TX’s & O’s | Empty For Eagles

Hi y’all, let’s talk some football! Tuesday on Twitter I was reflecting on the Eagles signing. While Texas currently boasts a talented WR corps, there isn’t quite another current threat like Brennan Eagles, one who possesses ALL the traits, speed, power, explosivenesss and SIZE (Collin being the closest)! It got me thinking about Herman’s baby, the 3-Level passing game and how a player like Eagles can be deployed. Let’s start there.

I see no way for Herman to keep Eagles off the field, so long as Eagles fulfills his end of the bargain with effort and quick learning. Y’all saw Collin Johnson contribute heavily as a freshman, you may see it again. Eagles provides the following:

– Physical presence: NEVER discount this and if I know Herman, he’ll make sure Eagles becomes a punishing blocker outside too. There’s also beating press-man at times, DB’s better be able to stand up to the big man (think Julio Jones).

– Explosiveness: Eagles can fly, pun intended. He’s not only big, but dude possesses similar speed to smaller fast receivers, that’s deadly. This leads me to my next point.

– Deployment: Herman’s offense will move receivers around more often than last year’s Gilbert offense. With that comes more variety, which can augment diferent threats. That’s what we’ll discuss below.

Before I continue, I want to thank Longhorns Football alum and ACTS pass game wunderkind, Dan Gonzalez for allowing me to use his images and for being the guiding force in helping me understand this great game. If you’ve never read or learned from Dan, follow him on Twitter and definitely buy his books, great stuff!

I’ve watched plenty Herman offense, in fact, it hasn’t changed an awful lot since his time at Iowa State. It’s still spread to run ball. That said, I remembered noting Empty formations quite a bit and now that he doesn’t have a thoroughbred at quarterback, you’ll likely see him scheme more passing from these sets. That means getting the ball in the hands of explosive players. As noted above, a player like Eagles provides for a potent mix of physicality and speed, a receiver that can man-handle you for another teammate or blow by you upfield. That also means other threats on the field are augmented. Defenses must still contend with the likes of Collin Johnson, Devin Duvernay, Armanti Foreman,  and Jerrod Heard, to name a handful. Add Eagles into the bunch, the sky’s the limit. Let’s take a look at a couple examples to see just how Herman may set defenses aflame this season.

First up, Herman’s baby, 3-Level passing, this is a concept you’ll see run many ways, especially with a switch-verticals component to make it stem like a screen. Since Herman likes to move personnel around to create mismatches, one way to do that is to go Empty. Below, you can see where an X, Y, or Z can align. If you’re Eagles, you can align at any one of those spots.  He can do this because his size-athleticism combination makes it so he  doesn’t have to specialize as much. Whether it’s forcing a safety down to cover at the X, stemming to block the Sam and pivot at A, or taking the top off of coverage at Z, Eagles presents unique problems. As for the Y, I LOVE Collin Johnson on corner routes. With his athleticism and height, he’s tough to cover even when you know the corner is coming.

Then, as Dan pointed out in our Twitter conversation, if you have an explosive player like Eagles, you can set traps with double-moves. The Texas WR corps is such that, you simply can’t take away one guy and expect to be okay. Defenses who don’t have more than two good cover defenders will be in a constant state of duress. Below, note again that the stems are similar to a screen concept, something Herman calls a lot. With a player like Eagles bearing down on you and sitting underneath, you need to be aggressive closing him down just to tackle him. In comes the double-move.

Now, there’s a lot more going on in these diagrams and perhaps, if you like, I can help explain how Dan’s ACTS system works and how it relates to the quarterback. The point of this post is to help illustrate the type of match-ups you’ll see from Empty, especially up against split-safety coverage. With the type of threats Texas can deploy, adding more explosive options will only make it worse for defenses. Until then, you can discuss how these schemes relate to current 2017 personnel.