Alright. Here’s a little bit of Oregon analysis to fill the bye week.
First, we’ll look at one particular play. I chose the play below because I want to show how the formation of the offense can force the defense into a favorable position for the offense. Take a look at the picture below. The formation that the offense is in (everyone excluding the two WRs) is called the Strong-I. It’s strong because the fullback is towards the same side as the tight end creating strength to one side.
There are few things to notice about this play before moving on. First, Jahvid Best is the runningback. As you probably now realized, I chose this play to look at how a certain offensive formation can benefit our outstanding freshman phenom. Second, the thing you should notice is the formation. Specifically that the two WRs, THA1 and Jordan are split as "twins" out to the weak side of the formation. This is important because if the defense plays man coverage, it puts both cornerbacks away from the strength of the play. If the defense plays zone coverage (as they are below) it also causes the secondary to shift towards the twin WR formation. What happens is that the defense has 6 defenders to the center’s left and 5 defenders to the center’s right (the Oregon defender across from Mack is shading to Mack’s left). If you were going to call a run play to the left or right, which way would you go? Remember, the defense only has 5 defenders to the strong side of the offense.
If you said to the right, good call. Tedford calls a sweep play to the right (picture below). Longshore takes the snap and tosses the ball to Best who begins running right. Not counting Mack and Best, the offense has four blockers to the right of the center (guard, tackle, tight end, and fulback) and the defense has five defenders. If every blocker takes out his defender, then Best is only responsible for making one guy miss.
But something is up. Best isn’t exactly eager to head up field (picture below). As you can see below he’s running parallel to the LOS (line of scrimmage). Furthermore, Longshore is also moving to the right to aid in protection. Normally the QBs are told to get the hell out of the way. And, for some reason Craig Stevens (tight end) on the 18 yard line is NOT engaging in a block against the Oregon linebacker. Instead he is releasing as if on a receiver route. All these are clues to the defense and you that this is NOT a regular run play.
Indeed this is NOT a run play (picture below). As you can see Best went from the 27 yardline in the picture above BACKWARDS to the 28 yardline in the picture below. He is obviously buying time, but to do what? To pass of course. Look closely at Best. He is clutching the football as if he’s a quarterback and preparing to throw. This is a trick play of the halfback pass variety. Notice that Stevens has released past the Oregon linebackers and is half way off the screen. Unfortunately, the Oregon linebackers have maintained their depth fairly well and did not "bite" on the "bait" (the toss play). Best could lob the ball over the Oregon linebackers’ heads but that is probably a bad idea. Count the defenders in the picture below. There are 8 Oregon defenders. There are 3 defenders off the screen who have maintained an umbrella coverage over the top of Stevens. Stevens is NOT open.
Best sees that Steven is not open and makes a wise decision. He tucks the ball, puts his head down, and attempts to minimize the yardage lost on the play (picture below).
While this play didn’t work because Oregon did not bite on the bait, this is still a good example of how Tedford sets up the defense. Unlike in my previous analysis where Tedford set up the Tennessee defense all within the one game itself, this play takes advantage of the tendencies Tedford has showed in ALL the prior games. What makes a great coach is one who can figure out the tendencies of the opposing coaches. What makes an excellent coach, is a coach who realizes his OWN tendencies, and builds off of them to deceive the defense. The tendency that Tedford is building off of here is his own tendency to run the ball with Best when Best comes in the game. As we all know, when Best comes in the game on offense, there is a 99.99% chance he’s going to get the ball somehow. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point. Now, Tedford knows that Belotti has watched the film of Cal’s prior games and sees that Tedford will run when Best comes in the game. All that setup from the past few games is the "bait." The calling a halfback pass trick play is the "trick." Unfortunately, the Oregon defenders did not take the bait.
Now that you know that the play was a trick play there are a few things to rethink. Looking at the pre-snap picture (first picture above), you should see that the "twin" WRs to the offense’s weak side is logical for maximizing the probability of success for this play. By putting the twins on the weak side, it keeps the defensive secondary away from the direction of the play (the toss to the right). Why do we want to do this? Because the right side is where Craig Stevens (the tight end and primary receiver - actually the only receiver) will be running his route. The twins will keep the defense to the offense’s left, and Craig Stevens will run to the deep right half of the field. If the WRs weren’t in twins and there was one on each side, that would keep the safeties centered as opposed to shifted towards the twins, as well as placing a cornerback to the side of the field that we want to throw to - bad idea.
