Thursday, July 30, 2009

Herb Hand Will Eat Your Babies!

"There are 119 Division 1A teams playing college football.
There are 110 pussies playing free safety.
I'm not worried about safeties."

In this post, we are going to examine the offensive attack of Herb Hand of Tulsa (formerly of West Virginia). The Tulsa offense has been at the top of every offensive category for the past few years, due largely to the intense pressure both Hand and (Gus) Malzahn systematically put on a defense. This post will illustrate the many facets of their running attack and the pressure it induces on a defense, particularly safeties and run-force players.

"The first thing we look at is formations and how our formations affect the opposing defense......The last thing we look for is match-ups and how we can create favorable match-ups in our passing game through formations, motions, shifts, play actions, screens, etc." - excerpt from,

The offense, itself, is actually quite simple. The Oline only has to distinguish between two types of defenses (odd or even) and any subset of that classification (base or stack). This helps maintain simplicity in blocking assignments and run keys. The offensive line is further aided by the no-huddle, unrelenting tempo of the offense, which usually forces defenses to play more conservative base looks.

If there are four down linemen;

  • If there is no true MLB (2 ILBs) - it is an a base even front
  • If there is a MLB - it is an even stack front
If there are three down linemen;

  • If there is no true MLB (2 ILBs) - it is an a base odd front
  • If there is a MLB - it is an odd stack front
This classification of fronts intuitively aides in coverage recognition;
  • Any base even front = 8 man box. which puts you in a 1-high defense
  • Any even stack front = 7 man box, which puts you in a 2-high defense

  • Any odd stack front = 8 man box. which puts you in a 1-high defense
  • Any base odd front = 7 man box, which puts you in a 2-high defense

The base run game is premised on inside and outside zone, with an ample saturation of some type of option threat and misdirection.

Breaking defenses with Inside Zone (with four theats)

Hand also shares the confidence of Gunter Brewer of attacking fire zones with the inside zone run. In fact, when running zone away from the blitz, it creates an even clearer picture for the back and an easier assignment for the Oline. The Oline just need to keep the slanting defensive linemen running (horizontally), which opens a clear vertical seam for the back. The Oline just has to run their defender off. With both read keys running, the back has an instant decision to press the gap and "bang it" vertically. If 1st read is running and 2nd read is running (as pictured), they back just bends it back once he presses the heels of the Oline.

Here the playside safety will not be accounted for (in the blocking scheme). With only 6 in the box, the call is to grind it into the teeth of the defense with inside zone. This will put 7 blockers on 6 defenders.
On run-action inside, he should be looking to fit to the A gap.
As he makes his approach off of run-read, he continues to out-leverage himself on the runner.
By the time he realizes the mistake, the back has already burst through the seam and is on his way to score.
Hand's philosophy of not respecting safeties is premised on getting the running back to the safeties. From there, 1 of 3 things will happen;
  • the back will either make him miss
  • the back will run him over
  • the safety is going to tackle the back
If it is inevitable that the safety will make the tackle, the runing back has to punish his ass for making the tackle.
See the exact same thing happen below (with the run fits of the safeties). As you'll notice on all these pictures, on inside zone, the H will always run a bubble route away from the zone. As you'll see, it helps create a wider gap (and threat) to backside support.
Also notice the walked out backer on #2 constrict the cutback lane.
As his shoulders turn into the run, see the bubble/QB keep seam available when the OLB commits to the inside cutback.

On inside zone again, watch as the displaced safety/backer to cover down on #2 gets removed from any cutback support. First, by alignment.

Second, by respecting the horizontal stretch of #2 on a bubble.

Next, after the give, the quarterback heads straight for him on an option path. This forces the defender to have to give up the bubble, now re orientate himself to an immediate threatening quarterback run.....

Only to watch the runner cutback in the seam he has created.
Here the dive and quarterback are accounted for, but the force player is STILL wrong, and Tulsa breaks the coverage (and run support). The read key (yellow) and pitch key (red) are highlighted to illustrate the players put in conflict.
As the read key commits to the dive/zone, the quarterback pulls it and immediately attacks the pitch key.
With the pitch key abandoning the bubble H, he now plays assignment football against the option and force a pitch for a quarterback who has no back in pitch relationship. He's right, right?
WRONG! Quarterback sets and throws the bubble to the H on the perimeter.
Gain of 10 yards

For more examples of Tulsa's horizontal stretch of defenses, check out;

Tulsa @ Yahoo! Video

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