Ask The Scout

Chris Landry is a veteran NFL scout, having served with the Cleveland Browns, Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans and formerly ran the Indianapolis Scouting Combine. He now runs his own Scouting Consulting business where he scouts NFL and College personnel for NFL teams and help Universities and NFL teams in their Coaching evaluations and Searches. He can be heard nationally on FOX Sports Radio as their college football and NFL analyst.

Your thoughts on Notre Dame's firing of Tyrone Willingham?

As a coach, I hate to see any coach not get five years to implement his program but it is reflective of the current state of college football. Today, if an administration feels the program is not headed in the right direction, they rather head it off after year three. You saw that with Ron Zook at Florida and Gerry DiNardo at Indiana recently. Notre Dame's biggest problems stem from a lack of high quality talent to compete with the top 10 programs in the country on a consistent basis. Willingham and his staff have been only average with utilizing the talent that they had and have done a poor job with game day preparation and adjustments. The sub par recruiting efforts could stem from administrative philosophies as much as staff coordination. Had Willingham stayed, things probably would have not progressed positively enough. Expectations have changed in college football and your organizational structure and philosophy must meet your goals.
Assess Urban Meyer fit there and who would be the backup plans?

There is no doubt he is their guy and intermediaries are further along in the negotiation process that people may realize. Notre Dame is Meyer's dream job, a former Notre Dame assistant who left a great impression and vice versa during his tenure on Bob Davie's staff. He is a Midwest guy from Ashtabula, OH who loves that part of the country. While many would consider the Florida job a better one, Meyer would have to be completely turned off by the Notre Dame's direction for this not to be a marriage. Things are so solid in this direction that there is no second option at this point. New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, a Notre Dame graduate, would be interested. Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White hired Kirk Ferentz at Maine years ago and would make the Iowa coach turn him down. The other names mentioned with Notre Dame have no validity whatsoever at this time.
How does this affect the Florida search?

Meyer was going to have to decide whether to take the Florida job or wait a Utah for another year or two to see if an opening emerged at Notre Dame, Michigan or Ohio State in that order. With Meyer likely off to Notre Dame, Florida's most likely choice will be Butch Davis with Bob Petrino as a backup candidate. Athletic Director Jeremy Foley wants to make another run at Bob Stoops and Mike Shanahan but will not likely get very far.
What is Willingham's future?

He will have an opportunity on the Arizona Cardinals staff with Dennis Green with whom he has worked with in the past if he chooses not to stay in college. The University of Washington is a possibility but he's not first or second on their list. He is a first class individual, a man of high integrity and a hard worker. He will be fine and would likely have better success as a head coach with this experience under his belt.
What about the openings at Illinois, Washington, Stanford and others?

The front runner at Illinois is Mike Leach, head coach at Texas Tech. They are interested in his exciting brand of offense and feel it could attract both fans and a certain recruiting base at home in Illinois. Ron Zook has a good interview with the administration recently and is also a strong candidate. They are also looking into Jim Leavitt of South Florida and Randy Edsall at Connecticut. Zook, by the way is also interested in Ole Miss and would be interested in Pitt if that opens up. He could have the East Carolina job if he wants it.

Washington will throw lots of money at Jeff Tedford at Cal and would love Urban Meyer. With both of those unlikely, Dan Hawkins of Boise St., Tyrone Willingham, Les Miles of Oklahoma St. and Scott Linehan, offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings are on their radar screen.

Stanford has a real interest in Dan Hawkins of Boise St. and are making a strong push. Packers receiver coach Ray Sherman and former Giants coach Jim Fassell have been mentioned on the inside. Walt Harris of Pitt has expressed interest. USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow has been mentioned but they are not willing to spend the money it would take to get him. Chow is paid extremely well at USC and has a housing allowance with allows him to leave rent free in a nice area of Los Angeles. There is no chance of Willingham returning to Stanford.

Rick Neuheisel is trying to get the San Jose St. job and recently fired BYU coach Gary Crowton is looking at the possibilities of returning to Louisiana Tech.
Is there anyway Auburn can catch Oklahoma and make the championship game?

