Loeffler, Triangles, and the Short Passing Game

Humbled by the response I received after my first article, I couldn't wait to get back to the keyboard and write. Your feedback was awesome, and thanks for making me feel right at home! As promised, I'm going to continue the series on Loeffler's time spent at Auburn. Originally I was going to focus on why he didn't have much success as the Tiger's offensive coordinator, but once it became obvious that most of the article would be about Kiehl Frazier's shortcomings, I decided to change my approach. College athletes are amateurs, usually barely adults, so I'm going to avoid criticizing them too harshly.

Instead of writing an entire article documenting every poor throw of Frazier's year at Auburn, I'm going to focus on the specifics of Loeffler's favorite short passing packages. Let's not focus on the results at Auburn for this article (we already know they were bad), let's focus on whether or not the packaged routes were getting receivers open. If we see evidence that Loeffler can get his playmakers into space we should feel good about his chances for success at Tech.

Short passing game… Who cares?

Why does it matter if Loeffler has a good short game? Why bother throwing it short to begin with? Is it necessary to have a successful short passing game in order to be a good offensive coordinator? Can't you just run the ball rather than throw a five yard pass?

Over the past two decades, offensive coordinators have put more emphasis on horizontally stretching defenses with the pass. This change is arguably the most important and recognizable change in the way the game is played. By stretching the defense along the entire line of scrimmage, the short passing game opens up rushing lanes as well as vertical passing routes. We see here what happens if the offense doesn't attack LBs who play with poor pass leverage.

2:45–2:53

The LB who would normally be covering the slot receiver cheats too far to the inside. We know that Auburn had a potent rushing attack, but due to this alignment Auburn has no hope of blocking him. The angle for the WR is too severe and we see the LB run right past him. Although the LB doesn't make the tackle he does blow up the play and slows down the RB, allowing a teammate to make the stop.

In order to combat this aggressive alignment, Auburn MUST target the uncovered slot receiver. The safety is in a good position to stop a deep play action pass but is too far off to stop a short throw. With the LB too far inside to stop an outside route there is a large gap in the secondary. By failing to audible to a short pass, Auburn's rush play is doomed.

Picking up what the Defense is Putting Down

With the attention that Loeffler's rushing attack draws and the large cushion his play-action game affords his WR's, he needs to be able to consistently attack the soft spots in a defense to get easy yards. So how does he do attempt to do that?

One way is with every Hokie's favorite pass play, the WR screen.

15:25–15:38

Now there has been a lot of gnashing of teeth over the use of the WR screen at Tech. I've heard the bellyaching at games, and read a lot of posts online from a vocal portion of the fan base who detest every time they see a WR screen. Sadly for them, the WR screen is here to stay. Forever. As long as defenses don't match up numbers on the perimeter we will see this play.

The play is as simple as it gets. If the offense has an equal number of blockers as the defense does tacklers, the screen should work everytime (of course it doesn't work EVERY time, WR's aren't known for their blocking skills).

With two defenders and two blockers, the Tigers get the ball to their playmaker in space and he picks up some very good yardage. Simple but effective. Every high school coach in the country has this in their playbook though. What were Loeffler's "bread and butter" plays? Which concepts did he believe in enough to run when he REALLY needed a first down?

During Stinespring's tenure as head offensive honcho, I frequently lamented the lack of imagination in the short pass game. Sure Tech would send it's WR's on short pass routes but the route packages never seemed to have a rhyme or reason. You can't just say "Danny Coale, go run a curl" and expect to have consistent success, you need to have well defined and self-contained concepts. Concepts which will work every time regardless if the secondary is lined up in man, cover-3, or blitzing. Too often it seemed that when Tech needed a short yardage pass, all the WR routes would be covered and the WR's would stand around looking lost.
Trying to scout out some of Loeffler's packages at Auburn was frustrating at first, mostly because Auburn simply didn't throw short very often with Frazier at QB. After finally finding a handful of the type of plays I was looking for, I started to get excited. Very excited.

