D’Eriq King will be visiting the University of Miami this weekend, and the former Houston Cougars quarterback is eligible to play right away. The five-foot-eleven, 195 pound King came to Houston as a quarterback-slash-wide receiver but settled in as the starter for Major Applewhite. He’s a big time playmaker with a weird situation as Applewhite was fired and Dana Holgorsen took over the Cougars.
Over his career, King has thrown for 4,925 yards for an 8.2 yards per attempt average and tossed 50 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions. King also completed almost 62% of his passes at Houston, adding another 28 rushing touchdowns and three receiving scores. In 2019 King was coming off of a late season knee injury from 2018. In four games for Holgorsen in the Air Raid King scored 12 times (6 pass, 6 rush) throwing only two interceptions but his completion percentage plummeted to just below 53%. He chose to redshirt, and then graduate transfer, after those four games.
Rhett Lashlee, the new ‘Canes offensive coordinator, knows a thing or two about dual-threat stars such as King. Lashlee has worked alongside his former mentor, Gus Malzahn, when the Auburn Tigers won the BCS National Title with Cam Newton behind center. In 2012, Lashlee was the O.C. for Malzahn at Arkansas State, coaching Ryan Aplin. Aplin flashed his ability to run picking up over 400 yards on the ground with six touchdowns. He also averaged 8.2 yards per attempt with a 24:4 touchdown to interception ratio.
Back to King, taking a look at his 2018 season he had a number of stand out performances with one of his biggest coming against Temple in a losing effort. What I really liked about that performance is it was coming off of his worst performance, a loss to SMU. Let’s dig deeper into his worst game, then his best.
It was really hard to find a “bad game” that King played in 2018. The free agent QB is a dynamic player. I felt SMU was the worst, because for someone with his skill set, only around 250 total yards, 50% completion and 3 scores in a loss isn’t a great performance. 7.9 yards per pass attempt is good; but compared to Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence- it’s not quite good enough.
There isn’t a QB on the ‘Canes current roster who has the arm whip of Mr. King. Look at how explosively that ball comes off of his hand, even on a deep throw. It’s also placed perfectly and with the right arc and distance. No one was coming back to that (see: Williams, Jarren), or having to dive like on most of N’Kosi Perry’s deep throws. It didn’t quack like a Tate Martell duck, either.
King has good mechanics. In his drop he never gets off balance, or caught with his hips too wide or feet too far apart. His elbow stays in tight to the body, even has he adjusts his shoulder angle to hit a deep throw (in order to throw a deep ball, the front shoulder has to turn up while the back shoulder dips down).
Double Slant Swing-Draw
In the red zone, Houston dialed up a double slant swing-draw from a two back look. Obviously Lashlee isn’t Applewhite but King’s skill set is his skill set an a swing-draw at the goal line is how guys like Joe Burrow looked like they were a lot more athletic than they really are against a defense like Clemson’s. Swing-draw was also a bread and butter play for Malik Rosier under Mark Richt.
King is reading the linebacker to the twins side (see the diagram above). When that linebacker steps forward on his read steps, he’s already basically done. When he gets caught in the pick of the double slant, it’s over for SMU. The ‘Canes have to utilize more match ups and coverage situations. Inside the 10 yard line almost every team in the country is going to man 1 or cover 0 (all man). Most are also bringing pressure which leaves slant-swings open. The Lashlee (and Applewhite) offenses keep the QB’s eyes on his threats and targets.
The QB rule of thumb is to never go deep, over the middle, late in the play. King here shows technique, poise under pressure, and control as he whips that ball in to where only his receiver could catch it. Of course you would also want a receiver who can come down with that one and Brevin Jordan seems like that kind of guy.
Look at King’s shoulders. He makes a nice subtle adjustment in order to get the perfect depth compared to the deep fade from earlier. King keeps the ball up high so he can get a quick release, and his technique allows or a quick throw as he keeps the ball close to his body on his throws. If you have a bad offensive line, you want a guy with mobility and a quick release.
As an O.C. it’s always nice to have a QB who can run for touchdowns in the red zone. Because of King’s skill set, Houston can keep three receivers spread out wide and allow King to run the ball, which gives the Cougars the numbers advantage at the point of attack (POA).
The backside guard pulls to kick out and the back is the wrap guy. The back stays outside, I’m assuming when he sees the cornerback play the run hard and the back just kicks him instead of wrapping.
Instead of going with 2-3 tight ends and an under center, crammed in look inside the 10, Houston stays spread. That’s what a mobile QB and a good OC will do. They’ll keep the defense widened out and use their strengths against the other team.
