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Missouri-WVU: Unbalanced lines, Newsom the nickelback, and room to run

Missouri found some running success with unbalanced lines. The Tigers also struggled mightily with linebackers lined up against slot receivers.

Missouri v West Virginia
You are seeing 1.10 percent of Drew Lock’s 91 snaps against West Virginia.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

If you were familiar with my work at the Columbia Daily Tribune you knew that, as part of my in-season coverage, I endeavored to provide snap counts for every Missouri player for every offensive and defensive snap that counted during the season.

If you were not...well, I just explained what this is in the last graf. You should have paid attention.

Anyway, I pored over the film of the Tigers’ season-opening loss to West Virginia to see who Missouri used on offense and defense, how often and in what ways. Then I tried to gather it in a way that wouldn’t bore you too terribly.

Did I fail? Did I succeed? I suppose that’s up for history to decide.

Here we go...



Drew Lock – 91

Marvin Zanders9



Alex Ross52

Ish Witter33

Damarea Crockett – 4

Dimetrios Mason – 4



Sean Culkin24

Jason Reese -- 11

Tyler Hanneke5

Kendall Blanton3

Josh Augusta -- 1


Tight End

Sean Culkin – 22

Kendall Blanton -- 13


Wide Receiver

J’Mon Moore – 87

Emanuel Hall – 58

Dimetrios Mason – 35

Johnathon Johnson -- 31

Chris Black -- 26

Sean Culkin – 24

Kendall Blanton -- 13

Jason Reese – 13

Keyon Dilosa -- 11

Ray Wingo -- 10

Tyler Hanneke – 4

Justin Smith -- 4

Alex Ross – 2

Dominic Collins – 1



Alec Abeln – 100

Paul Adams100

Samson Bailey100

Tyler Howell – 100

Kevin Pendleton100



Charles Harris – 42

Spencer Williams -- 22

Jordan Harold – 15

Marcell Frazier – 7



Rickey Hatley – 54

A.J. Logan54

Terry Beckner – 31

Josh Augusta -- 31


Rush End

Charles Harris – 25

Jordan Harold – 23

Spencer Williams -- 23

Marcell Frazier – 13



Michael Scherer – 78

Joey Burkett -- 72

Donavin Newsom65

Terez Hall – 23

Brandon Lee13

Cale Garrett – 7



Aarion Penton – 83

John Gibson62

Logan Cheadle20

Christian Holmes2



Thomas Wilson – 80

Anthony Sherrils60

Ronnell Perkins – 25

Cam Hilton – 5

Offensive Set Success


Run: 8 for 46 (5.75 avg.)

Pass: 12-of-26, 124 yards (4.77 avg.)

Sack: 1 for -9

Total: 35 plays, 161 yards (4.60 avg.)



Run: 17 for 69 (4.06 avg.), fumble lost

Pass: 6-of-10, 103 yards (10.3 avg.)

Total: 27 plays, 172 yards (6.37 avg.), fumble lost



Run: 15 for 65 (4.33 avg.)

Pass: 3-of-11, 30 yards (2.73 avg.), TD

Total: 26 plays, 95 yards (3.65 avg.), TD



Run: 5 for 8 (1.60 avg.)

Pass: 2-of-4, 24 yards (6.00 avg.)

Total: 9 plays, 32 yards (3.56 avg.)



Pass: 1-of-2, 1 yard (0.50 avg.)



Run: 1 for 1


Marvin Zanders Plays

Run: 7 for 47 (6.71 avg.)

Pass: 1-of-2, 2 yards (1.00 avg.)

Total: 9 plays, 49 yards (5.44 avg.)

First Downs: 2


The Unbalanced Line

Run: 9 for 43 (4.78 avg.)

Pass: 0-of-3

Total: 12 plays, 43 yards (3.58 avg.)

First Downs: 4

Defensive Set Success


Run: 15 for 95 (6.33 avg.), TD

Pass: 11-of-14, 98 yards (7.00 avg.)

Total: 29 plays, 193 yards (6.66 avg.), TD



Run: 18 for 79 (4.39 avg.)

