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October 25, 2012

Marty Simpson's big-play breakdown





In this special feature, former Gamecock football player Marty Simpson takes a look at some of the big plays from the USC-Florida game.

The video clips in this feature are from XOS Digitial, the SEC's online media partner. The videos require the use of Flash; therefore, they may not work for iPad users.

Fumble on punt return

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I have highlighted the player on Florida's punt team who makes the tackle, causes the fumble, and then recovers the fumble.



Watch the entire play and you will see this player sprint down the field at top speed the entire play while never being touched by a South Carolina player. I realize the Gamecocks have one of the best special teams coaches in the country, but this seems odd to me scheme-wise. Therefore, I am going to conclude that someone on the return team missed their assignment.

If you go back and watch Ace's other great punt returns you will see the Gamecock players engaging in blocks the entire time. Florida just out hustled and out played the Gamecocks on this particular play.

Also, if you watch Ace's earlier punt returns you will notice that at the first of each return, when he is dodging and "hiccupping" he doesn't necessarily take great care of the football. He does get it high and tight by the time he is into his long return versus Georgia, but at the start, when he is really juking and jiving he has some "air in the cage." I assume Florida scouted this and let their players know to attack the football early on punt and kickoff returns.


Connor Shaw fumble on first play

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I wanted to clarify something from this play that Gary Danielson was incorrect about during the broadcast of the game. He spent a few minutes explaining how Connor Shaw didn't pick up the fact that the corner was blitzing and therefore check to a "hot receiver." Coach Spurrier cleared this up during his show on Sunday morning.

Coach explained that the first play was to be a short dump to the running back out of the back field. Therefore, each of the four receivers were running dummy routes straight up the field to take their man-to-man defenders as far from the running back as possible. This type of play has no "hot receiver" adjustment because it's a designed, called play to the running back with no read of any kind.

The problem was the running back fell down right at the line of scrimmage and created a pause on Connor Shaw's part. The CBS replay showed all four receivers running verticals and then they talked about how one of them has to break their route off and become a "hot receiver." Well this was not the case on this play.

With all that being said, I will now outline one area of great concern I have for the Gamecocks' offense. The blueprint for how to engage a Steve Spurrier offense was executed by Nebraska in 1995. The best plan of attack versus a Spurrier offense is to send more players at the quarterback than he has blockers. This requires a lot of man-to-man defense in the secondary. Nebraska that year felt like they could defend the receivers in lockdown man-to-man and therefore could bring six defenders to rush the quarterback when Florida was only blocking five. This plan worked, because Nebraska was correct in their assessment of whether or not they could guard the receivers.

If you look back at the LSU game, there was a crucial sack in the third quarter just after LSU had taken the lead 16-14. It was on third down when the Gamecocks could have feasibly taken back the lead. The Gamecocks came to the line and LSU lined up seven people on the line of scrimmage as if they were blitzing seven. The Gamecocks only had six to block them -- five linemen and one running back. LSU then only brought six andt dropped one from that original alignment. This was just enough to confuse the blocking schemes set up by Coach Spurrier and caused the huge sack when one defender just ran free with NO ONE attempting to block him.

So, even though this one play was not ever going to get a "hot receiver" read by Connor Shaw, it is possibly a dark foreshadowing of things to come for the Gamecocks.


Florida - Hines 6-yard TD run (inside hand off)

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Credit Florida for being creative with this play. Not only did they line up in an old fashioned "single-wing" formation to execute this play, they actually ran one of the most standard and traditional "wing-t" play that there is! All this talk of spreading the field out and playing lights out up-tempo football doesn't affect Florida's offense at all. They realized that South Carolina's defense is built from the ground up specifically to stop that type of football. I think that's why you saw LSU and Florida both deploy a more traditional power running game in order to create mismatches schematically.

This play was well conceived and well executed by Florida, but the reality is that the Gamecocks should have and could have stopped this play if they would have been more fundamentally sound with their own execution.

I am going to outline for you what Florida intended to do X's and O's wise, then I will concentrate on the two players for the Gamecocks who didn't do their jobs properly which allowed for the easy touchdown.



You can see in the image above that the outside receiver is going to "crack" down on the player just inside him. The backside guard is going to pull and overtake the crashing defensive end. The playside tackle is going to block down to the backside linebacker and seal off any on coming pursuit.

