What if I told you the man who coordinated the offense that upset Alabama in the 2008 Sugar Bowl was coming to Vanderbilt? Wait - what if I told you the man who is your new offensive coordinator ran the FBS's 17th-strongest attack in Total Offense with 6,043 yards and 448 points? This man has done those things, and this man will soon call Nashville home. That man is Andy Ludwig, former Wisconsin Offensive Coordinator. If Derek Mason was aiming to hit a home run before baseball season then he has successfully done so. Dare we say Andy Ludwig is committed and trained?
Stats can be misleading at times, obviously Wisconsin had a heavy ground attack due to having arguably the best running back in college football today. Their run to pass ratio is way in favor of the running game. But talk to any Wisconsin fan and they will tell you; Andy Ludwig wasn't always in favor of a heavy ground attack. He is a true West Coast guy, much like Mike Sanford, but much unlike Brad Salem. However, the difference in uncanny with his experience level and his success level.
Really...the only real question I have is...why was this our third choice? Seems like he would have been the first, or at least the second. No offense to Mike Samford or Brad Salem but this guy has a wealth more experience in the field than they do. But the one question on everybody's mind is even simpler...what are we getting with Ludwig?
In Utah he ran a Spread and at Wisconsin he was a Pro Style Power Running guy, but make no mistake he prefers a West Coast Offense. We saw examples of this at San Diego State, California, Oregon, and Fresno State where he guided a young man by the name of David Carr into being a first overall draft selection. While Carr's pro career didn't pan out, it's hard to write off his performance in college. But how different is our offense really going to be next year? What are some things we can look for from Ludwig? Well...I'm going to tell you that now.
Expect a massive change in the running game
WHAT?!? OUR RUNNING GAME WAS THE MOST CONSISTENT PART OF OUR WHOLE OFFENSE!
Calm down, it's not a bad thing, it's a good thing. The change is switching from a zone blocking scheme to a more man blocking scheme. That means you can expect more power plays, more dive plays, counter plays, trap plays, and things of the sort. I'm not saying the inside zone is completely out of the playbook, but I am saying based off previous offenses done by Ludwig this change is coming. I personally think that a man blocking scheme is a fantastic thing with all the linemen we've been picking up. This is going to play to the strengths of what we do best and is EXACTLY what Stanford uses. I think this will allow Ralph Webb and whichever running back steps up with him to flourish and be a tough back to stop in the future. But since this is a breakdown, I'll give you SOMETHING.
Did you watch Wisconsin at all this year? Good...you've seen this 50 times a game, on average.
Obviously a lot is made in this video about the point of attack, you can tell from the video about the numbers an offense will have over a defense, with the way our tight ends play I would expect to see this a lot more this year. Our guys have no problem washing the man on the inside down and to a linebacker, and I think we've got enough athletic, talented linemen who can get moving and make these pulls and traps a lot more manageable. If I were Ralph Webb, Dallas Rivers, or even Jordan Howard (if he shows up) I'd be really excited to run behind this play, one that has been a football staple since the Pop Warner days (the coach, not the league).
For every good power, there is a great counter. A play ultimately designed for when you get a defense overpursuing on your run plays (either being stretch or power) is the counter play. Let's take a look.
Bonus: Man Blocking vs Zone Blocking
Man blocking is a lot easier, zone blocking is a lot more high tech. Take your pick...last year we were a zone blocking team, this year we will be more man. Hope our linemen are ready for the challenge, because they certainly have the side for man blocking. Enjoy this explanation of the man blocking scheme.
Don't expect a massive change in the passing game
WHAT?!? OUR PASSING GAME WAS THE MOST GOD AWFUL PART OF OUR WHOLE OFFENSE!
Yes, it was...kinda. The concepts were actually really good, the execution however, well it was horrible. I still expect our tight ends to play a huge role in our passing game, but I expect our wide receivers to step up as well. If the rumors of the Wisconsin's Chris Beatty coming in are also true, that only helps the cause even more. I still expect to see stick ran by our H's and Y's (Tight Ends if not in two back) and I expect the see some Shallow Cross, Y Cross, Texas, and Spider 2 Y Banana (Combination Corner/Flat + Shallow Cross) to be a huge part of our offensive passing game. Let's take a look at some of these plays, shall we?
Spider 2 Y Banana
If you've watched Jon Gruden's quarterback camp then you've heard this term before. Spider 2 Y Banana is a beautiful concept that you really can't win defensively. The 2 is designed to attack the Cover 2 as the safety almost always goes after the Dig route, leaving the corner to pick between covering the flats or dropping to cover the corner route. As you can imagine, there is no winning that for a defensive back...let's see it applied shall we?
That's a beautiful banana might be the worst thing you can ever say when talking about football terminology. Obviously the Saints aren't really a West Coast Team (Bill Walsh West Coast, not Don Coryell...they fall into the latter), but they run a beautiful play here and as you can see the corner is left with a choice...the outside backer is almost always coming up on the shallow leaving virtually a wide open three man read.
If the linebacker takes the corner, throw the shallow. If the linebacker bites the shallow and the safety bites the dig then read the corner, if he drops hit the flat man if he comes up then hit the deep man. Easy 20 yard play most times.
