[Author's note: In a project that should be called "Let's Hope My Marriage Survives," I will be attempting to chart every play run by the Texas A&M offense in the 2013 season. Each week I will attempt to pull together meaningful stats and trends to share with you. Think of these posts as your own little scouting report. Categories charted include, but aren't limited to: down/distance, yard line, scoring margin, personnel, formation, motion, play action, number of pass rushers, intended receiver, what part of the field the run or pass went to, and a few others. I already regret ever starting this.]
So here we are with one week of data compiled. And what a strange week it was. With multiple suspensions for various reasons, a few injuries, a couple ejections, along with an already-young team, A&M played a gamethat will no doubt look much different than, say, how it will look against LSU in November. So a lot of the data isn't particularly meaningful at this point.
First I'd like to very briefly recap what I said last week and show you how right I was... and also how wrong I was. In last week's post, which was not much more than a quick "I promise to write more stuff later" post, I said to look for us to run three formations in particular. The two that we run the most (and anyone who watches will quickly notice this) are a 2x2 formation (two wide receivers on each side, with one running back, out of the shotgun) and a 3x1 formation, again with four wide receivers on the field. And not that it's worth bragging about, but I was right. We ran the 2x2 formation, which I will simply call "spread," on 21/66 plays (32%), and ran the 3x1 formation, which I will call "trips," on 35 of our 66 plays (53%). (The trips formations were pretty equally distributed between being Trips Left and Trips Right.)
So right there, 83% of our plays came out of those basic formations. The part I was wrong about, though I hope to be proven right later, was my assertion that we would see some of the diamond formation. Not a lot, but some. I thought we would see that since new co-offensive coordinator Jake Spavital has a background that includes it. But we didn't. At all. Here's what to consider regarding that. We ran a VERY vanilla game plan against Rice, undoubtedly to avoid showing any unnecessary plans to Alabama. Expect the same this week. I expect that we'll see some (if not several) new formations and wrinkles against Alabama.
Let me now throw some numbers at you, and since we just talked about being vanilla, I think a good place to focus this week would be on the very vanilla nature of our offense in week one.
- 53 of our 66 plays featured the same personnel group: four wide receivers and one running back. Why is that relevant and how does that prove we were vanilla? Well, we do actually have tight ends. Yet only three times all game did we have a tight end lined up right next to an offensive lineman, and all three were in short yardage sets.
- Speaking of tight ends, Cam Clear has been talked about a lot as a potential difference maker. A&M hardly used him Saturday. He only played six snaps Saturday (three as a blocker in short yardage, and three split out as an inside receiver). However, chew on this: on the six snaps Clear played, A&M scored four touchdowns. It's not statistically significant, but I don't care. A&M will probably score touchdowns on two out of every three plays he's involved in this year. It's science.
- We only ran eight plays in which we had two running backs on the field at the same time. You could chalk that up to being vanilla, or you could chalk it up to having Brandon Williams sit out due to an injury and Trey Williams barely playing after tweaking his ankle. Once all four running backs are healthy (this week, hopefully), expect to see more personnel groups with more than one on the field.
- We faced 3rd and short (1-3 yards) four times. We ran twice and passed twice.
- We faced 3rd and medium (4-7 yards) five times. We ran once and passed four times.
- We ran play action eight times. Six were on either 1st or 2nd and 10, and the other two were on 2nd and 2 and 3rd and 1.
- We only ran 22 plays in the second half. Seems low, and it is, but nothing like last year's Sam Houston game, in which we only ran 12 plays in the second half. Yes, 12.
- Mike Evans played 54 snaps on offense. Ben Malena played 39. Ricky Seals-Jones played 20.
- The most-used area of the field in the passing game was what I call the "3" spot. If you go from 0-10 yards down field, then divide that into 4 equal sections from left to right, 1,2,3,4, we threw to 3 the most. Eight times. Why, you ask? This is a fun one to answer because it involves a little actual football talk. We run what is called a "stick" route quite a bit. The inside receiver basically just runs three yards and stops (sticks) and turns around. We throw it a lot, and we run it a lot when we don't throw it. Anyway, that route and a few other short ones from that position get a lot of passes thrown their way in this offense. I counted at least 14 stick routes during the game.
- Regarding "packaged plays," we ran at least 15 that I saw. And those were just the most basic of all packaged plays, the "stick/draw" combo and a few other similar combinations. For example, we run a stick/draw, where we look for the pass and then hand off on the draw if it isn't there. I'm fairly sure that one is a post-snap read. We also run what I supposed would be called a "stick/zone" packaged play, where again we read the linebacker but this time if we don't throw it, the run isn't a draw. I think this one is a pre-snap read. It's just blocked as a standard zone blocking scheme, which just so happens to be our normal run scheme anyway, even on non-packaged plays. Then we also package the draw and zone with both a bubble screen option and a WR screen option.
- We threw two bubble screens, both to Tabuyo, both for three yard gains. We threw one WR screen, to Evans, for just a one yard gain. Those plays seem boring when they don't work, but take heart, football fans. Anyone that watched Purdue's offense with Drew Brees many years ago knows that you can drive a defense crazy with those plays. They are safe, they gain positive yards, and if the defense ever gets tired of chasing them, they can go for huge plays, not to mention the fact that the threat of running them forces the defense to respect it, which just opens up other things (like the glorious stick route).
Ok, that's it for now. In future weeks, once there's more meaningful data, I will do my best to actually pull more down and distance tendency-type stuff and really search for other trends that are hidden deep within. Feel free to comment here with any questions and also feel free to ask me on Twitter (@mattywatty01) and I'd be happy to pull out any specific requests you may have.