Mazzone Offense

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break down concepts of mazzone offense.
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  Mazzone Offense - Protecting Base Concepts In our first year in the pistol, pretty much everyone knew where we were going when we motioned a receiver across the formation (flymotion). We almost always faked a jet sweep to him and ran veer away from motion, and as the season went on, defenses realized that theycould just load up to stop Franklin/Coleman up the middle or Prince/Brehaut to the outside. By itself, pistol veer is a fine concept, but you can'trun it every play without throwing in some kind of constraint that prevents the defense knowing exactly where you're going to attack eachtime. We got better at this over time by mixing in some playaction, but that first year was painful when our opponents realized that they onlyreally had to defend two players on the field.You've got to be able to protect the base concepts. If you spend a lot of time practicing pistol reads, footwork, the mesh with the runningback, and feature it in the offense, you want to be able to run it as much as possible. When you run your base concept, whether it's pistol veer,zone key/snag, or the old power O from I-backs, you need to have adjustments that allow you to put the ball in other players' hands and/orattack other areas of the field off of the same look. With the pistol veer this can include handing the ball off on the jet sweep or some kind of shovel pass to the F-back, or simple playaction, reverses, HB/WR passes, naked bootlegs, counters, whatever. If the defense wants to sell out totake away your base stuff, you've got to go attack the areas that they concede. You might get a big play, but more importantly, you let themknow that they need to play you honest, and you can get back to running your base stuff.This is where the offense starts to get fun. So far I've gone over philosophy, the zone/bubble series, and snag/quick passing game. That's thebasis of the short offense - you can attack inside with the run, and when the defense gives up the flats in order to crash down on the inside run,you can hit the edge quickly with the key screen to widen them back out, and when they widen too far and overplay the swing route, you canhit the short pass, snag (there's a downfield passing game that I'll get to later, but this post ties the last two together). These three conceptsprotect each other as they distribute the ball to different players and attack different areas of the field, but Mazzone goes even further with afew other wrinkles. Below, I'll show a few examples of how Mazzone protects his base concepts by attacking other areas of the field off of thesame look in order to prevent the defense from cheating.Zone ReadI didn't see much traditional zone read from ASU (although this is hard to tell without knowing what Osweiler's reads and instructions are oneach play), and even fewer QB keepers. ASU only seemed to use it as a constraint to slow down the defensive end on their zone key series.They sometimes don't block the defensive end, because unless he crashes down, he isn't able to reach the running back or the bubble.However, whenever ASU's backs started to get hit in the backfield by the DE, Mazzone would read this player, usually resulting in Osweilerrunning between the DE and the flat defender for a good gain. They did this a lot against us, as our DEs crashed inside vs down blocks most of the time. Again, it's about making each defender stay at home. If they haven't run at him all day, and the DE gets impatient and leaves to chasethe RB, then Mazzone tags a call to attack the voided area with the QB.This is nothing new for us, it's basically the pistol veer we've been running the past two seasons, but within the framework of somethingbigger.Playaction/Downfield PassingThis one is obvious...if you can't run because the defense is loading up the box, run playaction or throw over top. With the immediate threatto the outside from key screens, the QB can get clear reads for vertical routes as safeties widen and corners hesitate in the flat with the quickscreen threat. When safeties start to jump the bubble routes, deep middle and seam are open, and when cornerbacks come up quickly toattack the flats, corner and fade routes are open. If you want to flood underneath zones with defenders, you'll probably only have 2 deepdefenders left, which makes you weak against the vertical passing game.I'll have more on the downfield passing game a little later, but below is one example that plays off the same bubble screen motion ASU likedto use. It has a deep crossing patterns in the same direction as the bubble. The defense widens with the bubble and/or bites on the inside runfake, which opens up space for the crossing route or the deep fade. This is an Air Raid staple, Y Cross, off playaction. As you can see, it's a lookthat you can easily run zone key or snag off of.Ycross_mediumMazzone also took occasional shots downfield at receivers that were singled up with man coverage on the backside - if the defense rotatedcoverage to the motion to stop the swing routes, they sometimes left a guy on the other side in man coverage. I'll also get into this more later.  SweepAbove is a variant of zone key - it's the same action as regular zone/bubble combo, but the HB takes more of an outside path, and everyoneblocks down except two linemen that pull. Against a defense that overpursues towards the motion man and the dive, the defense gets trappedinside and the RB can get to the edge. In the cutups below, ASU scored their first TD against USC off this adjustment - watch how the LB andespecially the FS (#7) step up inside and get sealed off on the long TD run.LockKey opens up lock - once the Zone Key game is rolling and the defense is aggressively jumping the quick screens to the outside, you can runLock. The diagram is pretty self-explanatory. Fake the quick screen (Key) in the flat and run vertical. If the defense isn't fooled, the QB just hitsthe flat or just takes off.Adjustments Cut-upsThese are just a few of the noticeable adjustments Mazzone can use to switch up the base stuff. However, there are probably also plenty of minor changes that you don't notice over the course of a game, such as switching up a blocking assignment against a particular front, tweakingalignment of receivers a few yards inside or outside, or tagging in a new route here and there. It's not so much about tricking the defense, butmore about taking advantage of them if they want to jump your base offense, showing them that you have that ability to attack elsewhere as achange-up to the base stuff so you can get back to doing what you do. Mazzone Offense - Dropback Passing So far I have posted about spread philosophy, the base zone key run/quick screen concept, snag, screens, and the quick passing game, andoffensive adjustments (protecting the base concepts). That's enough to get the base stuff going, and it