New Grantland Blog: Drawing Up the National Championship and A.J. McCarron’s Smash Concept

It’s up over at the Grantland blog:

Many of those downfield completions came on the “smash” concept, which involves an inside receiver running a 10- to 12-yard corner route and an outside receiver simply stopping at five yards. It’s a high/low concept: One wide receiver is deep while another is underneath, so the quarterback can read that defensive back. If he comes up for the five-yard hitch on the outside, the quarterback throws it to the corner route; if the defensive back hangs back, he drops it off short to the outside wide receiver. It’s a very basic concept, but still a great one. Indeed, even Southern Cal quarterback Matt Barkley pointed this out on Twitter, noting that Alabama’s success came on “smash routes all day.”


Read the whole thing.

  • Excellent analysis, Chris. I love the way you link back to past explanations.

    Just curious — how many times did you catch McCarron resetting the offense based on LSU personnel?  A couple of times, it looked as though they checked down to a run when LSU had Tharold Simon in as Nickel — and would spread back out when the Tigers were in base.

    And as you point out, LSU had long shown the tendency of putting Mathieu on the slot receiver in nickel siutations. Had Chavis shuffled his DB assignments, do you think the smash routes would have been as easy? (Or was McCarron just accurate enough to beat anyone?)

  • Mr.Murder

    Seemed like both teams used a lot of nickle principles and still dealt pretty well with the run game inside. Loved how Bama made passes on the outside away from possible help into a control aspect of first down.

    When teams are solid up the middle you need to work the edge, and when you do run  it is usually pitch or draw so you can get around the end or up inside of them on a backfield passing action. Those passes kept situational running in the game, and set up draw action.

    LSU no longer had suprise elements with Jefferson starting.  The first game he came off the bench and they had a stealth game going of how to locate and isolate the option force man on run reads. Bama clearly took a long time to study scrimmage line assignments and attack the run along the field’s width.

    Their technqiue on the Smash was so important, the downs they knew LSU would look for a spot pass(four to six yards placements for a conversion) they had guys hitch up the coinversion depth and ran a corner past it, anticipating LSU’s focus on the chain marker. Often they even used tight splits or receivers almost stacked because you usually don’t see that tight a look on the smash.

    Subtle ways of setting you up the haymaker over the top,  splits you’d think of a crosser or shallow, or bubble. Perhaps practice against their own pattern read team had them develop better ways to attack what you see and disguise it at the same time.

    Keep in mind that their best wideout left the game early, but everyone made their routes and was ready to catch the ball. A deep throw on the shoot route early his receiver opened up for the ball too soon and it slowed him down to the point he didn’t even get the ball and the announcer said it was an overthrow, that was six points they left on the board early but it loosened LSU up even more.

    One play they went curl-flat but instead of an immediate flat break the slot stems to a quick out. That keeps the defense from a rally to the flat because it is where he wanted to throw. A curl route got in Honey Badger’s way and he had to give up just enough space around it to allow a completion with the clock being an issue at the time. They got the route they wanted, to the player, and did it with a subtle switch in the technique. You commit the flat fast when you want the curl, they commited to it in a way that secured the flat instead. That left fewer LSU defenders to rally on the ball and try to force fumbles, get picks, or big hits while the clock became their opponent.

    Did you see Saban get livid when his team committed an offisdes penalty around two minutes left in the game? They were literally playing mistake free from the penaltiy aspect, and it was something Saban’s team took pride in. Display Championship character and execute with no fouls. Wonder if he did the Don Shula thing and had refs at their practices leading to this bowl game? Clearly it meant more to the ‘Tide team.

  • Coach Hoff

    As I was watching this during my visit to San Antonio this past week, the play you used to diagram amazed me.  Not sure if it was a bad throw or the next craze in passing.  He threw a “back shoulder corner route”.  With all the pressure back shoulder fades are putting on DB’s in terms of leverage and positioning, I thought this may be the next wrinkle to never let the DB be right.