Hey y'all, and welcome to another episode of Talkin' Tape. Before y'all ask, no, I will not review either of the two runbacks. Not that I don't want to, it's that I don't know anything about special teams coverages and really the only thing I could comment on is how well the USC players stayed in their lanes. Let's just say that in order to run a kick back to the house you need two things (1) great blocking and (2) at least one great cut. Both those kickbacks had them, and Darrius Sims is simply remarkable. I really look forward to seeing him for the years to come.
Let's talk some tape!
PLAY 1: 1st and 10, Webb run for ~9 yards.
Does this play look familiar? It should, as I covered a similar one during the Mississippi Talkin' Tape. If you remember, the first run of that game was an offset-I formation with twin wide receivers (WRs). The WRs were on the weak-side, but the play called for the tight end (TE) to change to their side (making them strong-side) twins, along with the fullback (FB) moving to that side as well. In essence, during that Mississippi run, we had the whole team on the side Webb was running to.
Saturday, we started this play in an Ace set, with twin-TEs and WRs. You may also know the "Ace" as the "Singleback" formation. Fundamentally, the difference between an I-form and Ace set is that you have a second back behind the QB (typically a FB), you also tend to have the halfback (HB) a little further back, but the main thing to look for is that FB.
I tell you all this to highlight one thing - the Ace set formation we set up in here isn't terribly different from the one we moved to in that Mississippi game. The difference is that we now have an extra man up front (the extra TE) to block, instead of the FB. There are different pros and cons to doing this. The advantage is that you now have an extra big man up front, who is going to be more capable of blocking than a FB. The thing you let up is a FB is going to be faster than a TE but big enough that he could throw a block. FBs are often used as leading blockers, running ahead of the FB to block any defenders who would otherwise be free. If you're an NFL fan, this kind of Ace set should already be familiar to you, as NFL teams use it a lot nowadays to counter loading the box with 7 or 8 men.
So we start with this set, Carolina meets us with a 4-3 under set. What is an "under" set? The basics are that the linebackers (LBs) shift over in such a way that SAM is now basically on (or damned near on) the line of scrimmage (LoS). MIKE is now covering the gap between the closed defensive end (DE) and the strong side defensive tackle (DT). WILL's job is now to cover the gap between the DTs.
Looking at how the defense set up, I suspect they had called a Cover-1 man of some kind here. Why? Well, the two cornerbacks (DBs) are giving our WRs plenty of cushion (about 7 yards off LoS). In addition, only the free safety (FS) is playing deep, likely assigned to just play center field and stop a deep bomb (as FS are often tasked with). The strong safety (SS) has lined himself on the weak side, presumably either to blitz or just come down for run stop support.
We take our stances, and we immediately put the TEs in motion. Steve Scheu (81) on the inside next to the left tackle (LT) and Davis Dudchock (80) outside him. At this point in the game, I'm screaming at the television. OH GOD WE'RE MOVING BOTH OF THEM, WHY NOT JUST TELEGRAPH THE RUN. Carolina does not like what they see. MIKE (who is generally the field marshal of a defense) barks orders. He first points to the SS to move him down to the edge where the TEs now sit. Then he motions to SAM, who must have already heard the audible, and SAM is now covering the inside WR; the CB covering the inside WR sort of meanders to the area between the hash marks when the ball is snapped.
The RT completely ignores the DE and instead is focused on making sure the right guard (RG) has the DT in front of him. A DT getting through before the handoff, and this play dies before it starts. The C has plenty of time off the handoff to set himself up to block WILL who is blitzing the middle. The left guard (LG) picks up the other DT and eventually gets help from the left tackle (LT), and TEs double team the DE. By now, Webb has the handoff and is fast approaching the gap being formed by the TEs and the left-side linemen. Remember MIKE? Well, he comes in pretty much untouched, but he did have to change direction to get through the gap. Unfortunately for him, but the time he's through, he's almost shoulder-to-shoulder with Webb, with them running opposite directions. It's no surprise he cannot make the tackle. Meanwhile, Scheu is now free and runs up to block the FS.
About three yards into the run, that DE who has now been pushed almost all the way down the field finally breaks free and get the first good hit on Webb. That CB who had changed places with SAM? Even he's picked up by the LT. Eventually, Webb is mobbed and brought down about 9 yards down field.
