Saturday, August 7, 2010

The 2010 Ohio State Playbook Part I: The 'Dave Series'

Based on my observations from last year and this spring what follows below is a discussion of the main plays that will likely constitute the 2010 Ohio State offense.  This list is not comprehensive but is instead what I would consider some of the Ohio State offense's "base plays." This post is a follow-up to my preview article in Buckeye Battle Cry.  There, I discuss the schematic framework the 2010 Buckeyes will likely bring to the table.  Here, I look at some of the underlying plays that Ohio State will run.  I will begin with the run plays and corresponding pass plays, and then preview some of Ohio State's primary pass patterns.  Part I will begin by looking at the 'Dave Series.'


The Dave Series

Power (Dave) Play 

Any discussion of the Ohio State run game under Tressel must start with the ubiquitous 'Dave' play (ofter referred to as the power-play in general nomenclature).  Tressel is not alone in favoring this play--it is generally considered the most popular run play in modern football.  Tressel discussed the play in detail at a coaching clinic, but the basics (courtesy of Chris Brown) are as follows:

  • The lineman to the side the run is going (playside) essentially “down” block, meaning they take the man to the inside of them. For the guards and center, that includes anyone “heads up” or covering them, but for the playside tackle, he does not want to block the defensive end or other “end man on the line of scrimmage.” These lineman use their leverage to get good angles to crush the defensive lineman, and the fact that they don’t have to block a couple of defenders on the playside frees them to get good double teams and block the backside linebackers. To use Vince Lombardi’s phrase, the idea is to get so much force going that direction that they completely seal off the backside.
  • They can  do this because they get some help to the playside. First, the fullback (or, more often nowadays, some kind of H-back or other player) is responsible for blocking the otherwise unblocked end man on the line of scrimmage (“EMLOS”). He uses a “kick out” technique, simply meaning he blocks him from the inside to out, in order to create Lombardi’s famous “seal” going the other way.
  • The final piece of the puzzle is the backside guard (sometimes nowadays a tackle). He pulls and “leads,” meaning he retreats, looks first for the fullback’s block to cut off of, and then heads into the crease looking to block the first defender that shows up — typically the playside linebacker. He can block him whatever direction is best; it’s the runningback’s job to find the open lane.
  • The runner takes a lateral or slight delay step, takes the handoff from the quarterback, and follow’s the pulling guard’s block. As stated above, he wants to cut off that man’s block and get vertical quickly. It is a power play so he has to be willing to hit the hole fast; it’s not as much of a “read the defense” run as are zone runs, though it is a good complement to it.
 Here is a basic draw-up of the play

 OSU will run Dave from some variation of the I formation or from their "tight bunch" set where they have 3 TE/FBs bunch tight to the formation's strength (see below):

OSU can run this play either to the strong or weakside--though practically its more difficult to run weakside because they angles are so tight.  The play also lends itself to better angles against a 4-3 over rather than a 4-3 under, because of the difficult back block the center has against the backside 3 tackle  (see the top left diagram above).

The downside of this play (which I have previously discussed) is that all the action is front-side so that OSU can find itself in a situation where back-side penetration breaks down the play.  But OSU has taken steps to make Dave a more dangerous play, as discussed below.

Dave Rollout Designed Run

As mentioned in my Buckeye Battle Cry article,  Ohio State in 2009 developed a nice package to take advantage of the initial Dave action.   Interestingly, Ohio State did not develop a series that attacked the backside pressure, but instead choose to further attack the front-side of the play action and put the force players in a bind.  The first play they used to do this is a called fake Dave QB roll-out keep.  This is actually an old play that T-formation teams used to run that OSU has successfully revitalized.  OSU ate up chunks of yards calling this play against Oregon on the final drive.

