Entries from blogs tagged with “The Breakdown”
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."
Let’s take a look at Tevin Washington's 52-yard touchdown pass to Roddy Jones in the third quarter of Georgia Tech's 66-24 victory on Sept. 17 to see where KU's breakdown was defensively.
This might be surprising, but Coach says that KU actually has a good defensive play call to defend this pass.
The Jayhawks are set up in a Cover 3 defense.
Let's go over the zone setup.
In a Cover 3, the deep part of the field is divided into three sections. The top cornerback has the deep, top-third of the field; the free safety (just off the screen) has the deep, middle-third of the field; and the bottom cornerback has the deep, bottom-third of the field.
Meanwhile, the four players at linebacker level have their own zones to cover.
Coach says the middle two linebackers cover the hook/curl zones in the middle of the field.
The two outside players cover the flats on their respective sides of the field.
Georgia Tech's routes are pretty easy to diagnose. Both outside receivers run vertical routes, while the A-back Roddy Jones runs a seam route.
These routes are perfect for KU's defense.
"You should have it covered," Coach says, "because your corners are going to take the outside two streaks, and your free safety should be locked on to the seam streak."
So why does this play go for a big gain?
That free safety we've been talking about ... he bites on play action pretty hard.
We barely see him on the screen (and can't see his number because of the camera angle), but the video shows that KU's safety cheats up hard, thinking this play is going to be a run. That leaves him out of position to cover the long pass.
Another important note: A casual fan might think safety Bradley McDougald is the one to blame for this blown coverage.
In actuality, McDougald sees early that KU is in trouble and is simply trying to prevent a big play.
He's unable to chase the play from behind. But just because he's closest to Jones doesn't mean that it's his man.
"That’s where play-action pass out of the option is such a valuable tool, because everybody’s concentrating on stopping the option, making sure they’re playing assignment-sound football," Coach says. "That’s where the play-action pass can really come in to bite you."
Let’s take a look at Jordan Webb’s six-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to D.J. Beshears on fourth-and-goal against Northern Illinois.
First off, Coach says this is a good play call in this situation, because it gives Webb lots of options.
“(Beshears) and the tight end (Tim Biere), they’re crossing in the middle,” Coach says. “It’s a good man-to-man-beater route because with those two guys crossing, a lot of times, that creates a natural pick. The defenders run into each other or maybe an offensive player runs into a defensive player.”
With the formation bunched like this, Coach says KU runs a pretty typical route combination on the outside, as Chris Omigie runs a corner route while Kale Pick runs a flat route. That route combination gives KU’s receivers plenty of room to work.
Webb said after the game that Beshears was his third read on the play, and Coach says that most likely, Pick was his first option and Omigie was his second.
With Northern Illinois playing man coverage with a free safety, KU’s play call is successful because of the crossing routes over the middle.
“You can’t see it in the picture, but I’m sure that tight end probably created a little natural pick right there to open up the receiver,” Coach says.
When NIU’s cornerback (No. 28) gets caught up in traffic, NIU’s safety (No. 19) isn’t quite quick enough to jump the route and break up the pass.
A couple of other interesting things with this play:
• NIU coach Dave Doeren told reporters afterward that he called a blitz on the final play, but really, this isn’t much of a blitz.
NIU does blitz two players, but it also drops both of its defensive ends to help cover the underneath routes.
Coach says teams typically use this type of defense if the opponent runs a lot of shallow crossing routes.
“It’s kind of an interesting defensive call,” Coach says. “You would think if you wanted to bring more pressure, you would have rushed both those defensive ends and still brought those linebackers. But really, they dialed up a pretty good defensive call here.”
It all was negated, though, because of a lack of discipline from one NIU player.
Notice the top defensive end on this play (No. 90, Alan Baxter)? At first, he drops back to help protect against the crossing routes.
But when Webb isn’t pressured, he panics. The defensive end makes a late break toward Webb at the end of the play.
“I think if he would have just sat back and had his head and eyes on a swivel,” Coach says, “he would have saw the receiver coming from the other side and been able to break on the ball better.”
Webb essentially ends up throwing the game-winning touchdown pass exactly where Baxter was standing earlier — and where he should have still been standing at the end of the play.*
If he stays there, Baxter most likely knocks the ball down. That, or Webb would have been forced to look elsewhere and perhaps might have been sacked.
