Act 1: Zone
I scouted 4 games of the Alabama offense and they are as zone heavy as any team. The only game I saw where they ran power was in the Ole Miss game but seeing as how LSU shut down Ole Miss’ power game last week, I would imagine they will stick to running zone against us.
They have big bodies up front that want to create displacement of the defensive line and they do a great job of doing that to open up a cut back lane but also just creating holes for their running backs to pop through. They are excellent but they haven’t played a front seven like LSU’s.
Watch Rashard Lawrence get off the block and bring down the running back against Ole Miss’ zone:
Most of their run game involves some sort of h-back action/motion and for me, it all starts with their zone split. The idea comes from teams who want to run inside zone but don’t want to give their quarterbacks the option to keep it. The concept involves, usually an h-back, blocking the backside end. You can have him line up to the backside and then base block him or have him come from across the formation which Alabama likes to do. The problem with zone split is that you don’t take back the numbers advantage that defenses inherently have in the run game but it can create a a pretty big cut back lane. They’ll run Jalen Hurts a lot but sometimes Lane Kiffin will keep him out of the run play by calling “split”.
Off their zone split, they have two progressions. Both involve reading the end. The first involves their h-back player running past the end and into the flats as a receiver. If Hurts keeps the ball, he can throw it to that player.
The second, and most dangerous progression is their arc release off the same action. The h-back will run past the end again but will now turn up field and look inside to outside and block any 2nd level player. This is how Hurts hits his explosive plays in the run game.
(this is also bad discipline by TAMU #33)
Here are a few other ways they involve zone blocking:
Pistol Outside/Inside Zone with a boot action. A better concept to run play-action off of then zone read
Midline. Read a player who isn’t used to be being read.
Jet Sweep Outside Zone. A nice change up to get their other athletes the ball.
QB Outside Zone. Let that end chase him down from the backside.
Inverted Zone Read. I really like this one. Sometimes they’ll want to get Hurts running the zone portion of play and have their running backs run away outside. They’ll often use the arc progression from this look too and it’s really nice.
LSU is going to see a lot of these plays in the run game. The best way to stop a zone running game is to get penetration into the backfield. If the offensive line can put you on skates and displace you, you’re cooked. When it comes to stopping the read action, the player they are reading can’t give the quarterback easy reads. As the end, you can’t rush up the field and force a give and you can’t turn your shoulders and scrape down the line to force a keep. LSU will squeeze their ends and keep their shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage to muddy the quarterbacks read a bit. When Hurts does give the ball, the end has to turn and close down the cut back lane. Alabama has had big gains because their offensive line moves defensive lines so far that it creates a huge cutback lane that is too big for even the great defensive ends to close down. It takes both aspects to shut a good zone running team down.
Act 2: Passing Game
Alabama’s downfield play action will remind you of LSU’s with Brandon Harris at quarterback. Downfield post routes, deep comebacks, rollout flood concepts and a host manageable quick concepts.
Rollout Flood (w/mesh route acting as pick):
Against Ole Miss, they ran a million tunnel screen to receivers but it was really the only game where I saw them do that.
LSU has the best secondary the Tide will face this year and Jalen Hurts is not a great passer. If Alabama’s offense consisted of them just dropping back with 3 and 5 step drops and trying to throw multi-layered concepts, it would look bad. Hurts isn’t good enough yet to do that. The way Lane Kiffin gets around this is by...
Act 3: Constraints and Tempo
So, yeah, Alabama can’t just line up and throw the rock all over the place. The way they’ve been able to unlock their passing game is through illusions. They distract defenders’ eyes with their array motions actions in the backfield to set up their passing game. They make everything look like one of their run plays and then all of a sudden, Calvin Ridley is behind you.
They also run a ton of constraint running plays off their most used running plays. If you see a jet sweep, you better believe Lane has a jet sweep reverse in his back pocket.
If you see QB Outside Zone, you better believe Lane has a shovel pass off that look.
A lot of Arc blocks? Arc RPO:
Alabama is also trying to play very fast. They try to get up there and snap the ball with a lot of time left on the play clock. The interesting thing for me was how often I noticed Lane Kiffin calling the exact same play over and over again. For the sake of going as fast as possible, he’ll call the same play multiple times in a row.
This was the most egregious example:
I can guarantee you that Alabama will come with some stuff that LSU hasn’t seen before as their constraint plays. I really fell in love with Kiffin’s offense from scouting them. He is true believer in the constraint and progression theory of offense. One of the questions will be whether Dave Aranda blitzes to try to create penetration in the backfield or he holds off and stays in his base and let’s his players sort through all the traffic and make plays. It’ll be an interesting match up.