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High Flying Hornets

High Flying Hornets

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Published by: AIRRAID on Jan 09, 2010
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63
The Insider’s Perspective
 Stadium
Insider’s Perspective
MPORIASTATE UNIVERSITY, AN NCAADIVISIONII school in the prestigious MIAA(Mid-AmericaIntercollegiate Athletics Association) Conference, fea-tured the most balanced, yet explosive offensive attack in all of college football. Utilizing an attack with four receivers, notight ends or fullback, the Hornets established 42 ESU, 30MIAA, and nine NCAArecords.No tight end and no fullback. Wait a minute, is this the run-and-shoot? Hardly. To say that the Hornets have achieved theseaccomplishments by simply implementing the much malignedrun-and-shoot offense would be a stretch. The ESU offensivescheme, known as the “Sting-and-Shoot”, may be the systemto take this somewhat radical brand of offensive football to thenext step in its evolutionary process.Not since the inception of the Run-and-Shoot by Glenn“Tiger” Ellison, in 1954, has there really been a truly explo-sive, balanced attack using this type of personnel deployment.Yet, balance was not always the key to moving the ball forESU. In 1995, Matsakis’first season, the Hornets threw theball an MIAArecord 623 times while rushing just 299 times.During the spring of 1996 the Hornets’offensive philoso-phy underwent a drastic paradigm shift. In a spring ball teammeeting, head coach Manny Matsakis explained to the offen-sive personnel the importance of being able to rush the balleffectively, especially considering the fact that the Hornetswere going to be young defensively that next fall, 8 freshmenwere to start on defense. “We needed to keep our defense off of the field. We challenged the offensive personnel to not onlylead the conference in total offense, but also do it with supremebalance by leading in both rushing and passing,” explainedMatsakis.In the fall of 1996, the ESU offense fulfilled its mission.The offense did just what they set out to do that spring: theaverage yield rushing was 274.4, passing 203.9. Each total led
The Nation’sBest Of 
 
 fense?
Total Offense531.5Rushing Yards249.7Passing Yards 281.7Avg. gain/play 6.8 yards*Scoring42.2*NCAARecord
AFQ Research Staff 
High-flying Hornetsigh-flying Hornetsigh-flying Hornetsigh-flying Hornets
 
High-flying Hornets
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FB — but a 2,000 yd. RBB — but a 2,000 yd. RBB — but a 2,000 yd. RBB — but a 2,000 yd. RB
High-flying Hornetsigh-flying Hornetsigh-flying Hornetsigh-flying Hornets
E
E
FB — but a 2,000 yd. RBB — but a 2,000 yd. RBB — but a 2,000 yd. RBB — but a 2,000 yd. RB
   ©   E   M   P   O   R   I   A   S   T   A   T   E   U   N   I   V   E   R   S   I   T   Y
High-flying Hornetsigh-flying Hornetsigh-flying Hornetsigh-flying Hornets
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No TE, no FB — but a 2,000 yd. RBo TE, no FB — but a 2,000 yd. RBo TE, no FB — but a 2,000 yd. RBo TE, no FB — but a 2,000 yd. RB
No TE, no FB — but a 2,000 yd. RB
 
