For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
This week's Breakdown will look at Kansas' failed fake field goal on fourth and 10 in the second quarter of Saturday's 41-14 loss to Baylor. Video is below.
Let's first explain the process that might go into KU calling for a fake field goal.
Coach says that, on his squad, before the special teams goes on the field, the special teams coach delivers the call to the players on the sideline.
Sometimes, the call is, "Kick the field goal," which means kick it regardless of what the opponent does.
Other times, though, the call is "Check fake field goal," which means to run the fake if you get a certain look from the defense.
"The (holder)'s not just going out there on his own and saying, 'Hey, we're running the fake field goal here,'" Coach says. "It's definitely on the staff and their special teams players to know what they're looking for."
Coach says, most likely, KU went over certain scenarios in practice to show the potential looks Baylor might give.
In this case, Coach believes the Jayhawks saw a "seven-by-four" setup from Baylor.
Take a look. Using the short snapper's head as a midline, BU has four players on the left side of the screen and seven players on the right, meaning KU should have a blocking edge to the left.
"That could be what he sees, and going into this game, that could have been KU's automatic check," Coach says. "If you see seven-by-four, and the coach says, 'Hey, this time, run, "Check field goal,"' or whatever your call might be, and he sees seven-by-four ... 'OK, we're running the fake.'"*
When the fake is on, Coach says the holder will call out a certain signal in the snap count to alert the players on the line.
* — This also seems to match up with what KU coach Charlie Weis said after the game about the fake field goal: "Actually, it was a play that, if you had the look, go ahead and do it. If not, go ahead and kick the field goal. There was that gray area right there. I thought we were going to kick the field goal based off the look, but supposedly, that's at least pre-snap what they were expecting.
"I thought we were going to check off and go ahead and kick the field goal, but that's not the way it turned out. The play was to roll to one side or the other based on the look. It just so happened it was to roll to the boundary based on how they lined up."
Coach says this is a basic "Power" running play (we discussed those more in this Breakdown blog if you're interested), where offensive linemen on the left side down block — or block in the opposite direction of the run — while the right guard pulls around.
The biggest problem here, Coach says, is that KU's right guard Duane Zlatnik (No. 67) pulls into the wrong hole.
We get a good look at this from the end zone camera view. Instead of pulling into the hole by the referee (blue arrow), Zlatnik goes wide with his lead block (red arrow).
Coach says the hole a pulling guard picks depends on the defensive front, but here, it's clear that Zlatnik should have stayed to the inside.
Another way to know this: KU's outside blockers Jimmay Mundine (No. 41) and Shane Smith (No. 91) are both blocking their defenders to the outside.
That tells us they're both expecting this run to go behind their backs.
We see what happens on the video when Zlatnik doesn't cut up into inside hole. When Jablonski starts to run, the opening isn't there because Baylor's standup linebacker is unblocked.
This forces Jablonski to go wide, where he's tackled for a one-yard loss.
"I'm not saying they're going to get a first down by any means, because Baylor's got a couple defenders there," Coach says, "but if (Zlatnik) pulls up in the hole, the quarterback can follow him right up the hole and might have a chance."
Coach says, ideally, Mundine and Smith would start with a double-team on Baylor's defensive lineman before working up to block one of the linebackers (No. 1 in blue below).
Then, Zlatnik could pull around in the hole to take out the other linebacker (No. 2 below).
Coach did say that checks are commonplace on special teams. For example, on his team's shield punt, if an opponent sends four guys to rush the punter through the "A" gaps (on the left and right side of the long snapper), the coaches will "check" to a rugby punt to give their punter some extra space.
The opposite is true if a team shows that it is rushing from the edge on a rugby punt. The team then checks back into a standard punt so the punter doesn't run into pressure.
In that example, one of the shield blockers would check to the different call after getting word from the coaches.
"The coaches are on the headsets and making sure that they're seeing the same thing up top (in the booth) as what the coaches are seeing on the field," Coach says. "Then, the coach on the field gives hand signals to one of the upbacks in the shield."
Coach admits, in the play above, he's a bit surprised that KU dialed up this particular fake.
"It's a pretty risky play on fourth and 10," Coach says. "You'd think this would be maybe a fourth-and-6 or less call.
"You'd probably want to have a pass play called, but like we said earlier, it's something you go into the game with as far as your gameplan. Everyone just has to be on the same page with it."
For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
This week's Breakdown will look at Texas' fourth-and-six conversion against Kansas in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 21-17 victory. Video is below. (Note: Lubbock Smith's interception is at the end of the YouTube clip, but we won't be discussing it).
KU elects to rush three on this play while dropping eight into coverage.
Let's start by looking at KU's defensive line, which Coach says does a decent job.
If you look, Texas — after using its running back to help block — has six players in protection.
That essentially means each of KU's rushers are double-teamed on this play.
Despite this, Coach says KU still is able to get some pressure.
KU's left defensive end Josh Williams is able to get upfield to condense the pocket for Texas quarterback Case McCoy.
