The spring game is not as useless as people want to believe. The end result is meaningless but you get a glimpse into the process of how the unit will attack. Some coaches believe they need a million years to get good enough at any concept to put in their gameplan so even in the spring you will see things that you will inevitably end up seeing in August. For LSU, this spring, it was the return of the run-pass option to LSU’s offense. Steve Ensminger has tinkered with a few of them as the offensive coordinator a couple years back with pretty good success so I’m not surprised to see them last week during the game. I’m a fan. I love RPOs because it gives you a chance to get the ball to the player with an advantage as often as possible.
We saw two different types of RPOs: a pre-snap one and a two different post-snap ones.
The pre-snap RPO was a bubble by the slotback paired with a running play.
This is a pre-snap RPO because the quarterback is making the decision to throw the bubble based on the alignment of the defense before the snap. There are post-snap bubble RPO’s also but these are pre-snap.
I’ve seen it be taught two different ways:
First, you can read the defender who is inside of the receiver running the bubble. This guy is called the cover-down, or apex defender. If he’s too far inside, the blocking receivers will block the defenders lined up over top of them and the bubble receiver will have to outrun or beat the defenders coming from the inside or from depth. This is how LSU did it in the spring game.
Against defenses that are going to play with an off corner, you can have the blocking receivers block the defender to the inside of them. Now, the bubble receiver has to beat the corner one-on-one. Against, shitty tackling corners this is not a bad idea.
The RPO that Ensminger is bringing back from 2016 is his slant RPO. This is the basic post-snap RPO that every team should have in their arsenal. After the snap, the quarterback reads the first defender inside of the slant. If he stays in the passing lane, you give the ball to the back. If he flies into the run scheme, you throw it.
It can be run from any formation and the coaching point remains the same. The read is always the first defender inside the slant.
They ran it with Lowell Narcisse as well:
The new RPO that I saw was a fade/out concept attached to a running play.
The idea is actually similar to the bubble. The out route acts as the bubble and the fade route runs the corner off. LSU is reading the defender inside the out route. When he comes down, the quarterback pulls and throws the out route.
I’m hoping to see this same idea out of trips during the regular season. It’s one of my favorite plays and it’s a super easy completion.
This is Stick RPO:
The flat route widens the flat defender and then the most inside receiver finds the space in between the flat defender and the apex linebacker. If you add the running concept, the apex linebacker ends up being in no-man’s land when he steps toward the run.
On the offense as a whole:
What I liked the best is how much play action I saw. Besides the RPOs, there was a bunch of “classic” play-action passes. Play-action works all the time because of the way we teach linebackers to stop the run at all costs. The efficiency of play-action isn’t even affected by how good a teams running game is (in the NFL). I’m into it.
A few overall thoughts on the quarterbacks:
I think Myles Brennan is still No. 1. He throws with the best accuracy, so even if the reads aren’t there yet he’ll get away with more if he’s accurate. All these top teams (UGA, Bama, LSU, etc.) play a ton of man coverage so you gotta be able to put the ball in the right spot on your receivers.
Justin McMillan takes a long time to throw the ball but he can throw it really far. He just missed a bunch of easy targets, either over their head or behind them. Narcisse was similar in that regard. It’s probably Brennan-McMillan-Narcisse, in that order, right now. With that said, a quarterbacks running ability is super valuable so McMillan should not be that far behind Brennan.
At the end of the day, from a macro perspective, this is what the offense will look like. I liked Ensminger’s offense in 2016 and I like what I saw in the spring.