Gilbert-Mattox Quick Study | The Box Count

I wanted to begin delving into some things fans may come to expect from the newly installed Gilbert-Mattox offense. Previously, I’ve written about the offensive line in my “Big Ugly Post’ (X). That served to illustrate some of the blocking schemes and techniques fans may see from a Matt Mattox coached offensive line. Now, I’d like to turn attention to broader concepts.

There’s no better place to start than the ‘box count’. In the Gilbert-Mattox offense, the box count serves as a guide to execution. Given that much of the offense is built around run-pass option (RPO) concepts, the box count serves the purpose of helping the quarterback make the ‘read’ decision whether to hand off or throw the ball, pre-snap. This is supposed to happen at break-neck pace, as tempo serves mainly to afford the offense simplicity. If the quarterback is given an RPO call, his primary responsibility is to identify the ‘conflict defender’ to the side of coverage he is reading. The conflict defender is typically a linebacker, safety, or corner. Depending on the route concept, screen or quick pass, the quarterback may immediately pull the ball and throw outside or read an extra defender, in many cases, the safety or corner over the top and to a side. So, if it’s an RPO, it’s typically arranged in the following formula. If it’s an inside run, receivers on both sides execute a screen or quick pass route concept. If the run is to the perimeter, the receiver(s) to the run-side execute blocks, while the receiver(s) to the back side execute a screen or quick pass concept.., SIMPLE! What’s important to note is that, when faced with apparent man coverage, most RPO’s simply become screen or quick pass concepts to the outside, without a run-pass read, as the box is assumed to be ‘loaded’ if there is man coverage outside. That is mostly it.

So, without further ado, below are some examples of how the box count factored into the play call and the quarterback’s decision to hand off or pass, typically from the construct of the run-pass option (RPO), a HUGE aspect of the Gilbert offense. I’ll keep things simple with only a couple of examples.

Below is an example of what Gilbert and Mattox hope to see with a good deal of frequency next season, a 5-man box. With 5 in the box, that oftentimes means a 2-high safety alignment and in this case there would be 3 defenders devoted to the ‘twins’ receivers on each side. I suspect, if Texas gets plenty of looks like this next season, it won’t have very much difficulty moving the football. However, in order to warrant alignments such as the one below, Texas must execute at a better rate throwing to the outside, more on that when I begin discussing pass game concepts.

image

image

image

Note the difference in the box counts from the first example and the next one. There are 6 defenders in the box in this sequence and though this example is a little bit more complicated than the previous, the general principles still apply. Unless a called quarterback run is the play call below, the defense has 6 defenders outnumbering 5 blockers for the offense. With the call being an inside run, both the ‘trips’ receivers side and the single receiver side both run route concepts. However, part of the quarterback’s pre-snap process is to choose the best match-up and that often involves leverage. They run a ‘bubble’ screen concept to the field trips side with both outside receivers blocking the corner and nickel, thus yielding space for YAC (yards after catch). With the first main threats blocked, the slot receiver running the bubble has room to make a play against the safety to his side. The defense has been divided and conquered in this example.

image

image

image

Gilbert-Mattox can deploy similar concepts as the examples above from a multitude of personnel and formations. Oftentimes, the defense is left with few great choices defending this offense because it’s primary intent is to run the ball. This often forces defenses to place 6 defenders in the box, which can lead to difficult stresses to overcome in coverage. One major way to combat this is to play more man coverage, but that becomes difficult over the course of a game against an uptempo offense. Eventually, a big play is given up and all the defense’s hard work is all for not. In the future I’ll dive into some of the concepts with more detail, as reads can vary along with the concepts themselves. What should stand out for now regarding the RPO plays this offense will run is that they are guided by the box count.

  • Javed Maknojia

    It is a very nice article Gabriel. I always enjoy reading your articles.

    I want to add some thing that Coach Royal use to say “Three things can happen when you throw the football, and two of them are bad.” That is, the odds are 2-1 that there will be an interception or an incompletion instead of a completion.

    • Gabriel Alcocer

      Ha! I’m familiar w/ that one, but times change.

    • Dillon Langley

      Never quite got that one personally, when you run the ball three things can happen too: run for loss, run for gain, or fumble.

