Breakdown: Toben Opurum learning on the job at defensive end
Welcome back to "Breakdown," where we'll look at some KU plays each week and try to go a little more in-depth into why they did or didn't work.
For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
This week, I pieced together film of each play on Texas A&M's first touchdown drive and sent it to Coach, asking for his observations.
Here are some of Coach's notes from that drive.
• "First of all, I notice that Texas A&M’s offensive line does a good job and protects the quarterback well. KU’s not getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback, which sure makes it a lot easier to look downfield, scan for receivers and find an open guy.
"They really did a nice job. Like on the first play, Texas A&M comes out in empty formation, no backs in the backfield, no tight ends.
"It’s a formation that’s sometimes easier to get pressure on the quarterback, because you’re not going to have anyone helping them block. But Texas A&M’s offensive line does a good job, and also the quarterback does a good job by getting the ball out of his hand quickly."
• "On the second play (:08), the left defensive end allows (Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod) Johnson to break contain of the pocket."
The left defensive end, in this case, is No. 35 Toben Opurum, who has only been working full-time at the position for about a month. This game was Opurum's first start.
"That really puts your defensive backs in a bad position, because now, not only do they have to worry about covering the receiver, but they might have to worry about coming up and making a tackle on a scrambling quarterback," Coach says.
"You see how at about 11 seconds, he’s got both of his hands on No. 75, that offensive lineman?
"That’s not great technique. He needs to probably just have his inside hand, his right hand, in the center of No. 75’s chest, trying to push him back as best as possible and work a pass-rush move. But he gets both hands on him, so he’s not square to the line of scrimmage now, so it’s a lot easier for Johnson to break contain.
"With two hands on him, the offensive lineman can control (Opurum) little bit better, and also, you and I both know holding goes on during every play in college football, but it sure is a lot easier to hold when you have a guy squared up than it is if he just has one hand on you."
• "On the third play (:19), there’s some sloppy tackling going on. It’s the left defensive end (Opurum). See how he just dives at the tailback?
"He’s got a chance to put this thing on the ground for about a two- or three-yard gain right there. See how his feet kind of get stuck in the mud?
"He doesn’t run his feet through the tackle. He just dives at the running back’s legs. If he continues to run his feet and try to run right through that running back, he puts that thing on the ground for a two- or three-yard gain instead of a nine- or 10-yard gain.
"Like we’ve talked about before, just make the good play. Don’t try and make a spectacular play then if you miss, then it’s a no play."
• "Throughout the drive, Texas A&M was going pretty fast. They were not taking a lot of time with a huddle.
"That doesn’t allow KU to sub on defense if they want to put in a different package. Or, a lot of times, it doesn’t allow a defensive coordinator to get a blitz call in or something he wants to run special for a third-and-1 or something like that. When teams go fast, a lot of times you just have to play base defense and go with it. Offenses scheme for this throughout the week."
• On another play, Texas A&M runs the zone read play, where Johnson has the option of keeping the ball or giving it to the running back (:50).
"It’s actually a 'give' read," Coach says. "See how the defensive end (Opurum) is sitting and staying home at the top of the screen on the 15-yard line?"
"The quarterback is reading that defensive end right there. If the defensive end were to crash down and take the running back, then the quarterback should pull it and run outside to his right. But right here, the defensive end actually sits and he’s playing quarterback. So the quarterback should actually give this play to the running back.
"The defensive end did his job. He stayed home on the play. Now, what you have to do is break down and make the tackle."
"He doesn’t get himself in a good position to make the tackle. He needs to continue to run his feet and run through the tackler and not keep his feet stuck in the mud and just dive at ankles."
"There are big, tough, strong guys in the Big 12, and they’re not going to go down on ankle tackles very often."
• On the final play of the video (1:01), Coach says KU once again doesn't tackle well.
"The defensive end (Patrick Dorsey) is essentially unblocked in this play," Coach says.
"He gets chipped on a little bit by the left guard, but this is a play a Big 12 defensive tackle has to make there. See how he kind of has his feet stuck in the mud, too, and dives at his legs."
"He needs to try to run his feet and run right through that ball-carrier, not just try to dive at him."
Coach also says that KU cornerback Isiah Barfield (No. 19) didn't do his job on the play.
"He’s probably not going to be the best tackler on your team, but that’s a pretty sloppy effort there by 19," Coach says. "If I were the defensive coordinator, I definitely wouldn’t be happy with that kid.
"He should stick his nose up in there. Freeze it at 1:02."
"All the linemen or linebackers are taking up the offensive linemen. Look where No. 19’s standing. He’s on the 1-yard line. The running back’s on the 10. Let’s say we meet in the middle. Meet in the middle’s about five yards."
As we can see from the video, Barfield doesn't get upfield to meet A&M's running back in the hole.
"Come on, go get it," Coach says. "This isn’t a pass play. Get your butt up there and make a tackle. That was a pretty pathetic effort right there.
"A lot of times that’s what an offense will do, they’ll scheme it up to where guys on the outside — the corners and sometimes safeties, who aren’t the best tacklers — those are the guys that are going to have to come up and make a tackle. And I guess Texas A&M found the soft spot right there and did a nice job exploiting."