Meanwhile, Texas center Dominic Espinosa — after getting early double-team help from right guard Mason Walters — isn't able to stop penetration from KU defensive tackle Keba Agostinho.
Agostinho gets his hand up to deflect the pass, and the only thing that appears to stop him from doing that is a two-handed tug by Espinosa.
"It looks like (Agostinho) gets held just a little bit right there at the end of the play," Coach says. "He does a nice job."
Coach even notices that Espinosa, at the end of the film, puts both hands up as if to say, "I'm innocent."
"That's the last thing you want to do, really," Coach says, "because that's an indicator of, 'Hey, you did just do something.'"
Let's take a look at the back end of the defense, as Texas has four primary receivers to go against eight KU defenders in coverage.
Coach says this is a Cover 2 zone defense from KU. This means the cornerbacks cover the flats, the safeties have the deep halves of the field, the outside linebackers have the "hook/curl" zones on the outside and the two inside linebackers have the two middle holes zones in front of the safeties.
Here's basically what this should look like, using a video-game screenshot from Domerdomain.com.
The goal of dropping eight into coverage is to make it difficult for the offense to find any place to throw the ball.
Texas still finds a soft spot in the zone behind KU inside linebacker Huldon Tharp and in front of the safeties.
Coach says Texas is running four vertical routes here, with Jaxon Shipley bending to the middle to find an opening in KU's setup.
Remember, Texas had a little extra time to come up with this play, as receiver Mike Davis was hurt after third down.
"If it's a third down and long or fourth down-type of play, you might expect to find a Cover 2," Coach says. "That's what you prepare for throughout the week (when you) understand a team's tendencies."
Coach says in a Cover 2, teams want to attack the middle of the field. The reason for this is because the linebackers are there, who tend to be the least athletic when it comes to coverage.
Though Tharp is technically in the correct area, Coach says he could have done a better job or reading the play.
"He should really work with the eyes of the quarterback right here," Coach says. "See, he's got a corner out to his outside. You see No. 33 (Tyler Patmon) is the corner on his outside? When that receiver starts to work to the middle of the field, and the quarterback's eyes are going with that receiver to the middle of the field, now you can start to squeeze it down, because you know you've got a corner on your outside to help. That way you make this throwing lane a lot tighter for the quarterback and the receiver."
We get a great view of it with the end-zone camera angle, as McCoy never takes his eyes of his primary receiver Shipley.
Coach says one of the big advantages of playing a zone defense is that defenders can "see the ball off" — watching the quarterback and reading him to help make better decisions.
In this case, Tharp got out a little bit too wide in his zone based on the information he had.
"Try and close this throwing lane down by using your eyes, seeing the quarterback and also feeling the receiver behind you," Coach says. "You're not going to see the receiver cut behind you, but you just have to feel him coming to the inside by where the quarterback's looking."
When I asked Tharp Wednesday about that particular fourth-and-six play, he admitted that he wasn't happy about it after going through film sessions with the linebackers.
"Like they always say, 'Football's a game of inches.' That's very true," Tharp said. "You can be a little bit out of position and end up — especially against athletes in the Big 12 — you can end up looking a lot worse than you thought you might end up looking.
"But that's definitely one I wish I could have had back. But you learn from it."
When talking about the final drive in general, Tharp said that KU's defense would be better prepared for a situation like that in the future.
"Looking back at the film, you just kind of hate yourself for seeing some of the stuff that you gave up," Tharp said. "But there's always room for improvement, and that's something we can build on."
For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
This week, I've split our "Breakdown" into two blog posts. This one will focus on Oklahoma returner Justin Brown's 90-yard punt return for touchdown against Kansas last week. (We'll look at Roy Finch's 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown Friday.)
Coach starts by saying that, while KU punter Ron Doherty's punt is deep, it still could have been placed better.
Notice that with their "shield" alignment for the punt, the Jayhawks have all their players lined up from the middle of the field over to the right side of the field.
"What does that tell you? That tells you that you want your punter to kick the ball over to the right," Coach says. "Now, he does kick it over to the right, but he kicks it between the hash and the numbers.
"You'd really like to see him kick this down here to the bottom of the numbers or even closer to the sideline so you can keep their return man pinned to the sideline."
I asked Coach if directionally punting was a tough skill to master.
"For people who don't punt, you would think that would be a hard job, but this guy's a college punter. He's a D-I punter," Coach says. "Basically, that's his only job, though he might be a kicker as well. That's his only job, so you have to be able to get your job done when your number is called."
Coach says KU runs a nice scheme at the top, as JaCorey Shepherd (No. 25) and Victor Simmons (No. 27) criss-cross.
OU's two players aren't expecting this, and they nearly collide for a second, which allows both Shepherd and Simmons to get a fairly clean run down the field.
"That's great. They basically switch responsibilities," Coach says. "Those guys are both in their lanes running down the field. They're doing a nice job right there."
Coach sees one problem with KU's players at the seven-second mark of the video.
"Notice how there's one guy on the 20-yard line, there's one guy on the 22-yard line, and there's one guy on the 24-yard line for KU?" Coach says.
