Football talk to hold you over til NSD

  • First off, I apologize for the length but I just got caught up writing. I hope y'all can bear with me and make it til the end. Any and all feedback is welcome and encouraged. Thanks!

    I've finally gotten time to go through the OU game and look at the offense. First, a few numbers.

    The Aggies came out in a multitude of formations. It was clear they wanted to use formations as much as possible to stretch Oklahoma and force them to show early how they were going to cover on that play. In total the Aggies ran 16 different formations.

    Twin WR to the left with split backs in the backfield-3 plays
    Double Twin WRs with a RB to the right of the QB (Ringo)-13 plays
    Double Twins with a RB to the left of the QB (Lucky)-8 plays
    Trips Right Ringo-4 plays
    Trips Left with an Empty backfield-3 plays
    Trips Right Empty backfield-1 play
    Trips Left Ringo-7 plays
    Trips Left with the RB in the pistol-4 plays
    Trips Right Lucky-7 plays
    Twins Right Pistol with a FB to QB left(Pistol Lucky)-1 play
    Twins Right Split Backs-3 plays
    Double Twins Pistol-5 plays
    Trips Right Pistol-2 plays
    Twins Left Pistol Lucky-2 plays
    Twins Right Pistol Ringo-1 play

    The Aggies also made use of two special short yardage/redone formations. Joseph Cheek would come into the game at LT and Joeckel would move over to the right and line up next to Jake Matthews. They ran it from both an under center single back look (2 plays) and a pistol set (1 play)

    The most interesting observation for me with the formations was the abundance of plays ran from the pistol. It wasn't the majority of plays but it was more than we saw all season and it was a nice adjustment. A lot of times running from traditional shotgun sets you allow the defense to know where the run is going just by the position of the RB. From the pistol you remove that. You also give your back the chance to get a full head of steam to hit the line. Of the 11 plays from the Pistol, all but one was a run play, with 6 of the plays being the option. 2 were designed runs for Johnny, and two were hand offs to the back. Running from the pistol netted the Ags 63 yards, a 6.3 YPC and a TD.

    The Aggies ran 66 plays total. 31 were runs and 35 passes. 1 of those passes was the trick play where McNeal hit Evans.

    Johnny threw the ball 34 times. His throws broke down as follows:
    4 passes short to the left.
    7 short to the right.
    2 short passes to the middle.
    3 intermediate passes to the left.
    1 intermediate pass to the right.
    2 intermediate passes to the middle.
    5 deep throws to the left.
    3 deep throws to the right.
    4 screens to wide receivers.
    1 screen to a halfback.
    2 balls were thrown away.

    As you can see, the ball was spread around fairly evenly. However, Johnny still doesn't seem to like throwing the ball to the middle of the field. We ran the mesh play twice where receivers ran drags underneath and crossed each other and both times Johnny chose to make other throws deeper to the perimeter. There's nothing wrong with that, it is merely an observed tendency that I'm sure coaches will be studying up on this summer. I would expect Spavital and McKinney to work more of a passing game to the middle of the field into things next year.

    To the running game. The Aggies ran the ball 31 times. It broke down like this.
    7 handoffs to the RB to the left.
    5 handoffs to the right.
    2 pitches on the option.
    6 designed runs for the QB.
    8 scrambles on passing plays.
    3 QB keepers on the option.

    A couple of things stick out to me. The option is a great wrinkle for this offense. By no means should it be a staple play but as a change of pace it's outstanding. It takes advantage of Johnny's best asset which is his vision. He sees the field so well that it is exceedingly rare that he will make a bad read of the pitch. It also gets our backs out on the edge where they are even more dangerous. Another benefit is the match ups it creates with our WR blocking a CB one on one. I'll take a guy like Evans against a corner all the time. Next year I think we will see more option out of the pistol with a guy like Clear in the backfield lined up next to Johnny to get more of a lead option going where he gets out front and cleans out the alley player when he shows.

