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Cal football film room: Breaking down Bear Raid run game creativity

Cal's run game puts old school concepts in new school packages to assert physicality

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Cal is known as a passing team, but those of us who follow the program know that they seek balance.  They found this balance in 2014 with a stable of talented running backs, led by 1,115 yard rusher Daniel Lasco.

Spread offenses are known for relying heavily on inside and outside zone running plays.  Cal's run game is more diversified than this stereotype.  Cal often pairs creative personnel groupings with "old school" run concepts.

Below is one such example.  Cal brings three extra offensive linemen into the game - two at tight end, one at fullback.  Lasco aligns in a pistol formation behind Jared Goff, while Chris Harper is the lone receiver to the right.

Cal runs a variation of the "power" scheme.  The power scheme utilizes down blocks and double teams at the point of attack, a kick out block by a fullback, and a pulling guard to lead the play.  The goal of the play is to wall the defense to the inside, kick the end man on the line of scrimmage, and follow the puller's lead block.  Cal executes the play well - when USC's outside linebacker slants to the inside, Cal adjusts and blocks him in that direction (known as a "log" block), and the play bounces to the outside.

Cal's run game creativity 1

Cal lines up with eight offensive linemen in the game. The formation has a "new school" touch (the pistol formation), but the structure is that of a double tight end, offset I formation - the type that has been seen in the NFL for decades. I have diagrammed a typical power scheme against this front.

Cal's run game creativity 2

At the snap, we see the front side of Cal's line walling to the inside. It is unclear whether USC's outside linebacker is playing a block down step down technique (which tells him to stay square, hit the blocker, and step down the with that blocker), or if USC was running a line slant on the play (possible, as the five technique also appears to slant inside). Either way, Cal "fullback" Jordan Rigsbee needs to - and does - adjust. Rather than try to kick out a man who cannot be kicked out, Rigsbee logs the end to the inside. The pulling guard (Chris Borrayo) and Lasco must also adjust to the log block. This is not difficult - such an adjustment is natural and logical, as it would make no sense to attempt to cut inside of a defender who is walled inside.

Cal's run game creativity 3

We can now see the wall. There is no penetration, and much of USC's front is walled to the inside. Borrayo engages one of the two unblocked linebackers. Cal would have liked to have blocked both linebackers on the play, but USC's block down step down technique (or slant) has prevented "tight end" Aaron Cochran from getting to the linebacker level (one of the reasons why the block down step down technique is valuable). But Cal has covered up enough men to leave Lasco with a one on one matchup with a linebacker in space. A running back needs to win those battles. Doing so or not doing so is often the difference between winning and losing.

Cal's run game creativity 4

Lasco uses a stutter step juke move to make the linebacker miss. Cal has accomplished what they want to on the play - Lasco is now in space with the opportunity for a solid gain on first down.

Cal's run game creativity 5

Lasco requires a crowd to bring him down - a sign of a good back.

The play doesn't go for huge yards.  But it is a 4-5 yard gain on first down.  Such runs are essential to success.  It won't make the highlights, but executing these plays is the foundation for offensive success.  Doing so with consistency against the "big boy" defenses on Cal's schedule would be another sign of Cal's development.

Keegan Dresow is the head coach of the Avedøre Monarchs of the Danish American Football Federation, the author of Offensive Football Systems, and the operator of