Film Room: Iso-Cam – Return of the Fullback

Chip Long came in talking about running the ball. But I was skeptical. After years of listening to Brian Kelly talk about emphasizing the run game and then seeing him abandon the run at the first sign of an extra defender approaching the line of scrimmage, I’ve learned to ignore the rhetoric and see what happens on game day.

Although it’s a small sample size, Chip Long certainly demonstrated a commitment to the run in his first game as the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame. In fact, he even had the quarterback line up under center with a fullback on the field at the same time (well a tight end lined up as a fullback, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers). At first I thought the formation was a mirage. But it wasn’t, and it worked. Let’s take a look at the film and I’ll show you what I mean.

4th and goal in the 4th quarter. A chance to put your opponent away. Under Brian Kelly, the Irish have tended to struggle in this situation. However, this is a bit of a different look compared to what we’ve seen in the past. Hopefully it will yield improved results.

Notre Dame is going to run a pretty simple play. The tight end and tackle will block down (yellow lines) and the guard will kick out (yellow line). The fullback will lead block right off the tight end (blue line) and the running back will follow the fullback (green arrow).

Temple has a hard time adjusting to the formation. They become mesmerized by the double tight ends and end up with 5 defenders (red circle, black arrows) to that side. They look like a gaggle of Canadian Geese on a freshly cut farmer’s field, huddled together looking to clean up any morsels left by the passing combines.

Brandon Wimbush (# 7) is in the process of handing the ball off to Josh Adams (# 33, green star). An alley is starting to form (yellow lines) and freshman tight end Brock Wright (# 89) turned fullback is in position (blue line) to provide a lead block.

On the other side of the formation, the gaggle (red circle), still appears befuddled by the two tight ends and is taking a casual approach to pursing to the ball.

The line has done an excellent job of sealing off the defenders to create an obvious running lane (yellow lines) and the fullback is looking to seal a pursuing defender to the inside (blue arrow).  

As for the gaggle of defenders, it looks like one of their hands has made it into the screen shot (red arrow). So that’s something.

3 Temple defenders versus 2 Notre Dame blockers and a ball carrier at the goaline (blue circle). This is all about imposing your will.

This is what an improved off-season conditioning program looks like on the field. The Notre Dame players simply push the Temple defenders backwards into the end zone (blue circle). Touchdown Notre Dame.

As for the gaggle of players that was mesmerized by the 2 tight end side. Two of them are near the ball carrier (red arrows). But as you can see, they did little to impact the outcome of the play.

Final Thoughts

This was a well designed play. Placing two tight ends to one side of the formation forces the defense to make an adjustment (in this case they overreacted). Putting a fullback in the backfield allows Notre Dame to get an extra blocker at the point of attack. Having the quarterback under center allows for a quicker exchange which means the running back can get moving a littler earlier and run downhill towards the line of scrimmage.

However, this really isn’t about X’s and O’s. It’s about attitude. 4th down and goal in the 4th quarter. Notre Dame is sending a message: we are going to pound the ball down your throat and there is nothing you can do about it.

I like that message. It will be interesting to see if we can deliver that same message to Georgia next week.

By |2018-05-09T22:26:01+00:00September 5th, 2017|Film Room|33 Comments

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KGRussell KnoxThe commenter formerly known as occtipusScarponimihalko35 Recent comment authors
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cwod
cwod

Thanks for breaking it down. And for the gem about the geese.

I know it’s just one game, but how does the OL look compared to previous years? Are Bars and Mustipher much improved like people are saying?

Who can say if Temple will be good this year. But running for that many yards on a team that wants to play tough, smart defense, I found this ND rushing performance to be very encouraging. Heading into it, I would have been really happy getting 200 yards.

idocd
idocd

Iso “Cam?”
@This seems like the opposite of the time he ran through the backwards gauntlet.@

tlndma
tlndma

Double TE’s + a Preseason AA Tackle and Guard on the left side gave Temple little choice but to overload that side. In other words, “their goose was cooked”.

mihalko35
mihalko35

Looks like Temple fowled up their alignment

KG
KG

It was a honking big mistake.

HolyCrossHog
HolyCrossHog

I get goose bumps just watching that play.

tlndma
tlndma

Well done Larz, any chance of taking a gander at another play or two ?

MikeyB
MikeyB

You’re a 6’5″ 240 pound defensive end. Alex Bars is pulling and running directly at you, full speed. I’m pretty sure this is the opening line of a Stephen King horror novel.

MikeyB
MikeyB

But seriously, incredible technique by Bars on that play. Instead of sprinting directly at the end and risking whiffing (and completely blowing up the play), he stays disciplined and gets to the inside of him. This allows him to get a perfect angle to completely clear the end out of the play. If the tackle blocking down and FB aren’t able to completely move their men into the endzone here, Adams would have still had a nice lane to bounce it outside around the FB to fight his way into the endzone. That third screen shot is an absolute thing of beauty. That’s an absurd amount of daylight for Adams that close to the goal line. Hell, that would even be a really nice running lane at the 50 yard line.

For all the credit the left side of the line gets for its run blocking (and they absolutely deserve it), this right side might be pretty darn good too.

Concrete Charlie
Concrete Charlie

Adams seemed to run into the traffic at the end of the play rather than scooting through for these easy TD down the lane. Reminds me of Van Gorder blitz mechanics. Thoughts on that? Is he coached to believe that the pile will be pushed through?

Brendan R

Not Larz, but… I would guess that in that spot on the field and with that kind of play, it develops so quickly that his instructions are to barrel ahead as forcibly as he can. With the defense compressed like that I can see there being near zero time to read and adjust.

spider-man
spider-man

Great breakdown Larz, as usual! One quick question – did you pay attention to the rotation at right tackle? Any obvious take-aways from those two?

Brendan R

Great stuff as always, Larz!

I didn’t notice this live, but there are actually four tight ends on the field for that play. Weishar is attached on the right side, Alize and Kmet on the left, and Wright in the backfield. For anyone who wonders why we’re chasing another TE in the 2018 class after signing Wright and Kmet last year and getting a commitment from George Takacs this year, there’s your answer.

Quick, without looking it up, how many times has Notre Dame been in 23 personnel in the Kelly era? I’m guessing you could count them on one hand. We might’ve done that against Oklahoma in 2012 once or twice, although then again that might’ve been 13 personnel (and I don’t really feel like checking, since it doesn’t change the main point). Maybe against USC in 2010. Other than that? [crickets]

Someone else pointed out somewhere how nice it was that Long stayed in run calls even when Temple put eight in the box, and we weren’t having consistent success on the ground yet. Like you said, it was telling Temple we’re going to pound the rock at you. Deal with it.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Four tight ends! It’s so… beautiful.

The only improvement would be somehow to get Smythe on the field at the same time too.

The commenter formerly known as occtipus
The commenter formerly known as occtipus

Wildend? Tightcat?

tlndma
tlndma

The Gaggle formation.

KG
KG

Flying V!

Brendan R

Heh… Sampson suggested the same in camp. Said all the TEs looked so good that it seemed a shame to leave any of theme on the sideline.

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

Geese haggling and bears analyzing. Thanks for an entertaining and informative article Larz.

mihalko35
mihalko35

Paul Foie Grasmanis