Those defenses better check their hypotenuses

Norm Chow is one of my favorite offensive minds in football. His work on the short passing game at BYU laid the groundwork for much of the spread phenomenon we've seen the past decade. Without a way to control the ball by throwing it short, teams wouldn't be able to operate almost exclusively out of shotgun like so many do today.

In one of his AFCA presentations about his time at BYU, Norm chow states that when putting together his passing game plan he wanted "to create triangles. Everybody understands horizontal stretch routes and vertical stretch routes. At BYU, we like to develop oblique stretches" (Emphasis is mine). So what is an oblique stretch? An oblique stretch is merely a way to attack the different levels of a pass defense. On paper the oblique stretch will get you a player open against any coverage, be it man, cover-2 or cover-3. The first few games of Auburn's season shows that Loeffler is quite the fan of this package.

Against a run-heavy team like Auburn, most defenses prefer to run some form of a cover-3, where a safety stays in underneath coverage with the LB's and both CB's and one safety drops into deep coverage.

This allows the safety to help match-up against the run while also allowing the defense to protect against deep passes. The cover-3 is susceptible to short passes though, and Loeffler uses his WR's to create triangles to exploit the holes in the cover 3. Below, we see how difficult it is to defend this combination.

The defense has little hope of covering all three receivers in this coverage. The "Y" receiver will run a "snag" route towards the middle of the field. Meanwhile the "Z" receiver will run a route towards the sideline, and the "X" receiver runs at the CB. The CB will drop deep, as he has deep third responsibilities and must respect the threat of a vertical route. If the MLB jumped the snag route and the OLB widened out to defend the "Z" receiver, then the QB has a nice passing lane to hit "X" on the curl. The only way to stop X's curl is to rotate the OLB or MLB in front of his break, which would leave the snag or the sideline route open.

The triangle concept isn't limited to the sideline, it can be run towards the middle of the field as well. Loeffler does a good job at mixing the triangle concept into different looks and formations. While Frazier struggles to make the correct read and throw, Auburn does manage to get WR's open against their opponents.

16:06–16:30

On this play Auburn throws a triangle at the middle of Mississippi State's defense. Auburn's underneath WR run their routes too close together, but the LBs and strong safety still get sucked into them. This opens up a hole in front of the deep safety. Running into that void is the top of the triangle, the player Frazier has to get the ball too. Frazier sees the blitz, panics, and throws it to the wrong receiver. Despite the poor outcome, Hokies should take this play as a positive since it shows the strong principles Loeffler's short passing game is based on.

8:53–9:02

Here's another play that looks discouraging until you see what Loeffler was trying to accomplish. This was in Auburn's first home game of the season, vs ULM. ULM drops into what appears to be a "quarters" defense, one where both safeties and both corners drop deep and the three linebackers take the underneath routes. Loeffler manages to get a man open for at least first down yardage, but the pass is knocked down at the line of scrimmage. The interesting thing is how Loeffler manages to set up the triangles concept without putting three WR's on the same side of the field.

Auburn starts off with two WR's on both sides of the formation. On the left, Loeffler has the outside receiver run an out route and he brings the inside receiver across the middle of the field. This occupies the MLB while the inside receiver from the right side of the formation occupies his OLB. A nice touch was having the underneath receivers pivot towards the sideline after running a hitch, opening up the window in between the LB's a couple extra steps for the QB.

The outside receiver on the right then runs a slant/dig to the middle of the field in front of the Safeties. With both safeties dropping deep and the LB's covering the hitches, the top of the triangle is wide open for Frazier. Typical of his time at Auburn, Loeffler's nice play design is wasted because of an unlucky tipped pass at the LOS. Having a tall QB like Logan will make these short throws over the middle much easier.

Triangles at Tech

What happens when a defensive coordinator figures out what Loeffler is trying to do and decides that enough is enough? Let's find out what Bud Foster (the best defensive coordinator in the country) does.