    Another thing I observed is the amount of playaction we saw from the offense. 16 times that the offense dropped back to pass a play fake occurred. Off of play action Johnny was 12/14 for 119 yards (give or take) with 2 carries for 12 yards and a TD. They also ran an option pass play where Johnny made a pretty good throw to Swope that the OU DB made a great play to break up a sure TD. The Aggie RBs were averaging 6.9 yards per carry so the Sooners had to try to stop the run. Doing so allowed Johnny to make easy throw after easy throw on play action and amass a 85.7% completion rate and 8.5 yards per attempt. Not too shabby.

    Another interesting trend were the few packaged plays that were ran. Packaged plays are a concept where the offense has two plays called. The most common is the Stick-Draw combo. The offense typically comes out in a trips or twins set to one side. The QB at the snap will start a mesh with the RB. The QB will be reading the LB to the multiple receiver side. The inside receiver will run a simple 5 yard stick route. If the LB reacts to the QB's mesh with the RB and steps up to fill his run gap, the QB will pull it and make the easy throw to the open receiver in the area vacated by the LB. if the LB sits on the route the QB will give the ball off leaving the RB an easy lane to run through.

    During the season we didn't see a lot of packaged plays, maybe one a game. It wasn't a big part of Kliff's Game. The Aggies ran 3 in the Cotton Bowl. That may not sound like much but it was more than they had run all year. The other thing to consider is one of the main users of the packaged play concept is Dana Holgerson up at WVU. With his protege Spavital in the mix next year I would definitely expect to see more of them called.

    Now, some plays that I really liked along with various observations.

    I've linked a YouTube video of the full game. Times mentioned should match up with the video but I may be a little bit off.

    -On the last Aggie drive before half time on 3rd and 1 the Aggies came out in the trips right pistol set. The play starts with a play fake to the back. Now I don't know what the called play was, but to the trips side there is a clear bubble screen set up. Swope is looking back expecting the ball and it never comes. Johnny just tucks it an goes without even looking back to the trips side. It certainly seems like this is a designed run for the QB with the option to throw the bubble screen. I've always been a fan of running play action plays then letting your QB run the ball off of that because it really puts a defense off balance. If they react to the run and flow to that gap, you can really catch them out of position with a good running QB hitting another hole. Now this play is negated by an illegal formation penalty which should have been avoided. one of the WRs messed up and didn't get on the line of scrimmage but the play itself is still an interesting concept. The play starts at around 1:05:40.

    I've already broken down the first drive after the half but I'll copy paste what I wrote again here. Everything except the play action and scramble by Johnny are beautiful plays. Be it the design or plays made by the guys it was just perfect. It really rocked the Sooners to come out for their first defensive possession of the half and just get eviscerated by an offense they had done a relatively good job against in the first half. It starts at the 1:13:44 mark. Just watch the whole thing and enjoy it.

    Play 1:
    Formation: Ags come out Lucky (HB to the QBs left in the Gun) Trips Right.
    Play: We call a QB dart where Johhny fakes to the back coming across like inside zone and pulls it. The left side of the offensive line all block down leaving the DE unblocked. Both the RG and RT pull. Ced kicks the DE out and Jake turns upfield to serve as a lead blocker. The middle of the field is so vacant he doesn't touch anyone until he is 10-11 yards down field. The play gains 14 yards.

    Play 2:
    Formation: Ringo (Back to the QBs right) Trips Right
    Play: it's a play action pass where #2 (middle receiver on the trips side) is the primary target. #1 (outside receiver) on the trips side runs a go route. #2 runs a little squirrel/pivot route and #3 (most inside receiver) runs an in route. On the back side the receiver also runs a vertical. Pre-Snap Johnny sees the back side safety walk up meaning EZ is all alone on an island with the CB. At the snap the corner whiffs on EZ completely and EZ is able to climb with ease. To be honest the throw from Johnny was probably a little short and had it been in stride EZ walks in for a TD. But it really isn't worth complaining about when you gain 35 yards. Johnny shows good recognition skills pre-snap and EZ just obliterates the guy across from him. The play design is nice as well. It's an easy throw to the intended receiver if you don't get your backside WR blowing by the corner like happened here. Besides EZ there are two other open receivers on the play but neither would have been big gains.

    Play 3:
    Formation: Ringo 2x2
    Play: Nothing but a simple play action boot with the slot receiver, in this case Swope running an out for an easy pitch and catch. Gain of 7 yards.

