You all , FALL CAMP in progress!
I’m sick to death of talking about enlistment. The Dylan Edwards saga seems to remove some of the excitement from what must be one of the most exciting seasons of Kansas State football in recent memory. It’s time to worry about what’s going to happen on the field, as opposed to what’s happening on Twitter.
It’s time to get excited (I don’t use all caps lightly, this is serious business).
One of the interesting story lines surrounding football at Kansas State is the promotion of Colin Klein to offensive coordinator. The K-State Legend brings new and innovative crime ideas this season. Things that should open up options for Adrian Martinez and Deuce Vaughn, and I expect to see more skill jobs than we’ve seen over the past few seasons. Klein made an impressive debut as the main-playing caller at the Texas Bowl, as the Wildcats dominated a sparse, but still talented LSU defense.
Klein made use of LSU’s defense in a number of ways, but I particularly enjoyed the way he used the diversity of his players to create and exploit matches. To me, that, combined with LSU’s trap strategic use of trap in bad match operations (which it can do due to its multiple skill center players), is the dividing line between Klein and former offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham. Klein, at least in his first game, showed more flexibility as a play related. This allowed him to break the mile and keep LSU guessing.
First, coach Kleiman will attempt it on Days 4 and 3 of LSU 35 rather than picking the long field goal or…worse yet…kick. I like to train hard early in games (especially in bowling games) to set the tone and show confidence in your players. Good job boss.
Red circle: running backwards
Yellow Triangle: Narrow End
Green square: wide receiver
Looking blindly at this group of players, I would expect a backhand offset in the gun, a tight end on either side of the line, an insulated boundary receiver on the short side of the field, and a field receiver and slot receiver on the wide side. This is the standard attack look with 11 personnel (1 rear, 1 narrow end).
Klein decided to go to a level 5 wide with a triangle group forming at the top of the screen and a wide receiver stack further down on the fourth and third. Sammy Wheeler and Deuce Vaughn’s ability to play multiple positions allows this formation to happen. This was not what LSU expected from the 11 individuals in Kansas State and they did not have an answer.
If I was a betting guy, and you asked me what Kansas State game would take place fourth and third early in the ball game, I would bet half of everything I had in the power race and the other half on Deuce Vaughn Road from the background. If it was Missingham’s crime, I would have collected some money, but Klein’s crime made me live on the street.
When coaches talk about breaking tendencies, this is a prime example. LSU wasn’t ready for this, because this wasn’t on any of the tapes they discovered. I’m surprised LSU didn’t burn long in this situation, but I’m glad they didn’t.
This play is designed to make Philip Brooks’ ball on a road outside, and everything else is decorating the windows. This alone is a testament to Klein’s confidence in his players. Forcing the ball to Deuce is very tempting in this case. Deuce could get three yards on his own, the hard way, but Klein chose to open the Brooks wide the easy way.
Vaughn is used as the nation’s most explosive decoy. Nothing on the frontier side of the field matters, and this is where two of Kansas’ most explosive playmakers (Vaughn and Knowles) line up.
The field side is where the procedure is going. It’s a simple concept. Wheeler and Warner remove defenders by going deep and Brooks uses that space to beat his foot in the hole. It’s important to have a 6’4-inch, 240-in-the-field Wheeler instead of a traditional receiver. He is the man who opens up all space. If he gets jammed on the line, that play needs DOA Brooks space outside, Wheeler, and to some extent Warner, strong enough to beat the congestion on the line and go down the field.
It’s hard to see from this shot, but Wheeler’s key in this play is his ability to work his way through crowding and reach defenders off the shoulder. Once it hits defenders off the shoulder, it’s strong enough to push it forward. You’ll notice Warner playing straight from Wheeler’s outer shoulder, making it impossible for his defender to step up and put him in the way.
The race to the sidelines
At this point, coach Klein knows he has his first loss as long as Thompson and Brooks perform. There is no way to lock LSU’s safety on Brooks because he’s inside and Brooks is running away from him. LSU security (the blue box) knows what’s going to happen, and it shuts down hard, but can’t do anything to stop it. This is what I consider excellent game design.
One last thing about theatrical design. I haven’t mentioned it before, but if you go back to the first point, you’ll notice that Brooks lines up inside the hash instead of inside it, or outside. This is done for a specific purpose. Klein is clearing the sideline and wants Thompson to have enough room to complete the inside pass while giving Brooks the opportunity to turn it higher after finishing. If you ignore my shaky graphic, you’ll see that Brooks has room for something post-hunting because he’s lined up inside the hash. If you move the group formation wider, it will try to make the catch catch on the side line, which is a more difficult game.
The only chance LSU had in this play was that Kansas State would fail to implement. This goes well in college football. There are many ways this play could go wrong, despite the excellent gameplay design. I’ve seen the receiver get impatient and cut the way short and dig in before creating the line to earn it. I’ve seen a quarterback put it on the body of the receiver, making it stop, and allowing the safety to lock and break the pass (or disassemble the receiver). I’ve seen Air Mail quarterback the way out in the face of pressure. I’ve seen the receiver worried about raising the pitch before catching and dropping the ball. I vividly remember a Bordeaux receiver in this position stumbling from a break and eating grass instead of catching the first time. College football is unpredictable, which is one of the reasons I love it.
However, Brooks and Thompson perfectly executed this play. Brooks runs all the way to the proper depth. He has his first descent as soon as he catches the ball. Even if the safety stuck with him, he had already broken the streak to gain. Thompson leads him into the open space instead of putting the ball on his body, which increases Brooks’ space. This play was not only emphatic at first, but was so well designed and executed that it had the potential to go down.
Philip Brooks got the corner in this play. Full credit to the LSU defender for staying with the play and pulling him in from behind, because Brooks is more than capable of turning this thing onto the field and taking it home.
How does this translate to 2022
Skyler Thompson is rocking Miami right now, and Adrian Martinez, one of the most polarizing footballers in recent college football memory, is at the helm of Kansas State. Gameplay designs like this are the reason Adrian thrives on the Kansas State crime.
In Nebraska, there will be a reading option, a fake screen, and the left guard performing a wheel instead of blocking. The receiver will still run out of the road, but Martinez will be required to make three decisions while running for his life before reaching the outside road. K-State’s offense under Klein’s rule wouldn’t require him to be a champion in every game. Sometimes a little more, and I expect simplified offense with fewer decisions to help Martinez reduce backbreaking errors.
In terms of versatility, every recipient of this play returns in 2022. Deuce will be deployed all over the field in Klein’s attack (don’t worry, he’ll get plenty of carriers too). The Sammy Wheeler is a solid hybrid court-end option capable of staying blocking or splitting and playing a wide receiver. Throwing in the addition of an Ole Miss receiver conveyed Jadon Jackson and the maturity of RJ Garcia, and dare I say, the Wildcats are well-equipped at a first-time receiver in the Kleiman era.
What excites me most about plays like this, and the way Klein uses staff in general, is adding rhythm to the mix. KS can run an 11-individual zone option with Wheeler as the attached court end and Deuce in the background in 2nd down, then line up with the same individuals in a wide 5 look at 3 down without allowing the defense to sub in a better group. Try covering this with a linebacker rather than a safety, which is Philip Brooks’ house call.
I am thinking dizzy about the possibilities and will paint more of my thoughts in these articles over the next month.
It’s time for excitement! College football is almost back!