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Mensa offense vs Big 12 defenses

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Posted (edited)

Looks like Herman will be using more 2 back sets in 2019. 

Thx to @texasstrong12 for these articles:

http://breakdownsports.blogspot.com/2015/07/inside-playbook-ohio-state-2-back-offense-urban-meyer.html

@texasstrong12 :  Also, in reference to the 2 back sets I wonder if we see some of the "diamond formations" that Herman used at Ohio State. You force defenses to double CJ on the outside and if they do double you get the numbers advantage in the run game. 

https://www.elevenwarriors.com/2013/06/22989/tom-herman-talks-newly-installed-diamond-formation

It’s kind of an inverted Wishbone. Dana Holgorsen did a good job with it a few years back at Oklahoma State when he had (Brandon) Weeden and (Justin) Blackmon. He was getting into it to get single coverage on Blackmon. He would put three backs in the game, or two backs with a fullback/tight end guy. And Dana would have a two-play check to where if defenses double Blackmon, they were going to run it. And if they didn’t, they were going to throw it to Blackmon. I have been studying it for a couple of years.

It has evolved a little bit to where guys are running a lot more plays out of the formation. It has been fun. It has been fun for our guys because we are pretty deep at tailback. Carlos (Hyde) and Rod Smith, who probably could start a lot of places in this league. And we have two young guys in Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball who deserve to see the field a little bit.

Edited by LTtxfan

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Mensa Tom.  The Accountant character was a "high-functioning autistic"...... Some believe that since they're often so intellectually advanced and gifted, they struggle in the "real world" because they see/hear things through a different prism and are so misunderstood. 
Kinda like being lost in a foreign country where you can't seem to communicate with the locals,  eventhough you are highly more advanced and intelligent.
So like being here?

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New IT article just out..... hopefully someone can post full article

Inside the Gameplan: An historically unique offense

May 23, 2019 by IT Staff

 

The 2019 Texas Longhorn offense is likely to be historically unique. The 2018 offense was fairly unique in its own right, they essentially ran a 21 personnel spread a year ago with Andrew Beck serving as a part-time fullback and occasional flex tight end while Lil’Jordan Humphrey was a nearly full-time flex tight end. Those two players defined the offense with their hybrid utilizations.

The 2019 Longhorns also figure to be a unique, two-back spread team but the two inside positions (H-back and Y-back) couldn’t look any more different. The 2018 H-back Humphrey was at his best using agility, smarts, and length to break open in coverage and the offense had several formations and concepts designed to help Sam Ehlinger find him for key pick-ups in the passing game.

Beck was a sturdy blocker in the box from a variety of alignments with decent hands and the knowhow to run routes from all over the field. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t exceptional at getting open on those routes or bringing the ball in, his job was to hold the attention of at least one coverage defender and then they’d move him around to create problems for the defense based on which defender they chose . What he did well was block at a level that forced defenses to keep bigger personnel on the field to avoid getting run over, setting up Texas to move Humphrey around and find matchups on clumsier linebacker or to feature Ehlinger in the short-yardage package.

It’s possible that neither of those two positions are going to be manned by players similar to Humphrey or Beck in 2019.

(You must have a premium account to access the rest of this article... )

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On 2/1/2019 at 10:52 AM, sushihorn said:

Nice article from this past season discussing the emerging counter-trend in the Big XII led by Texas and Iowa State but also including Baylor.  Power spread rushing attacks as the answer to the Air Raid - which is a sufficiently potent attack that you have to address it on BOTH sides of the ball.

The Bash bros are coming for the Raid bros

Tom Herman often speaks of the importance of the TE.  It's absolutely critical to get production from that position and replacing Beck is an big priority for next year.  Also I was one of those people watching tight zone run and mistaking it for Zone Read.  The QB keeper is only a constraint if the slot defender crashes down hard.  So basically it's a 95% inside zone play to the RB with a built in counter rather than an option play in the traditional sense.

It's a great article and there's a bunch more meat in there.  Hopefully this discussion will help us get through the long offseason.

Bump

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Posted (edited)

https://www.footballstudyhall.com/2019/5/31/18647463/tcus-next-offensive-adjustment-veer-and-shoot-matthew-baldwin-gary-patterson

 

Since Big 12 offenses related..... adding to thread

TCU’s next offensive adjustment

This offseason Gary Patterson has quietly been assembling the staff and players to infuse his program with the one offensive tactic that has always given him fits.

By Ian Boyd@Ian_A_Boyd  May 31, 2019

The greatest rivalry of the early 2010s in the Big 12 was the one between Gary Patterson’s TCU and Art Briles’ Baylor. It was an annual showdown between the state’s brightest offensive and defensive minds, played out through a pair of private schools largely considered as afterthoughts in the Texas college football scene and consequently equipped with massive chips on their shoulders. Those two teams have played every year of this decade and the Patterson v Briles scorecard read as follows:

2010: TCU 45-10

2011: Baylor 50-48

2012: TCU 49-21

2013: Baylor 41-38

2014: Baylor 61-58

2015: TCU 28-21

Those 2011 and 2014 games really left their mark on Patterson and TCU. The former launched Baylor’s magical breakthrough season in which RG3 won the Heisman trophy while the latter spoiled an otherwise perfect season and kept the Frogs out of the playoffs. As a defensive coach, taking losses where he watched his team yield 50+ points was exceptionally grating for Patterson and then there were some other issues dating back a ways that ensured those two would never see eye to eye.

Baylor’s ability to light up even potent defenses such as the 2014 TCU squad was really eye opening and encouraged other spread teams around the country (and especially in the Big 12) to open up their offenses more with aggressive vertical passing. The TCU Frogs had a tough few years there on defense after 2014 before putting it all back together in recent seasons. And now? Gary Patterson has aimed to even the score.

An innocuous assistant hire

In a media availability recorded by Frogs O War, Gary Patterson slipped in some quotes about something TCU has in the works for the coming season. First he inserted a note when discussing the challenges faced by his younger defensive additions in spring ball:

“...we’ve changed some things in our passing game, that I think have helped us, and we’re utilizing our speed which makes it harder on our secondary.”

Eventually he slipped in another hint.

“The guy that’s looked the best out of everybody has been Taye Barber, on the inside. Taye Barber. The new offensive, some of the new passing stuff we’re doing has really helped him use his speed...”

Finally he got a follow up question asking what the Frogs we’re up to for the coming season and he responded:

“The new WR coach, one of the reasons why we hired him is having some thought process from when he was at Houston and he was at Arkansas State, some of the things...both of those do a good job of throwing the football so...”

Patterson didn’t want to reveal too much more than that, even throwing in the Arkansas State reference which I don’t think is even accurate, perhaps to try and obscure his meaning. If you watch the presser you can see some restrained giddiness in Patterson’s features when he’s discussing these changes, he’s clearly excited about them without wanting to give away the game. The WR coach he’s referring to is Malcolm Kelly, who on the surface didn’t appear to be a major addition to the TCU staff.

Kelly was a standout performer for the Sooners and their leading receiver in 2006 and 2007 before heading out early for the NFL (second round pick) and unfortunately missing out on participating in one of the deadliest offenses in college football history in 2008. In 2017 and 2018 he started to get his coaching career going by serving as a grad assistant at Houston.  In that time he worked under the son of Gary Patterson’s old foe, Kendal Briles, when the former Baylor OC was the Houston OC in 2018. The “veer and shoot” offense that Briles learned from his dad is heavy on utilizing downfield passing, particularly with the slot receiver, in a manner that is hard exceptionally productive and can really unleash a speedy WR corps with athletes like Taye Barber (4.53 40 in high school) and Jalen Reagor (10.9 sprinter in high school, 1k receiving yards in 2018).

It seems that TCU has finally incorporated some of the spread-iso offensive tricks that gave them so much trouble earlier this decade.

It’s simply a matter of finding a QB that can tie everything together, a task for which Matthew Baldwin is probably best suited.  We haven’t seen Baldwin in the college game much save for an Ohio State spring game appearance, the last we saw of him in a highly competitive environment was during Lake Travis HS’s state run in 2017. Baldwin threw for 3842 yards at 10.5 ypa with 44 TDs and six INT. He also ran for 425 yards and nine TDs but doesn’t have the sort of quickness that would make TCU’s zone-read game hum like it did for Shawn Robinson, Kenny Hill, or Trevone Boykin. However, at 6-3/220 pounds with experience running a variety of option schemes he might be effective in the power-read.

The name of the game for that Lake Travis team was Baldwin chucking the ball around on double moves and adjustable routes to 5-star WR and recent Ohio State teammate Garrett Wilson and 4-star Texas commit (at QB) Hudson Card.

His command of the RPO game...

Baldwin_RPO_slant.gif

...and vertical passing attack....

Baldwin_rollout_bomb.gif

...probably make him the favorite to win the job in the fall before considering that he evidently felt confident enough in the situation to transfer in the first place.

