Breakdown: A coach's scouting report of KU's offense


For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."

After asking for requests on Twitter, it appears most Kansas football fans want to know what exactly is going on with the Jayhawks' struggling offense.

With that in mind, I decided to switch it up this week. Instead of Coach singling in on a single play, I had him take a look at every offensive play for KU from the first quarter of the Jayhawks' 27-17 loss to TCU on Saturday.

I asked him to take notes, then share with me any general observations he had based on the film.

The following are his takeaways (said in his words) from watching KU's offense in the first quarter:

• "One thing I noticed, TCU was stacking the box pretty good. They had a lot of guys within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. That means they think your passing game isn’t good enough to beat them. They’re going to force you to try to pass to beat them, but they don’t think you can. They’re not going to let you just line up and run it.

• "I thought KU had some nice play designs with motion to give some different looks. Even though they might run some similar-style plays, they were motioning to get into different looks and to try to help out with spacing.

"On the play above, you see how they motion the back out of the backfield? It widens a couple of these defenders down here. I think TCU basically starts out in a seven-man box. It gets the outside linebacker out of the box right here to the right of KU. It makes it a six-man box instead of a seven-man box, which is a little easier to run against.

"On this play, they motion the receiver all the way across the field. It makes the linebackers shift over. They could have run that motion to set up a play for later in the game. It looks like after they hand off to the fullback, they’re looking to see if they’ve got the pitch to Sims going out there to the left. Now they’ve motioned their other receiver over there for an extra blocker if they do come back to run that play later.

"On this one, they’re just motioning from a two-by-two (receiver) set to a three-by-one set, trying to probably get a different matchup, maybe get a slot receiver lined up on a safety or a linebacker. In this case, I think they end up getting him on a corner. Not necessarily the look they wanted, but they were trying to motion to get a matchup they wanted. I’m sure if (the QB) wouldn’t have been pressured, he would have had a little better chance to go to maybe one of these other receivers that was getting a better matchup.

• "I thought the quarterback was sloppy with the ball. He hit the running back on his hip that one time when he was running a play-action fake and put the ball on the ground.

I also thought he was inaccurate with his throws. He threw it to the running back in the flats one time and didn’t give the running back an opportunity to run after the catch. He also threw one behind his receiver over the middle that could have resulted in a first down if he was more accurate.

• "I thought he forced the ball in there a couple times into coverage. TCU is obviously very good on defense, so they had a lot of tight coverage. Sometimes, you have to throw it to a guy who might be covered, and you expect your guy to go and make a play, but I thought he forced the ball a little bit too much.

• "One of the biggest things — and I put three or four checkmarks by it — (the Jayhawks) were getting beat up front. Period. If you’re not going to be able to block the down linemen, it’s going to be hard for you to win a football game. It all starts up front on both sides of the ball, and they were getting physically manhandled up front.

"On this play, you see No. 96 (red circle)? He just takes the offensive guard [Mike Smithburg] and shoves him back into the backfield there. The two D-tackles are just wearing out the guards right there, blowing them up all the way into the backfield. The tailback’s got no chance right there. He could be the best tailback in the world, and it’s going to be hard for you to get yards.

"I will say this: (Running back James Sims), he’s doing all he can. He’s running hard and going downhill and trying to find yards. I’ve got to commend him for his effort.

"On this play, there’s a party at the ball-carrier in the backfield. (Sims) does a good job for getting two or three yards here, carrying a defender for two or three yards. But there are three or four guys that are unblocked right there. I don’t think it's (bad O-line) communication at all. I think it’s guys missing their blocks. When it comes down to it, it’s a one-on-one game. It’s ‘I’ve got to go beat the guy across from me.’

"(TCU has) a four-man rush right here. They’re not blitzing anybody. KU’s got six guys in to protect, including the running back. So it’s six-on-four right here. If I was the (coach) … it’s just a little disappointing that we’ve got six guys into protect, they’re rushing four, and it’s a party in the backfield, essentially. The D-ends both get upfield. You’d like to think your quarterback could step up in the pocket, but then again, both D-tackles are getting great push back into the backfield as well. So the quarterback doesn’t have anywhere to step up and get rid of the football.

• "I also saw that TCU was blitzing a couple times, and KU didn’t check out of the play. A lot of times, if you see that blitz or you go on a double-cadence [bluffing the snap call, then backing off the snap to get a chance to change the play if needed], sometimes you can get out of the play and get into a play that might be better versus that blitz. Also, that’s tough sometimes if a team disguises their blitz, but the blitz jumped off the screen at me like that just watching the video one time, you think they’d be able to read it and figure out a better play to run.

"On this play, TCU brings those two linebackers right there up the middle; just a pretty standard ‘Bullets blitz' is what that’s called. They’re both blitzing the ‘B’ gap [space between guards and tackles on each side]. If you see those two guys coming, you know you’re probably going to have man-to-man out on the edge. You might think about checking out of this run play and getting in a pass play. They stick with it, and the one 'backer goes unblocked and makes a big play in the backfield.

"We’ve got certain checks that we give our guys: ‘If you see it, get out of it.’ Sometimes we’ll go on double-cadence to make sure we’re seeing exactly what they’re doing. That’s how we do it, but I know other guys do it a little bit differently. Sometimes with these blitzes, you’d want to get out of a play.