This just shows what it means when football coaches talking about players being disciplined. A defense meant to guard against shallow crossing patterns was beaten by a shallow crossing pattern — all because one player didn’t stick with his assignment on the play.
* — More frustrating for NIU has to be that its other defensive end (No. 95, Sean Progar) stays disciplined on the play, not moving from the spot where he's assigned to be. If Webb would have tried to throw to Biere, the pass most likely would have been knocked down.
• KU also comes away with a touchdown despite less-than-ideal blitz pickup.
Though NIU only rushes four, one blitzer runs untouched towards Webb at the bottom of the screen.
“No. 74, the left tackle (Jeff Spikes), he needs to not get locked in on this linebacker blitzing right here and realize the guard is going to be able to pick up the linebacker,” Coach says.
Because KU’s center, Jeremiah Hatch, blocks the defensive lineman in front of him, and KU’s left guard, Trevor Marrongelli, takes the middle linebacker, Spikes’ responsibility should have been to take the blitzer on the outside.
Luckily for KU, the NIU player slips, which gives Webb the time he needs to win the game.
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."
According to Kansas coach Turner Gill, the competition for the starting quarterback job is pretty much down to two candidates: sophomore Kale Pick and freshman Jordan Webb.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of both from a coach's standpoint? That's the question we're going to look at in this segment of "The Breakdown."
For help with this blog, I have consulted a Division-II defensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach" in this blog.
I edited video of KU's football spring game to show only the plays where KU's top two QBs threw a pass or had a QB draw. The videos are below.
I then sent that tape to Coach, who took a look at it along with the wide-receivers coach on his staff — one that has experience as an offensive coordinator at the college level.
After watching the film, the two coaches wrote down observations about each quarterback.
Here are Coach's notes from the film, starting with Pick.*
* — It is important to note that our two assistant coaches could only evaluate from what they saw on the tape. The spring game is often labeled as a "glorified practice" and is one of 15 practices during the spring. Therefore, KU's coaches will have had many more opportunities to evaluate the two QBs.
“On the film that you gave me, (Webb) didn’t play as well as Pick did," Coach admitted.
• “He seems like he’s a pretty good ball-handler, especially with fakes to running backs. He has the ball where you want your quarterback to have the ball ... in a good throwing position on the pass drop.”
• “He’s a pretty accurate passer. When I say accurate passer, that’s a pretty general term for the outside public, that you can throw it within a however-many-yard circle, and the receiver can catch it. Sure, but it goes a little bit deeper as well. It gives your receiver a chance to run after the catch. Throwing the ball out in front of the receiver and giving him a chance to run with the ball after the catch.”
• “In the pocket, it seems like he has pretty good feet and uses good footwork and fundamentals with his footwork. Whether it’s a three-step drop or a five-step drop, getting your depth on your drop, then trusting that your offensive line is going to create that pocket for you, and being able to step up and throw that accurate pass.”
Last year, all of KU's snaps came from the shotgun, so I asked Coach how Pick seemed to be handling the transition to taking snaps under center.
“He looked pretty comfortable with his drops. The other thing about that is, (quarterbacks) are not getting hit in the spring game, either. That sure can make a guy feel a lot better when he knows, ‘The pass rush is coming at me, but they’re not going to kill me if one guy comes unblocked.’"
• “It seems like he has pretty good arm strength. Obviously, neither one of the guys is Brett Favre, because nobody is, but it seems like he has pretty good arm strength.
“There were a couple specific plays on there where the receiver was — I hate to say covered — but the receiver had a defender very near, and he threw the ball with enough zip and with enough accuracy. Let’s say a defensive back was covering me on my left shoulder behind me. Well, he knew how to throw it to my right shoulder and throw it in there with enough zip so the ball’s going to get there before the defender can make a play. He made a couple nice throws like that.”
• “He looks pretty fast and agile in the pocket.”
• “When they ran the bootleg stuff and got him out of the pocket, he seemed to have pretty good feet and was pretty fast. You could really see (the coaches this season) getting him on the move.”
• “It seemed like he might be holding on to the ball a little bit too long. There are certain situations where the defense is going to get you. They’re going to have your receivers covered. Well, you’re going to have to throw the ball out of bounds or throw the ball way too high for a receiver to catch. Sometimes, throwing the ball away is not a bad throw.”