Now we have many variations of this play, but the concept is pretty much the same. Imagine a cross on the outside, as in 3 wide receivers to one side. One wide receiver (the outside guy) runs a dig route, the guy furthest inside runs an out, and the guy in the middle runs a hashbender (go route or post pending on safety movement). The other side you have a MOR (Mandatory Outside Release) by the outside receiver and your tailback runs an out from the backfield as a final check down. All bases are covered in this one, if the quarterback sees man to man on the outside he throws the MOR, if he sees a one high safety over the left he automatically knows he has numbers on the right (or vice versa). If he sees a lot of cloudiness he throws the checkdown and all is well in the kingdom.
I couldn't find a play on youtube to demonstrate this, so I am giving you an illustration instead.
Sweet! Now we can move on.
I showed you these plays back in the summer time, but I have no issue revisiting them again because it's kind of my job. (Seriously, I deserve a gold star) Anyway, getting back to the point...the Shallow Cross is widely associated with the Air Raid Offense, but a little known fact is it actually has a place in a lot of pro offenses. The concept is simple, you get linebackers and you confuse them by running someone up over the top of them and down below them in a dig/shallow concept, this allows a QB to read the shallow if the linebacker drops or he can read the dig if the linebacker bites. This is an extremely efficient play when ran correctly as most linebackers have the natural instincts to chase anyways, leaving an open hole in the zone. It also leaves a creative opening for a draw play used running a cross followed by a counter draw to the shallow side...linebacker chases, a quick back is out in the open for at least 10 yards, maybe more.
Sorry, I was being creative again...anyway here is shallow in a spread formation, you can imagine the two inside guys are tight ends.
Now, this is something I would love to point out. You notice how the quarterback threw the post? That's your opening, if the safety flies up on the dig and the linebacker is flying up on the shallow then your post is wide open and your wide receiver has inside leverage to where you can launch the ball and let him run and get it. As you can tell, when done correctly this offense sets everything else up...quite beautifully I might add. Moving on!
This play is awfully similar to what we just looked at, it's also extremely hard to find on film so again we're going back to the image shop.
Now, what you can see here is actually rather old, but I need you to play imagination with me. We've got the H receiver who will be on the line of scrimmage, and we've got the Y who is on the line of scrimmage. Most of the time this will likely be under center, if we're in 12 Personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR sometimes called Big Ace) then your H receiver (assuming F/T is the RB) is going to run an out route, your Y receiver/tight end is going to run a USOM or choice route...USOM = Under Sam/Over Mike, the choice route portion of it is figuring out the blitz...if they come you have to run shallow, if they play man you have to run a dig, and if they play zone you go back to your USOM. This is using choice routes to dictate and adapt to what the defense is doing. They could disguise a blitz, but even then your out or swing is wide open 3 outta 5 times. Your outside receiver on the Cross side has a Curl or Post Curl, your outside receiver has a MOR or a Go Take 2, which means he should aim for the safety on his outside release.
This play is pretty perfect anytime you're getting an overly aggressive defense or a safety that keeps popping up. One of my favorite tags is when you have your Z (outside right) run a post...which kills safeties and is almost a guaranteed touchdown every time.
Bonus Passing Play: Flanker Drive
Have you ever watched the 49ers of the 80s? If so, you have seen this play. The flanker drive might have been Bill Walsh's most called play, and with Jerry Rice running the motion on the drive...why wouldn't it? The concept here is amazingly awesome, but requires some patience and some great timing. First thing is first, it IS a seven step drop, because the route takes time to develop. The beauty of this is the fact that it's again another read...just a flip of the cross. I could explain it, but someone on youtube took the time and did it for me (good guy too).
As you can see the concept is still pretty clear, it IS a cross play (sort of) that uses the outside receiver and the tight end to go across a linebackers face...if they drop the shallow is open, if they bite the dig is open, if they chase the shallow and the safety comes open the spot is open OR the post is open, and if all else fails sling it to H and let him go 1 on 1 with the cornerback.
Bonus 2: Four Verts
The sexiest play alive is four verts, which can be ran a variety of ways. It can be done out of shotgun, in trips, in bunch, in plain spread...Stanford has even done it with the 3 tight end sets. The cool thing about this play is again it can be a read again through a Single High Safety (Cover 1, most common defense in the SEC) or a Two High Safety (Cover 2, second most common), either way it's a mismatch. The wide receiver/tight end furthest inside has an option to take the post if the safeties are two high. If you get two posts going at the same time often times it is assumed the one to the side of the field is taking the skinny post and the one taking the boundary side of the field as the deep post (making them go over/under with the safeties), if you're in the middle normally it's the right who will take the skinny and the left who takes the deep, as teams normally align their strong safety to the right in a balanced formation. All that is a huge wall of text to take in, so enjoy another of Coach Billick's videos (with one of my favorite coordinators I might add)
As you can see, it has big play potential, and with coupled with play action? Mama mia...
You should be excited for multiple reasons. Obviously the offense is going to be more dynamic in some ways, but more importantly it's going to be more efficient. We had good plays last year, they just weren't executed greatly. I'm excited to see how the new QB coach makes this team his own too, as our quarterback position really underperformed last season. But I think we should be excited for recruiting with the last two hires as well. Especially if it's true on Chris Beatty, the former wide receiver coach from Vandy returning back with McGriff and Ludwig.
Chris Beatty has been a force in recruiting, and if you look at the two Wisconsin prospects we have offered you'll notice he's the man whose been recruiting them. Chris Beatty grew up in Virginia and made him college home at East Tennessee State, he's a recruiting guru and he's been an offensive coordinator at Illinois (wouldn't put that on a resume) so he has all the bases covered. Oh...and one more thing...