0:46– 0:53

By now hopefully you recognize the triangle combination that Loeffler is using here. His two inside receivers run short hitches and the outside receiver at the bottom of the screen runs a slant. When the LB is too slow to react to the hitch, Logan takes the safe throw for a nine yard gain. Foster has seen Loeffler's short passing game in the scrimmages leading up to the spring game and I imagine he isn't going to be content giving up 9 yards that easily all day long. His response? Overload the side threatening the "triangle" concept, while relying on man coverage on the backside.

1:02–1:14

At the top of the screen, we see Foster placing four defenders with the bunched WR's. Foster will be able to stop any Triangle combination they run here, as he has two defenders to jump the underneath routes and two remaining to double a deep route. Foster also has to keep two linebackers in the box to protect against a QB-run play. This leaves one-on-one man coverage at the bottom of the screen. Josh Stanford beats his man with a slant move, the LB is slow rotating over because he has coverage responsibilities on the RB, and Stanford is off to the races. Logan Thomas does a great job of recognizing the single coverage pre-snap, he does a great job handling a bad snap, and he does a great job getting the ball to his man in time. The only way to stop the Triangle short passing game, other than just having better athletes, is to over commit defenders. This will leave holes elsewhere in your defense that should be exploited. It'll be up to Loeffler to teach Logan where those holes appear.

The more I study what Scott Loeffler tried to accomplish in his one year at Auburn, the more excited I get about his future at Tech. His Norm Chow influenced passing game had players running open against aggressive defenses. Frank Beamer wants a ball-control offense which can pick up first downs and keep his defense rested. Loeffler has all the necessary knowledge to accomplish just that. The only questions that remain are about his ability to actually coach, not just draw up plays.

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Comments

Great job, I seem to remember Bryan Randall benefited greatly from a solid mix of short routes, too.

The U invented Swag, but UVA invented Smug.

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Personally, I would love to see us get more short throws and then YAC because I think that's where you can do more damage. Throwing deep is risky unless your receiver has beaten his man. The biggest risk to those short passes though is trying to thread the needle and getting caught. Giving up an INT close to the line of scrimmage can result in a big return or even a pick 6. But making the completion can give you blockers downfield so you can pick up significant yardage. I like the scheming of forcing holes though. It's a smart play design to exploit any defense as long as the QB makes the right reads, which looked to be Frazier's biggest pitfall.

An absolute home run here. The concept of "double routes" (ie both receivers flanked to the strong side) is something we saw a little bit of in the spring game, but Alabama uses it heavily. Double slants, with the first route clearing out for the wider man. Double in's. Double hitches. It is becoming a much more prelevant part of the game.

Viva El Guapo

The mirrored routes are a favorite of mine in the passing game. It really pressures the deep safety and linebacker underneath, especially when coupled with play action which Alabama does so well.

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@pbowman6

Excellent article -- well developed and thought out!

Can you do an article that focuses on the OL scheme that Grimes had at Auburn?

Check this out

http://www.thekeyplay.com/content/2013/january/21/loeffler-grimes-and-fu...

And this one

http://www.thekeyplay.com/content/2013/april/22/2013-spring-game-offensi...

Honestly, I'm not going to be able to add much (read: anything) to French's analysis of Grimes's run game. He's pretty much covered it all, and anything he hasn't covered is going to be to nuanced for me to know.

I would strongly recommend reading those articles over though, they'll have what you're looking for.

That was one helluva read! Thanks! Very informative.

This is awesome! Between you and French my football IQ is reaching dangerously high levels

As I tweeted to French and Mason, in soccer, triangle passing is one of the most fundamental aspects of the game. It seem that same principle applies in football as well, and it makes a lot of sense. Now I know why whenever I play on my Xbox360, I have more success hitting tight ends or receiver in the middle of the field, and it's because of the triangle.

It's incredible how very versatile the geometric shape is, yet it is often overlooked and underappreciated.

I think the short passing attack is fundamental as well because it a) forces the defense to move in close, opening up a possibly of attacking a safety on a 1-to-1 coverage with a wide receiver, b) forces the defense to overcommit to stopping the run, and opening up the running lanes on draw plays. Of course, it is all dependent on the success of the offensive line's ability to read the defense and call out the correct blocking scheme, and for the quarterback to audible if he gets the funny feeling.