The way this all works together best is by the Horned Frogs finding a solid blocking TE somewhere on their roster to allow them to mimic the Baylor deep choice route game with play-action. This offense can work from a four-wide set but it’s easier to protect the QB and really work over the safeties with play-action if there’s a blocking TE/FB ancillary on the field to spice up the run game, help block nickel fronts without involving QB run options, and trigger run support fills from the secondary that opens up 1-on-1s down the field.

Assuming that Jalen Reagor as a single side receiver would tend to be able to draw bracket coverage, the Frogs could run slot choice routes all day to spring standout Taye Barber, using play-action to create space for him before Baldwin simply threw him open down the field as he raced by safeties into open grass.

 

TCU_slot_choice_to_Barber.jpg

While quarterback has been tricky due to all of the transfers and turnover, the Horned Frogs otherwise figure to be in an up cycle on offense thanks to their experience and talent level across the OL combined with the presence of a true game-changer on the roster in Jalen Reagor. Had they managed to find a reliable distributor this offseason to play QB that likely would have been enough, but adding a talent downfield passer to run a veer and shoot style passing attack is another matter entirely.

If the Frogs can pull this off than their 2019 season will be similar to their breakthrough in 2014.

Edited by LTtxfan

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Patterson throwing in the towel last year was glorious.

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50 minutes ago, XYZ said:

Patterson throwing in the towel last year was glorious.

home video monkey GIF by Cheezburger  

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Some pretty basic film study from Murf Baldwin. Nothing earth-shattering, but he likes the same things about the Texas offense that I like, namely that it's a hit-you-in-the-mouth kind of offense.
 

 

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I know Herman's philosophy is that it doesn't matter if the win is by 1 or 100, it's still a win. With that being said, I really hope he decides to let the team step on everyone's throat and not go conservative like he has in his first two years once leading late. Don't necessarily need to go to QB power so often, just don't close the playbook so early. Texas is finally in a position again to really start destroying every team in front of them. With so many guys being replaced on the defense, the offense will need to be the cash cow until they get their footing. I'm very excited to see what this team can really do.

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2 hours ago, HOOK'EMHOOAH said:

I know Herman's philosophy is that it doesn't matter if the win is by 1 or 100, it's still a win. With that being said, I really hope he decides to let the team step on everyone's throat and not go conservative like he has in his first two years once leading late.

Not saying this isn’t the case but I would offer my opinion that, based on what I saw at UH too, it’s a matter of his game planning getting us leads and other teams talent and ability keeping them in it, rather than easing off the gas. I think our high caliber players don’t have the experience yet, and our older players aren’t of the high caliber we’re going to see under Herman’s time here.

When you look at his other stops, he hasn’t shown a whole lot of mercy.

Once our OL and RBs are playing at the level Texas should expect, we’ll grind out the clock and produce (and won’t need Sam to carry the burden so much), but Herman hasn’t been able to completely overcome the talent disparity that put us in the 5-7 hole in two seasons.

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Ha, no. But I do think in the future our ball control offense will be much more effective, and will have a stronger defense to back it up.

Controlling the clock late with the lead is not a bad idea - it just seems that way when you go three and out then give up points to a two minute drill.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, The Earl of Texas said:

Ha, no. But I do think in the future our ball control offense will be much more effective, and will have a stronger defense to back it up.

Controlling the clock late with the lead is not a bad idea - it just seems that way when you go three and out then give up points to a two minute drill.

Going away from what got you the lead on both sides of the ball will never be a good idea, but hopefully we’ll at least be better at it if Herman’s gonna stay stubborn. 

Orlando’s scheme especially struggles when not being aggressive.

Edited by Burt Macklin

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Inside Texas Discussion of Herman vs Aranda..... (Sorry I don't have the premium access)


 

Inside the Gameplan: Tom Herman versus Dave Aranda

As you will no doubt hear countless times during the lead-up and broadcast of the big showdown between Texas and LSU next fall, Tom Herman and Dave Aranda have some history together. They were college roommates at California Lutheran and then coordinated their own units across from each other in the Big 10 in 2013 and 2014. Aranda followed his mentor Gary Andersen to Wisconsin from Utah State while Herman was snatched up by Urban Meyer from Iowa State to coordinate Ohio State from 2012-2014

In round one, a regular season 2013 game, Herman’s Buckeyes won 31-24 behind a gritty performance by Braxton Miller throwing for 198 yards and four TDs while rushing 22 times for 83 yards. The passing undid the Badgers, and the Buckeyes landed blows on multiple early drives before Wisconsin was able to batten down the hatches. Round two was a fascinating contest that many will remember since it took place during the 2014 Big 10 championship game.

It was year two for the Aranda defense at Wisconsin and they were running some schemes and personnel groupings fairly familiar to his current team at LSU. Meanwhile Ohio State was 10-1 and coming off a big win over Michigan that had cost them star freshman (redshirt) QB J.T. Barrett. They’d already lost Braxton Miller to a shoulder injury in the previous season’s bowl game and with Barrett out were down to Cardale Jones as the starter. As we now know, what followed was an historic three game stretch. First the Buckeyes would sneak into the college football playoff over loud protests, especially in Big 12 country where the 10-1 co-champion Baylor Bears and TCU Horned Frogs were jumped over, before justifying the selection committee with resounding wins over Alabama and then the Marcus Mariota Oregon team that had just beaten down Jameis Winston’s Florida State.

That all got started here, with the Buckeyes laying a 59-0 savage beating on Aranda’s Badgers that made the choice easier for the selection committee and foretold what was coming.

You must have a premium account to access the rest of this article.

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It’s interesting that he noted the double slant as one our go to concepts. It was early in the season, and once there was a ton of tape on it (working might I add) we transitioned to a wheel/post combo and then something like double short fades where then twin WR’s stepped inside and then faded out for about 5 yards. All of that was to take advantage of DB’s cheating inside with alignment or leverage to take away the double slants. It led to a lot of easy open short completions where the DB’s has no idea how to play it. 

 

Im also interested to see if we develop a little concept that looked like a lot of fun where the H and RB went one direction like an option play and Sam went right on either a zone run or sprint pass. Kinda like a strange split zone look. Lots of possibilities. 

I admit that LSU will have top shelf athletes, but I’m a bit tired of the crap about Texas not seeing their like. Hey bud, Texas kicked the sh*t out of the the hottest offenses in the SEC two years running, and manhandled the team that lost the MNC on the last play two years ago while wilting in the final moments against Bama in the 2018 SEC championship games.  Which is to say that we’ve seen the best the SEC has to offer, and we’re by no means outmatched. In fact, that seems to be the norm when SEC teams have venture out of the ESPN/Finebaum own fart huffing hype machine. 

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1 minute ago, runthebone said:

I'm just hoping LSU doesn't care, like Georgia

It's amazing how quickly SEC teams stop caring when you punch them in the fucking mouth.

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After the mudhole, the narrative will be that LSU gave no shits about playing an exhibition game in Texas because they had to rest players to get ready of the SECSECSEC gauntlet.  

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1 hour ago, runthebone said:

I'm just hoping LSU doesn't care, like Georgia

Well, I can assure you that “not caring” will not be their excuse for losing this game.  Not sure what reason they’ll have, but they will come up with something.

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8 minutes ago, Cairn Horn88 said:

Well, I can assure you that “not caring” will not be their excuse for losing this game.  Not sure what reason they’ll have, but they will come up with something.

However, it will motivate them to stomp a mudhole in the aggys.  

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Mensa Tom Herman is focused on one thing.  Winning.  Kicking your ass and getting that same feeling he had as an assistant coach at OSU, but now as the head coach at the University of Texas.  Tom is going to recruit large, win big, and make sure everyone knows that the flagship football program in Texas is located in Austin.   I like typing shit like this because it is going to happen soon.  That 2021 class looks that everyone is going to jump onboard or fear missing out.  

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Posted (edited)

Just adding to this thread...

Thx to @Machinator for this stuff

"  http://sportstreatise.com/2019/07/game-theory-and-the-spread-offense/

Plus below Ian Boyd stuff:

Tom Herman has had strong relationships with his quarterbacks in the past but his partnership with Sam Ehlinger could be one of the most meaningful yet. After two years working with Ehlinger as a spot or full-time starter, Herman and his junior QB have been through some fires while attempting to rebuild the Texas football program and put together the first elite offense in Austin since Colt McCoy was on the 40 Acres.

“We respect the heck out of each other, I would want that guy in my foxhole, any day of the week, whatever cliche you want to use, you know? In a bar fight, whatever it is, I want that guy by my side in times of adversity. We do butt heads at times, but I think that’s a testament to how much I trust him and how much I believe in his maturity level that we can quite literally argue on the headset during the game then we’re hugging after the game.”
-Tom Herman

Now the Longhorns are looking at an enormously consequential 2019 season in which they’ll be taking center stage with a schedule that matches them up against championship contender LSU and then features a wide open Big 12 Conference. On top of that, Sam Ehlinger chose to announce that Texas was “back” after their 28-21 upset victory over Georgia, heaping extra attention on the upcoming year. The Longhorns always have plenty of bullseyes on them, but the pressure on this season is greater. If Texas can’t put something special together in year three with Herman and Ehlinger under these favorable circumstances, they’ll face an increasingly uphill climb to seize control of the Big 12 and regional recruiting in coming seasons..

