Thursday, November 22, 2012

Unconstipated efficiency

Instead of assessing and fooling the entire defense, 
trying to ensure you have the absolute perfect play called,
just eliminate the big picture, 
attack one defender and get after it

Yep - another damn Tony Franklin post! 

Louisiana Tech's Offensive Coordinator is a finalist for the 2012 Broyles Award  (along with Noel Mazzone, Blake Anderson, Calvin Magee and Kliff Kingsbury) and also for's Offensive Coordinator of the Year.

The 2012 Bulldogs are #1 in scoring offense, #1 in total offense, #1 in red zone efficiency, and #3 in explosive plays.  This is coming after starting two freshmen running backs and losing last year's main quarterback. The item we would like to stress in this post is that what Franklin is doing at Tech is NOT complicated.  In fact, it is the opposite of complex and is an antithesis of the ego and stubbornness most of us associate with "coaching".  There is no secret play they are running, no magic scheme, no spectacular players manufacturing Herculean performances.  As a side note, what makes Sonny Dykes such a bad ass at La Tech is that after getting the job in 2010, he retained the staff of Derek Dooley, bringing in Franklin, Rob Likens, and Zach Yenser.  He still has this staff with him today.

What we hope to accentuate, using Franklin's latest stop as a case study, are the connections that are driving the success of many of today's BCS second-tier schools (UCLA, Texas A&M, Louisiana Tech, etc).

We documented several variations in 2010 when Dykes and Franklin first arrived, noting that much had changed from the founding cannon of air raid. After a breakout season in 2011, Franklin is sharpening his arsenal into an even more dynamic attack. Noting what has changed, what has been streamlined, what is 'missing' will ultimately impress upon you the reason WHY they are doing it; SPEED.  
No more quick game (save for 68 and 66), no more mesh, very little shallow, hardly any verticals..... everything is perimeter-focused with 94 (Sail) / 98 (Out) with a handful of tags, 41/51, zone and counter.
Their practice sessions start with high-intensity position work with Dawgzilla pounding out a hip hop soundtrack to keep everyone loose and moving.  Next period is inside drill and 1-on-1s that amount to ultra-competitive sessions of concepts (two receivers and two quarterbacks running against two defenders simultaneously). This translates to a high number of reps for all players using routes and techniques you will be using in team period.  Each practice amounts to a furious race to get to Team time, where they relentlessly attack one another in competition.  It's all scripted, and according to Franklin, he's just "running plays (to see what will work)" to assess the capacity of his offense (what works, what doesn't).  He attests to there not being a real clear methodology behind the play calls, much of it shooting from the hip.  Of all the ground covered in practice, the one absolute is reinforcing their tempo. They never huddle on offense or defense and most plays fire off with only 9-10 seconds of lag, but when they start the "Attack" tempo, there is no let-up. After a decent gain, the offense will begin the attack tempo and not relent until there is a score or inevitable punt (often times pushing the 4th and manageable). Even against a defense designed to handle no-huddle, that makes few checks or calls, after 4-6 attack tempo plays the defense will be left with few answers and be on the ropes.  As you see here, they are just running through plays, correction will be done on film later, similar to how you would run a basketball practice.

They teach concepts, so all that is needed is each position receive its 'play' from the sideline via signals with five coaches signalling one position (inside receivers, outside receivers, Oline, Back, QB).  They signal (often times yelling it as well) the formation right after a play ends, then begin the process of just queuing their position on the next play.  This delivers the info extremely quick when they are in "attack".  One thing I would also encourage is using a hyper speed like Blake Anderson, where a series of plays is already scripted/known, so there is nothing to signal or tell a player (1st play is ___, 2nd play is____, 3rd play is _____).  

It is interesting to note where this is coming from and how it becomes such an irritation to many old school thinkers.  So much has been done over the years to reduce the risk on offense through established reads, formationing, personnel groupings.  This works, but eventually all defenses will catch up with the trend.  

It got so, particularly in the last decade that defenses could be compartmentalized into special classifications (goal line, 1st down, nickel, 3rd and short, etc) because by and large offenses were painting themselves into these situational corners.  In a given situation, you could just run down a tendency list and check off all the concepts that would not apply to your down and distance (based on personnel, then by formation, etc). For as much thought and planning went into those offenses, it just became a shell game, a target based on probability for defenses.  Coaches became known for being academic, card-counting project managers moreso than teaching football.  While this all still matters, the current trend is pushing offensive production (and tradition) to challenge this way of life.  I'll also note that no-huddle is nothing new, I recall getting quick counted from a no-huddle wing-t offense in the 80's. What we are seeing from Tech and TAMU is the efficiency to operate at this pace (and to do so means carrying very little into a game).

