It’s safe to say the Texas offense met its match Saturday, the USC defense. For starters, the Texas offense wasn’t expected to light up the Coliseum, but you did expect more than one touchdown from the Longhorns, let alone more yards and 1st downs. The biggest complaint post-game is that Chris Warren didn’t receive enough touches. I somewhat agree with that. You certainly want Warren carrying the ball at least one-third of run attempts. In the SC game’s case, that equates to about 13 carries. While that’s not a lot, it’s definitely more than 4! In my Beck-Ehlinger Narratives post, I asked why isn’t ‘C-Dub’ isn’t more of a focal point in the Herman-Beck offense? In his weekly press conference, Beck stated he trusted Warren completely. Yet, in the aftermath, having only received 4 carries, it makes you wonder if the coaches are seeing the forest from the trees in-game. While running was certainly made very difficult by a defense bringing numbers and winning blocks, there is no way to know, for certain, whether more carries for Warren would’ve further benefited or harmed the offensive effort. That said, it brings me to the point of this post, focal points. The offense needs them heading into league play and I have my own opinions and suggestions. Let’s discuss.
Collin Johnson – The big wide receiver strikes fear in many defensive backs’ hearts. Chris is a big target, is physical, and a freak athlete. Every down, Collin is a threat and the offense’s biggest threat. Whether it’s Shane or Sam, defenses must be on constant alert.
Chris Warren – After further review, Chris does well in both the run and pass game. Yet, he hasn’t been the ‘bell-cow’. Why is that? Chris is big, has good feet, and always falls forward. Making Chris a focal point, I believe, will help the Herman-Beck offense grow.
Armanti Foreman – Perhaps the quickest and most explosive receiver on the team. Armanti is slippery and fast, deserving of more targets. He’s also employed as the ‘Fly’ and ‘Orbit’ motion man, a good thing. Armanti should benefit more from the presence of Collin.
What does all this mean? I think the offense is on the right track. With the freshman at quarterback last Saturday, SC had little reason to back off the line against the run. They continually stacked the box with 7 to 8 defenders. Even the read game suffered from SC’s slab of defenders in the box. Unfortunately for Texas, the SC defense placed the game in the hands of the freshman quarterback and though he delivered late, it was not enough to stem the tide that is Sam Darnold. That guy is a dude. Anyhow, let’s stop rehashing, Texas lost, I’m over it. What can they do now to ensure scoring more touchdowns, even against the league’s best defenses. Well, in short, you’ve seen it already.
The run game requires a fair amount of ‘multiplicity’. Part of what’s making that difficult is the tight end position. That is the position most necessary to effect the 2nd level of the defense, keeping linebackers reactionary rather than attacking downhill. As a coaching friend of mine recently put it, “Backfield action is huge. If you let them key on 1 or 2 schemes, you’re toast. You need a TE. If it’s just ’10’ personnel… you’re super limited.” All that makes sense and that is also why ‘Fly/Jet’ and ‘Orbit’ motion are prominent in the offense as well. You need to throw the 2nd level’s scent off somehow.
Focal Point – Chris Warren
C-Dub is a power back. He will not dazzle you with speed to the edge, but is a brick shit-house, very hard to take down. Chris needs easy paths to attack the front. He runs Inside Zone well and can run Outside Zone, though not as well. The Counter scheme for Texas is okay. As aforementioned, much of the issue revolves around inconsistent tight end play and as JY pointed out in Trench Warfare, bad running back reads. The only issue I have with that, with only 4 carries, it’s hard to tell if Warren had a good or bad day. I say bad because he was not a focal point.
Focal Issue – Tight End
Offset & Split – the more difficult blocks come from in-line, down and reach blocks. Arc and insert (lead) blocks are easier and offer multiplicity. That means Split Zone & Power/Counter and Lead Zone (Insert) & Power/Counter.
Motion – Offset allows the tight end to motion across formation, to quickly alter blocking surfaces, from the backfield to split and vice versa. Do whatever it takes to seize initiative in the run game.
Sweep & G-Lead – The current Texas tackles can down block to ‘build a wall’. The best pullers are the guards. Both these schemes get the guards or a guard around the tackle and on smaller bodies. They are fast and physical schemes that give backs (C-Dub) simple paths outside and following blocks.
Focal Point – Armanti Foreman
Jet & Orbit – Jet and Orbit motion also quickly alters formation. Utilize it along with the above recommendations. Also, the offense must pass to the motion side and counter to the away side with the occasional quarterback run.
Backfield – Utilizing Armanti in the backfield via motion in or out is a good idea. It’s an excellent way to attack the perimeter via the run and also provide split-flow action in the back field, get creative!
Quick & Deep – Armanti is shifty and fast. Create more opportunities for ‘COBRA’, come off to best receiver available. Whether screens or simple alley and outside hitches, get him the ball. Also, attack deep (inside and outside). He was missed on a post route last Saturday, stacked the corner and he’s been deadly on the ‘Sail’ route (deep crosser).
Focal Point – Collin Johnson
X-iso & More – Collin is a gigantic issue for coverage outside the hash and he’ll often find himself isolated to the boundary. This alone may help remove box defenders. That said, move him inside, seam-read, corner, post, hitch and speed out, yikes! This also fits in with shifting Armanti outside. It’s occasional, not full-time.
Twins & Trips – Again, receivers should be working in tandem to attack coverage. A concept that’s worked some is Slant (especially Humphrey). Another concept I like that hits quick from trips, two slants inside with a hitch outside. Example, you can imagine Collin and Armanti flipping spots on occasion, then scheming double-moves off this one concept.
Drag & Sit – You saw Collin catch a drag in the Maryland game. It’s a concept unto itself, as it breaks shallow, often allowing a receiver to come open immediately, sit in zone soft spot, or continue across as an outlet (3rd Fix) for the quarterback. Keep this and run it like crazy! Again, this works for all the receivers, but Collin and Armanti are focal points.
I wanted to collate some things I’ve seen and haven’t seen from the Herman-Beck offense. This is partly a wish list of mine. I like what I’ve seen thus far conceptually, but execution has been inconsistent. Also, as JY pointed out, the offensive line is close to being consistent. A hope is, when Shane returns, there will be more of a passing threat that will help mitigate over-aggressive scheming against the run game. That said, the multiple ways to run the aforementioned schemes should allow for the occasional simple run-check by the quarterback. That can and should be coached. Lastly, concentrating on the focal points provides the offense with more of an identity. Furthermore, there is some redundancy built in to the 2-deep, as Leonard, Porter, and Hemphill-Maps (Humphrey & Heard) also provide approximations to the starters. As always, let me know what you think in the comments.