• “Another time, he had a receiver who had a defender very near, and he threw the ball out of bounds and didn’t give the receiver a chance to make a play on the ball (2:34). If you throw the ball four yards out of bounds, your receiver’s not going to be able to catch it. Well, throw the ball basically right on the out of bounds line, and give your receiver a chance to catch the ball and get one foot down before he goes out of bounds."
• “He does have a quick release. He got rid of the ball on time. Instead of having a long, extended delivery, when you see a receiver open, you are able to get the ball out of your hands with good timing. Like a pitcher’s windup. It doesn’t take you a long time to put a lot of oomph on the ball when you get it out of your hand."
Coach also brought up the well-documented problems with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow's release, as in college, he dropped his arm down to hip before releasing the ball.
Coach said that Webb did a good job of having the ball high and getting it out quickly, which is what you want from a quarterback.
• “He did make a couple of really nice throws when he was on the move, especially on the touchdown throw. It was a pretty accurate throw on the run.”
• “A lot of times, he would throw with all arm and not step into his throw and put a lot of zip on his throw. More falling away from the throw than stepping into the throw. You’re not going to have as much velocity on your throw.”
• “A couple of times, he threw to covered receivers when he had other players that were uncovered. He took a deeper throw when he could have made a shorter throw and it would have been a better completion.”
One example of this was at the 2:44 mark of the video.
While Webb's eyes are downfield towards a receiver, tight end Bradley Dedeaux appears to be open in the flat.
Webb delivers the ball downfield into traffic, and his pass — intended for a blanketed Johnathan Wilson — is deflected and falls incomplete.
“It seems like sometimes he kind of tries to force the ball into his receiver," Coach said, "maybe even though his receiver might be covered."
• “One time, he scrambled into the rush. It didn’t necessarily look like there were necessarily any receivers open, but instead of scrambling to where it could have been a better opportunity for him to get a few yards, he kind of scrambled right into where the rush was coming from."
Coach also made sure to point out that Webb also could have been affected by playing with KU's No. 2 offensive line.
• “A lot of times, it seemed like he telegraphed his pass. That’s not a good thing for your quarterback to be doing obviously. Just staring down his receivers instead of looking them away.”
I also asked Coach what he felt were the best throws of the scrimmage.
He came up with three.
I'm sure many fans would have expected Pick's 72-yard touchdown pass to Chris Omigie to be one of the top throws of the day.
Not so, says Coach.
“The one on the sideline, that’s a throw that mainly any average Joe citizen can throw," Coach said. "You expect your fifth-string quarterback to be able to throw that pass when the guy’s wide open."
One of the three best throws according to coach was the aforementioned pass by Webb, who rolled away from pressure to hit tight end Tim Biere for a 25-yard touchdown.
The other two throws were from Pick.
The first throw actually was an incompletion when Bradley McDougald couldn't hold on for a long reception (00:30).
“The guy was covered, but (Pick) threw it over the defender and threw it right in the perfect spot for the receiver," Coach said. “That was one of the best throws of the whole scrimmage right there. Puts it on the line right over the top of that safety’s head and didn’t give him a chance to make a play on the ball. That’s a catch right there ... if you’re a Big 12 receiver, you’ve got to make that catch every single time.”
The other throw was one that Pick made to Biere between three defenders (00:15).
“He threw it just exactly where the receiver was going to be the only one who could make the catch," Coach said, "and the receiver made a nice catch on the ball as well.”
Coach said Pick diagnosed the play well and made the throw with the accuracy that it had to have.
“You see the receiver right below KU, on the bird? He could maybe fit the ball in right there as he lets the receiver clear the linebacker. But see how the linebacker kind of continues to chase that receiver, well that’s what they want," Coach said.
"They want the linebacker to chase the under route so you can throw it right behind his ear. The defense actually covered it pretty well, but it’s a pretty good throw and catch by the quarterback and tight end. That was a pretty good stick right there.”
It seems like every week, when talking about correcting things, we hear Kansas coach Mark Mangino preaching about fundamentals.
By now, it seems cliche. Of course KU needs good fundamentals. Every team does.
Very rarely, though, do we talk about what happens when players don’t play fundamentally sound. We’ll get a small glimpse of that this week in our “Breakdown” blog.
This week’s topic will be Kansas State’s option play late in the fourth quarter on third-and-4. With a stop, the Jayhawks could had forced a KSU punt and still had a conceivable shot at making a comeback with about two minutes left.