Fortunately for Herman and the Longhorns, while the roster is stocked largely with young, up and coming talent on offense and defense, they’ll have an upperclassman Ehlinger to help put it all together. Tom Herman and his staff have a vision for the signal caller’s third year in which he distributes the ball to a unit that can isolate and overpower opponents with their skill talent on normal downs before taking over to put them over the top in situational football. If it all comes together like it should, the Longhorns will field their most effective offense of the decade, perhaps even the century.

Joining the RPO spread revolution

One of the big questions for every spread offense is how they’re going to run the football on a nickel front. If the defense is in a two-high quarters concept with a sturdy front six that knows how to play your favorite run concepts, can you force the issue somehow and still generate chain-moving gains on the ground?

On the chalkboard you have five OL for blocking all but one of those six defenders, but how do you stop the sixth from making a tackle near the line of scrimmage? There are three popular options, one is to deploy a FB/TE like Texas likes to do with their “Y-back” TE player, who offers a sixth blocker. Another is to leave a defender unblocked and have the QB read him on the option to determine whether to keep the ball or hand off to the RB. Finally there’s the RPO...

“I think the appeal of the RPO is that instead of what I grew up learning, spread zone-read that was a run-run option, right, which obviously exposes your quarterback a little more when he did keep the football, where now it’s a run-pass option. So if the defense does something to make you pull the ball out of the running back’s belly it’s not the quarterback running with it anymore it’s the quarterback throwing it. And it’s a way to get more yards because those yards are a little more down the field…”
-Tom Herman

Texas ran some RPOs in 2018, but they were mostly limited to bubble screens, swing passes to the RBs or TE, and the occasional hitch to Collin Johnson or Devin Duvernay. Texas could account for all six nickel defenders with Andrew Beck blocking a DE or LB and then they could control the nickel back with a quick bubble screen or an Ehlinger keeper. If the safeties got nosy they’d dial up a play-action toss to Collin Johnson.

In 2019 Texas may not have a TE that they want to play as much as Beck played but they can explore other options anyways with Ehlinger now entering his junior year. In particular, vertical pass options on run plays that push the ball down the field and force off ball defenders to hang back rather than playing the run. A great RPO attack can force off ball defenders to play hesitantly against the run even when they see the OL coming downhill on inside zone or GT counter, or else risk getting taken apart. For instance…

giphy.gif

giphy.gif

The 2018 Alabama Crimson Tide made RPOs the main thrust of their offense with Tua Tagovailoa returning after his championship performance against Georgia and shredded defenses like Oklahoma’s that tried to crash hard to stop the run only to yield throwing lanes for slants and glance routes. Now a similar embrace of RPOs is in the works for Texas for 2019.

Ian Boyd:
Sam, coach has been talking about the increased role of RPOs in the offense next year, that puts a lot more on your shoulders, how’s that been going? What is that looking like for you guys so far in the offseason?

Sam Ehlinger:
It’s been awesome. I love it because it’s going to be hard for teams to try and take away the run without adding guys in because of how physical and athletic we are going to be up front and the skill we’re gonna have at the running back position, without having guys that are running 4.5s cutting behind them. We saw that a lot in the spring, I really enjoyed it, I think there’s a lot of teams around the country that do it really well…

Ian Boyd:
Like your friend Tua...

Sam Ehlinger:
(nodding)…yeah, man, Tua is really, really good at it. And it’s a little bit different, now instead of reading the backside we’re reading the frontside or maybe we’re reading both sides. It’s just more of a full field type deal and it really puts defenses in a bind.

What we’re talking about here is Texas having multiple pre and post snap options in the offense for Ehlinger to take based both on how defenses are aligned and how they respond to pre and post snap movement. Those could include the fade ball to Collin Johnson, quick slants to the slot receivers, and all sorts of adjustments that can allow Ehlinger to turn any given play into an opportunity to land a knockout punch throwing to a “4.5 guy cutting behind” LBs.

Ehlinger noted his growth in executing this style of offense over the offseason,

“One of the bigger things for me is understanding defenses and understanding what really hurts them, now that I have a great grasp on our offense and what college football is like [now] really transitioning into understanding pre-snap what defenses are in, what to expect post snap. And once I can really grasp that we’ll always be in the right play offensively and we’ll always have a chance.”
-Sam Ehlinger

Here’s one of dozens of possible examples of how that could look from the offense with a flexed out TE or good blocking slot and then a burner like Jordan Whittington, Josh Moore, or Jake Smith at the H.

(the tower is Collin Johnson)

image.png

Texas can quick motion the H to the perimeter before the snap so that Ehlinger can key the middle linebacker. If he stays in the box and doesn’t chase the H, it’s a simple pitch on the swing pass and the strong safety has to be able to come down and make an open field tackle or else the nickel or corner needs to beat a block. With guys like Whittington or Smith as the target this is an easy recipe for picking up chunk yards.

image.png

If the middle linebacker chases the H then the typical means by which modern defenses like to replace him in the box is to drop a safety down to join the run fit, so the free safety becomes the post-snap key. If Ehlinger sees him dropping into the box or drifting to the middle of the field so that the strong safety can drop down, he can pull the ball from the RB and throw the fade (or another route) to Collin Johnson who’s now matched up 1-on-1 vs a cornerback.


image.png

If both read-key defenders hang back to maintain a conservative pass defense, then they’re allowing Keaontay Ingram and Texas’ five OL to go up against five defenders in the box. That’s the true objective and the means by which Texas can look to protect their star QB, isolate their improving OL on a league not known for having size and depth up front on defense, and loosing their talented young RBs into space.
image.png

Clemson ran their offense this way in 2018 and star RB Travis Etienne turned 204 carries into 1658 yards at 8.1 ypc. Using these schemes to prevent safeties and even linebackers from closing quickly on Keaontay Ingram and the RBs could be a shockingly effective way to turn a steady rushing attack into an explosive one.

There are other benefits as well, which Herman noted when explaining the thought process behind ramping up their RPO game for the 2019 season...

“...we made it a priority to try and take some of those hits off of Sam, I think in an ideal world, obviously Sam is going to scramble right? So you can’t avoid that. There’s going to be times when he’s pressured on a pass play and he’s going to scramble but then there’s going to be times when we call his number on fourth and one, but if we can eliminate the times that he’s actually keeping it on a read scheme then that’s 2-5 tackles a game that we’re taking off his body.”
-Tom Herman

Ehlinger will still be lowering his shoulder into opponents at times, it’s hard to see that changing, but every tackle you eliminate decreases the chances of an injury like the one against Baylor when he strained his shoulder cutting upfield into a linebacker on a zone-read play.

Mastering this kind of RPO offense requires quite a bit from the QB. He needs to understand how defenses like to match up to Texas’ various run schemes, where they send help and how, and how the pass options manipulate the defense. Then he needs to be ready to throw accurate balls to spots with lightning footwork because the OL isn’t in a pass protection set aiming to buy him time and the officials will also throw a flag if they get more than three yards down the field before the ball comes out.

But Ehlinger performed well in the RPO game in 2018 and should be ready to wield a fuller arsenal of option schemes for 2019 after an offseason of emphasis.

Situational domination

If Texas can hit the pass options consistently then defenses will have to take their chances against the OL and running game while hoping to limit explosive plays so they can make their stand on third down or in the red zone. The last time Texas went all-in on this approach to offensive football was the 2016 season, with Sterlin Gilbert coaching the “veer and shoot” offense and asking Shane Buechele to throw quick pass options to receivers in extra wide splits to keep the alley clear for D’Onta Foreman.

giphy.gif

With an OL that had some run blocking strength (though it was inferior to the prospective 2019 Texas unit) the Longhorns opened up the alleys for D’Onta Foreman to turn 323 carries into 2028 yards in 11 games. He picked up 6.3 ypc and 15 TDs on the season and was basically the only strong suit for that entire team. But while Foreman was dominant that season, Texas didn’t play terribly effective offense overall because they struggled with situational football.

The “18-wheeler” short-yardage package for Tyrone Swoopes was initially highly effective but limited in scope and the coaches started to move away from it later in the year as they felt the building pressure for their jobs and began to focus even more on Foreman. The passing down package was nearly hopeless due to weak protection, Buechele’s lack of pocket presence, and an undeveloped WR corps.

The 2019 Longhorns are very different and are coming off a season in which their standard down offense was steady but decidedly non-explosive but their short-yardage and third and long execution were well above average. The Sam Ehlinger Texas offense has the potential to be lethal in the sorts of situations where even Alabama found difficulties. The red zone...

