It's my birthday today so I decided to treat myself by watching Brandon Harris against Auburn. It's not easy to get a feel for Harris based on this game alone because, for one, Auburn was not very good last year, but also because LSU ran a lot of quick throws or one-read concepts. If you take out the two jet sweeps that count as passes, there's only 11 real throws. That's a small sample size and I feel like I should thank based Cam Cameron, Les and Leonard for me not having to cut up 30-40 passing plays.
In the comments on my last article, there were some people asking for more context when analyzing the quarterbacks and more projection for 2016 on Brandon Harris. This was my response, "I hate making statements like that. I have in past articles but I change my mind often on stuff like this. I’ve changed my mind so many times on Harris. Projecting QBs is something that I need to be better at. I can explain to you what happened on a given play but projecting is a whole other art. My forecasting skills need more time to marinate. But then I listen to these national pundits and they don’t really project accurately either so maybe it’s not something that important? I don’t know. There’s an infinite number of universes, hopefully Harris can become great in this one!"
I've been thinking about this stuff recently, as it seems I have completely scrapped the way that I was teaching quarterback mechanics in the past week. How can I feel comfortable making bold statements if I'm gaining new football knowledge every day? These are the philosophical questions that gnaw at me. Sometimes I feel like a fraud who really doesn't know enough about this sport. Other times I even question my ability to teach the things that I really do know. Understanding a concept is one thing, teaching it is another. I started coaching a women's tackle football team on the side of my school team and the QB is a great girl who hasn't played a lot of QB in her life. Can I get through to her? I've been coaching her for a few months now and she still doesn't read the defense at the level I feel she should. Is it me? Is it her? What about her technique? I think throwing mechanics should be something taught in the offseason but with my new found knowledge on the subject should I teach it and get on her when she doesn't do it right? So many question, so little time. Happy Birthday, Seth.
9:21 1st Quarter, 1st & 10 at the LSU 22 -
Last week, we talked about how important it is to throw these types of screen passes accurately. It's not as easy as it looks, but the level of difficulty still isn't very high. This is a good throw and Leonard Fournette can take it in stride and be sensational.
5:33 1st Quarter, 2nd & 5 on the Auburn 46 -
This looks like a designed play-action screen as opposed to Harris reading a defender whether to pull the ball from Fournette or not but I may be wrong. Again, just like the first clip, Brandon throws the ball to Derrius Guice accurately and Guice does work to get the first down.
1:45 1st Quarter, 3rd % Goal on the Auburn 1 -
LSU runs my favorite goal-line play from NCAA 2004. Your classic bootleg with a receiver in the back of the endzone and one at the front. The play design gets Jeter open with a step on the defender. Harris reads it from deep to short and although JD Moore is wide open, Jeter is open too and Harris throws an accurate pass for the touchdown.
14:49 2nd Quarter, 1st & 10 at the LSU 28 -
Our first contentious throw of the game comes on this first and 10. Cameron wants to take a first down shot down the field so he calls for two vertical routes -- posts -- from the twins side (Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre) with a deep square in route coming from the backside (Colin Jeter). Harris, again, is reading this play top down. The inside post by Dupre and the route by Jeter put the safety in a bind. This is a common theme in LSU's downfield passing attack. If the safety stays deep, we look to the underneath route and if the safety gets caught looking underneath, we throw a touchdown. The replay shown below starts when Harris has finished his dropback and we can see how long it takes him to diagnose that the safety is going to stay on top of the post route by Dupre. LSU, no doubt, spends a lot of practice reps timing up the drop of the quarterback and the routes being run. Once Harris gets to the end of his drop, he's got to have a decision made up in his mind about the safety. Jeter is open for a long time before Harris makes his decision. This late processing almost gets the tight end killed.
10:06 2nd Quarter, 1st & 10 on the LSU 38 -
With LSU lined up in 21 personnel (two running backs and a tight end), Auburn drops their strong safety into the box to give themselves an eight-man front in an effort to stop local freight train Fournette. The more people you have in the box, the better chance you have of stopping the run. The downside of this comes in how you can play your coverages. With 1 high safety you're left with either playing some variation of Cover 1 (man with a free safety) or a variation of Cover 3 (zone). Auburn ends up playing a simple Cover 3 with their cornerbacks off at 7 yards depth. One of the pre-snap giveaways that it might be Cover 3 is that the corners are playing open to the quarterback. LSU calls a route concept that hits Cover 3 (or any off cornerback) in it's weak spot: the flat. Off play action, Dural runs a 7 yard comeback route and Harris delivers the ball accurately for an easy completion before the flat defender can get underneath the throw. This is an easy, one read, pitch and catch. Harris did have trouble throwing this route sometimes during the season but this was a good throw.
7:36 1st Quarter, 1st & 10 on the Auburn 15 -
LSU is going to run two fade routes and Harris picks the wrong one to throw to. I don't like throwing fades against off cornerbacks unless you can accurately throw the ball to your receivers back shoulder, which Harris hasn't shown the ability to do. The cornerback is looking at the ball in the air the whole time so if that ball was thrown in bounds, he would have had a good shot at making a play on it anyways. I think you want to throw fades against press corners, like Dupre is getting on the bottom of the screen. The play action holds the middle safety for a second giving you the opportunity to throw to the back pylon where your receiver will have gotten off the press and stacked the cornerback.
7:06 2nd Quarter, 3rd & 10 from the Auburn 15 -
Up to this point in the game, Harris has thrown the ball pretty accurately even if he hasn't read the defense that well. Here, he has a touchdown pass that he overthrows badly. The route concept is "Slant-Slant-Flat" and Harris knows he can throw one of the slants when the safety to the strong side rotates down to cover the flat route. He then realizes, astutely, that the weakside safety is going to rotate over to cover the inside slant. He's done everything right up to this point and correctly throws to the outside slant. Of course, it's a light year above Dural's head and Dural's very nice route is wasted.
2:36 2nd Quarter - 2nd & 5 on the Auburn 49 -
Another accurately thrown screen pass.
12:19 3rd Quarter, 1st & 10 on the 50 -
Here's a great throw on a rollout by Brandon. The concept is a triple layered concept where each receiver will end up on the sideline at a different depth. Dural runs the deep route, Dupre the intermediate one and Diarse underneath. As Harris gets his head around off the bootleg action, he sees that there is a defender over top of Dural so he comes to his second option which is Dupre running an out route. Dupre has outside leverage on the defensive back so he's going to win the route. The only other defender who can make a play is the defender over Diarse. Harris, rightfully, decides that said defender isn't deep enough to cover Dupre so he makes the right read and makes a great throw (even better when you add the fact that he's about to get nailed) that is dropped by Dupre.
6:47 3rd Quarter, 3rd & 6 on the Auburn 30 -
The concept is triple slants and Harris will read it inside to out. The first slant is covered when the inside linebacker keeps his inside leverage against Desean Smith and walls the tight end off so Harris works to the 2nd slant where Dupre wins the route. The read is good, the timing is good, the ball isn't the most accurate but it hits Dupre in the hands so it should be a catch.
1:03 3rd Quarter, 1st & 10 on the LSU 25 -
I think this is another designed play action wide receiver screens based on Fournette's body language after he doesn't get the ball. Another accurate throw and then Dural rips the heart out of this Auburn DB's chest.