  • Bob Brewski

    Thanks, Gabriel! Good stuff!

    • Gabriel Alcocer

      Thank you!

  • Unofficial Longhorn

    Great stuff, Gabriel. I brought this up last week, but are you able to do these kind of things?
    https://youtu.be/jbR9nIjlVHg

    • Gabriel Alcocer

      I don’t think so…

      • Unofficial Longhorn

        Lol… That’s fair. Well just keep the great posts coming my good man!

  • Dbu

    Good stuff right here. What looks will defenses use to mask their fronts?

    • Gabriel Alcocer

      It’s very hard to mask fronts against this offense, due to the wide splits from both outside and inside receivers. Teams are either keeping an OLB in the box or apexing him between the end of the LOS and inside receiver. At that point teams can blitz or utilize twists and stunts w/ the DL.

  • ACreativeUsername

    Another great article, Gabriel! I pray to God teams give us 5 in the box in games. D’Onta and Warren may break 15-20 yds a carry if that happens. Those guys arent easy to bring down for a DB once they get that head of steam

    • Gabriel Alcocer

      I agree, gotta get the screen and quick RPO game going and throw well against man to do it.

    • Birddawg

      That’s why having a defensive lineman that demands double teams and helps the defense stop the run outnumbered is so important to defeat this scheme.
      Obv the big 12 has been lacking in defensive talent for years making this scheme easy to implement and execute.

      • Gabriel Alcocer

        Well, we haven’t quite seen it elsewhere, yet, but I don’t disagree. Of course, having a great DT is a trump card against any offense.

      • Tom Selleck’s Moustache

        They did put 41 up on MSU in the 2014 Cotton Bowl….

  • Great stuff. It would seem that our receivers’ strengths at this point are over the top instead of moving in space. Has Maddox used many deep passing concepts with the RPO against single coverage or does he rely on a different packages/plays for that?

    • Gabriel Alcocer

      Yes, they’ve used single receiver iso before, but more a play-action concept because they’ll know they have to flat-foot the safety some.., it’s in my ‘Heavy Sets’ Quick Study that I mention it.

  • MissingBarry

    First, seems like having one really good CB could be a problem for this offense, for example, in that trips play, if the D can leave a CB on an island on the 1 WR side and have 4 guys on the 3 WR side, they’ll be looking pretty strong. Thoughts?

    Second, how does our desire for big WR’s fit into this? Are most screens for the slot with the big outside WR blocking? Just seems like bigger receivers aren’t always quite as tough to deal with in space as the little fast guys, if there are so many screens in this offense, is that a problem?

    • Unofficial Longhorn

      I see what you’re saying, but I would think that if they load 4 DBs on the trip side, we would just run it down their throats until they’re forced to put that extra man in the box, no?

      • MissingBarry

        I’m thinking 4 on one side (more like 3 with a safety shading over or something), 6 in the box, shut down corner all alone on an island.

        • Unofficial Longhorn

          But that leaves 1v1 with our RBs. How many times do you think a defensive coordinator will be willing to roll those dice?

        • nottherealmccoy

          Realistically, I don’t think that any of the teams Texas would face this year have a cornerback they would feel comfortable leaving completely isolated against John Burt. The beauty of this offense is the fact that defense has to cover so much space. John Burt is going to get open deep almost every time if you give him half a field’s width of grass to run in to, regardless of who is covering him.

        • Tom Selleck’s Moustache

          So your initial assessment was correct. You stop the veer n shoot by having really, really good DB’s. That said, the coverage your thinking of A) requires we’re in trips B) has a one high safety favoring half the field, and C) the corner on the island has to be a GREAT player.

          Like nottherealmccoy said, most teams won’t leave Burt 1 on 1. Even if they put a burner CB on him, we could just iso Collin Johnson outside and let him high point it. It’s also vulnerable to other attacks i.e. fake WR screen to the trips side so the LB’s jump then turn and backside HB screen with noooooobody home.