I think that was one negative about Logan last season. He missed seeing corners or safeties changing position as soon as he looks down at the center. Hopefully he is working hard on hiding his tells.

Excellent work, Mason.

I support Logan Thomas and make no apologies for it.

I was about to post about this. Take a look at the Spanish national team play, and it is all triangles. And they are brilliant at it. No wonder Spain won the last World Cup and Euros.

Any team that can master the nuisances of triangle passing are difficult to beat. From the first day of soccer practice, that was one thing my coach emphasis to us, and when I coached my daughter's soccer team one spring, I brought that concept to them.

And Spain is one hell of a team to beat.

I support Logan Thomas and make no apologies for it.

That title game vs Italy was pretty much rape

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I definitely think that Logan struggled with reading the defense POST snap last year. I always thought he was good at reading the defense pre-snap, a lot of short throws a QB makes will be determined before the play even starts.

"If the corner is playing off, throw here... If the Will LB is in the box, throw here..."

He always seemed to do well with those reads. The reads where he has to see where the safety rotates deep or drops into a "robber" coverage, those post-snap reads are where he struggles. His first INT of the spring game is a perfect example of the reads he has to get better at, recognizing that a defender jumped a route and he has to come off his initial receiver to find his second option.

I have confidence that he'll turn a corner this season though. He showed in 2011 he was capable of making those reads, Loeffler just has to tap into that potential.

I share your confidence in Thomas. I do believe that with Loeffler tutoring him, he may recapture or exceed the 2011 form. I know some bitter Hokies haters want to point out Thomas had Boykin and Coale who helped out, which are true to an extent, and having Wilson in the backfield certainly didn't hurt. However, Thomas showed he has a gun on his arm and can fit the ball into a tight window. It is a matter of doing it consistently.

As French noted, the Pistol package O'Cain and Stiney installed last spring completely screwed up Thomas' footwork, and he did not recover from it.

One other aspect that haters forget - Thomas can run. He is compared favorably to Rothelisberger for his arm strength and mobility. Thomas does have a long way to go, but I feel he can make it as a top 10 quarterback in the next Draft.

I support Logan Thomas and make no apologies for it.

Another great post...have you analyzed any of loeffler's offenses prior to auburn such as at temple? Keep up the good work

This might be a really dumb question, but in the matchup scenarios presented above, I don't understand why the strong safety helping in run support is on the side with only two receivers. Wouldn't a defense normally have the SS on the side with the most receivers, or alternatively have the FS up in run support, and doesn't that then ensure the zone can't be overloaded?

Strong is usually going to line up the strong side (the side with more blockers & usually the side with the TE) to help out in the run game and the Free will line up on the side where the pass threat is heaviest ie the side with most receivers. If you look at the above diagrams you'll notice that there is only one with a TE on the line and the rest have even fronts. With the even front the offense doesn't create a "strong side" so the Strong just lines up on the inherent strong side, which is the right side of the offense because mostly all qbs/rbs are right handed. On the one with the offset front (TE on the right side) the Strong lines up on the right side because that's where the extra blocker (run threat) is present. If the TE lined up on the left side then the Strong would have been right there with him.

I think based on the routes run in the diagrams and the Strong's assignment bubble, it's easy to say, "well if the Strong was on the left side he would have been right in the middle of that little cute triangle." It doesn't quite work like that though.

Kendall Fuller - future Thorpe winner

Wouldn't a defense normally have the SS on the side with the most receivers, or alternatively have the FS up in run support, and doesn't that then ensure the zone can't be overloaded?

It depends on the defenses rules. Some coordinators would put the SS there, some would have the MLB rotate over to match up (which is how I have it diagrammed), some line up both ways depending on which hash the offense is on... It's flexible.

Whether the MLB or the SS rotates over doesn't matter, they still won't have the proper leverage to defend all three routes. Only by rotating both the SS and the MLB would the defense stop the triangles concept... but doing so would open up the backside for a short pass.

