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Reviewing JaCorey Shepherd's big play ... on KU's longest run of the season
For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
Here's video of KU's longest running play against McNeese State: a 47-yard run by true freshman Tony Pierson. Let's go a little more in-depth to show why it was successful.
Coach says the offensive line's blocking changes depending on the front that McNeese State is showing.
Coach calls this "covered-uncovered."
The basic idea is simple. If an offensive lineman is "covered," or has a defensive player directly in front of him, then the lineman's job is to block that player.
If an offensive lineman is "uncovered" with no defensive player in front of him, his job is to pull.
In this instance, the center Jeremiah Hatch has a player directly in front of him, so he simply blocks him. The left guard and left tackle, Trevor Marrongelli and Jeff Spikes, have a defensive lineman in front of them as well, so they double-team him.
But notice that right guard Duane Zlatnik (No. 67) is uncovered. That means he will pull on this play to block the defensive end on the opposite side.
As we can see, he does his job well.
In case you were wondering, if McNeese State's defensive tackle (No. 98) had lined up across from Zlatnik, then Zlatnik would have blocked him, and the center, Hatch, would have been responsible for pulling.
Tight end Tim Biere blocks a linebacker to set the edge, and Pierson also gets plenty of help from his receivers.
He gets the most help from true freshman JaCorey Shepherd, who is the slot receiver on this play. His assignment is to block the safety.
"He does a good job," Coach says. "He’s got his aiming point at the guy’s outside shoulder, and he’s got his hands inside and doesn’t hang onto him long enough (to get a holding penalty)."
Had Shepherd's hands been on the defender's outside shoulder pad instead of in his chestplate, Coach says that Shepherd would have almost surely been called for a hold.
As it was, his good hand position allowed him to make a legal block without drawing a flag.
KU's outside receiver (it appears to be Christian Matthews) also blocks a McNeese State cornerback well enough to allow Pierson to get by.
"Those two guys are doing a pretty good job," Coach says. "You’d like to see the outside receiver have that cornerback covered up a little bit better. You see how the cornerback gets inside of him a little bit there? But at least those guys are being physical at the point of attack and springing their back for some extra yards."
At this point, the blocking has helped Pierson to an eight-yard gain.
The next 39 yards can mostly be attributed to him.
Once Pierson gets to the second level, he makes a defender miss in the open field.
Recently, KU fans haven't seen their running backs make that kind of a move often, as the Jayhawks came into game with just two 30-plus-yard runs from running backs in their previous two seasons.
"That’s just on the back being a playmaker and going and getting extra yardage," Coach says. "That’s a nice run."
Coach also says he's impressed at the end of this run by KU receiver Kale Pick.
"This is what you like to see out of your backside receiver as well. Good job by him," Coach says. "You like to see that as a receivers coach, as an offensive coordinator, as a head coach, that guy hustling downfield to try and get the back some extra yardage."
Though it might go unnoticed to most, Coach says the blocking from KU's receivers — and especially Shepherd — had a huge impact on this long running play.
"It looks like it’s something that (the receivers) have probably worked on since last season," Coach says, "just trying to cover guys up and be more physical, use their hands better and use their feet."