We could say this about many aspects of the Mizzou offense, but the dropback passing game has not looked good during this losing streak. Time and again Kelly Bryant sits in the pocket looking downfield until protection breaks down, at which point he runs for the sideline or throws the ball away.
Perhaps this is why Tiger offensive coordinator Derek Dooley ran Bootleg plays on several occasions against Tennessee— adding the element of misdirection, moving Bryant around in the pocket, anything, perhaps, to get the passing game back on track.
Let’s look at a few of the Bootleg plays Dooley called against the Volunteers.
First, let’s define the Bootleg. A Bootleg is a play where the quarterback fakes a handoff going in one direction, pulls the ball (smuggling it like a bootlegger with a bottle), and runs in the opposite direction.
The Bootlegs we will look at today are Bootleg passes, which attempt to take advantage of a defense flowing quickly to the run fake by outflanking it with a pass to the opposite side of the field.
Here is an example of a classic Bootleg pass from the I formation.
The playaction is that of a split flow Zone. The fullback attacks the end, but instead of aiming at the end’s inside shoulder releases over the top of him and attack the flat. The tight end runs the Over route, taking the quickest path to the far hash, crossing it at about twelve yards.
The object of this play is to send the defense flowing to the right, then hitting one of the routes crossing the field to the left.
Another form of the Bootleg pass is the Waggle, in which the guard to the side of the run fake pulls to give the quarterback protection on the edge. Missouri used to frequently run a Waggle play out of shotgun during the Chase Daniel years.
Daniel fakes to Derrick Washington, then hits Chase Coffman on the Bubble route in the flat.
Bootleg passes can employ various routes, sometimes, as we’ll see, incorporating common dropback route concepts. Let’s look at some of the Bootleg passes Dooley called against Tennessee.
The Tigers run this Bootleg Pass out of a Trips formation into the sideline and Pistol backfield set.
Bryant fakes an Outside Zone to running back Tyler Badie, boots out and hits tight end Daniel Parker as he releases late into the flat.
Diagrammed, the play looks like this.
Note Parker’s technique. He downblocks on the defensive end for a count, protecting Bryant from a quick rush, before pivoting out to his route.
Also look at the other routes. The play combines a classic Flood concept on the frontside with the normal Over route from the backside.
One more look.
This was the Tigers’ first touchdown. It comes out of a bunch set to the field.
This is a strange version of the Bootleg. It doesn’t really fit my original definition of a Bootleg actually. The run fake is to the right, and Bryant’s rollout is also to the right. We’ll include it, however, because it’s a cool play and was successful.
Once again, Dooley attaches a popular dropback concept to the Bootleg, this time Snag. Here is a traditional way to run Snag.
In the Bootleg version Dooley gets players in the same spots on the field as in Snag, however the responsibilities are adjusted to allow Parker to secure the edge. The tailback, Badie, takes his place as the flat threat, receives the ball, and takes it to the house.
Missouri aligns in a 2x2 set with Parker in the backfield.
This is a Waggle version of Bootleg Pass. The run fake goes to the left, and left guard Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms pulls to the right to help seal the edge.
Yet again, Dooley incorporates a dropback concept into his Bootleg pass. This is looks like Y-Sail, a staple concept of the Air Raid offense. Y-Sail is a type of Flood concept where the number two receiver has the option to adjust the angle of his out-breaking route to find the open area.
Rather than squaring it off, slot receiver Barrett Banister takes his route deep behind the linebacker but in front of the corner and safety who are cleared by Kam Scott’s deep route.
Notice that Bryant is throwing to the side of the field away from which he is booting. The edge toward which he is booting is protected by the pulling guard, allowing him to settle behind the line with access to the entire field. The effect is like that of a double reverse. The defense flows to the run fake, then hurries to recover by changing course. Then the ball goes back to the side of the run fake.
Mizzou begins the play in a Trips set to the field.
Bryant fakes, boots, and ultimately comes back to his tight end, Parker, on a delay Drag route.
It looks like Bryant is initially looking for back Tyler Badie on a Wheel route. The running back Wheel has become a very popular and very dangerous route. It is often featured on Bootleg passes.
Indeed, the Tigers were burned by Texas on the exact same play out of the same formation in the 2017 Texas Bowl.
Here’s the diagram.
Badie makes the fake and proceeds to run flat and then up the sideline. Parker stays on the defensive end long enough for Wallace-Simms to arrive, then releases and crosses the formation on a Shallow Drag.
Notice that Dooley, yet again, attaches a dropback concept to the Bootleg play. In this case, the concept is Smash, where an inside receiver runs a kind of corner route (the route is also called a Smash) which should come open over a shallow route on the outside.
Here is a diagram of a popular form of Smash.
As on the previous play, the ball is thrown back away from the direction of the bootleg which is made possible by the pulling guard.
Here’s one last look at the play.
The play is a good one. The execution, not so much.
It appears Dooley was looking for ways to increase Bryant’s comfort and production in the passing game and landed on the Bootleg pass. Bryant seems comfortable throwing on the move, much more so than his predecessor. These Bootlegs attempt to take advantage of this aspect of Bryant’s game.