Snag open

Look at this Pic. If the SS were to slide all the way over to cover the "snag" route, the only underneath defender on the right hand side would be the OLB. Having both receivers on the right hand side run hitches/slants/ins would get one of them wide open.

These breakdowns are fantastic. Thanks for putting in the time!

Wow. this was a good lunch break read. Thanks!

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mmmm....offense!

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Fantastic write-up!
Thanks for going back to Loeffler's work at Auburn and mixing it in with what we saw in the Spring game. I couldn't make heads or tails of what was going on in the passing game this spring, and frankly the results didn't give me any warm fuzzy feelings. Now that you've provided some insight on Loeffler's passing schemes, all of us die-hard Hokies can go back and re-watch the spring game and look for "oblique stretches".
Thanks also for providing the link to Norm Chow's passing explanations as well. I look forward to watching games of the "Auburn train wreck" and figuring out why their offense was so horrid. BTW, in your review of last year's Auburn games, at what point do you think they moved away from Loeffler's schemes?
Lastly, I just noticed Loeffler and Grimes ended last year against 'Bama, and face them the first game this year. August 31st has all the makings of a real grudge match. He's a link to an Alabama podcast that laughs at our chances in the opener (in case our offense needs any more motivation.)
http://www.al.com/alabamafootball/index.ssf/2013/05/looking_ahead_at_ala...
#BeatBama!

"When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." -Ray Kroc

What point do you think they moved away from Loeffler's schemes?

I actually think I may have been overly cautious when I decided to only look at early season games. I recently watched the Auburn vs Alabama game, and didn't see Auburn doing anything drastically different from what I saw in the earlier games and what we're seeing at Tech so far.

So with base defense formations, the triangle passing scheme seems to work fairly well. Either you've got an open guy, or a guy in single coverage on an island. I guess that leads me to the question of what happens when teams start getting out of base defense to stop these plays? In all the scenario's described, the secondary consists of two corners and two safeties with linebacker responsibilities underneath. I guess my question is, is this whole concept still able to be carried out when teams are running nickel packages, where they've got 5 defensive backs to shut down 4 receivers rather than 4 on 4.

Logan 3:16

I would think that that would be considered a successful passing game, since it would get a man out of the box and Loefler and the rest of the offensive staff have repeatedly asserted that they want to be a run first team.

Bingo. The second that Saban (or anyone else for that matter), is forced to somewhat abandon his run defense to stop the bleeding in the passing game, we've got 'em right where we want 'em. Then, it's Edmunds left, Edmunds right, Edmunds up the middle 'til the defense figures it out.

Well that's actually a very good question, and the answers a little complicated... in fact I could probably write another article on that... but for now here's a couple of things to keep in mind.

1. Loeffler likes to go five wide with his base personnel. We've seen this in the spring game, he'll have a RB and a TE (or two) lined up wide. This means that the Defense can't bring in a nickel package unless they want to risk facing Loeffler's bread and butter play (the zone stretch) undermanned. Going five wide with TE's and RB's instead of receivers means Loeffler is sacrificing speed, but in return he's insuring he'll get LB's in coverage.

2. Theoretically, the triangle will work every time regardless of personnel if the secondary is respecting the deep pass.

Triangle

The OLB and MLB don't really matter (they could both be CB's), they're both occupied with their underneath receivers. The reason the "x" receiver is open is because the CB in the deep third has to respect deep pass. He's taught to give the X receiver plenty of space, and only break on routes in front of him once the ball is in the air. This delay, caused by his deep third responsibilities, prevents him from getting to the WR in time to make a play on the ball. With a good throw and a good route, the play should be a completion 100 percent of the time.

(Here's an example)

WITH THAT SAID, we all know that football isn't played on a chalkboard... and in practice some CB's hate giving up curl after curl after curl. Eventually, despite what their coaches tell them, they'll get antsy and start jumping that curl route. The second they see the WR break down, they'll sprint to where they think the ball is heading. Once that happens, the OC has to see he has an aggressive CB on his hands. A double move (like a stop and go) against a deep-third CB can go for a TD if the CB is too aggressive on short routes in front of him.