This play was tremendous blocking combined with a little variety of what we've seen. The play with the I-form was not nearly as outside as this one, but I think we can all agree this play got a big ol' circle in the playbook. One other thing, these offensive linemen (OL) are just beasts. They simply do not give up and are always looking for the next guy. I love watching OL-men run up and keep blocking. Blocking is a thankless, grueling task and it's amazing to see them immediately looking for the next guy when they've defeated a 300+ lb defensive lineman (DL).
PLAY 2: 1st and 10, Fake Hand off, End-Around to Sherfield, ~25 Yard Gain.
Have I ever mentioned I love fake plays, particularly trick fakes? Because I do, I definitely do. Vanderbilt starts lined up in an strong-I formation. Remember that? You should, this time we're running a more traditional strong-I with a WR on each side. The strong side WR is close in, which if I'm the defensive coordinator, I'm immediately noticing. Essentially, we have 3 extra blockers on one side right now (TE, FB, and WR).
Carolina starts again in a under 4-3 formation. This time, however, WILL and MIKE are one gap over - MIKE is covering the gap between DTs and WILL is covering the gap between the open side DT and DE. If I'm Vandy's OC, I notice again Carolina is in a Cover 1, again. The SS is coming down low right alongside MIKE and covers the gap between the closed DE and DT (he's going to blitz). This guess of a blitz is also clued in to the fact that as the SS moves down, the strong side WR moves back into a position more apt for covering a man.
The ball is snapped. My immediate fan-reaction live - "power". If you don't know what a power run is, it's when you bring the opposite side guard over to help block. Watch, as soon as the ball is snapped the LG runs right behind the center and gets to the opposite side of the line soon after the FB does (pretty fast for a big ol' guard!). In the interim, the handoff is faked to Webb, and the entire box bites, hard. All 8 of the guys in the box flood the right side. The FB has already laid a block on SAM and so our LG pushes his way past his blocking friends, and picks up MIKE who's come down hard to get Webb. Again, we have a combination of double team blocks, leading to guys getting off and picking up a LB on that side. This part of the play is critical. The defense has biten hard, but if the OL can't keep this side protected, the end-around fails in a 5 yard loss.
The defense has biten so hard that the center (C lets his guy go run to Webb. He literally shoves him aside and runs to the left side where the run is now moving. In addition, we got lucky that they bit so hard, as the LT didn't bother blocking the open side DE, most likely assigned to block WILL (who's too busy trying to get to Webb). That open side DE could have ended that play, but it's now clearer why the C disengaged his first block - to get in the way in case the DE gets smart. He doesn't and runs right past our C trying to get to Webb (instead of the QB who is now handing the ball off to Sherfield).
By the time the Carolina defense realizes what's going on, it is too late. They've all committed to the strong side run. The one defender who got through is 5 yards away with no hope of catching up. By the way, it doesn't have an impact on the play, but the TE gets away with a reallllly close block. I don't think it's a block in the back, but it's damned close. The LT has now come out to block any committed defenders who have wised up and are trying to get around. The C runs ahead and acts as a lead blocker for the end around, getting about 3-4 yards up field before Sherfield overtakes him. The LT has also run up field looking for guys to block.
I want to take a moment here to talk about the real great part about this play. That WR who was on the strong side? He's already up 12 yards by the this point. The CB who was covering Sherfield? He's barely halfway across the field, but he's taken a wide arc to try and cut the run off. The only guy not really accounted for is the FS, who's dropped back big time - and he should have. You see, this play would have been DEADLY if the weak side CB bit as well. End-arounds are notorious trick plays, and if Sherfield can throw... oh man. He then has an easy 10 yard toss to a wide open WR, who has only the FS between him and a touchdown. Speaking of that FS. Props to that weak side WR for throwing a NICE block on a FS, knocking him back a bit even, buys another 5 yards before that CB forces Sherfield out.
PLAY 3 - Freebeck to Scheu - 32 Yard Pass
As if you don't need more evidence of it, this team is going to utilize the TE big time more and more. Watch this beautiful play to Scheu out of the I-form. See? I told you that you can pass the ball out of the I! The pass is not quite perfect, but close. Freebeck lofts it very nicely over the DB's head in place where only Scheu could get it. Unfortunately, he also almost put it in a place where no one could get it, as Scheu had to jump a little to get it. If this ball is perfectly thrown, Scheu doesn't break stride and maybe beats the safety. That's all I really have to say about it, and that is why you only get a gif here.
That's all for now! If you have a gif request from the game, ask below, and I will try to honor it.