My apologies for the tardiness of this post. Grad school finals ambushed me and left me with little time to do much else than breath and study. I didn't even eat. I haven't showered in a week. I've been sitting on my couch studying for so long that there is not only an ass imprint in my couch but a couch imprint on my ass. I haven't even left the couch to use the restroom. Instead, I've been defecating in a bucket and keeping it next to the couch. I haven't even emptied it out. My apartment smells like a port-a-potty. I smell even worse. If you guys saw me, you'd probably think I was a tree sitter. Anyways, to the meat of the post.
Continuing on with part three of a four part analysis on how Tedford's offense has changed in the past four years.
In 2007 - The Tedford Year, I didn't notice too many new wrinkles. In fact, I can hardly even say I noticed a lot of new wrinkles. I think Tedford was done experimenting and was tuning the offense to what he thought was ideal. He had learned new wrinkles from Dunbar in the previous year and was now taking what aspects he really liked and incorporating them into the more traditional offense he ran pre-Dunbar. I think he finally arrived at the "hybrid" offense he truly wanted in 2006 but didn't really see until the end of the season.
Now, for the first new wrinkle I noticed.
In all the years since Tedford has been at Cal, I've seen offensive guards pull to block. I've seen offensive tackles pull. Never have I ever seen Cal pull a center though. And as you can see from the picture below, on this passing play, Cal pulls center Alex Mack. I'm not sure if this was something done on the fly, meaning a call made by Mack at the line of scrimmage (LOS), or something new that the team has installed but just runs very rarely. One thing to note though on why this pull is possible, is that OSU is lined up with 3 down linemen of which the nose tackle is shifted to the defense's left (offensive's right). And why does Cal pull a center? Well first of all, it might be Coach Michalczik's attempt to put Cal's best blocker on the edge against OSU's best pass rusher (the left end). If not, then I suspect this is a new type of half-roll protection. Why would Cal want to execute a half roll (assuming this is one) to the offense's left? Look at where the ball is on the field. The ball is on the right hash. The majority of the field is on the offense's left so it makes sense to move protection in that direction since there is more field for the QB to run (if needed) and towards the majority of the receivers (2 WRs and 1 TE).
Below is the post-snap picture. Mack dribbles the ball to Riley (a bad snap along the ground that isn't at mid-torso height) which leaves Cal's RG and RT one on one with the OSU NT and LE.
Like I said earlier, because an offensive lineman pulled, I would expect this to be some sort of half-roll pass play but Riley doesn't appear to roll out to his left at all. But I'm not sure if this is because the play isn't a half-roll protection or it's just because Riley's timing was thrown off by Mack's bad snap.
Below is another angle where you can see Mack pulling.
As you can see, Mack pulling is somewhat dangerous because it leaves the other four Cal OL-men one on one with their respective defenders.
Had OSU brought more than a 4 man rush, this play may not have ended with a first down - especially if OSU brought the added defender from the offense's right. Why? Mack pulls to his left and turns his back to the offense's right. He leaves the Cal RG and RT one on one with their defenders. If they fail to make their blocks, he can't help them since he's not looking in that direction. If any help is going to come it's from the LG (but he has his own defender too) or the RB (Forsett) on a chip.
Here's the next play I want to discuss. Below is the pre-snap formation. First thing to note is that Air Force is in their base defense which is a 3-4 defense (3 down linemen and 4 linebackers). As for the offense, I put blue dots behind the five eligible receivers other than the QB. Notice the QB (Riley) is in shotgun, with Forsett to the right and Tau'ufo'ou to the left. One thing should immediately pop out to you. From this picture alone, one should be able to have a clue as to what the play might be.
You should be thinking this is probably a run play play, more specifically a zone read (see picture below). What tips off this being a run is the alignment of the RB and FB. Going back to the picture above, notice how Forsett is set back and to the right of Riley. Notice how Tau'ufo'ou is set forward and to the left of Riley. If you draw a line from Forsett to Riley to Tau'ufo'ou, it forms a line going left and towards the LOS. That's the tipoff. The offense does this to give the ball carrier a better attack angle on the LOS. As the personnel are set below, Forsett has a more aggressive angle of attack to the LOS. If the RB and FB were precisely to the QB's left and right, the RB would be running parrallel to the LOS.
