College football season is upon us and the game has been plagued by malapropisms, misnomers, and the such for years. The phrase QB keeper gave way to zone read and now the new broken phrase is RPO or run-pass option. Joel Klatt thinks the west coast offense is the only way to go- making him a schematic dinosaur. Then there’s Kirk Herbstreit and his confused commentary regarding RPO’s. Chris Spielman denying the benefits of Rugby tackling (Hawk tackling) was another misstep in pushing college football in the right direction.
Announcers are horrifying and the Solid Verbal fellas have their “fantasy things draft” about what gets mentioned by college football the most and my podcast, Coachspeak, has a phrase called “muted musings” which is about the phrases the announcers use that force us to mute our TV’s. I’ve even pondered the “Miami Hurricanes Orange Bowl Drinking Game,” and how many times the announcers would bring up Mark Richt being Hurricanes alumni.
QB Keeper and Zone Read... but it was Power Read
Miami runs a small amount of inside zone read in their system. With athletic quarterbacks like Malik Rosier, Cade Weldon and N’Kosi Perry expect to see more quarterback read option plays in the Mark Richt playbook. If you’ve listened to announcers over the past few years on every play where the quarterback ran the football- the play was called a zone read or QB keeper. The worst of the announcers will continue to call a quarterback run a QB keeper while the mediocre announcers were stuck in 2017 on calling every quarterback run a zone read.
Bar Tip: Do you want to not sound stupid while watching the game with friends at the local watering hole? Then never say the phrase QB keeper. In almost two decades of coaching football I have never seen a call sheet, play script, attended a Glazier Clinic, or seen anything else with the phrase “QB keeper” on it. It’s more common with the Navy, Georgia Tech and Army triple offense but still happens when the play-by-play guy over talks the color guy on commentary.
We’ve covered “zone read” a lot on SOTU. The inside zone read is what is most commonly referred to as zone read and what announcers currently refer to almost any option play ran from shotgun or pistol. However, if a lineman pulls it’s no longer zone... right?
Example: Power Read
Andy Dalton ran the power read at TCU a few years back against Clemson and lit the college football world on fire for a night. Announcers will call the power read (or inverted veer as it’s known to some) zone read but there’s nothing zone about it, however it is a read option and the guys that just hedge their bets on “read option” as a phrase are winning most battles.
In power read the quarterback reads the play side defensive end (PSDE), if the PSDE runs at the quarterback or sits in his gap- the quarterback hands the ball off. If the PSDE runs outside to tackle the running back- the quarterback keeps and follows the back side guard who is pulling through the gap.
Another popular read option that’s not a zone read is Dart. In Dart the back side offensive tackle will pull and wrap around which is designed to lure the back side defensive end down the line of scrimmage. The play is designed to either have an extra blocker for the running back (the pulling tackle) or have the quarterback pull and the only defender on that side might be a safety at 12 yards.
Again, you’ll see these different read options that are referred to as zone read along with midline and counter-trey and the announcers will never get out of their comfort zone and call the play what it actually is misleading viewers along the way.
RPO versus Play-Action
Kirk Herbstreit once referred to RPO’s as RPI’s. I tweeted at him, and he all of a sudden knew what it meant; if knew what it meant is defined as a stumbling stammering poor explanation. The college football world caught him painfully off guard regarding RPO’s and he emerged confused a decade past their common inception date.
We’ve discussed RPO’s a ton on this site here, here, and here... but the better question is how to not confuse RPO’s with play-action passes. The best method is to just watch the offensive line, not the ball, on every play. Out of pure habit I do this and I try to break that habit so I can enjoy the game and not turn the ‘Canes into more work (then I took this job and so I’m a hypocrite for typing that last sentence). This video pre-dates my working for SOTU but it was my way of landing the gig so enjoy!
The key difference between RPO and play-action is what the offensive line does. On an RPO the linemen will block just like a run, often breaking the ineligible receiver downfield rule as they work to the second level (linebackers) because the O-Line has no idea whether it’s a run or pass until it’s too late.
On play-action, the offensive line might pretend to run power by the backside guard wrapping, but he’ll stop at the line of scrimmage. Often the play-action blocking will be more passive and a mixture of run blocking and pass protection versus the all out run blocking on an RPO.
Fast Feet and you can’t teach speed
I’ve put a picture of my speed guru Dale Baskett up because Dale would say announcers are stupid because they often say two fallacies during games:
1) You can’t teach speed
2) Fast feet
Dale’s a firm believer, as am I, that you can teach speed. No, a 350 pound lineman like Navaughn Donladson who runs a 5.5 in the 40 yard dash will probably not run a 4.55 in a year of training. However, that same lineman can drastically decrease their 40 time (thus increasing their speed) via football sprinting techniques that will create football speed on the field.
In short, Dale believes that sprinting for football is eye placement (find a target in front of you), arm angle (90 degrees), shoulder rotation (rotate butt cheek to face cheek not breaking your 90 degree angle), as well as line (posture) and gait (distance between your feet and placement of said feet).
In Dale’s speed camp system you don’t have fast feet but fast shoulder rotation. Also you can throw out your agility ladders, plyo boxes, parachutes, resistance running belts, and dot drills ASAP- they don’t work to create football speed or agility but someone got very wealthy on all of these ideas.
Rugby or Hawk Tackling is bad form
I heard Chris Spielman on the podcast The Audible which is the home of Stu Mandel and Bruce Feldman. I appreciate the work Bruce and Stu both do in the media world but Spielman really missed when he put down hawk or rugby tackling. The Pete Carroll rugby style “hawk” tackle has been a great improvement to the game of football. Spielman, who suffered a severe neck injury playing the game, said that he doesn’t understand how it works and thinks that it leads to missed tackles (no empirical evidence was given).
When you see defenders using their shoulder to tackle and putting their head behind the play that’s the proper way to tackle to avoid both yourself and your opponent from getting a concussion or worse- a broken neck. Tackling is a mechanism of form and fit. Form being the form that the player uses: a solid base, head behind the play, tracking the near hip, shooting their hands, bringing their hips, eye focus on the thighs and taking five hard fast steps called “drive for five” by Coach Carroll.
Fit means the players is fit to make the play. I always describe to my tacklers that football is just a mechanism of the weight room. Great tacklers have two things in common: hips that are flexible and mobile and a well structured posterior chain. Football workouts are hinged on deadlifts, power and hang cleans, barbell snatches, and clean and jerks. Why are these lifts so key? Because they all contribute to hip strength and mobility and building the posterior chain.
Football isn’t being ruined, as some would say, because of hawk tackling or targeting rules- it’s being made safer for legitimate reasons and often in very legitimate ways.