“So those will be some new things, but at the end of the day, we’re not going to change the entire offense and teach a new system to this group.” – Brian Kelly in December.
However, last Saturday had little resemblance to Kelly’s offense of last year. Regardless of what Brian Kelly and Chip Long choose to portray to the media, the product on the field is a completely different offensive system. The running plays are largely different, the screen game is different, the playcalling is different, the personnel is different, the terminology is different. Perhaps some passing concepts were not transient, but little else were in the Chip Long offense.
I have had the opportunity to watch the Notre Dame Clinic talk that Chip Long gave, and he described facets of his offense in great detail (shoutout to the excellent blog http://highspeedspreadfootball.blogspot.com and its writer https://twitter.com/dacoachmohuddle who I believe is going to blog about it in bit). Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I will not be able to delve deeply into the film too much before the end of next week, however this post will serve as an introduction and maybe some brief macro points.
In the linked article from 247, Brian Kelly talked about the process in which Chip Long was chosen to be the offensive coordinator of Notre Dame. It is generally considered that Kelly made the coaching search after the season, but I believe he had his eyes on Chip Long significantly earlier in the season.
In my first ever blog post I broke down a triple threat RPO that Notre Dame ran vs Michigan State. This play was unusual in the context of the game, but is especially odd considering the season as a whole: Notre Dame did not run that play again, or anything similar to it, the entire season. That play was almost verbatim ripped from the ASU/Memphis Chip Long offense, so much so, that Chip Long mixed it in with his own cutups, and even pointed out specific coaching points, while breaking down his clinic talk.
It is my theory that Kelly knew that he wanted Chip Long on his staff at that moment, and this was his first “interview question.”
If I had to describe what Chip Long has shown so far at Notre Dame, it would be a blend of old as dirt (some almost unheard of today) concepts into a new-style wrap with a pro-style playcalling approach. He claimed that out of 100 plays he wants to run in 85-66 of them. It is my opinion from hearing his Clinic talk, that a “run” includes the “pass” of a RPO, so don’t overreact just due to the box score about “balance.”
So with all this said, lets hit some quick points that I will expand on later posts.
Changing Gap Play
Long replaced many of the gap runs (Power, Power Read, Counter, Counter Trey) with Pin & Pull and “G-Scheme”. G-Scheme is an uncommon old school running play, so much so that if you try googling “G-scheme football” the first result that contains the phrase is from the classic book “Offensive Football Strategies” which was from 1999! Cutups of Pin & Pull and G-Scheme are here.
One interesting point about this, is at this moment, no “counter” run play has been shown. At Memphis Long utilized a very odd tackle-long-trap-counter, but that play was not mentioned in his Clinic talk or shown on the field Saturday.
The simple inside zone play has an interesting coaching point for the running back. Chip wants the running back to always hit backside A to backside B, and if the running back hits the front side A it better be 4 yards or better, he will be “pulled out of the game”. The traditional aiming point for inside zone (before looking for a cutback) is the outside hip of the playside guard, also known as the frontside A gap.
Long changed the jailbreak screen from having a tunnel to being a normal screen by the wide receiver. He also greatly emphasized the short passing game, which was almost unheard of last year with the possible exception of the Virginia Tech game where Kelly ran Snag out of virtually every look possible. Cutups of both of these.
Long has greatly changed the style and frequency of playaction. From my condensed video, roughly 30% of the entire time was playaction. Last year playaction was so insignificant, that I actually forgot to mention it in my playcalling review. Standard playactions cutups can be found here.
The other type of playaction shown is called the “naked” bootleg playaction. It is called naked because the quarterback does not have any lead blockers when he rolls out of the pocket, often times the defensive end/end man on the line of scrimmage is left unblocked. Long went over several (3!) of his concepts in detail in his Clinic talk, and I expect it to be a mainstay of the Notre Dame offense as long (pun intended) as he is here.
One point of emphasis that I did not see that he went over in detail is that the Tight end is supposed to chip and “be physical” with the DE a little bit before releasing to his flat route. It was only a spring game, so it would not surprise me if they wanted to play a little bit less physically. Naked cutups (safe for work!) can be found here.
Tight End Motion
The motion he employed a lot with the Tight Ends has an interesting coaching point. He will call a concept, for example (I’m making up a concept) “Colt.” That play can either be a 2×2 set or a 3×1 set concept. He can then call “Colt BK” pronounced Colt Back, which will automatically tell the Tight End to start from the wrong side then motion before the snap. This helps simplify the verbiage in order to play fast.
Also, the way passing concepts are taught is similar to this video by current Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead. Essentially all players can tell how they need to line up by simply a one word call concept, regardless if they are split out, on the line, etc.
In a fantastic blogpost by Chris Brown (a Purdue grad by the way), he talked about how Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, himself, and Bill Walsh all are proponents of pulling a guard in playaction. Notre Dame rarely pulled a guard when they used playaction last season, yet this spring game showed many instances. Personally, its ironic to me that Long is pulling guards to “fake” a power/counter look, when he doesn’t really run… either of those concepts. Regardless, pulling a guard helps give run keys to safeties and linebackers and will greatly improve the believability of the fake.
As Long outlined in his Clinic talk, he loves to take shot plays. Many of those plays are off of standard playaction, but others are off of one of his favorite tried and true concepts: verticals. It is a concept made famous by Mike Leach and is pretty much everywhere today. Notre Dame ran this concept more in the Blue and Gold game than any time I can recently remember, with the possible exception of the Michigan State game, where Notre Dame was down by a lot. Cutups are here.
Finally, we had RPOs galore. Not many triple option RPOs were run, and several RPOs that Long talked about in his clinic talk were absent, but we saw a lot of fun ones. If you were wondering, generally the routes on the RPOs, with some exceptions, are based on game-planning what coverage they expect to face by that given opponent in a given game situation. Cutups.
In the upcoming posts, I will also try to mix in some new awesome technology. Shoutout to http://www.goarmyedge.com/football and https://twitter.com/GoArmyEdge even though I’m more of a Navy guy myself.
The following play can be found live here. This is a 2-D and 3-D visualization of that play using the fantastic app. This is an inside zone with a slant on the frontside and double hitches on the backside. The offensive formation is what I would call Pistol Normal. The defensive formation appears to be a 4-2-5 even front with quarter-quarter-half coverage.
The quarterback pre-snap checks the backside to see if there are any “gimme yards.” During the mesh he reads the “adjuster” which in this case was the safety. The safety rotates inward partly due to the run action and middle of the field responsibilities, and the quarterback throws the slant. On the play, Notre Dame had a triple team at the line of scrimmage, but ended up throwing the ball. That is either the beauty of this offense or the beast of it, depending on your point of view.
Eric wrote in his review: “I’m not sure we’re going to see something that for the average fan looks all that different from past Kelly offenses.” Even though Kelly and Long want you to believe that the entire offense was not changed and a new system was not taught, this is exactly what happened this spring: Kelly is about to show the world the Notre Dame Long Offense.
If you have any questions, comments, feel free to ask and I’ll research and try my best. If you have any preference about what I break down first leave that with a comment.