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Multiple tight end sets should benefit the Hurricanes in ‘23

New OC Shannon Dawson loves to use tight ends and Miami has a TE room with plenty of potential.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 Southern Miss at Miami Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

New Miami offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson likes to use tight ends in his offense. Lucky for him- the Miami Hurricanes tight end room is loaded with untapped potential. Jaleel Skinner and Elijah Arroyo are a solid 1-2 punch, with Cam McCormick, Dominic Mammarelli and Riley Williams also on campus and looking to contribute.

A coaching friend of mine sent over this screenshot that was going around Twitter and we discussed our favorite 4th and Goal from the +2 play calls.

Our consensus take was- why the hell are teams going in the I-Formation at 4th and Goal? Even when teams ran the I-Formation and 21 personnel (two running backs, one tight end) as their base offense in the 1990’s, most OC’s would add tight ends inside the +5.

This picture, and some message board fodder over the I-Form (I have no idea why the 90’s were so En Vogue this weekend) led me down the wormhole of what I would run from the +2 yard line on 4th and Goal if I was the Miami OC this season.

Horns Down

When Dana Holgorsen was still at West Virginia in 2018, he had Will Grier at quarterback and a prolific offense that season. Wide receivers David Sills and Gary Jennings combined for 28 touchdown receptions but some how WVU was still only 8-4 on the campaign.

But what that season is probably most famous for is the “Horns Down” play the Mountaineers ran to beat Texas on a 2-point conversion.

Rather than cramming the box with players, Dana forced the Longhorns defense to cover all 53 13 yards of field width, even from inside the five yard line, by going empty. Now just because there’s no running back in a traditional picture doesn’t mean one can’t be on the field just spread out wide.

Above- This is a two-read pre-snap look and a one-read post-snap look. The pre-snaps are the trio bunched to the bottom of the screen (right side) for the now screen, and the option route solo receiver to the top of the screen (left).

Above- The post-snap read is stick to draw. If the stick is covered (it’s double teamed) then Grier was supposed to run draw and work his way into the end zone.

For Miami

So... how does this work for the Hurricanes? In a 12 personnel look (one running back, two tight ends) with Jacurri Brown at the QB position. Mario Cristobal and Josh Gattis threw together a “Brown Package” last season, and the young QB needs to keep getting reps on the field in case Tyler Van Dyke goes down and Brown is forced to start in ‘23.

Arroyo is the Y, Skinner is the H. I would put WR Colbie Young at the X as he would be hard to defend 1-on-1 between jump balls and using his frame to box out on a slant. RB Henry Parrish is the B, and WR Xavier Restrepo is the Z.


I think you can get a lot of mileage out of Horns Down with Brown at QB during the ‘23 season. But you have to have some other looks to keep defenses honest. With the amount of analysts, etc. looking over film weeks in advance- some wrinkles would need to exist.

As an OC, I ran Hoosiers in 2019. Above- you can see the spacing the concept gets for the lookie route (Z) and the Fin route (H). The corner route (Y) draws the safety out with him. When I needed a quick 1st down or touchdown Hoosiers was a great passing concept to get the job done. It’s hard to defend and the ball comes out quickly to the lookie.

For Miami

Van Dyke can stay on the field at Q for the Hoosiers passing concept. It’s a split-field concept, so back side can be slant-swing. Front side Restrepo is at Z, Skinner at H, and Arroyo at Y. Young is still at the X and Parrish at B.

Split Zone Slide

I have always believed in the Tecmo Super Bowl style of offensive play calling. You have to have the concept, it’s play-action, and it’s ‘counter’ of sorts. For split zone coaches can draw up a naked boot flood concept and tag on RPO’s. The ‘counter ‘here would be the slide RPO tag to the Y.

Run enough split zone and the beauty is you have this slide to tag on and make the back side defensive end wrong. There’s no more squeezing under the kick out block, now you’ve left the flat open and it’s an easy six.

For Miami

This would be a standard 12p grouping for Miami. Van Dyke at Q, Young at X, Arroyo at Y, Skinner at H (those can be flipped but the less obvious of the two being the slide guy certainly helps the misdirection aspect) and Restrepo at Z. At the B, Parrish was a solid lock to pick up 3-4 yards in ‘22, give the guy the rock until someone beats him out.

Rub Concept

“Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat” Those are wise words from Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Technically this rub concept is illegal, it’s a pick play. But who gives a damn, right? It’s dialed up every week all over college football and no one calls a thing (unless it’s Notre Dame vs. Florida State).

I would want my TE’s (H and Y) as the pick guys, my Z being a little speedster that can sneak in there like the lookie route from Hoosiers, and my B a sure-handed player that can make sure the route hits the front pylon just inside the goal line.

For Miami

This would be a standard 12p grouping for Miami. Van Dyke at Q, Young at X, Arroyo at Y, Skinner at H and Restrepo at Z. Whichever back has the softest hands needs to come into the game, it would help if Parrish can stay on the field as he’s a great option to pick up hard yardage and to set up in pass pro.

G Series

You’re seeing more and more “G Series” plays inside the +5 yard line from teams every season. 12 personnel, 22 personnel, etc and down blocking everyone and kicking the play side defensive end out with the play side guard.

Above- Look at FSU running this exact concept against Miami in 2022. One combo, a series of down blocks and a nasty kick out for a TD.

For Miami

I might flop my H and Y here and have Arroyo as the H and a more sure lead blocker, and Skinner as the Y and a potential play-action pop pass guy throughout the season. If we’re using the TSB method, Miami would need a play-action off this look and a pop pass to Skinner would be an easy TD.


The Oklahoma Sooners and Clemson Tigers have used the swing-counter combination to perfection and Miami really needs to join the 2020’s already in their play calling. This play can be ran same side as the swing or opposite side, it just depends on what the defense is doing with their pre-snap adjustments to formations.

Above- Clemson is reading that overhang defender. When the back goes in motion pre-snap and then swings the overhang runs to the swing.

That becomes a keep read and some guy at quarterback keeps behind his puller. That’s one hell of a lot of space there for the QB to run to.

For Miami

This is clearly a Brown play and not a Van Dyke play. However, in the future, Cristobal and Dawson need to have a mobile QB and not a statue back there if they want to compete for the College Football Playoff National Championship. Very few statues are winning rings at QB in the 2020’s.

The Wrap

A great OC is going to put the most talent on the field and use it appropriately. There’s no reason to force a system in on players where it doesn’t fit. Miami has the tight ends for Dawson’s 12 personnel sets, but I hope they aren’t always lined up in traditional pictures.

It’ll be Dawson’s job to get Skinner out wide, use Arroyo inline or in the backfield, put Brown in the game for packaged plays and make sure Young is lined up 1-on-1 against smaller CB’s. Dawson’s experience comes from the Air Raid and Holgorsen coaching tree and Dana has always found a way to make things work for his talent on hand.

But when the season is over they don’t ask how, they ask how many. Just score some damn points already.