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OFD Films: Reading Way Too Much Into Practice Videos

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Wild speculation based on flimsy evidence.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Let's take a break from talking about academic fraud and suspensions, shall we?

One the big story lines this offseason is the return of Everett Golson.  Many of us expect a shift in the offensive identity of this team with three mobile quarterbacks on the roster and a starting quarterback operating with (presumably) the whole playbook.

Larz showed us the advantages mobile quarterbacks bring to the running game and Eric correlated team success to quarterback rushing yards while exploring the ideal offense for Notre Dame.  We'll have to wait until August 30th to truly see what the offense looks like, but clips from FIDM's practice reports offer hints about what the Irish have been working on this offseason.

THE PISTOL

We see a high number of plays run out of the pistol formation in the practice clips.  The Irish used the pistol occasionally last season, but it didn't come with any schematic changes; it was just a new formation.  But the pistol opens up new opportunities in the run game.

With the back behind the quarterback, the pistol allows for downhill power running not available out of the shotgun.  We see this in a goal line play.

Aug9_pistol_power_medium

Greg Bryant is lined up behind Everett Golson with freshman Tyler Luatua next to Golson as a (gasp!) fullback/lead blocker.  The play is a simple inside zone, but the pistol lets Bryant run downhill with Luatua leading the way.

Here's the video:


THE VEER

In addition to power running, the pistol also opens the door to option plays since the quarterback is several yards behind the center, like in the shotgun.

In one clip, we see the Irish running the veer out of the pistol.  The veer is a staple of option offenses.  When Notre Dame plays Navy, the Midshipmen will probably run the veer 10-20 times.

Pistol_veer_diagram_medium

The quarterback reads the defensive end.  If he crashes down on the running back, the QB will pull the ball and run outside.  If he stays home, he hands it off and the running back takes it up the middle.  If there's a second running back - say, lined up where Luatua was in the first play - then he can follow the QB as the pitch man, turning it into a triple option play.

Aug4_veer_1_medium

On this play, Cam McDaniel is the only running back, so this is only a double option.

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Ishaq Williams is read on this play.  He stays where he was lined up and doesn't make any moves towards the running back.  This is an easy give read for Golson.

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McDaniel blows past him and squirts through a hole.  In a real game, Joe Schmidt probably tackles McDaniel before the play goes for big yardage, but it's still a five or six yard gain.

Watch the video here:


While this play can be run out of the shotgun, it is much easier out of the pistol.  It allows the running back to attack the line of scrimmage faster and puts the quarterback closer to the read player, giving him an easier read.  Out of the shotgun, the defensive end can slow play the read and potentially play both the running back and the quarterback.  Williams tried to do that in the play above and it didn't work.

THE INVERTED VEER

The inverted veer is similar to the veer except the quarterback and running back switch roles.

Inverted_veer_diagram_medium

The quarterback reads the defensive end again.  If he crashes down, the quarterback hands it off to the running back who runs outside.  If the end goes outside, the quarterback keeps the ball and runs up the middle.  Because the running back has to go across the quarterback, this play can only be run out of the shotgun.

What is unique about this play is the blocking.  The blocking scheme is the same as a traditional smash mouth Power O run.   In Power O, the playside defensive end is kicked out by the fullback and the running back follows a pulling guard through the hole.  In the inverted veer, the end is read instead of blocked by a fullback.  The backside guard still pulls and acts as a lead blocker for the quarterback.

We don't see any good angles of this play in the practice videos, but we definitely see it run.  Here's Malik Zaire reading Andrew Trumbetti on an inverted veer.  You can see the helmet of the pulling guard coming into the picture.

Aug8_inverted_veer_1_medium


Here's Golson handing off to Greg Bryant on an inverted veer.

Aug9_inverted_veer_1_medium

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Ishaq Williams comes barreling into the picture, as he was clearly read on the play.

Here's the video:


What does this mean for the Irish offense?  Probably not a whole lot.  I seriously doubt we'll see Notre Dame morph into Oregon or Auburn.  Kelly likes to get his QB involved in the running game, but he probably won't ask Golson to run for 1,000 yards this season.  I believe what Kelly wants is the threat of the quarterback running the ball.  Opposing defenses will have to commit a player to the quarterback in case he keeps it on bootlegs or draws.  Option plays will free up a blocker who can spring the ball carrier for a big gain.  And the ability to keep plays alive when things start to break down can mean the difference between a punt and points.

I don't think we'll see a huge transformation on offense this season, but anything that spices up a stagnant running game while getting Golson to that magical 300+ yards rushing mark is a good thing in my book.