    Play 4:
    Formation: Trips left Pistol
    Play: Pre-Snap the Ags check clearly liking the match up they have. The corner over number 1 on the trips side is playing deep and guys are playing over numbers 2 and 3. The safety walks up before the snap. Number 1 runs a hitch, number 2 runs an in and number 3 runs a corner route. This route combo is known as "smash". One corner followed the receiver across the formation on the in route and the other sat on the hitch. This left Swope alone with the deep defender. The defender actually gets into pretty good position but Johnny throws an absolute dime to the sideline. Swope is able to get both feet down and you have a 19 yard gain.

    Play 5:
    Formation: Lucky 2x2
    The play: There isn't much to say about this play, Johnny drops back and decides to run instead and picks up about 10. It seems so routine to just say that but it really is absurd that it happens as often as it does.

    Play 6:
    Formation: Heavy Tackle Over Pistol set with a TE to the right. This is a great formation for the Ags that they use a lot inside the 7 and short yardage situations. Cheek comes in at LT and Joeckel moves over to line up next to Matthews. Hicks motions from right to left leaving you with three men on each side of the line.
    The Play: Speed option to the right but Johnny decides to cut back all the way across the field. He loses a yard or two and EZ gets called for block in the back. The play call wasn't bad but Johnny wasn't content to take what was there and instead tried to hit the Home Run right then and there. That's just what you have to deal with when he's back there sometimes.

    Play 7:
    The Formation: Twins Left Pistol Lucky (HB in the pistol with a FB or in this case TE lined up to the QBs left). #2 from the left comes in motion into the backfield and is just about to the HB at the snap.
    The Play: It's a QB counter off of a fake motion option. Sounds crazy right? Johnny takes two steps with the WR like they are running the option with the WR as the pitch man. Then he counters back towards the left with the FB and HB both serving as lead blockers. Johnny tucks it up through the middle and gains 9 yards to get to the OU 7. The play is creative and not something you see everyday. McKinney found a way to use the QB counter concept that killed people early in the year (LA Tech, Arkansas, etc) with a new wrinkle to disguise it. The defense flows with the option only to have Johnny come back to the other side with two blockers out front. Just awesome.

    Play 8:
    The Formation: Pistol 2x2. Slot receiver to the right motions across the formation to the left.
    The Play: The Ags won this play before the ball is snapped. The WR in motion moves two guys. The corner over the WR moves into the box and shows blitz. The safety to that side moves towards the middle of the field. At the snap the option is run to the right. Because of the motion the only player to that side is the corner. He is getting blocked by Mike Evans. I'll take that any day of the week. The motion took away the only guy who couldn't be accounted for by the two receivers who would have to come up and play the alley. By taking him away it sets up a nice and easy option pitch to Malena for a TD.

    Next at the 1:23:40 mark of the game you see a 1st and 10 where the Aggies come out in a Double Twins Ringo set. The Sooners begin the play on a 4-1 look with corners over both slot receivers. Then those two inside corners show blitz and the safety to the left moves to align himself over number two. At this point Johnny checks the play. At the snap he play fakes to the back (not the best fake but he has to move fast) and hits the slot WR to the left on the bubble. The corner moving in towards the line combined with the depth of the safety give plenty of room to hit the screen with ease. Unfortunately the safety comes up and makes a hell of a play in the open field other wise, the WR could have run for a while. This is a good example of the offense creating the space it wants and getting playmakers the ball with that space. Next year I wouldn't be surprised to see that ball caught by Quiv. Look out when that happens.

    The play following that screen is also impressive to me. The Aggies come out with a trips set to the wide side of the field and a back to the left. At the snap #1 runs a deep comeback route. Number 2 runs the wheel. Number three runs in looking for a soft spot to sit down. Johnny stands in the pocket reading the field. He throws an absolute dart to Kennedy who does a great job working back to the ball. Next time someone tells you Johnny doesn't have NFL arm strength dial this play up for them to watch and laugh at their stupidity.

