Friday, December 9, 2011

Rants from an idle coach #3

Redundancy in play call- the good and the bad

Something to just get you thinking a little! Hopefully it does.
Just reading an article in another site about playcalling and the ability to run the triple time and time again,whereas other plays in the offense do not have that ability. I agree with the post but I think there is more of a reason then just what was written. There are certain plays that can be run time and time again but there one catch which we will get into in this article ans there are plays that cannot be run repetitiously because of certain demands. Which plays fit into what categories? We'll try to give you and easy method for figuring that out and also how each category should fit into the design of your offense regardless of what you run.

First of all, we divide all our plays into "rhythm" plays and "intrusion" plays. The "rhythm" platys are hose we talked about that you can run over and over again, such as the triple option that we talked about above. As a play caller you and your offense can get into a rhythm calling the play over and over again and only disruption or lack of execution stops it. An "intrusion" play is one that is designed to take advantage of a particular reaction or alignment to stop your rhythm plays.

(It is important to note that here we are talking about playing against sound teams that are equal or slightly better then you. For teams that align unsoundly or you have a great talent advantage - any play can become a rhythm play if it exploits those aspects.)

Rhythm plays

There are reasons that these plays are able to be redundant in a playcalling sequence.

  1. They do not depend on defensive alignment. therefore they can be run against any "numbers equal defense"
  2. They have a way in your offense of getting away from numbers disadvantages. For example, in our triple scheme, we will check opposite if the numbers are greater then we can run against. No play can be run if there are extra defenders. Great talent can be run against extra defenders but then it is not the play that was successful, it was the athlete who beat the extra defender by skill alone. (I have never had one of those so they are foreign to me.)
  3. They read the defense at the point of attack, therefore they do not rely on a particular defensive reaction. (As an example I'll use the rocket - it is an "intrusive play because if the 5 tech is wide and runs up the field and out. He will destroy the play as it develops. As oppose to the triple where that becomes a give.)
  4. Rhythm plays must attack across a broad front. That means they must make the defense play either assignment football or be gap sound. (A play that has limited entry points can be greatly outnumbered by defensive reaction after the snap.) This is not to say that you have to attack the whole field on a play but you have to have multiple entry points threatened.
Let's take a look at a "rhythm" play I consider so but many people do not - the traditional power. (trust me from playing defense I've seen it run over and over again.) First, it can be run against any defense. Only numbers will stop you from running it and with a sound system the quarterback can check "opposite" easily. As the play has developed, the running back is able to read the defense. He can hit it in the off-tackle hole, read the wrong arm and bounce it, and, with the way the double teams are run now and the tighter entry point, he can cut it back to the A or B gaps. Based on that it is a rhythm play.

The inside and outside zone and zone read schemes are examples of this also.

"Intrusion" plays

There are reasons these plays cannot be run over and over again. (we call them intrusion plays because they intrude on the defensive flow or alignment.)

  1. Some are designed for an exact defensive alignment and cannot be run vs. everything. (Back when the 46 became big I know teams that had a complete package that was only checked to when the 46 - a unique alignment - appeared.
  2. They are based on a particular defense reaction and counter that. The majority of time these plays are "counters" or "reaction" type plays based off the defensive reaction to the "rhythm" plays. The problem with running these plays on sequential downs is the rhythm of the defensive reaction is broken on the first play. (A good example of that was Georgia Tech vs. Georgia. After running the triple Tech countered with the counter dive and had success. However, they repeated this play a number of times with no luck. The reason - the last reaction of the defense was to the counter - a play that needed the defense to be reacting to the triple away.
  3. They can be outnumbered after the snap without change of defensive alignment. Take the midline tuck play. Defenses have learned to fold players inside to outnumber the play. (Yes you can formation and that is exactly what we do. However, then it becomes formation restrictive.) The same is true of the Quarterback follow play - if you don't believe this just look at the Georgia Tech - Virginia Tech game. Short yardage became an exercise in frustration as numerous follows were outnumbered by a normal 4-3 alignment and a "universal" option stunt. (Of course I have an unfair advantage due to the fact that I'm critiquing after the fact. So any comment here should be no reflection on any playcalling. I'm sure there were reasons for this)
  4. It has limited entry points. Take a look at the zone dive. With the fullback getting the handoff right behind the line of scrimmage - he is limited to a one gap cut. (A-B or even if it's behind the nose - for anybody who's run this knows that with the nose working down the line it is a one gap cut!)
What does this mean in playcalling:
  • First you must call you intrusive plays with care and in conjunction to the rhythm of the offense. you cannot make intrusive plays the basis of your playcalling. (except of course against a poorly coached unsound team or teams you totally dominate athletically.)
  • Don't be scared to repeat your "rhythm" plays. Too often we out coach ourselves. Unconfidence shows in thoughts of "I have to counter them here" or "My run pass ratio isn't good." Make the defense stop the base of the offense. If they can't - don't get "fancy play syndrome."
  • Limit your "intrusion" type plays in your gameplan. You probably won't get to use them. Too often we worry about what we'll get - when in realty we get what we saw on film. (I've been guilty of this.) To quote a famous general "Don't defend ghost!" This worry will only take away from practice time of your rhythm plays and their execution. It will also overload the players with stuff you will never use. If they do come up with a "bastard" or surprise look go back to your base rhythm plays - they should by definition not be defensive restrictive and you've been running it for multiple weeks against a team that has only practiced a junk defense for one week.
  • Don't be afraid to have a personality in your offense due to your rhythm plays. It may not be popular but the object is to win the game note get votes. I once had a reporter accuse me of being limited offensively because all I knew was one play - the triple. We were 5-0 at the time. Along the same point - it's interesting that in an age of spreads Alabama and LSU are power teams that hang their hats on the power O. I don't think Miles and Saban are interested in being called innovative.
What does this mean in practice organization:

