ago Doors lead man Jim Morrison made those words famous world wide.
After two weeks of QB T.C. Ostrander loving the fact that he has two
times as much time to throw on average than his old pal and predecessor Trent Edwards, the focus for additional improvement for the Cardinal o-line's Pre-Fab
Five™ must occur in the run game. Clearly, T.C. was given ample
time to pass against the Spartans. While breaking down game film, I counted only
one QB sack while the starters were in the game. For the first time in many
moons, Stanford's offense actually allowed fewer sacks than the defense
supplied. There were a few pressures, hits and grazes that need to be cleaned
up, but over two weeks the line has shown up well, keeping the passer nice and
clean. The key to the rest of the 2007 season is to maintain and improve on this
positive protection baseline and really rev up the run game.
"sides" is a helpful tool when evaluating the run game for any offensive
unit. "Frontside" or "Playside" vs "Backside".
Playing on the opponent's side of the ball, be it the defensive line in
the offense's backfield or the offensive line and other blockers capturing the
line of scrimmage and playing on the opponent's side of the ball and getting
to the second level of defenders. Last week I commented on how well the
"backside" linemen used "cut blocks" within the concept of the zone
blocking scheme. This week that
tactic wasn't quite as effective because the Spartans were obviously coached
up to look for it and play off their diving opponents. To react to this,
"backside" blockers must change up their techniques, using what I refer to
"RRR blocking" ("Reach, Rip and Run"), by "stepping deep" with a
pulling or reach step, ripping the "backside" arm through the defender's
"playside" number and then running with him to "cover him up",
allowing the running back to cut back against the grain on the "backside" of
the call. The other key to
"backside" cut blocking in the zone concept is to be sure to "throw
through" the target area between the hip and knee, as diving at the ankle may
allow the defender to jump over the blocking attempt.
Our blockers must ensure that they keep their eyes on the target and see
their shoulders go through the target zone. Right tackle #63 Chris Marinelli in
particular has shown the consistent ability to get his man on the ground using
the cut technique. His linemates
must really focus in order to bring up their collective batting average.
I have broken down the backside of zone blocking for you enough so you
understand the basics of the techniques and options available to offensive
linemen. Relying solely on backside
cutbacks within the zone concept will not get the job done, however.
The key to the cutback of course is to have the defense flowing so hard
to the ball on the "frontside" that the defense overplays the "playside"
gaps, thus opening up backside running lanes. For the "frontside" to open
up, blockers and runners must combine high intensity with low pad level. We
started to see that combination coming together in the second quarter in
particular last Saturday night. The
first three plays of the second quarter in fact proved this out. Running right
twice behind the explosive #60 Alex Fletcher, Toby Gerhart showed excellent
vision, made a decisive cut and gashed the opponent.
Both players stood out for their "want-to" and "finish" because
Spartan defenders were going backwards and the Cardinal continued to
invade their side of the field, bringing the battle to the opponent. The third
play saw big left tackle #67 Allen Smith pull out and run to cut the cornerback,
again with low pad level, as running back Anthony Kimble navigated traffic with
a high intensity burst. Right now
the Cardinal "O" is using a number of different concepts in addition
to the zone (inside and outside) schemes. I
have also seen "lead draw", "draw" and "power"
blocking also featured in the ground assault.
All have had some success, but before I further analyze why, let me
define all of these schemes for you. Zone
blocking is fairly self explanatory with the linemen stepping in the same
direction and blocking the first threat in their "zone".
There are many variations to this play.
Typically the "aiming point" for the running back is
"outside", meaning the outside hip of the "playside" tackle.
The outside zone can be executed by a handoff or a toss from QB to
running back. This outside zone play
was a trademark of the 1995 Cardinal rushing attack, one of the best in school
history. Four of the primary six
blockers (including TE Greg Clark) were drafted by NFL teams, largely based on
their ability to "reach block" well and run this play by capturing the edge
of the defense. The trio of Clark,
Nate Parks and Brad Badger running outside right was extremely effective at
springing Anthony Bookman and Mike Mitchell on that play.
Our current squad may not possess that level of raw talent, but they do
have the ability to use this scheme to their advantage.
Anthony Kimble and Tyrone McGraw in particular should excel at this play
given their speed. The inside zone
play worked exceptionally well for Gerhart last weekend, as he aimed at the
outside hip of the playside guard (in most cases Fletcher), followed his lead
blocker, and made a decisive cut breaking into the other side of the defense.
Gerhart should be featured on these inside zone plays, as well as lead
draw and draw schemes. The draw
concept is meant to "draw" or "bait" the defensive line up the
field under the pretense of offensive pass.
This scheme in particular helps the tackles lure the defensive ends away
from the runner and towards the quarterback, who hands the ball off after a
retreat and a delay. These draw plays also set up playaction, in particular to
force the opposing linebackers to step up, opening up throwing lanes behind
them. To summarize, Gerhart's vision
and ability, along with his size and strength allow him to attack the heart of
the defense on inside zone plays (which he can also bounce outside, having
proved that in the SJS game, or cut back) or within the draw concept.
Logically offensive coordinators want to have a play and a counter to
that play built into the game plan so as to show the defense the same look while
running two or more different plays out of it.
Here's a chart that illustrates that concept:
|Play||Counter #1||Counter #2||Options||Best Personnel|
|Inside Zone||QB Boot Pass||QB Naked Boot||with or w/o Lead Blocker||Gerhart|
|Draw||Playaction||Pass||with or w/o Lead Blocker||Gerhart|
|Outside Zone||QB Boot Pass||QB Naked Boot||with Lead Blocker||Kimble/McGraw|
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