I wanted to revisit the ‘Focal Points’ post. After the USC game, I made the case for creating focal points, 3 players the offense could focus on for better results. Those players were Collin Johnson, Chris Warren, and Armanti Foreman. After watching and reviewing the Iowa State game, it appeared the coaching staff did just that. What you saw was a coordinated effort to get the ball to all three of Johnson, Warren, and Foreman. What happened? The offense still suffered. Before that though, the unit came through with 2 big touchdowns to pad a lead that would last the entire game. Kudos to the defense, of course. That the offense only needed 17 points for a win was huge! That said, let’s discuss some of the issues and suggestions I made in the first post, to see how the offense attempted to adapt.
To achieve ‘multiplicity’, Herman and Beck utilize a tight end, H-back, running back, or a receiver (motion or backfield alignment). It was my suggestion prior to the ISU game to take the tight end off-line more, they did that and it’s noted, Brewer performed admirably, a true freshman! Also, it was suggested to align a receiver in the backfield, Armanti Foreman. I was one-upped by the staff with the addition of Lil’Jordan Humphrey to the backfield.
Focal Point – Warren
Chris didn’t set the wet grass in Jack Trice on fire, but he did manage to yield early results, then some late to ice the game. Let’s be clear, Chris is not a ‘speed back’. He is a big powerful straight-ahead runner. If you get Chris to the 2nd level clean, he will push a pile or fall forward most of the time. If you get Chris to the 3rd level, your chances of big runs become a lot greater. It was good on the staff to get Chris more involved. That said, the offensive line needs to step up their game, to allow backs easier entry to the 2nd and 3rd levels.
Focal Issue – TE
Offset & Split – Not only did Beck take the tight end off-line more, he limited the tight end’s use to mainly Brewer and took him back further to create Broken Diamond backfield sets. This was a welcome development. Adding to that, Humphrey was also added to the backfield as an ‘auxiliary blocker’ with good effect. Both of these players are also ‘flexed’ outside. The development of Diamond formation is a good one in my opinion and one to keep an eye on.
Focal Issue – LT
Connor Williams’ injury was catastrophic for the offense. You don’t replace that talent and instead of one simple change the offensive line contends with two, a new left tackle and a new right tackle. Currently, Tristan Nickelson isn’t cutting the mustard. He simply loses too many blocks, run and pass. We’ll see if the staff allows Okafor a shot here, can he be worse? An aside, I liked what I saw from Kerstetter run blocking. If he begins pass blocking better (now), I will upgrade my expectations for him.
Motion – The staff continues to use motion to constrain inside runs and ‘flip’ numbers in the pass game. Now that Humphrey’s been added to the backfield, you’d expect him to come across formation in motion or shifts as well, we’ll see.
Schemes – My wish for Sweep and G-Lead did not come true. The staff is intent on sticking with Inside & Outside Zone, along with Power & Counter (read-option). That is fine and given their current performance level, less is more.
This is the next area that requires close inspection by the staff. It’s two-fold, receivers are not breaking open early enough on drop-back passes and the quarterback isn’t coming off reads quickly enough to the ‘3rd Fix’ for easy yards underneath. If you couple that with frequent false start and holding penalties, these issues are exacerbated, because the offense is forced to operate ‘behind the chains’. Fix the penalties, then tinker with the pass game.
Focal Issue – 3rd Fix
In the passing game, 3rd Fix comes after the Advantage and Concept. One thing you saw from ISU, dropping 8 in coverage. It’s not easy throwing intermediate and deep routes against 8 defenders. The quarterback often looked late to the ‘check down’. Either, he was taking too long or the 3rd Fix was not ‘tagged’. What’s more interesting, the staff can scheme a delayed draw or screen as the 3rd Fix. By tagging it, you’re moving it up in the progression. Either the quarterback ignore the Advantage or the Concept, then turn to the 3rd Fix. You can do this more often, especially when you’re seeing 8-man coverage.
Focal Point – Foreman
Jet & Orbit – In my last post, I highlighted (low-lighted) a poorly executed Bubble (Swing) Screen to Foreman. The staff is trying, the players need to execute. Stick with the motion, the offense needs it and better blocking.
Backfield – As I suggested, the staff included Foreman in the backfield. This was a good development undone by weak blocking efforts (Power Read). Clean this up and big plays will follow. You also saw Humphrey in the backfield, as an insert blocker. From there, the staff can choose to run Humphrey as well (Broken Diamond & Motion).
Scheme – Foreman is a deep threat and one whose speed should make him open underneath. Simple ‘Stop’ and Hitch routes should be utilized against off-coverage. Given his speed, Streak-Read (sideline) and Wheel routes (switch) suit Foreman well. That brings me to a point I’ll address in a moment.
Focal Point – Johnson
X-iso – This is the obvious, but what you saw last week made it near impossible to get the gall to the big receiving target. ISU utilized a sideline bracket on many occasions, rendering more frequent targets pointless. The following two points relate to this.
Drag & Sit – The staff continues to utilize the Drag route. Mentioned above, the ‘3rd Fix’ is one area the staff can scheme-in Johnson. Instead of stemming him upfield, you can Drag him across and make him the 3rd Fix. Tag this route and let Collin run. Lastly, again, when you run Drag, receivers should be able to sit in windows. I don’t see this happening often.
Shift – Change alignment to gain advantages, move Johnson inside and outside. Whether it’s pre-snap alignment or motion, make the defense contend with Johnson from different alignments. Inside, he’s a big threat to run the corner route against 2-high or man-coverage. This may also create space for other receivers, like Foreman.
Overall, I like what I see. The staff is making efforts to help the players succeed. Though embattled, you can’t ask for more than that. Would you be more upset not seeing some of these simple changes? I would. That’s not the case with Herman and Beck, that’s respectable. What it’s not is, getting the job done on a consistent basis. Every game, you see glints of what could be. A well-executed block here and there is all you need to see a more explosive offense. Given Herman’s responses this week, a development to keep your eye on is Toneil Carter. Toneil has speed. Look for the staff to create more opportunities for the freshman back. Hopefully, by the end of this week, that’ll be a whole other subject!