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November 9, 2011

Scout's Eye View: Breaking down big plays

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BREAKING DOWN BIG PLAYS WEEK: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

Most college football fans, when watching a game for the sake of enjoyment, simply follow the ball and pay little mind to what is happening on the field as far as positional groupings, schemes and whatnot. Each week Inside the Gators will take you 'behind the scenes' as former college coach and scout Michael Digman breaks down several of the biggest plays of the game.

***If the videos aren't playing under each description, click here to watch the highlights (scroll down to UF-Vanderbilt highlights on the right)***


John Brantley 11-yard pass to Jordan Reed


On this First & 10 play the Gators are in the Split Back gun formation with nasty splits. Vanderbilt is showing an Under front with two safeties high and they move to an Over front just before the snap.

Florida is running the Hank concept in their drop back passing game. This is very similar to traditional Curl Flat where the outside receivers run Curls and the slot or tailback runs a Flat route. The difference on Hank is that you have the Hank route which means the slot to the 3 receiver side will run to get to a spot 8-10 yards deep, directly over the ball. This may not seem like it makes much of a different, but it's a huge concept difference. Traditional Curl Flat is designed to beat Cover 3 and is basically dead against cover 2. The Hank route is great against Cover 2 and can even pull extra linebackers in so that the Curl routes that would normally be covered are now open as well.

Vandy is playing Tampa 2 on this, so the Hank route is an easy completion. It is also a very simple read for Brantley. He drops back and his first read is to throw the Hank if it's open. He does just that, on rhythm and it's an easy first down.

In this instance however, it's a good thing the first read was open, because the pass pro is pretty terrible on this play. There is no blitz so the five linemen are working together to block the four defensive linemen. The left guard (Kyle Koehne) immediately gets beaten on an outside rush with a swim move. The right tackle (Matt Patchan) is beaten on a spin move right out of the gate as well.

Brantley does a great job of getting rid of the ball before his target Reed is even out of his break or this play could've been a big loss.

I haven't watched but a couple of Florida games start to finish, but what is striking to me as I do this week to week, is that even on UF offensive highlights, how badly the Gators offensive line has been this year.

Here, on a positive play for Florida, two of the five linemen are beaten badly by Commodores defensive linemen, who aren't exactly the elite linemen of the SEC.

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Brantley 26-yard pass to Andre Debose

Here, once again the Gators are again in the Split Back gun formation with nasty splits. Vandy is lined up in an Even front with both inside backers walked up in the A gaps trying to show blitz. They're also in a two safety defense, playing cover 6. This means they're playing cover 2 to the boundary and cover 4 to the field.

Florida is running a Flat/Corner combination to the top of the screen, which should be good against any 2 safety coverage. However, Vanderbilt has their outside linebacker moved way outside so that he can cover up the flats. The corner sinks into the Corner route and the outside linebacker expands with the Flat route, so the Gators have nothing front side.

Brantley recognizes this so he comes backside to his secondary read, his dig route that is wide open, because the backside inside linebacker attacks the tailback out on a flat route.

The offensive line is in a 7 man protection so that both backs stay in and help if needed, before releasing. Against this look it can get tricky if they change the protection to pick up this blitz and then it doesn't come. They could've ended up with a back protecting against a defensive end, but they did a good job of figuring things out and getting their big on big.
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Brantley 13-yard pass to Trey Burton

Here is a first & 10 play where Florida is in the traditional Shotgun Spread formation rather than the Pistol. The Commodores are in an even front with 2 high safeties. The pass route appears to be some sort of Verticals concept, but it is difficult to tell with the limited video.

With it being so late in the half they're most likely trying to get a big gain or hit someone on the sideline to get out of bounds. What happens many times in this situation is that the entire defense gets depth leaving the underneath open.

That is exactly what happened here, so Brantley does the smart thing and finds Burton underneath so that he can get the most out of the play, and in this case get the first down to stop the clock as well as keep the chains moving.

Being a quarterback isn't about airing it out down the field just to show that you have an arm. This is a classic example of taking what the defense gives you. There's no need to try to force a throw into coverage if you can dump the ball down and still pick up the first down.

Smart play by Brantley to keep the offense moving forward

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Jaye Howard sack for an 11-yard loss

Here Vanderbilt is lined up in a One back Wing formation. Florida is in an over front playing cover 4 with a pressed corner into the boundary. Vandy is in a six man protection where they're using their five linemen and Wing tight end.

The match-up of a defensive end against the Wing tight end is a huge mismatch, especially out of this alignment. The Wing barely touches the end (Sharrif Floyd), who immediately disrupts the quarterback. The two interior defensive linemen (Dominique Easley & Howard) are getting double teamed. The nose, up top (Easley), manages to get far enough over to work just on the center. He uses a slap and rip to get inside the center, who seems to be focused on blocking someone else for some reason. Then there is Howard up top, who reads through the play action fake and then hustles around the corner to get in on the action and eventually make the sack.

Vanderbilt's offensive line seemed confused about the play call and what their responsibilities were. The wing, right tackle, and center all seemed to be uncertain as to who they should block. This doubt allows the Gators, playing at full speed to get by and make a big play. It also worth noting that while Rogers didn't have much time to get rid of the ball, the Gators had excellent coverage down field to prevent him from being able to get a pass off.


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Brantley 20-yard pass to Frankie Hammond Jr.

Here on a second & 11 play, the Gators are in the Pistol version of the Strong I formation. Everything about this offensive play screams NFL except for it is being run out of the Pistol.

Vanderbilt is in an under front with the Sam linebacker walked up on the line of scrimmage, with two safeties deep. The pass route is a play action pass where the Z Receiver (Hammond) comes in short motion and runs a deep numbers route. This means that he must get across the field to the numbers at about 18-22 yards deep.

The tight end Reed runs a shallow route and the X Receiver (Quinton Dunbar at the top of the screen) runs a Vertical or Skinny Post. The idea is for the X Receiver, Dunbar, to run the corner and or safety off deep. Then to get the Numbers route and Shallow route to hi/low the flat defender that is either an outside linebacker or in this case a hard cover 2 corner. This is a very common route in the NFL.

The most difficult part of this play is getting the protection needed for the slower developing routes. Here, the Gator offensive line is giving up ground, but they're covering up their guys and staying on them. The Right side sells the play action more so they "Jump" set their guys. This basically means that instead of kick back in protection they immediately get up in the face of the defender they have to block. The left side is away from the run action so they take more of a pass set. The line also gets double teams up front to sell the run fake, as well as provide an advantage is pass pro.

Watch Brantley here, he executes the fake then finds his vertical route to make sure it is clearing things out properly. If Dunbar hasn't cleared the area, the Numbers Route by Hammond Jr. isn't likely to be open at all. After that he finds the flat defender to see which route he's going to cover. As I mentioned earlier, the flat defender is the corner. The corner sinks initially, but then comes up on the shallow route run by Reed, leaving the deeper route by Hammond Jr. wide open. So Brantley throws an accurate ball, on time to his numbers route for a first down.

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Michael Digman was a Division II quarterback before being a student assistant for the quarterbacks at the University of Missouri. He has made stops at several high school and college programs, including working the quarterbacks at the University at Buffalo under current Kansas head coach Turner Gill. Along the way, he has also worked alongside new Texas Longhorns offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin.


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