can be enough to put together somedrives. Last components, X's and O's-wise, are the dropback passing game and the short-yardage game.Many of the passing concepts used by ASU last season were fairly standard across college football - nothing groundbreaking or overlycomplicated. Like Air Raid teams, ASU liked to run plenty of shallow crossing routes, which helps to spread defenses across the field.Unlike Air Raid teams, I wouldn't consider ASU a pass-first team. They threw it around when the ground game wasn't working, but their breadand butter stuff seemed to be the stuff I've covered so far - when they had problems running, like against Oregon and especially Boise State inthe bowl game, they usually struggled. They seemed to want to work the inside run and the quick outside screen, and take a few shotsdownfield when the defense focused on stopping the short stuff. Osweiler generally wasn't putting the ball up in the air more than 30-35 timesa game, and many of those passes were things like quick screens or short passes.I don't have a lot on Mazzone's downfield passing game as TV camera angles are usually too tight to see receivers downfield, but I'll go intodetail on a few.ShallowMazzone's got a sample presentation detailing how he teaches shallow and drive on his website (scroll down to where it says, The TechnologyAdvantage of the Nzone Spread Offensive System ). I'll just go off his presentation and break things down a little further.Shallow ( shack in Mazzone's terminology) is a high-low concept that attacks the linebackers over the middle with a shallow crossing routegoing one way combined with a dig route (square-in route at about 10 yards) behind it. If the defense wants to jump the short routes, they'llleave open a deeper route going the other direction behind them. Or, if they drop deep and take the dig, they'll leave a void underneath.   The rules are: The WR indicated on the playcall runs the shallow cross. So F Shack means that the F receiver runs the shallow. The otherreceiver to his side runs an outside fade down the sideline. The opposite slot WR runs the dig route at 10-12 yards, and the opposite outsidereceiver runs the skinny post. The back is hot out of the backfield on the swing.The call, listed on his presentation, is Dual Right Hot Ron F Shack . Dual Right is probably the formation, most likely dual WRs to each side, andthe formation is set to the right, so X and F go left, while Y and Z go right. Hot Ron is most likely the protection, I'm guessing Hot protection is5-man protection, and Ron designates protection set to the right, so if the defense rushes six, the back or the shallow are hot - the OL picksup the 5 rushers to the right and the 6th rusher to the left is negated by the throw to the hot receiver. F Shack is the play call - F is the slotWR, and Shack is shallow cross, so F runs the shallow cross and the rest of the receivers follow the rules in the paragraph above. Formation,any motions, protection, play, and then any additional tags - it's a lot simpler than whatever Jon Gruden is saying here (keep in mind what CamNewton says - simplicity equals fast - for when I get to tempo).Slide1yz_mediumAgainst a press look with no safeties back, the QB peeks at the fade in man coverage, and against cover 4, the QB peeks at the post (the safetywould rob the dig route, leaving the post open in this case). Again, against blitz, the QB is looking to throw hot. Otherwise, the QB is looking atshallow right away to throw on the plant. If it's open, the QB hits shallow for 4-5 yards with a chance for more. Otherwise, he hitches up toreset and looks for the dig which should be open behind whoever covered the shallow. If it's not there, the QB starts moving out of the pocketand throws on the run to the back on the swing.You can see in Mazzone's presentation that he has Dual Left Hot Ron Z Shack - same concept, different look. Formation is flipped this timeand Z runs the shallow. As an outside WR runs the shallow, the slot to his side runs a corner instead of a fade - it's still attacking the same areaof the field, so same reads for the QB. You can flip the protection and release the back to the other side, you can change the protection, youcan motion a receiver from trips into Dual , you can tag a receiver's route to make an adjustment if you see a weakness in coverage - it's aflexible system and players don't have to remember what route you run for every specific play...they just need to memorize the rules above,and if they hear Z Shack , they can figure it out.Slide2p_mediumDriveDrive is similar to shallow, except that the dig route comes from the same side as the shallow route. Mazzone likes to package the backside withthe two receivers crossing on a go route and a corner route, and look for the corner against 2-deep and the go/skinny post against cover 4again. Otherwise, QB is looking at the shallow route, the dig, and then the back just like shallow.Y Cross  Mazzone seemed to like deep crossing routes and floods towards either sideline, especially off of run action. It's similar to how he controlsperimeter defenders with the quick outside screen to the backside - if they cheat inside to play the run, he'll fake the run and flood the backsidewith a deep crossing route, a vertical route, and some sort of short route in the flat. It's the same triangle stretch used in 3-man snag, with avertical threat, a short outside threat, and an intermediate threat, only a little more downfield.See below for a great video demonstrating this concept - this was meant for WVU's offense, but the formation and motion is something thatASU ran under Mazzone (same look they run zone key out of ). Remember how defenses liked to drop the safety down to pick up the swingroute on the backside - this play is a good call against those teams as the vertical or the crossing route can be open.Y-Crosser (via smartfootballchris)VerticalsVerticals is a concept that pretty much everyone runs - for an in-depth explanation, check out this article or just google four verticals . It'snot so much a long bomb play, but usually more of a quick throw down the seams as the slot receivers clear the underneath defenders.The wrinkle that Mazzone used several times last season was running this out of trips, and having the inside slot receiver take more of adiagonal path down towards the opposite hash marks and the backside single receiver run a shallow crossing route. If teams loaded up thedeep zones, ASU would just take the shallow route, and if they flooded the underneath zones in anticipation of the zone run or quick passinggame, they'd have the advantage deep with the vertical routes. Remember, the base stuff in the offense is meant to force the defense to coversideline to sideline short stuff, with inside runs and quick passes and screens to the perimeter - when those concepts are rolling, the defensecan't leave many defenders deep which opens up the downfield passing game.
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