(Double move FTW!)

Hopefully this answered your great question!

That definitely makes sense. Also, as soon as I asked it I realized that once a team gets out of its base formation, the run game gets opened right back up. Thanks for the response!

Logan 3:16

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but as a WR in intramural football this year (cause that's where the real glory is, let's face it), I worked that double move for tons of TDs. Even on the D-1 level, like you said, CBs don't like getting beat, even on short stuff. I LOVE the way that Loeffler has designed his offense and I'm very excited to see how it's implemented over the next few months/seasons.

I sincerely hope that Loeffler also reinforced what George Whitfield taught Thomas last spring; I'm still amazed that O'Cain scapegoated that QB-camp last year. Pretty much every elite QB in recent years has done well because of Whitfield's enhanced coaching. I agree that LT3 needs a good refresher in the fundamentals from Lefty (which we're seeing right now), but he also needs the elite teachings of a proven QB coach to reach his potential.

The U invented Swag, but UVA invented Smug.

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As others have said, this is excellent work & I'm glad to see more outstanding football analysis on the site. One other thing I want to applaud you for, and it's the quote below:

"...once it became obvious that most of the article would be about Kiehl Frazier's shortcomings, I decided to change my approach. College athletes are amateurs, usually barely adults, so I'm going to avoid criticizing them too harshly."

I wish more people took this approach when it comes to how we talk about college athletes. Yeah, we get wrapped up in the game & want our team to do well, but there's a line that doesn't need to be crossed. Nothing gets my blood boiling more than having our own fans boo our players... why would an 18-year old kid want to play for fans like that? Now when it comes to professional athletes, go ahead and boo. They're paid millions to perform at a high level... college kids, not so much.

Don't mean to derail the quality discussion, but I wanted to note that I appreciate the positive tone of your writing. Carry on!

You mean college athletes AREN'T highly-paid robots that exist solely to perform on the football field for my personal enjoyment? Inconceivable!

When does Mason get his own button at the top of the screen? (That's right Joe, someone is asking for a redesign). He could be Spanish in reference to the soccer discussion earlier, as well as expanding your foreign language section (French).

RIP Stick it In

I'm late to the party but thanks for the great read!

Hopefully our hypotenuses will have a similar effect on opposing defenses this season...

Those scientists better check their hypotenuses

Great article, but i have some questions:

In looking at your diagrams, aren't you showing flood patterns rather than triangles? The patterns you're showing don't have a vertical concept to them.

Isn't the premise of triangles to be effective against man and zone? so the patterns would look like a snag, a flat and a corner route, or a scat, flat, and go route, etc.?

For the entirety of the passing game, probably. But this article focused only on the short passing game. Of course, the idea is similar for deep balls too. Layer the routes. It's a concept the previous staff never got, which was nearly unbearable to watch.

In looking at your diagrams, aren't you showing flood patterns rather than triangles?

The two aren't mutually exclusive though. Almost all flood patterns can be broken down into triangles.

The patterns you're showing don't have a vertical concept to them

I disagree. All the patterns have a vertical concept, just not necessarily a "down the field" concept to them. I've just ingested two rails from TOTS, but i'll try to clarify the difference. Let's look at this play here, my personal favorite example.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=n3eDd8mVT2o#t=533s

Here's a diagram of the play.

imgur, suckas

This play only works BECAUSE there is a vertical concept. The two inside receivers, layer one, take up the attention of the LBers and force them to stay shallow in coverage. This increases the size of the hole in between the safety and LBers. Layer two is the key, as the third receiver runs into the vacant space. The defense isn't able to cover him because he gets more vertical than the other two WR's, he just doesn't get vertical enough to run into the deeper coverage.

Isn't the premise of triangles to be effective against man and zone? so the patterns would look like a snag, a flat and a corner route, or a scat, flat, and go route, etc.?

I'm not sure I understand, all of these routes would work against man coverage. Maybe not PRESS man coverage, if the defense had better athletes. If a team lined up with straight man-on-man, no safety, bump-and-run coverage Loeffler wouldn't turn to triangles to defeat that though. He'd be looking to isolate the mismatches and hit them up with double moves.

