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Getting Depth Unconventionally

  • Most casual fans think of depth as slots on a depth chart. Every week, those fans just take a casual stroll through the latest coaches release and count the bodies at a position until they feel uncomfortable. But that's not how we're building depth. Now, you have to throw the depth chart out of the window, on offense and defense.

    Flash back to 2008. Depth at tight end started as a strength, but after a couple of injuries and nonperformance, we were down to the dregs. So we scrapped the aces formation, flipped Shipley into the slot, and won our biggest game of the year. That was just a flash of where we want to be. The H-back is just a way to get versatile athletes onto the field that can be used across positions to force matchup problems. That position is really a hybrid tight end/blocking back/wide receiver. I think you're going to see us recruit that kind of athlete with much more regularity.

    You can also see that in the scat back, Monroe and Hales. You don't see those guys on the depth chart because they don't play a traditional role in the offense. They won't play a lot of snaps, but they'll hit big plays when they do.

    So the offense has tried to be multiple, we just haven't done it very well. I do like the way we're trending. I hope to see more fluidity across the depth chart, from tail back to full back to tight end to wide receiver. The concepts are sound. We just need to do a better job of filling them with better athletes.

    But you can really see the unconventional depth happen on defense. We're finding roles for guys we used to think of as 'tweeners. Johnson is a great example. With either of the last two coordinators, he's buried in the depth chart as an oversized linebacker who can't cover or an undersized end who can't play the run. But these days, we're building packages based on the strength of our personnel. He's an edge rusher, and a good one. Our different packages, from big nickel to 4-3 base to 3-4 all have different groupings that we can shape to the personnel on the roster. We will manage each personnel grouping based on the talent on the field.

    So suddenly, defensive tackle is not a concern. We're getting snaps from DEs that could not contribute before, and that leads to a gut of DE. But we can move those DE inside some of the time to reduce the number of snaps that a guy has to hold up. Throw in the superior depth at linebacker (for the same reason), and we can give teams a 3-4 look, further reducing the number of DT snaps.

    Case in point. Daniels is a talented Freshman who's undersized. He'd be overmatched at DT as a starter, but since he can give us 5 max effort plays, he's going to help us there. We still don't have many classic DTs, so we change the responsibilities of the position to broaden the pool of players.

    Bam. Depth.

    If Randall gets hurt, we're still in a world of hurt. But that's true of every team, isn't it? We can big with this defensive line, because of our new-found depth.

  • You hit the nail on the head on defense.

    On offense, I'm not convinced that is the best way to go, yet. I want to see it work before I believe it works.

    A lot of that comes back to the play-caller. He has to mix in the right plays for the Monroe's while also being a power running/play-action team, while also getting those mismatches for the H-backs of the world.

    Sometimes you try to do too much and end up accomplishing less. That is the concern on O for me.

    Follow on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BobbyBurton247

  • On offense and defense, the key is to be able to be multiple. Make the other side of the ball play you straight up, and then attack where they are weak.

    Monroe doesn't work so well precisely because he's one dimensional. He can't block and he can't catch. Hales, or better yet, Diggs or Green, could fill a scat back role to perfection.

  • Very good post. What I like about Muschamp's philosophy is that he uses the versatile players he has to allow him to carve out roles for players who have a specialized skill set (at least initially). Muschamp's defense doesn't have a single identity, it has a single attitude. In order to be multiple and be successful that is exactly what's required. Our defense plays aggressive, they have good footwork, they take on blocks well, and they run through their tackles. If you do those things well with the talent at Texas, it's hard not to be successful on defense.

    I'm not sure all of that philosophy translates to offense. A modern defense inherently needs to be able to adapt a lot schematically from week to week. A good defense robs an offense of its core plays. Just the opposite is true on offense. It's not so much about being versatile as it is about being able handle versatility. Your offense needs to be able to have enough included so that if a defense game-plans away any core part of your offense, there's enough there to still be successful and force the defense to a more honest approach. So you need a few packages that are deep and you need to rep like crazy against a lot of different looks. With the limited practice time, that is the key to me. So I don't want to see about bunch of really situational personnel on offense nor do I want to see an offense that is just a collection of situational packages... that can work, but it doesn't build a better offense from week to week. It's like trying to win an argument by just saying more rather than making a few, well-conceived statements.

    I know this doesn't respond directly to your original post but I think that it's a part of the same discussion.

    This post has been edited 2 times, most recently by LonghornScott 4 years ago

  • LonghornScott said... (original post)

    Very good post. What I like about Muschamp's philosophy is that he uses the versatile players he has to allow him to carve out roles for players who have a specialized skill set (at least initially). Muschamp's defense doesn't have a single identity, it has a single attitude. In order to be multiple and be successful that is exactly what's required. Our defense plays aggressive, they have good footwork, they take on blocks well, and they run through their tackles. If you do those things well with the talent at Texas, it's hard not to be successful on defense.

    I'm not sure all of that philosophy translates to offense. A modern defense inherently needs to be able to adapt a lot schematically from week to week. A good defense robs an offensive of its core plays. Just the opposite is true on offense. It's not so much about being versatile as it is about being able handle versatility. Your offense needs to be able to have enough included so that if a defense game-plans away any core part of your offense, there's enough there to still be successful and force the defense to a more honest approach. So you need a few packages that are deep and you need to rep like crazy against a lot of different looks. With the limited practice time, that is the key to me. So I don't want to see about bunch of really situational personnel on offense nor do I want to see an offense that is just a collection of situational packages... that can work, but it doesn't build a better offense from week to week. It's like trying to win an argument by just saying more rather than making a few, well-conceived statements.

