Thursday, December 22, 2005

Play design

Disclaimers firsts:
1. I have never seen the current BC playbook or spoken to any coaches or players about this. This is all based on my own analysis. I could be WAY off base here (but I don’t think I am).
2. I am a blogger and clearly not a graphic artist (however, please note the bluefield.)
3. Any critics who might write: “you couldn’t do it”, “easier said than done”, “I’d like to see you call a game, make a throw blah blah blah…” Please. I can’t do it or I would be there. That doesn’t mean I can’t comment on what is going on.
Disclaimers complete.

The two BC camps agree on one thing -- no one likes our offensive coordinator Dana Bible. I have taken Bible to task many times, but I think he is much better than most people realize. Two things changed my mind on Bible: watching the offense excel with Paul Peterson under center and rewatching and logging the games on Tivo this season. There are still times when Bible’s playcalling drives me up the wall. I also question his contribution over who should start. But on play design, he is not bad.

Like many offenses, Bible’s is very dependent upon the quarterback. Quinton Porter apologists said that Bible’s offense is just too complex for a college QB to digest. I disagree. I think his system is perfect for a smart QB who can make decisions and can throw downfield.

The reason I think our system is QB friendly -- routes. We have our wideouts and tight ends run many of the same routes combinations over and over. We just disguise the looks with different formations and personnel groupings.

Here is BC’s standard I formation. Now I have the defense in a conventional 4-3, but Boise often will load up the box with as many as nine people. BC is known for being run first, so the “I” already puts us at an advantage on passing plays. The defense is thinking pass second.

This play calls for the tight end to run a deep route along side the wide receiver (who is also running a downfield route). The other wideout is running a crossing pattern. Now, here is where I think things get simple. BC will run this combo out of many formations. No tight end, three wide: two will go together deep while the other one crosses. Shotgun, with one back and a tight end: two will go deep together while the other one crosses. Play action: two will go deep together while the other one crosses. Each requires that the quarterback knows the variable or intricacy, but the progressions and reads are the same.

This route combo is one of our bread and butters. I like that it keeps things simple for the quarterback. I also appreciate that it can be effective against various types of defenses. If the other team blitzes, the crossing route becomes hot. If they zone, the QB can hit the crossing guy between defenders. Two guys always stay home, so protection is usually pretty good.

Because the crossing route is so inviting and not designed to be a big play, Bible critics scream when a short pass gets dumped to Lester or Gonzo crossing the middle on third and long. “Sure it is good for five yards, but we needed nine!” This is where the quarterback factor is important.

The crossing route is the easy play, but the big play is downfield. Now, I don’t know why Porter didn’t go downfield more often. Maybe arm strength. Maybe confidence. Regardless, this play is really limited if you take out the two downfield routes. The beauty of the guys running downfield is twofold: it often clears space for the crossing route and the downfield guys can play off of one another and either get one WR wide open or at least give them both space.

The biggest difference with Matt Ryan in the game, is that he could stay in the pocket and deliver downfield. Boise is going to challenge us to throw and throw fast. This combination should be called a lot. If Ryan can hang in there, he can make some big plays downfield.


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