Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spring Game Thoughts

I am going to focus in this post on my Spring Game analysis.  But in a follow-up post I am going to expand and focus specifically on what is the Ohio State 'base' offense heading into 2010, both in terms of overall philosophy and specific plays.  After watching this spring it is clear that Ohio State is building very specifically on the offense employed in the Oregon game going forward, which I will discuss in more detail in future posts.

But first, specific thoughts from the Spring Game.  I re-watched and broke down the first half and did a play-by-play for the First Quarter.  Here are my specific thoughts:

  • I will discuss this in more detail later, but it is suffice to say that Ohio State's downfield passing game has 'evolved' to transition from a more pro-style, downfield passing game, to what I would consider is a more-typical college based spread attack employed by teams like Texas and Oklahoma State.  (See here).  The focus of this is short, horizontal stretching routes, specifically the: all curl route; the double slant/snag combination; quick outs; and the double scat routes.  (The play action passing game is more vertical, namely with flag/out combo, switch, and post/dig).  OSU will then run a deeper horizontal stretch with the 3-verticals route.  I do not want to use the word 'revolution', but this represents a continued development of what OSU gradually included last year that peaked in the Oregon game.
  • Building on this, the most promising thing I saw in the Spring Game was a Pryor to Stoneburner connection on the 3-verticals route.  The defense was playing a cover-2 man under.  As described in the above article, Stoneburner read the cover 2 and broke to the post.  Pryor read this perfectly, stepped up into the pocket, and delivered a strike before Stoneburner broke on his cut.  It was very well executed and bodes well for OSU this year.
  • I am with those who think Stoneburner is legit.  He needs to improve his 'scramble' reactions when the QB starts moving.  But he is a threat down the seams and the deep corner and brings another dimension that allows OSU to expand their pass game in the way described above.
  • Adams has, in my mind, locked down the LT position.  He is doing a great job sitting down in pass protection, being patient, and using his feet.  Last year he would get in trouble because he would rush to get outside, and then the DE would beat him underneath.  I am not seeing that any more.  I also think Marcus Hall may need to move inside.  He was constantly getting beat around the edge, and to me does not look to have the 'body' of a tackle.  It may simply be youth, but I would like to see him perhaps move inside with Adams and Shugarts only juniors.
  • Boom Herron ran the best I have seen him run as a Buckeye.  He stayed patient, kept his feet moving, and used his vision to find the hole as opposed to barreling into his blockers.  He was also the quickest I've seen him.  Jordan Hall again impressed me.  He had a great cutback on the first carry he received, which again makes me believe that he has the best vision of any of the running backs.
  • The Defense played very vanilla up-front.  They employed their usual array of coverages, but there was very little blitzing.  This gave the QBs more time and exposed the secondary more-so than they may otherwise be.
  • The above may qualify what I say here.  But I am now a bit concerned with the safety play.  I thought the safeties were repeatedly out of position and getting beat deep because they are too flat in their breaks.  I am not ready to pull the alarm yet because some of this were problems with the back-ups; I need to see Hines and Johnson together.  But I do not think there is any doubt that OSU's defensive strength is in the front 9, and I expect you will see defensive schemes that reflect it.
These are some quick thoughts, as I mentioned I will have an in-depth breakdown of OSU's offensive playbook coming soon.  For those interested, here is a play-by-play breakdown of the First Quarter +

First  Scarlet Series:
1st-10:  I sprint draw fake, 3 verticals.  Hall beat around right side, Pryor had to throw short
2d-10:  Gun ace right-Good time, nice job by Adams sitting down and moving his feet.  All curl play, Pryor anticipated Stoney’s cut and hit him right in stride.  5 yd gain.
3d-5:  Gun 4 wide.  Nickel.  2 high.  Rolle comes A gap.  Cover 1-robber.  Double snag routes.  Rolle beats Lindsey, Pryor doesn’t step into the throw and skips the in-route.

