Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Quarterbacks: More Than Just Throwers

interesting piece in today's WSJ regarding how to judge quarterback efficiency and play on more than just throwing alone

"That would take in the ability to move a team down the field," he said. "That would take in running ability." His argument, it turned out, foreshadowed a more intuitive formula devised by David Berri, a sports economist at the University of Southern Utah and the co-author of the book "The Wages of Wins."

Dr. Berri's system, which he called QB Score, analyzed data to determine which aspects of a game contributed most to a team's scoring or surrendering points. It places greater value on all the yards a quarterback gains (regardless of how he gains them) and on turnovers (including fumbles). A quarterback's rushing totals aren't a huge factor, Dr. Berri said, but they're taken into greater account.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Auburn Gap Runs: Hand Sweep

The "Hand Sweep" is nothing more than the old Wing-T “bucksweep”.

For the Hand Sweep, motion is optional, but used to hold the backside defender with fake reverse action.

The H-back blocks the same as power option, and looks to log the DE. With Hand Sweep, the H-back is more man-conscious, looking to kickout the DE if he takes an outside-upfield path. The H-back can be replaced by a tight end with no change (reach block) in assignment.

Split End – who is the bigger, physical wide receiver (Y) cracks first backer in the box.
Playside Tackle maintains his power B-gap track
Backside Tackle will hinge, like he does in power and counter.
Center blocks back, like he does in power and counter.
Playside Guard – will pull to block the support defender. If the defense is in man coverage (the Y receiver’s defender chases him inside), the guard will look to log the first backer to clear. If the defense is in zone (the support player just sitting in the flat), the guard will kick the defender outside.
Backside Guard - the backside guard will skip pull to pick up the backside linebacker scraping over the top. If this backer tries to run-through the open playside A-gap, the guard will pick him up. If the backside backer shoots the backside B gap, the guard will not pull and just pickup the linebacker.

One of the better methods of defending Wing-T is by matching numbers with a reduction (Under) front, making it difficult to get enough blockers at point of attack. To accommodate for this front, as the playside tackle would have a terrible angle to account for an A-gap defender, the playside guard will make an “IN” call. This communicates that he is staying “in” (not pulling) and adhering to his A-gap track. This now reverts back to how power is blocked, with the exception that the backside guard will now be pulling for playside defensive support player.

Auburn Gap Runs: Counter

Once you’ve taught the power, you’ve also taught the counter (to the playside). All the rules remain the same; PST works a B-gap track, PSG works an A-gap track, Center works backside, and BST hinges.

The only thing that changes with counter is the backside guard and H-back. The guard will change his pulling footwork to accommodate the trap technique on the end. He will exit on a 45 degree angle, rather than the 90 degree open-hip technique used on power option. Since the guard is kicking out the end, the H-back will exchange roles (with power) and seal the first backer inside the box.

The same principles used with power apply with counter. If the DE wrong-arms the kickout, the guard can log, leaving the H-back to loop outside and bounce the run.

After a heavy diet of power (overload of numbers at the point of attack), the homerun threat of counter action can stretch defenses to a breaking point. To help with this horizontal stretch, the slot (#2) running orbit motion will adhere to a simple set of rules. If the ball carrier is aligned in split backs (away from where the orbit motion is coming from), the slot (in motion) will continue on an (power) reverse track to the counter action. If the ball carrier is stacked (pistol), the motion man will reverse out and run an option course with the quarterback. This simple rule helps stress defenses who will game plan against counter/power, by spinning a safety down with the motion. By introducing the reverse path, the playside safety is widened, creating a larger seam for the ball carrier to run through.

One interesting thing to note regarding Malzahn’s approach to offense, is that with this system, they don’t tell the backs where to line up.  The backs will align based on the play called (not the formation).  A basic formation, such as “Twins Right” will be called (“Twins Right, 91 Counter”), but the H-back and Fullback will align based on the play (i.e. counter = split-backs).

Another wrinkle can be added to run the exact same play out of 1-back; QB Counter.  Nothing changes for guys upfront.  Since QB counter is usually run out of 1-back, the play-fake speed sweep helps open the run. 

