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Thread: Innovation?

  1. #1

    Innovation?

    Well... not exactly.

    But, JT has gotten a bad rap over the past few years for having a 'stagnant' and 'predictable' offensive schemes. I think some of this criticism was deserved, but I also think some of it was simple accommodation to the personnel he had on the team. I mean we did see some accomodation to 'spread formations' and 'spread technique' with things like shotgun formations and more receivers in formation. But as our QB and OL play deteriorated, this became less practical. JT attempted to disguise his lack of new scheme with fancy formations and shifts. Largely, this approach did not work.

    This year, however, JT has introduced two new elements to the offense that show promise: Pistol formations and plays, and Read-Option runs.

    I think both of these elements have more to do with the abilities of Zach Maynard than with any radical new thinking from Tedford. However, I am encouraged by the implication that JT is not as stagnant in his offensive thinking as I had feared. He seems to be taking pieces/parts from multiple offensive schemes and attempting to weave them into Cal's offensive arsenal -- which is a good thing I think. It shows that he keeps his eyes open for what works, and he attempts to apply them; because sometimes scheme matters as much as personnel.

    Too often we label an offensive identity: spread, pro-style, down-hill running team, etc. But I'm not sure this offensive identity thing is what matters. What any team wants from an offense is effectiveness: the ability to move the ball and to score. I say the identity of that kind offense is 'whatever works'.
    -BG

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by BearGeorge View Post
    Well... not exactly.

    But, JT has gotten a bad rap over the past few years for having a 'stagnant' and 'predictable' offensive schemes. I think some of this criticism was deserved, but I also think some of it was simple accommodation to the personnel he had on the team. I mean we did see some accomodation to 'spread formations' and 'spread technique' with things like shotgun formations and more receivers in formation. But as our QB and OL play deteriorated, this became less practical. JT attempted to disguise his lack of new scheme with fancy formations and shifts. Largely, this approach did not work.

    This year, however, JT has introduced two new elements to the offense that show promise: Pistol formations and plays, and Read-Option runs.

    I think both of these elements have more to do with the abilities of Zach Maynard than with any radical new thinking from Tedford. However, I am encouraged by the implication that JT is not as stagnant in his offensive thinking as I had feared. He seems to be taking pieces/parts from multiple offensive schemes and attempting to weave them into Cal's offensive arsenal -- which is a good thing I think. It shows that he keeps his eyes open for what works, and he attempts to apply them; because sometimes scheme matters as much as personnel.

    Too often we label an offensive identity: spread, pro-style, down-hill running team, etc. But I'm not sure this offensive identity thing is what matters. What any team wants from an offense is effectiveness: the ability to move the ball and to score. I say the identity of that kind offense is 'whatever works'.
    I mostly agree, he has been trying to bring in new ideas. I've always thought that mostly Tedford's offense needs an editor. You have this huge (and growing) playbook, now pare it down for "this year's" offense focused on the strengths of this year's team (which should be apparent in the offseasona nd in Spring).

    Then, pay attention to what is working and what is not working as the season, or even the game goes on. If the read option is gaining us 20 yds every time it is called, call it some more. If Maynard seems incredibly accurate rolling out and incredibly inaccurate in the pocket--ROLL HIM OUT MORE. If running Sofele up the middle on first down is getting us 0-1 yard--STOP CALLING IT SO MUCH. If Sofele is gaining 15 yds on the toss, call that MORE.

    If the first time this season you call play-action on first down and throw deep to Miller over the middle and it is 1) complete. 2) PI called, and 3) only a leg whip away from being a TD...CALL THAT PLAY MORE OFTEN.

  3. #3
    Hah.. An editor. Yes, that's it exactly. JT has some very good plays in his arsenal that match up really well with either his current personnel or his opponent (like the aforementioned play to Miller). Tedford (and as a result the team) suffers from these issues:

    1. He tries to match up his play 'magazine' (as in a gun's magazine) from this HUGE (and growing) playbook every week. The result is that a) the QB and the team have to remember a HUGE number of plays that JT might draw upon from week to week, and b) the team does not get enough reps on the plays that they'll be using, because they probably only practice them once JT has loaded his magazine each week.