"One rule on special teams, when you're covering kicks, never follow the same-colored jersey. You've got two guys in the lane, and that's never going to end up being very good for you. They should spread out a little bit more. Move over here to your left a little bit more. Get your lanes a little bit wider right there."
KU's players do start to spread out their lanes after that, and Coach says the Jayhawks are in an ideal position to make this tackle at 9 seconds while forming a semicircle around Brown.
Coach says the biggest mistake comes from KU long-snapper Justin Carnes, who is second from the top in the semicircle above.
"See how his head goes down, and he is not in control right there?" Coach says.
"He needs to get his body under control, break down. If you give the Oklahoma punt returner two more yards, then your coaches aren't going to be upset with you. But when you don't break down, and you let the guy run right past you to your right ... all your help right now is over here to your left.
"Keep it on your inside shoulder, keep leverage on the return man, break down, be under control. Then, if the Oklahoma punt returner has to slow his feet down, then you've won, because then you can rally the troops and get to the play."
Carnes' overrun of the play, though, allows Brown to work back to the sideline.
Even after the miscue, Coach says KU has what appears to be another great picture at 12 seconds.
"They've got three guys. You can count them from the top — 1, 2, 3 — in good position to make a play," Coach says. "There's no blockers on any of these three guys."
Once again, though, Coach says a KU player doesn't break down in time. This time, it's Pat Lewandowski at the top of the screen (No. 61), who can't slow his feet down in time when Brown cuts back.
"Get your body under control," Coach says. "Get your shoulders more squared to the returner."
Coach also notes that both Shepherd (No. 25) and Marquis Jackson (No. 28) overrun the play to allow Brown to break free.
"Go to that guy's near hip," Coach says. "Try to get the thing on the ground. ... That's just not good football."
After Brown cuts back to the middle of the field, he makes a move past Shane Smith (No. 91).
Because Smith was one of the blockers in the shield, Coach says you're probably not going to ask him to make a lot of tackles in punt return, as his main objective is to protect the punter.
Brown uses his speed from there to get to the end zone.
Coach says the Jayhawks could have stopped this play on two different occasions if they had used better technique when Brown seemingly had nowhere to go.
"Obviously, Oklahoma's probably a deeper team than KU is as far as talent goes," Coach says. "They're going to have probably some better players on their special teams than KU's going to be putting out there. It's going to come down to the guys you put out there, not necessarily the scheme you run or any fancy tricks that you might try and use.
"(But) you still can go back and rely on your fundamentals."
I figured this week would be as good as any to break down a good play for Kansas, so here's running back James Sims' 30-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of the Jayhawks' 20-14 loss to Oklahoma State.
Coach says this type of run is called an outside zone, or "stretch" play.
Coach says the play is designed to give the running back three different options. He can "bang" it up in the middle if he gets some good blocks there; he can "bend" it back to the inside if the defense overpursues the play; or he can "bounce" it all the way to the outside if the blockers pinch down and keep the defenders logged in the middle.
"It's definitely a play where your running back's got to have a little bit of patience," Coach says, "and use some of his vision to make sure he hits the right spot."
In this instance, Sims chooses the "bend it back" option, which ends up being the right choice.
Let's get back to some of the blocking, though.
Coach says the technique used by the offensive linemen here is called "pin and pull." Basically, KU's right tackle Gavin Howard pins the defensive lineman to the inside, while right guard Randall Dent and center Trevor Marrongelli pull around him.
Coach gives the first kudos to Howard.
"The pin block is very good by the right tackle," Coach says.
"The right tackle does a nice job of pinning the three-technique (defensive lineman outside the guard) all the way down right there."
As Marrongelli and Dent pull around (red arrows above), there aren't many people in the hole for them to block.
Coach says there are two reasons for this. For one, KU has a bunched formation, putting all of its players close to the ball without putting any receivers out wide.
That formation gives KU's outside players an advantage, allowing them to get inside of OSU's defenders to drive them to the edge.
The other reason KU's linemen don't have many people to block is because of KU's outside players: receiver Tre' Parmalee (No. 11, top of picture) and tight end Jimmay Mundine (No. 41, bottom).
"The tight end and the outside receiver there on the right side both do a nice job of blocking the defensive end and the outside linebacker," Coach says, "and getting those guys kicked outside."
Coach says Sims gets an OK block from Marrongelli — "Probably not his best block," Coach says — but the defender that Marrongelli is blocking ends up overrunning the play.
When Sims sees this, he decides to "bend" it back to the inside.
Two things to note from the picture above. For one, OSU's No. 8 is totally unblocked on this play, but he overruns the play as well. Coach says that's the beauty of a stretch play — sometimes you don't always have to block everyone, as defenders often run themselves out of the play.
The second thing to note is OSU defensive linenman James Castleman (No. 91). From looking at this screenshot, you might expect him to make this tackle, as he appears to be in the hole.
This is a good time to chronicle his path throughout this entire play thanks to KU left tackle Tanner Hawkinson (No. 72).
