Dan Mullen has long been a purveyor of the smashmouth-spread offense. In addition to the bully ball he was dialing up in Stark Vegas, Mullen embraced the inclusion of RPOs and showed the kind of playcalling flexibility that had the potential to put defenses in a bind.
Nearly the entirety of Mullen's passing game is framed around the threat of the run. Once he forces defenses to allocate defenders to stop the run, Mullen utilizes play-action and RPOs to create one-on-one opportunities for his passing attack. Here are a few example of his scheme in action during Mississippi State's upset win over LSU this past fall.
Mullen set this play up with a series of QB power runs off tackle earlier in the game. The threat of that QB run influenced all three linebackers and left plenty of room for Fitzgerald to find Keith Mixon on a chase route underneath. How about another QB play-action call:
In this case, Fitzgerald rolls out with a run/pass option at his disposal. Only one receiver runs a route, a stop and go from Deddrick Thomas in the slot. If Thomas was covered, there was easily 3-4 yards awaiting Fitzgerald if he chose to run the ball.
It's easy to spot this gameplan on film and that is also evident on Fitzgerald's pass map, powered by Krossover Insights. As you can see below Fitzgerald's preference is to throw short, targeting high percentage throws in the quick game. The other statistical point that pops off the page is the intermediate area in the middle of the field. Once teams sacrifice their linebackers in hopes of slowing the run, he's able to pick them apart up the middle.
Once you've identified trends and hot spots on the field, you can gameplan to take away those go-to plays. Look how Nick Saban's defense counteracted the play-action pass across the middle during their game against Mississippi State.
This was on the very first drive and it became apparent throughout the game that Saban and his staff were succeeding in getting Fitzgerald out of his comfort zone.
This is just another example of how you can slice and dice big data into teachable moments both for your coaching staff and your players. Imagine what you could accomplish with this technology?
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