This offseason I spoke a lot about this offense is extremely “integrative.” This is in contrast to many college offenses now which have become more a collection of different plays that they like. Instead, Jeff Grimes has installed a scheme at Baylor where all of the plays work off one another—there are built in counterpunches and theoretical answers to whatever the defense is doing.
Against Texas this past Saturday, Baylor was able to get a lot going offensively really just sticking with base run game that has all been installed since this Spring. The basic play that even lay-fans have heard of is “wide zone,” Baylor’s staple running play. Put most simply, wide zone is a play where the running back is aiming for the outside shoulder of the widest player on the playside. Here’s a basic diagram:
I pulled together 5 clips from the Texas game where Baylor lined up with an “offset” RB (where the RB is lined up directly next to the QB, either on his left or right)—this is in contrast to Baylor’s 2 main other RB alignments, pistol (where the RB is lined up directly behind the QB) and when the QB is under center and behind the QB. What is unique about an offset back? Primarily, it can give the defense more a key which way the ball is going. If the RB is lined up on the QB’s left, the only way to run wide zone is to the right (because of how the QB handoff happens). Thus, if you’re gonna run the ball well out of an offset look, you have to have constraints on the backside of the play to prevent the defense from overloading the frontside. Let’s dig in.
Here is Baylor running basic wide zone out out of an offset back look. The RB is lined up on the QB’s left, Baylor’s OL blocks wide zone right, and the RB is able to get a good gain on 1st down.
What this basic wide zone play does is forces those inside linebackers to flow hard towards that frontside. Once they start doing that, you can look for the “cutback,” where the RB gives a step or two towards the frontside and then cuts the ball back against the flow of the linebackers. This next play show exactly that. Notice how Abram is aiming towards the right but then immediately creases the ball behind the linebackers who had been flowing frontside.
This next play is another example of how you can provide a backside constraint against your basic wide zone play. The RB is aligned to the QB’s right, so the defense has to be prepared for the ball to go to the left in basic wide zone. But this is speed option on the backside. Watch how both of the inside linebackers key on that frontside. Once you get that linebacker taking false steps towards the frontside, it provides a huge hole on the backside. Huge gain on this play.
On this next play, it’s a similar story. The RB is aligned on the QB’s left, so the defense has to be prepared for the ball to be pushed to the right side on wide zone. Instead of speed option this time, Baylor tosses the ball into the boundary and the RB gets upfield quickly. These quick twitch movements where the linebackers are fooled for just a moment are all the offense needs. Great blocking and great play design open up a big hole here.
And here is the ultimate thing you can do, a great play in the redzone. The RB is lined up to the left of the QB, so defense has to be prepared for wide zone to the right. This is essentially the same exact play as the boundary toss above, but instead the QB just takes the ball and the RB acts as a lead blocker. For this play to be stopped, the LBs have to scrape over the top and meet the ball carrier in the hole. Instead you can see one of Texas’s linebackers (the one lined up towards the boundary) just sitting there flat footed and accomplishing nothing.
There was a lot more going on in this Baylor - Texas game, but the reason Baylor was able to run over Texas for most of the day is that their base offense just worked. We knew that Texas’ inside linebackers were bad going in, and Baylor was really able to take advantage of their weakness by toying with their eyes and get the run game going in a variety of different ways.