Ian Boyd:
Some people may see the carries he gets, and maybe the yards per carry aren’t always high cause he’s in short yardage, but how huge is it for your offense that you can run RPOs or whatever between the 20s but when you get into those tough yardage (scenarios) like that Alabama struggled to get against Clemson with their RPO game, that Ehlinger can finish plays?

Tom Herman:
Yeah, him running the football is never going to leave our offense (chuckling) um, he’s too good at it and he’s too tough. But you’re right, I do think that as the field condenses in the red zone that you need some different answers other than RPOs and that’s where then maybe your read game comes in, your called quarterback runs, although again we’d like to think that we’re good enough up front to get some movement and get four yards with our tailbacks inside the red zone even.

The issue in the red zone for RPOs is that everything turns into man coverage as space becomes more limited and the safeties pack in tighter. The quick pass options aren't open and the more vertical throws face a lot of arms and traffic so you can’t use pass options to create space for the run game. The offense has to be able to force the issue, beating tight man coverage or running through set defenders.

One dimension that made the 2018 Texas offense extra deadly in short-yardage/red zone situations was that they could get into a variety of brutal, two-back QB run schemes very quickly without substituting personnel. If they don’t have a TE on the field that becomes trickier, but the main principles are still there for Texas to do real damage. They can either draw up some ways to attack in short-yardage with QB run RPOs from spread sets (like the two-point play that West Virginia used to defeat Texas) or they can sub in some bigger bodies knowing that doing likewise won’t save the defense. The plus one advantage Texas gets from direct snapping the ball to the ballcarrier (the QB) and then the particular knack Ehlinger has for pounding defenses in short yardage is simply difficult to overcome.

Texas' success on third and long in 2018 was achieved largely by the offense’s ability to move Lil’Jordan Humphrey around and have him run option routes, quick hitters vs linebackers, or tunnel screens. The solutions here for 2019 aren’t clear yet, perhaps they’ll move Collin Johnson around and bring in Malcolm Epps on the edge, or perhaps they’ll develop some other young wideouts.

Whatever they do there, Herman and his staff have now evolved the offense so that they can leverage Sam Ehlinger’s abilities in the passing game and in executing the chess games on the live action chalkboard to boost the explosiveness of the offense and free up his talented backfield mates. This approach also keeps him fresh to go be a fullback on third and goal to go and to use the scramble fearlessly on third and long. If Ehlinger is ready to wield this system as a junior then the Longhorns could once again shock the nation with the scope of their improvement and break through even further on offense.

 

 

 
Edited by LTtxfan

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Noted.

Also, we've pretty much all seen Sam keep for 5-10 yards (not that that's a Bad Thing™ per se) and ignoring the WR clearly past the CB who has broken off from the WR and is now coming for Sam. That and ignoring the WR or Slot (or both) not even covered on the back side (long way, but Sam's got the arm for that).

I have a feeling that we're going to see more of a RRPO, with the RB getting the first read, then RPO the rest of the way.

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34 minutes ago, Tex Long said:

Noted.

Also, we've pretty much all seen Sam keep for 5-10 yards (not that that's a Bad Thing™ per se) and ignoring the WR clearly past the CB who has broken off from the WR and is now coming for Sam. That and ignoring the WR or Slot (or both) not even covered on the back side (long way, but Sam's got the arm for that).

I have a feeling that we're going to see more of a RRPO, with the RB getting the first read, then RPO the rest of the way.

Many older Texas fans have been wanting to see a return of the triple option for years.  They may get it but not the way they expected.

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Wishbone.

Didn't Leach say that nobody ever figured out how to stop the wishbone, or something like that?

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50 minutes ago, XYZ said:

Wishbone.

Didn't Leach say that nobody ever figured out how to stop the wishbone, or something like that?

Here's a quote that you might be thinking about:

"Emory Bellard's Wishbone is still having an impact today. Emory Bellard totally impacted what I do," said Washington State coach Mike Leach, who credits the Wishbone as a bedrock for his Air Raid spread passing offense, which, like the Wishbone once did, has proliferated across college football this century. "[It's] one of the greatest offenses of all time ... and odds are extremely high that if I didn't run the Air Raid, I would run the Wishbone."   

Quote came from article below about the Wishbone offense.... includes stuff about Coach Royal and Emory Bellard.  

Great read...

https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/24175747/texas-iconic-wishbone-offense-50-influential-college-football

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Meh, just thinking that some of what we've heard could be a description of a sorta switch - or addition - to the RPO stuff to have QB look to a RB first, then keep/pitch/pass... sorta RRPO. Sam can absolutely handle it, and I'd be surprised if Casey Thompson can't (although game reps game reps game reps)

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12 hours ago, Tex Long said:

I'd be surprised if Casey Thompson can't (although game reps game reps game reps)

All the talk about how explosive this offense can be has me hopeful for a lot of reasons, but this is probably the biggest one: the long-term health of the program demands finally being able to get meaningful game reps for our backup QBs.

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Keeping thread updated....

Thanks to  @TheMailBox357  and   @satyanash for finding below stuff...

 

One of the quieter stories coming out of fall camp has been the deployment of Texas’ tight ends. With All-Big 12 first team “fullback” Andrew Beck moving on from that position the Longhorns are likely to be less physical and effective blocking opponents from that spot in 2019. The players that have been through both spring and fall camp (or more) and are poised to contribute in 2019 are Cade Brewer, Reese Leitao, and Jared Wiley, each one more inclined to help as receivers rather than blockers than the last. That’s okay though, Texas can adjust their offense easily enough to accommodate the changing skill sets in that room.

If you watch big time college football these days there are two programs that really stand out as being on the cutting edge of modern offensive strategy; the Clemson Tigers and the Oklahoma Sooners. Both teams laid a whooping on Nick Saban’s 2018 Crimson Tide defense, both teams did so by leaning towards the passing attack, and both relied mostly on four-wide sets to allow them to quickly find targets before Bama nose tackle Quinnen Williams could disrupt the play.

It took the Sooners much of the first half to sort out how to slow down Williams and get their offense rolling but once they did, the Tide had to lean on the combination of their own offensive firepower and Oklahoman defensive impotence to close out the game. The Tigers blew the doors off the Tide pretty early in the game.

A consistent theme for each of these two teams is that they’ll play a great deal of “11” personnel with a tight end, or even “21” personnel for the Sooners with a TE/WR hybrid and then a TE/FB hybrid on the field. For either team all of those players are flexing out as often as not so they can create 2x2 and 3x1 formations that present four receivers on the line at all times that can threaten to run down the field on vertical routes. It’s hard to beat vertical passing for generating the elusive “50+ yard” gains that Texas lacked from their offense in 2018.

Texas flexed out Beck quite often in 2018 in order to get a good blocker on the perimeter or to play games with defensive alignments. Opponents had to either match him with a linebacker and remove that player from the box or else “waste” a better coverage player on Beck while Lil’Jordan Humphrey aligned tighter to the box to run a route on a linebacker. The Sooners and Tigers both use that same trick fairly often but they sent their blocking TEs down the field far more often and in ways that the Longhorns seem poised to mimic in 2019.

The Clemson and OU flex TE

The Tigers and Sooners each have some favorite plays that make the most of their TEs from a flexed out alignment. The Sooners tend to play more of a big receiver as their flex TE, utilizing guys with skill sets a little closer to Lil’Jordan Humphrey than Andrew Beck. Their current big slot is Grant Calcaterra, a 6-4, 233 target who’s pretty quick moving down the field. Their last two TE/FB players have been Dmitri Flowers (6-2, 245) and Carson Meier (6-4, 250). Utilizing Calcaterra in the passing game is the whole point, but Flowers and Meier were more “ancillary” players that can move around and block in the box one snap and then motion or flex out the next.

Oklahoma often flexes those players out in order to run them down the seam, like on their dagger mesh play:

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Texas has run mesh as well, moreso in 2017 and typically while using their TE on the crossing routes over the middle to create a rub for the other crosser. Oklahoma has that version of the play but they also like to do things like this and send the TE up the field on a vertical route. What makes this version of the play so effective is that it turns defensive coverage rules into offensive strengths. Big 12 defenses are very careful to match vertical routes with their best athletes because nothing gets you beat in this conference like failing to have adequate speed carrying deep routes.

Consequently, when you send someone running down the field, coverages are designed to match that player with one of their good athletes. So if you send a big, burly TE down the field the defense will probably match him with one of their safeties. Underneath, the Sooners have a pair of speedy receivers running the mesh pattern, which is tough enough to cover before accounting for the fact that they have another version of this play where everyone but the key receiver (probably X here) starts to run a route before turning into blockers.

