Throughout Coach Spurrier\u2019s career he has been willing to throw the ball downfield. The following article will share with you some ideas on how the Gators \u201cChuck It Deep.\u201d
As with most offenses, we have a vari- ety of formations, protections and pass routes with which we will attack a defense. Our point of difference is that we will con- stantly look for advantageous personnel match-ups and coverage tendencies or weaknesses, which will allow us big play opportunities in any situation. One of the most productive aspects of our offense has been the vertical pass game.
Our three-step vertical is solely based on coverage. If a team plays press cover- age or tight man we will attack the cover- age. If coverage does not allow a vertical throw opportunity we will change the call. We will use a slide or base protection scheme dependent upon the formation or the number of receivers we wish to release.
The outside receivers will take normal splits and identify the coverage scheme. With any type of \u201coff\u201d coverage they will anticipate a change of call and will be pre- pared to adjust their splits if necessary. If press or man coverage is being played, the receiver must determine the leverage as well as the degree of separation from the defender. The tighter the pass the more narrow and upright the receiver\u2019s stance will be. This will allow him to move his feet quickly as he attempts to \u201close\u201d the defen- sive back.
Anticipating a \u201cstick and grab\u201d move by the defender, the receiver must have a plan to counter the move. We will teach a vari- ety of counters and expect the receivers to master two of them. The escape move starts with the feet and we will use freeze, shake and stall techniques on the defender to create leverage and separation. At the snap we must establish outside leverage on the defender as we push up the field. It is critical that we push vertically upfield to turn the defender\u2019s shoulders, and to pro- hibit him from walling us to the sideline. There is no absolute depth that we must reach prior to the cut. We must straighten the defensive back up and then break away once we have control of him. We run a true
fade route, which we believe creates greater separation from the defensive back and greater reception opportunities for our receivers.
The quarterback, through practice repe- tition and knowledge of his receivers, can easily adjust his drop in order to deliver the ball accurately and on time. We do not want excessive airtime with the ball and expect to hit the receiver between 17-22 yards or 12-15 into the boundary.
The inside receivers will split the differ- ence between the wide receiver and the end man on the line of scrimmage. They will run a two-step slant and expect the ball.
The quarterback will make his pre-read and determine if the coverage scheme is appropriate for the call and which side of the field presents the best look. If throwing from the middle of the field or from the hash to the wide field, the quarterback should be able to take a regular three-step drop. If throwing to the boundary or in a goal line situation, the quarterback will accelerate his drop by abbreviating his first step. The throw should be a low arc leading the receiver up and away from the defender. As a change-up against quick talented corners we may intentionally underthrow the ball to the back shoulder of the receiver allowing him to open his hips and make the catch as the defender, blind to the flight of the ball, runs by the receiver.
When we feel the need to take a deep shot, our three vertical route is the pattern that we will go to. We will look for mis- matches against a defense that plays man
or man-free coverage with defenders who are settling at our normal break point or are too aggressive in anticipating cuts. Against two-deep zone looks, we will watch for safeties who are overplaying the outside of their half responsibility and for linebackers who are short on their drops or are not car- rying the No. 2 receiver upfield effectively.
A seven man base protective scheme will be used with either drop back or play action in the backfield. Depending on the formation called, we may free release the tight end or have him base protect.
The wide receivers will take normal splits and determine the coverage scheme and the leverage of their respective corners. Their responsibility versus off coverage is to drive hard off of the ball for 12-13 yards then work for width and depth to a point five yards from the sideline. If the defender is playing deep, we will lengthen our break point until we are cutting two to three yards from the defender. When the defensive back has heavy outside leverage, we will not attempt to cross his face but will drive by to his inside and then fade after we bypass him. Against a C-2 corner, we will attack his leverage, bypass him inside then work immediately for width and depth in order to stretch the safety. We will use the same approach against press or man coverage. Work your best release inside or outside the defender then gain width and depth quickly. The critical point against any coverage scheme is to get your shoulders up the field. This is especially important when the corner is attempting to wall you out. The receiver must fight for his vertical course by keeping his inside shoulder down and leaning on the defensive back.