First Gray series
1st-10:  Gun split left.  4-3 under.  1 high.  Lead zone left.  Z Boren neutralizes Klein and Boom has a nice cut outside.  5 yd.
2d-5:  I-twins right.  4-3 over plus 2-high.  Sprint draw play pass right.  Cover 1 man.  Deep safety stays inside, Posey beats Torrence, PI.
1st-10:  Gun ace right strong.  3-4 heads up.  2 high.  3 man pass dropback route.  Q-Q-H coverage.   The DBs took false steps, wide open but Guiton didn’t put air under it. 
2d-10:  I right.  3-4 straight up.  Sprint draw right.  Offside.
2d-5:  I left.  4-3 over.  2 high.  Zip motion right to twins.  Sprint draw right.  Saine missed the cutback, instead tried to cut outside. 
3d-7:  Gun ace right strong..  Nickel double eagle 2 high.  Nickel blitz.  Double slant/snag route combo made so famous during Oregon.  Way too much DB slack in man coverage, easy pickings on the slant-route. 
1st-10:  Gun ace tight trips strong.  3-4 nickel.   4 vertical pass pattern.  Cover 3, Torrence never gets deep enough-nice catch by Washington.  Deep safety No. 8 got stuck in no mans-land.  Bad safety play for Scarlet.

Second Scarlet Series:
1st-10:  Gun tight trips left.  Nickel 2 high.  Cover 2 man under.  3 verticals.  Great read by Stoney on the 3 verticals play.  He saw the cover 2 so broke for the goal post between them.  Fantastic job by Pryor stepping up in the pocket, never taking his eyes off downfield and hitting him on the cut.  Most promising thing I’ve seen. 
1st-10:  I twins left.  4-3 open plus 2 high.  Fake Dave pass left.  LBers bit the Dave fake.  Very nice job by Browning getting his shoulders squared pulling.  Nice change up in the route—ran a ‘switch’ route.  Will fool teams expecting the flag-out combo.  Fooled Sabino who was stuck in no-mans land. 
1st-10:  Gun tight trips right weak.  4-3 under 2 high.  3 step ‘Texas double out route.”  Great job by Pryor
1st-10:  Gun tight trips left strong.  4-3 open plus 2 high.  Dropback.  Q-Q-H coverage.  Snag-flag combo.  Clarke got stuck in quick sand.  Pryor hit his spot and threw it right on time. 

Second Gray Series
1st-10:  Ace double tight wing right.  3-4 shaded to the field (NG and backside in 2-I techniques).  2 high.  Draw.  Great job by Brewster and Boren controlling and turning their men.  4 yds. 
2d-7: Gun 4 wide right.  4-2 nickel 2 high.  For whatever reason Mewhert did not get off on the snap count, leaving Bellamy basically untouched into the backfield.  Sack. 
3d-11:  Gun split backs left.  Nickel 1 high.  Q-Q-H.  Flood route left.  Miller got out of position and Heyward was able to shed inside.
Third Red Series
1st-10:  Strong I right.  4-2 nickel.  Playaction  shallow cross “drive” route.  M. Hall again got beat to the outside.  Pryor ball batted. 
2d-10:  Gun 4-wide.  Nickel 2 high.  Double snag route.  Hall got beat inside this time but Pryor stepped up and delievered the flag route.  Q-Q-H coverage but the deep half safety never got over to his side quickly.  Stoney in the slot running the flag route-tough in that position.  Great job with Adams dealing with the swin move.
1st-10:  Gun ace left.  4-3 over 1 high.  Double curl-flag route. 
2d-7:  Gun tight trips stron.  3-3 nickel.  4 verticals route.  2 deep man under.  Pryor throws the vertical to Stoney but doesn’t put enough air on it.  Should have checked down. 
3d-12:  Ace right:  3-3 nickel.  Adams overextended himself, getting beat inside quickly, forcing Pryor to dump off.  

Third Scarlet Series
1st-10:  Lead draw-great quicks by Boom; best I have seen him run

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The OSU 2010 Jersey Scrimmage

I had the privilege of attending the OSU jersey scrimmage today.  Because I was in the South Stands I had a good "video" view of the offensive and defensive schemes from directly behind the action.

I want to make one general point, then I'll turn to schemes and players.

Overall:  I'm sure the CW out of this scrimmage will be that the offense and offensive line were not any good.  But that is really an unfair reading.  First off, the 1s did not play very much as a unit.  And then of the snaps the 1s played, Pryor only played about half of those snaps.  I personally saw Pryor play maybe 3 series.  And then you have the fact that he is in a black jersey and cannot run.  And then you add the fact that the 1s were largely working situations, like coming out of their own goal line.  But all that being said, the first team offense largely did the job against the first team defense.  They moved the ball running, Pryor had time to make plays, and the line worked pretty well together.  There were some dropped balls, but the wind was terrible.  The one's looked worse when Bauserman played, as he cannot help but get balls tipped.  But where the offense really looked bad was the 2s and 3s against OSU's 2d and 3d string defense.  But think about it--we are so loaded at DE and LBer how many of those guys would be starting for every other Big Ten Team:  Wells, Thomas, Klein, Dorian Bell, Newsome, etc.  So they were lighting up patchwork second and third team O-Lines.  So you really can only expect so much.



