Does anyone else feel like there isn’t enough national talk about the LSU-Texas week two game in Austin? I understand it’s not part of the opening weekend festivities but there isn’t a bigger non conference game the whole season. LSU is looking to establish themselves in the playoff mix early and Texas is looking for yet another “Texas is back!” moment.
The teams haven’t met since Roy Williams annihilated LSU in the 2002 Cotton Bowl. It’s one of the finer receiver performances against LSU of all time and Texas prevailed 35-20 in Dallas.
Four catches for 142 and a touchdown plus a 39 yard rushing touchdown. Not bad.
The 2019 matchup takes place in Austin, a place where LSU hasn’t been since 1954 and a place they haven’t ever come back to Baton Rouge with a W.
Standing in the Tigers way of a first W is a potentially potent Texas offense that finished 27th in offensive S&P a year ago. There are important pieces returning for the Longhorns including quarterback Sam Ehlinger, receivers Collin Johnson and Devin Durvernay and center Zach Shackelford.
Even though LSU plays Georgia Southern to open the season let’s put our Dave Aranda hat on and try to break down what Texas looked like in 2018 and what they could bring to the table in September.
I went in to watching this Tom Herman offense thinking that Lil Jordan Humphrey, he of the 86-catch 2018 season, was going to be the biggest piece they would have to find a way to replace. I don’t want to diminish the effect that losing 86 catches could have on your offense but the scheme they used to get him open wasn’t overly complicated. Deep crossing routes, backshoulder fades, slants and bubbles was where he did a lot of his work but there’s a chance that someone steps up and fills the void on those type of routes. It will be interesting to see if they move Collin Johnson, who I think is very good, to slot where Humphrey played a lot of snaps. Would allow them to still have a big slot on the field.
The guy who I felt stood out schematically was tight end/H-back Andrew Beck. In Herman’s hurry up world, the key to everything he wanted to do was having a hybrid player on the inside. Beck could line up effectively as a full back, tight end and even slot receiver. This meant that Texas could be in 11, 10 or 20 personnel without ever substituting. Now, the Longhorns could play with tempo and still call really whatever concepts they wanted.
Here’s 4 verts with Beck running a seam (bottom of the screen) from 2x2 followed by an Iso run with Beck leading on the linebacker.
anytime you have a chance to let two seams run free down the field in 1 high you gotta do it pic.twitter.com/qaS3gVA0t4— Seth Galina (@SethGalina) July 10, 2019
Beck only caught 28 passes last year but his versatility really lubricated the offense. From what I saw, when Beck was out, Texas turned to Cade Brewer to fill a similar role. It remains to be seen whether he’s the type of player Beck was. Of course, it’s possible that he’s even better and we’re all boned.
In fact, here’s Brewer running a juke route for a nice completion.
If Tom Herman had gotten the LSU job a few years ago, this role would have gone to Foster Moreau and I’d have nothing to complain about ever. Instead Foster remains the most under utilized player in LSU history.
Anyways, I digress.
I didn’t expect some guy wearing 47 to be that important part of the offense but it reminds of an old clinic from Calvin Magee (Rich Rod’s right hand man) talking about how they’re always looking for that hybrid “Y” that can play in the box and out of it effectively. The more personnel you use, the more a defense can catch on to what you’re going to do with each grouping.
Here’s some pics of him lined up in a ton of different spots:
throwaway tweet for an article I'm writing pic.twitter.com/CoAuVdFWOP— Seth Galina (@SethGalina) July 12, 2019
I don’t want anyone thinking that I’m saying that Humphrey is useless but I just wasn’t expecting Beck to be such a key figure. When you can run everything in the playbook from the same personnel grouping that matters!
A big part of their quick passing game largely consists of a double slants and stick concept. The double slants was an easy way to get the ball into a playmakers hands early, often to Humphrey. Johnson can surely run this nicely in 2019.
The stick game is interesting because it was run by the aforementioned Beck. Often times run out of empty, Beck would line up as the inside most receiver in trips and run the out breaking stick route. He wasn’t targeted often but I thought he got himself open.
They also like out breaking routes at the short or intermediate level from the No. 2 slot. Again, it’s just easy ways to get the ball out of Ehlinger’s hands.
Herman, like all good football coaches, loves his 4 verticals. He has no problem calling it more than a few times per game from either 2x2 or 3x1. They had a good one drawn up out of 3x1 against Iowa State’s three-safety defense.
Same idea but here’s Beck with a catch on the divide route:
Even just out of 2x2 it worked for them:
The problem is that I didn’t believe Ehlinger was that great at reading and throwing the concept. He left a lot of food on the table and I’m sure it led to Texas’ lowly 111th ranking in ISOppp (explosiveness).
They also tried to get Humphrey going on deep crossing routes, often off play action.
I also noticed this deep shot against Maryland from trips against a coverage that looks very similar to how LSU plays trips. Essentially, they’re locking the #1 receiver and then matching the inside 2 slots. The safety has to pick up #3 vertical which allows #2 to run by the nickel using his leverage against him:
Texas runs all the classics on the ground. Inside zone, counter trey, iso, etc. They like to hit the inside zone play downhill with the idea being that everything will get washed down and then the running back will be able to cut it back early in open space. It’s Urban Meyer-ish but it seems like still inside zone rather than veer.
They like Iso quite a bit. Here’s that same clip from earlier against an Over front with Beck leading into the a-gap bubble:
This one was interesting because Maryland is running a Tite front. LSU will run the same front and Texas decided they were going to fold the tackle inside to get an angle advantage against the front.
What I found odd was that I expected more “keeps” by Ehlinger when he rode the running back and read a defensive player. He gave almost every time in the games I watched. In fact, he would go games without keeping at all.
This play looks pretty damn like a keep read to me, for example:
The quarterback is such a good runner that you would believe it would be part of the offense. However, where Ehlinger shined was on true quarterback runs. I thought the offensive staff designed some really nifty plays to free up Ehlinger.
They often either ran it with the QB from empty or they would push motion the back out and give Ehlinger the ability to throw the bubble or keep it himself.
A really nice Dart Draw:
I believe this is not a read:
And this was cool:
The team has a few RPOs up their sleeve including a bubble that they really like. Ehlinger has no problem pulling the trigger either before or after the running back ride.
If the defense gives the offense a three-on-two look outside, Ehlinger can just step back and make the throw.
He can also ride the running back and if the Sam linebacker triggers, pull the ball out and throw the bubble as well.
Overall, I thought this was a fine offense and there’s obviously a reason why Herman has shot up the coaching ranks so quickly. Being in that one personnel grouping really allows them to play fast while the QB designed run game allows to break open a numbers advantage in the box with their sturdy quarterback.
This is going to be great a matchup versus one hell of an LSU defense. LSU’s 2018 defense (5th in defensive S&P) would have been the best defense Texas faced all year. The best they played was TCU at 16 and then Iowa State at 28 (edit: yes, I forgot Georgia). They definitely haven’t had to deal with the athletes LSU has in the secondary but they do have an excellent receiving corps.
LSU by 50.