Smart Notes 9/25/09

The “ski-gun.” I’ve been getting a lot of questions about a funky shotgun triple-option offense run by Muskegon, MI high school. (“Ski-gun” or “skee-gun” refers to Muskegon.) It’s basically Paul Johnson’s flexbone triple option offense run from a pistol set. They use a shallower pistol-gun set than does Nevada, but that’s because Nevada is more focused on traditional runs than with the quick hitting veer. Below are some clips of Muskegon’s triple: first the give reads, second the QB keeps, and third the pitches.

– Clock mismanagement. The commentary after the Dolphins lost to the Colts was partially about how much time of possession matters (my view is not that much, but I have more to say on it later), but even more about the ‘Phins awful clock management at the end of the game. And it was bad.

The biggest issue was they had no sense of urgency. I do not like teams that scramble and run around frenetically, but they were very lazy about it. They wasted a lot of valuable seconds, and there is little reason the game should have ended on second down from where they were on the field. They also spiked the ball unnecessarily. As I’ve said before, in college a spike is almost never necessary, except to get your kicking team on to the field. In the NFL, because the clock doesn’t stop except on out of bounds, incomplete passes, timeouts, and the two minute warning, a clock play might be necessary if there is a gang tackle and time is flowing off the clock, etc. But I’m still very skeptical because I firmly believe you can call a play with the same amount of communication as necessary to indicate a spike play. In this case though the Dolphins bad clock management overshadowed their improper spike because they ran out of time rather than downs.

How can you get better? Here’s the best drill I know of for being ready for the two-minute drill. It should be used to finish practice at least once a week, and I know of a team that ends every practice with it. The ball is placed on the practice field at either the 5 or 10. The quarterback and first team take the field; the coaches line up on the sidelines, just as if it is a real game. (You need a manager or ref to set the ball.) The point is to replicate the game-like scenario. You can use it against no defense but it is best I think to go live against the first or second team defense (and work on that planning as well), but don’t use any tackling to the ground. (I.e. routes, blocks, etc are fully speed but no tackling.)

The offense then runs its plays but, after every play, regardless of the play’s outcome, the ball is set 10 yards ahead, i.e. to the 15 or 20 and so on. The coaches signal the play in (or the quarterback does), the players deal with the time management, and the coaches keep a stopwatch.

This way you can rep all your plays getting down the field, but since you always move it forward the drill has a finite period of time. The important things are to practice (a) communication — the drill only works if the coaches sit on the sideline like they are supposed to, (b) pace, (c) the plays that will get used in the two-minute, particularly near the goal line, and (d) just building familiarity.

As expected, all this is easier if the team already has a robust no-huddle package, as the communication would stay the same. (All teams should have such a package. Huddling wastes more time in practice than anywhere else.)

– mgogreat. Brian Cook has caught the strategy bug pretty hard, and has done a great job explaining some of Rich Rodriguez’s plays (along with doing the invaluable work of finding video clips for everything). Spread junkies of all types should check out his series on the zone read, the scrape exchange, and various counters thereto: (1) scraping, bubbling, (2) scrape, counterpunch (very good one where Rodriguez sent H-back across the formation to kick out the unblocked DE while the LB takes himself out of the play), (3) cut it up, Tate!, and (4) why people scrape (base zone read defense look).

These are all very good. If I can add anything, it is that the zone-read is a very good concept, as are these adjustments, both offensively and defensively, so the defensive reaction on the backside is something like how they approach pass coverage against a very good quarterback: as important as what you do is is that you mix it up, and keep varying the looks. It’s important to have the base look, the scrape, etc. But if the offense has counters, which it clearly does, then sometimes the best you can do is to keep them guessing.

– Spurrier, redux. Spurrier has South Carolina winning again, and they are again doing it with defense, beating Ole Miss last night 16-10. Not much to say other than that Ole Miss just didn’t look like a good team, and their offensive problems, which were many, began up front. (Hello Eric Norwood!) But Spurrier’s playcalling seems to get very tight late in games. When they got the lead things got very conservative and then predictable. Now, some of this is that USC has never had a potent straight-ahead power run game under the Ol’ Ball Coach, so when they try to just pound it they wind up with a lot of 2nd and 10s and 3rd and 8s. But even the passes were kinda lame, or simply forced. In other words, Spurrier seems to really tighten up with that late lead, and get out of the flow of his playcalling. (His playcalling against Georgia was generally very good, partially because it was happening so fast that there was no time to think and that he knew they had to keep the gas on to keep up.)

– For Whom The Rich Brooks Tolls. Every bit of this is awesome.

– Coach Speak with Brian Billick. Not bad. Make sure to catch the corner blitz breakdown after he talks with Rex Ryan.

  • cbd

    But Spurrier’s playcalling seems to get very tight late in games.

    Agreed, and I think this dates back to 1999 or so. In his last years at Florida, I remember the same plays being called, or the same players targeted, over and over again. Drove me crazy given the diversity which had worked so well for Spurrier in previous years.

  • EarthyTechnoPop

    In Spurrier’s defense (actually Spurrier, Jr. was calling most of the plays these days), Carolina had a quarterback who was gutting it out with bruised ribs and an offensive line that was just getting killed. It definitely limits what you can do when you can’t run (and risk 3rd and long) and struggle throwing the ball more than a few yards downfield.

  • headsigh

    There’s some more good Ski-Gun/Ske-Gun footage during Muskegon in the playoffs at and the related videos. Florida has also used some flexbone-esque motion plays from the spread at, albeit not exactly Pistol.

  • OURog

    It is pretty easy to look like a horrible OC when your QB is under that much pressure.

  • BC

    We (a high school I was coaching) ran the flexbone veer out of the pistol a couple of years ago. We went to it because our QB had trouble taking snaps and it gave him just tad bit more time to read the end.

  • PSUGuru

    What the heck was that jelly roll maneuver by the defensive lineman in the give read video clip? I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an odd move…

  • dguenther18

    VMI used to run the “ski-gun” or something quite similar to muskegon
    except VMI is nowhere near as fast as muskegon

  • MTK

    It helps that they are getting a huge surge from their tackles and great down field blocking to boot! Formation and splits give the QB great visibility of the read. That’s good stuff.