Why You Can’t Play Nickel vs 2 TE Sets

Unless you absolutely commit to getting a safety in the box and/or play a much bigger 5th DB, like Gary Patterson or Kyle Whittingham or Buddy Foster, et al.


Bama comes out in a 1 TE/ 1 HB on 1st and 10.  There is a WR on each side of the formation. #11 at HB is Gehrig Dieter who plays a kind of flex TE role for Bama.  He’s not especially big, but this could easily be replicated with a true TE which will happen at different times in the game.  I chose this cut up because the view is so good.  Ags have nickel Donovan Wilson on the field.  Donovan is reduced into a LB position by alignment.  (I’m also not sure why Myles Garrett isn’t head up on the TE in this formation? But. impossible to know how he would be instructed in this situation)


This creates a 1 on 1 situation with Dieter vs Dono.  Bama obviously likes this alignment.  Justin Evans is circled and he is unable to factor to the run game based on his position.  He is in no man’s land.  Unable to provide coverage help on the WR on that side and unable to provide much help in run plays.


Wilson isn’t able to reduce the running lane at all.  (Shaan Washington doesn’t fare much better)


All Dono can do is hold on and reach.  Because he just got pancaked! Meanwhile, Damien Harris is running full speed into the safeties. Have fun with that boys. Obviously, there are other things going on in this play that lead to a big gain.  But, the 3rd LB vs a 195 safety is the mismatch here that is readily observed.

Watch it Live at 3:06:


Early Look at the College Football Lines

Vegas Insider

I generally reference the Westgate lines.  Things that stand out:

Florida State at Boston College +3 in a Friday night game. 

Boston College last 3 games:

Lost 23-10 to a good Vtech at home

Beat Louisville 45-42 on road

Beat Virginia 41-10 on the road

Meanwhile FSU is struggling to score vs. anyone.

Penn state +6 at Ohio State

Penn state has the defense to stop Ohio State.

Cal +3 at Colorado

Colorado just doesnt have any offense.

Minnesota +8 at Iowa

Iowa struggles to score and Minnesota has a solid D

Texas at Baylor +8 

Texas just isn’t scoring.  Not sure Baylor can do anything offensively.

Clemson -14.5 vs Georgia Tech

Clemson comes off bye and has the Dtackles and speed to shut down the read option game.  I’d expect this line to be more like 17-19.  And I really think Georgia Tech is a good team, but think Clemson is probably a little cheap based on the Syracuse loss.

Southern Cal at Arizona State +3

USC still getting too much respect and Zona State too little.


Scouting STATE: Read Option

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.

Scouting STATE: QB Power

State will run this play 10-12 times a game. They will run it out of every formation imaginable.  But, its the same play.  Generally, they pull the guard and lead with the guard and tailback.  Its an old school power blocking concept.  I’d call QB Power.  It’s a beautiful old school football play.  I’ve always loved it.


You’ll see them run it with 2TEs, trips, 1TE, 1 HB.  Goal line, middle of the field, etc etc.  It’s a bread and butter play for Mullen back to Tim Tebow and maybe before that.  Very simple play: QB takes the snap and allow for his back to lead him through the hole.  The back will block outside threat and the QB cuts inside or outside the block.


The guard also pulls and leads into the hole.


I could show you hundreds of examples of this play going for big yardage. But, on this particular play Georgia, specifically #52, whips the tackle and destroys it.   As always, if the DL whips the OL, run plays don’t work.


Notice how Georgia plays this alignment at the snap.  State has 3 WRs nearside.  And Georgia leaves 1 uncovered, using a safety over the top on that side.  The opposite side corner becomes almost an 8th box defender, because State has a TE on that side.  But this also creates an opportunity for a quick throw to the nearside, because STATE has them outnumbered here.  Again, probably a great job by UGA to play tendencies of a Dan Mullen offense.


Now, let’s contrast that directly with how the Ags played a similar play in 2016.  Notice the 1 TE, 1 RB.  Trips look for STATE.  Ags are in a 4 down look, with a LB walked out over the WR.  Safety on the far hash.  And Armani Watts is 15 yards off completely off the screen!


Ags try to bring their LB on a pressure from the wide side of the field.  But State runs to the boundary and has a huge numbers advantage, especially when you consider 1 defender is a small corner, DCS.  Ags really never have a chance.


It’s green grass for miles. Credit DCS with fighting off his block or this is a TD.  Note that Armani Watts is still not in the screen.  Where are you, sir?