The Gamecocks had two players in position to stop this play for no gain. The inside linebacker and the playside cornerback. They are circled below.



I will further outline in great detail the blocking scheme of this play.



There are few quick questions worth addressing. Number one, how can a backside guard pull and overtake Devin Taylor achieving outside leverage and completely "hooking" him all the way from the backside of the formation like this?

Well, this requires a deep understanding of fundamentally sound football. Florida is taking advantage of the well coached defensive ends on this play. As soon as Taylor sees a down block in front of him he will crash down closing the gap between him and that down blocker. This initial charge down towards the center of the defensive end is what allows him to be "hooked." The reason being when a down block happens in front of you, as the defensive end, you don't want to charge upfield and create a huge seem for the pulling guard to kick you out. Taylor actually does his job as he is supposed to on this play. Evidenced by the fact that the down blocking tackle didn't get a chance to touch the middle backer. Taylor's push inside squeezed that blocker and forced him to go all the way backside to the backside backer. This frees up the middle backer to scrape down hill and get involved in this play.

After you watch this play one time you will quickly assume that the play tricked the Gamecocks. That's not true at all. The inside backer, Shaq Wilson, actually is unblocked, and his initial read of the play is perfect. Watch it again and stare at the circled play in the image above. The very second the ball is snapped, Wilson recognizes the blocking scheme in front of him and isn't fooled by the action of the backfield at all. His very first step is to his left! This proves he was reading his proper keys -- the linemen blocking, not the backs.

Where it breaks down for the Gamecocks is the same exact place it broke down last week versus LSU and that is in the "force" department. "Force" is a word football coaches use to mean "the player in charge of forcing the play back inside." Every defense has a primary force defender assigned in either direction from the start of the play. On this play, the primary force responsibility on the defense's left is Brison Williams the safety who is walked up on the line of scrimmage.

He does a very poor job of attacking the crack blocker coming from the outside, but honestly, this is very difficult to recognize this quickly. The key player not doing their job on this play is the onside cornerback, Vic Hampton. He is playing man-to-man coverage evidenced by his staring at the receiver at the start of the play. As soon as that player is obviously blocking to his inside, he has to fly forward knowing that he has now become the primary force defender. In a scenario where play-action pass occurs and that receiver converts to running a route, it would then be Williams' man for the rest of the play. Picture a two-man basketball defense and Hampton and Williams are just executing a switch on a pick.

Granted, on a play-action pass this receiver will most likely be open, but down on the goalline defenses are hopeful that the sack will happen prior to the receiver having time to get wide open.

So, when Hampton back peddles for a few steps not recognizing the crack block in front of him he fails to provide ANY "force" on this play at all. Which means that Wilson's "ninja like" correct read on this massive counter play helps the Gamecocks out in no way, shape, or form.

If Hampton would have immediately "replaced" the crack block in front of him, then Wilson bottles this play up for no gain.



I will credit Hampton for his effort on the play. After he realized he was late to force, he did fly up and make a good collision out of the two blockers, but it was too late.

One fault I find with the scheme here is the use of the weak side safety, Williams. When a safety is lined up that close the line of scrimmage and has no eligible receiver in front of him to guard, there is no real reason to stand him still and read keys here. He is clearly looking in the backfield and since he sees initial action go away he hesitates. It would be more sound, from a schematic standpoint, that if your weakside safety is free like this, he should be blitzing causing havoc in the backfield. This alone would have created the force needed.

So, all in all, I credit Florida for great imagination, I credit Wilson for having a bloodhound type sniffer for the play's direction, and I blame our poor secondary support in the "run force" department for the second week in row.

I think Lorenzo Ward's "Base Nickel" defense has been exploited for two weeks in row by power running games. In more traditional personnel packages there would be a third linebacker near the line of scrimmage instead of a safety type hybrid player. I feel like the Gamecocks are built to stop teams like Oregon and Oklahoma State, but not built to stop teams like LSU or Florida.



From coach to comedian: Marty Simpson is a former Academic All-Conference player who scored the Gamecocks' first six points in the SEC. During eight years as a high school varsity coach, Simpson led his team to the state finals and saw one player advance to set an NFL rookie record. Simpson now divides his time between his family, running Blue-Eyed Panda, Co-Hosting The Corey Miller Show on 560 The Team, and traveling the country as a stand-up comedian.

Check out Marty's comedian website here.



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