Auburn Gap Runs: Power

Malzahn’s offense is premised on a 2-back run and play-action team that will keep constant pressure on a defense and defensive coaches by;
  1. Running the offense at a 2 minute pace the entire game (physically and mentally wear them down)
  2. Balanced attack
  3. Heavy misdirection in the run and passing game
  4. Stretch the field vertically and horizontally
  5. Throw the book at defenses with specials, fire alarms, and various personnel packages. Plan to go into each game with 7-8 trick plays
  6. Present the option in 3 different ways (zone read, speed option, power g option)

While the 2010 Auburn offense appears to be achieving success through this aggressive ethos, it is the run game utilizing Newton, Dyer, McCalebb, and Fannin that remains at the forefront.
After covering the zone-read with bubble last year and with the Cam Newton destroying defensive fronts this season, it may be time to cover Auburn's gap run schemes (Power, Counter, Hand Sweep). What is interesting about this "spread" is how much nothing has really changed over the years. This series is nothing more than Wing-T from the gun, and you'll find more and more spread teams complimenting their zone runs with these concepts (La Tech, for one).

Gus Malzahn gained notoriety as a high school coach in Arkansas throwing the ball and attacking through tempo and extreme spread sets (see ninja). While joining forces with Rich Rodriguez protege, Herb Hand, the appreciation of the 2-back power run game was realized and perfected. In this post, we'll take a look at how Auburn's inside/outside zone is complimented by gap blocking via "Power", in its many forms.


The tenets of Auburn’s run game are simple; they want to appear multiple by changing formations, ball carriers, and backfield action, while keeping scheme and technique simple for the offensive line. By reducing the workload and specifity for the offensive line, it allows them to operate efficiently at a high-tempo.

One of the first plays Malzahn installs is Power. The play is rather simple and for the offensive line, the footwork and technique can remain consistent with their zone skill sets. The vital elements of this off-tackle play revolve around the playside tackle, the H-back, and the backside guard.

The H-back looks to make his first step to the midline of the defensive end (or EMOL), who he will kick/dig out of the C gap. He obviously wants to leverage this player quickly by striking the chest and pin the inside shoulder of the defender. This player doesn’t always align in the backfield. Malzahn will often bring a slot receiver or tight end into the formation late with motion.

The playside tackle will step down hard inside and follow a B-gap track. He is looking to work his track to the 2nd inside linebacker in the box. If it is an (base) odd front, the tackle will work toward the backside inside linebacker. If it is a stacked front, he will work to the MLB. If confronted with a 3 technique playside (defensive linemen in B gap), the tackle will look to make this DT an A gap player, washing him into the playside guard’s track (thereby creating a double-team). This method allows the tackle to have a better angle attacking the backside linebacker.

The backside guard on power will skip (or shuffle) pull by first taking a quick retreat step with his backside foot, then horizontally extend his playside foot (some would even teach the skip pull by placing the backside foot behind the playside foot for a quicker release), allowing him to keep his shoulders square to the LOS and prevent him from opening his hips away. The guard is looking to pull through B-gap (right off the hip of the playside guard), so this will be a short path, and work to the first linebacker inside the box.

As mentioned, the playside guard will step down and work an A-gap track and wash any shade head-up to shade of the center. The center will always block back on a nose / backside shade / backside 3 tech, aiming high to ensure the defender does not cross his face.

The backside tackle will hinge, by stepping hard inside to prevent backside B-gap penetration, retreat, and look to just get a hand on the shoulder of the backside end.

The running back will align 7 yards deep (just like he would in zone), with his inside foot on the outside foot of the playside guard. After meshing with the quarterback, he will hug the double team, right off the hip of the playside guard, attacking B-gap.

The slot receiver (or #2) will orbit (“Utah”) motion and get even with tailback. On the snap, he will reverse field and establish a pitch relationship with QB. Often times, this orbit motion will be extended across the formation to control the backside safety.

An effective way for defenses to combat power-heavy offenses (as I write about here in 2005) is to overload their overload, bringing strong side pressure into C gap ala a "MARS" stunt or "NCAA (fire zone) blitz".  This usually has an end long-sticking into B-gap and a linebacker blitzing into C-gap (or visa versa).  When anticipating outside pressure or a end crashing inside, the PST has the ability to make a "MOMO" call, which essentially means, "(I have a) Man On and a Man Outside".  This alerts the entire offensive line to slow down on their releases and allow the line to stunt, so they can pickup the exchanges.  With a "MOMO" call, it will alert everyone to be man-concious on their blocks; the PST will delay his track release, waiting on the end to crash into B-gap (where he will wash him inside).  That alert helps the H-back recognize that the end will not be on the edge once the ball is snapped, and won't be the defender needing to be kicked out.  The center will delay his backside block on the shade, anticipating the playside defensive tackle to cross his face, and likewise, wash him on his gap-track.


When you have an exceptional runner at quarterback (like Cam Newton) Power can be run with him as the ball carrier and/or a running back can be substituted as the ‘quarterback’ (ala Wildcat). The QB power is usually complimented with perimeter stressors like speed sweep / reverse.



While great anywhere on the field, the Power Option is Auburn’s go-to play in the red zone. It is becomes the fail safe answer to fundamentally sound defenses that look to spill the load block (H-back) with the wrong-arm. Since it becomes near impossible to kick out a C-gap defender who is cutting inside a blocker, with Power Option this defender will be logged (pinned inside) and the area of attack will be moved to the perimeter. The H-back will log the end and the backside guard will work around the log and pick up the scraping MLB (first backer in the box).

The only nuance of Power Option for the line (everything remains exactly the same), is the technique used by the backside guard. Because the H-back will not be kicking out the end, the guard will have a longer path to work to the backers. To account for this, Malzahn will have the guard use the ‘old-school’ shoulder throw with playside foot pivot as the first step. Opening the hips of the guard for this extended pull track (outside C gap) helps neutralize any penetration and gets the linemen to the destination faster.

The split end will attack the slot receiver’s (who is becoming the pitch man) cover defender and the pitch key will be the flat defender. This is a fantastic play inside the 10 yard line, as most defenses will be in some sort of man coverage.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Nick Saban: The Process

Passing along a great link provided by Trevor McIntyre, detailing elements of Saban's program manual and how it influences players at Alabama.
Blueprint of a Champion Article

Though Saban isn't the only coach to use such intense indoctrination methods to build a positive-peer culture, this is an insightful look at how to lay a detailed foundation of expectations, behaviors, motivation, and mental processing to build a consistent product. Some of the insights regarding player expectations outlined in the article can be heard here and also through the 2010 ESPN "All-Access" special.

Some choice excerpts from the article;

“It's almost like you're being brainwashed into, 'This is how you play the game, how it has to be,'” [Colin] Peek said. “Those stories, those messages, and how that relates to us are reiterated by the coaches. It's a motivational tool to bring it home to us.”

“In short, perceived self-efficacy is concerned not with the number of skills that you have but with what you believe you can do with what you have under a variety of circumstances,” Bandura wrote in his 1997 book, “Self-Efficacy, the Exercise of Control.”

“Discipline, commitment and effort and toughness - that's the four fingers,” (Scott) Cochran said. “The thumb is pride. “So when you put the four fingers up, that's what it's all about. It means fourth quarter, but there's a lot more.”

The manual is obviously not just the sole creation of Saban, but a collaboration from his entire staff, selling a united message. Even at the high school level, there are many valuable tenets to essential program building to be garnered from this lesson ( framing competition, staging strength & conditioning, positive mental imagery, leading with purpose, etc).

Additional Links:
Dr. Kevin Elko
Albert Bandura
Self-regulation of Motivation and Action through Goal Systems

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bo Pelini: Spinner Update

The Blackshirts have returned!

After dismantling an explosive Missouri offense this weekend, Bo and Carl Pelini are resurrecting the Nebraska defense of old.

As discussed previously, the dime pressure "Spinner" package was used to perfection to disguise and attack the rhythm of the Pinkel offense.

A good article with a few choice interviews, "emptying the notebook" alludes to the effect of this scheme.

The Huskers used their normal personnel up front but worked out of a three-man front, taking defensive end Cameron Meredith out of a three-point stance and using him as a stand-up outside linebacker. Along the line, the Huskers spread out their linemen, putting bigger bodies along the edges.

“They lined up their D-tackles on our tackles,” Missouri center Tim Barnes said. “Having those guys out there, I know it’s different for our tackles, having that much extra weight. I know they’re used to faster, quicker guys.”
“We worked that three-man front all spring and all fall, just for this game,” defensive coordinator Carl Pelini told reporters after the game. “Our guys were ready to execute it.”

Also, noting catch-man pressures (from consistent pre-snap coverage shells) as the trend many defenses will look to as an answer to "the spread" offensive game. Nebraska HAS been playing a ton of Cover 1 this year, which was a trademark of former DC, Charlie McBride.

“They played a couple different coverages, but for the most part if was all man-on-man,” receiver T.J. Moe said. “Once you hit 5 yards down the field, no matter what the coverage was, it was you against him. We didn’t do a good enough job getting open today.”

On a few occasions, they dropped a safety down to play Cover 3, but primarily were in Cover 5 (2 deep man-match under) allowing the underneath defenders to aggressively attack the receivers with help behind them.