Another thing you can’t see in the pictures (but if you have tivo or the dvd of the game you can go back and watch), is that the slot WRs run short routes and stay on the far side of the field (DJ ran a hitch and the slot WR ran some other outside route). The purpose of the short routes to the far side of the field is to try and get the defensive secondary to come down (so Stevens can go over the top) and to stay on the "twins" side of the field (and away from Stevens so can make the catch).
So the things I think that are significant to learn from this play are that (1) it was a trick play that built off of Tedford’s own tendency that he established throughout MANY games prior, and that (2) the formation of the offense influences the defense to position themselves in such a manner that the offense secretly wants them to.
Pocket Protection (of the non-latex kind)
The next thing I want to talk about is gameplanning and protection.
The first thing you should have noticed about Jeff Tedford’s playcalling during the Oregon game was that he was trying to keep the defense off balance and get the ball out of Longshore’s hands fast. Evidence of this is from the following facts. Tedford called 43 pass plays against Oregon. Of those, 4 of them were screens, 7 were play action plays, and 18 maximum protection plays. That’s 29 non-regular pass plays out of 43 (67.4%). Clearly Tedford was making a strong effort to not let Longshore get sacked by calling regular straight dropback passing plays. Screen plays get the ball out of the QB’s hands fairly quickly. Play action plays get the defense to concentrate on the runningback momentarily instead of the quarterback, and maximum protection plays is just plain ol’ protecting your QB.
Maximum protection plays are plays where the offense will keep in extra blockers (usually the runningback, and fullback, and sometimes the tight end too) to pass block.
I already told you that Tedford called 18 max protect plays in the game (out of 43 passing plays). The ABC sideline reporter dude said he talked to Tedford after Tedford came out from the halftime break, and relayed that Tedford wanted to protect Longshore even more. Tedford followed through on his promise. In the first half Tedford called 6 max protect plays. I know you guys can do math, so that means Tedford called 12 more max protect plays in the second half. Rightous.
The below three pictures is an example of a max protect play. The first picture is the pre-snap formation. Here again we see the Strong-I formation but without a twin WR set (the second WR is off the screen to the bottom).
Once the ball is snapped we see Longshore fake a handoff. But remember, we’re looking at this play because of the protection not so much the play itself. So look at the offensive line. Notice how the left side of the offensive line is moving backwards and giving up space to the defensive line as opposed to the right side of the offensive line which is creating a blocking wall parallel to the LOS. What is happening here is that Tedford is also rolling out the pocket in addition to leaving in extra blockers. It’s a little hard to tell from the pictures (the picture below and the 3rd picture further below) but Longshore rolls slightly to the right.
Notice how after Longshore faked the playaction (picture above) that the runningback (Forsett) and the fullback (Smith) stayed in to protect Longshore (picture below). That’s the additional protection of the max protect. The offensive line takes care of the backside and middle. The offensive line gets the special honor of protecting Longshore’s backside for a specific reason while the RB and FB are delegated to block on the front side. That reason is that the OL is better qualified to do the blind side blocking. They’re bigger, stronger, and more skilled at it than the RB and FB. Should the RB and FB blocking break down, it’s on the side of the formation that Longshore is facing, thus he can see the breakdown and react. In this particular play, the offensive line in conjunction with the backs do a perfect job of maintaining a beautiful pocket and giving Longshore enough time to pass. This play resulted in a first down pass to Stevens.
In conclusion, this is just a really small example of what’s Tedford was doing throughout the Oregon game. While I chose to focus on his max protection and rolling of the pocket, as I stated before, he was callings lots of playaction and screen plays to take pressure off of Longshore and get the ball out of Longshore’s hands quickly. The whole ideology behind that type of playcalling is to not get sacked, keep getting positive yardage, and keeping the defense off balance.
So far I’m in awe of Tedford’s playcalling for the Tennessee and Oregon games. When I look at the playcalling from these games I see ingenuity, purpose, and trickeration. While I realize this analysis wasn’t quite as grandeous as the previous one, I hope I was able to convey enough of my thoughts clearly to you so that you too can see what Tedford is doing out there. If not, I apologize but it’s 5:15 am and I need to sleep…