Hawkinson drives Castleman all the way across the field, then finishes the block by knocking the D-lineman to the ground.
"That's a great finish," Coach says. "In football terms, that's what's called a pancake, when an offensive lineman pretty much flattens a defensive lineman like that. He's getting some props in the film room for that one.
"That's great. He really finishes — runs his feet and finishes. He gets the guy on skates, then finishes it and lands on top of him. That's awesome right there."
Sims gets one more block, this one from receiver Kale Pick.
"Big plays happen outside and deep," Coach says. "(Pick) right there is doing a nice job of getting downfield and getting the defensive back covered as well."
Sims does the rest, as following a nice cut, he uses his speed to get to the end zone.
"Just a good football play," Coach says. "Good design. Nice job with some good blocks and finishing things off, and of course, a good run by the tailback.
"But of course, he didn't do everything on his own right here. He owes his teammates a lot of credit as well."
Roughing the punter
I wanted to get Coach's quick thoughts on JaCorey Shepherd's failed punt block attempt at the end of the KU-OSU game.
Coach says, with better technique, this is a ball that would have been blocked.
Coach says his team teaches punt blockers to put their hands down onto the football. The coaching staff also teaches its players to put their hands together to get greater surface area and teaches them to block the ball low — aiming to take it off the punter's foot.
As you can see from the photo above, Shepherd extends his arms too high into the air and also isn't in a position to block it down, leaving his fingers up high.
Had he blocked down — and tried to block the ball lower — Shepherd would have been in a better position to come up with a game-changing play for the Jayhawks.
Kansas coach Charlie Weis said his biggest disappointment during last week's 56-16 loss to Kansas State was the plays when a Wildcat scored without getting touched.
I wanted to take a look at one of those plays this week: KSU quarterback Collin Klein's 28-yard touchdown run off the option in the third quarter.
If we look at this play pre-snap, KU is bringing a safety blitz, with safety Bradley McDougald coming in off the edge. "Coach" says oftentimes, a team will roll down its safety to the line of scrimmage to help when it's had difficulties stopping a team's running game.
There's one main problem with this for KU, though. Right before the play begins, KSU tight end Travis Tannahill goes in motion, which switches the strength of the formation.
Now, KSU has more players on the opposite side of the field, and that gives KSU a numbers advantage toward the wide side.
"I say that, and there's three defenders up here in a triangle: the defensive backs and the outside linebacker. You might say, 'Well, they don't really have them outnumbered, because they've got three on two down here,'" Coach says. "But when you think about an option play, you always have to account for the quarterback as well. So they've got two guys out here to block two. They pitch off the third man. And KU, technically, is outnumbered here."
Coach says KU has options when Tannahill goes in motion. The Jayhawks could check out of the blitz and play their base defense. Some teams also will move their previous safety back and "spin down" their other safety to put their blitz toward the strength of the formation.
KU does neither here, though, as McDougald continues his blitz from the weakside.
We can see that this doesn't turn out well for KU a few seconds in.
Coach says KU defensive end Jordan Tavai (No. 9) gets "reach" blocked, meaning the offensive lineman to the side of him is able to move quickly enough to get both hands on him.
That means KU has three defenders attacking the same gap: the one around the left tackle's outside shoulder.
"That is not very good," Coach says. "Even two guys in one gap is really not going to be very beneficial for a defense."
Coach does single out one defender who does a nice job: KU defensive end Josh Williams.
With the option coming to his side, he does not allow the lineman in front of him to "reach" him, instead keeping an outside arm free. That way, if there was a pitch, he would have had a chance to break free, run and make a tackle.
Williams also stays wide enough to force Klein back to the inside where other defenders should be.
"(The outside) is where Klein is actually trying to get to and attack (Williams) right there and make him make a decision: Take Klein or take the running back," Coach says. "The ball didn't get all the way outside because of 95.
" ... What needs to happen is the linebackers and the defensive line inside of him, those guys need to not get reached and continue to run with the play as well and fill their gaps."
No KU player, though, is able to beat his block, as KSU's offensive line does a great job of run blocking.
KU defensive lineman Kevin Young is sealed off by the right tackle Cornelius Lucas, which allows Klein to get to the outside.
"(Young) gets reached right there," Coach says. "He might have gotten held a little bit right there, but he needs to do a little bit better job of fitting into his gap. "
KU freshman linebacker Schyler Miles (No. 32) is knocked to the ground by KSU right guard Boston Stieverson (No. 77), which takes him out of the play.
"32 needs to play off the cut and stay on his feet right there," Coach says. "Therefore, he'd be in his gap right there, and Klein wouldn't have such a big running lane."
KU linebacker Huldon Tharp also takes himself out of the play when he decides to put two hands on KSU offensive lineman Keenan Taylor, who was chasing him from the weak side.
"He should really just take his right hand and put it right directly into the sternum of that left guard right there, and therefore, that keeps his left arm free to help him continue to get to his gap and run with this play," Coach says. "Therefore, he might be in this alley right here to make a tackle as well. He puts both of his hands on that guard. It gets him out of position. It slows both of his feet down. Therefore, it doesn't allow him to make the play.
