Expert Analysis: OL - "Timing is Everything"

There may not be a lot of lessons to be learned from last Saturday's offensive struggles in Corvallis, but former Stanford center and current Bootleg offensive line analyst T.J. Gaynor (1991-1995) forced himself to look at the Oregon State film and provide some insights into the importance of timing and teamwork if the Cardinal captains are to right this ship against the much-harangued Huskies!

Timing is Everything

Most people will look at the offensive production, or lack thereof, from this past Saturday and say that the BigBoys™ upfront had what you might call a rough day at the office. While this is true to some degree, upon further review the entire offense experienced tremendous difficulty on a down-by-down basis. Each man has to do his job in concert with the other ten for an offensive play to be successful. Timing and coordination. We just didn't see enough of this last Saturday. Troy Walters pointed out that receivers had a hard time making the "big" plays. Well, their counterparts in the pits had a hard time consistently opening up running and throwing lanes and oftentimes it was one man's breakdown that caused the play to fail. Yes, one single breakdown is often enough to blow up an entire play. 

The first series of the game was a microcosm of this trend. On the first play, a five-step drop pass, freshman fullback Owen Marecic breaks open on a flat route, but the pass protection starts to break down which forces QB Tavita Pritchard  to break from the pocket. Fortunately, Tavita's agility allows for a nice four-yard pickup. Even though Marecic wasn't the primary option on the play, he had plenty of room to run and would have been matched up against the weakside corner, which would have worked to our advantage. So a probable checkdown with a mismatch never materializes and we have to rely on our athletic quarterback to try and make something happen. 

On second down the Cardinal was not as fortunate as one of our tackles missed on a cut block and the defensive end took Tavita down before he could react. That may have been a miscommunication of some kind because typically tackles will only cut outside pass rushers on three-step drops. These are usually quick routes like slants where you need to get the defensive end's hands down to avert a batted ball. On that particular play there was a foul-up of some kind because one receiver ran a slant, but didn't look for the ball. Tavita appeared to drop back five steps and the tackle cut as though he clearly expected the quick throw. Just my observation, but three men thinking at the same time and executing three different things. Not the communication we are hoping to see after four games playing together... A short completion on third down left our crew short of the sticks and forced a punt. Unfortunately a harbinger of more things to come...

From then on, we frequently saw receivers come open - alas with no protection from the front wall. Again...And again. Quarterbacks and receivers slightly missing on their all-critical timing when there was more than adequate time to throw. Again...And again. One critical block missed in the run game when the other five or six defenders were effectively neutralized or out of the play. Again. And yet, again. All day long it was rare that all eleven men executed in synch on the same snap. That is the essence of offense, "eleven as one", and it just didn't come together enough times to keep us in the ballgame. Certainly you have to tip your cap to that Dam Beaver D, but suffice it to say we didn't do ourselves any favors.

As is my nature, I always try to end with the positives and growth that occurs during each game. That said, I was very happy to see the debut of the Incredible Bulk Formation (IBF) with the "Big Bopper" Bulke at fullback in front of "Mean Machine" Marecic and supported by "Clubber Lang" Kopa at tight end. This formation will allow for excellent max protection packages and short-yardage running. I don't know about Marecic as the tailback carrying twenty times a game, but you have to give it to him once in a while to keep people honest. I'd also like to see the Triple I formation with a healthy Kimble behind the Bopper and Mean Machine, with Kopa and "Thunder" Gunder at the tight ends. This would allow the OL to come off with double-team blocking either for double-leads, counters, dives to the big fullbacks as well as providing for great ball-handling fakes and thus some bootleg options for Tavita off of all those base run concepts. Stanford is a place that prides itself on diversity, so I look forward to seeing more of this girth-carrying group gracing the gridiron.

About the Author: Thomas Joseph "T.J." Gaynor [LSJU '96] aka "IrishGuru" is a native and current resident of Chicago, IL. A member of the 1991 SuperPrep All-Midlands team, he was a true freshman on the 1991 Aloha Bowl team and started at guard as a redshirt freshman in the 1993 Blockbuster Bowl against Penn State. A true center, T.J. went on to start a total of 33 games for the Cardinal including the 1995 Liberty Bowl, earning All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention honors as a senior.

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