Loeffler relies on the triangle concept when the defense is stacking the box against the run and playing it safe against the deep ball with deep coverage. Does it matter if a CB is in a deep Cover-3 look or just giving a large cushion with man responsibility? No. Either way, the Curl will be open and he'll take that throw.

The play you're showing me above seems doomed from the start. Pre-snap, HB doesn't read the play properly, expects blitz, and never releases to the flat. The LBs are in a 3-deep underneath, but the W & S are cheating way inside. The flats are wide open. but there's no receiver to throw to.

The inside receivers are running snag routes. The outside receiver is running an option route, he reads the defense, and either releases deep or runs a 12 yd hunt route. He choose the 12 yd hunt - which I think was the correct call. The far side receiver runs a comeback route, which I don't think was the proper route. I think the post would have been a better choice to occupy the deep corner and the safety, allowing for a greater hole in the middle of the quarters coverage.

HB should have checked, and released three yards into the flat to the left side. With the OLB overplaying the inside on the snag, a simple toss to the HB would've been close to a first down. If the far receiver runs off the corner, then the throw to the flat is a sure first down.

Because there is so much congestion in the middle, the QB tries to fit into the hunt route, and it gets knocked down because there isn't a big enough passing window between the LBs and the Safeties to throw into.

So, this play has a better chance of working if the RB releases, and would be a first down if the correct route is run up top by the WR. I think the WR didn't run the correct route because the comeback would work great in combination with a wheel route by the HB, which puts the CB in the 1/4 in a pinch and leaves either receiver open depending on his choice. It doesn't work on a straight flat release.

So you don't even have a true triangle read on this play, but if it was run properly, I think the read would go (1) Peak at the WR up top running the post, (2) would be the snag route, (3) would be the back in the flat.

To me, a triangle read goes back to the old Stan Gillman and Bill Walsh, BYU Norm Chow and Doug Scovill concepts in that you are stretching the field horizontally and vertically to open up passing windows in a zone coverage. The read for the QB then is a triangle read from high to low. I think this is what Loeffler was trying to do on this play, but there was a clear communication breakdown that caused a breakdown in the play itself.

it gets knocked down because there isn't a big enough passing window between the LBs and the Safeties to throw into.

I'll be honest, I don't think the size of the window has anything to do with the bat down. I think Auburn just got unlucky, a Defensive linemen had an arm up and hit the ball.

you don't even have a true triangle read on this play

It may not be a traditional triangle read, but that's part of the reason I liked it so much. With the safeties dropping deep, they can't get upfield to cover the "hunt" route in time. Their only chance is to drop a linebacker underneath the WR, but both LBs are occupied with the snag routes. If one of the LB's had dropped to cover him, Auburn could have thrown to one of the snags, putting the defense in a classic "triangle" bind.

clear communication breakdown that caused a breakdown in the play itself.

I disagree, this play design got a wide open WR running free through the middle of the defense 10+ down the field.

The play fails because the RB doesn't release to the flat. They already had a 20+ yard gain earlier because the S & W weren't covering the backs out of the backfield. Loeffler and staff would have picked this up. That play was called to see if the Sam jumps out on the flat, that Snag is wide open top side for a nice gain if that happens.

The safeties did not drop deep because there wasn't a deep route to force them deep. Why would a defender occupy a zone that doesn't have a player in it? The safety is two/three steps away when the ball is released. They were lucky the ball got knocked down because it would've been a pick. The hunt is open if the QB waits for him to clear past the Mike and the WR at the top runs off the corner and the safety on a post. There is a hole there because the Sam is on flat duty, and the Mike is occupied on the snag.

Those are the two reasons why I think the play is a busted play. The "open" guy that you see is getting open is in a an area occupied by 5 defenders. If that's the play, then Loeffler must of thought Frazier was Brett Farve, because he was going to have to throw that on a rope over the Mike and under the safeties for it to work.

They already had a 20+ yard gain earlier because the S & W weren't covering the backs out of the backfield.

