One of my favorite things about football is the game within the game. There are the physical battles in between the lines that players are a part of, but also strategic battles the coaches and analysts on the sidelines participate in. Their job is moving the chess pieces, using disguises, and working around what the opposition takes away.
Missouri has concepts in their playbook that are what you would call “staples.” They can be simple as the inside or outside zone, which Missouri ran ad nauseum in 2021. Or, in some cases, they can be somewhat intricate passing combinations that you see on a regular basis.
This week though, we’re discussing a fairly well known play in the bubble screen and how it’s used by Missouri to generate touches for playmakers on the outside.
The bubble screen is a staple of most playbooks, but especially offenses that tend to use spread concepts. It’s a really nice way of isolating an offensive player in space, (particularly the faster players) and getting them a touch. It’s often referred to as “an extension of our running game” because of how quickly the ball gets to the receiver at roughly the line of scrimmage. When you couple it with RPO’s, it’s an extremely tough cover and can confuse the defender.
Here for example, the receiver gets wide to lure his man outside, and into his blocker (Daniel Parker Jr.) while the offensive lineman are showing pass sets for a half step, they get down field and start finding some work. By then, Chance Luper is off to the races and we’ve got an explosive play on our hands.
However, some of the beauty of getting guys in open space comes with risk as you have a heightened chance of seeing holding calls on the perimeter. Like this one, a hold on the perimeter springs it for the extra YAC.
Here’s a bubble screen coupled with an RPO. Notice how the linebackers bite down at the sight of a run. It just takes that many more guys out of position.
This was one of my personal favorite plays of the year. Not because it was necessarily complex but because Missouri used its own tendencies against Florida. In this game, they ran 3-4 screens earlier and a lot of them were snuffed out as the defense for Florida did a good job calling them out and communicating as a defense.
This time though, they draw a wheel behind a bluff screen to Tyler Badie, who was an obvious priority to cover. Hea gets free, Bazelak makes the throw, and it’s six points on what was a very well thought out play by coach and player.
Missouri ran a lot of bubble screens in 2021. In fact, they accounted for roughly 3% of their total offensive output. That may not sound like a lot, but with all of the concepts that get used in a given year, that’s pretty high.
In 2022, Missouri is going to have a lot of explosion on the outside. Lovett, Burden, Cooper all will have bubble screens called for them at various point of the year and that’s a very exciting prospective. Missouri has a stable of guys who can take the ball in space, and turn it into chunk gains, or even even six points. If you’re looking at finding offensive success next year, finding touches for those guys will be vital. The bubble screen could be one of many ways to do that.