Even with KU's players not able to beat their blockers, Coach says KU's biggest issue is with positioning following Tannahill's motion.
"(Fans) might think motion is just to put a guy on a different side or something like that," Coach says. "But really, if K-State had this play, looked at it on film and saw that KU didn't adjust very well to motion, it's a great call, because they've got them outmanned to the wide side of the field.
" ... Alignment and maybe checking out of a blitz could have helped (KU) quite a bit out on this play."
After hearing so many different opinions about Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist's performance against TCU, I thought this would be a good week to take a broader view and have Coach look over the film to see how he would grade Crist's play.
I went back and cut up video of every KU passing play against TCU, including the ones that turned into sacks or rushes.
I then told Coach to watch the film like he was scouting an opponent and make notes about what he saw from Crist.
Here are Coach's notes.
• "Obviously, he has a big arm. He's very accurate, for the most part. I think he makes pretty good decisions with where to go with the ball. Some of the clips, it's hard to see the receivers, if they're separating downfield or not.
"For the most part, he has good ball fundamentals. When they run play-action, he does a good job faking the football and then making sure he's back with the proper throwing angle."
Coach says some of Crist's good fundamentals can be seen on the first play of the video above.
"Even though he's on the move, he does a nice job of whipping that left shoulder around and getting it pointed to his target," Coach said. "He has a high ball. The ball is above his right ear.
"That's a great throwing motion, and the ball, therefore, is right on target."
• "He's making pretty good decisions. Some of the times when it looks like he's holding onto the ball too long, that could just be a coverage sack (where) TCU had the receivers covered up. He doesn't necessarily have any place to go with the ball, so he takes the sack."
• "He really has that kind of arm and accuracy to make all the throws (needed of a quarterback).
• "He uses good footwork in the pocket for the most part. And, without scrambling, he knows how to get away from the rush by moving his feet and staying in a good throwing position."
• "Sometimes, I think he looks like he forces it, tries to rely on that big arm and accuracy and forces the ball in there. For instance, the interception. He tried to force that one into a window where he probably should have made a better decision on that play."
Speaking of the interception, notice that KU finished with two receivers close to each other.
"We used to run a play that was similar to that, and I never really liked it because you're bringing two receivers into one area," Coach said. "That means you're bringing more defenders into that area as well.
"It looks like they're trying to run it off play-action and get a nice rollout there and get two guys on different levels on the outside of the field, but I've never really liked that type of play right there because you've got teams that run combo coverage, like TCU does right here. They've got a guy over the top, they've got a guy in the intermediate, and they've got a guy underneath. It's going to be tough to find an open receiver right there."
Coach said the play call still doesn't excuse Crist's poor pass in this instance.
"That's the thing with guys that can 'make all the throws' is sometimes they rely on their arm strength and accuracy and really fire it in there when they really should make a better decision," Coach said. " ... Sometimes, (Crist) relies on his arm strength a little too much and tries to force it into small windows."
• "Sometimes he makes a bad decision when he should maybe scramble or throw the ball away. He can run pretty decent. He's not RG3 or anything like that, but he can definitely get out of the pocket and gain positive yards.
"A couple of times when he took the sack, it looked like he might have been locked on a receiver for quite a while during a play. Maybe, instead of looking at that receiver for so long, just go ahead and take off and try to get a few yards out of it."
I asked Coach for his overall assessment of Crist.
"If I were grading him right here, I'd say he had a pretty decent ball game," Coach said. "I'd say, for the most part, he was getting the ball to the receivers when they were open and made pretty good decisions. He could just use a little bit more help around him.
"It seems like he's holding onto the ball a little bit too long at times, but then again, that could mean the DBs downfield have got the wide receivers covered up pretty good, and they're not getting a whole lot of separation."
Coach said the numbers — Crist finished 19-for-39 for 303 yards with no touchdowns, an interception and a lost fumble — probably don't reflect how well KU's QB played Saturday.
"He obviously had a few drops in there that could have upped his accuracy," Coach said. "Of course, he did throw a few away when he was getting pressured and didn't have an open receiver. Sometimes that low completion percentage can be a little bit skewed."
When I asked Coach about Crist's best throws, he didn't hesitate.
"The one I really love ... it's right at three minutes," Coach said.
"They're backed up in their own territory. They run a little play-action pass. He steps up. The pocket is pretty good. He gets rushed a little bit from his right, but he steps up into the pocket behind the center and the guard and just makes an absolutely great throw to a receiver that doesn't really have a whole lot of separation right there.
"He puts the ball on a line. It's a throw where only his guy is going to catch it. It's either going to be a catch or an incomplete pass — definitely not going to get intercepted. But just an absolutely great throw. That's pretty good."
Coach said one other throw stood out most: the deep ball down the sideline to Andrew Turzilli on KU's final possession (5:40 mark of video).
"The receiver doesn't even really do that great of a job. See how the receiver is very close to the sideline right there?" Coach said.
