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September 6, 2011

Scout's Eye View: Breaking down big plays

MORE FROM THE OPENING WEEKEND: What we learned: Week 1 | Photo Gallery: Scenes from Saturday | Monday Notebook: Muschamp reviews the big win | Thumbs Up & Thumbs Down | Defense dominates in win | Muschamp Era begins with a victory | Florida unleashes dynamic duo | Class of 2011 who played | Florida Football Approval Ratings | In the Alley - Game Day Thread | Starting DT Floyd ineligible | VOTE: Alley Gator of the Game | Chomp Talk: At the half notes

Most college football fans, when watching a game for the sake of enjoyment, simply follow the ball and pay little mind to what is happening on the field as far as positional groupings, schemes and whatnot. Each week Inside the Gators will take you 'behind the scenes' as former college coach and scout Michael Digman breaks down several of the biggest plays of the game.

***If the videos aren't playing under each description, click here to watch the highlights (scroll down to FAU - UF highlights on the right)***


John Brantley's 14 yard touchdown pass to Chris Rainey

The first touchdown thrown is out of a two back shotgun formation with "nasty" splits. This means that the receivers have narrowed their alignment. The Gators are running what is commonly known as "scissors". This means that the outside receiver to the play side has a post, while the slot receiver has a corner route.

This particular formation is a cover 4 beater, which is exactly what FAU's defense has called on this play.

The defense stays behind the deep routes and the linebackers get depth vertical. This means that no one is in the flats to cover Rainey. Brantley goes through his progression, which leads him to his tailback wide open out on the right sideline and Rainey does the rest.

A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.

Jeff Demps's 35 yard touchdown run

Here the Gators are in the "trey" formation, meaning they have two wide receivers and a tight end to the same side of the formation. FAU is balanced up on defense in an odd front, playing cover 4. Since they are balanced up and Florida is in a 3x1 set it means that Florida has the numbers advantage strong side.

To take advantage of this they run an outside zone running play. What this means is that the linemen will be working together in the same direction trying to expand the defense and then get them cut off.

The linemen are trying to reach the outside shoulder of the defenders, while the defensive players are trying to maintain their respective gaps. Most of the defenders will expand with the linemen, but inevitably there will be one defender that will get reached. This creates a gap and then the running back just has to find the right lane.

What how it unfolds on this particular play, the linebacker fills outside on the front side so the running back knows he must go inside. The next defender gets reached so Demps goes outside of him through the newly created gap. The two outside receivers do a great job of blocking down field so Demps just has to turn on the speed up the sideline.

A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.

Chris Rainey's 14 yard touchdown run

Here Florida is lined up in a Wing Slot formation. This means that there are two tight ends to the strong side and two receivers to the opposite side. FAU is once again in an odd front, but this time they appear to have a safety rotated down weak for a cover 3 look. Florida is in a balanced formation and FAU is unbalanced defensively. Not counting the nose, covering the center, FAU has four defenders to the strong side and six to the weak side.

The play call is again an outside zone run play to the strong side where the Gators have the numbers advantage. This play develops much like the previous play. The outside linebacker fills outside and the defenders to the inside get reached. This creates the hole.

The problem on this play is that the outside linebacker that fills outside absolutely dominates the wing tight end (Gerald Christian). He fits outside, knocks Christian back, and falls inside almost making the play in the backfield. However, Rainey uses his athleticism to make an incredible spin move to avoid the defender, which makes up for the tight end's inability to get the necessary block.

The Gators did a great job blocking everyone else on this play, even having 300 pound guard Jon Halapio 10 yards down field making the final block on the third level so that once Rainey escapes the defender in the backfield he has an easy path to the end zone.

A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.

Solomon Patton punt block and Rainey touchdown return

The final highlight we'll take a closer look at is a blocked punt. FAU lines up the "shield" alignment.

This formation has become wide spread around college football as it allows more players to get down to cover the kick more quickly while providing very good protection.

Florida blocks the punt by overloading the strong side and sending one player off the weak side edge. The theory behind this punt formation and the big splits is that a defender coming off the edge has too far to go to make the block.

So while it may appear as though it was an error on FAU's part not blocking the Florida player it actually was on purpose. The ball comes back a little to the side, causing the punter to have to fumble around with the ball for a split second, which in turn creates just enough time for the Gator's speedy edge rusher Patton to get there and make the big play.

A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.

Michael Digman was a Division II quarterback before being a student assistant for the quarterbacks at the University of Missouri. He has made stops at several high school and college programs, including working the quarterbacks at the University at Buffalo under current Kansas head coach Turner Gill. Along the way, he has also worked alongside new Texas Longhorns offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin.

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