The Rice football offense has some new players to break down. In this week’s edition of the film room we take a look at JoVoni Johnson and Juma Otoviano against Marshall.
Hey y’all, and welcome back to the Rice Football Film Room. This week we’ll be taking a look at a few plays that hopefully bode well for the future of Rice’s struggling offense.
It’s near the beginning of the third quarter. Rice trails 17-7. They have the ball at about the 50, 1st and 10. They’re in 12 personnel, with Bradley Rozner and Austin Trammell split wide. Jordan Myers and Jaeger Bull are both at in-line tight end on either side of the line.
They’re in the pistol formation (QB more shallow than shotgun with the RB directly behind him) and guess who’s the running back? He made his season debut last week against Southern Miss, but it was this game against Marshall that our old friend Juma Otoviano got his first significant action.
This play looks like inside zone*. There are seven blockers to seven in the box. From the start, it looks like Rice has the numbers to get a hat on a hat in the run game. But I think someone misses an assignment (possibly Shea Baker was supposed to come off that double team? that’s just a guess though) because one of the linebackers ends up unblocked and directly in the gap to make a play. Instead, Juma makes a fantastic cut, catching the backer flat-footed and forcing him to lunge to make the tackle, which he easily slips.
Nothing fancy about this play: just wanted to make the point that sometimes plays don’t get run perfectly, and you just need a player to make a play. Having a guy as explosive and talented as Otoviano back in the fold raises the ceiling for Rice’s offense.
Now we’ll take a look at a couple of plays from freshman QB JoVoni Johnson. If you haven’t already, become a member here at The Roost (it’s free) and read Matthew’s breakdown of the offense with and without Johnson (spoiler: it’s better than the final numbers look).
Death to the “Read Option”
(the specific phrase, I mean. “Read option” gets used as a catch-all term for all shotgun option plays. I feel that confuses people into thinking they’re all the same play, which they’re not. It annoys me!)
It’s the next play! Now Rice is in 20 personnel, in a two-back shotgun set with three wide receivers. Aston Walter is to Johnson’s right. Juma is to his left. Marshall has seven in the box, showing a single-high safety look (the deep safety is out of the frame).
This is a shotgun option play that’s commonly called power read.** Up front, it’s blocked like the classic power, with the backside guard pulling to lead the way for the inside run. The QB reads the playside end, who is left unblocked at the snap.
If the end stays wide or plays the RB, the QB keeps and runs inside, following the pulling guard. If the end crashes inside, the QB hands it off the RB, who has the outside run. Because of this, he starts to the opposite side of the QB so he can be running parallel to the line at the mesh point. Here, Rice uses the added wrinkle of the second RB, who functions as a lead blocker for the outside run.
The optioned defender (Darius Hodge) is totally fooled by the play and guns straight for Otoviano. This makes for an easy read for Johnson, who pulls the ball. Between Justin Gooseberry sealing his man easy, Nick Leverett blowing up a linebacker on his pull, and Walter’s perfect cut block on another linebacker, a cavernous hole is left between Leverett and Gooseberry. Naturally, Johnson shoots through it for a big gain.
If you have a QB that’s a good runner and can make the reads, I’m a big fan of having a toolbox of shotgun option plays. They even numbers in the run game (especially useful when your passing offense isn’t dynamic), and having a variety of them keeps defenses off-balance.
Plays like power read or inverted veer (see the second footnote), where the QB takes the inside run, can be effective if you’ve got a big, strong QB who can break tackles and take hits (think Cam Newton or Jalen Hurts). If Rice wants to keep using them for JoVoni, however, he’ll either need to add some muscle to his 6-foot-3, 206-pound frame (in the offseason, obviously) or learn to live with sliding to protect himself.
A Lesson in Risk Management
It’s a third and seven for Rice midway through the fourth, trailing 20-7 and in desperate need of offense. They’re near midfield in a four-wide set, though the inside receiver to the bottom of the screen is Jaeger Bull. Technically it’s 11 personnel rather than 10. Marshall’s playing 2-Man, with two deep safeties and man coverage underneath.
It’s a draw, with JoVoni looking as though he’s going to pass and the tackles drawing their men upfield and past him. Specifically, you’d probably call this play QB Iso Draw***, with the back (I can’t actually tell if it’s Juma or Aston) leading the way through the B-gap to the right and getting a perfect block on the linebacker. With the defense expecting pass in a third-and-long situation, Rice has a numbers advantage in the block. Thanks to that, Johnson is able to rip off a big run for the first down.
The problem is at the end of the play. (I’ve cut off a bit—sorry, it was already a huge gif). Johnson doesn’t take a particularly big hit, but the tackler goes low, upending him and causing a pretty hard fall. This is the play that knocked JoVoni out of the game. When he left, whatever hope Rice had left of staging a comeback seemed to vanish.
The injury may have been a bit flukey. Still, JoVoni has to recognize that his presence in the game is more important than the extra couple of yards he gains by absorbing that hit. He probably could have slid at about the 35. He still could have picked up the first down and beyond. More importantly, he could have avoided the hit that took him out of the game.
*I’m not an expert on the specific rules of blocking schemes. I’m often unsure about which particular one is being used. An inside run with no pullers, no lead blocker, and only one double team is usually inside zone.
**The term “inverted veer”, which I believe was invented by Chris B. Brown at Smart Football, is sometimes used for this play. The run option looks like the old veer option, except with the QB and RB roles reversed. But that term also gets used for a similar play where the read and options are the same, but the line blocks like it’s inside zone. So I prefer “power read”, both for it’s parallel to the term “zone read” and to distinguish it from the zone version of the inverted veer.
***An “iso” or isolation run play is an inside run with a lead blocker and no pullers.
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