Between the TE running the deep route and then the mesh pattern underneath, there’s often a lot of space in the mid range where the H in our diagram is running a dig or a sit route and basically just hunting for open space between the LBs and the distracted safeties. Here’s the play reimagined with Texas’ 2019 offensive personnel:

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If that’s Cade Brewer running the vertical up the seam and Jordan Whittington or Keaontay Ingram running the wheel route then the defense cannot ignore them. To best defend Collin Johnson (tower) or Brennan Eagles (Z) on the mesh or Devin Duvernay (H) on the dig, defenses will be tempted to have the free safety pick up the seam by the TE (Y) and the weakside linebacker (W) chase the wheel route. That latter matchup is a big problem. If they match both vertical routes with the safeties then they leave the linebackers to negotiate the dig and crossing patterns against Texas’ best skill athletes. This is exactly the sort of conundrum that Tom Herman likes to create with his personnel and why Andrew Beck would often flex out in 2018.

Clemson’s offense relies heavily on the “smash” concept, which they run in a variety of ways but sometimes like this:

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They like to do it this way with the TE (Y) to the field so that they can stack a pair of dynamic WRs on the boundary where they are more likely to face a LB. The Tigers see a lot of two-high alignments and coverages from their opponents because of the explosiveness of their passing game. Their response is to have the slot receivers run these flag routes or corner posts, where they can run at the safety and then break outside of them with leverage. It’s a simple read for the QB, if the corner sinks to stop the flag route then they can throw the hitch-in route underneath to the outside receiver. If the corner doesn’t sink then the slot should have leverage to win to the sideline against the safety who has to deny the inside lane before they can run with the WR breaking outside. That’s a tough assignment and generally the safety executing it isn’t as fluid in such a maneuver as the corner would be.

The Tigers ran this play from 11 personnel pretty often but they’d put Hunter Renfrow or Justyn Ross in that H position running the easily accessible boundary flag route against a safety. Sometimes they’d flex the RB out as well and have him (or someone else) running a go route up the middle of the field aiming to split the safeties while also threatening them with smash combos to either side. Here’s that play reimagined with Texas’ personnel:

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Doubling those pesky flag routes by Texas’ two best WRs would have the effect of leaving Cade Brewer 1-on-1 running down the field on a middle linebacker with no help.

Modern defenses play a lot of pattern matching coverages, as opposed to the “personnel matching” you find in man coverage. Meaning that they divvy out their assignments so that their players stay in familiar realms. The corners match routes outside the hash marks, the safeties and corners carry verticals, and the linebackers protect the seams and stick the quick stuff in or near the box. The problem occurs when defenses send slower players into the jurisdiction of the speedy athletes on defense and then have their faster targets run routes into the jurisdiction of the slower defenders. A good blocking TE with soft hands or a smooth receiving TE with passable blocking can be easily weaponized into a tool that threatens the structure of a defense with these tactics.

Texas’ flex TE package

The Longhorns have always maintained the ability to flex their tight ends out in order to hunt matchups for the H receiver or to block on the perimeter for a screen or crossing route. Andrew Beck even got involved down the field in the passing game from time to time. But this crop is different, Cade Brewer was a star receiver at Lake Travis and his back-ups Reese Leitao, Jared Wiley, and Brayden Liebrock are all pretty dangerous running routes in space.

One play design that Texas used effectively in 2018 and could ramp up in 2019 is the 4-verticals concept. It’s a simple enough play, the offense sends four receivers on vertical routes up the field with the fifth player either helping to block, running a quick check down from the backfield, or also flexing out and hunting for space over the middle. Things can get pretty wild though on this play design when the offense starts tagging receivers to run adjustable routes.

Texas Tech beat the Longhorns in that famous 2008 game throwing comebacks to Michael Crabtree outside on this play, including on that game-winning touchdown pass. Texas utilized the play effectively in 2018, particularly to throw to Lil’Jordan Humphrey breaking inside or outside from the slot into space or else to hit comebacks to Devin Duvernay. Here’s how it can look with the 2019 personnel:

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What makes this play really difficult to defend is trying to get safety help over both Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay. If the defense resolves to use their free safety to double Johnson then the strong safety has to carry that vertical by Brewer as the Y and that leaves the nickel pretty exposed trying to handle Duvernay on an option route.

Once the offense knows the common coverages employed by the defense it becomes all too simple to align the TE to run into the zones that the defense knows are weak spots. That diverts attention to stopping someone like Brewer when help is really needed to cover a star like Collin Johnson.

The key to all of this is that the offense maintains the ability to move the TE back into the box if defenses respond to these tactics by getting more DBs on the field so that they have enough resources to get help everywhere it’s needed. If you’ve watched Clemson over the years you’ll notice that their TEs are often only good when blocking lighter or weaker fronts, none of their championship winning TEs were very useful for blocking Alabama’s front.

Texas’ heavier emphasis on RPOs should help them in creating leverage for their TEs to be effective from the box. In particular, the pop pass to the TE on the tight zone play.

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Ehlinger and Beck struggled to connect on this play in 2018 but Brewer mentioned it as an area of focus that was mastered in spring practices. When this is a regular threat it can slow up the run fits by the linebackers or else hold the attention of the safeties, in either event it introduces hesitation that can help the TE when he does block and loosens the run game in general.

Texas may be four-wide more often in 2019 but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to get out of their beloved 11 personnel to do it. There's still a wide world of tactics available for Texas to employ in order to create problems for modern defenses with the more receiving-oriented players currently meeting in the TE room. Look out for more flex TE formations in 2019

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Posted (edited)

 http://sportstreatise.com/2019/07/game-theory-and-the-spread-offense/

In case yah didn't see this in July... Big Thx @Machinator  

 

Game theory and the spread offense

July 25, 2019 by ianaboyd 8 Comments

Over at Inside Texas I have a piece up I’ve been putting together since Big 12 media days with quotes from Tom Herman and Sam Ehlinger that have illuminated the apparent strategy for the Longhorn offense in 2019. In short, the plan is to put a greater emphasis on RPOs this coming season, giving Ehlinger more pass options on their run plays in order to punish opponents for the way they play the run.

As I noted on Twitter:

I realized after writing that tweet that I’d just hinted at a sort of major and largely unexplored truth about the way that spread offenses tend to function.

It was over the course of the 2018 season, writing weekly previews of college football’s top six games over at Football Outsiders, that I realized that both Texas and Iowa State had inverted production relative to their strategies.

Texas ranked 27th in offensive S&P+ and Iowa State was 59th. The Longhorns were 98th in rushing S&P+ and 43rd in passing S&P+. Similarly the Cyclones were 102nd in rushing S&P+ and 21st in passing S&P+.

But if you watched the games you’d notice that both Texas and Iowa State had run-centric approaches to the games, both running the ball regularly and often throwing on RPOs or play-action and both regularly employing big, blocking TEs to aid their approach.

Here’s how Texas defended the Cyclones:

Texas Combover Vs Isu Motion GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The Longhorns would consistently rotate both safeties to the strong side to get an extra defender in the box, leaving their corners on islands against the big Cyclone wideouts Hakeem Butler and Matthew Eaton in order to ensure they had the numbers to stop the ISU run game. They also put in auto-blitzes like this one to help themselves out when Iowa State would use motion to try and manipulate the matchups. There’s seven guys in or near the box here against six blockers.

The Longhorn structure was unique because of their safety rotations and ability to use multiple overhangs but the idea that the best way to handle Iowa State was to attack their run game and limit their play-action rang true in that game and was evident in the approaches of other teams as well.

Here’s how TCU played Texas:

Tcu Cloud Vs Texas GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

This was one of the more conservative approaches the Longhorns saw in terms of defenders devoted to run defense. The SS/nickel Innis Gaines is darting around trying to present an unclear read on run vs pass but he’s fitting the run on the edge off the TE’s block to give the Frogs an extra guy. The LBs are hard-charging to the run and while TCU is playing cloud to either side they have both the boundary CB and the weak safety’s eyes on the backfield. Texas couldn’t run the ball well on the Frogs with their base run game and Tre Watson and Keaontay Ingram combined for 23 carries that yielded 96 yards at 4.2 ypc and a score. As was typical for 2018, Texas’ longest runs for their RBs were 14 and nine yards apiece.

But Ehlinger threw 32 passes for 255 yards at 8.0 ypa with two TDs. Collin Johnson chewed up TCU’s frequent deployment of the weak safety to help against the run or Lil’Jordan Humphrey with seven catches for 124 yards and a TD.

Because Texas and Iowa State committed blockers and emphasis to the box to run the ball, opponents did likewise, which opened up opportunities to throw the ball outside. Hakeem Butler, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, and Collin Johnson were all close to or above 1k yards on the year and that was the main thrust of their offenses.

Passing to set up the run

The 2019 Cyclones will probably look like the 2018 Cyclones but moreso, continuing and expanding use of 12 and even 13 personnel sets that put big bodies on the field to command attention in the run game and set up the passing attack for PFPurdy.