      • Birddawg

        Yeah pretty much..
        The field is so spread out.
        The read and box count is in secs..
        WRs only have 4 routes.
        To the defense, the same play is ran all game but the ball is being touched all over the field.
        This scheme really puts my athlete vs your athlete.
        Its all about the numbers.
        Defense can either win the one v ones on the outside playing legit Man v Man or dline impacts through being disruptive stopping the run outnumbered.
        Regardless, the D needs playmakers

        • Unofficial Longhorn

          I like our RBs in a one on one, especially against a DB. I also like Burt or Johnson in a one on one on the outside. There’s Newsome in space… I don’t know, I think we have a lot of weapons to make this scheme work, at least more weapons than Tulsa.

          • Birddawg

            That’s the beauty of this system.
            You find your one v one that you like then attack it.
            Field spacing leaves the D the choice to either roll with it and see if it costs them the game or change the defender. That’s about it.

          • Unofficial Longhorn

            It’s simple, but effective. Do you think you guys will be able to handle it better than what you did against Tulsa?

          • Birddawg

            Hard Question.
            1) We haven’t seen Texsa run this system with Texsa talent
            2) We did beat Baylor last year but they had their Backup QB
            3) We had a quite a few guys out in the Tulsa game.
            I will say that our Dline brings back the best dlineman (walker)
            and..
            Our offense is going to be just as good. That’s important.
            It isn’t like our D will have to shutout the opponent.
            The D will just need to keep these schemes under 30 and I think its a win.
            Baylor/Tulsa don’t have the defensive players that Texsa does.. (Jefferson)
            That’s why this is so intriguing because this offensive system will be pair with a talented D (first time ever.. if you think about it)
            Execution is another story.. 🙂

          • Unofficial Longhorn

            Yeah, I totally agree. I can’t wait to see the Texas version of this offense paired with what I’m assuming will be a much improved defense. I think it’ll come down to who has the better DLine, and who can get pressure on the QB first. I’m hoping that out incoming bigs will be in rare form that day.

    • Gabriel Alcocer

      A good CB helps A LOT.., and having two, A LOT A LOT, lol. It minimizes the amount of time needed to commit safeties or brackets to certain receivers, allowing others to play w/ eyes on the run or the QB.

  • Bob Brewski

    Does anyone have any knowledge on the progress of Ryan Newsome? I was excited when we flipped him from UCLA last year, but he had a relatively quiet freshman season. I’d love to see him get the ball in space often next season.

  • Birddawg

    I believe all the plays Tulsa ran against OU were RPOs.
    They gained like 500+ yards.

    • Unofficial Longhorn

      Yeah that’s why I’m big fan of them. There are so many plays that you can run off of the same formation, so you don’t have to give anything up pre snap. How do you feel OU has done to address the schematic issues that allowed those things to happen?

      • Birddawg

        1) They are getting bigger DBs with length.
        Newcomer PJ is 6’1 long arms to jam/ turn and run.
        He actually played in that Tulsa game. He had technique errors but the dude battled. He didn’t have any blown coverage that I remember. Was on the hip pocket of a 6’3 Senior WR (big).
        Longer Dbs that can Jam, completely turn hips and run.
        2) Bring the pressure early and often. No ” lets see whats the least amount of guys we can blitz by blitizing one.. then two etc”. Bring the heat early.
        All the QBs in big 12 are rhythm Qbs. Set and fire.
        Take the first read (Best WR) away and get the QB to move.
        3) Stop run outnumbered is the most important part.
        This scheme is 75% run/PA. If you can commit less numbers to the run then it opens your options downfield.
        This is by personnel. OU has the most disruptive Dlineman in Walker coming back and he is a beast. He would need to demand double teams. Also, we got bigger at OLB. (obo/deberry/Kelly) We should be able to set the edge much better than last season. ( striker 200lbs.. the others +30)
        All of this is much easier said than done..obv
        But if anything OU fans learned is that we want to fight.
        Fight at the LOS with jams/ Dline get to the QB.
        Make the Qb move (unset) and throw a great ball in a tight window.
        Live with the great plays and move on..

        • Unofficial Longhorn

          Sounds like it’s going to be a real chess match between coordinators. Hey what’re the chances Thomas declares early?