Pass: 3-of-9, 42 yards (4.67 avg.), 2 INT

Total: 27 plays, 121 yards (4.48 avg.), 2 INT



Run: 13 for 66 (5.08 avg.), fumble recovery

Pass: 9-of-13, 113 yards (8.69 avg.)

Total: 26 plays, 179 yards (6.88 avg.), fumble recovery



Run: 2 for 1 (0.50 avg.), TD

Pass: 0-of-1

Total: 3 plays, 1 yard (0.33 avg.), TD


West Virginia Success When Running at…

Harris: 7 for 14

Frazier: 1 for 3

Off Left End: 8 for 17 (2.13 avg.)


Hatley/Harris: 1 for 20

Logan/Harris: 4 for 35, 2 TD

Augusta/Harris: 5 for 8

Hatley/Frazier: 1 for 4

Left Side: 11 for 67 (6.09 avg.), 2 TD


Hatley/Logan: 7 for 43

Augusta/Hatley: 2 for 9

Beckner/Augusta: 2 for 1

Beckner/Logan: 2 for 14

Up the Gut: 13 for 67 (5.15 avg.)


Logan/Harold: 1 for 5

Augusta/Harold: 1 for 29

Beckner/Harold: 2 for 15

Hatley/Harold: 2 for 19

Hatley/Williams: 2 for 9

Logan/Williams: 2 for 10

Beckner/Williams: 2 for 8

Right Side: 12 for 95 (7.92 avg.)


Harold: 2 for -6

Williams: 1 for 8

Off Right End: 3 for 2 (0.67 avg.)


Newsom/Hall playing “Nickelback”

