I took a brief hiatus from writing and now I’m back to address more Spring Game issues. If you’re upset because it’s been too long and you simply cannot do without my posts, my sincerest apologies. As for the others, I’m not sorry, my contrition is conditional. Anyhow, I wanted to get into some quick passing game today and show you some critical concepts Texas will utilize to keep the chains moving. Though you want explosive plays, efficiency is paramount and if you remember from the Herman Offense primer, Herman prioritizes efficiency, as his overall approach is a defensive one. Adding to that, Herman won’t have an athlete he’s accustomed to at the quarterback position (or will he?). This will likely prompt more of a focus on the quick passing game. With that said, let’s take a look a some ideas.
Do you remember our old friend, the ‘9er’ Advantage? That’s when the quarterback keys the safety rostation and uses it to pick a side of the field to read. This Advantage shows up in our first example. You have a ’10’ personnel, ‘trips’ Bunch set to the field. If you look at the pre-snap coverage to the single receiver side, you’ll notice a corner and safety to that side, the boundary.
This quickly changes post-snap, as the weak safety rotates to the middle of the field (MOF), thus ‘closing’ it (MOFC). Quickly seeing this allows Shane to work the single receiver side, as now there’s a one on one and the receiver is Collin freaking Johnson.
It’s difficult to capture how well Johnson ran his Out route, but just before the crazy separation you see here, Johnson stepped inside hard and the corner bit, turned his hips, cooked. If you want to get open versus man-coverage, you have to turn defenders’ hips. You’ll see a lot more of that this year. Shane delivers a strike here for a 1st down, easy pickings.
Below you see ’20’ personnel with an off-set H-back to the field. Pre-snap, you also see a quarters-style 2-high safety alignment, both aligned at depths of 10 yards, pretty shallow.
Again, post-snap reveals a single-high safety rotation, the field safety is dropping to the deep middle, a MOFC coverage. You see Sam Ehlinger quickly turn his attention to the single receiver side against what looks like a 3-deep zone corner.
The simple Hitch route is one that is very effective against zone-dropping corner coverage. In this case, the corner has no safety help over the top and maintains a cushion. By the time he breaks on the ball, it’s too late. Texas, with its big and athletic outside receivers may begin turning more of these into big plays.
You saw a lot of safety rotation in the Spring Game, partly because the defense ran so much Cover 1. You saw Cover 2-Man and 3-Deep Zone as well, but for the most part, the quarterbacks didn’t throw into many combination coverages. The next example is no exception. You see the safety to the boundary retreating pre-snap in this case, in response to the back motion out to the flat.
Another thing you see below is the middle linebacker (Mike) following the back motion to the flat. This may also create the opportunity for a RAM Advantage, Read Away from Mike, as it indicates the weak side linebacker (Will) may be forced to defend the ‘low hole’, short middle zone. This leaves the ‘twins’ receivers to the boundary in man-coverage.
You see the outside Hitch again, this time paired with an inside vertical route. You also see the Will unable to get in the way of the passing lane. What you also hope for is that inside route converting to a Dig route, should the Will jump the outside pass. Also, if that’s the case and the Will’s vacating, can call quarterback Draw.
The outside pivot route is one you’ll see often. You’ll see it coupled with ‘naked’ quarterback roll-outs. Below, you see Shane meshing with the running back and a 3 over 2 coverage to the field, no safety rotation.
After the mesh, the quarterback uses quick footwork to the flat. The routes, you already see working, as the inside receiver uses his outside leverage to pivot at five yards and work to the sideline. The outside receiver stems vertical. The leverage yielded makes for a relatively easy pitch and catch.
In the last example, you see an alternative to the common Slant route. From ’10’ personnel, the receivers are split wide, hash and inside the numbers. The defense is aligned 2-high and does not rotate.
You see the inside receiver stem inside and vertical. This route will occupy the field safety in quarters coverage and also force the Nickel to carry him within the first 5 to 10 yards.
That leaves the In route open, as it breaks underneath the corner’s cushion. What I don’t like here is the ball location. For Slants and Ins, you want the ball on the hip. Imagine below if the Nickel turned to the In early. The receiver would be faced with making a more difficult out-stretched catch and immediately facing a potential big hit, bad! Either way, he’s wide open and the throws will likely improve.
The important takeaways here are to notice the safety rotation, sometimes the linebacker movement, and see where the quarterback directs his attention based on these defenders’ pre and post-snap movement. What you saw above, if the safeties rotated 1-high, the quarterback worked the weak side. If the safeties remained 2-high, the quarterback worked the strong side. At times, the quarterback will key the Mike or an Advantage route itself (Seam, Corner, Post), then scan, like the 3-Level concept, Herman’s baby. The quick game will be essential to maintain efficiency on offense and to create opportunities for explosive plays. The better you see the offense execute the RPO and quick game, the more likely it is you’ll see defenses attempt to close the distance across the formation. When they do that, you go vertical. I hope you enjoyed. I’ll be looking at the defense from here on out and diving into other subjects.