Countdown to Kickoff: 55 days
This offense is going to be a fun study all year. If it wasn’t already evident from the run plays article early this week, Dave Patenaude has incorporated a plethora of concepts and ideas from different spread systems into his offense over the years. This article is not meant to be an exhaustive list of the passing concepts in this offense. It would be too long to be an enjoyable read. Instead this is just some of the concepts I noticed during the spring game that I found interesting.
There was a lot to unpack during even the first drive of the spring game by the gold team. So many different concepts in both the run and the pass. That first drive was a major exhibition of what this offense will be, and tested Lucas Johnson’s ability to make the right reads before and after the snap.
If you want a more in-depth summary about triangle stresses, I’d suggest the related link below, but I’ll give you the basics in this section.
This is less of a singular play or route concept and is more of a philosophy on attacking modern zone defenses. By having the players run a route combination that places them in the shape of a triangle, the offense can stretch the zone both vertically and horizontally with just 3 players. I know what you’re thinking. Yes, if you draw lines between any 3 players it will form a triangle. It’s the shape of the triangle that matters. The triangle should be somewhat close to equilateral and should be sized to be stretching one zone. Here is an example from the spring game:
Christian Campbell has the shallow zone up top, and is forced forward by the shallow out route. This leaves a window for Lucas Johnson to zip the ball in to Jordan Mason, and he does so. Many TV analysts will talk about how players find the soft spots in the zone, but the best offenses will create soft space in zones by stretching and stressing them. Triangle Stresses were seen frequently throughout the spring game and are a central part of certain play designs such as the:
The Mesh is a base play for many Air Raid teams. Teams like Washington State and Oklahoma run the mesh frequently as it is versatile, stressing both zone and man defenses.
There are many ways to design a mesh, but the big giveaway is the double crossing route with two tightly spaced receivers that is designed. The spacing is very important for these routes, and usually the two receivers will do a low-five to get the spacing right. In the gif below, Camp does this but Carter does not. These 2 receivers also have to read the coverage to determine man or zone. If it is man, their double crosser will create a natural pick that will disrupt coverage. If it is zone, the receivers will sit in their spots after crossing. This should create a triangle stress with an outward breaking route and a vertical, and one is created up top in the gif.
The defense was sitting in zone, so the receivers did stay put a few steps after crossing. It happens fast since the ball is released and they go to block, but it’s there.
Much of the spring game was about getting the QBs to go through their progressions before and after the snap, this mesh showcases Lucas Johnson doing just that. He looks up top at the vertical route first, but it isn’t there. The defense is sitting closely behind the crossing route as well. It’s the RB route to the flat out of the backfield, his third read, that is open. The coaches likely set up the defense to force him to his 3rd read, and it was good practice.
Here is some highly suggested further reading on the mesh from our sister SBNation site for Washington State:
And a video that isn’t directly about the mesh, but goes over it in detail, a highly suggested watch:
The sensation sweeping the nation has arrived at Georgia Tech. The Jackets will be calling Run-Pass Options this fall and I am personally very excited about it. The more I watched this game, the more I realized it was just one big final exam for what the QBs learned during the spring. A wide variety of plays were executed, and the defense was usually called such that if the QB made the right reads, the play would be quite successful. This play illustrates that well:
The pre-snap read key here is #22 Kaleb Oliver. If he stays out in coverage, Johnson will give to the RB. If he peeks inside at the run, Johnson will throw the bubble screen. In this case Oliver fires towards the run and is telegraphing that move all the way. This is a relatively easy read for Johnson on this play.
The incorporation of RPO concepts can really help this team where the offensive transition will be hardest: the offensive line. RPOs always give the team a numbers advantage if read correctly, so the QB either gets to throw a quick pass or the RB gets to run against a thin box.
Red Zone Picks
A little simpler here, but most of what has been discussed so far has had the aim of defeating zone coverage. Defeating man coverage is all about creating picks, especially in the red zone. Clemson used red zone pick plays extensively and arguably blatantly during their first victory over Alabama for the national title. The above is quite similar to a play Clemson used in that game. The outside receiver drags his man into the path of the inside defensive back, allowing the slot receiver open space to the pylon. This isn’t unique by any means, but then again most of things discussed so far aren’t unique to this offense.
That’s not to say Patenaude isn’t good or original. It’s interesting to see how he’s brought the best elements of different offenses together in his system. It will be interesting to see how they come together over the course of the season.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!