In 2019, Texas will have more speed at WR and better experience in Ehlinger but less of a matchup weapon in the passing game without Lil’Jordan Humphrey on the field. However, Keaontay Ingram flashed a lot at RB in 2018 as a 200 pound, oft-injured freshman. In 2019 he’ll be a 220 pound sophomore and backed up by 220 pound, 5-star freshman Jordan Whittington.

The offensive line will also feature preseason All-B12 C Zach Shackleford, likely postseason All-B12 LT Sam Cosmi, transfer All-ACC OG Parker Braun, and then some players they’ve been developing over recent seasons. It looks a lot like the 2014 Ohio State team that was starting over with four new offensive linemen, sliding RT Taylor Decker to LT, and plugging in sophomore RB Zeke Elliott with Carlos Hyde moving on. Whether or not Ingram will be Zeke or if Texas’ interior OL will prove to be as fantastic as the new starters for the Buckeyes (future Rimington award winners at either guard spot) remains to be seen. However, at the very least it looks like the run game could be quite potent in a league that isn’t known for having big, talented defensive fronts.

The question then becomes how to best make Big 12 defenses come to grips with Texas’ size and athleticism in the run game? The answer is RPOs from spread sets. If Texas can execute vertical pass options they can force defenses to hang back and maintain width even if they’re seeing the Longhorn OL firing downhill. With that accomplished they can create 5-on-5 situations for the OL against lighter boxes and buy Ingram or Whittington extra instants before run support DBs are able to reach the box after initially sitting back on pass options.

Clemson utilized a pass-first approach last season with aggressive RPOs and RB Travis Etienne went for 1500+ rushing yards because up until the playoffs opponents couldn’t handle their run game without taking defenders away from the Clemson wideouts, which was too costly.

This game theory approach to offense is basically what propelled the Art Briles machine at Baylor. They’d use wide splits, RPOs, play-action, and tons of deep bombs to force teams to drop everyone back, then you couldn’t stop them in the run game.

If you want the game to be focused on the perimeter, you either need to really flood it with personnel, or you need to divert defensive attention to the box. If you want the game to be focused in the trenches, you either need to flood it with blocking personnel or else you need to divert defensive attention to the perimeter. Smart defenses will always commit numbers where they need to for you to have to beat them “left handed” unless you show the left jab so hard that they have to commit to stopping it and open themselves up for the big right. Texas will be looking to set up their right hand this season and it should yield some fascinating results.

Edited by LTtxfan

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Posted (edited)

Plus a little more Ian Boyd (July 2019) Thx @Machinator  

Here's a piece I’ve been putting together since Big 12 media days with quotes from Tom Herman and Sam Ehlinger that have illuminated the apparent strategy for the Longhorn offense in 2019. In short, the plan is to put a greater emphasis on RPOs this coming season, giving Ehlinger more pass options on their run plays in order to punish opponents for the way they play the run.

Tom Herman has had strong relationships with his quarterbacks in the past but his partnership with Sam Ehlinger could be one of the most meaningful yet. After two years working with Ehlinger as a spot or full-time starter, Herman and his junior QB have been through some fires while attempting to rebuild the Texas football program and put together the first elite offense in Austin since Colt McCoy was on the 40 Acres.

“We respect the heck out of each other, I would want that guy in my foxhole, any day of the week, whatever cliche you want to use, you know? In a bar fight, whatever it is, I want that guy by my side in times of adversity. We do butt heads at times, but I think that’s a testament to how much I trust him and how much I believe in his maturity level that we can quite literally argue on the headset during the game then we’re hugging after the game.”
-Tom Herman

Now the Longhorns are looking at an enormously consequential 2019 season in which they’ll be taking center stage with a schedule that matches them up against championship contender LSU and then features a wide open Big 12 Conference. On top of that, Sam Ehlinger chose to announce that Texas was “back” after their 28-21 upset victory over Georgia, heaping extra attention on the upcoming year. The Longhorns always have plenty of bullseyes on them, but the pressure on this season is greater. If Texas can’t put something special together in year three with Herman and Ehlinger under these favorable circumstances, they’ll face an increasingly uphill climb to seize control of the Big 12 and regional recruiting in coming seasons..

Fortunately for Herman and the Longhorns, while the roster is stocked largely with young, up and coming talent on offense and defense, they’ll have an upperclassman Ehlinger to help put it all together. Tom Herman and his staff have a vision for the signal caller’s third year in which he distributes the ball to a unit that can isolate and overpower opponents with their skill talent on normal downs before taking over to put them over the top in situational football. If it all comes together like it should, the Longhorns will field their most effective offense of the decade, perhaps even the century.

Joining the RPO spread revolution

One of the big questions for every spread offense is how they’re going to run the football on a nickel front. If the defense is in a two-high quarters concept with a sturdy front six that knows how to play your favorite run concepts, can you force the issue somehow and still generate chain-moving gains on the ground?

On the chalkboard you have five OL for blocking all but one of those six defenders, but how do you stop the sixth from making a tackle near the line of scrimmage? There are three popular options, one is to deploy a FB/TE like Texas likes to do with their “Y-back” TE player, who offers a sixth blocker. Another is to leave a defender unblocked and have the QB read him on the option to determine whether to keep the ball or hand off to the RB. Finally there’s the RPO...

“I think the appeal of the RPO is that instead of what I grew up learning, spread zone-read that was a run-run option, right, which obviously exposes your quarterback a little more when he did keep the football, where now it’s a run-pass option. So if the defense does something to make you pull the ball out of the running back’s belly it’s not the quarterback running with it anymore it’s the quarterback throwing it. And it’s a way to get more yards because those yards are a little more down the field…”
-Tom Herman

Texas ran some RPOs in 2018, but they were mostly limited to bubble screens, swing passes to the RBs or TE, and the occasional hitch to Collin Johnson or Devin Duvernay. Texas could account for all six nickel defenders with Andrew Beck blocking a DE or LB and then they could control the nickel back with a quick bubble screen or an Ehlinger keeper. If the safeties got nosy they’d dial up a play-action toss to Collin Johnson.

In 2019 Texas may not have a TE that they want to play as much as Beck played but they can explore other options anyways with Ehlinger now entering his junior year. In particular, vertical pass options on run plays that push the ball down the field and force off ball defenders to hang back rather than playing the run. A great RPO attack can force off ball defenders to play hesitantly against the run even when they see the OL coming downhill on inside zone or GT counter, or else risk getting taken apart. For instance…

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The 2018 Alabama Crimson Tide made RPOs the main thrust of their offense with Tua Tagovailoa returning after his championship performance against Georgia and shredded defenses like Oklahoma’s that tried to crash hard to stop the run only to yield throwing lanes for slants and glance routes. Now a similar embrace of RPOs is in the works for Texas for 2019.

Ian Boyd:
Sam, coach has been talking about the increased role of RPOs in the offense next year, that puts a lot more on your shoulders, how’s that been going? What is that looking like for you guys so far in the offseason?

Sam Ehlinger:
It’s been awesome. I love it because it’s going to be hard for teams to try and take away the run without adding guys in because of how physical and athletic we are going to be up front and the skill we’re gonna have at the running back position, without having guys that are running 4.5s cutting behind them. We saw that a lot in the spring, I really enjoyed it, I think there’s a lot of teams around the country that do it really well…

Ian Boyd:
Like your friend Tua...

Sam Ehlinger:
(nodding)…yeah, man, Tua is really, really good at it. And it’s a little bit different, now instead of reading the backside we’re reading the frontside or maybe we’re reading both sides. It’s just more of a full field type deal and it really puts defenses in a bind.

What we’re talking about here is Texas having multiple pre and post snap options in the offense for Ehlinger to take based both on how defenses are aligned and how they respond to pre and post snap movement. Those could include the fade ball to Collin Johnson, quick slants to the slot receivers, and all sorts of adjustments that can allow Ehlinger to turn any given play into an opportunity to land a knockout punch throwing to a “4.5 guy cutting behind” LBs.

Ehlinger noted his growth in executing this style of offense over the offseason,

“One of the bigger things for me is understanding defenses and understanding what really hurts them, now that I have a great grasp on our offense and what college football is like [now] really transitioning into understanding pre-snap what defenses are in, what to expect post snap. And once I can really grasp that we’ll always be in the right play offensively and we’ll always have a chance.”
-Sam Ehlinger

Here’s one of dozens of possible examples of how that could look from the offense with a flexed out TE or good blocking slot and then a burner like Jordan Whittington, Josh Moore, or Jake Smith at the H.

