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Offensive Production - Arkansas Review


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When I was re-watching some of the film from this year, I found a play in the middle of the Arkansas game that not only showed some of our weaknesses as an offense, but contained within it a variety of errors that would plague Auburn all year long. Even though the play was a Touchdown, I would still classify it as a failure of execution on the Offenses' part.


Situation: 2nd and goal from the 4 yard line, up by 10, 58 seconds left in the first half

Offensive Personnel: 11 personnel with the TE (Canella) lined up as a WR on the boundary

Defensive Personnel: Showing a 2-3-6 look with a safety cheating down towards the LOS. 


Pre-snap: Based on the alignment of the Defense and prior tendencies, my guess here would be that Arkansas will run either a man or zone blitz. At first glance, it looks like this might be zone (boundary corners are peeking inside), however man is the more common coverage in short-yardage situations. 

Defensive playcall: Arkansas does in fact run a man-blitz and they bring 6 defenders. In this case, they will play straight man on the WRs and leave the safety over the top in Cover 1. Both outside LBs will start in a 2-technique and will rush hard upfield to force the tackles to kick out. Meanwhile, the MLB and SS will come on a blitz while the two DTs will run a middle stunt to try and confuse the OL. This playcall is predicated on the coverage doing enough to give the blitzers time to get to the QB, which is often one way to compensate for not getting good pressure from your front 4. 


Offensive Playcall: The best way to attack Cover 1 is to attack the deep boundary, as it leaves the coverage personnel on an island. Auburn comes out with its bigger receivers (Sal Canella 6'5", Darius Slayton 6'2") lined up on the outside against Arkansas' best cover corners, but manage to sneak Seth Williams (6'3") in the slot. Keep in mind that to this point in the season, Williams had only 4 catches on the season and 0 TDs. Despite that, this play is designed specifically to get Williams open. 


On the right side of the offense, Williams and Canella will run what I think of as a play on the "Smash" concept, which will try to take advantage of the boundary corner. Williams will run a corner route while Canella will run an "In" route. Stidham's read here is whether or not the boundary stays with Canella- if he does, then the corner route will be wide open. If he doesn't, Canella should be able to "big-body" the inside defenders and complete the pass.

This concept does not work if the single-high safety recognizes it, and since the safety is following Stidham's eyes the whole way, it means that Stidham will have to "look off" the safety. This means that once the ball is snapped, Stidham will look in the opposite direction of where he actually intends to go, which will (hopefully) pull the safety safely away from the play.

If neither the corner nor the in-route are there, Stidham can then work towards the weak side where he has an out-route and a post route. Notice that both of these routes include a slight hesitation move- this is to ensure that the break in the route is delayed to make the timing work better since they are the "secondary" route concept. 

One more thing to notice: Based on the Offensive and Defensive playcalls, Auburn has enough blockers to pick up every blitzer:


Post Snap:


After the ball is snapped, Arkansas' playcall becomes more clear. Notice that Stidham immediately identifies the safety blitz as he looks off the safety. Also notice the intentional route delay to the bottom side of the formation- While Williams is giving his inside head-fake and about to break on the Corner route, Ryan Davis is still behind the line of scrimmage. 

Ultimately, this play breaks down due to poor execution by 3 people: LT Wanogho, RB Whitlow, and QB Stidham. The red circle above shows where things started to go awry- the OLB runs an inside spin move, and Wanogho is caught off-balance. His momentum carries him too far backwards, he is unable to stay upright, and OLB#10 becomes a free blitzer to the inside. 

Finally, notice that the FS is watching where Stidham is looking- exactly what Auburn wants if Stidham is to pull him away from the play side.


First the good: Stidham successfully pulled the safety to the backside of the play. Williams ran a damn good route and has the CB playing catch up. And Davis, despite having run a hesitation move, is in perfect position for his out-route at the goalline. 

Now the bad: This is where things go wrong fro RB Whitlow and QB Stidham. If Stidham were to keep his eyes downfield and make the throw rather than seeing the rush coming at him, he would have an easy TD to Williams who has at least a 2 step advantage on his man. Instead, he sees the rush, gets uncomfortable, and starts to run. His footwork prior to this wasn't bad, however he's now undone all of that work and is nowhere near ready to step into the throw and deliver an accurate ball.

It's not marked in the picture, but notice where Boobee has positioned himself- he is now on the opposite side of Horton as the blitzing MLB, and is unable to pick him up in pass protection. Even if LT Wanogho had blocked the OLB there would still have been a free rusher. 

Pass Blocking Close Up:


4 "wins", 2 "losses".


Even though I think he ran before he needed to, Stidham did at least do a good job of scrambling. He avoided the rush, tucked the ball, and decided to call his own number. Even though he scored, and I can't emphasize this enough, STIDHAM IS NOT THE HERO OF THIS PLAY. That honor belongs to none other than Ryan Freakin' Davis.


Stidham may have done a good job avoiding the rush, but 5'9" 185 lb Ryan Davis took on 2 defenders at the same time and handled both of them. These weren't small defenders either- #9 (Santos Ramirez, the corner covering Davis) and the safety who comes to clean up (#2, Kamren Curl) are over 6'2" and 200 lbs, yet Davis not only makes the block, but drives them 2 yards back and allows Stidham to get into the endzone nearly untouched. 

Play Gif, 50% Speed



This play had some good (Ryan Davis, Seth Williams, OL minus LT), some bad (Stidham), and some ugly (LT Wanogho, RB Whitlow). The playcall was a good one, and if Stidham had made the throw to Williams I would have graded this a higher, but without the throw neither the playcall nor the excellent route running made a difference. If Stidham wants to make it in the NFL, he will have to learn how to keep his eyes down field and make these kinds of plays.

Grade: C-

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