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Canadian Offense: Pittsburgh’s Shovel Option

Taking a look at LSU’s new play-caller through his previous work.

Syracuse v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Now that the 2016 season is truly over for the Tiger football team, Ed Orgeron will begin his first weeks of putting the program together in his own ways, as well the 2017 Tigers.

As The Advocate detailed yesterday, new offensive coordinator Matt Canada will officially begin his duties next week, as Coach O and company hit the ground running in the final push to National Signing Day on February 1.

So what exactly will the Matt Canada offense look like in Baton Rouge? We won’t really begin to find out until spring practice, but for the meantime, looking back on Canada’s previous stops will have to do. Things have changed a bit over various stops, but his 2016 season at Pitt seems like a pretty solid analogy for LSU, given that the Tigers are likewise built for a power rushing attack, and Canada will have a strong group of tight ends and fullbacks at his disposal.

Among the more unique aspects of the Panther attack this year was its heavy use of the shovel pass:

Chris Brown detailed this play as part of this piece on the natural outgrowth of the inverted veer/power read play, which has all but replaced the classic zone-read or most teams using elements of the spread offense.

But maybe the most creative thing Canada did this season was to find a way to run the Inverted Veer while eliminating the QB as the inside runner, namely by replacing him with a player trailing as the pitch man. It’s obviously a tricky read for the quarterback as it happens so quickly, but Pitt’s QB was an effective decisionmaker. And the play was really one of the catalysts for one of the most remarkable games and wins of the season: Pitt’s remarkable 43-42 upset over Clemson.

The shovel option was first popularized by Urban Meyer’s Utah and Florida teams, as a constraint to their typical speed option plays:

While the read player is still typically an end (as opposed to a tackle with most pulling-guard power read plays), the triple-option is back for the quarterback, with a keep, pitch backwards or shovel forward, often to an H-back or tight end (the Gators loved using this play with the infamous Aaron Hernandez). It’s a perfect complement to the power-read because the blocking is, essentially, the same, only with the shovel replacing the inside run.

Pitt’s Nathan Peterman wasn’t exactly the kind of quarterback you want to get on the edge to challenge a defense, but Canada found a way to package that same shovel read into the roll-out passing game, typically with the “spot” concept:

Alex Kirby has a great breakdown here at Cardiac Hill.

“Spot” is a concept LSU had some success with this season, and it fits with something like this for a lot of the reasons. For one, you can run it out of multiple personnel groupings, from two-back/tight end groupings to trips receiver sets — detailed here. It’s generally a quick read, with either the flat or curl throws coming open fast; the combination creates a natural rub against man coverage, and the corner route adds a stretch for zone coverage that overloads one side of the field and helps put defense in a bind somewhere. Pistols Firing has this breakdown as well, with some great diagrams and gifs:

Pitt’s Quadree Henderson motions from one side to the other for a quick throw to the flat from Peterman.

It will be interesting to see how Canada fits his style to LSU’s personnel, but this is a play that should fit in well. All of LSU’s quarterbacks are at least as mobile as Peterman, and guys like Brandon Harris or Lowell Narcisse would both add more of a running element to the play as well. Something to look for in what should be a very exciting quarterback competition this spring.