Oklahoma or USC would have to lose for Auburn to make the championship game. Even with a decisive Auburn win and close Oklahoma win would likely not be enough as Auburn could not make up enough ground in the human polls.
What is your feeling on the BCS automatic bids and the fact the Big East has an automatic bid? What would do differently? When the BCS was formed, it was to make sure #1 played #2 and the other games were just to assure an even piece of the pie to the other BCK conferences. With last season's threat of a lawsuit, non-BCS conferences can get in on the action like Utah this year. The BCS is not designed to take the best 8 teams (other than #1 and #2) like some people think. I believe that automatic conference selections should be contingent on a conference champion finishing in the top 12 of the BCS. In other words, the Big East does not deserve a bid this year competitively.
What would have to happen for Colorado to beat Oklahoma?

It would be a bigger surprise than Oklahoma's loss to Kansas State last year. Colorado would need to get off to a fast start with the running game and get a career game from its quarterback Joel Klatt who is very talented but has been very consistent. Colorado has a good power runner in Bobby purify and would need to play a ball control style game and get some big plays in the passing game off the play action with their talented receiving corps of Blake Mackey, Evan Judge and Ron Monteilh.

Colorado's offense has a better chance of success than its defense does of slowing down Oklahoma's balanced offensive attack. Winning the field position and turnover battle is a must. CU's return game has been very average all season but their coverage units are physical and are capable of creating a turnover or two. Punter John Torp has an explosive leg and creates good hang time for its coverage unit. Kicker Mason Crosby does a great job as well with hang time give the Buffs a great chance to limit Sooner returners Antonio Perkins and Mark Bradley.

Colorado would need some help from Oklahoma to win the game and play the game of its collective life. The North of the Big XXII has been very weak all year but Colorado presents a better challenge than Iowa State could have. That said, this would be the upset of the year if Colorado pulled this off.
Does Tennessee have any chance versus Auburn?

Tennessee's only chance is if Auburn tightens up and loses the game because this is a slightly above average Tennessee team. Auburn has been the best defensive team in the country, has a dominant running game and usually starts quickly allowing its pressure defense to take off. For Tennessee to have any chance, they have to start out quickly, protect the ball and control the ball on the ground with their running game. In their first meeting, the Volunteers fell behind 31-3 in the second quarter taking their runners out of the game.

In order to keep Auburn from playing eight man fronts, they will need an outstanding game from the limited Rick Clausen at quarterback. Tennessee's receivers Robert Meachem, Jayson Swain and Bret Smith are big playmaking types after the catch who will need to take the quick slants and do some damage against Auburn's aggressive defense. Tennessee's offensive line has a 50 pounds advantage over Auburn's undersized but quick defensive front. They must dominate the line of scrimmage and control the ball and limit Auburn's offensive possessions. Punter Dustin Colquitt is capable of creating good field position and hopefully a short field for their offense.

Auburn has been the best team in the SEC all season long and Tennessee is fortunate to be in the game. Georgia and Florida underachieved this year and would both have been tougher match ups for Auburn. Auburn also has a decisive coaching advantage with its game preparation and in game adjustments. .
What about the USC/UCLA game?

Rivalry games are also unpredictable and dangerous for the favorite but USC is just too strong and UCLA just does not have the defense to stay with the Trojans. For UCLA to have any chance, they need to establish its running game early and keep USC's offense of the field. The Trojans have struggled stopping good running attacks all year long. California ran well all game long and Stanford, Notre Dame and Arizona State all ran well for a half but could not hold up defensively and lost their offensive balance as they got behind in the game.

If UCLA gets a few breaks early they have enough offense to keep this close for a while. Running backs Maurice Drew and Manuel White Jr. have combined for 1,634 yards and 15 touchdowns on 287 carries this season. Winning the time of possession battle is crucial for the bruins success. Drew is an explosive and quick open field runner and compliments the power running of White. If USC continues with a slow start, it will enhance UCLA's chances to remain patient with its running attack. Putting some points up early, dominating the field position and getting a plus 3 turnover advantage would give the Bruins a chance.
How would the top of the draft look right now?

Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers will likely come out and go very high, possible first overall. Running backs Carnell Williams of Auburn and Cedric Benson of Texas will go high. Receivers Braylon Edwards and Mike Williams formerly of USC will go in the first half of the first round. Tackle Alex Barron of Florida State will go top 5 as will Miami corner Antrelle Rolle and Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson.
Can you explain why teams seem to be using more screen passes in their offense and what makes them effective?

Screens take advantage of athletic wide receivers and running backs and make defenders tackle in the open field matching the wide receivers and running backs on linebackers and safeties. Screens slow down the pass rushing charge of defensive linemen. The screen attacks zone blitz teams that give up an underneath zone in pass coverage and they give the offense a chance for big plays against man-to-man blitz schemes. The reason screens are so successful in college football is that offenses take advantage of the NCAA rule that allows offensive players to block downfield while the ball is in the air if the ball is caught behind the line of scrimmage. This is a major advantage to the offense because offensive players can actually pick defenders while the ball is in the air. Whether the defense is in zone or man-to-man coverage, this puts them at a tremendous disadvantage. In the NFL, you are not allowed to block downfield while the ball is in the air regardless of where it is caught.

Some of the most popular types of screens are the bubble screen, the jailbreak screen, the traditional slow screen, and the crack screen.

The bubble screen is a wide receiver screen where the receiver actually bubbles away from the line of scrimmage and the quarterback. The most common form involves the other wide out picking the defensive back and giving the receiver a chance to run after the catch. The wide receiver bubbles back to allow this to time out. This is a great route against a 3-deep zone or soft man-to-man if the outside defender is giving a cushion.

It's a simple scheme, but the throw is not as easy as it looks. The quarterback must throw it accurately so the wide receiver can catch the football in full stride on his way toward the line of scrimmage. You actually may turn the outside defender loose (not blocking him) and just see if he can tackle the receiver in the open field. The bubble screen is also used to combat today's zone blitz schemes. If the defense blitzes and goes from a 2-deep hide to a 3-deep, it is a great play. Some offenses will actually abort a running play and throw a bubble screen if the linebacker blitzes. The only players who make this judgment are the wide receivers and quarterback. The offensive linemen and running backs actually go ahead and execute a running play. What the offense has done in the huddle is call two plays. The call allows the quarterback to audible to the bubble screen at the line of scrimmage.

The jailbreak screen is a wide receiver screen that involves the wide receiver coming back to the quarterback at the snap of the ball. The reason it's called a jailbreak is because the offensive line releases automatically downfield to block. The offense uses a tight end or wide receiver to go away from the line of scrimmage to pick the outside receiver's man. The linemen punch the defensive line to stop their initial charge then release downfield to form a wall. The offensive tackle stays in and chops the defensive end to get his hands down so that the ball can be thrown over the top of him.

The slow screen requires a lot of timing and execution and involves a lot of deception. It is effective against zone defending teams and defensive linemen that get up the field causing separation. It is generally not effective against man-to-man as a linebacker immediately zeroes in on the running back. The quarterback, instead of taking his traditional 5-step drop, actually drops deeper to allow the defensive linemen to rush up the field farther. This also allows the linebackers to drop deeper into coverage which creates separation. The offensive tackle to the side of the screen sets as if to pass block and then chops the defensive end -- once again so the ball can be thrown over him. The guards and centers hold for a one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two count and then release to form a wall -- usually to a landmark on the field. The halfback stays in, fakes pass protection and then slips out to be the receiver. As you can see, it takes much timing and execution, but if you catch the defensive in zone coverage, it can be an excellent play.

The crack screen is a tremendous play against man-to-man coverage when you know which defender is assigned to the running back. You simply crack a wide receiver from the outside in on the defender responsible for the running back. Once again, you are allowed to block back towards the ball as long as the ball is thrown behind the line of scrimmage and you don't block below the waist. In the example below, the wide receiver cracks back on the mike linebacker who is assigned to the back. As simple as this play looks, it is difficult for the man covering the wide receiver to switch off and take the mike linebacker's man.

The success of any screen play is dependent upon on calling the right screen against the defensive match up. With the wide receiver screens, it is a simple execution play and a lot depends on the ability of the wide receiver to run after the catch. The big positive in screens is that they are basically simple to execute and provide you with the chance for a big play against an aggressive defense. Top Stories