The Quick Passing Game, Pt. 2

Part 2 of our feature on the LSU offense

4. It's easy to get your running backs involved in the quick game.


The basic routes used in the quick pass game (slant and hitch) are very easy for running backs to add to their offensive repertoire since most are 3- and 5-step patterns. The emphasis is on the back learning the execution of the route – nailing down his alignment and steps.

Again, the idea is to create a mismatch that favors your offensive skill player.


5. The quarterback doesn't have to have a strong arm.


Rohan Davey left an indelible impression on Tiger fans with his ability to hook up deep with his receivers over the past two seasons. He made it look easy at times.


And who will ever forget Davey's laser throw that split two Tennessee defenders for a touchdown completion to Robert Royal in the Tigers' 2000 overtime win against the Volunteers.


There's no denying Davey has a cannon for an arm, but Fisher says it wasn't the main factor responsible for his productivity. First and foremost, Davey made good decisions.


"I am big believer that at quarterback," said Fisher, "if you are a very good decision maker and you have accuracy in your game, you can be a successful quarterback. I believe that whole-heartedly."


A quarterback doesn't need a strong arm to be an accurate passer, added Fisher. The proper passing mechanics will help him pinpoint his throws.


Accuracy is so important in the quick passing game because the quarterback is trying to put the ball where the receiver can make the catch and move that receiver away from the defender. All in one motion, the receiver is supposed to make the catch, pull the ball in and turn up the field.


Depending on the reads the quarterback makes, he should know whether he has to hit his receiver on his front number, his rear number, between the numbers, on his trailing hip or over the shoulder.


"A wide receiver as to trust the accuracy of his quarterback," said Fisher. "He has to trust that the quarterback is putting the ball where the defender isn't because the receiver will have to go with the momentum of the ball and continue running."


Of course, footwork must also be emphasized. A quarterback who can't drop back quickly is a detriment in this style of offensive football, and Fisher says it is crucial for a coach to acknowledge was his players can and cannot do.


6. You can run the quick game from a variety of formations, motions and protections in order to isolate your best players.


The quick passing game appeals to one of the basic philosophies of football: you have to get your fast player on the defense's slow player.


Or put Fisher's way: "You've got to try and get your thoroughbred on their jackass."


The quick passing game doesn't rely on gimmicks or trickery, but its versatility allows for it to be run from a variety of receiver sets and even out of the shotgun. Fisher says there are more quick pass looks available when the quarterback lines up under center, but the same quick calls can be made out of the shotgun since the quarterback is essentially making the same hot reads.


And as Tennessee learned in the SEC Championship game, the Tigers can run a quarterback draw from the shotgun when a quick pass play is called.


Elements of a quick pass play


Fisher says the LSU offense practices most of its plays on the hash marks since the majority of plays in a football game take place there. This creates a short (boundary) side and a wide (field) side, each of which can be exploited in the passing game.


In a simple two-receiver, one-back set using a hitch route (see diagram), the boundary receiver lines up under the numbers on the field and runs quick fade and releases from underneath the receiver. The field receiver lines up just outside his hash mark and also tries to widen the field for the defense.


The idea is to create the best one-on-one opportunity for the playmaker, and the quarterback determines this when he makes his read at the line of scrimmage. The defense, not knowing what route it must cover, will show its hand with deep or tight coverage and committing the weakside linebacker to the inside or outside.


Fisher says he favors his quarterback looking to the boundary first, depending on the coverage, since it provides the shortest distance between two points for a conversion.


"You don't go across town when the drugstore around the corner has the same prices," Fisher explained. "We don't want to throw twice as far to get the same thing."


Next, the quarterback will seek out the softest coverage. Often a cornerback playing deep to guard against the long ball will concede a pass underneath, and the quick pass offense is happy to take what the defense is willing to give.


Finally, Fisher asks his quarterbacks to apply what he calls the "iffy rule" and there is a different rule the different coverages a defense will employ. If the defense is in three-deep, for instance, the quarterback needs to determine if where weakside linebacker is going to figure into coverage since he usually presents the best opportunity for a favorable one-on-one matchup.


If the weakside man is cheating toward the boundary, it's best for the quarterback to look to the field side since the linebacker is probably going to help the boundary corner on coverage. The strong safety on the field side is probably going to guard against the slant, meaning the tight end on that side may be open underneath if the field receiver pulls the corner away with his hitch route. The strong safety will close in a hurry, so it is important for the quarterback to hit the tight end with the ball in front of him.


Of course the hitch pass to the tight end isn't the only option available to the quarterback, and the defense may lean toward another coverage. Fisher admits that for every great offensive scheme that exists, someone has devised a way to stop. The winner of the battle is often the side that executes his scheme the best.


Challenge the quarterback


Fisher says a coach should not be satisfied when his quarterback makes a positive play. He should find out if the athlete knows why the play worked.


If the quarterback has an understanding of why his receiver was open, he will recognize the same weakness again if the defense shows it again. Likewise, he will be alert for defensive reads that aren't favorable for a certain play.


As many fans have put it, Matt Mauck doesn't have to win games for LSU this year. He just needs to avoid losing them. Decisions, like those in the quick passing game, will be Mauck's to make in 2002.


Fisher's challenge to him will be to make the right choices and know why they were correct.





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