Tressel’s new calling: Ball control . . . passing?

Buckeye Football Analysis recently broke down Ohio State’s tactics in their Rose Bowl win over Oregon. The verdict? The Tresseller rose above his reputation as football dinosaur and outschemed famed schemer, Chip Kelly. Specifically, Tressel channeled his inner Bill Walsh by having Pryor use a lot of ball control passes, including one play Buckeye Football Analysis highlighted in particular, namely a packaged combination of “snag” to one side and “double-slants” to the other.

Packaged concepts” refers to the fact that Tressel has put different route combinations to either side: To the left he has put the double-slant combination, while to the right he has the snag combo. As BFA points out: “First, it was part of the quick passing game so it allowed Pryor to throw before the blitz came. Second, putting these routes to each side actually provided three coverage beaters.”

One of these was a simple man-blitz beater in the slants: If Oregon blitzed and played man, Pryor could immediately throw the slant. Indeed, he could do this against regular man coverage too, as he did in the clip below.

Against zones, Pryor had a few options. One was to simply hit the slants again if that’s what the defense gave him by its alignment. He does this effectively below:

Another would be to work the “snag” combo. The snag is a variant of the smash, where one point is to get a high-low with the corner route and the flat route (except now the flat is controlled by the runningback), with the added dimension of an outside receiver running the “snag” route — a one-step slant where he settles inside at 5-6 yards. This gives you a “triangle” stretch, where you have both a high/low read (corner to RB in the flat) and a horizontal read from inside to outside (snag route to the RB in the flat).

And the best part for Pryor is that these are all quick, immediate routes that (a) give him options against the blitz, and (b) provide controlled passes against zones too as the receivers settle in the voids. I don’t have any video of OSU throwing the snag side, but here is an example of the Steelers using the play to win the Super Bowl, and some Airraid/Mike Leach based cut-ups of their snag play, Y-corner (which is actually basically the same, with snag to one side and a form of double-slants to the other).

So the final question is, how does Pryor read this and know where to go? I don’t know what keys Tressel is giving Pryor, so I can only say how I would teach it. Note that both the snag combo and the double slants are both designed to attack either (a) man coverage or (b) two-deep zones, so the main key you’d give your quarterback — go one way if there is one deep safety or another if there are two — is out. This doesn’t mean it’s poorly designed, it’s just a different goal. (This is how most pro teams package snag as well.) Instead you probably give the quarterback a pre-snap key along the lines of: “go to the snag side unless…,” where the unless includes (1) a man-blitz or other man coverage where you have a good matchup (see the first video), or where the defense is just giving you the slant by alignment (the second video). From there the QB can make a judgment on whether he likes the snag or the slants based on the alignment of the linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties. Another possibility, though one I probably wouldn’t use, would be to read the middle linebacker and choose whether to go to the snag side or the double slant side based on where he went. That would give you a good key on those two routes, but I wouldn’t use it because it doesn’t tell you much about the corner/flat combo or the outside slant to the other side.

Two final thoughts. One, unless it is a blitz and the quarterback can’t get it out (hence the slants), the snag is the more versatile combo as, even if the defense is in a three-deep type coverage, the “snag” receiver can usually find an open spot and get you five to six yards as an outlet. And, finally, there is a final advanced technique you could use that I plan on expanding on in the future. It is the packaged three-step and five-step combination. Basically, you put a three step drop combo to one side with a five-step to the other. The QB can look to the three step side first — which should be open versus a particular coverage as well as a blitz, as sort of an automatic hot route — then, if that’s not there, the quarterback would reset his feet for depth and swing his eyes to look for the five-step combo; here, the snag (though whether snag is three-step or five-step depends on what depth you run the receivers’ routes at). In the future I will talk about how to package this and even let the quarterback pick the three-step combination at the line.

But that is all for a later post. For now, viva la Tresselball.

  • First off, ALLSOME to have you back posting!!! Hope everything is going well.

    Considered by some as one of the grandfathers/pioneer of what we now refer to as “Air Raid”, Noel Mazzone (now at Arizona State) shared his fundamental concepts with Teaching the Snag Concept not long ago. It is good stuff, and actually pretty simple (showing a divergence from how some other 3-step coaches use it).

    The Big 10 is changing, it is nice to see them embracing the evolution of offense. It will be interesting to see how they handle Pryor this next season.

  • Will

    Chris, great post as usual. However, I’d disagree that the snag combo is specifically designed to beat Cover 2. As you write in the next paragraph, it’s also effective against Cover 3 structures, and I consider it one of the great all-around plays. The underneath stretch puts a lot of pressure on the OLB / Sky Safety to fly to the flat to cover the RB, and if he does it leaves a big hole for the flanker to settle in, with a primarily run-oriented ILB trying to stop him as a bonus. So a good presnap read might be to throw the slants against man (especially blitz, as you wrote), and throw the snag against zones, possibly using motion before the play to help identify coverage.