(the tower is Collin Johnson)

image.png

Texas can quick motion the H to the perimeter before the snap so that Ehlinger can key the middle linebacker. If he stays in the box and doesn’t chase the H, it’s a simple pitch on the swing pass and the strong safety has to be able to come down and make an open field tackle or else the nickel or corner needs to beat a block. With guys like Whittington or Smith as the target this is an easy recipe for picking up chunk yards.

image.png

If the middle linebacker chases the H then the typical means by which modern defenses like to replace him in the box is to drop a safety down to join the run fit, so the free safety becomes the post-snap key. If Ehlinger sees him dropping into the box or drifting to the middle of the field so that the strong safety can drop down, he can pull the ball from the RB and throw the fade (or another route) to Collin Johnson who’s now matched up 1-on-1 vs a cornerback.


image.png

If both read-key defenders hang back to maintain a conservative pass defense, then they’re allowing Keaontay Ingram and Texas’ five OL to go up against five defenders in the box. That’s the true objective and the means by which Texas can look to protect their star QB, isolate their improving OL on a league not known for having size and depth up front on defense, and loosing their talented young RBs into space.
image.png

Clemson ran their offense this way in 2018 and star RB Travis Etienne turned 204 carries into 1658 yards at 8.1 ypc. Using these schemes to prevent safeties and even linebackers from closing quickly on Keaontay Ingram and the RBs could be a shockingly effective way to turn a steady rushing attack into an explosive one.

There are other benefits as well, which Herman noted when explaining the thought process behind ramping up their RPO game for the 2019 season...

“...we made it a priority to try and take some of those hits off of Sam, I think in an ideal world, obviously Sam is going to scramble right? So you can’t avoid that. There’s going to be times when he’s pressured on a pass play and he’s going to scramble but then there’s going to be times when we call his number on fourth and one, but if we can eliminate the times that he’s actually keeping it on a read scheme then that’s 2-5 tackles a game that we’re taking off his body.”
-Tom Herman

Ehlinger will still be lowering his shoulder into opponents at times, it’s hard to see that changing, but every tackle you eliminate decreases the chances of an injury like the one against Baylor when he strained his shoulder cutting upfield into a linebacker on a zone-read play.

Mastering this kind of RPO offense requires quite a bit from the QB. He needs to understand how defenses like to match up to Texas’ various run schemes, where they send help and how, and how the pass options manipulate the defense. Then he needs to be ready to throw accurate balls to spots with lightning footwork because the OL isn’t in a pass protection set aiming to buy him time and the officials will also throw a flag if they get more than three yards down the field before the ball comes out.

But Ehlinger performed well in the RPO game in 2018 and should be ready to wield a fuller arsenal of option schemes for 2019 after an offseason of emphasis.

Situational domination

If Texas can hit the pass options consistently then defenses will have to take their chances against the OL and running game while hoping to limit explosive plays so they can make their stand on third down or in the red zone. The last time Texas went all-in on this approach to offensive football was the 2016 season, with Sterlin Gilbert coaching the “veer and shoot” offense and asking Shane Buechele to throw quick pass options to receivers in extra wide splits to keep the alley clear for D’Onta Foreman.

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With an OL that had some run blocking strength (though it was inferior to the prospective 2019 Texas unit) the Longhorns opened up the alleys for D’Onta Foreman to turn 323 carries into 2028 yards in 11 games. He picked up 6.3 ypc and 15 TDs on the season and was basically the only strong suit for that entire team. But while Foreman was dominant that season, Texas didn’t play terribly effective offense overall because they struggled with situational football.

The “18-wheeler” short-yardage package for Tyrone Swoopes was initially highly effective but limited in scope and the coaches started to move away from it later in the year as they felt the building pressure for their jobs and began to focus even more on Foreman. The passing down package was nearly hopeless due to weak protection, Buechele’s lack of pocket presence, and an undeveloped WR corps.

The 2019 Longhorns are very different and are coming off a season in which their standard down offense was steady but decidedly non-explosive but their short-yardage and third and long execution were well above average. The Sam Ehlinger Texas offense has the potential to be lethal in the sorts of situations where even Alabama found difficulties. The red zone...

Ian Boyd:
Some people may see the carries he gets, and maybe the yards per carry aren’t always high cause he’s in short yardage, but how huge is it for your offense that you can run RPOs or whatever between the 20s but when you get into those tough yardage (scenarios) like that Alabama struggled to get against Clemson with their RPO game, that Ehlinger can finish plays?

Tom Herman:
Yeah, him running the football is never going to leave our offense (chuckling) um, he’s too good at it and he’s too tough. But you’re right, I do think that as the field condenses in the red zone that you need some different answers other than RPOs and that’s where then maybe your read game comes in, your called quarterback runs, although again we’d like to think that we’re good enough up front to get some movement and get four yards with our tailbacks inside the red zone even.

The issue in the red zone for RPOs is that everything turns into man coverage as space becomes more limited and the safeties pack in tighter. The quick pass options aren't open and the more vertical throws face a lot of arms and traffic so you can’t use pass options to create space for the run game. The offense has to be able to force the issue, beating tight man coverage or running through set defenders.

One dimension that made the 2018 Texas offense extra deadly in short-yardage/red zone situations was that they could get into a variety of brutal, two-back QB run schemes very quickly without substituting personnel. If they don’t have a TE on the field that becomes trickier, but the main principles are still there for Texas to do real damage. They can either draw up some ways to attack in short-yardage with QB run RPOs from spread sets (like the two-point play that West Virginia used to defeat Texas) or they can sub in some bigger bodies knowing that doing likewise won’t save the defense. The plus one advantage Texas gets from direct snapping the ball to the ballcarrier (the QB) and then the particular knack Ehlinger has for pounding defenses in short yardage is simply difficult to overcome.

Texas' success on third and long in 2018 was achieved largely by the offense’s ability to move Lil’Jordan Humphrey around and have him run option routes, quick hitters vs linebackers, or tunnel screens. The solutions here for 2019 aren’t clear yet, perhaps they’ll move Collin Johnson around and bring in Malcolm Epps on the edge, or perhaps they’ll develop some other young wideouts.

Whatever they do there, Herman and his staff have now evolved the offense so that they can leverage Sam Ehlinger’s abilities in the passing game and in executing the chess games on the live action chalkboard to boost the explosiveness of the offense and free up his talented backfield mates. This approach also keeps him fresh to go be a fullback on third and goal to go and to use the scramble fearlessly on third and long. If Ehlinger is ready to wield this system as a junior then the Longhorns could once again shock the nation with the scope of their improvement and break through even further on offense.

Edited by LTtxfan

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Bumping thread in case folks want to catch up on good technical articles on the 2019 Horns offense...  🤘

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On 2/1/2019 at 10:52 AM, sushihorn said:

Nice article from this past season discussing the emerging counter-trend in the Big XII led by Texas and Iowa State but also including Baylor.  Power spread rushing attacks as the answer to the Air Raid - which is a sufficiently potent attack that you have to address it on BOTH sides of the ball.

The Bash bros are coming for the Raid bros

Tom Herman often speaks of the importance of the TE.  It's absolutely critical to get production from that position and replacing Beck is an big priority for next year.  Also I was one of those people watching tight zone run and mistaking it for Zone Read.  The QB keeper is only a constraint if the slot defender crashes down hard.  So basically it's a 95% inside zone play to the RB with a built in counter rather than an option play in the traditional sense.

It's a great article and there's a bunch more meat in there.  Hopefully this discussion will help us get through the long offseason.

Bump.... Bash Bros link has great article on trends of some of the more physical offenses in the B12

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Nice info Thx to @Machinator from IT...

Fall camp is wrapping up a lot of the questions and position battles for the 2019 Longhorns. There are a few pieces falling into place that were predictable, such as the offensive orienting to make the senior tandem of Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay the main focus of the passing game. Or Todd Orlando working out how to get B.J. Foster and DeMarvion Overshown on the field by moving Foster to nickel then utilizing the dime package.

There’s also the largely expected but still positive developments of Sam Ehlinger, Collin Johnson, Jeffrey McCulloch, Malcolm Roach, and Keaontay Ingram all taking advantage of the offseason to grow into even better versions of themselves.

But here are some of the unresolved questions about the team, particularly in regards to how they plan to execute Tom Herman’s main goal of controlling games in the trenches.

Winning the trenches in the run game

The Texas run game figures to change some in 2019. Last year the main play was “tight zone,” in which Andrew Beck would help block the DE or edge player. It was a downhill scheme with the RB taking a downhill path towards the playside A-gap before cutting back or bouncing back strong if defenses overloaded the cutback lane. In 2018 Texas ran that play 160 times for 703 yards at 4.4 ypc with six TDs. That made tight zone responsible for 32% of Texas’ run game calls and 29% of the yardage.

Cade Brewer isn’t Andrew Beck, he’s not as effective a blocker and he’s a more effective receiver, so the tight zone play may not have the same emphasis as a year ago. Instead Texas is likely to run more of a play I labelled last year as “spread zone” which works pretty differently on the backside.

image.png

 

In spread zone, the backside tackle turns in the opposite direction that the rest of the OL is blocking towards and he blocks the DE or edge player without help from the TE. Then the QB reads the linebacker behind him for whether he covers the TE (or whoever the innermost slot receiver is, in this case the H Devin Duvernay) and either hands off or throws based on the linebacker’s movement.