  • The majority of your practice should be on your rhythm plays. At least 60% of that aspect (run or pass) Maybe more.
  • The "rhythm part of the offense must be universal and practiced as such. This allows you to run this aspect vs. everything. For example - we have limited the defensive looks to 4 to the tightend and 4 to the non-tightend for the triple. Every week we have a 40 min 1/2 line segment where we practice all 4 of our triples vs. all these looks. Even if we are not facing a 4-3 we will run it. By doing this - we pray that the defense changes for us! Our advantage. I believe that this is why offenses can't get in rhythm anymore. Like people say they've caught up with the power. Yet teams run it. (Ask LSU / Alabama / Stanford) It's the way your practice it. When those teams run it, they don't care what you're in except for numbers. They have practiced and taught it to handle all situations.)
  • I truly believe that rhythm plays - since that involve reaction to defensive movements must be practiced live at some place in the week.
What does this mean in designing an offense:

  • The base of your offense should be rhythm plays - 3-5 at most. (for us it's our 4 triple packages) Any more is unpracticable. Any less is limiting your offense greatly.
  • An offense based on Intrusion or unrelated plays is a smorgasbord and at the mercy of defensive alignment and reaction.
  • Your rhythm plays must have a system built in to check yourself out of number disadvantages. The only thing that can stop rhythm plays is breakdowns or number disadvantages. (interestingly, one of the best defensive coordinators in the ACC told me in confidence - you don't stop the triple - you slow it down and hope it gets off rhythm or the offense makes a mistake. Many times he said getting off rhythm was a result of the offensive running a complimentary play that was easier to stop!)
  • "Intrusive" plays must be simple in design and easy to install (see article on Payout vs. cost) In addition they must come off or be answers for your "rhythm" part of your offense.
The key is that "rhythm" plays and repetition is not limited to the triple teams. It's also with spread teams, power teams, zone teams and even passing teams. (I heard BYU under Lavell Edwards say they had 3 "universal passing concepts and they would run those over and over against any defense. And interesting many more gun plays fit the rhythm section due to the depth of the backs.)

I hope this just makes you think a little about your offense this offseason. It's completely theoretical but I think it has it's place in offensive design


Aarnout said...

Hi coach, great post again!

I have a couple of questions though.
First, would you say that in general "rhythm" plays are plays that should get good median yards per play instead of average yards per play? Whereas "intrusion" plays have better average yards per play, and median yards per play is less important?

Second, could you go over the 4 looks you identify to each side? In the old georgia southern playbook they use the typical "reduced", "shade" etc. to identify fronts. Do you use the same?

Aarnout said...

Great Article again coach!

I have 2 questions however:

First, Would you say that for "rhythm" plays a good median yards gain per play is more important than good average yards per play? Whereas for "intrusion" plays you're looking for high average gains over good median gains per play?

Second, what are the 4 front identifiers you use? I know the ones in the old georgia southern playbook, but I was wondering if you do it in another way.