18 Stripes Films: Iso Cam – Notre Dame vs. Elko

Remember in 2015 when Notre Dame played a scrappy Wake Forest team? At the time I didn’t pay much attention to the Demon Deacon defense. Of course now that Mike Elko is Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator that 2015 match up becomes more intriguing. In this edition of Iso Cam, we’ll take a look at the back and forth between Brian Kelly’s offense and Mike Elko’s defense on what turned out to be a critical play in the game. Let’s take a look at the film and I’ll show you what I mean.

2nd and 9, deep in their own end Notre Dame comes out with a heavy run formation with an interesting wrinkle. The heavy run look comes from the two tight ends stacked to the wide side (blue arrows). The wrinkle comes from the two receivers spread to the same side (yellow arrows). This creates an unbalanced formation with 4 receivers to one side and no receivers to the other side (black circle).

This formation puts pressure on the defense in a number of ways. First, the defense has to react to the stacked tight ends. If they don’t move some defenders over to match the extra blockers, Notre Dame will simply run to the tight end side and likely overpower them. At the same time, the defense also needs to decide what to do about the receivers split wide. Do they play man to man with no help over the top or do they move a safety over to provide additional support? Keep in mind one of those receivers is Will Fuller. What about the side of the formation with no receiver? Should they keep a corner on that side, or move the corner to the side of the formation with two receivers?

Elko decides to make the tight end side a priority and shifts his defensive line in that direction (red arrows). This is interesting because it leaves the backside tackle Mike McGlinchey (#68, yellow circle) uncovered. Elko also shifts his linebackers (purple arrows) towards the tight end side and has his rover (purple star and arrow) slide out to the 2 receiver side. For good measure, he’ll have a safety come down to the line of scrimmage to make sure he isn’t outmanned by the stacked tight ends (pink arrow).

When I first looked at this play, I thought Elko had overcommitted to the stacked tight end side. I was especially surprised that he would shift the backside defensive end over the guard (red arrow) since this alignment creates a pretty obvious run lane behind the uncovered tackle (yellow circle).

I’ve actually seen this type of alignment from Elko before, he’s not afraid to move his defensive linemen around. Elko clearly decided he wasn’t going to let Notre Dame overpower him on the stacked tight end side. I suspect he felt pretty good about the backside as well. If Notre Dame ran away from the tight ends, he had a corner in good position to keep contain (pink arrow) and a linebacker free to pursue from the inside (purple arrow). This would leave Notre Dame with one player (McGlinchey) to block two defenders.

The safety has come up in run support (pink circle) which puts 5 defenders (red stars) in position to make a play to the double tight end side.

If you were watching closely in the last screen shots, you would have noticed that running back Josh Adams (# 33, green arrow) was lined up directly behind quarterback DeShone Kizer (# 14). When the safety came down to the line of scrimmage and changed the math, Kizer moved Adams from behind him to beside him (green arrow). This subtle adjustment will allow Adams to get to the side of the formation where the math is better (black arrow) a little faster.

Of course we can’t forget about the 2 receiver (yellow arrows) side of the formation. Elko decided to move the rover to that side (purple circle). However, it wouldn’t be wise to leave him all alone on a receiver. Consequently, Elko will have the safety in the middle of the field roll over to the 2 receiver side (pink arrow) just in case the Irish decide to throw it deep. Remember this adjustment, it will be important later.

A fraction of a second after the snap and the 2 tight end side is already a mess (yellow circle). It looks like a herd of wildebeest crossing a narrow channel in a crocodile infested river. There’s not much room to run there. The linebackers (purple arrows), get caught up in the excitement and join in the river crossing stampede. This decision will come back to haunt the defense.

Josh Adams (green arrow) is just getting to the line of scrimmage, and has found a little bit of space between the guard and the tackle. The linebacker (purple arrow) got caught in the stampede and wasn’t able to scrape over the top and fill from the inside as Elko had hoped.

Remember the safety that rolled over to help to the 2 receiver side? Well there he is (pink circle) coming back to try and make the tackle. If he was able to stay in his initial pre-snap alignment, he would have been in a much better position to make the tackle.

Fortunately for the Irish, Josh Adams is able to break free and is off to the races for a 98 yard touchdown run.

Video

Final Thoughts

This was pretty nice play design by Notre Dame. Stacking the tight ends, forced Elko to adjust his defensive alignment so he had extra defenders to the strength of the formation. This left a bit of a weakness away from the stacked tight ends which the Irish exploited. To make matters worse for Elko, the two receiver wrinkle forced him move a safety away from the backside of the formation. This gave Adams a little extra space which helped turn a first down run into a 98 yard back breaking touchdown. Some nice X’s and O’s from the Irish. Oh and it doesn’t hurt that Josh Adams is pretty fast.

By |2018-05-09T22:26:17+00:00April 20th, 2017|Film Room|43 Comments

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Brendan R

Man, that replay camera angle from straight up the sideline… That’s gotta be pretty for a running back, to break into the open with that much green and know you’re about to go another 80 yards for a score. Adrenaline, baby.

attackofthecolons
attackofthecolons

Long time lurker first time poster. Rules question. Why is that not an illegal formation with the uncovered tackle?

