So far, 2018 has been a bit of roller coaster ride for the Notre Dame offense. At times, they’ve looked very good and at other times, they’ve looked dreadful. Typically, when the offense isn’t producing, there is a lot of scrutiny placed on the quarterback. This has certainly been the case for Brandon Wimbush in 2018. So far, he has proven to be a dynamic runner and an inconsistent passer. This week in the film room, we’re going to look at a play that in many ways illustrates both of those points. As an added bonus, you’ll get a chance to see the play from Wimbush’s point of view and go through the decision making process with him. Let’s take a look at the film and I’ll show you what I mean.
Late in the 1st quarter, 3rd down and 10 with a chance to score. You are Brandon Wimbush. Coach Long has called a pass play where you will have 5 receivers to choose from (yellow lines).
From the film work you’ve done this week, you know that Vanderbilt likes to play cover 1 (man coverage with a free safety) in this situation. As you survey the defense, you note the pre-snap alignment is consistent with cover 1. At this point, you feel pretty confident regarding what the defense is going to do after the ball is snapped. If you are correct and it is cover 1, you should have a bit of time to make your reads as Vanderbilt will have 5 defenders available to rush and you will have 5 players available to block. This will leave 5 defenders to cover your 5 receivers and a free safety.
The key to this play will be the free safety (red circle). Where he moves from this pre–snap alignment (black line) will determine where you throw the ball. If he comes up to cover the crossing tight end, you’re throwing to Boykin. If he slides towards Boykin, you will need to make a great throw or go to another option.
You’re at the top of your drop, it’s decision time. Miles Boykin (# 81, orange circle) is your primary receiver and is about to make his break to the inside. The free safety is following your eyes (red circle) and has moved from his original pre-snap alignment (black line) towards Boykin.
At this point, it looks like a big throwing window (yellow lines). However, it’s important to remember that when Boykin makes his break he will be moving towards the free safety so the window will close very rapidly. If you are going to make this throw, you must do it now. You’re also going to need to put some zip on the ball. Oh and you’ll need to be accurate. Of course, you can always throw to one of the other receivers or tuck the ball and run. What will you do?
The decision is made, you’re running. This appears to be a good choice as the offensive line has done an excellent job stonewalling the Vanderbilt defensive line (green line) and there is a lot of open space to your right (black circle).
What would have happened if you threw the ball? Boykin beat his man to the inside (orange circle), an on time, accurate throw, with some velocity, likely would have resulted in a touchdown. However, anything less than a perfect throw and the safety either intercepts the ball or decapitates your best receiver.
Yup, that was a good decision.
This play illustrates both sides of the Brandon Wimbush debate. A more accomplished quarterback wouldn’t have locked on Boykin right away, he would have held the safety for a moment with his eyes and then came back and fired an on-time, accurate pass, into a tight window. On the other side of the debate, a less mobile quarterback likely wouldn’t have been able to run into the end zone.
In the end, this was the correct decision for Brandon Wimbush. He could have made a risky throw into a tight window, but with all that running room, why risk it? The play ended in a touchdown, which is obviously good. Here’s the problem though. Deep down most Notre Dame fans want to see Wimbush throw on time, into a tight window at least some of the time. If he can make that type of throw and be a dynamic runner, he would be very difficult to stop.