Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran was asked if he scripted opening drive plays during Tuesday’s press conference. “Absolutely” was his response. As for a second half script, “I’ve got second half ideas,” he murmured with a grin. As a veteran coach and play caller, Gran understands that halftime adjustments are critical and that he and his staff must keep an open mind to player/coach input to what has succeeded and what may work in order to win the game.
Fall camp was tedious for players as well as the laptop-toting media contention that reported to and from the new training facility on a daily basis. By day 14, I had somewhat checked out when coaches were on the podium. But, Gran mentioned something on Tuesday that peaked my attention. He said that he’d ask his quarterback, “Hey, what do you love?” He went on to admit that he’d text his QB on Thursdays with instructions to, “Give me your top 10.” Both communications refer to specific offensive plays. Smart move. Gran expanded, “When the crud is hitting the fan I know what he’s comfortable with.”
Experience tells me that the offensive coordinator is interested in his QB’s responses for three reasons: First is to know which play to call in crunch time. Secondly, detailed inquiries provide the offensive leader a QB confidence check as well as showcases a gauge on play book knowledge. Third, a coach can tell a great deal about the aggressiveness of a QB by which plays he likes and does not like to call. A timid or calculated QB may prefer a safe completion. A QB like Drew Barker likely has a preference to take chances by going downfield.
Right Over Zing, Pass 85
In 2016, Jerry Claiborne’s playbook would be considered outdated. But, my number one or go to pass play was Right Over Zing, Pass 85. Simply structured play: “Right” defined the formation in which the tight end lined up on the right side. “Over” signified the Z receiver lined up opposite of the TE creating a slot look. “Zing” was Z motion to the right. “Pass” is, well simply the play was a drop back pass. Finally, “85” was a route scheme with intention for the football to be thrown to the backside X receiver on a 15-yard dig or deep interior crossing route. Easy progression; if the X receiver on the dig was covered, the TE crossing in the opposite direction was normally open. That was my Top 1 pass play during the Claiborne.
The Bill Curry era didn’t end well; however, his first season in Lexington was somewhat promising as he brought offensive coordinator Tommy Bowden from Alabama to Kentucky during the staff change. R Gun UP, 10-6 Y Option was my go-to play under Bowden who I consider an innovative offensive mind and friend to this day. This play was significantly more complex.
R Gun UP 10-6 Y Option
“R” referenced a dual formation where the TE was lined up to the right and the running back-fullback were split instead of in the traditional I formation. “Gun” simply meant shotgun formation. “UP” instructed the offensive linemen to start the play in a two-point stance, or standing up. Here’s when it gets complicated. “10” was a passing game scheme identifier that inferenced the play was intended to be thrown towards the strong side of the formation. “6” was the route identification number for the outside receiver in the intended direction of the pass play. So, a 6 route was a post corner vs. Cover 2 but converted to a 16-yard comeback against loose man or Cover 3. The “Y Option” portion was a tag, or additional identifier that changed the TE’s route to an option (15 yards up field and turn right or left towards the open area). Any time a route was tagged, it most likely meant that the pre-identified player would was the intended target.
*Please note that if facing a blitz, site adjustments occurred. Hand and arm signals to outside receivers circumvented play that was called in the huddle. That a great deal to process in less than 3 seconds right?
Glory Days has stopped playing in the background. I only shared those two examples (which are most likely wrong due to bad memory) to highlight the complexity of football playbooks and to describe my mentality as a quarterback was that of understanding my limitations. Both plays were high percentage passes. That was three decades ago, I can’t imagine what it’s like now. Drew Barker will have his Top 10. Let me clarify, Drew Barker will definitely have his Top 1. It’s vital for a coach to know this information especially in 3rd and medium situations or plays that the game has dictated as vital. A QB has favorites, both routes and targets. If a QB says different he’s lying.
Eddie Gran won Fall Camp. The offensive coordinator’s command presence on the practice field and podium were obvious upgrades from 2015. Neal Brown exuded the same demeanor. Gran’s offense will be heavily called upon to go bowling. It’s time to see it on the field.