The inside receiver, whether tight or split by alignment, will work to the middle third of the field. The tight end will widen his split to help his release from the line of scrimmage and will take the best release available based on the leverage of the defender over him. The critical point here is to keep his pad level down as he releases. Once the line of scrimmage is cleared, we will push vertically for 12-13 yards reading the safe- ty box area as we go. If the middle is cov- ered, we will curl over the ball at 13-15 yards behind and between the linebackers. Against any type of man-free coverage, we will shake our cover defender then break across the field at 13-15 yards. When see- ing the middle open, the tight end will \u201cstick step\u201d at 12-13 yards and head towards the near upright of the goalpost.
When running our nine route to an inside flexed receiver we will burst inside two-three steps before driving vertically to a depth of 12-13 yards. The coverage reads will be the same as those described by for the tight end; middle closed curl up at 13- 15 yards, middle open stick step at 12-13 yards and drive to the near upright. An inside receiver working toward the ball on his release must be aware of inside defenders attempting to disrupt his course. In these cases the receiver should attack the defender to freeze him, avoid to the outside, and then get back on course.
The running backs or back and tight end remaining will check their respective pass protection responsibilities then release to the hook area 5-6 yards over the offensive tackle position.
The quarterback\u2019s responsibility is to determine coverage on his pre-snap read and to confirm it on the snap. He will take a five-step drop, gather and throw to the best look area. The quarterback will hold the safety visually while feeling his best look side, if he doesn\u2019t like the throw to his wide receiver, he will work back to the middle curl to the check down. When facing a mid- dle open scheme, the quarterback will again look through the safety area. If the safeties are pushing outside with their half responsibilities we will look to hit the inside receiver at 17-22 yards on the center strut of the goalpost or drop the ball off to the check down on a five yard hook. If the safeties are squeezing the inside of their responsibility or are not getting sufficient depth we will throw a flat arc ball to a wide receiver at 35-40 yards or drop if off to the check downs.
The nine route has been very effective in having deep ball opportunities with underneath options.
Our four deep pattern allows us to stretch coverage across the field. In doing so, we are challenging a secondary to execute perfectly or risk giving up an explosive play. We will run the route from
a variety of formations, using wide receivers, tight ends, or runningbacks to execute the play. We will use a six-man protection and will be prepared to release the ball quickly or change the play if the protection is overloaded.
The responsibility of the wide receivers is to take maximum splits to stress the cov- erage scheme by alignment. The receivers will take the best release, driving upfield and gaining width until they are five yards from the sideline. Avoiding contact is criti- cal, as any disruption of their vertical push will be advantageous to the defense. As they approach a depth of 12-15 yards they will glance back to the quarterback expect- ing the ball as they go. The alignment and responsibility of the wide receivers will not change regardless of the location of the ball on or off the hash.
The inside receivers\u2019 splits will be dictat- ed by the formation call. When flexed, they will split the difference between the offen- sive tackle and the wide receiver. If a tight end is involved, he will take a normal align- ment. Their routes will adjust based on the location of the ball at the snap. With the ball in the middle of the field the inside receivers will work to a width of 5-6 yards outside of their respective hashes. If the ball is snapped on the hash the boundary receiver will maintain his 5-6 yard separa- tion from the hash while the field receiver will work 2-3 yards outside the hash. Both inside receivers will attempt to avoid con- tact but if a disruption is imminent they will work wide and then get back on course. The inside receivers must identify coverage as they work upfield. When facing a middle closed look both receivers will maintain their vertical course, looking to the quarter- back at 12-15 yards anticipating the ball to be thrown to them. Against a middle open scheme we will designate a \u201cbender\u201d who will adjust his course towards the near upright at 12-15 yards, expecting the ball as he bends inside the near safety. The remaining inside receiver will maintain his vertical course.
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