The Hurricanes head to Atlanta this weekend to face the Yellow Jackets on Saturday night. You can read part one of the Paul Johnson primer for 2018 here. I spent a few hours yesterday talking with a former Navy football player that played offensive line under Paul Johnson in the early 2000’s. His insight has really opened my mind to flexbone even more, and it’s one of my favorite offenses around.
There are new rules in place in college football that attempt to prevent cut blocking from the side of the body or back when outside of the box and downfield more than five yards or so. However, Navy got away with a good ol’ fashioned chop block which is still illegal and has been for ages.
Gerald Willis III needs to anticipate this will happen to him all night against Georgia Tech as they play an even more aggressive version of the offense. Georgia Tech has been penalized an entire penalty more per game with the new rules. That may not seem like a lot as a raw number, but they’ve gone from 5th in penalties to 22nd with the rule change per Bill Connelly and Alex Kirshner’s piece called “Is college football’s new rule on cut blocks harming the triple option?”
The cut blocks are really important because Army West Point, Navy and Air Force have a ton of recruiting limitations regarding the size of their athletes, plus the required physical conditioning and other admissions requirements don’t lend the Midshipmen or Black Knights to recruiting at a level of say Clemson or Alabama. At Georgia Tech, they could recruit different athletes but the admissions requirements are still stringent and the administration hired Johnson to win more games with less talent than some of their ACC counterparts.
Guard Long Trap
Johnson’s offense is all about manipulating the numbers at the POA or point of attack. Johnson reads a defense’s tendencies and will manipulate their reads to fit his. That could come in the form of changing who he wants to block and read on the triple option, or it could come by using motion to pull a safety across the field and outnumber the defense.
Above, Johnson sends his right A-Back (wing back) in motion and the UNC safety rolls to midfield. The play is an old school B-Back (fullback) trap play. The quarterback opens left, gives the ball to the B-Back, who follows the back side guard. That guard is going to “trap” the play side defensive end who is left unblocked by the play side offensive tackle. When that end comes up field he gets “kicked out” just like we’ve seen H-backs do on split zone this season.
Here, the UNC defensive end actually “squeezes” when he sees a down block in front of him. he knows a trap is coming. The D-End wrong arms the guard just like you’re taught. What that means is the end turns his body leaving his inside arm free instead of his outside arm like in a normal situation. The trap should come inside of him and he should be able to grab the B-Back, but, the B-Back bounces outside.
This play works because the earlier motion pulled the safety to midfield and now all Tech has to do is block the outside linebacker to the play side. They don’t, and the play side linebacker is left to make the play... or is he? In the GIF below you can see the B-Back breaks that tackle, a couple more, and outruns the Tar Heel defense.
The Yellow Jackets hit big on their play-action passes because they use them so infrequently. Their passing game is a huge part of what they do, they couple of times they actually do it. Quarterback Tobias Oliver finished the win over UNC two-for-two passing for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Johnson once again uses motion from his right A-Back to get the UNC safety to roll to midfield. It’s a play-action so the QB fakes to the B-Back and the defensive line and linebackers read the run to the left. The wide receiver runs a hard route at the safety, one of his blocks on some plays, and the quarterback throws a corner route to the receiver in a one-on-one. The receiver beats the cornerback.
Zone + Bubble RPO
The same way Johnson’s offense manipulates your defense, you have to do the same to the Jackets. Linebackers today predominantly read “cross back” or the back on the opposite side from them. In UNC’s offensive “stack back” set the linebacker to the bottom of the screen will read the tailback and the linebacker on the top of the screen will read the H-Back. When the TB and HB both run right, the linebackers read steps will take them away from the bubble RPO.
The QB will read the safety because he’s outside of the box and the true flat defender here. The outside receiver blocks the cornerback and the bubble has 7-8 yards of cushion. The slot receiver has to make that safety miss, and if the WR does his job, it’s a 20+ yard gain.
If Tech plays cover 2, and the CB wins the play on the WR it’s a blown up read, but look at him. The CB is playing seven yards off as well and it should be an easy block for the WR.
Instead, UNC runs a play-action and fires the ball into the middle of the field where there are two linebackers and a safety. The play results in an interception which you can’t afford to give up turnovers against the Jackets as they dominate the time of possession when they can. Looks familiar, doesn’t it?
Miami can’t afford to give up 75-yard opening plays against a Yellow Jackets team that’s designed to run for 4-yards per carry. Georgia Tech will get the ball back and hold the ball and eat the clock for as long as they can once they have a 7-0 lead. You don’t want to see a smug Paul Johnson walking the sidelines all game while running four yard zone dives and traps into Shaquille Quarterman’s knees all night.
The Hurricanes defense isn’t really a concern and they’ve done well against the Yellow Jackets in the past. The only issues will be the safeties giving up the play-action deep throw and the offense and kicking game putting them in short-field situations all game.
Prediction: Georgia Tech by 4