebacker sits on the stick route, the quarterback hands the ball off to his back, who should have a hole to run through. If the defender blitzes towards the line, the quarterback ignores the handoff and throws to the stick route in the open void. Either way, the play takes advantage of numbers and open space.
*Note #2 - in all plays using a run-pass option, any offensive player who blocks on the second level (past the trenches), either a receiver or a lineman, is told to let the defender come to them instead of immediately attacking the defender to block. This is for two reasons - 1) if it turns out that the ball is going in the opposite direction, why block the defender? If he's paying attention, he will follow the ball, even though it would be virtually impossible for him to make a play since the ball is going in the other direction. So why waste energy trying to block someone that can only end out negatively with a holding penalty. 2) it is illegal for both lineman and receivers to block a certain number of yards past the line of scrimmage if the quarterback has the option to pass. For lineman, this is the ineligible man downfield rule. For receivers, this is considered offensive pass interference. 

The NFL has their own variation of the play, turning the draw into a back-side screen. In the NFL, defenders are much faster and stronger, so the stick-draw doesn't necessarily have the same effect as it does in lower levels of football. Similar concept, just something to ponder upon. 

Here's the stick-draw in action. This clip is of Arizona State using the concept under then offensive coordinator Noel Mizzone. Ironically, we will be talking about this offensive genius in the near future. He has been credited for his own creations in the college football world, but we'll get to that in due time. Take a look and see the play in action.

Well, that wraps up this analysis on the stick-draw. All of this junk for one play?! I can't believe it! Stay tuned for more of these one-play analyses. A new one might be up in 24 hours, if you're lucky.