GowerND11
GowerND11

You must have 7 men on the LOS. Especially in high school and college football, that leaves you with leeway on how that is done. Basically ND went unbalanced, and actually covered up the TE on the strong side. What that means is, because the WR on the TE side is also on the LOS, the TE in ineligible to catch a pass, thereby making the formation legal since there are 7 men on the LOS.

attackofthecolons
attackofthecolons

So I’m guessing then McGlinchey had to report as tackle eligible? And thanks

GowerND11
GowerND11

Nope. He was still ineligible, if I remember correctly. He would have been tackle eligible if he was lined up as a TE in an unbalanced set, as long as he isn’t covered by a WR.

juicebox
juicebox

It sure looks like McGlinchey would have been eligible. I don’t think he was covered by a WR on his side.

GowerND11
GowerND11

As per NCAA rules, he is completely ineligible. All numbers 50-79 are not eligible. He would have had to physically change jerseys.

juicebox
juicebox

Didn’t realize the tackle eligible was illegal in the NCAA. I knew defenders would change jerseys to play on offense, but figured that was a workaround to having to announce as eligible every play, or in some cases to be tricksy. Thanks for the info.

GowerND11
GowerND11

No problem. That’s why, when a team goes unbalanced, you do have to make sure who lines up where. If McGlinchey lined up where, say Smythe was, and they flipped, Smythe would have been tackle eligible.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

I’m not even sure what it means, but you have a great screen name.

attackofthecolons
attackofthecolons

It was originally a Star Wars themed fantasy baseball team name. I had Bartolo Colon

juicebox
juicebox

My favorite running plays in NCAA football (RIP) were to the non-WR side in twins/trips formations, usually after motioning even more people away from my planned point of attack.

Eric Murtaugh

Well, we can’t go 4-8 if NCAA football is dead. So we’ve got that going for us.

802View
802View

Counters to non-wr side were guaranteed TD!

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

Thanks Lars, great insight. I watched all of the practice videos from yesterday’s practice. In one video it looked like they were doing a tackling drill where guys would lay down on their backs with their heads pointing towards each other. At the whistle the ball carrier would try to run the ball in a narrow lane through the defender.

I was, once again, appalled at the tackling. These guys have got be the worst tacklers I’ve ever seen at ND. How hard can it be to fill a lane and bring a ball carrier down?

spider-man
spider-man

Thanks Larz! Am I the only one who is sad about our defense after reading and watching this? On the bright side, I’m happy that Adams is on the O

juicebox
juicebox

The run is largely due to the OL smushing the DL back into the LBs. If the DL holds their ground, this is a fairly easy tackle. That being said, based on our DL, being nervous is probably about right.

Brendan R

Most of the breakdown in that play, in my uneducated opinion, was the linebackers getting overanxious and forgetting their responsibilities. Probably got a little too amped about the heavy look and got suckered into jumping on it. Had the Mike scraped like he was supposed to, he would’ve been right in the hole that Adams hit. I think the floor for our linebacker play is probably “solid,” so I’m less concerned about breakdowns like that happening with any frequency with us.

Also, keep in mind that this is one isolated play, chosen specifically because the defense broke down. Wake actually did a pretty good job of bottling up a very potent offense in that game, and of course with inferior talent. They held us to our lowest yards per play number on the year at 5.76, just ahead of Ohio State at 5.79 and well below our season average of 7.09 against everyone else.

Really I think this play is more about the chess match between Kelly and Elko than anything else – kids will make mistakes sometimes, and in this case the mistake wasn’t even all that bad, but it was magnified because Kelly out-maneuvered Elko. It happens.

All that said, I’m very concerned about the defensive line too. There’s some physical ability, but there’s not a lot of depth and there’s no proven top performer. An awful lot of the success of this season could ride on how much of a step Jerry Tillery and Daelin Hayes can take this year, and how much we can avoid injury on the line.

EDIT: Also concerned about the safeties, of course. Need to make chicken salad out of chicken farts back there. (We’re slightly better than chicken poop, but not by much.)

Concrete Charlie
Concrete Charlie

Sheesh, Larz! You couldn’t dig a tackle-for-loss out of the archives!? Now I’m feeling all…

comment image

PS: RIP, Bill Paxton!

rudy8655
rudy8655

When I saw the title I wanted it to go both ways huge tackle for loss and a huge run. After reading it I am a little depressed especially given our tackling…i guess I wanted the big loss more

DCIrish84
DCIrish84

Unless Elko motioned the players around as you suggest, they reacted to the formation. It may not have been what he wanted. I am sure the result was not.

gbsk
gbsk

When I saw the lineup at the ND end of the filed, I thought it would be the Josh run.

HolyCrossHog
HolyCrossHog

Without Explosiva, it’s fairly likely the outcome would’ve been different.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Story of the 2015 season.

HolyCrossHog
HolyCrossHog

Shirley you mean 2016?

cwod
cwod

Oh no! I wanted to see something good from Elko.

dannan14
dannan14

You did it again Larz…you won the Internet…”It looks like a herd of wildebeest crossing a narrow channel in a crocodile infested river.”

Brendan R

Agreed, that might be the best line in the history of 18S/OFD film breakdown. I chortled audibly. Spectacular.