Let's first preface the following by pointing out this is a Film Study post done off highlight film, so, naturally, it's going to be really impressive. It's highlight film; we don't see any flaws.
And we'd also be remiss if we didn't point out the subject of our Film Study, Darius Lee-Campbell, has work to do to be a starting-level Big 12 quarterback. He'll need to bulk up, really improve his accuracy and get more comfortable in the pocket. He throws a nice deep ball, but arm strength doesn't totally pop on film, and he "pats" the ball while going through his reads, which at times can be read as a sign of indecision or hesitation.
With that said: Lee-Campbell has the hard-to-teach skills and smoothness to be an exceptional operator of Iowa State's pistol offense and, in terms of decision making, is light years ahead of other "dual-threat" high school quarterbacks, who oftentimes are just really big and fast guys who improvise too much and scramble around the pocket on pass plays just waiting for a running lane to open up.
Occupying most of Lee-Campbell's career highlight tape from Spring (TX) is an abundance of option plays, sometimes with three reads. Give, keep, pitch? Which one? There are multiple decisions to make in what amounts to less than a second, and a quarterback's comfort level with the process is the difference between a loss of yardage or a 50-yard touchdown — which is what we saw with Grant Rohach, as early on he struggled with those option decisions but improved as the 2013 season wore on, keeping a read-option for a 54-yard score up the middle.
Speed options parallel to the line of scrimmage were a favorite of displaced offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham in short-yardage situations with Sam Richardson as the engineer. Depending on the ankle the unblocked defender takes, the quarterback will either fake in and then pitch, or fake out, with some rapid elbow-fake action, and keep.
Spring High School has three middle school feeders, none of them running anything as complex as the big-boy option plays, so players don't learn the schemes or plays until they're freshmen. Many Texas schools not only instruct the middle school coaches to run a bare-boned version of the playbook but they have their area Pop Warner coaches use a playbook as similar as possible, adjusting to the skill set of fifth graders.
Doesn't happen at Spring, so that makes it tough.
"It took me about two years [to learn the offense]," Lee-Campbell said Monday. "My freshman year, I was just doing my own thing. My sophomore year I started to get the hang of it then I started studying it and understanding the offense as a whole. Then it all slowed down for me."
Lee-Campbell told me over the weekend film study is a big part of game, that he enjoys locking himself in a room and studying tape for hours. He's a highly-intelligent guy who's managed a 3.59 GPA and had offers from Yale and Wake Forest. Let's not assume that book smarts translate directly to the gridiron, but there is something to be said for comprehension of advanced concepts, playbook retention and the ability to move through problems — on a football field, we'll call these "reads" — in a quick and confident manner.
Assuming the Cyclones keep a shell of the Pistol offense (the safe bet is they will), Lee-Campbell is a perfect fit.
"I love this offense," he said Monday.
Let's see why.
(Note: A red circle is used to spotlight Lee-Campbell, while a green one points out his "read." A blue line can mean either the mesh point or the other option on the fake).
Here the unblocked defensive end is shading toward his left, where the dive back would meet him in the middle, so Lee-Campbell keeps it, then will fake the cornerback out with some shoulder action toward the pitch man (blue), who we can't see. This goes for a touchdown.
We'll also point out all of these are Lee-Campbell keepers because, well, it's his highlight tape. But that shouldn't discount anything. There are obviously times when Lee-Campbell is handing the ball off or subsequently pitching it. Based on the smoothness of what we see here, we're able to gather he's making the correct decision most of the time.
Another really pretty read-option with some veer action, as there's a pulling blocker and Lee-Campbell will dive down the middle.
Thanks to some crunching blocking on the right side, Lee-Campbell finds daylight after smartly keeping the ball during the mesh point.
The first part of this play is the mesh with the dive back. Noticing there's not much to gain with that decision, Lee-Campbell pulls the ball back and runs in symphony with his pitch back, who he then shoulder-fakes to to juke out the outside defender.
Our last example features another triple-option play by Spring. Lee-Campbell sees the play side defensive end crashing inside, so he pulls the ball back with No. 31, the pitch man, handing behind him. If he were to pitch it, the play would get minimal yardage, as that defender we've highlighted in purple is sitting on it at the top of the line of scrimmage.
Instead, another fancy fake to the pitch man pulls the man in purple off the play, and suddenly Lee-Campbell has the angle on both his would-be defenders.