THE CAMERA EYE: Flattened
There has been much discussion during the past few seasons about Auburn's offensive tendencies.
And by Auburn's we mean Gus Malzahn's.
His playbook is less voluminous than many of his peers, largely because he highly values formational multiplicity. He prefers to run the same concept out of several different looks, which fits in nicely with his overarching philosophy — prevent defenders from diagnosing and reacting to things properly.
Tendencies can be an albatross. They can help opponents predict what happens next and how to undermine it. However, tendencies also can be quite valuable if they're broken at the correct moment.
That strategic rope-a-dope yielded an Auburn touchdown last weekend.
Here's how it looked on paper:
This may be among the least exotic calls in Malzahn's playbook. Most offensive coordinators from middle school to the NFL have some version of this because it's a reliable call against man coverage — particularly out of a Cover-2 shell.
The read here is the back-side flat defender, whom I have shaded in red. The slot receiver to that side aims at that LB's inside number in an effort to draw him inside — and away from that outside receiver. If you get man coverage there, the flat will be vacated and the quarterback will have an easy read (and easy throw) to the #1 back-side receiver.
Here's how it looked in real time:
Let's start with the A&M play. That back-side slot WR (Jay Jay Wilson) draws the flat defender inside and clears an open throw to Williams, which QB Bo Nix puts on the money. It's also worth noting that Williams skipped twice to begin his route — prolonging the CB's ability to attack the route.
By the time Williams makes his cut inside, Nix already has thrown toward the huge expanse of grass ahead of Williams. Former Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin always tells coaches and players — LOOK FOR GRASS. Nix found a lot here.
Now about that tendency thing. The final clip (from last season's game) was telling insofar as Malzahn tends to throw fades for Williams at this distance because he's tall and wins a lot of aerial duels. A&M pressed Williams in this same scenario last season. He beat them over the top.
A&M played loose against Williams this time. The Aggies clearly are worried about the fade and, well, that's what Malzahn does in these situations. Plus, Nix is a true freshman. Will Malzahn trust his youngster to make a (potentially) more difficult throw inside?
Malzahn will trust him. And Malzahn will eschew the fade in favor of a slant this time, thereby breaking a heavy tendency. You could say he reverse engineered this call with some Air Raid flair.
The reward was six points.
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