    I know this doesn't respond directly to you original post but I think that its a part of the same discussion.

    well said

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  • Good discussion.

    I'm not sure the one, "this is the key" really works to describe successful O or D. Sometimes you play chess, sometimes you say, "see if you can stop this".

    It's interesting to note GD does not script plays. That is not to say we don't set things up. You can run multiple plays from the exact same look - that's a great thing to do to a D. You also can set up a play by doing certain things, then seeing what the D does to attack that. You then repeat the set up, then switch gears. A trivial example is running a 5 yard out multiple times in a given situation, then spring the trap but running a wheel route (an out and up) hoping the CB is going to jump the out.

    There is always the combination of taking what the D is giving you and on the other hand, dictate to the D how they will react. For example - throw in an unbalanced line - see if they shift or not. Knowing that, you can attack the D in the manner you wish - either towards the unbalance, or like FLA does a lot, away from the unbalance.

    It's fun to watch more than just the ball in a game! It was really great when a few years ago TBS (I think) had a channel with like 4 different camera views. It was really cool to see the endzone camera where you could really see the WR-DB interplay. Fascinating stuff.

    I am ready for the season big time.....

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  • Another quick note - vis a vis depth -

    Part of depth is not just bodies, but bodies that can step in without a loss of production. For example, we have 4 quality DE's; 4 that can arguably start. That's not bad depth vs. a team with say 8 or 9 on the roster (ou) but you may drop off significantly outside the top 2.

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  • Take this as inside scoop b/c that's what it is. Jackson Jeffcoat could start right now over at least one of the senior DE's. The coaches won't do it, but that is THE TRUTH.

  • That is a big difference between Texas and ou right now. I think Texas and ou are equal in talent on the 1's, but Texas has much more depth at the 2's and 3's right now. Look how injuries killed them last year - not saying we would have done much better given the sheer number, but their depth may be really lacking.

    Texas has a number of elite prospects come in - yet no one starts off the bat. Ou has a huge class come in with some elite talent and many show up as starters or as backups - suggesting the cupboard was getting a little bare.

  • papa horn

    Another example of using depth to get the best players on the field is the "big nickel". Muschamp wanted to use it last year but Scott getting sidelined by grades killed his plan. Look for him to use Vacarro, Scott & Gideon a lot in nickel situations this year and it will be fun because Will likes to line one of the safeties up in the slot and bring the heat with him.

    papahorn@gmail.com

  • everybodygodeep said... (original post)

    That is a big difference between Texas and ou right now. I think Texas and ou are equal in talent on the 1's, but Texas has much more depth at the 2's and 3's right now. Look how injuries killed them last year - not saying we would have done much better given the sheer number, but their depth may be really lacking.

    Texas has a number of elite prospects come in - yet no one starts off the bat. Ou has a huge class come in with some elite talent and many show up as starters or as backups - suggesting the cupboard was getting a little bare.

    Good point.

    I think one weak link we have is we really have zero depth at QB. If we lose GG the first game like ou did, we could be in big do-do.

    Our D will keep us in games, and if we truly have developed a running game, we could survive though.

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  • Good discussion. I think BB is partly right about offense. IF you try to do too much, you don't do anything well. Kind of like how we have been a poor RB screen team. It just requires too much percision to do that well, along with 4 other things. You can't run the option, spread pass, power run, and Rb screen well.

    I think as our overall talent on offense catches up with the defense, we may be able to be more multiple as well. We are about two years away. We have the receivers, MB, and the TE in the pipeline. We legitimately have not had all three in the Mack Brown era really. Not with a good offensive line as well.

    Our defense legitimately has no weakness at a position group. Offense can't say that. But like I said, I think in 2 years (when the young OL talent is playing) we will.

  • Some nice thoughts on this thread.

    This is why I like Joe Bergeron so much. He allows Texas to be more multiple on offense than they have been in a long time. That is to say, Texas won't have to implement a specific personnel grouping to go one way or the other, but his skill set allows them to go a bunch of different ways offensively without having to dramatically change the other personnel on the field with him.

    I think Texas realizes there is a lot of potential if you have 2-3 really excellent TE's or H-backs. Because thats the main position that will allow them to be multiple on offense. Additionally, it allows you to be multiple without giving up your core identity.

  • Thanks for the responses, guys.

    Re. our two deep on defense, what's interesting to me is that you can't get to all of the players who can contribute for us in a mere two deep. For example, at end, we can swing Johnson or Okafor back over. At tackle, we're not listing Daniels, or Bible, who can both give us a few snaps this year. At linebacker, there are seven players listed, and we've not even talked about Benson. And this is a team with enough talent to play nickel every down if we had to.

    And so on.

    Let me tell you, on offense, we're starting to build the same kind of depth. The offensive line between the last two classes is lights out, wide receiver is even better, but the most important positions for the versatility in the running and passing games is the h-back/full back/tight ends. We're starting to build up a good variety of kids that can really help us.

    With Matthews in the game, he'll be able to line up at full back, h back, tight end, or wide receiver. Then, you can force a defense to commit to one look, and attack the weaknesses presented accordingly. That's why I'm so excited about Joe Bergeron in this class, and why we really need Whaley and Jones to produce in their roles. I really think that we're going to start to get a new identity on the offensive side of the ball this year, and that we're starting to see a much more unified approach to the types of athletes we're recruiting into the system.