Zone will certainly continue to be a factor and tight zone probably isn’t going anywhere, especially considering the makeup of the prospective 2019 OL. With Sam Cosmi and Parker Braun paired up on the left side Texas has a tandem that could potentially be their best run blocking duo since Lyle Sendlein and Kasey Studdard. Cosmi was one of Texas’ better run blockers in 2018 and Braun wasn’t a two-time All-ACC selection for his pass protection.

Three plays that figure to be a big part of the rushing attack in 2019 are inside zone, outside zone, and GT counter. Inside zone is the foundation of the Texas offense and even if the main iteration evolves away from tight zone (and it may not) the fundamentals of inside zone will remain the starting point for the offense. On that play Cosmi and Braun will occasionally work in tandem to drive DL off the ball, at other times Braun will work more with Zach Shackleford to get under a DT’s pads and take him for a ride.

The outside zone or “stretch” play was typically utilized for the QB stretch play in particular and only occasionally for the RBs in 2018. Texas didn't run it very effectively behind Calvin Anderson, who struggled to maintain the edge against stronger DL, but that won’t likely be a problem with a starting tackle tandem of Cosmi and then Denzel Okafor. You can see Okafor blocking that scheme as the LT here:

giphy.gif

 

At 6-3ish and 310 with a 7' wingspan, Okafor is quick and low to the ground so he can beat DL to spots, get his hands under their pads, and whip them on schemes like outside zone. Braun and Cosmi also shine in this style of blocking and it even includes an easier task for the TE. Rather than taking on a DE and trying to control him, he gets to help the tackle secure the edge. Don't be shocked if Texas runs more outside zone plays for the RBs than we've seen in previous seasons.

Finally there’s GT counter, which may see an uptick in utilization in 2019. Last year they ran it 24 times for 120 yards at five ypc. Then they showed it at a much higher rate in the spring game. Parker Braun was pulled on gap schemes very regularly at Georgia Tech and showed a great knack for it while Cosmi was an effective puller on GT counter and tackle-lead plays for Texas in 2019. Running GT counter to the right side figures to be a big part of the offense and a potential solution for teams that want to employ zone-stoppers.

One of the favorite fronts for defending “tight zone” plays these days is called the “G” front, which essentially combines elements of the classic four-down “Over” and “Under” fronts to create a zone-busting scheme. The G front parks the nose tackle opposite the RB but also moves him into a “G” 2i-technique across from the guard rather than the typical 1-technique alignment shaded to the center. Here’s the G-front against Texas’ tight zone play:

image.png

The hammer is Ehlinger, and the tower is Collin Johnson.

There are three problem areas for the Longhorns here. One is the TE successfully blocking the DE, he doesn’t need to dominate the DL for the play to work but he can’t be dominated either. DEs are often explosive athletes so the bar for acceptable play here can be higher than you might guess. The next problem is picking up the middle linebacker. If that player if fast flowing through the A-gap it’s going to be hard even for a player like Braun to consistently get off the double team to pick him up in time to open a crease, especially if the 3-technique is good.

Finally there’s the angle trying to block the weakside linebacker in the A-gap. Because the nose is parked across from the guard rather than the nose it's an awkward angle for the center to climb up and connect with the weakside LB before he’s filling the B-gap. Back when the nose was across from the center the guard could have just given him a good shove and then had a good angle on the LB but when the nose is in his chest? Doesn’t work out so well. The center is more likely to get freed up to come off the double team and his angle on the LB is poor.

But here’s how GT counter looks against the G front:

image.png

When running to the right in particular, with Braun and Cosmi pulling, this play is kryptonite for that same G front look. The nose becomes a speed bump for the Derek Kerstetter/Denzel Okafor double team while the DE and WLB have to come out ahead in their battles with pulling Braun and Cosmi to disrupt the play.

The GT counter play could live up to its name for Texas in 2019 and give them a scheme that can discourage opponents from trying to employ zone-busting tactics. What’s more, with every additional scheme Texas can credibly threaten opponents with in the run game that leaves fewer options for the pass defense.

Herman and his staff are going to prioritize winning in the trenches. The advantages to be had in being Texas on the recruiting trail and having a strength staff led by Yancy McKnight are often going to show up most prominently in the trenches where the Longhorns can usually expect to have the biggest, strongest players on the field. They’re still putting it all together but the picture of how they’ll aim to accomplish that objective in 2019 is starting to come into focus.

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Hearing a discussion on radio about Okie Lite game where interesting points where brought up.  Have to be a become a better 4th quarter team.  Texas offense has to closeout games better especially with a tired 4th quarter Texas defense.

How does Texas/Herman take the next step to develop killer instinct in 3rd and 4th quarters?

 

Edited by LTtxfan

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8 minutes ago, LTtxfan said:

Hearing a discussion on radio about Okie Lite game where interesting points where brought up.

How does Texas/Herman take the next step to develop killer instinct in 3rd and 4th quarters??

Gotta closeout games better...

Just win.

Without the two muffed punts this is a 10 to 14 point win minimum .

I doubt you will see another muff this year.

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14 minutes ago, Steamboat1874 said:

Just win.

Without the two muffed punts this is a 10 to 14 point win minimum .

I doubt you will see another muff this year.

Agree that the muffed punt hurt.  But the Texas offense struggled in 4th quarter vs Okie Lite.  With good leads this Texas team needs to finish off their opponents to take another important step to becoming an elite team...

 

Edited by LTtxfan

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Agree that the muffed punt hurt.  But the Texas offense struggled in 4th quarter vs Okie Lite.  With good leads this Texas team needs to finish off their opponents to take next another important step to becoming an elite team...
I think the argument is that we didn't struggle, we went ultra conservative and relied on defense to stop them. Without the muffed punt at the end, we win a two score game.

The one drive where we really needed the first down, after they closed it to six, we got one.

I don't love the strategy, but it was a strategy rather than struggling to move the ball.

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15 minutes ago, Bill Lumbergh said:

I think the argument is that we didn't struggle, we went ultra conservative and relied on defense to stop them. Without the muffed punt at the end, we win a two score game.
The one drive where we really needed the first down, after they closed it to six, we got one.

I don't love the strategy, but it was a strategy rather than struggling to move the ball.

Agree.  Just hoping Herman and this offense learn how to better put away opponents in 3rd/4th quarters.  This current defense is going to continue struggling to stop teams in the 4th quarter.

  This Texas offense needs to develop a killer instinct.

 

Edited by LTtxfan

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I don’t mind Herman going into a shell, he just needs to add one more TD to the score calculation in which he does.

We needed one more hardcore drive several times to crush OSUs chances and we stopped short of doing so by conservative play calling. 

 

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I don’t mind Herman going into a shell, he just needs to add one more TD to the score calculation in which he does.

We needed one more hardcore drive several times to crush OSUs chances and we stopped short of doing so by conservative play calling. 

 

I think this is right, but he needs to account for the opponent and our defense as well.

 

Our margin vs ou in the fourth last year certainly felt comfortable, but obviously was not. Some teams are good enough that you need to keep the pressure on, even when up.

 

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31 minutes ago, Bill Lumbergh said:

I think this is right, but he needs to account for the opponent and our defense as well.I

Our margin vs ou in the fourth last year certainly felt comfortable, but obviously was not. Some teams are good enough that you need to keep the pressure on, even when up. 

Based on this year's young Texas defense, Herman may need to keep the pedal down and score a lot more points to win games.  This 2019 Texas team probably needs to win a lot more games by scoring in the 40's just like the damn 2018 blOU team.

 

Edited by LTtxfan

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Based on this year's young Texas defense, Herman may need to keep the pedal down and score a lot more points to win games.  This 2019 Texas team probably needs to win a lot more games by scoring in the 40's just like the damn 2018 blOU team.
 
Really he just needs to be more situationally aware with his aggressiveness.

I think it was two seasons ago where he lost the game at tech by calling a pass (or at least pass option) while in field goal range, up a score, with only a couple of minutes remaining. The game was over if you just take a knee and kick.

That was an instance where he should've counted on the clock and tried to do too much. In other games he's tried to protect a lead too early. Obviously it's just a balance he needs to get better at understanding as a coach.

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49 minutes ago, LTtxfan said:

Based on this year's young Texas defense, Herman may need to keep the pedal down and score a lot more points to win games.  This 2019 Texas team probably needs to win a lot more games by scoring in the 40's just like the damn 2018 blOU team.

 

We just need opportune stops.  We saw this with Mack's team when he played Tech.  We score.  They score.  We score.  Then we stop them.  Then we score again.  We would start to pull ahead and rotate across the DL like crazy to keep fresh legs pressuring their OL.  Force them into a one-dimensional style of play 

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Perhaps the perception of what constitutes conservative play calling is the paradigm that needs to change? During any football game, the experience is totally subjective to the information you have on hand. So maybe a paired down playbook with plays you know you are good at and will advance yourself against whatever opponent, but not all opponents are built the same. So what those plays look like vs one team may not look the same with another.

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