"That's not necessarily a great route by the receiver, because Crist really only has one place where he can throw the ball. It has to be a perfect throw. It has to be over the defender, not out of bounds, high enough so the receiver can run underneath it.
"What we tell our receivers is, when we run these go routes like this, we try to do the best we can to be close to the bottom of the numbers. That way, the quarterback can lead you directly up the bottom of the numbers or, if you have to fade out any, you're fading out, but you're still not fading out so far that you're running out of bounds (red arrow instead of blue arrow).
"In this situation, the receiver is so close to the sideline, he has no room to fade out. Crist only has one place to throw the ball, and he puts it right on the money. That's an absolute great throw right there."
Because I've heard a lot of opinions about Crist from fans, I ended by asking Coach if — based on the film — he would consider Crist to be a Big 12-caliber quarterback.
"I think he's definitely a Big 12-level quarterback," Coach said. "He's a big kid. He's got good feet. He's got a good arm. For the most part, he makes good decisions.
"I think this is a quarterback who can win games for you. You just have to put him in position to make the best plays possible."
This week, I wanted to look at Rice's fourth-and-four conversion in the fourth quarter of Kansas' 25-24 loss to Rice on Saturday.
Though it initially looks like a bubble screen for the tight end, Coach says that's not the case because the receivers aren't blocking for the tight end at the bottom of the screen.
"They're running a combo route here, having all their receivers get to the sticks to try to get a first down," Coach says.
"This slot receiver (red arrow) is going to be the outlet receiver. (The quarterback) gets pressure, so he ends up having to throw to the outlet receiver, probably before he wants to."
Coach pauses the video at six seconds.
"That's an absolutely great picture if you're the Kansas defense," Coach says. "Both the KU defenders have an angle on the receiver. They just need to close to the near hip and not over-run it. They just need to make a tackle."
After that, everything breaks down.
The first man up is safety Dexter Linton, who was in following an injury to starter Lubbock Smith.
Coach says Linton's biggest mistake here isn't missing the tackle. He actually does the right thing by trying to tackle low against a bigger tight end.
Instead, Coach says it's the angle that he takes to the receiver.
Many coaches say, "Use the sideline as your friend," and in this case, Coach says that's what Linton needed to do.
By going "inside-out" on the tight end — starting inside and forcing the receiver outside — Linton would not only have a better chance at getting him out of bounds, he'd also have the added benefit of getting help from cornerback Greg Brown behind him.
Linton overruns the play, though, and misses the tackle while also allowing Vance McDonald to get back to the inside.
Though Brown also overruns the play, Coach says his positioning on the outside might be based on his expectation that Linton is going to force the action outside.
In that case, Coach says KU would have had play bottled up from both sides, with one defender on the inside and one to help clean up the tackle on the outside.
"It kind of looks like that's what No. 5 (Brown) is doing," Coach says. "He thinks 23 is going inside-out on it, so he's going to go to the outside and keep No. 88 in between both of them to make a definite tackle and get it on the ground before the first down."
Brown does end up making the tackle, but McDonald is able to keep his balance for two big steps before falling forward for the first down.
"That tight end does a good job of making a play, cutting back to the middle of the field and not giving up on the play and saying, 'I'm down,'" Coach says. "Going up and getting the first down ... that's an excellent job."
Coach says the missed tackle masks the fact that KU did a lot of things right on this play.
For one, the Jayhawks get almost immediate pressure on Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue.
That starts with defensive end Josh Williams, who uses a "Jet" technique — jetting straight up the field — to get pressure on the QB.
Notice also that, just a half-second before the play, it doesn't appear that KU is blitzing.
Coach says KU linebacker Tunde Bakare does a great job of timing his blitz, coming just before the snap to catch Rice off-guard.
Bakare comes inside of Williams and also helps bring an immediate pass rush.
"Those two really did a good job right there to get pressure on the quarterback, force the ball out," Coach says. "That's exactly what you'd like in short-yardage situation ... get the ball out of the QB's hands in a hurry, then let's go make a tackle."
Coach also says this is a good call by defensive coordinator Dave Campo.
KU brings five on the play — three linemen and two linebackers — which leaves KU with a single free safety to help cover the middle of the field.
That leaves all KU's other defenders in man-to-man.
"A little bit of a risky coverage, but when you blitz, you absolutely have to get pressure," Coach says. "KU does get pressure right here. They get the ball out quick like we said. The ball's caught two or three yards behind the line of scrimmage. They have exactly what they want. They just have to make a tackle.
"KU dialed up the exactly correct call right here. You just have to execute."
Coach says there are times in football when a coach makes a poor defensive call, putting his team in a bad situation.
There are other times when a coach makes a good call — putting everyone in the right position — but a player just doesn't make a play.
"Both times are very frustrating for a coach," Coach says. "Actually, the first one not as much frustrating as the second one."
For this first week, I wanted to look at two different plays from Kansas' 31-17 victory over South Dakota State on Saturday.
