College football is a wonderful game, with its rich traditions, colorful personalities and fan bases, and the tremendous effort from the players on the field. Each week Mark Schofield brings us some of the plays, players and schemes that stood out from the previous weekend in the CFB Reel Film Review, featuring Alabama, Utah, and Baylor.
Alabama’s Two-headed Rushing Attack
The Crimson Tide took on the Wisconsin Badgers in primetime on Saturday night, and the Alabama offense was on full display in their 35-17 victory. The ground game led the way for the Crimson Tide, racking up 238 yards on only 37 attempts for a 6.4 yards per carry average. Junior Derrick Henry was Alabama’s leading rusher with 147 yards on a mere 13 carries, and the first of his three touchdown carries demonstrates how an offense can use design, situation, and a big powerful back to churn out big chunks of yardage on the ground.
With 6:03 remaining in the first quarter, the Crimson Tide face a 4th and 1 at Wisconsin’s 37-yard line. The offense has quarterback Jake Coker in the pistol with Henry behind him, and uses 11 personnel with the tight end in a wing alignment to the left. The Badgers respond with a 3-4 look with both outside linebackers on the line of scrimmage. In addition, the defense uses Cover 0 in the secondary, with all of the defensive backs within six yards of the line of scrimmage:
Alabama runs a simple halfback dive to the left here, with the interior linemen all firing off to the left while junior TE/DL Dakota Ball blocks across the formation to seal off the right edge:
The line creates just enough of a crease for Henry. The big bruising back knifes through the seam – and an arm tackle – and races into the end zone to give the Crimson Tide the early lead:
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From the end zone camera, we can see just how the elements came together on this run. Because of the situation, the Badgers anticipate the run, stack the box, and play man coverage across the board. But as Ball comes across the formation to block, the free safety – the last line of defense – follows him. This leaves safety Leo Musso (#19) out of position when Henry cuts through the line. Musso tries desperately to grab Henry, but he is too far from the play to have an impact:
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Not to be out done, senior Kenyan Drake chipped in another 77 yards on the ground, including this 43-yard touchdown run that is a testament both to his strength as a runner as well as to his speed:
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Facing 3rd and 26, Alabama lines up in a very wide 2X2 formation with Drake in the backfield. The senior RB takes the handoff on a simple draw play, bounces off an initial tackle at the line of scrimmage, and then outraces the entire Badger defense for the late score.With these two impressive running backs, the Crimson Tide look to be in solid shape offensively as their SEC schedule looms in the not-too-distant future
Devontae Booker a Weapon in Utah’s Passing Game
One of the earlier games this weekend was the much-anticipated return of Jim Harbaugh, not just to college football but, to his alma mater. Yet despite the presence of the former 49ers head coach, the visiting Wolverines fell to Utah in a tight 24-17 contest.
What stood out most in victory for the Utes offense was their star running back, Devontae Booker. The senior notched a merely pedestrian 69 yards on 22 carries as Michigan tried to slow the Utah ground game, but it was the work he did in the passing game – both as a receiver and a blocker – that bodes well for Utah going forward.
This first play is an example of an offense simply getting the football out to a play-maker and letting him do some work. The Utes face a 2nd and 12 on their own 40-yard line early in the game and have quarterback Travis Wilson in the shotgun with 11 personnel on the field, using trips to the right with the TE and Booker shaded to the left. Michigan has their 4-2-5 defense in the game showing Cover 4 in the secondary:
Utah shows a screen play on each side of the formation on this snap. To the trips side, the offense sets up a bubble screen to the middle receiver with the other two receivers – and also the right guard and center – pulling in front of the potential ball-carrier. On the weak-side of the play, the offense sets up a quick swing screen to Booker, with the TE, left tackle, and left guard arching in front of the running back:
Wilson dumps the football off to his RB and, with some quick feet, nifty footwork, and a nice cut, Booker races into Michigan territory for a nice gain:
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Beyond the RB’s skill, Junior LG Isaac Asiata (#54) plays a big role on this play. The lineman gets himself downfield in a hurry and his block 11 yards downfield on linebacker Desmond Morgan (#3) ensures that Booker gains the first down:
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Returning to Booker, while the RB was a weapon for the Utes with the football, he was a tremendous asset for his offense when tasked with blitz pickup in pass protection. Here is one example of the running back keeping his quarterback clean. Utah faces a 3rd and 11 deep in their own territory and the RB is in the backfield next to his QB. Michigan’s 4-2-5 defense shows a potential A-Gap blitz before the snap, while the secondary shows press Cover 2:
As the play begins, defensive tackle Willie Henry is able to beat RG Salesi Uhatafe with a swim move. But before the big DT can get to Wilson, Booker comes across the formation and stops Henry in his tracks:
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The block prevents a potential safety – or worse. While Wilson’s throw to the outside sails wide, the only reason that the QB had the time to attempt a pass at all was because of the solid effort from his backfield mate. Booker’s running ability – and his continued presence in the passing game – will give the Utah offense chances to make plays in the air and on the ground in 2015.
A New Sheriff in Waco
Having just missed out on an invitation to the FBS playoffs last season, the Baylor Bears look to earn a ticket to the dance during the 2015 campaign. But coach Art Briles and his squad will try to reach the playoffs with a new signal-caller, as Bryce Petty now calls the AFC East his home. But if Seth Russell’s first two throws of 2015 are any indication, the Bears’ offense will be a force to be reckoned with this year.
On this first play, Russell stands in the shotgun with 11 personnel on the field against SMU’s 4-2-5 defense. The offense has a stack slot formation to the right with wide receiver Corey Coleman alone split out to the left. The defense shows Cover 2 in the secondary, but will roll the coverage to Cover 1 at the snap:
At the snap, Russell fakes the inside zone to his running back, and then looks to hit Coleman on a straight streak route:
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And the quarterback drops the throw in perfectly.
The Bears began their next drive again with 11 personnel on the field, a stack slot formation to the right, and Coleman a single receiver to the left. As this play develops, the fake inside zone run pulls the weak-side safety into the box and opens up a big throwing window for Coleman’s post route:
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Russell leads his target perfectly, and the ball placement allows the receiver to keep his speed and separation from his defender and race into SMU territory.
In just two throws – again, his first two of 2015 – the Bears’ new QB eclipsed the 100-yard mark in passing yards. Baylor went on to defeat the Mustangs 56-21 and Russell finished the day having completed 15 of 30 passes for 376 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. If this debut – and first two throws – are a sign of what is to come, the Bears might not be on the outside looking in when dance partners are announced in December.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
Video of the Kenyan Drake touchdown run courtesy of ESPN and the WatchESPN app. All other videos courtesy of DraftBreakdowns.com.