True to form, Kansas State didn’t do anything flashy. Instead, the Wildcats pulled out a simple speed option play and executed well enough to get the first down.
Let’s get a little more in-depth.
Like the previous weeks, I have consulted a Division-II defensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach" in this blog.
Here is the replay of KSU’s option run. You can also click back to this video as you read later in the blog if you need to.
I started off by asking Coach the most effective way to stop the option.
His answer sounded like something straight from Mangino.
“The best way to stop the option is everybody on defense has to do their job,” Coach says. “ ... You really have to play assignment football against the option to make sure you’re going to get it stopped.”
Let’s start with some fundamental talk.
Coach says the K-State offensive linemen are executing “stretch” or “reach” blocking to the right side. This means every offensive lineman is going to first take a step with his right foot, then reach for a defender in front of him. Perhaps not surprisingly, each of KSU coach Bill Snyder's linemen is in step.
“It looks like they’ve been coached up pretty well there as far as their footwork goes,” Coach says. “No false steps. Everybody’s stepping laterally first with their right foot and trying to reach and run hard (to) stretch that line of scrimmage.”
The most important player on this option play for KU is outside linebacker Justin Springer (No. 45).
Coach says that Springer executes what is called a “run-through,” which means he sees a seam and cuts through it to try to get to the quarterback.
“What you tell your linebackers is if he takes that gap and takes a run-through right there, he absolutely, absolutely has to make the play,” Coach says.
Springer’s play is definitely a gamble. If he runs through the seam and doesn’t make the tackle, he completely takes himself out of the play. If he does make the tackle, it’s a loss for KSU and KU will have forced the fourth down that it needs.
Before we continue with Springer, let’s take a closer look at KU defensive end Maxwell Onyegbule (No. 90).
On an option play to his side, Onyegbule’s job is to stretch the play as far out to the sideline as possible. Not only would this make Springer’s job easier, it also would allow KU’s backside players more time to get to the other side of the field to make the tackle.
As we see from this frame, Onyegbule is blocked by KSU’s Clyde Aufner (No. 75).
“No. 75 has him cut off. (Onyegbule) really needs to take his left hand and punch through 75’s right shoulder and get this thing strung out to the sideline,” Coach says. “That way it makes it an easier job for (No.) 45 to get right through there and make a play.”
Coach says Onyegbule doesn’t do a great job of moving his blocker. Instead of being where he is, Onyegbule needs to work his blocker farther laterally down the line of scrimmage (toward the hash), which would force KSU quarterback Grant Gregory and running back Daniel Thomas to have to go more toward the sideline.
Let’s go back to Springer, who has decided on the do-or-die play of a run-through.
Coach points out one main problem: Springer doesn’t take a good line to the quarterback.
“See how he kind of took a bad angle?” Coach says. “He needs to continue to, instead of coming straight downhill right there, he needs to really scrape right off the back of No. 90.”
Instead, Springer comes too far upfield and isn’t able to corral Gregory.
The gamble of the run-through doesn’t pay off. KU has to try to make the tackle on this play one defender short.
Now, KU's defenders are outnumbered.
Take a look. With Springer on the backside of the play, Gregory now only has to worry about two KU defenders. And one of them (No. 41 Arist Wright) should be easily blocked by KSU’s No. 37, Braden Wilson.
This creates a two-on-one situation for Gregory. He and Thomas now are running to the right with only one KU defender to beat: KU’s Lubbock Smith (No. 13).
Even with this ideal setup, K-State still isn't guaranteed success.
Let’s fast forward a bit. Notice No. 37 Wilson doesn’t get a block on Wright. In fact, the KSU fullback doesn’t even really touch Wright.
The problem for KU is that neither Smith nor Wright are in a position to make the play. In short, both players over-run the play.
Perhaps it was because Daniel Thomas ran the ball well all day, but both of KU’s defenders clearly are expecting a pitch. Both players position themselves to the outside shoulder of the quarterback.
“The way that we play it is we try to get the ball pitched as soon as possible, and that way, we can rally and have the rest of our defenders get to the pitch,” Coach says. “ ... You really have to play it inside-out and you have to play assignment football versus the option. It’s going to be hard to tell off the video who’s got the pitch man and who’s got the quarterback, but when you’re running outside like this, you really have to do a good job taking those guys inside-out, because you’re always wary of a cutback in option football.”