First, let's examine KU's breakdown on Zach Zenner's 99-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Coach says this is a basic "One-Back Power" play, where offensive linemen on the right side down block — or block in the opposite direction of the run — while the left guard pulls around.
I found a good illustration of this play in this article by X&O labs.
We get a good view of this blocking on the replay starting at 15 seconds.
One of the first things to notice is that KU defensive end Josh Williams, who starts on the hashmarks, gets knocked out of the play by SDSU tight end Seth Daughters.
"Basically, the tight end, for lack of a better term, whups that kid," Coach says. "He gets after that defensive end pretty bad right there."
Even with that happening, KU still should have enough defenders on that side of the field to make the play. The Jayhawks are in an "over" front, meaning they have more defenders to the side of the field of the tight end (in this case, the right side).
When asked about the breakdown, here's what KU coach Charlie Weis said after the game:
"We had two guys flow to the outside, and one was supposed to be inside, one was supposed to be out."
It's pretty easy to spot from the film, Coach says.
KU linebacker Huldon Tharp (No. 34) and safety Lubbock Smith (No. 1) are occupying the same gap.
"That linebacker, No. 34 (Tharp), he should hit that downhill and hit it inside of the pulling lineman," Coach says. "When the guard comes to pull, he should hit inside of that, and then the safety will come in and fill outside of it."
In essence, Tharp should be coming down where the red line is below, forcing the action to the outside, where he has Smith's help.
Instead, Tharp is caught on the outside of pulling left guard Taylor Suess, creating a hole up the middle for Zenner.
That gets Zenner to the second level, where KU cornerback Greg Brown is unable to make the tackle.
Though Brown starts in good position ...
Coach says Brown comes too far upfield before diving almost straight backwards as a last-ditch effort.
"He takes a bad angle right there," Coach says. "He just needs to take a better angle and put it on the ground for a 10-yard gain instead of a 99-yard touchdown."
KU safety Bradley McDougald is unable to catch up to Zenner, but part of that can be credited to SDSU.
Did you notice what happened at the top of the screen on the play?
SDSU's receivers fake a bubble screen. McDougald and KU cornerback Tyler Patmon have to honor the possibility of a screen there, moving closer to the line of scrimmage ... which takes them farther away from the run on the other side.
Let's take a look at KU's fourth-quarter running play now.
Instead of "One-Back Power," though, KU running back Taylor Cox's 39-yard run in the fourth quarter came on "Two-Back Power," as the Jayhawks had a pair of running backs in the game.
Just like SDSU above, KU's offensive linemen "down" block, or block their men in the opposite direction of the run.
The only difference is that fullback Brandon Bourbon comes through the right side to throw a kickout block in addition to left guard Duane Zlatnik pulling.
Coach says KU's players on the right side do such a good job that Zlatnik doesn't have anyone to block for a while.
That starts with KU tight end Jimmay Mundine, who lines up in the slot and drives SDSU's Doug Peete out of the hole.
"That’s a great job by the slot receiver taking care of an outside linebacker," Coach says. "If you could get that every time, you’d be pretty happy if you’re coach Weis."
Coach says Bourbon throws a nice kickout block on SDSU linebacker Ross Shafrath ...
which allows Zlatnik to continue running.
Here, Cox shows some maturity and patience, waiting behind Zlatnik instead of running past him.
"He sticks his arm, lets 67 lead him up to that second level," Coach says. "Then he continues to use that arm and has a nice stiff arm on 19 there to gain some extra yards."
Coach says the play could have even been better with an improved block from KU receiver Kale Pick on the opposite side.
Pick starts by getting his hands on SDSU cornerback Winston Wright.
"One thing you would like to see No. 7 get No. 14 sealed off," Coach says. "Just continue to run to 14’s inside shoulder right there, so then No. 14 wouldn’t even be able to be in the play at the end."
Instead, Pick loses contact ...
and Wright eventually slows Cox down a step before No. 19 Bo Helm later makes the tackle.
"It turns out being good effort by 14 here from the backside to get in on the play," Coach says. "He kind of gets stiff-armed at first, but he saved that from being a touchdown."
After taking an early lead against KU with a huge run, SDSU was essentially knocked out of the game late with Cox's 39-yard run.
Now you know the rest of the story.
"It’s essentially," Coach says, "the same play."
For this week's breakdown, let's look at Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett's 48-yard reception over the middle with 11 seconds to go in the half.
First, let's take a look at the coverage.
From looking at the film, Coach says KU is playing a Cover 42 zone — more commonly known as a Cover 6 zone.
The reason it is sometimes known as Cover 42 is because, essentially, KU is playing Cover 4 on the strong side of the field (the one with more receivers) and Cover 2 on the weak side of the field.
What does this mean?
Essentially, on the side with three KSU receivers, KU will have two players splitting the deep half of the field in a zone.
On the side with one wideout, KU will have one safety playing a deep zone over the top of that receiver.
Some nuances of the coverage are more complicated than we'll get into here. For example, Coach says KU's defenders will read the second receiver from the top of the screen to determine exactly where they'll go on the play.