Now in my previous post, I showed you how Cal ran a zone read normally. Normally the offense leaves the backside DE unblocked because he is usually the outer most defender in the box. But Air Force runs a 3-4 defense (please see first picture of this play for a better view of the 3-4 defense). So if we were to apply the outer-most defender rule to the 3-4, the player to read would be the backside outside linebacker (OLB). But reading the backside OLB in a 3-4 defense is problematic. Why? Because the OLB is playing wider (more towards the sidelines) than the DE in a 4-3 defense. How is this difference important? Due to the OLB's wider position in the 3-4, his presence essentially cuts off any chance of the QB running with the ball because the OLB is in prime (outside) position to prevent the QB from turning the corner. Thus the QB would have to hand the ball off to the RB the entire time, and there really isn't a "read" occurring.
So how does the offense solve this problem? Look at the picture above one more time. The problem is solved by putting the TE on the backside (the side which the offense is running away from) to block the backside OLB (which is the defense's strong side linebacker (SLB)) and leaving the SILB (strong inside middle linebacker - the linebacker of the middle two linebackers in a 3-4 that is more towards the strong side of the offense) unblocked to "read" (now look at the picture below). I've drawn a green line in the picture below representing the QB's read of the SILB. Notice how TE Stevens has blocked off the defense's SLB (Stevens is on the 27 yardline, above the green line, and just to the left of the Army star).
Now, I know I've used a lot of terms such as "backside," "weak," "strong," etc., and such terminology can get confusing because the offense's strong side isn't always the "playside" and such and such. So I'll take a moment to clarify those words in case I lost you. "Play side" typically refers to the side of the offense that the offense is running towards. In the current play that we're analyzing, "playside" is the offense's left. Now, the offense's "strong side" is the right side because that is the side that the TE is on. Thus, the offense's "weak side" is the left side. So the offense is running to the "weak side" but the weak side is also the play side. Get it?
Furthermore, in the picture above, the defense's strong side is their left because the offense has lined up the TE on the defense's left side. So the defense's LOLB (left outside linebacker) is the SLB (strong-side linebacker), the middle left linebacker is the SILB (strong-inside linebacker), the middle right linebacker is the WILB (weak inside linebacker) and the ROLB (right outside linebacker) is the WLB (weak-side linebacker). Get it?
Okay, back to the analysis. So the offense is leaving the SILB unblocked and reading him (picture above) and used the TE to block the outer most defender - the SLB. Tau'ufo'ou lead blocks for Forsett and is about to take out the defense's WLB. There appears to be nothing going to the playside. There is a mess of defenders and blockers and no clear hole to hit. But the SILB that was left unblocked has turned himself to the offense's playside (offense's left) in preparation to close in on Forsett (I've circled the SILB in the picture below). Forsett sees this and cuts his run back to the offense's backside for a large gain (Forsett's path is shown below).
I thought this second play of a zone read from shotgun with a lead-blocking fullback was interesting because it's something that I don't think Dunbar did if at all (I'd have to check my game notes and game film). But this is something that I did notice Tedford did quite a bit when utilizing "base" personnel (two backs; one tight end; two wide receivers) from shotgun with split backs. Rarely, in fact, did Tedford pass in such situations.
I personally love the way Coach M (Michalczik), adapted the offensive blocking of the zone read to be compatible against Air Force's 3-4. As a quick recap: the "read" is regained by blocking out the backside LB and reading a different defender that is more towards the middle of the field who doesn't have outside containment. The possibility of a QB keeper on the read is retained by having the defender with outside containment of the QB keeper blocked by the TE. And despite moving the TE to the backside to block the defense's SLB, there is no loss of a playside blocker because the fullback is leadblocking and is essentially taking the TE's blocking assignment had the TE been on the playside (instead of being on the backside). Notice how in this zone read, as opposed to the previous zone read, the offense is using 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end, two wide receivers) instead of 11 personnel (one back, one tight end, three wide receivers). The offense has chosen to use a fullback instead of a 3rd WR. Why? Because if the offense came out in a 3 WR set with that 3rd WR split out left (playside), Air Force would still defend in a 3-4 defense (because that's their tendency), and then the defense's WLB would be unblocked (because there wouldn't be a fullback leadblocking to take out the WLB). The 3rd WR could sort of block the WLB but would have a worse angle (this is further problematic because the WR would have a crack-back block but would have to be careful to not commit a clipping penalty - but that's a whole 'nother issue worth a post in itself).
Anyways, maybe I'm just a football geek, but I think the blocking scheme in this play is bloody brilliant. I hope I'm explaining things clear enough that you guys/gals are learning something. And I really hope all this playside, backside, strongside, SILB stuff hasn't confused the crap out of you either.
So these are two ways in which Tedford's offense changed or slightly evolved from 2006 - The Dunbar Year. Tedford (or at least offensive line coach, Coach Michalczik) added a new protection scheme involving a pulling center, and frequent zone-read plays from shotgun with split backs.
Part IV to come in a few days...