Coach says instead of trying to run through Gregory's outside shoulder, the KU defenders should instead be positioning themselves to run through Gregory's inside shoulder.
Gregory most likely sees Smith has gone to the outside expecting the pitch, and he cuts it upfield instead, expecting Wilson to block Wright.
When Gregory cuts, both Smith and Wright have a shot at him.
Neither one can get him to the turf, partly because they are too far to the outside.
There is one more aspect to this play, and that is the reaction time of KU’s linebackers to the running play.
Coach says that Wright does a good job of reading the running play and getting into a location where he can make the tackle. His read is the left guard, and when he sees the left guard firing at him upfield, his correct reaction is to go toward the line of scrimmage, then to move laterally with the running back.
“He gets over there in time,” Coach says. “He just has to break down and make a play.”
One person who isn’t involved in the play but could have been is KU’s backside linebacker Huldon Tharp (No. 34). Notice that he starts the play on the yellow first-down line.
On this play, Tharp’s read is the running back. His footsteps should mimic those of the back. If Thomas goes downhill toward the line, Tharp should go downhill toward the line as well.
Instead, Thomas’ first step is laterally.
See what happens? Just like last week’s “Breakdown” blog, Tharp has taken a false step forward toward the line of scrimmage.
Once again, it costs him, as he gets caught up in a block and also in other traffic because he comes too far forward towards the line of scrimmage.
Ideally, Tharp’s first step should have been lateral, not forward. Instead of running up the 40-yard line, Tharp should be running up the yellow first-down line, which would have cleared him from some of the blockers and other traffic he encountered.
“Now is he going to make the play for a zero-yard gain? No,” Coach says. “But he’s going to be in the mix and have a chance to stop a first down. I’m not saying he’s going to make the play, but he’s going to have a better chance than what he does do.”
It sounds like such a small thing: a true freshman taking one small false step forward at the beginning of the play.
On this play, though, it’s small fundamentals that might have that cost the Jayhawks one last shot at a victory against their in-state rivals.
Welcome back to "The Breakdown," where we'll look at some KU plays each week and try to go a little more in-depth into why it did or didn't work.
I promise we'll get to some successful KU plays in the future. But for this week, I wanted to look at what made a pair of Texas Tech draw plays work so well against KU.
Like last week, I have consulted a Division-II defensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach" in this blog.
Here is the replay of Texas Tech's two similar touchdown runs on draw plays. The first TD has two replays afterwards, while the second TD has one replay following it. You can also click back to this video as you read later in the blog if you need to.
First off, Coach says that draw plays are going to be extremely difficult to defend against teams like Texas Tech.
The reason? Because the Red Raiders are so pass-happy.
Consider this: Texas Tech leads the Big 12 in pass attempts with 455. KU is second in the league with 330.
"Your linebackers and your secondary and your safeties are thinking about pass, and they are thinking about their pass drops," Coach says. "So what’s a good play to run? Show the pass, and then hit them with the run."
So what has to happen to stop a well-executed draw play?
"It’s essentially a play that your linebackers are going to have to do their best to stop," Coach says, "but the way that (Texas Tech) blocked it, it’s also going to fall on those guys getting help from your defensive line."
We also need to understand this will be a more difficult run to defend because of Texas Tech's wide splits between its offensive linemen.
Because there is so much space between the offensive linemen, KU's defensive linemen are spaced out far apart and need to try to stand their ground so the gaps between them don't become any larger. The linebackers, then, have the responsibility of coming up to fill those gaps to make tackles on running plays.
Let's break down the second rushing touchdown before we get to the first. This play starts at 32 seconds in the video.
For this play, we're going to focus mainly on the line play. As you can see, KU is in its 4-2-5 set (four defensive linemen and two linebackers).
Texas Tech effectively runs what is called a "fold block."
In a fold block, one offensive lineman blocks to his left or right, and another lineman next to him "folds" behind him to make another block.
As we can see from the photo above, the center cuts to his left to block No. 71 John Williams, while the left guard folds around him to find a linebacker, in this case No. 49 Drew Dudley.
"That’s a pretty good way to run your draw," Coach says, "because it’s going to be hard for that linebacker to see that block."