The basic concept, though, will look much like this — from a screenshot I found online from the NCAA Football 12 video game.
If you look, KU's setup before the play almost exactly mimics the Cover 6 diagram from above.
So what goes wrong?
Much like KU's players and coaches admitted after the game, one player doesn't follow his assignment.
Though it's tough to see the number because of the camera angle, this appears to be KU safety Lubbock Smith (who also was playing that position on KU's previous drive).
In the Cover 6 diagram above, we can see that Smith's responsibility on this play will be to cover his deep "quarter" of the field. In this case, it's middle quarter of the field toward the three-receiver side.
Smith does something different instead.
Notice he starts this play on the beak of the Jayhawk.
Once the play begins, instead of backpedaling to keep everything in front of him (blue arrow), Smith turns upfield to cover the tight end (red arrow).
This leaves the deep middle to his side wide open.
"The guy who is standing right on the Jayhawk is the one who messes up," Coach says. "He should definitely lock onto this (route)."
Coach says the only reason the safety might break on the tight end is if he thought KU was in a man-to-man coverage. Obviously, that wasn't the case, as every other KU player was showing Cover 6 zone principles.
One other aspect to look at: Notice how close KU's cornerbacks are to the receivers, considering there are only 11 seconds left to go in the half?
The cornerbacks and safeties are between eight and 10 yards away from KSU's receivers.
It's not a huge adjustment, but Coach says you'd like to have your secondary guys back a little farther.
"If it’s me, I’ve got all those guys back to at least the 45-yard line," Coach says. "When you’re deeper, things sort themselves out in front of you."
With a few more yards to see everything, perhaps one of KU's defenders could have noticed the blown coverage and tried to make up for it by trying to stay behind the deepest receiver.
As it was, KSU stole back all the momentum before halftime — all because one KU defender out of 11 found himself in the wrong spot.
For this week's breakdown, I pulled out three successful offensive plays from Oklahoma State in its 70-28 victory over Kansas.
My question to Coach this week was simple: What stands out most to you as the breakdown on each play?
Coach says two things immediately pop out on this touchdown pass from Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon.
The first is the position of KU's defensive linemen when the ball is snapped, as all of KU's defensive linemen are not set.
None of them are in a typical three-point stance with a hand on the ground. This is a result of OSU's fast-paced offense.
Starting like this, KU's defensive linemen have little chance of being able to get leverage against OSU's offensive linemen.
"That’s why defensive linemen are in three-point stances," Coach says, "so they can fire off the ball and get a good push against the run, or even against the pass."
OSU's receivers make two good blocks on the outside, but the second thing that stands out most to Coach is the angle taken by KU safety Keeston Terry, who is unblocked.
If you watch the video again, Terry rushes up to the line of scrimmage to tackle Blackmon before circling back as the receiver runs by him.
He essentially takes a horseshoe route (red arrow) instead of taking an angle to where Blackmon is going (blue arrow).
"That’s a poor angle to the play," Coach says. "I always tell my guys, even when we’re blocking, take an angle to where the guy’s going, not to where he’s at, because the guy’s obviously moving as well."
Coach says that defenses typically work on pursuit angles in practice.
"Sometimes, (offenses) are going to get you on a play, but make the play a five-yard play or a 10-yard play," Coach says. "Don’t turn every single big play into a touchdown."
Let's move to the second play — a deep pass down the sideline from Weeden.
Coach says what stands out most is KU's front three.
"Obviously, they’re not getting any pass rush at all," Coach says. "It’s hard when you give good quarterbacks time to survey the field and time to throw, because a lot of times they’re going to find an open receiver, even if you are covering with eight."
Coach estimates that Weeden would have had at least three to four more seconds to throw the ball if he needed it, based on penetration of KU's defensive linemen.
Essentially, KU's nose tackle is being triple-teamed, which leaves the ends one-on-one. Neither gets within a few feet of Weeden when he releases the ball.
As for the coverage, Coach says it appears KU's Greg Brown is playing man-to-man press — a coverage usually reserved for blitzes or when a cornerback knows he has safety help.
With eight defenders to cover five receivers, Coach says there was some sort of "mental bust" on this play. Most likely, it was one of two things:
- The corner was supposed to be playing zone.
- The safety was supposed to help over the top of the route and didn't.
Coach says either way, this play was doomed to fail with as accurate as Weeden is. Give a good quarterback that much time, and he's going to find an open receiver.
The third play is a touchdown throw by backup QB Clint Chelf.
Coach says the thing that stands out about this play is how much KU's defenders bite on the play-action fake.
Because the Jayhawks' safeties commit themselves to the run, OSU receiver Isaiah Anderson is left wide open in the end zone.
KU coach Turner Gill talks a lot about getting players to "fly to the ball" defensively.
This is an instance, Coach says, when that mind-set might be harmful to a defense.
"That’s what you teach your defense is create pursuit angles — flying to the ball; get there fast; get there aggressively," Coach says. "But you also have to be disciplined in your flying to the ball: Read your keys, and make sure you’ve got your eyes where they’re supposed to be on every given play."