Breakdown: An example of KU’s offensive line getting out-physicaled by Rice
For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we’ll just call “Coach.”
Kansas coach Charlie Weis has made a few mentions this week about how he was disappointed in his offensive line play.
With that in mind, I wanted to take a look at a failed running play from the Jayhawks’ 23-14 loss to Rice on Saturday. At this point, KU was leading, 14-13, with possession in the fourth quarter.
This is a basic “Power” run play. Those offensive linemen on the “play” side — the direction where the ball is going to be run — are down blocking, meaning they are blocking the defenders to the inside of them (with the left tackle going upfield to take out a backside linebacker). Meanwhile, the right guard pulls around to kick out a linebacker in the hole.
I’ve made a GIF showing each KU player’s blocking assignment.
This play falls apart on multiple levels, the most glaring of which coming in the battle between Rice’s defensive tackle Christian Covington and KU’s left guard Randall Dent (No. 64).
Right after the snap, Dent is driven backwards by Klare, in essence getting “his (stuff) pushed in,” Coach says.
This disrupts the entire play. KU right guard Mike Smithburg tries to pull around to block, but he bangs directly into Dent instead.
Smithburg’s blocking assignment on this play is Rice linebacker James Radcliffe (No. 10), and with a free path, Radcliffe is able to get to the backfield to trip up KU running back James Sims.
“That’s a good indication of a defensive tackle not getting in on the stats and making a tackle or tackle-for-loss, but the defensive tackle is the one who makes this play,” Coach says. “He’s getting a pat on the butt in the film room after this one.”
Sometimes a team can help out its left guard on this play, as the left tackle can combine with him to form a double-team on the defensive tackle. After that block is secure, then the left tackle can move forward to take out the backside linebacker.
“I guess KU just thought that the left guard could handle this block one on one with the defensive tackle,” Coach says, “and really, it didn’t end up working.”
Dent isn’t the only one who struggles, though.
Notice the left tackle Aslam Sterling (No. 77) almost completely whiffs on his block of Michael Kutzler (No. 42), who is listed at 110 pounds lighter than Sterling. Because of that, Kutzler is able to get to Sims and help finish off the tackle on the one-yard gain. Look closely at the end, and you can even see Sterling slap his hands together in frustration.
Coach also says KU tight end Trent Smiley (No. 85) isn’t perfect here against Rice defensive end Tanner Leland (No. 13) either, as he allows quite a bit of penetration and at least needs to work for a stalemate to keep Leland out of the backfield.
Bottom line: Coach says this a good example of KU getting “out-physicaled” up front.
And while many fans have questioned why Weis didn’t run the ball more against Rice, Coach says no play call is going to work if it isn’t run correctly.
“You can call the hook-and-ladder, you can call the double-reverse pass, you can call this simple power play, you can call a simple inside zone running play,” Coach says. “No matter what you call, you have to execute it.”