UTSA's Use of the H-Back Against UTEP

Offensive football is as much about creating complacency as it is deception. Flexbone teams, for example, use similar action or motion but run different schemes off that motion to force the defense to remain disciplined. Lose your discipline, and the fullback beats you. A lapse in focus and you lose contain on the pitch.

For an offense, think of a scheme as a series of building blocks. As you install your offense you might start with a zone run scheme, you add different formations to those concepts; you sprinkle in different personnel packages, you add motion. Then you build off that zone run with a counter or a quarterback read. Then you add in a play-action or bootleg.

The key is, those building blocks use the same action. The defense sees the same action; they get used to the same action, complacency sets in and bang, you’ve got a chance for a big play.

Good offensive coordinators see the value in different personnel packages. Adding a tight end or H-back isn’t a limitation, it’s a way to create flexibility. On every offensive snap, there is some defensive assistant, high above the action, calling out the offensive personnel, usually numerically. They’ll say “11” or “21.” That first number is the number of running back; the second is the number of tight ends. The defense will then adjust their defense accordingly, usually bringing on an extra defensive back or linebacker depending on the personnel.

A tight end can lock a defense into a personnel grouping while creating a mismatch. Think of Rob Gronkowski; he’s too big for a nickel to cover, to quick for a linebacker. Pick your poison.

Let’s talk a little bit about UTSA’s Saturday night. The Roadrunners ran a couple of inside zone variations, none by the way to significant effect, but those zone variations eventually caught UTEP with bad eye discipline and created a scoring opportunity.

Here’s a real simple inside zone scheme by the Roadrunner.

Note the time, just under twelve minutes to play in the first. Al Borges is going to long play this scheme out. We’ll get back to that. The linemen reach down, but tight end Gavin Sharp runs what some folks call a slice tag, he’s going to come across the formation and lead up on the defensive end. UTSA sprinkles in a little jet sweep action as well, forcing UTEP to keep eye discipline by following several targets.

If a straight zone is your base play, this is a variation, a building block on the stack.

He’s a second play, later in the first quarter.

Again, here’s another building block. The Roadrunners are in “12” personnel, two tight ends, one back. Cordale Grundy moves under center. The zone play is the same, linemen block down, UTSA’s tight end (we think T.J. King) executes a slice. The defensive tackle beats the guard and King, correctly leads against him. We assume he’s instructed to hit the first off-colored jersey. UTSA adds another cross-action wrinkle with a reverse from the receiver to keep the backside honest.

Here’s a third play, this time in the second quarter.

Here’s another building block. It’s the same formation, same zone action, this time Carter McCarthy is the tight end, he runs the slice, but instead of handing to the back, Grundy hands to the receiver on the reverse action. Just another building block on the inside zone look. Notice how the UTEP defense presses down on the reach blocks and lose outside contain.

Here’s the money shot.

Again, a variation. Same formation, same personnel as the previous play, “12,” and the same action. Notice two building blocks, first, Grundy runs a toss sweep action fake to the back. The toss action is designed to create space backside. Inside the ten, chances are you’re going to get man coverage, as is the case here, and the Roadrunners are banking that UTEP’s backside players won’t keep outside contain.

Secondly, McCarthy runs the slice, but instead of leading up on the defensive end, he’s going to get into a flat route - building blocks. UTEP’s outside linebacker presses down with the toss action and nobody’s home, easy pitch and catch, fourteen point lead.

SMU skewered Michigan and Don Browns' vaunted defense for a touchdown with the same scheme two weeks ago.

Later in the game, UTSA ran another variant, this time a screen pass off the same pitch action. They’ve probably got a wheel concept with either the back or the tight end in the hopper as well - building blocks.

UTSA travels to Rice Saturday night.

The Roundup…