This is the final post in a series on how technology has changed the way we experience our college football fandom. Today's topic is how online video makes it easier than ever to study the game. With online video, it's now incredibly simple to watch game film that's been put on some site or another, making it possible for us to become Manning-like students of the game from the comfort of our easy chairs. For football geeks like those of us who spend our free time roaming around on sports blogs, that's a pretty sweet boon.
To demonstrate, let's take a look at Youtube to get an idea of what we can learn from watching video. We've spent a fair amount of time discussing Stephen Garcia's problems making good reads out of the zone read offense, so let's take a look at some footage of Garcia and Marcus Lattimore doing work to get a better idea of what's going on here. The following video shows every Lattimore carry against Georgia, a game where we relied heavily on the zone read.
Please note that the music playing during this video is NSFW. I normally wouldn't post this, but it gives us about the best look at our zone-read offense that you'll find on the net. I'd just recommend turning the sound off.
There are a few plays here that a worth taking a look at. First of all, look at the play at around 30 second in. This is an example of the zone read run quite well. On a typical zone-read play, the offensive line will leave one DE unblocked and will focus on opening holes in the gut of the defense for the RB. The key on one of these plays is what that DE does. The QB has to watch the DE and decide whether or not to hand off to the RB or to keep it; the general idea is that the QB should keep the ball and run to the outside if the DE dashes for the RB and should hand off if the DE plays to contain the edge. On this play, as you can see, the DE gets caught wondering whether he should contain Garcia or crash Lattimore. If Garcia keeps it here, he might be able to get by the DE, but probably not. Instead, he hands off to Lattimore, who dashes into a big hole for a few yards and then gets a few more after breaking some tackles and falling forward into the pile. A job well done here by Garcia, Lattimore, and the offensive line.
On other plays, though, Garcia doesn't make the right decision. Take a look at the play at about 2 minutes 37 seconds. This play is slightly different because we're running out of a different formation with a WR running in motion behind the line before the snap. (I believe the player is Tori Gurley, but it's hard to tell from the image.) This play sets up very well for Garcia to hold onto the ball for several reasons. First of all, the unblocked DE doesn't even stop to think about Garcia running the ball, probably because by this point in the game Lattimore has run up a sizeable amount of yardage. He crashes immediately during the hand-off and makes the tackle on Lattimore. Check out how things are set up for Garcia on the right side of the field, though. Not only would he not have the DE to worry about; the entire side of the field is actually free because Georgia's CB is worried about covering Alshon Jeffery. Moreover, Garcia has the motion man as a lead blocker here. Garcia would have gone for at least 10 yards on this play if he had kept it, and considering the he would have Gurley and Jeffery blocking for him, he may have gone for much more.
You'll see a few more plays like this if you watch the rest of this video, and you'll see more of them in other games, too. Garcia is perhaps worst about keeping the ball when we're on the goal line. That's never really come back to haunt us because Lattimore is so good at getting at least a couple of yards, but there have been a handful of zone read plays inside the five where Garcia could have walked in untouched if he hadn't handed it off to Lattimore. I'll never quite understand why Garcia seems reluctant to hold onto the ball in these situations. I've seen him run the play correctly enough times to make me believe he knows, at least to some degree, what he's doing. Perhaps Spurrier is telling him not to keep it, or perhaps he's grown accustomed to leaning on Lattimore. Whatever the case may be, I think this is an area in Garcia's game that needs to be addressed during the off-season. Don't let the success of our running game against Georgia fool you--if Garcia keeps it on the right plays, we get even more rushing yardage. This is perhaps the key to running this offense well, at least in addition to having the right personnel, of course. If you have a talented RB, a good line, and a QB who knows how to make his reads, you can run up a lot of rushing yardage with this approach.
Now, if only Garcia and Steve Spurrier were reading Garnet and Black Attack right now.