Coach Woods Part 2: Instant Success.

In the second part of this series about the Beavers’ offensive line, I wanted to focus on instant success. While many in Beaver Nation lament the offensive line play the past few seasons, I think that is an over simplification of the issue. In many cases, the line did well, but there were a lot of extenuating circumstances that lead to plays breaking down.

I think Coach TJ Woods is an excellent coach and I expect people to be surprised by how quickly dominant this group becomes in the coming months. While it will be simple to attribute this to TJ, I think there are other aspects of the changes going on at Oregon State that will make this transition smoother than expected.

For the handful of you that watched the Super Bowl, you might have noticed that last play did not go the way the Seahawks drew it up. The problem was not that the play was bad, or that the blocking or route running was poor. The problem was that the defense knew exactly what the play was before the snap. The player who intercepted the ball did not hesitate or take false steps, but sprinted from the start of the play to the place he KNEW the ball would be. Everything about the play was executed well enough by the Seahawks’ offense to succeed — except for the fact that the defender knew where to go.

This was often the case for the Beavers last year. We can lament the job the line did, but in many cases, they were either not to blame or they were the victims of a defense that knew where the play was going. In a conversation I had with a former duck player, this year in the Civil War, the Ducks’ defense knew when OSU was running a screen play — the one play that requires the defense going the wrong way — and yet 100 percent of the time, they knew what was coming. If you don’t believe me, go back and watch it. Not pretty.

Below is a GIF (not JIF) of the first play of the UW game. It ends up in a sack, but it’s not due to mistakes by the line.

uw_2014_firstplay

 

If you notice, OSU uses a running back on play action to try and block a future first round draft pick at linebacker. The offensive line handles everyone fine, but UW’s linebacker sheds the running back block and the go-to receivers are covered. Not only is this probably a bad decision in terms of a  blocking scheme, but notice that no one on the defense takes a false step or even looks like they have any concern over where the play is going. They all immediately spread to cover the receivers, so even if Sean had not gotten hit, he didn’t have much available.

Below is another example:

uw_2014_second

 

In this play, despite the linebackers swarming instantly, the line actually does a good job sealing off the tackle and getting to the linebacker on the play side. Unfortunately, the tight end cannot get any push and his end crashes down to plug the hole. Both of the first two plays dealt with failures in scheme,  a lack of any confusion on the defenders’ parts, and some bad mismatches on the non-offensive line blockers.

On the next play, while it isn’t enough for a first down, it is the first time the defense has to think, and they guessed wrong for the most part.

uw_2014_third

 

The backers don’t just go, but have to set up and watch, the guard gets a good block, and the center is able to release so you have bodies on everyone. Had the first play not been a sack, this would have been a first down run. The big thing is Storm Woods had options if he wanted to bounce it out.

When you remove the mystery around the play, you remove the defense having to think and be disciplined. That happened far more in this game — and many of the games that the Beavers played this last year.

So how do the Beavers fix this? Well, for starters, you can use plays like the read option. In the case of the option, not even the QB knows for sure at the snap where the play is going. It depends on what the defense does. You can also vary how you call plays. OSU rarely, if ever, runs on the first play of the game. Play action is not very effective if your tendency is to pass anyway. Another issue OSU had the past few years was the bi-polar nature of their play calling. Many times, there were drives where the Beavers ran 70 percent of the time, followed by two or three drives where they passed the majority of, if not all, of the time.

In a scheme such as what Coach Baldwin runs, you will utilize the run game to set up the rest of the offense. It relies on using every advantage available, on creating mismatches, and getting players in space. It it also relies on what battles are being won. The biggest mistake that the Beavers have made, and that the Seahawks in turn made this weekend, is to think you are going to catch people off guard. While sometimes you do, for the most part if you have plays they are sniffing out, unless you are running some sort of wrinkle off of them, you are not going to fool teams. Down and distance situations are guidelines, but defenses go by what they see more. If they know what you do in Formation X when receiver Y is lined up in just that exact spot, down and distance means nothing.

There is a good chance that OSU will look like they have a miraculous line all at once. TJ Woods is a very accomplished coach, but if the Beavers do look like a different team up front, a lot of that is because defenses have to look and see what is going on. If all they have to do is go without fear of making a mistake, no line can stop them. But if they have doubt, they slow down and if they slow down, all the sudden they are block-able, moveable and controllable.

Don’t be shocked if the same guys whose names you were cursing in 2014 you are celebrating in 2015. If we are, it will be a far better year than many of us expected.

5 thoughts on “Coach Woods Part 2: Instant Success.

  1. Gary Sedivy

    Thank you for the analysis. You highlighted some things I hadn’t even considered. I hope you are correct, and the apparent weaknesses of the OL can be corrected with the new offensive schemes.

    Reply
    1. Peter Riley Osborne Post author

      One other item I think will help that I forgot to mention is the change in focus of their workouts and training staff. The players are going to probably get a lot stronger and faster while also improving their flexibility. It will make a huge difference in how they play as well. The accountability teams are going to help as well. In a recent OregonLive.com article, they interviewed Storm Woods about his interaction with Lockette and how much he wanted him to work on running lower and flexibility. In the draw play above where Storm tries to split the two blockers, that low running form would have come in handy and might have helped him break those tackles. He gets through those two guys and he might have gotten the first down.