  • The offense is largely building upon what they did against Oregon.  It is a really nice package built around several series from both the shotgun and I that have the common theme of being built around the inside running threat and outside run/pass threat of Pryor.
  • That means a combination of the 'spread', namely with tight trips or 3 wide, split backs, based around the zone read play and then the half roll passes off of that, and then the I-formation, based upon the Dave/rollout and sprint draw series.  You will notice that all of these series have the common fact that they combine our inside running game with the outside run/pass threat bind that Pryor puts defenses in.  So it plays to the teams strengths and really works well together.  They all allow Pryor to get to the outside where he is such a threat.  For example, we saw the fake Dave QB run play that Pryor just killed Oregon.  That play puts the OLB in such a bind--does he screw down on the power play like he's taught to do, or does he stay outside to contain Pryor?  As VB said, pretty much all you can do is tell your SAM LBer to just make a decision one way or another, don't get stuck in no-man's land.  The Tight-trips shotgun formation also is such a threat to the defense.  They put the HB to the tight trips side.  That means you have 7 defenders to the strong side of the football that the defense has to acount for accordingly.  But then, OSU can run inside zone back to the weakside, and also has Posey alone to that side.  So a defense is put in the bind of both having to respect the numbers to the strength but accounting for what they may see to the weak side.
  • OSU is consciously working hard to get the TEs and Running Backs involved in the passing game.  OSU showed some unbalanced where Stoneburner would be to the weakside but then release into the pass route.  Every pass pattern called was a 5 man route with the TE running seam, drag, or in routes.

  • OSU's defense has reached a point that they are all so comfortable with teh system and what they are trying to do that they are getting very complicated.  Their base is 4-3 under personnel.  But from that they go a variety of ways.  Oftentimes they will play a 3-4, but they bump down one side into an 'eagle' look with a 3 technique.  The thing is, its really hard to figure out what their keys are.  Sometimes they bump the eagle down based on formation strength, sometimes based on the field.  Other times they played a straight-up 3-4.  Still other times they showed a 4-3 over.  Coverage-wise they are showing cover 1 press, but then often dropping to a lot of quarter-quarter-half coverage.
  • And the Defense was really bringing the heat today.  Rolle and Homan were constantly x-blitzing, and they would often bring Williams around on a twist.  Everything OSU is doing defensively reflects a staff and team that is confident in what they are doing and their ability.

  • In the limited amount of action Pryor looked very comfortable in the pocket.  He was stepping up, making his reads, and staying comfortable in the pocket.  I remarked that he just looks much more comfortable and in control with everything.
  • Cameron Hayward is the leader of this team.  He is extremely vocal the first one running down the field to participate in drills, the one in front cheering and hollering on the defense, and spurring people on.  The defense takes on his persona and they were really animated and cheering each other on all day.  IIt is funny, Simon is like Heyward's shadow, he tries to follow and mimic everything he is doing.   The offense, by comparison, was pretty lacking in emotion.  Now, part of this is just the defense between offensive and defensive football.  But right now it is clear who the defense's leader is, the offense does not have someone as vocal.  Heyward is poised to take another step forward and be the most dominant defensive linemen in college fb this year.
  • The defense flies to the football.  It's hard to say certain people stand out, because they are running and gang-tackling everyone.
  • As I said, I thought the first team O-Line looked pretty good.  I thought Miller may have gotten a few more snaps than Adams, but I thought Adams more than held his own.  My personal sense is that Adams will be the starter and is playing better, but they are going to make him earn it.
  • I think Sabino has fully locked down the SAM spot.  People need to realize that the 3 LBer positions are not interchangeable.  You can play either the inside spots (Mike or Will) or the Sam spot.  The Sam is now always on the LOS and is basically a mix between your traditional head-up on the TE linebacker and the nickel star player.  Half the time he is playing in the "grey" area splitting between the end of the line and wide receivers, forcing everything inside.  Sabino's athleticism allows him to do this and really gives the 3-4 look another dimension.