Arkansas Boot off Crack-Toss: A Marriage Made in Offensive Heaven

In scouting SEC tape Mark Schofield has uncovered a very interesting wrinkle in the Arkansas play-action passing game. Here he breaks down how the Razorbacks enjoy success despite a sluggish start running the football.

For the past few years, one of the core elements of the Arkansas Razorbacks’ passing game has been boot action off of power or counter concepts in the running game. This has been a component of the offense since Bret Bielema came to Fayetteville from Wisconsin, and has been featured in the Razorbacks’ 3-0 start. This season, however, they have added a nice new element to this concept, implementing boot-action off of a power toss look – and with some good results here in the early going.

Below is a look at the basic boot action in the Razorback’s offense. On this play from their season opener against Louisiana Tech, the offense lines up using 11 personnel for a 2nd and 8 play on their own 27-yard line. Quarterback Austin Allen (#8) is under center with a single back in the backfield. The offense aligns with a bunch formation to the left and a single receiver to the right. The Bulldogs have their 4-2-5 nickel defense on the field, and they walk safety Xavier Woods (#7) down into the box before the play:


Arkansas shows their counter running play, with the quarterback taking the snap and opening to the left side of the field, before then faking a handoff to the right side. Running back Rawleigh Williams (#22) helps sell the play by using counter footwork in the backfield. At the snap he slides to the left before cutting back to the right to execute the run fake. As he passes the QB, Williams then looks to protect backside. Allen comes out of the fake and boots to the left, where he has these routes to choose from:


The defense gets sucked into the run action and, as Allen wheels out of the fake to the RB, the linebackers and defensive backs are scrambling back into coverage. The QB quickly spots wide receiver Drew Morgan (#80) open in the flat and delivers the football:

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The flat defender is scurrying to try and get into this zone, and is trailing behind Morgan to the outside. After the WR makes the catch, the defender tries to break down and make the tackle but, because he is so out of position and his technique is poor, allows Morgan to evade the attempt and race up the sideline for additional yardage as said defender slides onto his back and out of the field of play.

After three games, the Razorbacks are near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference in terms of rushing yardage, averaging 170.7 yards per game – good for 10th in the conference.

But you would not know it from how well they are executing both this standard boot action as well as their play-action off of a toss-crack design.

One of the successful running schemes Arkansas has run this year is a power toss play with a wide receiver crack blocking to the inside. Against Louisiana Tech, the Razorbacks face a 2nd and 7. Allen is again under center, but the offense aligns in an i-formation in the backfield using 21 personnel and puts two receivers in a slot to the right. The Bulldogs stay with their 4-2-5 nickel, only this time they bring safety Secdrick Cooper (#2) down into the box, shaded to the slot formation:


Keon Hatcher (#4) is the outside receiver, set up off the line of scrimmage. He comes in motion toward the football:


At the snap, he crack blocks, aiming for the playside defensive end. This allows right tackle Colton Jackson (#74) to pull to the outside. In addition to Hatcher, Dominique Reed (#3) cracks to the inside as well, picking up Cooper. Fullback Hayden Johnson (#32) leads Williams to the edge:


The crack blocks are both successful and Jackson swallows up the cornerback on the edge, leading to a solid gain for Williams:

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Here is another look at this design, from Arkansas’ victory over Texas Christian University. Facing a 2nd and 8, the Razorbacks line up with Allen under center using 11 personnel. The offense puts the tight end on the right and three receivers to the left. TCU has their 4-2-5 nickel defense on the field and they show a Cover 4 look in the secondary, sliding the cornerback near the TE deep and toward the middle of the field:


Similar to the previous play, Hatcher comes in motion toward the football and will execute a crack block:


The WR executes the crack block on the playside DE allowing left tackle Dan Skipper (#70) to pull to the outside. The inside trips receiver, Jared Cornelius (#1) tries to crack block strong safety Denzel Johnson (#30), who slides down inside in response to the motion from Hatcher. But the SS reads the play well and bounces to the outside, so Cornelius wisely rides him back toward the sideline and away from the path of the RB:


Now Skipper gets to do what linemen dream of: throw a block on a defensive back with a full head of steam behind him:

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On this replay angle you can see how the blocking comes together for this play, including a solid downfield block from WR Cody Hollister (#81) on the playside cornerback:

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Having broken down how Arkansas runs their crack-toss play, we can now look at how they use the design to set up boot action to the backside, in the same vein as their standard boot action passing play. Here against TCU the Razorbacks face a 1st and 10, and come out with Allen under center and 21 personnel on the field. This is the same personnel package and formation as the first toss play, only with the slot formation now on the left side of the field. The Horned Frogs have their 4-2-5 defense on the field:


Now, head coach Gary Patterson knows his football, and his staff has done some advance scouting. So when Hatcher starts in motion toward the formation, the defense is ready. Watch the reaction of the defensive end, Josh Carraway (#94):


When the WR comes in motion, the DE drops back off the line of scrimmage, sets in a two point stance, and keeps his eyes peeled to the outside. When the ball is snapped, Carraway is in a good position to beat the crack block from Hatcher and get outside the toss play:


Only, Allen keeps the football and then boots backside, to where his tight end Jeremy Sprinkle (#83) is releasing to the flat:

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Thanks to the design of the play, as well as a good downfield block from Reed, the TE picks up a big gain to move the chains. But this is an example of how the scheme from Arkansas can be influential on a defense, even without impressive stats in the running game.

The season is young, but the Razorbacks – picked by many to finish near the bottom of the SEC West – are undefeated thanks to designs like this and solid execution. They face a big test this weekend going up against Texas A&M in a matchup of unbeatens. If they continue to execute like they have been, Arkansas has a chance to remain unbeaten as they head into a tough stretch of SEC games.

Follow @MarkSchofield on Twitter.  Buy his book, 17 Drives.  Check out his other work here, such as how Alabama passes to attack the flat, or Tennessee’s use of the double post concept, or how LSU runs play action.

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