Heading into spring camp, one of the main questions surrounding the UCLA football team is the same as it was a year ago: “What should we expect from the new offensive coordinator?”
The answer to that question is more attainable this year than it was at this time last year.
Whereas UCLA’s new O.C. last season – Kennedy Polamalu – was a complete mystery (he had never called plays before), the Bruins’ new offensive coordinator in 2017 – Jedd Fisch – has called plays in multiple seasons at both the college and professional level.
Simply put: We can actually research Fisch’s past offensive schemes, while we couldn’t really do that with Polamalu.
For this study, we take a look back at Fisch’s most-recent campaign as an offensive coordinator – the 2014 NFL season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. We logged data from all 987 of Jacksonville’s offensive plays in 2014, while also going in-depth and studying film from eight of Jacksonville’s 16 regular-season games.
Before we provide the numbers on Fisch’s offense, we must first state a few background facts about the Jaguars’ offensive roster that Fisch was paired with. Without this information, Fisch’s offensive approach in 2014 has no context behind it.
- Key fact #1: The Jaguars’ 2014 offensive line was one of the worst in recent NFL history. The unit allowed 4.4 sacks per game, the highest sacks-allowed figure since the 2006 Raiders allowed 4.5 sacks per game. By season’s end, only one Jaguars offensive lineman registered a grade of 73 or above via Pro Football Focus’ player grading system.
- Key fact #2: Jacksonville started four rookies on offense in 2014, including QB Blake Bortles. Bortles’ youth and his propensity for turnovers significantly limited FIsch’s play-calling abilities in 2014.
- Key fact #3: None of the Jaguars’ four running backs in 2014 (Toby Gerhart, Denard Robinson, Jordan Todman and Storm Johnson) are still on an active NFL roster as of April 3, 2017.
- Needless to say, Fisch did not have the best tools to work with when he was in Jacksonville in 2014. That’s something to keep in mind when reading through the stats below.
Fisch’s favorite personnel groupings
After watching every play from the Jaguars’ first eight games of the 2014 season, we noticed that Fisch uses the following personnel groupings the most:
11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR): 55.6 percent of plays
21 personnel (2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WR): 17.5 percent
12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR): 13.7 percent
20 personnel (2 RB, 0 TE, 3 WR): 6.0 percent
22 personnel (2 RB, 2 TE, 1 WR): 3.8 percent
01 personnel (0 RB, 1 TE, 4 WR); 1.0 percent
23 personnel (2 RB, 3 TE, 0 WR): 1.0 percent
All other groupings: Less than 1 percent for each
The above distribution seems pretty standard for an NFL offensive coordinator. Eleven personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) is one of the most frequently used personnel groupings at the NFL level, if not the most frequently used.
What stands out about Fisch’s personnel usage is the lack of four- and five-wide receiver sets. Of the 502 plays that we watched film of, only two of those plays used “10” personnel (1 RB, 0 TEs, 4 WRs) and only one used the “00” personnel (0 RB, 0 TE, 5 WRs). Fisch will most likely change this approach at UCLA, considering the fact that the team has much more depth at receiver than it does at tight end.
Once again, it all goes back to context: Fisch was dealing with a rookie quarterback and three rookie receivers in Jacksonville in 2014. So Fisch’s decision to avoid four- and five-receiver sets was probably a wise one, considering the lack of talent and experience at receiver and QB.
How much does Fisch use under-center looks?
One of the most intriguing aspects of Fisch’s offense at UCLA will be the disparity between shotgun and under-center snaps. Last year, the Bruins completely face-planted when it came to running under-center plays – to the point that Jim Mora and Polamalu completely threw those plays out of the playbook.
Looking at Fisch’s history with the Jaguars, he ran a majority of his plays came from either the shotgun or pistol formation.
Using play-by-play data from ESPN.com, we found that 640 of Jacksonville’s 987 offensive plays in 2014 (64.8 percent) came via the shotgun or the pistol. Conversely, only 347 of those 987 plays (35.2 percent) came from under center.
Analyzing Fisch’s run game
If you watch some of the Jaguars’ offense from 2014, one of the first things you’ll notice is a desire to run the football east-to-west as opposed to just north-and-south.
Fisch used a lot of stretch runs and tosses to the outside in the 2014, perhaps because he knew that his O-line wouldn’t be able to overpower defensive lines at the point of attack.
The play-by-play information from 2014 confirms that Fisch prefered to run outside the tackles as opposed to between them. Below is a breakdown of all the Jaguars’ halfback running plays in 2014:
- HB run left end: 23.1 percent of HB runs
- HB run left tackle: 7.8 percent
- HB run left guard: 5.1 percent
- HB run up middle: 31.0 percent
- HB run right guard: 6.1 percent
- HB run right tackle: 7.5 percent
- HB run right end: 19.4 percent
- (Note: “Left end” means outside the tackles to the left, and “right end” means outside the tackles to the right)
If you add up the percentage of runs plays that went off left end (23.1 percent) and off right end (19.4 percent), that equals 42.9 percent of the Jaguars’ halfback running plays. So a large portion of Fisch’s run plays to his tailbacks went to the outside.
Fisch’s heavy usage of HB stretch runs to the outside helps set up his play-action bootleg plays and designed roll-outs.
It will be interesting to see if Fisch uses these designed roll-outs and play-action bootlegs with Josh Rosen, considering the fact that Rosen hasn’t shown a tremendous amount of mobility in his two years at QB.
Analyzing Fisch’s passing game
In the eight games from 2014 that we watched film of, Fisch definitely took a conservative approach to the passing game. With a rookie QB and a shoddy offensive line, Fisch’s main initiative appeared to be getting the ball out of Blake Bortles’ hands as quickly and as safely as possible. Hence, there were a lot of bubble screens, passes behind the line of scrimmage and dump-down passes.
Here’s a breakdown of Jacksonville’s passing production in the eight games we examined:
- Passes of 20+ yards: 31 attempts (7 completions)
- Passes of 10-19 yards: 73 attempts (31 completions)
- Passes of 0-9 yards: 115 attempts (81 completions)
- Passes behind the line of scrimmage: 57 attempts (50 completions)
So, in total, 172 of Jacksonville’s 276 passes (62.3 percent) didn’t travel more than 9 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Once again, context is key here: Jacksonville was not a team well-equipped to execute deep pass plays, as the clips below show.
With better execution and better QB play, all of those plays above could have gone for touchdowns. But if they did, Fisch would probably still be in Jacksonville instead of Westwood.
Fisch has a little bit of Noel Mazzone in him
When looking through the 2014 film, some of Fisch’s play designs brought back strong memories of Noel Mazzone’s system at UCLA from 2012-2015.
One of the things that brought back memories of Mazzone’s system was the shotgun, two-running back set, in which one of the running backs goes in motion to the outside before the snap.
Here are some more examples of that pre-play motion, only this time with a one-running back set.
Another Mazzone-type play in Fisch’s offense is the wide receiver motion into the backfield, giving a quasi-triple-option look.
Fisch drew up some pretty crafty play designs in 2014 with the Jaguars, with a few admittedly being a little too much for a talent-poor Jacksonville roster to handle.
But some of Fisch’s outside-the-box play calls actually turned into big plays for the Jaguars. Check out the beautiful fake-double-reverse action on this play:
Here’s a bubble screen turned double-pass touchdown:
It’s pretty clear that Fisch will probably have a few tricks up his sleeve when he starts calling plays for the Bruins in the 2017 season. Maybe there will be a few more of these boisterous celebrations as a result: