You’ve read here a general overview of what to expect with Herb Hand’s input on the offense. The short story, it will not change much. The long story, given the addition of personnel along the offensive line and Hand’s coaching, the improvement could be drastic. Now, it’s looking like Herman may take control of calling the offense. That’s fine and won’t make a big difference when it comes to scheming and play selection. After all, it was his offensive system to begin and end with, the scapegoating of Tim Beck was mostly the result of cognitive dissonance. Few were willing to criticize the new shiny ‘Mastermind’ head coach. Beyond that, where the most improvement is needed is in execution. You can isolate individual issues in an offense, a missed assignment here, a missed block there. What’s important is, more often than not, personnel (as a whole) nailing the job at hand. It’s a collective effort. That said, the unit with the biggest issues (literally and figuratively) last season was the offensive line. That’s where Hand’s coaching comes into play most, with a sprinkling of procedure, formation, and scheme. We’ll keep it simple today, only looking at formations and how they relate to personnel and intent. After all, the thing I like most about Hand (& Malzahn) is how simplistic the is. We’ll use the 2017 Auburn offense as the subject. If Texas is to look a bit different this year, that ‘different’ will be to look more like Auburn, not bad, right?
The image below is very familiar and like Herman, ‘base personnel’ is very likely 1 tight end, 1 running back, and 3 receivers. If the tight end is in-line, it’s ‘11’ personnel, if behind the line, it’s ‘20’ (now two ‘back’), and if split wide, ‘10’, depending on who you ask. Expect this a lot at Texas. With the tight end, particular defenders can be targeted for blocking, blocking angles can be manipulated, he can split the flow of backfield movement, and can lead along with the direction of the offensive line. Lastly, the tight end can slip into the pattern as a receiver, many times off of play-action. For Texas, players like Beck, Brewer, Leitao, and perhaps Cummins will factor in here. What you hope for is good health.
You’ll also be very familiar with 4 receiver sets, usually referred to as ‘10’ personnel. This can be utilized on any down, as seen below on first and ten. You’ll also note the ‘Stack’ alignments to both sides. This tends to stress the alignments of Alley defenders to both sides of the defense. Notice the outside linebackers on both sides, the box is expanded and stretched. Stack can be used against defenses that press outside. This grants at least one receiver a ‘free release’ and to either side. It also stresses the pursuit and run fit responsibilities of the outside linebackers on the defense. You may see this more often next season to soften the box and or create match-ups outside for screen and quick passes.
You may also see the quarterback under center more often next season. This may not seem like much, but in a ‘game of inches’ the little bit of extra initiative can make a difference. What you’ll notice below is, this formation is included in the offense’s ‘jet’ motion series. There is a lot you can scheme different by placing the quarterback under center. Again, what I like about Hand (& Malzahn) is that they look for any edge, to win. In the case below, Aurburn runs play-action out of this set. Special note, with the likes of Sam Ehlinger under center, misdirection quarterback runs and delayed screens can be used from this look.
I wanted to include a couple examples of Hand and Malzahn utilizing an extra offensive lineman and an imbalanced formation. Texas will likely have a glut of personnel to deploy along the offensive line this year, unlike last year, when many suffered injuries. That is a major difference from last season to this season. Again, wish for good health.
Below is another example, three offensive linemen set to the right. Now, having an extra offensive linemen isn’t magic. Everyone must nail their assignments just like any other play. What it sometimes affords you is a better match-up, big people beat up little people. If you have a 6th good offensive lineman, get that big ugly dude in the game, smash!
Lastly, the ‘lightning huddle’, this is something Malzahn began doing to keep the initiative in a fast moving no-huddle environment. By not revealing alignment early on, the offense gains a slight advantage in time. Add to that, if the ball is snapped quickly, it prevents any pre-snap defensive adjusting. In a situation like this, it can be used to take a shot or aim for efficiency for a better third down situation. If you look closely at the Alabama defense, they’re trying to see what personnel are on the field. Shortly after this moment, Auburn hurries to the line and snaps the ball.
Now, will you see all these changes? That’s another question. What I wanted to do was highlight a few things that may change from last season. Herman brought Hand in to create a killer offensive line, first and foremost. Hand’s philosophy, as a spread football coach, is similar to Herman’s, both like to run the ball. What my and maybe your hope is, is that Herman let’s Hand provide significant input as to how things should be run, whether it’s a full Hand-Malzahn install or something different, a Frankenstein Hand-Herman creation. Whatever the monster becomes, if it’s different, expect some of the changes highlighted above. As always, share your thoughts in the comments.