This play looks exactly the same as Dave:

  • The offensive line to the front side is going to run the exact same play.  Everyone through to the Center is going to down block to the inside gap.  
  • The FB is going to again attack the EMOLS.  As you can see watching the above play, however, the FB is going to try to 'influence' the OLB or DE to 'wrong arm' him like the defender is taught to do against the Dave play.  The FB will then hook up and box him in if successful.  
  • The backside guard is going to again pull, but this time rather than lead up inside the FB's kick-out block, he is going to pull around the FB and lead up on the outside 'force' player.  
  • The QB is going to fake Dave and then get depth and run a sweep, following the backside Guard's block.
One can instantly see the bind this puts on the outside defensive players.  As noted, the OLB or DE is taught to come in hard when they see the TE down-blocking to clog the C-gap.  But this play takes advantage of this aggressiveness by using the natural outside D gap that the defender is responsible for.  Oregon's players came down hard on the Dave action, leaving a wide outside gap.  It also puts the force player (the safety or corner) in a bind because they must think pass with the QB rolling out.  Of course, it helps to have a QB that runs a 4.3 and that naturally wants to find the edge against the defense.

Dave Rollout Pass

The final play that encompasses this series is the rollout pass off of the Dave play fake.  This play looks identical to the Dave rollout-QB keep except that the pulling guard is not going to go downfield.  Instead he is going to settle down outside the down blocks to create the pocket for the QB.  And the QB is going to get more depth than he would when running the designed run so that he will have room to set his feet and step into the throw.

OSU likes running this fake into a 'twins' set, meaning two wide receivers to the same side.  The base pattern they run off of this is a smash route.

This is one of the more popular route combination in college football, particularly against cover-2.  As one can see, it puts the cover-2 squat corner back in the disadvantageous position of having to cover a hi and low pattern, giving the offense a 2 on 1 advantage.   

Ohio State also likes taking advantage of the 'switch' concept to the two receiver side.  Originally a run 'n' shoot concept, the switch, as Chris Brown describes:

Is, at core, a two man concept. Two receivers release and "switch": The outside guys angle inside for 5-6 yards before pushing vertical, while the inside guy runs a "wheel route" under the outside guy, rubs right off of his hip, and then turns up the sideline. That's when they play gets interesting. 
 Finally, OSU will run essentially a variant of the smash where the inside receiver (normally Sanzenbacher) will run an out route and the inside receiver (Posey) will run a post-corner route.  This combination led to the majority of OSU's big plays out of the pass game last year.

As noted, the play puts the front side defensive backs in a bind.  Not only is it an effective pass combination against cover-2 or man, but the defensive backs must also contend with the run threat from Pryor, exacerbated by the called run play.

Tressel and company have therefore figured out a way to take their favorite run play--Dave--and make it far more effective by adding the run-pass edge threat that Terrelle Pryor presents.  Expect these plays to again be a large part of the 2010 offense.


  1. On the J Hall play, was that play supposed to go to the left? It looks like the OL is blocking to the right and the pulling guard is also going to the left. J Hall goes the opposite way. Am I seeing that wrong?

  2. I don't know man. Based on the description of how the playside lineman are supposed to block the DL to the inside, it would look like the play was suppose to go the other way, in which case, some excellent vision by Hall. Good block by Posey too, probably no first down without it.

    I have no in-depth play-by-play analysis, but I started writing a Buckeye Blog as well. Check it out. Just a regular Buckeye fans thoughts. Also like to hear what people have to comment as I am transplanted down in Florida right now and don't get as much of the local buzz.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. DTFM-

    You are right. The play is supposed to go to the left-hand side, through the '7' hole. Hall just does a really nice job using his vision to cut it back, but you can still see how the offense blocks Dave from the tight trips set.

  5. Well don't go giving me credit, my man Brandon up there pointed it out first. It just looked like the blockers were moving to the inside. Still gotta give props though to Posey, could easily give up as a WR on a run play that isn't even going to your side. That is the type of guy you want out there!

  6. Its nice that you posted the video. thanks! athlete nutrition

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  8. This list is not comprehensive but is instead what I would consider some of the Ohio State offense's "base plays." This post is a follow-up to my ...