An absolute staple of the Mullen offense is the basic read option play, that of course damn near every team now runs. Mullen was one of the first to embrace this concept, which is really just an option play out of a shotgun formation. Most credit Rich Rodriguez to bringing the play to the masses, but I’m sure it was probably just ripped off from some derivation of something else that someone has been doing for 100 years. In any event, State runs it really well and Fitzgerald reads the defensive end as well as anyone I’ve seen. If he was just a little bit quicker, he’d be deadly, because he really makes that last second read as good as anyone I’ve watched.
Of course we all remember the first play of the game last year. Enjoy.
State got the perfect look. Ags come out in the base package with 2 high safeties. State has a TE/HB, 1 RB. That gives them potentially 7 players in the box to block for 1 ball carrier. Ags have a 6 man box.
The TE is going to come across the formation and read the DE. He can either kick out the DE if he stays outside, or let him go and turn up field if the DE crashes inside. This is exactly what happens. And it’s off to the races for a 75 yard TD, untouched.
State will run this play out of many formations. 2 TE, empty, 1 TE 1 HB. Above they are aligned in a single back/1 TE set. This is their most common package. Notice in the above photo that the Ags go to a Bear front and a 7 man box. But, on the nearside they also have 1 defender within 7 yards of the bunch formation. What do you think State is about to do? If you answered throw a quick hitch for an easy 10 yards, you are correct! They do this a lot, they will certainly use those bunch formations as an easy audible depending on how the defense aligns. If you keep your safeties high, your corner/nickel better be a beast in getting off blocks because they will throw this until you stop it. On this particular play, DONO gets whipped by the split TE and it’s an easy gain. Note that they will keep their big TEs on the field and split them a lot for blocking advantage.
Let’s look at another situation. Same formation. 3 WRs, 1 TE/HB, 1 RB. Keep in mind that TE is a 275 man. He’s a really big guy. Ags are in nickel base with Dono Wilson in the box. Again, 2 safeties high.
This time the TE leads to the strong side. He simply gets up field and has a 1 on 1 block with DONO. That’s 275 lbs on 200 lbs. Daeshon Hall makes a bad read/blown assignment and jumps the RB. I know we have coached our DEs in the past to attack the mesh point on this play, so I don’t know if this is a blown assignment by Hall or not. But, the RB doesn’t have the ball. Again, Fitz absolutely is fantastic at pulling the ball at the very last minute. He’s good.
He’s 10 yards down the field running right into those high safeties in no time. Another easy, easy gain for State. Of course State will throw out of this look and motion WRs and run end around, etc. They are very versatile out of this base package as you’d expect for a great OC like Mullen. But, the bread and butter is still the read option.
If you want a perfect example of how assignment football, and damn stout DTs, can whip this play. See Alabama and Johnny Allen below:
Allen refuses to bite, trusting the interior to shut down the inside run, and smothers Fitz for a 2 yard loss. I believe both Ag DEs are playing much better assignment football this year and should have more success stifling this play. It helps that our DTs are playing really good football, because you need them to stuff the inside zone to force State into more predictable situations.