FanPost

Rest of the Pac Breakdown: Stanford - Shaw vs Harbaugh

I got to wondering: what is the difference between Jim Harbaugh's and David Shaw's Stanfurd offense? Specifically I wanted to look at the running game.

By now we are used to Harbaugh's style in Palo Alto and San Francisco. It is a physical style using lots of heavy sets: fullback, multiple tight ends and extra offensive (or in SF defensive) linemen as eligible receivers with lots of movement and formation shifts pre-snap.

Here is an example from the 2009 big game (0:48 First Quarter, 1st and 10 - And yes, I know it is difficult to see some of these guys in cardinal uniforms again). I chose this game because Stanfurd had a young quarterback and senior running back, much like they have this year.

Stanfurd is lined up with one wide receiver, 2 tight ends (one has motioned to the H-back position on the right side of the ‘Furd formation) and a fullback to the left of the formation. This formation screams "We are going to run!" and dares "Try to stop us." Cal has countered by bringing both outside linebackers up to the line of scrimmage.

<!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;} </style> <![endif]--> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE </xml><![endif]-->In classic Harbaugh style, Stanfurd is going to bring as many blockers to the point of attack as possible. The Left Tackle and Guard are going to double team Cal's Defensive End. The Right Guard is going to pull and block the last Cal player on the line of scrimmage (the outside backer in this case). The Center will block the Defensive Tackle. The Fullback is going to block the Cal Safety and the Tight End is going to block the play side Inside Backer.

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After the snap a few key things are happening.

1. The double team of Cal's Defensive End has started and the Left Tackle has an angle that will prevent the DE from being able to make a play (circled in red).

2. The Right Guard has started to pull, as a general rule (to which there are always exceptions) a pulling guard always goes where the ball is going. Defensive linemen and linebackers are taught to follow the pulling guard because that is the best way to disrupt a play. Stanfurd's center makes this impossible for the Defensive Tackle (circled in blue) with a well executed block.

3. To provide an element of misdirection the running back takes a short step to his right while the Quarterback steps back with his right foot and opens his shoulders toward his right side (normally the quarterback steps back and opens his shoulders toward the side of the run - in this case he does the opposite). The play side middle backer reads the pulling guard begins flowing to where the run will be, but the backside middle backer is frozen by the misdirection.

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The quarterback turns his back to the defense and hands the ball off to the running back who has started running left. Cal is now in a dangerous position: Stanfurd has 5 blockers for 4 Cal defenders. Cal's play side middle backer (blue #2) is in position to plug the hole but the ‘Furd Tight End is going to provide a lead block to spring the Tailback. Cal's Safety (blue #4) is crashing to provide run support but ‘Furd's Fullback (Red #4) is on his way downfield to block. Cal's back side Middle ‘backer (circled), lured by the misdirection of the QB is completely out of position to make a play.

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Stanfurd has a blocker for every Cal defender, this is referred to as "Hat on a Hat". You can see the kind of hole it opens up. Cal's only chance to stop a big play is for someone to fight off the block and make a play. The Stanfurd players, however, are going to show some of the nastiness that Harbaugh instilled in his team. The Stanfurd players drive the Cal defenders down field.

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Not one Cal player manages to beat his blocker. The tackle is finally made by a Cal player falling on the running back's legs from behind.

This yeah David Shaw and Pep Hamilton, Andrew Luck Director of Luckiness (or as the rest of football refers to the position: Offensive Coordinator), have changed this up a little bit. The power run formations are still there but multiple tight ends are much more common than extra linemen and the plays have been simplified (in terms of pre-snap motion and blocking assignments).

Here we can see (in HD!) Stanfurd lined up with eight men on the line, including three tight ends, a fullback and a tailback (#33 Stepfan Taylor). One of the tight ends has come across the formation and come set (as opposed to the previous play where the motion man stayed in motion). Washington has countered with 10 men in the box, four D-Linemen, four linebackers and two corners playing tight. This looks like a goal line play instead of 1st and 10. Yogi Roth at Pac-12 Network calls this "God's Play" as it is so old school: read more about the formation and some of the things Stanford does with it here.

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Similar to 2009 Stanfurd has a double team at the point of attack; Right Tackle and the Tight End on the Defensive End. And like the previous play the Quarterback opens away from the direction of the hand off while Taylor's first move is toward his left. That is where the similarities end: the Fullback on this play will kick out the Cornerback while the pulling Left Guard will lead into the hole and block the first Linebacker. There is a second double team by the offensive line (Right Guard and Center) on the play side Defensive Tackle.

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All those double teams are important because it leaves the two linebackers who were not fooled by the QB's misdirection free to make a play on the running back and as a result this play is much less successful than the one from 2009.

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It seems as if Jim Harbaugh would have every player on his team pull and lead block at the point of attack. By doing so he was able to create a numbers mismatch at the point of attack. David Shaw's power running incorporates some pulling and lead blocking but doesn't create that same numbers mismatch. He could have simplified because he lost David DeCastro and Andrew Luck to the NFL and feels that he needed to "dumb down" his playbook but this tight formation allows him to run some other plays to take advantage of how bunched up the defense gets. Yogi Roth looked at one wrinkle Shaw incorporated and in my next post I will look at another which was the play immediately following this 1st and 10 run.

For a closer look at the type of complex blocking schemes the 49ers are running have a look here.

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The opinions expressed in a FanPost are, in every way, reflective of the opinions of every California Golden Blogs Marshawnthusiast. Moreover, they are reflective of every employee of SBNation, including Tyler "Blez" Bleszinski.

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