Check The Tape – Louisiana Tech September 25, 2012
Stay with me.
This wasn’t as bad as I thought. Checking the tape, that is. I expected a horror show. I expected to cover my eyes. I really thought that at one point, I’d behave like the 4 year-old me when he watched The Wizard Of Oz the very first time, hiding behind the couch whenever that awful green woman was cackling on the screen. And the monkeys. Oh God, the monkeys.
(Could I sound any older right now? Should I reference On The Waterfront next? That Karl Malden could ACT.)
But I didn’t behave that way. In watching this tape, I was most impressed by the Louisiana Tech offensive line. Yes, the guys in that dance video I tweeted last week. They were very impressive on this tape. Four seniors – most of them three year starters and one a juco transfer – settling in for their 40th game of running the same scheme and the same plays.
Meanwhile, when Hugh Thornton left, we were left with possibly the youngest offensive line in the country. A freshman, three sophomores, and a junior playing in his third ever game. And it shows on tape. Confusion in blocking assignments, struggles picking up a blitz, falling for elementary pass rush moves – we have a long way to go with this young line (and we need Pocic and Thornton back like there’s no tomorrow).
But I won’t concentrate on that with this CTT. Let’s see how an offensive line is supposed to block in a zone blocking scheme. Let’s look at Louisiana Tech.
Here’s a running play in the first quarter. Keep in mind that zone blocking can best be described as “move the line over there and block somebody”. Wisconsin’s running teams have mostly been catch-and-turn OL blocking. There’s a specific hole to be created for the tailback to run through. Zone blocking means each OL has an assignment but not necessarily a specific player to block. At least not on every play. Get out into space and block someone – the tailback will look for and then run through holes that are created.
This was only a three yard gain – Earnest Thomas came up and made a nice tackle – but it shows how assignment sound the Louisiana Tech offensive line was. Go to your spot and put a body on someone. It’s really that easy.
And the lane they immediately create. Left tackle and left guard have their guys perfectly blocked, center and right guard do as well, just the other way, and the right tackle gets just enough of Tim Kynard to prevent him from cutting down the tailback in the backfield. I mean, look at that lane:
Meaning the tailback comes through virtually untouched. I think Kynard got a piece of his foot – you can see him stumbling here – but he kept his balance and got into the endzone. Why wouldn’t he? Once he got through the line he had zero players to beat.
Football looks so easy watching a play like that. All five linemen do their job and the tailback has an easy route to the endzone.
But wait. There’s more.
Here’s their third touchdown. Like the first play we looked at, watch where the ball is snapped, and then watch where their line moves their blocks. And yes, if you would like to interpret this as “why are our defensive linemen allowing themselves to be pushed around by a WAC offensive line”, you are quite welcome to do that. I don’t get it either. As the ball is snapped:
Still moving to the right. Remember, the ball was snapped on the right hash. Jonathan Brown hesitates on the fake – he has the assignment if the quarterback keeps and runs or throws. So as the lane opens up, there’s no Brown to stuff it:
Man, you don’t know what I’d give to see our line operate like that. Unfortunately, it takes time and repetition and coaching and time and more coaching. But mostly time. Sonny Dykes taught these guys these plays in the spring of 2010. And they’ve run them over and over and over until they had everything down.
If you’re a football coach, you love this next screencap. As soon as you see the alignment of their linemen coming around to the right side, you know it’s an 8-10 yard gain, minimum. Look at how this play is set up for success. I mean just look at it. Every lineman has a body on somebody, and they have two blockers coming around the corner to take on our two tacklers:
…their tailback gets the corner, untouched, and goes one-on-one with our cornerback. Which is what you want to set up in every running situation – get your ballcarrier one-on-one situations with a defender.
Hawthorne won the battle here and made the tackle, but the war was already lost. Our defense, which allowed -6 rushing yards to Western Michigan in the opener, was gashed by a WAC offense. There’s really not much more to say.
OK, NOW I want to go hide behind the couch.