    2. Once he finds (or identifies) a really good match-up play (like the play to Miller during the Utah game), he tends to 'hold it in reserve' for some strategic or needed place in the game. The result is that the team does not get the benefit of such a play on multiple repeated attempts during the game. If Tedford had more than one such play in his hip pocket, then he would not need to worry over-much about the opponents ability to 'adjust' to the exposed weakness; but could just move on to the next weakness. I think he overestimates the ability of a defense to instantly adjust. One such play per half, repeated multiple times in that half should be sufficient to accommodate his concerns, and it would give the team the benefit of the play's results on multiple occasions.

    So, yes, what JT needs is an editor for the start of the season. Cal's plays never look especially polished, nor the players as adept at running them; because they currently don't get a season's reps on them. If instead, the majority of our plays were practiced over and over for the whole season, we get better and better; and the players get more and more polished as the season wears on. Then JT could simply add in his few (as in like 2 or 3) plays each week that are specifically targeted at a given opponent.

    Of coarse, I will grant you that this kind of mechanic could already be what the Cal team does; because I have no visibility to the inner workings of the Cal program. I'm just an Internet football forum junkey like the rest of you.
    -BG

  4. #4
    calumnus, I get your point but what's missing I think from your comments is that the plays an offense runs during a game aren't atomistic, unconnected individual bursts of activity. It's probably better to understand them as a video rather than as a series of snapshots: each play can build upon and set up others.

    To use your example, running Sofele up the gut for 1-yard gains may be EXACTLY what we want to do, especially if he only gained that 1 yard because the defense pulled their safeties up into the box to stop the gut run. That successful pass to Miller up the seam probably doesn't work if the safety is back deep and Miller is double covered by a LB and a safety.

    To just run Sofele for 1-yard gains once or twice and then go away from it allows the defense to sag off and better defend other plays. What an offense wants to do is threaten the defense with different types of plays that they have to account for: drop your cover guys and Sofele is going to get 4-5 yards per pop up the gut, which we'll gladly take. Tighten up against the inside run and we'll play-action to Miller/KA/whomever and kill you that way. But the D has to respect the run to make it all work - interconnected parts.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by calumnus View Post
    I mostly agree, he has been trying to bring in new ideas. I've always thought that mostly Tedford's offense needs an editor. You have this huge (and growing) playbook, now pare it down for "this year's" offense focused on the strengths of this year's team (which should be apparent in the offseasona nd in Spring).

    Then, pay attention to what is working and what is not working as the season, or even the game goes on. If the read option is gaining us 20 yds every time it is called, call it some more. If Maynard seems incredibly accurate rolling out and incredibly inaccurate in the pocket--ROLL HIM OUT MORE. If running Sofele up the middle on first down is getting us 0-1 yard--STOP CALLING IT SO MUCH. If Sofele is gaining 15 yds on the toss, call that MORE.

    If the first time this season you call play-action on first down and throw deep to Miller over the middle and it is 1) complete. 2) PI called, and 3) only a leg whip away from being a TD...CALL THAT PLAY MORE OFTEN.
    Have truer words been written? In last week's game the read option and rollouts were never stopped, while the pocket passes and power runs almost never worked. And yet as the game went on, there were more pocket passes and continued power runs. I know Tedford does not call the plays, but it seems like his teams feature power running every game even if the offensive line is overmatched. It is perplexing.

    A few years back in the Rose Bowl USC's offensive line did not match up with a very powerful Michigan team, so they threw almost every down and blew Michigan out. There is no need for balance. Find what you do best and do it over and over again. Please.

    Sluggo

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by 93BearInOregon View Post
    calumnus, I get your point but what's missing I think from your comments is that the plays an offense runs during a game aren't atomistic, unconnected individual bursts of activity. It's probably better to understand them as a video rather than as a series of snapshots: each play can build upon and set up others.

    To use your example, running Sofele up the gut for 1-yard gains may be EXACTLY what we want to do, especially if he only gained that 1 yard because the defense pulled their safeties up into the box to stop the gut run. That successful pass to Miller up the seam probably doesn't work if the safety is back deep and Miller is double covered by a LB and a safety.

    To just run Sofele for 1-yard gains once or twice and then go away from it allows the defense to sag off and better defend other plays. What an offense wants to do is threaten the defense with different types of plays that they have to account for: drop your cover guys and Sofele is going to get 4-5 yards per pop up the gut, which we'll gladly take. Tighten up against the inside run and we'll play-action to Miller/KA/whomever and kill you that way. But the D has to respect the run to make it all work - interconnected parts.
    That is undoubtedly the way Tedford/staff sees it, but I think that is flawed reasoning. Anybody who watches film on us (i.e. any opponent) knows our tendency is to run Sofele up the middle on first down (or throw a sideline pass).

