The year ahead is filled with potential for the Indiana Hoosiers. Under the tutelage of new Head Coach Tom Allen, they open their season with a dream matchup, in Bloomington on a Thursday night against the Ohio State Buckeyes. During B1G Media Days, Allen kept calling this game the biggest opener in school history. But to pull off the upset, Indiana will likely need a lot of production from their offense, in particular from quarterback Richard Lagow and the Hoosiers’ passing game. Enter new Indiana offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, who previously held that position with the University of Tennessee. DeBord, who often stresses the running game in his designs and playcalling, inherits in Lagow a quarterback who is already familiar with one of the concepts that DeBord was calling for the Volunteers. Here are some of the reasons why you can expect to see it this season.
One of the passing concepts that Tennessee used the past few years was the double post concept. Prior to last season, this concept was a focal point of Inside the Pylon’s Tennessee scheme preview. Here’s a look at this design in action:
This example is drawn out of a 3×1 formation. The backside receiver runs a vertical route, but is not one of the primary reads on the play. The outside receiver in the trips runs a bang post route – in Jones’s system this is a seven-step post pattern, with the receiver breaking at a depth of 12 yards. The inside receiver runs a through route, meaning he reads the middle of the field and, depending on the coverage, he aims for the inside shoulder of the nearest safety. If the middle of the field is closed (Cover 1 or Cover 3), the inside receiver will break over the middle, looking to run through the safety’s inside shoulder. Should the middle of the field be open (Cover 2 or Cover 4), he then takes a more vertical route while still looking to get inside of the safety shaded his way so he can attack the middle of the field. Against Cover 2 or Cover 4, that inside through route is the first read for the quarterback, as the route is designed to get the receiver inside of the safety and into the open area of the field.
During a coaches’ clinic presentation, Tennessee Head Coach Butch Jones stressed certain key points. First, Tennessee likes to use this design all over the field, whether in the red zone or in the middle of the field. Second, while he drew it up from a 3×1 formation, the Volunteers use it out of every formation. Finally, as you can see from the design, this is a play that works against both man or zone coverage. But watching Tennessee’s tape from 2015, one variation of this play in particular stood out: The Volunteers liked to run this from formations where Ethan Wolf, their TE, was running that inside through route. With very good size (6’ 6” 245) and athleticism, this design allows the TE to work against safeties and even linebackers in coverage, and it led to big plays for Tennessee.
Against Bowling Green in the season-opener, the Volunteers face a 1st and 10 on the Falcons’ 18-yard line. The offense aligns with 11 personnel on the field and Joshua Dobbs (#11) in the shotgun, with a slot formation to the right and a receiver split wide to the left, with Wolf (#82) in the wing just outside the left tackle. BGSU has its 4-2-5 nickel defense in the game, showing Cover 2 with both cornerbacks in catch-man alignment and the safeties split outside the hashmarks:
Prior to the snap, the slot receiver comes across the formation in jet motion, but he is only a decoy. Tennessee runs its double post design:
With the defense showing – and staying – in Cover 2, Wolf (#82) is tagged with running the through route and is the first read for the quarterback. He aims for the inside shoulder of the safety to his side of the field and bends his route toward the middle of the field. The run action from the jet sweep gives him a step on the underneath linebackers, whom he clears with ease before bending into the middle of the field on his route.
Dobbs, seeing the coverage, takes his shot:
Wolf works open right at the goal line and, making an impressive adjustment on the throw, secures the football and crashes into the end zone for six points, extending the Tennessee lead.
As this still indicates, the design of the play works to perfection:
The vertical route from the backside receiver holds the backside safety in place, preventing him from making a play on Wolf. In similar fashion, the vertical route run by the playside WR occupies the cornerback, leaving the middle of the field open for the TE.
Lagow and the Post Route
Now that we’ve seen the basic design, we can look at why DeBord might want to keep this one in Indiana’s playbook. First off, Lagow throws the post route pretty well, which you might expect given his arm. On this 3rd and 12 play against the Utah Utes in the Foster Farms Bowl, Indiana lines up using 11 personnel with a slot formation to the right and an inverted slot formation to the left. Lagow (#21) stands in the shotgun with the running back to his right. The Utes have their 4-2-5 nickel defense on the field and they show off coverage in the secondary:
On this play we can see Lagow at his best. He uses a three-step drop with a hitch, before driving in this throw on a post route to Nick Westbrook (#15):
From an All-22 look, we can see how this play takes shape. Utah drops into a Cover 2 look, and the slot receiver peeling to the outside pulls the nickel cornerback toward the sideline, which opens up the post route to Westbrook for the QB:
Indiana Double Post Designs
So while Lagow can throw the post route, what is more important for our purposes is the double post design. The quarterback has some experience running this concept for the Hoosiers, which is why you can expect to see it in Indiana’s playbook in the season ahead. Here are two examples of Lagow running this concept for the Hoosiers. On this first example against Michigan State, Indiana faces a 1st and 10 near midfield, trailing by seven early in the second quarter. The offense uses 11 offensive personnel, and puts three receivers to the left and a single receiver to the right. Michigan State shows Cover 2 in the secondary, a standard alignment for the Spartans’ defense:
The two inside trips receivers use a very close alignment, and they execute a double post pattern:
The deeper post route occupies the two safeties, which isolates wide receiver Ricky Jones (#4) on linebacker Andrew Dowell (#5). The receiver is able to accelerate away from the linebacker, and with the safeties occupied by the other post route, he has a lot of field in front of him:
Lagow picks up his receiver and delivers a strong throw on the post route for a big gain.
Here’s another look at Indiana running this concept last season. Returning to the Foster Farms Bowl, the Hoosiers begin a drive in the fourth quarter on their own 29-yard line. They align with Lagow in the shotgun and with 11 personnel on the field, with a slot formation to the left and a tight end in the wing to the right. Utah has their base 4-3 defense in the game and they show a Cover 1 look, with both cornerbacks in press alignment:
Prior to the snap, the slot receiver comes in motion toward the quarterback, and the safety trails him across the formation. This indicates to Lagow that he will see man coverage in the secondary:
As you can see, Indiana runs another double post concept, with the wing TE running the inside post and the outside receiver running another post. The Hoosiers show a jet sweep to the slot WR as well. When the ball is snapped, the fake sweep works to draw the linebackers forward, which opens up the inside post route from the TE, which Lagow hits in stride and on rhythm:
Tight end Ian Thomas (#80) pulls in the pass and gets the ball near midfield, a huge gain for Indiana on first down.
One of the tasks DeBorn faces this season in Bloomington is to reduce the turnovers from Lagow, who threw 17 interceptions last year. But given how he throws the post route with confidence and velocity, and his familiarity with the double post concept DeBorn used while at Tennessee, using this design might be one way to get Lagow in rhythm and running a design he is familiar with, and has enjoyed success with during his time at Indiana.