          • Birddawg

            JT: I would say 75/25 he’s gone. Especially if he has another great season.
            I think the same could be said of S.Parker

            You don’t see kids stay often after they have started 3 seasons

          • Unofficial Longhorn

            It’s always sweeter when they were a 3 star sleeper though. Being a Houstonian, I just wish he’d have stayed home. For the record, I blame this on yOU guys!

          • Birddawg

            lol, OU has done well with 3 star corners..
            Aaron Colvin had nice season with the Jags.

        • Gabriel Alcocer

          Well said.., this is why I think Buechele may start or at least receive plenty of snaps early. He can beat some of the stuff you mention. I wouldn’t be surprised if he exceeds Stidham’s capabilities as a passer (2015) by a third of the way through the 2016 season. Buechele showed he can progress past the obvious 1st receiver and in good time.

          • Birddawg

            A QB that can move and go through his progressions without happy feet in this system is nearly unstoppable.
            that’s scary..
            Will the coaches put him on the field early? weight?

          • Gabriel Alcocer

            If they follow my unsolicited advice, lol, they’ll have Shane eating 4,000 calories (at least) a day until Fall, would be great if he put on another 10-15 pounds.

          • Birddawg

            Also,
            Got to keep our QBs healthy.
            Teach how to slide and fall right..
            Something Baker needs to learn as well.
            I don’t like playing against or with a backup QB.

          • Gabriel Alcocer

            Yes, protections are paramount and QB self-preservation is key as well.

          • Gabriel Alcocer

            Yes, protections are paramount and QB self-preservation is key as well.

          • MarkInAustin

            With workouts he’ll need a lot more than 4000 cal. During baseball spring training in HS I could barely keep my weight up on 5000 cal per day.

            Didn’t gain at all. 3 eggs and half a gallon of whole milk each day was baseline then [1959]. I am sure there are other means of injecting mass quantities of protein today. Also our HS coach wanted us to drink one beer each night, with our dads’ permission.

          • Gabriel Alcocer

            I think that’s the figure I came up w/, but could’ve been more, calculated his BMR and likely ‘activity quotient’.., either way, he needs to eat A LOT. I recommended chocolate milk and ice cream in addition to square meals.

          • Gabriel Alcocer

            I think that’s the figure I came up w/, but could’ve been more, calculated his BMR and likely ‘activity quotient’.., either way, he needs to eat A LOT. I recommended chocolate milk and ice cream in addition to square meals.

      • Gabriel Alcocer

        You can watch some of the OU-BU game last season, but mainly more pressure variation mixed w/ better matching against quick game routes. For an even better example, watch UT-BU from 2014, mostly shut a better BU offense down. Of course, we still had Brown AND Ridgeway on the DL.

        • Unofficial Longhorn

          Yeah well having two NFL level DLinemen tends to help your game plan! Lol

    • Gabriel Alcocer

      A majority are, but there are some drop back concepts I’ll highlight. For the most part, those will also be accompanied by play-action (QB-RB mesh) as well.

    • Marc Vossman

      Are you an OU fan? I have generally been annoyed when you guys post over here, but you are bringing value to the conversation.

      • Birddawg

        Thanks.. Lol, yeah. I’ve been an OU fan all my life.
        Gabriel has put together very insightful articles.
        I’m a student of the game and a TFB fan.

  • Reefer On Two

    Articles like this are why I love this site. I’m 50 years old and still learning about football. Freakin’ love it. Thanks, Gabriel.

  • HeimTime
    • MarkInAustin

      Thanx for that link.

    • BurntOrangeAtlanta

      I think this team is going to be good… Chemistry and camaraderie is no small part of what builds a champion. Charlie seems to be able to spot not only talent, but also men who will bond together for a greater cause. But on the downside, you have just ruined my belief that Facebook is a complete and total waste of time. I’d never even seen a facebook post in my life, other than when my wife makes me look at something. I’m not sure if I should thank you or kill you…

      • HeimTime

        Not sure if this helps my case… But it was a Facebook link from a post on Twitter 😉

        • BurntOrangeAtlanta

          That might be even worse….lol… But I’ll give you a mulligan. You didn’t know how modern-social networking- averse I am….

      • HeimTime

        Not sure if this helps my case… But it was a Facebook link from a post on Twitter 😉