      These little things along with removing some of the predictability will help a lot in the long run.

      Reply
    2. rsrudolph

      So I’m going to take advantage of posting something here that I would never post on Beaverblitz due to the expected blow back by long tenure posters that generally can’t say “let’s agree to disagree” if it’s not how they see things. I thought of 3 things related to this post and our offense last year.

      1) Mannion has stated as part of his own draft package if you will that he’s more NFL ready because of the system he ran in college. He further stated that last year he had full responsibility or say ability to change the call at the line of scrimmage from pass to run or vice versus based on reading the D. Hence, some of the play-calling we saw last year that may have not of made sense very well could have been Sean’s lacking the best call downs or even mis-reads that led to stalled drives, three and outs and mistakes (sacks, TFL, turnovers).

      2) OC. I personally believe Langsdorf play-calling was much better that Riley’s and last season Garret. When there seemed a huge outcry by many on Beaverblitz the year before to have DL stop calling plays our offense IMO sputtered, not including poor Time-outs and clock management which i have aways put directly on Riley. Year before last DL covertly took back play calling for the Civil War and the Bowl game and the offense worked frankly very well. For all the Spread Option fans, running out of the shotgun is a staple — something DL did regularly with Sean and Canfield before that. The NY Giants were pissed to lose DL and it was said he did a great job with Manning. I fully expect the Nebraska offense to be much more effective with DL back calling the plays. BeaverBlitz IMO had that one wrong from the get go.

      3) Wrinkles. Using Fly Sweep was a complete mystery game to game last season resulting games where we didn’t run it once. Again, considering it was used well at the end of the previous season by DL it was used sparingly and never with much variation. Having the motion man block down and seal the DE ala James Rodgers allowing his brother to read the block had disappeared since James it seems. Would have been interesting to see what Ward would have done with that seal block or Woods getting to the edge untouched. We’ll never know but my point is that other than a few nice long passes by Mannion leveraging the speed we had outside last year we just didn’t see many wrinkles.

      All of these observations are obviously not specific to the OL play that I would say was poor last year. However what may have been lost by me and others was just how predictable our play calling was and thus how difficult it made it for our line to move the guy across from him who are very athletic and know what’s coming. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how the line plays this year under the new regime and scheme,

      Reply
      1. Peter Riley Osborne Post author

        Those are great and well thought out points! I agree and I will add a few little bits:

        1. One issue for Sean was that he didn’t call the formation. So while he may have made a check down, he could only check to what was available with that formation. Again, an issue with getting the plays in or getting formations that were versatile enough to accomplish multiple goals. I know that RIley wanted to be able to run a ton of different pass plays from a specific formation, but being able to audible to, say, a fly sweep, requires a bit more specificity in the formation. Or even calling a run play when you may be in no backs or one back, but with trips so that you don’t have the numbers to run where you want to. Regardless, I think that there was just no real rhyme or reason for some of the play calling and not to be a jerk about it, but I think you can point to the second half of the USC game as when things went south. That game was, ironically, the game that Garrett took over at half time.

        2. I would say the Danny Langsdorf that left in 2013 was the best version of DL we had seen. There is no question to me that the 2010 and 2011 seasons were struggles partly due to Langs play calling. The ASU game is the perfect example. Now I have no inside info on when and where Danny was calling plays, and maybe the things I hated in that year were Riley, but that is when things were really bad in my opinion, and the Katz/Mannion debacle was all rolled into that as well. When Riley took back play calling at the start of 2012, to be honest, that was the best play calling I had seen in the Riley era, especially when Cody took over.

        That being said, I think Danny made a lot of great strides and did really well the final two games of 2013. I agree 100% that the Danny Langsdorf that is taking over at Nebraska is much better and will probably make that offense better than we had seen at OSU in a while. I also think that Langs and Cav got along very well and saw eye to eye on a lot of things.

        3. I cannot agree more on the fly sweep. 15 times a game minimum if you are going to use it in a pro style offense. Just the motion. Even if you ran the play just five times but ran the motion another ten to get into the formation you want, it makes the defense think and is a boon to the offense. The play is a workhorse play, not a trick play and it forces the defense to cover the whole width of the field. They could have done so much more off of it, but after 2007 they never tried because they never saw it as more than a trick play to use to fool people. Fooling people assumes defenses don’t do their homework. (I am talking to you Seattle Seahawks!) The Fly Sweep is a legitimate play that isolates playmakers and gives the ball to your fastest player at a point they are going full speed. There is a lot it should be able to do and a ton you can do off of it. But they never did, and so it was never as effective as it could have been.

        Anyway, great thoughts and please post whatever you want here. I for one will gladly agree to disagree if I ever do. I just think you are correct on a lot of these!

        Reply
  2. mathomassr

    I found the analysis very thought provoking. I share all the frustration with what transpired the past few seasons. Looking forward to improvements in the offense.

    Reply

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