D’Eriq King’s best game of the 2018 season was a hard one to pick, too, but for the opposite reasons. King had multiple ‘show stopper’ performances for the Cougars. King scored six times against the Pac-12’s Arizona Wildcats in a winning effort. He also completed 70% of his passes and scored seven times against South Florida. But against Temple, a week after his tough outing against SMU, King scored six times and completed 61% of his passes averaging 6.6 yards per rush (counting sack yards) against the Temple Owls.
Play-Action Split Zone
20 and 11 personnel inside the five yard line is a bread and butter grouping for me as an O.C. and I really like what the Cougars are doing here. Applewhite dials up a play-action pass off of split zone. The split zone and play-action draws the inside linebackers up and out of the passing window on the slant.
I love a good over the middle throw in the red zone (my post on why OC’s should stop throwing the red zone fade) and this one looks nice. King’s technique of keeping his arm up and his release quick allows this ball to come out with perfect timing. The scheme is good, too, as the outside receiver locks his cornerback on with the smoke action (tunnel screen) and that opens up the slant.
Naked boot off split zone
Another variation off of split zone is the naked boot. King fakes the split zone to the back and the h-back comes across like split zone. Instead of kicking the force player out, he slips him and hits the flat.
As King boots out, he’s reading the flat defender. When that flat defender chases the H, which he does, King turns up and runs. This would be a great weapon to have at Miami inside the 5-yard line where the ‘Canes struggled under Dan Enos.
I personally would prefer a 2nd option here, to “high-low” the flat defender, too, but I can imagine they feel like King is enough of a weapon that it’s just unnecessary.
Houston and USF
Split zone slip RPO
Another variation off of split zone is the slip RPO. The QB will read the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOL). If that end man (he’s the defensive end with his hand down in the GIF) sticks with the h-back it’s a give, if the EMOL does what he does- sits or squeezes down the line, he throws. Here the EMOL sits and King throws to the h-back, but he slow plays enough to give the h-back separation from the defensive end.
I like that King has not only been in a spread offense, but also has experience with run-pass options. Lashlee is going to utilize them and this offensive line needs RPO’s to slow down the linebackers it faces.
3rd level RPO’s
I’m really getting into RPO’s that aren’t “back side” per se but “front side.” In the GIF below, King is reading across his body on the 3rd level front side RPO. It’s a front side because it’s the direction the running back is heading, versus away from the RB. King is reading the safety, who bails, and it leaves the wide receiver and cornerback in a 1on1 post which the WR should win every time.
Here’s a play versus USF where King throws an interception. At times, he’s stared down targets as opposed to looking them off with his eyes or shoulders. Here, he does it again and it results in an interception. A defensive back, especially in zone, will easily pick off passes if a QB doesn’t keep him honest with his eyes.
In the world of R4 passing mechanics (Dub Maddox Twitter), King’s first read is his rhythm (off the last step of the drop) route. Once that’s covered and he hitches up his feet, he should be onto his read route, instead he keeps looking at his rhythm. He also has a rush route, the swing on the top of the screen, but it’s covered. Once the rhythm, read and rush are covered the 4th R in R4 is to release or run with the ball. Someone with his ability to run shouldn’t be throwing interceptions into double coverage.
Now he’s using his shoulders and eyes
Later in the game, King does use his shoulders and eyes to look off the defenders. It gets him an open receiver and a nice completion. The DB’s are sticking to the middle of the field and are stuck in chase mode once King hitches up and throws to his read route.
Dude can run
There’s also no QB, and maybe no player, on the Miami roster who can move like this. King has a special quality to him that other players just don’t have on a mass scale. This is a mixture of power, balance, stability, quickness, and burst that puts him on another level from the athletes Miami has had. He doesn’t just run well in an IPF, this guy plays fast both as a runner and in his release as a passer.
I have said it a few times throughout this piece that King will bring a skill set to the Miami QB room that the ‘Canes have never had. I can’t recall as dynamic of a playmaker, with a quick release and as fast and sure of decision making as King in 2018. The transition to Holgorsen’s offense was a tad rocky for Houston in many ways during 2019, so I’m going to decline from really focusing on the Dana Era of the Cougars and Mr. King.
I do believe that Rhett Lashlee can get the most out of King, a player with talents that would have been wasted in the Dan Enos offense. I’m not 100% sure if King would come to Miami, or if he’ll opt for somewhere more stable such as Oklahoma or Oregon. But if he does come to Miami he has instant-starter written all over him.