Run: 25 for 150 (6.00 avg.), TD, fumble recovery

Pass: 20-of-28, 197 yards (7.04 avg.), INT

Total: 53 plays, 347 yards (6.55 avg.), TD, INT, fumble recovery

Heres and Theres

  • Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up. Missouri did not play a “Nickel” defense, per se, against West Virginia. I’m defining that defense in the way that you would if you subbed in a player specifically to play as a nickelback. Missouri, instead, decided to keep Newsom and Terez Hall in the game and have them play a sort of nickelback when needed.
  • As you can see, Newsom and Hall lined up opposite a slot receiver in a coverage look — that is, not typical of a linebacker — on 62.4 percent of plays (53 of 85). The results? Not that great. Missouri got two turnovers on such looks, but West Virginia also gashed the Tigers for 6.6 yards a play.
  • With all the rushing success West Virginia had against Missouri, we wanted to see if it came when the Mountaineers targeted different areas of the line. The edges, Missouri defended pretty well, to the tune of 19 yards on 11 carries. Which means the bulk of the Mountaineers’ yards came between the tackles. Which is always an encouraging sign when your defensive line is keying in on stopping the run, right?!
  • On the Harold/Williams side, West Virginia ran 12 times for 95 yards. On the Harris/Frazier side, 11 for 67. Right between the eyes, taking on tackles like Augusta, Beckner, Hatley and Logan head on? 13 times for 67 yards. None of those numbers are encouraging.
  • 4-3 is the Tigers’ base set, at least nominally. 3-4 is what I term it when they line up in the base but one of the ends is in a standing position, as a rush end. What Missouri used most against West Virginia, though, was a set in which the only players with hands on the turf were the defensive tackles. I don’t have a pithy name for it yet (and I am too ignorant to know if it already has one), so I hath dubbed it the “2-front.” Leave suggestions in the comments, please and thanks.
  • None of the Tigers’ defensive sets worked all that great but, generally, they did better the more guys had their hands on the ground. Oh, some of those “2-front” snaps were also kind of by default, because one or both ends were standing up gassed or checking their little play wristbands as West Virginia had hurried to the line and was already running its next play.
  • Ah yes, the unbalanced offensive line. Missouri trotted this out 12 times against West Virginia, mostly in short-yardage situations and mostly to good effect in the run game, as you can see from the 4.8 yards a carry and four first downs in 12 snaps. Basically, they just surrounded Bailey with guards (per usual) and played the tackles next to each other, usually to the side where the run play was going. Take, for example, the most successful play from that set. The line (from left to right), went Adams, Howell, Pendleton, Bailey (snapping) and Abeln, and Zanders ran for 21 yards. Neat wrinkle that worked rather well.
  • Speaking of Zanders, he was in for nine plays and recorded a stat on every one of them, even though the threat for a handoff to Mason (yes, he played tailback in the set) or a jet sweep when Mason’s split wide was there. Missouri’s “Zanders” personnel appears to be Hanneke (H-back alone in the backfield with Zanders or split very wide); Dilosa, Laurent (wide), Mason (tailback or wide) and Blanton (tight end or split wide).
  • The Laurent end-around pass was to come from the Zanders set...until that fairly needless review of a spot on a Lock scramble ruined everything. There was also a play that started 5-wide and had Black motion to the line as almost a field-goal blocker looking guy that got negated by a West Virginia timeout. Perhaps something we’ll see later this year?
  • The tight ends, really, were used in about the same way as Josh Henson did, just more often and to better effect. Four-wide was still the most used set, but three-wide with a tailback and H-back was the Tigers’ most successful, averaging 6.4 yards a play. As far as personnel goes, Culkin split his 70 snaps pretty evenly between H-back, tight end and split wide (24, 22, 24), Blanton played a little H-back but mostly tight end and wideout in his 29 (3, 13, 13) and Reese played only H-back and wideout in his 24 (11 and 13). Blanton and Reese actually started the game, even though Culkin got the lion’s share of the reps.
  • So Blanton and Reese were the starters...but Culkin is the “starter.”
  • Penton (83) and Wilson (80) were the iron men on defense, with Scherer (78) and Burkett (72) following. Harris (67 of 85, 78.8%) continues to play a mental amount of snaps for a defensive lineman. Conditioning. He has it.
  • Everybody’s sub patterns were pretty much cut-and-dried. Harris/Frazier, Logan/Augusta, Hatley/Beckner, Harold/Williams, Newsom/Hall, Scherer/Garrett, Burkett/Lee, Penton/Holmes, Gibson/Cheadle, Sherrils/Perkins, Wilson/Hilton. There were two exceptions — Hall subbed in for Gibson for three snaps on a short-yardage 4-4 set and Frazier subbed in for Harold rather than Harris twice.
  • Oh yeah. And Josh Augusta played fullback. That set had five linemen, Culkin and Blanton as tight ends, Augusta and Hanneke as H-backs and Witter as a tailback. Combined with Lock, that’s 3125 pounds of person. This West Virginia safety took one look at the carnage and was all, “...nah, I’m good.” I named that set JUGGERNAUT for now. Again, at me if you’ve got something better.
  • On the defensive line, Williams (45) actually played more snaps than the “starter” Harold (38). And was more productive in them. In a weird quirk of the universe, both Logan and Hatley played 63.5 percent of the snaps (54) and Beckner and Augusta played 36.5 (31). That was not planned. I don’t think.
  • Nate Howard and Josh Moore combined
  • Missouri had FOURTEEN different players split wide during the game. Moore played 87 snaps (plenty of time to work in his TWENTY-THREE targets) and the other starters Emanuel Hall (58) and Johnson (31) played the most at their spots. Mason, though, played the third-most snaps of any wideout backing up Hall, with four in the backfield. Was not expecting that around, oh, February 4.
  • Black played a bunch, right? He had to, in order to haul in six catches for 102 yards. Nah. Only 26 snaps and none in the first quarter. He only gets honorable mention, though, for “most productive per snap.” That mantel goes to Collins, who subbed in, caught a 22-yard bullet from Lock, then disappeared into the night.
  • Witter started the game but ended up playing 35.5 percent of the available tailback snaps to Ross’ 55.9. Crockett got four straight snaps but was banished to kick returns after his fumble. He did line up as tailback one more time, on that Laurent end around pass that never happened. Which, as we discussed earlier...never happened...
  • Lock played 91 snaps. He threw on 51 of them, ran on eight of them, got sacked on another and handed off on 31 of them. He is probably tired today.