The Offense: Why is doesn't work (IMO, but I'm right)
Alright so in watching the UT game I had a theory. Rather than just run with it or decide it was right I took a look at every other conference game outside of Baylor because the offense did work to a point. I would note that that offensive performance wasn't all that great relative to the rest of the conference vs. Baylor. So then, there are a few things that I believe are going on and I think there are some misconceptions as to what is going on. Let's take a gander.
The Scheme: I believe the scheme in itself is fine. I think the plays are fine. I think there is a design to our passing plays that will work and I don't think it's a lack of innovation is our play design. I don't believe for a minute our playbook can't work.
The Talent: We have enough talent to be a decent offensive football team. We don't have the talent to be elite, but we have enough to win every game we have played IMO. I think our receivers are getting enough separation and I think our RBs certainly have enough pure talent to be productive. In fact, the RBs have been productive. Jared is a productive runner and Steele has been productive in both phases of the offense, at times. Yes, both have flaws but I don't know that they can help but show them because of other things we will look at in a bit.
Ok, you say, so what's the problem? I noted I thought play design was fine. I think running the spread is fine and I think we have the right plays and the talent is adequate. The problem lies in the playcalling and somewhat in the Oline.
When you watch a successful spread offense who is designed to be balanced and, yes, that part is important, you see things different than what you see from us. I think ISU's offense looks like they want to be a Graham Harrell lead TTU and a Freshman SLayton/White WVU. Man, if you could do that, it would be awesome. You can't without absolutely elite talent. I will freely admit that watching Denard RObinson go from Heisman if he had a defense to a guy that doesn't have a chance in a year has given me a jump on what spread football is about. Chris Brown of Smart Football has helped and Brian Cook at mgblog has helped.
The whole key to ISU being able to win offensively is constraint. It has to be. We can't just line up and beat people. Numerous teams have done this before at least to the point where they are competitive, win games, recruits follow, things get easier. Let's start with the basics:
The zone read is a base play in many spread running attacks. The whole idea of the play is to even out numbers or give you an advantage. Let's say they the defense is putting just six in the box against a 2-2. They have an advantage of 6-5. That's likely not going to be something you can just run into. So then, the RO was developed to simply make one guy always wrong, therefor evening your numbers out. This obviously all changes by formation. The play was genius and it worked for awhile. At some point, defenses then said, "Hey, let's make that DE effective." They then started crashing the DE and rolling a LB/S over to contain therefor making the play much harder to run because you weren't always reading the DE AND that DE also being effective playside.
Once that happened the solution is pretty simple. There's a vacated spot that you can make simple easy throws to unless they are rolling a LBer over to cover it and if they want to do that, he is taken out of any playside run or you have one deep safety.
So, that's the basics of how the RO has worked and been adapted to by defense. Any way you cut it, the offense should be able to manipulate it. So, why can't we?
You have plays that are basic. They are your bread an butter. There are things that always beat cover two. There are things that beat man. Every playbook has these plays in it. The RO is one of those. It always beat's straight-up play your lane defense. No one runs that against a team that uses RO though. So for ISU, what's wrong?
It's pretty simple from what I've seen. We don't make people play for "cheating" as I call it. If you line up with 2 receivers on each side and there isn't a LB/S over one of the slots, that's a quick pass and 5 yards every damn time. We never get that. Why? Every other RO team gets that. Because we don't make you do it. We don't make teams cheat and if you don't make them cheat you can't make them pay. We run the ball well enough. You can look at YPC and see it's good enough. The issue is that we do it so seldom. We run the ball and then pass. It's like Messingham is just trying to be too many things. Run the ball until they stop you. If you are having success and then all of sudden you aren't, they probably changed something. My bet is they don't have another guy on the field so they are giving up something. Instead, teams just line and give you a couple good runs but give us nothing easy in the pass game because they know that on first down, at some point, we will pass, they will defend it and then we are in a hole and even if we do have a 5 yard run, it's 3rd and 5 and we have to pass.
You always hear that offenses don't want to be predictable. I don't necessarily agree. Be predictable and then use it against them. If you watch Oregon they will tell you where they are running. It's usually inside or outside zone. You want to flow hard playside? Fine, the Olinemen will let you and seal the cutback lane. That's constraint. Sure, it doesn't have to with numbers but it's using a defense against itself. They do it all the time. It's not hard but it does take an Oline being on the same page and the running back seeing that develop. There is none of that in our offense. Yes, SHontrelle makes some plays but that's because he had no choice but to try. That's in coaching. That's Bleil, Pope, Mess and Sturdy finding those opportunities. We have none of this. I won't go into other running play designs. You can do things with the veer and belly but those work off the RO too.
Package plays: very useful. Oklahoma State, I think is a team that opens up the run by pass. They don't do a ton of option stuff but they will make reads, usually on LBers that tell them to run/pass. An uncovered slot guy should be a quick throw every time.
Jet action: Please can we use this? Like, a lot? That holds the backside backer at least. That's one less guy. I like one less guy. If that backside guy thinks we are bluffing and he wants to flow to hard, hit him.
With rotating LBers doing the cheating thing, the passing game should be easy. Quick hitches, slants, PA RB flares, all those things should just be gravy.
In the end we struggle because first of all, we don't do one thing well time after time and push it until they stop it. My theory kind of ends here because I haven't been able to see if we can take advantage of that because we haven't had a choice. We don't have Denard Robinson. Denard is only the difference between a 5 yard gain and a touchdown though. Play calling was getting most of his in 2010, he just made mistakes more costly. If you look at the stats from that year, he was also a pretty prolific passer. He isn't now. Why? because they haven't used the same constraint theory. If Denard took a step toward the line of scrimmage he would give safeties heart attacks. As soon as they bit, he would throw it over them. We don't have that type of talent but it's the same thinking. Use what you have and make the defense adapt. When they adapt, attack whatever they gave up and just keep doing that.
It's not about not be predictable. It's about using your predictability against them. That makes zero sense but it makes all the sense.
Sorry for the organization. I got interrupted a few times and had a hard time staying on track.
It's all snark from here on out