An Inside Look at Gus Malzahn's Offense

By JR4AU on May 26 2009 2:55 PM

A small dose of X's and O's.
The "Smash" is a standard passing "concept". Almost every playbook will include some version of it. I recently bought Gus Malzahn's book, THE HURRY-UP, NO HUDDLE: AN OFFENSIVE PHILOSOPHY, and it's the first passing concept he covers in the book. Remember Malzahn's offense isn't about gimmicky plays. His plays are the same stuff most everybody else is doing. It's his tempo that is the "revolutionary" part. I'll discuss the tempo in a later blog. When you hear "smash route" it really refers to a route combination. The wide receiver will run a hitch route at 5-6 yards. The Tight End or slot receiver to that same side will run a 12 yard corner route. That is he will go vertical for 12 yards then break at about a 45 degree angle to the sideline. Some may refer to this as a "Flag Route". This route combination is a designed "Cover 2 beater" but works against other coverages as well. The idea is to vertically stretch the outer third of the field with a High/Low concept. This is a standard tactic and can be accomplished with many route combinations. The Smash is just one. Here are some example plays: The "Mouse" Davis Run and Shoot version:

The Rich Rodriguez version:

The Air Raid/Mumme/Leach/Franklin version

Spurrier's "Corkers"

And Norm Chow's

There are slight differences in how each coach "details" it. Some have the outside wide receiver run a basic "hitch". Others will adjust it based on coverage. For instance, if it's Cover 3 there will be a flat defender coming from the inside, likely a strong safety. He's going to be flying in from about the hash to cover the flat area. So, the outside wide receiver may now adjust by converting his route to a slant so that he's making an in cut behind the flat defender as he's flying outside to cover the flat. Some, like the Air Raid version run more of a bubble screen route with the outside receiver. You can "mirror" the Smash routes. That is, run the same thing on both sides. Or you can do something else, like you see in Chow's versions. You can attack the middle of the field from the backside like in his "Twins" set, or from a trips look like in his "Trey". Either of these forces the defense to get out of Cover 2, or be burned. If you'll also look at the variation in Chow's "Z Middle" you'll see that though the short hitch isn't run by the outside wide receiver, that the running back replaces him for the same high-low stretch of the outer third. This is pretty much the same play that the Steelers ran for the game winning touchdown in the Super Bowl.

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