64
 American Football Quarterly
the MIAAthat season. The Hornets uti-lized their superback (the scheme’s namefor the feature back in its one-backdesign), Brian Shay, for a staggering2,103 yards rushing from scrimmage.The 1997 season brought it all togeth-er as the Hornets were able to put inplace the nation’s best offense thatrefused to punt*, and yielded an NCAArecord for the highest average gain perplay, 6.8 yards.
*NCAARecord-Fewest punts per game1.82, 20 punts in 11 games. (Breaks theold mark of 1.9 set by Kent in 1954.)
The Rushing Attack 
ESU utilizes basically five formationsalong with a variety of motion by theinside receivers. In regards to gameplans, the Hornets enter each game with12-15 different series that translate into35-40 different plays (See Diagrams 1-5).Generally, the rushing attack is cho-sen from any of the following series: (1)inside traps; (2) outside traps/counters;(3 ) zone (inside and outside); (4) veeroption; (5) dive/sweep; (6) load option,and (7) draws.Every rushing play is designed to berun at virtually every defensive front,with the exception of blitzing seven-manfronts. For instance, the Hornets stayaway from running the Zone play intothe blitz. Therefore, versus teams thatutilize an extensive blitz package, theHornets implement a game plan thatautomatically adjusts from the playcalled to any of six-to-eight possibleblitz adjustments. These adjustmentsvary from utilizing another better suitedrun, or a quick pass that exploits a mis-match between one of the receivers andthe opposing defensive back.The predominant plays out of theHornet rushing package have been theDive/Sweep series. (See Diagrams 6, 7).This series has allowed ESU’s runningback Brian Shay to embark upon one of the most remarkable careers in NCAAhistory.
(See the accompanying sidebaron Shay and his record-setting career.)
The Passing Attack 
The passing attack utilizes a 90-degree soft roll by the quarterback and isdesigned to exploit the inherent weak-nesses of nickel, dime and blitz cover-ages (Diagrams 8, 9, 10).The Hornets generally go into a gamewith seven different pass schemes, asthey have about a dozen from which tochoose. Matsakis explained, “Our dropback philosophy is based on the saying;‘Read the coverage and take what theygive you.’”“The bread and butter drop back passscheme is called Slide. Slide is the firstscheme that we teach every year in train-ing camp, it is sort of a rite of passageinto our offensive philosophy as itembodies the versatility and ability toquickly adjust, inherent in our system(see Diagram 11).“When we insert the slide scheme it isan exercise in total concentration andsynergy. It begins with the motion of ourinside receiver, aiding our personnel ingetting a pre-snap read of the front/cov-erage combination,” said Matsakis.“When the ball is snapped, the quar-terback reads the flat defender as he rollsback to his launching point.Simultaneously, the superback adjusts tothe front/coverage adjustments, whilethe receivers flow into the weak spots of the coverage. The key here is that by ourthird step into our scheme, the defensewill have given up any possible disguiseand at this point we must take advantageof any apparent weaknesses.”The Hornets have had fantastic suc-cess in utilizing their play-action attack.One out of every two play passesattempted last year resulted in at least a30-yard gain or a touchdown. “Withteams gearing up for Brain Shay, wewere able to take advantage of overag-gressive safeties,” said Matsakis.Kevin Keeffe, ESU’s offensive coor-dinator, commented, “From a prepara-tion standpoint, it is important we insertand practice 2-3 play-action passes eachweek triggered off our most featured runplays. The key to the play pass is to com-pletely fool the linebackers and second-ary by the upfield push of our offensivelinemen and the backfield action. Thecombination will yield the types of results we strive for, explosive plays.”One of the Hornets’most successfulplay passes is the zone switch, whichtakes advantage of the hard-hitting freesafety in Cover 3 (Diagram 12).
 Diagram 1 Diagram 2 Diagram 3 Diagram 4 Diagram 5Diagram
 
65
 American Football Quarterly
 Exotics
“Exotics” make up the balance of theHornet offensive attack. These are off-tempo plays which utilize a run action orpass action to set up either a screen tothe running back or to one of thereceivers. Generally, one or more of thelinemen will release down field to blocka secondary or linebacker defender.The most successful exotic is the mid-dle screen to the superback (SeeDiagram 13). The middle screen yieldedover 12 yards per attempt in 1977.
 Installation
The Hornet staff initially installs theoffense by assuming everybody knowsthe whole system, then they break itdown into its individual facets, beforefinally building the offensive attackagain piece–by–brick. This philosophyis regarded as a “Whole–part–whole”teaching method. Matsakis says it takesnine days to fully install the system andESU does it in three, three-day cycles.“Day one stresses the whole offenseversus the blitz, the protection, routes,and all schemes. Day two does the sameversus nickel looks and Day threeattacks dime defensive alignments.“We then take every detail fundamen-tally, and stress it versus the three basicdefensive strategies. Day four versus theBlitz, Day five versus nickel and Day sixversus dime. Finally, we come back andfully install the whole package for thenext three days versus a combination of all looks.“By the tenth day of practice, we areready to focus on any inherent weak-nesses in our offensive attack, anythingfrom fundamental skills to reading frontsand coverage schemes.“We continue to review and refineevery aspect of the offense throughoutthe season, making sure not to ever letour players get rusty on any particulararea of the attack. We do this in case weneed to adjust the game plan at somepoint in a game. It has been much easierto do this, now that our players fullyunderstand the system.”
 Practice Format 
Emporia State squad size is limited,with only 55 men on the active roster.Therefore, they utilize a practice plansimilar to that of NFLteams, with someinteresting twists. The Hornets generallypractice with uppers and only have con-trolled scrimmages in the spring. Thetempo is quick as all plays are scriptedby numbers on a master call sheet.During the practice week, Matsakisand his staff constantly simulate gameconditions (game clock, etc.) Since theESU squad operates out of a no-huddlescheme, each player wears wrist bandsso he can decipher which play is beingcalled. Plays are sent in from the sidelineusing a card and signal system. Wristbands are color coded and contain 40different plays. Matsakis has a call sheetdesigned the same as it is on game day,with situational attacks based on theschemes to be stressed that week.At any time the offense may breakinto an “Air Raid” which is a series of three to five scripted plays memorizedby the players, helping to increase con-ditioning while maintaining supremefocus of all players on the field as wellas any possible substitutions on the side-line.
Goals
The Hornets’staff evaluates fourareas of effectiveness to gauge their suc-
 Diagram 7  Diagram 8 Diagram 9 Diagram 10 Diagram 11 Diagram 12 Diagram 13

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