Play Design That Will Work vs. A Grantham Defense

This is just a quick example of a play I came across while doing some film review for STATE.  Todd Grantham is a very good DC, with tons of NFL experience, but his DBs are generally very aggressive in run support and he is susceptible to plays that can bait the DBs using run action and throw it over their heads.  He will also play a lot of cover zero and cover 1 and expects his safeties to be very aggressive in run support.   This was a problem for him at Georgia and it is no small coincidence that this was the first offensive play that Georgia chose to run vs STATE.


1st and 10.  Georgia is in 2 TE look.  2 WRS and a single back. State counters with a 50 front. The Georgia WR on the nearside, motions into the box and sells a down block with some hesitation.


Georgia hands the ball to it’s back and all the defenses eyes are focused on him.  Even the corner #7.  Totally loses sight of his WR.  But, notice by motioning him into the box, they create an opportunity for distraction by the run action.  This doesn’t happen as easily or quickly if the WR is on the hash.  This is a great concept and something the Ags should be doing more with Kirk.


I’ve circled here are the 2 safeties for STATE. #41 and #38.  They came flying up the field after the initial handoff so fast, because they both read the blocks of the TEs.  So I believe STATE actually went cover 0 here.  Notice both TEs blocking and the safeties who I have circled.   Impossible to know, but there is absolutely nobody left in the middle of the field.  state3

The result is a TD on the first offensive play of the game.

To watch live, go to 1:34:

Simple Throws Are Simple, But Not Easy

Ags OC, Noel Mazzone is doing a nice job creating easy reads in the pass game for Kellen Mond.  But, those reads still look like Tolstoy too often to the freshman.  Let’s take a look at one of these plays.

Ags in a signature 1 back look on 3rd and 6.  4 WRs on the field.


Note that the free safety is at 18 yards depth at the snap and on the near hash.  He is probably in a cover 1 alignment and going to provide shade help on Ratley.   He moves out of the screen so I can’t be sure.  I’d also guess he is deeper than normal depth (typically about 15 yards) based on the field position and Ag’s tendencies.  Otherwise it looks like the Florida DBs are in man coverage, with the strong safety bracketing over Kirk.  The safety moves with Kirk.


3 WRs to the top of the screen as Christian Kirk motions to the top of the screen to create a trips look.  Ratley is the single WR to the nearside. Notice how both the strong safety and the slot corner make a fist over their heads.  Not a black power acknowledgement.  I believe they are making a switch call.   They are going to switch their responsibilities based on what routes Buckley and Kirk run.


Kirk waits and stacks behind Buckley.  He is going to use Buckley to rub the slot corner and cut off of this “rub”.  2 things need to happen:  1. Buckley has to create incidental physical contact with the DB and allow Kirk to get to the proper depth to convert a first down.  This is a common route combo to beat man coverage.


Buckley does a decent job of creating contact.  But the rub breaks down for 1 of 2 reasons.  Buckley does not get deep enough and/or Kirk is not close enough to him.  The result is that the DB easily switches off Buckley and plays Kirk on the out pattern.  Meanwhile, the strong safety now has Buckley.


But the beauty of this route combination and scheme is that Mond still gets to make an easy read.  The slot corner can’t play both WRs!  So, there is still an easy window to quickly hit Buckley once the slot corner jumps Kirk.  Note #14 wide open for an easy first down conversion.  But, that doesn’t happen and the ball goes to Kirk, who also is not at first down depth.  The result: bring on the punt team.

These type of route combinations are common in the Ag’s pass game and they work well to create simple, safe reads for Mond.  But, he is still having trouble getting to his secondary reads when needed.  This is a perfect example of that.

To watch live: Go to 4:08


Huge thanks to Woodlands Aggie.

Making of a MIKE LB


Gators are in 2 TE, 1 RB personnel.  Ags counter with a bear front.  This creates a simple read for Dodson. Or perhaps a stunt/blitz.  Don’t know the call, but I think he has made a read.


And he wastes no damn time.  Before the ball carrier touches the rock, he is off like a rocket through the B gap.


Then runs through the tackle who tries to combo off on him, but too late, and hits the RB 2 yards in the backfield.  2 yard loss.  Recognition and velocity to the ball create a negative play as opposed to a short gain.  This is where you begin to see great MIKE LBs separate themselves.

To watch live, go to 2:38:

Big thanks to Woodlands Aggie.