For large portions of the year the offensive play calling for Notre Dame has been inconsistent and at times downright puzzling. It’s difficult to pick out a unifying concept or a core philosophy in the way that the Irish call plays. In fact, one could almost envision the Notre Dame play calling process to be that of a bingo caller, selecting plays at random…
Of course as a Canadian, I have a responsibility to cast a little sunlight on the dark cloud that has become the 2016 season. And here it is. The tight end wing formation the Irish have been using. In the last few games Notre Dame has used three different plays off the same basic look to score touchdowns. Let’s go to the film and I’ll show you what I mean.
As you can see the tight end is off set in a wing back positon (blue star). He will come across the formation and become a lead blocker on the perimeter. Quarterback DeShone Kizer will read the end man on the line of scrimmage (burgundy circle) and will decide if he should keep the ball and run to the outside (green arrow) or give it to the running back (yellow arrow).
The circled defender went for the running back and Kizer made the correct read and kept the ball. Kizer (yellow arrow) is about to cross the goaline and his lead blocker, tight end Nic Weishar (# 82, blue arrow) is making the final block to seal the touchdown.
Here is the same formation against Miami (I love this TV angle by the way!) You can see tight end Nic Weishar (# 82) in the wing back position. He will come across the formation and lead block for Kizer (blue arrow) if he keeps the ball (green arrow).
Kizer will read the end man on the line of scrimmage (orange circle) and decide if he should keep it or hand it off to running back Josh Adams (# 33, yellow line).
Again, Kizer made the right read and gave the ball to Josh Adams (yellow arrow). Adams squeezed through the line and is off to the races. A much needed touchdown for the Irish at a critical time in the game.
Here is the wing back formation against Navy. This time the Irish are going to do something a little different and run play action out of this look. Tight end Durahm Smythe # 80 (blue star) will take a few steps to make it look like he is going across the formation as a lead blocker, but instead he will pivot and release to the outside (blue line). Kizer will fake the handoff to the running back (yellow line) and throw to Smythe.
Smythe just caught the ball (blue circle) and is on his way to a touchdown. This is a nice little tendency breaker out of the wing back formation. It is unfortunate that Notre Dame had to show this play against Navy. It would have been nice if we could have saved this one for a big game, at a critical time. This is especially true considering that the alignment of the running back (to the same side as the wing back instead of the opposite) and Durham Smythe in the wing back position pretty much tip the play. So the next time the Irish try this play it won’t be as much of a surprise.
Three touchdowns, three different plays, from the same formation. In 2016, that is a bingo for Notre Dame offense.