We had our first game of the season last weekend against the defending league champions, up in Quebec City at their home. We were starting a freshman quarterback and three other newbies on offense. I was so nervous that while I remember the big moments of the game (we lost 15-14 after we missed a 22-yard field goal as time expired) I don’t remember anything about the opposing teams coverage and fronts -- things that I’m supposed to pay attention to as the quarterback coach. When I get nervous, I tend to fall back on my bad habits which solely include watching the ball. I get lucky that my player tends to have the ball in his hands quite a bit so I can at least see his footwork. The problem is that I can’t change his technique during the game, I need to be able to see the defenses and then guide him through it when he comes back to the sideline.
You need to be extremely disciplined during season openers because you don’t really know what the other team is going to throw at you. Being undisciplined like myself could get you in trouble if a team comes out with new schemes. For LSU’s sake, they open their season with a team that they will have already seen on film. This is big news. They now know what BYU’s base offense will be. Their defensive coaches know exactly which keys and players to look for. It’s a tremendous boon for the Tigers.
The first thing I thought when I saw that BYU only scored 20 points on Portland State was LSU is going to absolutely dominate them. The tape tells a slightly different story than the score. BYU shot themselves in the foot time and time again with penalties. They were in long yardage situations because of a ton of offensive line penalties that had nothing to do with how efficient they actually were. They are a lot better than the score indicates but of course Portland State’s defense is not LSU’s.
Tanner Mangum might be the best quarterback LSU plays this year. I came away really impressed from watching his tape against Portland State. His movement in the pocket is nice and he’s able to go through his reads consistently and throw accurate balls. He’s 23 so at this point in his life, he’s taken a lot more snaps behind center than most of the guys LSU will face this year. He might not have the difference makers around him that the other teams do, that’s probably the biggest difference.
Here’s his first pass of the season:
BYU is running a stick concept to the three-receiver side where Mangum can take a low percentage shot on the field side fade route or come down and read the flat defender, in this case it’s the guy who runs with the flat route. You don’t want to throw flat routes against man coverage to the field side because the ball is in the air for a long time and it’s ripe for picking. So he moves on to the stick route but he feels like the coverage is too good. At this point, a lot of quarterbacks would panic but Mangum gets to his fourth read, even though it’s incomplete.
It’s the same play and you can see the the flat defender turn his shoulders to run with the flat route so Mangum delivers on time for BYU’s first touchdown of the season.
Mangum is accurate enough to throw wide side flat routes and he makes two really nice throws here:
Once he reads that there will be room to the sideline, he makes a good throw that allows his receiver to turn up the field and make a play (save for a very nice tackle)
Same thing here for a third-down conversion.
Even over the middle he showed some good accuracy
His patience and movement in the pocket creates positive plays like this:
These might not seem like impressive throws but young quarterbacks will often throw into coverage instead of relaxing and finding their checkdowns. Both these throws turn into nice gains because Mangum doesn’t panic.
He threw a few jumpballs and his receiver came down with them. Will the receivers make these same plays against LSU’s secondary? Who knows but these are fine throws.
The Run Game
BYU’s run game is pretty simple, but that may have been by design against an FCS opponent. They ran their schemes without much pre-snap movement. There also didn’t seem to be a lot of RPO’s. The running back, Squally Canada, is good. He ran for 98 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown against Portland State. He’s not a game breaker though, I didn’t see him shake people or break many tackles. He’ll find the hole and hit it hard but it seems like that’s about it. Kavika Fanua, the backup, looks like he has a little more break tackle ability in him, he went 59 yards on only seven carries.
They ran a lot of inside zone, outside zone and power against Portland State. Their inside zone game is usually accompanied by a split motion. Mangum isn’t a running threat so they don’t ask him to read any first level defensive player.
This is normal zone split play:
They leave the backside end free but someone from the frontside will come back and block him. Again, it means he doesn’t need to be read like a regular “zone read” play since he’s being blocked. You can see that Portland State knows that Mangum isn’t going to keep the ball very often so they’ve told their ends to crash pretty hard. If Mangum is reading that player, he has an easy keep read.
Here’s another example:
I noticed twice they ran the progression off of the split motion:
That’s slice motion. If a team is running that from the shotgun like in the first clip, the quarterback is reading the end because now he’s not blocked. BYU runs it under center and Mangum has to turn his back to the end, meaning he can’t read the end and therefore this is a designed play action.
With their gap and pull schemes, they line up with a lot of tight ends, h-backs and full backs so they can come at you from different angles but they do like to run it from this set where they run to the tight end and offset fullback side.
This is most likely just a gameplan thing. Portland State is a 4 down lineman team and LSU is a 3 down lineman team.
But, of course, if you run one play enough, you need a counter off of it.
The only RPO that I think I saw was this backside slant paired with zone.
Their blocking the backside end with the tackle and Mangum has his eyes on the 2nd level defender in the slant window. If he crashes hard on the run, Mangum can throw the slant. My only issue with this is that Mangum shows a run fake after handing the ball off rather than a pass fake. It’s possible he wasn’t actually reading.
What I would assume is that this is all of BYU’s base offense and they will add enough things as part of their game plan against LSU to keep the Tigers off balance. They’ll come with some trickery, misdirection and progressions off what they showed against Portland State. Will it be enough?