Gunslinger Drew Lock has handed the reins of the Mizzou offense over to dual-threat par excellence Kelly Bryant, formerly a Tiger of the Clemson brand. One imagines this transition will trigger offensive coordinator Derek Dooley to tweak his approach, finding ways to keep the ball in Bryant’s hands.
I believe we can make some educated guesses about the changes to come. To do so, we need to consider a factor essential for any coach looking to add to his playbook: how “expensive” or “cheap” the addition will be.
A cheap addition is one based on schemes and techniques players already understand and that, therefore, don’t require much additional time and effort for players to master. Coaches must weigh the potential benefit of any addition against its cost. For this reason, coaches love cheap, but high-ceiling, additions.
We will begin by looking at the cheapest options for Dooley to maximize Bryant’s running prowess.
Part One: Emphasizing the Read
The cheapest option would, of course, have no cost at all. Therefore, we should first look for current plays that will allow Bryant to handle the ball.
Inside Zone and Counter Trap
The Basics of Inside Zone
On plays in the Zone family, the entire offensive line steps to the play side, each responsible for the gap, or zone, they step to. The strength of this scheme is that it’s easy to get everyone blocked: there’s a man in your gap, go block that guy. The problem is, with the last lineman on the backside stepping playside, there is no one to block the man in the last gap (the end man on the line of scrimmage, or EMOL) who is free to chase the RB down.
The Zone Read was developed by Rich Rodriguez, now offensive coordinator at 2019 opponent Ole Miss, to counter this weakness. As with the traditional option plays, the QB puts the ball in the RB’s belly and reads the EMOL. If the EMOL crashes hard toward the RB, the QB keeps.
This clip is technically an Outside Zone play, but it is a good example of Lock keeping the ball in a Zone-family scheme. Notice how the wide splits by the receivers create a wide running lane for Lock.
The Basics of Counter Trap
Counter Trap belongs to a family of plays known as Gap schemes. In Gap schemes, the playside linemen block their backside gaps, and one or more linemen from the backside pull around to the playside.
In the standard version of Counter Trap, the backside guard and tackle are the pullers. We will call this variant GT. As with Inside Zone, the EMOL is unblocked, so the QB needs to read him.
Here is Lock running for a TD on a Counter Trap read against Purdue. The EMOL chases the RB, Larry Rountree, so Lock pulls the ball and sails into the end zone. Once again, the receiver splits create a huge lane that Lock speeds through.
Inside Zone and Counter Trap are Dooley’s two favorite run schemes, making up over half the run plays he called last year.
With Lock, Dooley skewed heavily toward variations of these schemes that minimized or canceled the chance for Lock to carry the ball. Let’s look at these variants, beginning with Inside Zone.
Inside Zone Wham and Displacing the Read Man
There are two main strategies for limiting or eliminating the QB pull in an Inside Zone scheme. The first is to block the read player, usually with an H back. This is sometimes called a Wham block.
An example of Tyler Badie hitting a run behind Brendan Scales’ Wham block.
The Wham creates a seam best seen in the tight shot.
The second strategy is to move the EMOL wider by adding players to the backside of the line, usually tight ends or H backs. Every time the offense adds a man, the EMOL is moved one gap wider. This added distance makes it increasingly unlikely that the EMOL can force a QB pull by pressuring the RB.
Here Kendall Blanton and Albert O align in a heavy wing, extending the backside of the line on an Inside Zone play.
By my count, of all the Inside Zones Dooley called in 2018, about 90 percent limited or eliminated the possibility of the read. This suggests that unless there was an exceptional reaction by the EMOL, Dooley didn’t want the ball in Lock’s hands on these plays.
Counter Trap GH
The read on the GT play can be eliminated by replacing the pulling tackle with another player, most often an H back. We’ll call this variation GH. Now the tackle is free to remain on the backside to block the EMOL, eliminating the need for a quarterback read.
On this play, the backside guard, Tre’Vour Simms, kicks out the Tennessee outside linebacker with H back Daniel Parker wrapping around for the inside man.
Now rewatch and focus on Parker, who absolutely mauls the Volunteer LB.
Dooley ran both GT and GH. With Lock, about half of Counter Trap calls were of the GH variety, taking away the option for Lock to carry the ball.
It seems to me, then, that the cheapest way to increase QB carries is for Dooley to increase the frequency of the read versions of Inside Zone and Counter Trap, keeping alive the option for Bryant to keep the ball.
That’s all fine and good, you’re saying, but was Kelly Bryant any good at the read run game when he was at Clemson? Well, I’m here to tell you, and I know a Hokie outside linebacker who will back me up on this — yes, he was.
In the next installment of this series we’ll explore more expensive additions to the playbook: brand new plays.