Back in 2005 - 2007, many of the air raid teams of Holgerson, Franklin, and Brewer would attempt to combat situational-driven defenses through freeze-check.  This allowed the coordinator to eliminate the huddle and find the most logical play call based on what the defense was showing.  We have seen this mature to the point of dual-play combinations (slow screen + 5-step pass / fast screen + run) since 2007 where you can freeze check and still make the right call even if you don't get the look you expect.  These offenses would run at NASCAR tempo as an opportunist tactic.  In the past few seasons, teams are operating at this tempo (and faster) for the entire game with the premise of taking as many shots at the end zone as possible and eliminate lulls in the game where an opponent has the opportunity to reset their "situational awareness". This creates a two-fold dynamic; your offense is capable of burying an opponent in a point deficit and you can eliminate the notion that your opponent could exact that same philosophy on you (reference the Texas A&M game against Louisiana Tech).  So for an offense, as long as you prevent negative yardage plays and can consistently execute, rushing through a series only helps the offense.  The faster the offense operates, the less effective a defense premised to defend personnel, down and distance, hash, and formation is.  When a defense is left in this type of environment, stunting and blitzing become ineffectual - teeing off on known offensive probabilities no longer is available. 
 "You miss all the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky

As we wrote about in 2010, so much of the air raid repertoire was pared down, stripped for simplicity.  I believe we are at a point now where offenses are dropping even more for the sake of increasing their output and out-pacing a defense.

This is best evidenced by what Franklin has been doing in the past three years.  With the exception of the offensive line, his personnel has changed every year.  The constant variables has required him to quickly assess what his players are capable of doing (even if there isn't a logical constraint within the package).  Like Alex Gibbs, Tony (and Mazzone) would've come to an awakening of removing plays that resulted in negative yardage or inconsistent production.   The following are the basic questions that would push an offense into a cycle of perpetual momentum against an opponent. 

  1. If this is what we're going to become on offense, what don’t we need to keep?
  2. What works? What has the highest efficiency? minimize negative yardage plays
  3. Should always be about getting more numbers at the point of attack (this could be double wing, wing-t, or spread) in an isolated area (outside the hash / on the hash / between the tackles).
  4. How fast can you run key screen? This HAS to a one of the easiest plays to execute and doesn’t require you to block anyone
  5. Focus on plays that require the least amount of processing.  Front option / MOF read can be toyed with by defensive movement.  Deciphering the defense will only slow your offense down.
  6. The more efficient the concept the faster you can play without adjusting. You'll see Tony not running much across the middle of the field, which would require a quarterback to get a clear understanding of what he is seeing (to throw Dig/Post/Shallow where a Rat would be).  This is why he’s running power, key, rodeo/lasso – it’s against very limited looks (1/3 of the field) and can work against whatever the defense could be in.
  7. The more efficient at converting downs translates to more scoring opportunities
  8. Gaining positive yards puts you in manageable situations to sustain drives.  You miss every shot you don’t take – the more volleys you can make the greater the odds you can score.
  9. The more scores (and the threat of rapid scoring), the more one-dimensional your opponent will become.
  10. The faster you play, the less a defense can adjust / change
  11. The more static a defensive look, the more efficient your concepts become
  12. Protection – what do you need? If you aren’t getting blitzes, you will only get 5 man pressures.  If you get 6 man pressures it can be an immediate hot throw.  This means you don’t need to involve an inconsistent back in protection….everything is 5 man protection now
  13. If you only work in 5 man protection, then there are no adjustments needed from empty to 3-back, increasing the versatility of the offense through simplicity.

So that leads us to the next point of simplicity....


We reviewed how Tech distilled their blocking of identifying multiple defensive fronts to a simple 6-man protection, packaged to an odd or even front.  Fast forward two years, and gone is Roger and Louie (determining back help in protection), O-Line coach, Petey Perot, has sold-out to simplicity and has removed the back from the call (just free-release the back every down).  Recognize this?

Protection is split to a 3-man zone and 2-man most-dangerous-man side. The quarterback makes the call (Rickey / Linda), so he will know where he has the least help (where the quarterback read becomes part of the protection). This is very similar to what Mike Leach was using at Texas Tech and exactly how Noel Mazzone protects in his system (though he will use a back to pick up the hot).

This brings us back to hemlock's contention of concision versus the old guard of tradition.  How fast will these offenses be allowed to play? When Texas A&M played Alabama, the only time the game slowed down was when the officials felt the need to allow the defense ample opportunity to match substitutions.