    The play immediately following that is an example of Johnny's gun slinger mentality. The Aggies run a play action boot play getting Johnny moving to the left. As he's moving left he somehow sees Evans coming free back in the middle of the field and fires it in. It's such a risky throw that defies most of the rules of Quaterbacking but Johnny as we've seen time and time again doesn't care. Mike Evans makes a strong catch and really attacks the ball resulting in an 18 yard gain.

    The TD play on this drive is the long run by Trey. The play is at the 1:26:04 mark. It's nothing fancy, just a zone run play but the thing to watch this play are the blocks made by Jake Matthews and Ced. They abuse the guys across from them opening a great alley for Trey. Also, look how quickly P-Lewis gets to the second level and cuts off the LB pursuing from the inside. Great play by him. Kennedy does a good job keeping his guy occupied long enough to let Trey get free and then from there Trey did a great job just being fast. Great run made possible by outstanding play from the C, RG, and RT.

    Next check out the play at 1:34:50. The Aggies come out in the Pistol with trips to the left. The show the option to the right but Johnny drops back to throw. Swope comes across the field and Johnny makes a near perfect throw that is just barely broken up by the OU DB. It was a great play by him to get there. The option pass was a great play call and really caught the Sooner defense cheating. The thing I loved most about the call though is the aggressiveness. Yeah we're up 34-13 but fuck it, we want to stomp your throat now like a wounded animal and end the game. It was good to see that same aggressiveness from McKinney because we all know KK didn't lack it.

    Next the play at 1:55:40 is the TD pass to EZ. Look at the formation the Sooners come out in to counter the Aggies pistol set with a FB. They have 2 LBs in the box and walk the safety from EZ's side up as well. The Aggies check as soon as they get 1 high safety. Johnny knows he's get EZ one on one and to EZ's credit he takes full advantage. He abuses the corner off the line and Johnny makes a throw with all the touch you could ever want. Just a beautiful play from the recognition, to EZ's get off, to the throw.

    All in all it was a near perfect performance by the offense. We saw a lot of the same stuff but also some new things that should have everyone excited about next year. The pistol and option stuff are great new wrinkles that make the offense even less predictable. The more packaged plays we see the better and with Spavital coming in that should occur. Also, with Spavital I wouldn't be surprised to see more jet sweep kind of runs. I'm not a huge fan of that stuff but with the guys we have coming in (especially Quiv) it could very well work. I'm sure no one had many doubts about the offense after that Cotton Bowl performance but if anyone was holding on to any kind of lingering apprehension about anything it isn't necessary. This offense will keep right on moving and will probably become more explosive. If the running game continues to develop then we will see more 6 man boxes and more 1 high safety looks which Johnny has proven he is more than capable of dissecting with ease. The play action will also become more deadly with the balance we showed. I think some of those designed QB runs we saw will be carries for the back next year as well. The end take away, get excited. Next year is going to be one hell of a ride.

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  • Awesome. I love the full breakdowns... Thanks!

  • Great break down. Please continue this.

    Hammbloom....get this guy on payroll

  • whoa... nice work, 512.

  • Great stuff 512

    Email: AubreyBloom at gmail Follow On Twitter:

  • Awesome read. Thanks. I don't like jet sweeps either, especially in the SEC. Too much defensive speed for a play like that to be a big part of what we do.

    Maybe posting's just not your game. I know, let's have a spelling contest.

  • Nice work. I didn't even mind that it took so long to read that my legs started to fall asleep as I was taking my mornin' doogen.

  • Great work. When thinking about next year and the stable of recievers that can contirbute it is going to be scary for opposing defenses.

  • Re: Mike Evans blocking, I'm pumped to think what RSJ, JaQuay and Kyrion will do in this department after some time with Beaty...

    Follow me on twitter @OrionHjarvis email:

  • Totally agree. Beatty does an outstanding job getting those guys to love blocking. The big guys coming in are going to make for some sore corners over the next few years.

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  • Yeah definitely. It just seems counter productive to bring a guy in motion which already gets the defenses attention and then give that guy the ball. Plus you know which way he's going and he can't really do anything about it. The play action off of it is really the only upside.

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  • If the WRs can defeat man coverage with consistency defenses will be in deep trouble. If they have to keep a safety deep and play zone they'll get picked apart all game. The guys coming in can definitely win vs man coverage. Defenses will be stuck with no good choice.

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