As we can see from the next two slides, the left guard does a great job with this block, clearing Dudley out of the way to clear the hole.
So how could KU have defended this better? Let's examine it person-by-person.
Coach says Williams, No. 71, does a pretty good job of holding his ground. In fact, he's in a position to make a play even with Texas Tech's center grabbing him*.
* — And perhaps holding him.
Coach says much of the responsibility for stopping this play rests on KU's linebacker No. 34 Huldon Tharp, even though it is a difficult play for the linebackers because of the way it is blocked.
When the play first starts, Coach says Tharp's read is through the guard straight to the running back.
When Tharp sees the left guard kick out to his right, the linebacker should know immediately that this is a running play.
Tharp's responsibility then is to fill the hole in between KU's two interior defensive linemen to force the back to make a lateral move.
According to Coach, a bad first step costs Tharp on this play.
Notice that Tharp starts the play on the seven-yard line. Once he reads run, his next step is forward with his left foot, as shown in this slide.
"See how his footwork takes him up toward the line of scrimmage and not moving laterally?" Coach says. "Instead of going laterally ... what you want to do with that (pulling guard in front of him) is you want to take one step laterally with his left foot and then come straight downhill and fill the hole."
Tharp's two steps toward the line of scrimmage take him two steps closer to the left tackle, who is able to get to him and block him easily.
As you can see from the slide above, Tharp would have made himself much harder to block if he would have been moving laterally at the start of the play and cut to the running back up the hash. Instead, his over-pursuit of the play has put him in a tough spot.
There's also something interesting going on with KU's defensive ends.
Coach says that on running plays, ends use two basic techniques: either anchor technique or bend-and-run (chase) technique.
In anchor technique, an end stays to the outside just in case the quarterback keeps the ball and runs to his side. In bend-and-run (chase) technique, the defensive end chases the running back to the inside to try to make the tackle.
Let's take a look at Jake Laptad on the right side of the screen.
He would appear to be playing bend-and-run technique, as he follows the back into the hole and nearly makes the tackle.
It's interesting, though, if you look at the other defensive end, Maxwell Onyegbule.
In the slide above, you can see him straighten up during the running play.
"See how he squares up and patters his feet right there?" Coach says. "That to me tells me that he’s playing anchor technique."
Coach says it's tough to know why Onyegbule would play anchor technique in this situation. Against a mobile quarterback, it would make sense to stay to the outside, just in case the quarterback faked the run and took off to the right. But Texas Tech typically doesn't have running quarterbacks, and Taylor Potts is not known as a rushing QB.
Either way, it would have been an extremely difficult play for Onyegbule to make.
There's only one other player with a chance at stopping TTU running back Baron Batch, and that's No. 13, KU safety Lubbock Smith.
"That’s tough when you’re covering receivers," Coach says, "but you’d like him to take a three-step burst and try to get (Batch) on the ground at the two-yard line."
Instead, Smith takes a more direct angle at Batch, opting to head straight up for him at the five-yard line. He has no chance at getting the speedy Batch by using that route.
"Just a fundamental thing. It doesn’t look like he took a very good angle to the ball," Coach says. "That would have been a tough play for him to stop, but if they’re farther out in the field rather than on the 10-yard-line, he’s got to take a good angle at that back if it does squirt through the line of scrimmage, he basically just has to get him on the ground 10 or 15 yards from the line of scrimmage."
All right, let's go back to the first play. First, let's diagnose what KU is doing defensively.
As you can see from the top of the screen, Texas Tech is facing a third-and-4. This is a passing down for most teams, and almost positively a passing down for the Red Raiders, who came in as the 118th-ranked team (out of 120) in rushing.
Knowing this, the KU coaches gamble and bring a blitz. The linebacker standing among the defensive linemen (No. 41 Arist Wright) is blitzing, along with safety Lubbock Smith (No. 13), who is at the 11-yard line. This puts KU in a Cover 0 defense, meaning every cornerback is matched up man-to-man, with the back safety, Darrell Stuckey, covering the back out of the backfield.
Notice KU also has a different alignment up front, as the nose guard, Richard Johnson Jr. (No. 97) is playing directly across from Texas Tech's center.
Once again, Texas Tech executes a fold block. This time, the center folds around the left guard.
According to Coach, this is going to be extremely hard for Johnson to defend because he is beat by alignment. The left guard has the angle on him, and he is able to execute his block.
