When you can’t consistently run the ball, passing becomes that much more important. When you’re also unable to consistently complete passes, a free fall ensues. That’s what you saw from the Texas offense in 2017. Is there plenty of blame to go around, yes. What’s really difficult to say is, exactly what else the staff could’ve done? Is it the scheme. Is it the coaching? Is it the players, gasp!? How about, it’s all three. I do my best here to provide you with my opinion on things, especially offensive (pun intended) football. My whole approach revolves around finding the easiest yards, run or pass. Then, when it’s time to take a shot, where aren’t they, the defense that is. Anyhow, let’s take a look at some issues in the Tech game, a game Sam struggled to find the open man. I want to be clear, Sam is a young player, he has a long career ahead of him. What I think this staff needs is an injection of talent (offensive line) and a fresh look at the pass game. This post may surprise you some, let’s get started.
In the first example, Beck attempts to deliver Herman’s baby, the 3-Level pass concept. This is run from a 1 tight end ’20’ personnel set. It’s set up via play-action. 3-Level is a Flood concept, it attempts to route 3 receivers to the sideline of coverage. In this case, the boundary receiver pushes vertical. Note the safety highlighted in red, very important. Also, you’ll note the back’s path is to the flat and the field side inside receiver releasing inside.
At this stage of the concept, you see Sam’s eyes up field. Now, where’s the safety now? Part of the beauty of vertical routes is they tend to occupy a safety. If it’s only the safety, there is big play potential, but if another coverage defender follows, you’re likely seeing what’s called a bracket. You’ll see the problem in the next frame.
Sam is launching the ball, clearly to a deep zone, where the corner and safety are bracketing the vertical route. This is a missed opportunity. Once the quarterback sees the safety ‘cap’ the deep route, he should be scanning to the crosser with his eyes, stepping up, and delivering the pass if the crosser’s open. This is a fail and something that’s not uncommon with young passers.
Next is a very simple concept, Slant-Flat, from the same personnel grouping. Again, you see the play-action or RPO action. If it is an RPO, Sam is reading the Nickel defender between the hashes. Note the coverage defenders out over the two receivers set to the field.
The typical way Slant-Flat is read is against the alley defender who either drops against the Slant or drives down on the Flat route. What do you see below? That alley defender is committed and look at the space that will be vacated.
What happens? Sam throws the Flat route where there is limited space, while the Slant is open with ‘grass’ in front. The quarterback must be able to make this read and ‘bang’ the Slant. Second, if you’re scheme introduces a defender in the pass window, this concept requires altering to break the Slant open fast and ‘rub’ against the alley defender. Nevertheless, Sam makes a decent throw with good timing. Unfortunately, it is shut down with little to no YAC. Later in the game, Sam hit the Slant, so it wasn’t ALL bad.
Up next is the same personnel with Orbit motion to the field added. Now, it’s understandable, giving Sam simple reads. In this case, the read is the Alley defender, again. I want you to note the defensive structure. It’s 3-deep, how many does that leave ‘in’ against the formation and where’s the leverage advantage?
This is where more experience and recognition come into play. While the ‘box count’ is favorable, one blocker per one box defender, the defensive structure is screaming for the Bubble to be thrown, as the Alley is losing leverage and you have two blockers out on the up safety and corner.
Sam gives here, not a bad read per se, but you expect a quarterback with better recognition to take the pass with great leverage. Furthermore, in the context of the game, Texas runs were going nowhere. The pass should’ve been favored against the structure seen here (above).
Up next, red zone offense, where Texas has struggled. You see a sprint (right) concept here, note the depth of the defenders at the line and the positioning of coverage at the snap. In this frame, motion is winning and the boundary receiver is stemming inside the corner.
What you see is the inside stem ‘rubs’ the corner. At this very moment, the Flat route is open, ball should be coming out. Unfortunately, Sam doesn’t see it, maybe blockers are in his field of vision, I don’t know. What happens next is even more baffling.
The ‘switch’ Corner route comes wide open, because the corner comes off to defend the flat along with the motion chaser. Sam doesn’t see this route either. Instead, his eyes are now back, across his body to the backside crosser and if he’s going to throw this one, his feet need to be set with the ball coming out, now! What you see are schemes that are effective coupled with failed execution. Is Sam being coached to turn his eyes back to the crosser? Also, this is the second time (by my count) he’s missed the same concept. If you count the similar ‘rub’ against OSU, it’s the third. It seems there’s not a thorough understanding and if so, why make calls the quarterback can’t execute?
You’ve seen some bad, now let’s take a look at some good. One thing I liked about this offense is the use of Bunch sets. Texas will either align in the Bunch or motion to it. As a result, receivers generally come open. Why it’s not utilized more is a good question. Then again, the quarterback must be able to recognize and get the ball out quick. Below I illustrate the stems and you can see Sam’s eyes on the weak safety. This bothers me some. Once you see that safety on the boundary hash at the snap, the likelihood of him making a play to the Bunch side is very slim.
If you were tracking the Bunch concept throughout the game. Texas can run a screen out of it or route receivers. Against Tech, they were routing the inside-most receiver to the flat underneath a ‘rub’. This is a counter to that idea, why? You see the corner, he zones outside and instead of running a Flat route, the receiver pivots and begins turning inside against the corner’s leverage. Meanwhile, the vertical occupies two coverage defenders (incl. safety) and the Drag occupies the linebacker inside.
Sam slides right very well here to create a clearer path to deliver the pass. The receiver is open with ‘grass’ in front of him. This was well done. However, the Bunch isn’t thrown to enough. It gives defenses fits and more times than not, the play-caller knows the the adjustment the defense will be in. You don’t normally see many adjustments to Bunch. If I had my druthers, I’d base more of the offense on Bunch, both compressed and split wide. You may see a post on that soon.
Sam is a talented player, but he has much developing to do. It’s my opinion the offense, staff, and players put too much on the quarterbacks’ shoulders. Without a viable run game the staff likely doesn’t have the ‘chops’ to create a pass-first framework. The staff then tried to aid the run game by including Sam, but even that didn’t lend itself much to a consistent ground game. What’s left is passing and neither the scheme or the quarterbacks were capable of consistently moving the ball that way either. For Sam, the following issues will need to be addressed. Recognition, know the defense you’re up against to best leverage the talent around you. Concept, improve the conceptual understanding of what the offense is trying to do. Location, when Sam finds open receivers, the ball needs to be located well with more frequency. Sam shows promise, but the odds are not in his favor as a passer. That said, I’m not writing him off. Perhaps with a better coordinated pass game and effective run game, those faults improve. Heading into 2018, look for a change to be made. As always, let me know what you think in the comments.