The RB was open on a play-action I-formation pass.

The play fails because the RB doesn't release to the flat.

You keep wanting to turn this play into something it's not. COULD Auburn have used a curl/wheel/snag combination to attack this zone? Maybe (though I'm not as optimistic about the snag's odds of beating the coverage as you appear to be), but they don't do that in this play. It's not a busted play because the offense doesn't do what you'd expect them too though, especially not if there is a WR open on the play in the middle of the field.

The safeties did not drop deep because there wasn't a deep route to force them deep. Why would a defender occupy a zone that doesn't have a player in it?

Even if the WR doesn't run a deep route, he still threatened the safeties with a deep route.

Re-watch the play. Both safeties drop deep in a MOFO coverage. The WR gets vertical and inside of the boundary CB. The safeties have to be wary of the WR running a post at that point and will give up ground. Whether or not the WR actually runs a post doesn't matter to them, they still have to respect the possibility. The WR cuts his route off and cuts across the field underneath of their deep zone. He's open because the LB's can drop underneath his route, since they're occupied by the two snag routes.

The "open" guy that you see is getting open is in a an area occupied by 5 defenders. If that's the play, then Loeffler must of thought Frazier was Brett Farve, because he was going to have to throw that on a rope over the Mike and under the safeties for it to work

Oh come on, now you're just being disingenuous. There weren't five defenders in the area and Frazier wasn't going to have to throw OVER anyone. Here's a screen shot of the play to prove that there is a very large window for Frazier to fit in the ball.

Suckah

Those linebackers which you count as "defenders in the area" have zero chance of making a play on the ball. Logan Thomas will absolutely make this throw, and I think Loeffler can be forgiven for asking his starting SEC QB to do the same.

You keep wanting to turn this play into something it's not. COULD Auburn have used a curl/wheel/snag combination to attack this zone? Maybe (though I'm not as optimistic about the snag's odds of beating the coverage as you appear to be), but they don't do that in this play. It's not a busted play because the offense doesn't do what you'd expect them too though, especially not if there is a WR open on the play in the middle of the field.

I'll comment on this and then I'll close it off. I think the play has options built into it depending on the coverage, which is why I think the play did not work as it was run in this case. The play has two reads after the snap: 1. Is it Man or Zone coverage? The WR at the bottom of the screen read zone, changed his route to a zone route, The WR at the top of the screen read man and ran the man route. 2. The RB Checks blitz and then moves to the flat.

The combination of these two errors (WR running the wrong check route and the RB not releasing) caused the play not to work. Look at the screen grab. There's acres of space in the top flat. There's no way the RB should have NOT released to the flat!

That said, I enjoyed the back and forth immensely, which is why I signed up for this site to begin with, the discussion is very detailed and doesn't resort to name calling, etc. like other message boards.

Great job and keep up the excellent work.

This conversation has definitely been fun, and other then talking to Loeffler directly it's impossible to say who is correct.

IMO, the receiver at the top of the screen isn't reading "man or zone", but rather the depth of the CB. If the CB gives him a large cushion it doesn't necessarily tip his hand if it's a zone or a man coverage (For example, a CB in Cover-3, Cover-4, or single man coverage could all have the same depth, making it to hard for an OC to ask his WR to diagnose which one he is in), but a large cushion should theoretically allow the WR to beat the defender with a good out route or curl route.

Could the RB be missing his blitz read? Sure, it's possible. Many (read: most) have this read in their passing plays. However in this case, I believe Loeffler is keeping the RB in to block regardless simply because of his tendencies. Loeffler loves keeping extra men in to block. I believe on this play, he left the RB into block because he knew he wouldn't need the outlet.

The design of the play is to take what the defense is giving up, the intermediate middle of the field, by having two deep safeties. It's where Frazier looks right after the snap, it's where Loeffler sends 3 WR's, and it's where the throw is directed towards an open player. COULD Loeffler have intended on sending the RB to the flat if no blitz? Yes. But I'm not sure the benefit of doing such a thing would have outweighed the benefit of an extra blocker.