    We ran Sofele up the middle 6 times on first down in the first half for a total of 9 yards (and threw 8 sideline passes). Utah was swarming to the ball on first down. They were set up for play action after the first one. We were wasting plays (and possessions) after that. Rather than save it up for a once a game "trick"--take advantage of the safeties coming in on first down from the get go. That would then open up Sofele to run because they then have to guard against the possibility of play action. I'm not saying don't run Sofele. I am saying run him AFTER you have burned them for cheating in the linebackers and safeties. Sacrificing 6 first down plays to set up one good one does not make sense, not against teams better than Utah. Oh, ONCE on 1st down in the first half we ran Sofele outside on the pitch--he went for 8. Did not try it again.

    We had two 2nd and short situations again this game: 2nd and 2 (after that 8 yds outside by Sofele), Anderson, no gain. 2nd and 1, Sofele, no gain. The defenses are stacking the box to stop us there. Again, 2nd and short is prime time for a deep shot off play action.

    It's funny, our opening drive of the second half we came out in shotgun and drove 87 yards in 11 plays for the TD. In our next series, we had to have Maynard go back under center just to get in that 1st down play action play, and then went back to Maynard in shotgun the rest of the time he was in. Clearly, Maynard (and Sofele) are best when we operate out of the shotgun and we could have got that play action in a lot earlier.

    Hopefully we don't wait until the second half this week to let Maynard work out of the shotgun, run the pitch to Sofele outside or fool the defense with play-action. Play-action on first down is not a trick play, it is a simple counter to running on first down.
    Last edited by calumnus; 10-27-2011 at 12:18 PM.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by calumnus View Post
    That is undoubtedly the way Tedford/staff sees it, but I think that is flawed reasoning. Anybody who watches film on us (i.e. any opponent) knows our tendency is to run Sofele up the middle on first down (or throw a sideline pass).

    We ran Sofele up the middle 6 times on first down in the first half for a total of 9 yards (and threw 8 sideline passes). Utah was swarming to the ball on first down. They were set up for play action after the first one. We were wasting plays (and possessions) after that. Rather than save it up for a once a game "trick"--take advantage of the safeties coming in on first down from the get go. That would then open up Sofele to run because they then have to guard against the possibility of play action. I'm not saying don't run Sofele. I am saying run him AFTER you have burned them for cheating in the linebackers and safeties. Sacrificing 6 first down plays to set up one good one does not make sense, not against teams better than Utah. Oh, ONCE on 1st down in the first half we ran Sofele outside on the pitch--he went for 8. Did not try it again.

    We had two 2nd and short situations again this game: 2nd and 2 (after that 8 yds outside by Sofele), Anderson, no gain. 2nd and 1, Sofele, no gain. The defenses are stacking the box to stop us there. Again, 2nd and short is prime time for a deep shot off play action.

    It's funny, our opening drive of the second half we came out in shotgun and drove 87 yards in 11 plays for the TD. In our next series, we had to have Maynard go back under center just to get in that 1st down play action play, and then went back to Maynard in shotgun the rest of the time he was in. Clearly, Maynard (and Sofele) are best when we operate out of the shotgun and we could have got that play action in a lot earlier.

    Hopefully we don't wait until the second half this week to let Maynard work out of the shotgun, run the pitch to Sofele outside or fool the defense with play-action. Play-action on first down is not a trick play, it is a simple counter to running on first down.
    I'm all for play action and I get your last sentence. But I still think the D has to expect you to run up the gut to some extent for PA to work. And it sounds like you're saying the problem isn't running Sofele up the middle, or even doing it too much. The problem is doing it at predictable times (1st down)? What are you arguing?

    It also sounds like you've re-watched the game and looked for this stuff, which I haven't so I have to defer to your numbers re: what plays we ran when. But my impression watching the game was that we ran Sofele outside (toss/fly sweep stuff) far more than normal, and used the lateral throws to stretch their D line. Maynard confirmed this (in my view anyway) when he said post-game that the plan was to "attack the edges" of the Utah defense. Looked to me like they did that in a lot of ways, mixing in some up-the-gut runs for honesty, with overall pretty good results.