• "I also notice they ran a couple read-option plays with no real run threat. There’s a read-option, they weren’t blocking the defensive end, but the quarterback isn’t really a run threat. He just was basically giving the football to the tailback without one guy blocked on the edge and expecting him not to bend back in and make the play."

So what were Coach's overall thoughts after watching the film?

"You’ve got to give the other team credit, too. I know TCU has a good defense," Coach said. "They’ve got great players on their team. That’s obvious.

"But there’s things on this tape where a guy is getting physically whipped one-on-one. I’ve got to man up. I’ve got to step up to the plate and do my job. It’s 11 guys across the board doing their job. That’s why football’s the greatest game on earth: It takes all 11 guys for success to happen.

"It just looks like they’ve got a lot of improving to do, and if not improving, they’ve got to do a better job in recruiting as well to go find better players to match up with some of these better teams."


Al Martin 8 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, somehow it's worse hearing a professional confirm what I've been seeing all year. I had been holding out this hope that perhaps I didn't know what I was seeing...

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 8 months ago

Wow, point blank.

1.) The QB's not protecting the ball and not on-target with throws.

2.) The OLine's getting whipped

3.) The QB/Coaching staff is not checking out of plays when the blitz is coming.

4.) Why run a zone read option if your QB isn't a runner (maybe on a short yardage play where you think you might be able to pick up a little extra yardage).

Aaron Paisley 8 years, 8 months ago

My game plan for stopping the KU offense. Man defense and press the receivers, rush 4 with some kind of stunt since the OLine doesn't know how to handle that, LB's on the TE and HB, and let the third LB cover anything across the middle or blitz him to really confuse the OLine. Sadly, I think this all it will take to shut down the KU offense until the OLine proves competent enough to block well more than once every 10 plays.

The one thing that will help the OLine more than anything the rest of the year is for Weis to quit shuffling the personnel around and let the players get experience at their current spots and grow. If that happens, I guarantee the OLine will look improved by the end of the season. If Weis decides to keep playing musical chairs with line up, I guarantee there will be no improvement on the OLine this season. And for the record, by improved I don't mean this will be a good OLine, just improved enough to where it's noticeable.

Jesse, can you have the coach watch KU's receivers one week and get his opinion about how they get off of jams and presses, their route running, their ability to improvise when Heaps is flushed from the pocket, and their ability to block in the run game. I've got my own opinions about them, but I'd be curious what someone who gets paid to watch a lot of game film as part of their job thinks.

Daniel Reinigungsmittel 8 years, 8 months ago

Completely agree about shuffling the line around. Time to stop looking for the magic combination and just get to work.

Andy Tweedy 8 years, 8 months ago

Article after article just keeps leading me back to one sad conclusion. Our offensive line is TERRIBLE!!! I'd go so far as to defend Heaps here, I mean what is he supposed to do, he probably is trying too hard, knowing what he's got protecting him!

Mark Lindrud 8 years, 8 months ago

I believe with quality protection Heaps could be highly successful. At this point we need quicker drops so he can get the ball out quicker and forget the long ball. We need to focus more on the dink and dunk offense as it is said to establish consistency then as the game progresses the deep ball can come, but this line isn't giving Heaps time and the run blocking is subpar

Ron Prichard 8 years, 8 months ago

I always love these scouting reports that dissect plays and show me things I might not see on my own. Until now. Now I'm just depressed. It's been three (or more) weeks of hand wringing over the offensive line. Each week changes are made. We know we're getting beat up front. Toughness was the focus. Smithburg was supposed to be one of the tougher guys. In the GIF above he gets owned. Actually, not just owned, but he gets turned into a TCU play toy by #96. If that is what we get after three weeks of focusing on toughness, I'm just completely bummed about our chances of improving this year. What happened to being "Holsoppled" during the offseason? Where is the nasty streak in Smithburg I read about a week or two ago?

Jesse, this is great work as always. Unfortunately, it has totally dampened my enthusiasm for the rest of the season. Do you think there is a possibility you could have a segment on the defense and their improvement one of these weeks? In all honesty, they have performed fantsastic given the amount of time they have had to be on the field and the positions the offense puts them in. Defense and special teams have improved exponentially over last year. The offense has regressed, if that is even possible.

Ron Prichard 8 years, 8 months ago

Okay, I just re-read my post and I think I deserve a, "nice work, captain obvious" comment.

Daniel Reinigungsmittel 8 years, 8 months ago

Great analysis, jesse and coach. The first six running plays actually set up the first play-action pass attempt (sort of) at the 12:20 mark, but that play ended up being the fumble where Heaps and Sims collided. Granted, TCU wasn't exactly fooled by a fake draw right after two draw plays that went nowhere, but if that play had been completed, it might have at least kept their D-line honest for a while. After that, I just didn't see play-calling that built on the attempt to establish a running game early.

Hopefully, Weiss can stick with one group at the line for the rest of the season. Obviously, they had no clue who they were supposed block on a couple basic cross blitzes, but that's not surprising considering Gavin Howard was at center for his first game ever.

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