One of the best matchups of the weekend was the SMU Mustangs vs. the Texas State Bobcats. Even though Texas State has some of the most atrocious uniforms in the country, they both have interesting spread offenses.
I mainly watched to get a feel for Texas State head coach Jake Spavital, who’s a young up-and-comer in his second year as a head man (formerly OC and/or QB coach at places like Cal, Texas A&M, and West Virginia). He was matched up against SMU and head coach Sonny Dykes, his former boss.
I actually came away from the game wanting to break down a pretty simple play, because I didn’t see a ton of “innovation” or new looks this weekend like I did last week with Austin Peay (LINK).
Hit the jump for the rest of the play.
So here’s the situation:
SMU has the ball on the +35 with 12:13 left in the second quarter. The score is 0-0, as both teams looked pretty sloppy for long stretches. SMU lines up in a tight bunch formation, meaning they have three receivers to the top of the screen in a little triangle. The single receiver to the bottom of the screen is lined up wide.
Here’s a diagram of the play, which is a version of the “Mesh” concept. It’s used in a lot of offenses, but it’s particularly prominent in the Air Raid.
Reads and routes vary from team to team, but I put in the reads that I most often see for the QB on Mesh:
- Corner route
- Flat route
- Shallow drag route
- Over route
In this particular case, Texas State utilizes a six-man pressure to try to get to the quarterback, which is unsuccessful. The line does a nice job of identifying blitzers, and the running back works inside out, picking up the Will linebacker on a “cross dog” (a.k.a. he starts on one side of the center and blitzes on the opposite side of the center).
SMU has created a pretty nice pocket for quarterback Shane Buechele (transfer from Texas who happens to be the son of former MLB third baseman Steve Buechele). Buechele finished the day 26/36 for 367 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions.
You can also see in Figure 3 why I love condensed formations. The #1 receiver to the top of the screen has burst upfield threatening deep. Meanwhile, the flat route from the #3 receiver has caused the cornerback to widen. That leaves all kinds of green space for #1 to run a corner or an out. In this case, he runs a corner route. The safety has to protect the endzone, and therefore he loses leverage to protect the part of the field between the hash and the sideline. Two defenders can’t possibly control that much open field, as long as you have decent athletes at receiver to threaten that space.
Here is how it looks when the ball is in the air:
The ball is floating just above the 20-yard line right here in Figure 4. This could be a poorly thrown ball, and because there’s so much green between the corner and the safety, that bad throw could still turn into a 20-yard completion. This happens to be a pretty solid throw, which means the safety has no chance to get there to break up the pass.
The ball is caught and the receiver gets tackled (he actually fumbles the ball out of bounds), but that’s a 29-yard gain without really putting the ball in harm’s way.
Here’s the play in full, starting at 2:54:
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MICHIGAN?
Not everything ties into what Michigan does, but Michigan does use some concepts like this. In particular, they use tight ends on flat routes to open up deeper routes for speedier guys. I think they can do more of this, and they should do more with the guys they’re bringing in.
For example, I think someone like Roman Wilson – who has tremendous deep speed – would be great on these corner routes. He can threaten the safety with his speed, and he can also be tough to tackle with an angle to beat the safety to the pylon. If the safety misses that tackle, that play could go a long way.
Progression on this could look something like:
- Corner route (Roman Wilson/Giles Jackson)
- Out route (Luke Schoonmaker/A.J. Henning)
- Shallow drag route (Ronnie Bell/Cornelius Johnson)
- Over route (Erick All/Nico Collins)
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