    If you're right that we really ran Sofele up the middle six times on 1st down in the 1st half combined with "8 sideline passes" (really? was there no variation within this?) then that sounds predictable and a little disappointing. But I think you're overestimating how well Utah "swarmed to the ball" on 1st down and then were ready for P.A. throws on 2nd. Maynard had 255 passing yards and a 65% completion rate, so something was working in the air game. And my impression overall for this year is that we're throwing more on 1st down (and throwing downfield FAR more in general) than last year.

    And it's not all play action passing either: watch Maynard's ZR TD run: the Utah defender (probably a DE, maybe a LB, I can't recall) bit SO FREAKING HARD on the Sofele fake handoff up the gut that he just launched himself past Zach and gave him a wide open lane to stroll into the end zone. I get your (apparent) argument that JT is still too predictable on 1st down (I think that's what you're saying). All I'm saying is you can also make the argument based on that game that the low/no yardage runs up the gut set up numerous other big gainers - not just a single one - including a QB TD run, later.

  8. #8
    How tough is it to run counter-tendancy play? I'd think: not very. Our coach in the sky-box I presume has acccess to a PC that could tell us in seconds -- i.e. in time to call a counter-tendancy play in real-time.

    There are times when we run certain plays out of certain formations an overwhelming percentage of the time, or with certain personnel in the game as 'tells' to the defense. And there are times this is intentional, "I'm going to run this play, and you can't stop me.", in order to send a statement.

    I'm not arguing that JT's playbook shouldn't be huge. I'm agreeing that he needs to 'edit it', based upon his personnel for the season; and he should then run those plays and play variations for the whole season. That way, our players can run these plays for the whole season, and against ANY opponent.
    -BG

  9. #9

    Ssssssttttttttttooooooooooooopppppp

    You guys are all making the points that we've made for many, many years. And they are the main reasons our offense has struggled. We must be balanced, we 'save' plays for the 'right' situation, etc. etc. etc. I'm going to go be sick now. Tedford needs to go visit with the Patriots this summer and get find out it is ok to throw 27 passes in a row if that is what the defense gives you (oh, and you have Tom Brady as your QB...ok, forget this part). Why be balanced if you don't take advantage of the fact that you can run or pass at will? You don't run just because you have to throw in some runs and you don't throw outs just because you were once told the out pattern is the cornerstone of a passing offense. TAKE WHAT THE DEFENSE GIVES YOU!!!

  10. #10
    If Cal wins, no one will criticize Tedford about innovation even if he runs the same style. If Cal loses, people will criticize Tedford about innovation even if he introduces a lot of different looks.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cal84 View Post
    If Cal wins, no one will criticize Tedford about innovation even if he runs the same style. If Cal loses, people will criticize Tedford about innovation even if he introduces a lot of different looks.
    Yes and no. In 2006, I thought putting Longshore and Lynch in the shotgun made ZERO sense, even though that was "innovative" and we were winning (up until Arizona and SC). I like innovation, but what I most want to see is smart offense for the players we have, creating an advantage for our team.

    I do not WANT a lot of different looks. That has been one of our problems. I want the one "look" that gets our best players on the field and puts them in a position to win by doing what they do best. You only have so much practice time. I'd rather we have 5 different plays from 1 look than have 5 different looks that we can run the same play. I want the plays to start out so similarly that the defense does not know what is coming. That is pretty much what Oregon does. That is pretty much what Stanford does.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by 82gradDLSdad View Post
    You guys are all making the points that we've made for many, many years. And they are the main reasons our offense has struggled. We must be balanced, we 'save' plays for the 'right' situation, etc. etc. etc. I'm going to go be sick now. Tedford needs to go visit with the Patriots this summer and get find out it is ok to throw 27 passes in a row if that is what the defense gives you (oh, and you have Tom Brady as your QB...ok, forget this part). Why be balanced if you don't take advantage of the fact that you can run or pass at will? You don't run just because you have to throw in some runs and you don't throw outs just because you were once told the out pattern is the cornerstone of a passing offense. TAKE WHAT THE DEFENSE GIVES YOU!!!
    What is strange is we used to be more like that. Isn't that how we almost beat SC in 2004? Taking what they were giving us? (the quick out to McArthur in SC's soft coverage). Isn't that how Rodgers set an NCAA record for consecutive completions? If not for special teams, we win that game and go undefeated.

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