Film Don't Lie: Auburn's Power Play

Auburn's bread and butter play is traditional smash-mouth football: the QB or RB Power play. We break it down here.

Nowhere is Auburn's commitment to physical football more evident than in their constant use of the old-fashioned Power play, which has served as their bread and butter play all season, particularly in shorter yardage situations.

The Power-O is one of the simplest and most-used concepts in football. The linemen to the playside (where the run is going) down block on the players to their inside, sealing the backside of the run, while a backside guard (sometimes the tackle or even both) pulls and leads the runner through the hole.

Usually H-Back Jay Prosch has a kick-out block on the end man on the line of scrimmage to the playside, but sometimes that player is left unblocked and "read" by quarterback Nick Marshall, pulls the ball and run if the end man collapses on the running back. Typically, however, the tape shows that where Prosch goes, the ball usually follows, a tendency Malzahn will likely try to break early in the game as FSU is sure to key on Prosch through most of the game.

Power gives great angles and leverage to the playside offensive linemen, allowing them to move the line of scrimmage. This is in sharp contrast to zone blocking packages, in which the goal is less to move the defender backwards and more to create seams horizontally.

You can see some examples of the power play from more traditional formations below.

There are several keys to limiting this play. The first is for the defensive interior to anchor as much as possible against the down blocks, keeping the line of scrimmage from moving downfield and protecting the linebackers on the second level.

Secondly, the edge player (usually the defensive end or an outside linebacker) must "set the edge" by compressing the running lane inside. Usually that edge player must also keep his outside arm free to keep from giving up the edge, but I expect FSU to "wrong shoulder" (that is, hit the blocker head up or with the outside shoulder) some against Auburn in the attempt to force the play wide, where the Noles' speed and open-field tackling ability can shine.

Finally, the linebackers then need to meet the back (or H-Back if the lead blocker precedes) squarely in the hole and tackle securely.

Auburn's Power play is basically the same as those above, but usually from the shotgun and often with jet motion across the formation to affect the edge player and draw the linebackers out of their proper gaps, creating seams for Tre Mason or Marshall (they regularly run QB Power) to produce big plays. Below, you can see Malzahn himself break down his QB power package from his days at Arkansas State.

FSU will have repped quite a bit against that QB-Power package early in the year since that was Clemson's favorite short yardage concept.

Auburn also frequently uses unbalanced line formations, something Florida State struggled with against Boston College early in the year but showed improvement against later in the year. Auburn's tempo makes it more difficult to get lined up properly against those unbalanced formations, something that the FSU staff is definitely spending a lot of practice time on.

RB-Power is the Tigers' primary play in 3rd and 3 or shorter and on the goal line, with Heisman finalist Mason displaying outstanding patience. Auburn usually runs this play to the left, where stud tackle Greg Robinson (6'5, 320) has mauled defensive linemen on the down block, often pushing the line of scrimmage three and four yards downfield. See an example of this below:

As is true with any option attack, you have to defend Auburn inside-out, and FSU's ability to limit this play on neutral downs (especially first down) is critical, as it is important to force Auburn to their constraints in order to have any success against that offense. If Auburn has success here, their perimeter run game becomes all the more devastating as the defense has to commit more to stopping the inside run, taking away support on the outside.

The ability to stop this play and get off the field on third and short is even more critical—if FSU is able to do that, it will be difficult for Auburn to win the game, as the Tigers are likely to need long drives and lots of third down conversions to have success against FSU's defense and keep the ball away from the Seminole offense.

Auburn did have more difficulty mauling the bigger defensive fronts from LSU, Alabama, and Mississippi State, they were still able to use this play to set the table for their other run concepts, a few of which we'll look at over the next few days. Of Auburn's opponents, FSU is most similar to LSU at the defensive tackles, which battled Auburn's offensive interior to a draw after getting pushed around on the first drive or two. That matchup on the interior will definitely have my eyes on the first two or three drives.


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