    As for having a 3 step combo to one side and a 5 step to the other, I’ll be interested to read that post. I have always taught 3 step protection as more aggressive than 5 step, to keep the d-linemen’s hands down without having to worry as much about getting beat by a slow developing pass rush move or twist, so I hope you go into some detail on pass pro in that article.

    Again, great stuff.

  • T.D.

    “The Big 10 is changing, it is nice to see them embracing the evolution of offense. It will be interesting to see how they handle Pryor this next season.”

    This notion that the Big Ten is somehow “backwards” in offense is vexing to me, and mostly comes from people who don’t watch Big Ten football. The Big Ten has had plenty of interesting schemes over the years, but, at its heart, it is a ball control conference.

    Purdue had a ton of success in the late 90’s with their controlled passing game, but the conference defenses improved enough to force a change in their scheme.

    Northwestern has had sustained success with their spread option offense.

    Michigan State, under John L. Smith, ran an Air-Raidish offense during his tenure there.

    The style of the conference just isn’t open like the Big 12 or Pac-10. Really, the Big Ten and SEC are very similar in style- the Big Ten just lacks the athletes that the SEC has.

  • That’s odd, because I grew up watching Big10 football for 30 years. And other than upstarts like Northwestern, then Purdue, then MSU….the dominance of UM, OSU, Illinois (Tepper), Wisconsin, and Iowa (Fry) it was as it was, and received its ground-pound associations appropriately.

    There is nothing wrong with that, spreading out doesn’t equal success. It is just nice to see people willing to embrace change/different ways/styles of play.

  • Co-ach

    Like Will alluded to, we love to Zip the Z snag to identify coverage.

    Glad to see you posting again Chris

  • T.D.

    I apologize if I came off personally offensive; I was more or less using your comment as a jumping off point

    Never said you personally didn’t grow up watching Big Ten ball. I had no way of knowing what you do follow, so I simply involved what I’ve recognized to be a trend amongst commentators on this topic in the past.

    Really, the last time the Big Ten has run “3 yards and a cloud of dust” was in the late ’80s, maybe early ’90s, Wisconsin notwithstanding.

    Penn State, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio State ran pro-style offenses with pro-style concepts throughout the ’90s and they dominated the conference.

    And not to associate spread formations with modernity, but Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Purdue, and Northwestern all run a strict spread system, with Penn State and Minnesota loosely flitting between spread and tight formations. Heck, even Ohio State was largely spread with Troy Smith for 3 years.

    The information on their offenses over the past 20 years simply doesn’t support the idea that the Big Ten is behind in offensive scheme.

    I think, and this isn’t directed at you, that non-Northerners primarily see three Big Ten teams in the Capital One and Outback Bowl yearly (Non-BCS New Years Day Games) and think the entire conference runs their style of offense. Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan State have been in the traditional Big Ten bowl games so much over the past ten years or so, that people assume these teams are all the Big Ten has offensively.

  • Coach Cloutz

    Very good post and I’ll echo previous replies that it is great to read you again Chris.

    I’m also looking forward to another post on packaged sides, especially 3-step and 5-step stuff packaged together. I’d love your thoughts on protection (as Will wrote) and QB footwork, especially from the gun.

  • cr

    We run this play frequently. It has universal applications but we love it vs a 2 High look with 4 down lineman. Vs this look the key is the MLB. He is generally taught to open to #3(RB) this leaves the Will in a bind vs the double Slant. Vs 1 high we generally go to the snag side unless it is obviously man – we are trying to get two on 1 vs the flat defender. The 2 LB’s droping to the weak (open) side can match your slants if it is zone. He throws the inside slant vs. man in this clip – but there is a floating LB who could have been a danger to the throw. Generally it is better vs cover 1 to throw the outside slant. Vs 3 down with a potential to drop 2 LB’s weak (open side)we generally work to the snag side. The stick route is also interchangeable with the snag and reads remain the same.

  • Mr.Murder

    The Snag concept, some call that Stick(instead of the usual curl/flat) you can also create a rub on a player tagged with the flat. Rub the next player over so the back makes the flat clear. It seems different coaches use different concepts on it, some use the snag as a pick so they call it a stick, some use it as a way of converting the sticks similar to curl flat.

    Usually you settle behind the under zone defender, just inside of him. Then as he widens the window comes open. So the wideout is running this to avoid a collision, not unlike the way he is coached to run a Mesh with his team mate. Does that change if he reads players chasing?

    If the corner chases the Snag you throw corner to the slot, or is the back still a primary. Man, snag(quick) to back to corner(rhythm); zone back(look off) to corner(rhythm) to snag(settles)?

    If he pump fakes on his third step you can start a five progression to the other side? Read the squeeze on snag from outside in opposite the slants rotation, if squeezed from out go lo to hi flat to corner, not squeezed see how snag settles to corner on five.

    Here people have said the Run and Shoot now changes the routes on a pump fake. Consider the Snag side to be your change side. We would usually run a short in route and then read off it like you’ve written on the Smash concept. Get around, settle and see the rotation, work back from it while the corner route goes over the top of you.

    The Snag comes open or helps you look off the outside routes that way.