I believe these offenses are proving not that no-huddle is the way to go, but that if you have concepts your team is competent in why provide your opponent time to prepare to foul things up? This is the appeal of no-huddle up-tempo.  It remains a valid attack for empty to double-wing and it ultimately requires little complexity, but significant competency (fundamental execution).  It also begs for self-reflection.  What can we do without, how can the game be even more simplified and reduced?  We went through this very process with the defense not long ago.


NoHuddleAirRaidForTheWin said...


What is the primary reason for exclusive use of 5-man pass protection? Is it an inconsistent back, an increase in practice reps, or flexibility?

If you have a running back who is outstanding in pass protection, would you still recommend using 5-man pass protection exclusively?

brophyfootball said...

the primary reason would be SPEED.

Like the numerical list attempted to illustrate, once you go down the rabbit hole selling out to the accelerated tempo the playbook has to be distilled and minimalized to operate at that speed. A by-product of living in an attack tempo for an ENTIRE game is that defenses simply don't blitz any more. Watch the La Tech games this year and see how many snaps they get more than 5-man pressures. On one hand there is not enough time to coordinate a decent pressure and the other would be how La Tech attacks the field with very little 5-step middle of the field concepts (most is perimeter levels).

You could carry 7-man, 6-man protections, like the original Air Raid was designed but it wouldn't be efficient to move at the rate these teams operate. Its all related. What is important to note are the connections between the tempo, concepts, protections, and personnel groupings that make the entire package.

NoHuddleAirRaidForTheWin said...

Thank you for the reply!

Would you recommend streamlining the playbook to the extent that Franklin has even if one were running a normal tempo, no-huddle offense?

The reason I ask is I am considering using this philosophy throughout my coaching career, regardless of what system I am running.

Also, what if a team decides to blitz you anyways? Are you looking at having a field day at that point if the players are able to do their job?

matthew brophy said...

streamlining is never a bad thing.

I didn't do a very good job, but this article was attempting to draw together the previous posts about Mazzone and Franklin's use of tempo and streamlining and their impact on defenses. We could go deeper in a James Burke-Connections type approach (hence the picture above) where all these trends are interrelated. The don't exist by themselves but as cause-effect byproducts. You could have 5+ man pressures but it doesn't much help with how these teams have been attacking, so there is no need to put an emphasis on extending protection (times).

By moving so fast, they reduce the picture needed to process and can sling it all they want because they'll immediately move on to the next play. If you slow it down, more will be required to make each play count. The tempo in part is what is helping them avoid negative yardage plays because they can keep defenses off balance.

endersgame said...

Maybe I'm nitpicking, but Texas A&M and UCLA are not second-tier BCS schools. Both are in major conferences, both are in recruiting hotbeds, and both have proud athletic traditions marked by 10-15 years of some serious underachieving--mainly by being the pesky little brother (fair assessment or not) to historical powerhouses (USC and Texas), but also because of athletic department/coaching incompetence in some instances.

That said, in no way do I mean to undersell what Dykes. Actually, because of the advantages TA&M and UCLA naturally have, Dykes and Franklin's successes at La Tech in the last few years are far more impressive in that light. To put it in perspective, I've only begun to learn about the Air Raid no thanks to you and Chris over at Small Football, but Rob Likens WR drills, techniques, and route videos done for the Tony Franklin system are some of the most in-depth, well-put together videos I've seen for the position.

NoHuddleAirRaidForTheWin said...

more efficient the concept the faster you can play without adjusting. You'll
see Tony not running much across the middle of the field, which would require a
quarterback to get a clear understanding of what he is seeing (to throw
Dig/Post/Shallow where a Rat would be).  This is why he’s running power, key, rodeo/lasso
– it’s against very limited looks (1/3 of the field) and can work against
whatever the defense could be in."

Does this mean that the QB is reading literally only 1/3 of the field on a given play?

So for example, on Stick, he would only read the triangle, and disregard the double slants, correct?

How does the QB determine which 1/3 of the field to read?

brophyfootball said...



those specific examples are half-field concepts, VERY MUCH like how the old Rich Rodriguez package looked like when he was spearheading the tempo offense charge.  It was illustrating how Franklin & Co diluted the potent Air Raid staples for the sake of speed.  You CAN run Cross and Shallow, et al, but it does require a bit more processing by the quarterback.  By running these perimeter-focused plays (listed above) he has already predetermined which side to read

NoHuddleAirRaidForTheWin said...

 Thanks coach!