Because KU is pass blitzing, the center has an easier job as well.
Wright is trying to get upfield to get to the quarterback, and his momentum carries him past the play. From there, the center simply has to seal him off and make sure Wright can't cut back to get to the running back.
"That’s essentially just a well-designed play against this defensive front," Coach says.
This leaves two players left to make the tackle: KU's safeties Darrell Stuckey and Lubbock Smith.
Stuckey's role in this play is both complex and fascinating.
Once again, in the Cover 0 defense, Stuckey's duty on a passing play is to cover the running back out of the backfield.
Coach says it's a bit more complicated than that, though.
Because KU is blitzing, there's a good chance that the running back will help with the blitz pickup and stay back to block. If that happens, Stuckey can once again turn into a safety, helping out any of the KU defensive backs that are playing in man-to-man coverage.
The first thing Stuckey has to do, though, is read if the play is going to be a run or a pass play.
How does he do that?
Coach says the safety has to get a "high-hat" or a "low-hat" read from a Texas Tech offensive lineman.
If Stuckey sees an offensive lineman fire off the ball and go low for a block — or with a "low hat" — he knows it will be a running play. If he sees an offensive lineman pop up to pass block — with a "high hat" — he knows that it will be a passing play.
Let's take a look at TTU's offensive linemen to get a pre-snap read.
Coach says that Stuckey would be taught by his coordinator to read either the tackle or the guard on his side. I've highlighted both of those.
If Stuckey was reading the tackle, he would have seen him pop up high in pass coverage. See his high helmet? This is a "high-hat" read.
"That’s a tough read on a draw play, because watch the right tackle on a draw play," Coach says. "A lot of times on a draw play, tackles will pass set. They know the defensive ends are going to be rushing upfield."
Even if he was reading the right tackle, Coach says the hope is that out of his peripheral vision, Stuckey would have noticed the right guard.
See him? His helmet is at a KU defender's waist. This couldn't be a much more obvious "low-hat" read. Seeing this, Stuckey should know it's a draw play.
If Stuckey reads run, Coach says his job is to get straight upfield as quickly as possible to become a run-stopper.
Unfortunately for KU, Coach says Stuckey doesn't get a good run-pass read.
From the slide above, we can see Stuckey back-pedaling as if it is a pass play. An instant later, Batch has the ball, and Stuckey has still not made his way back onto our TV screen.
All of this seems like small stuff, of course. It's hard for us to think that a read coming a split-second slow can change the course of a play.
But let's fast forward.
Let's say instead of taking a step back to start the play, Stuckey quickly reads the right guard and takes a step forward. In essence, he is two steps closer to the running back. Let's assume each step he takes puts him a yard closer to the running back.
In this photo, without the one back-pedal, Stuckey would be two steps closer to the back, perhaps making it all the way to the end of his shadow.
"Is he going to make this tackle in the backfield for a loss? Probably not," Coach says. "But he’s got a good chance to get him on the ground before the first down."
Compounding the problem is that Stuckey has to make a choice early on. Stuckey's direct route to Batch is impeded by the umpire, so he has to choose which way to go around him.
Stuckey elects to go to the left of the umpire but isn't able to catch up to Batch.
Because Stuckey didn't (or couldn't) take a good angle to the back, a six-yard gain instead turns into six points for Texas Tech.
Stuckey wasn't the only player with a chance at tackling Batch, though, as Smith also had a chance to corral him.
When blitzing through the B gap (the gap between TTU's guard and tackle), Coach says Smith would automatically use a bend-and-run technique. If the run were to come outside, the defensive end (No. 90 Onyegbule) would have run-stopping responsibility.
Notice that Smith does something similar to what Onyegbule did in the first running play we discussed, as he patters his feet as he approaches the line of scrimmage.
"Instead of breaking down, he should bend and run and really chase the running back down from the back side," Coach says. "He might get him on the ground if he can stick his left foot in the ground and really cut hard. He could probably get this on the ground for a one or two-yard gain."
The hesitation costs Smith. Though he is one of KU's few unblocked players, he can't make up for lost time and is late getting to Batch.
This isn't meant to pick on KU's defenders. The Jayhawks' defense made more than enough plays to win against a dangerous Tech offense last week.
Oftentimes, though, split-second decisions on defense can end up being the difference between third-down stands and go-ahead touchdowns.