Thursday, August 11, 2011

San Diego State-TCU 2010: An Offensive Primer

Coach Hoke says timeout, guys...the offense will be fine

It's no secret that there is much fretting and hand-wringing going on at the prospect of an offense that produces less and is generally worse across the board this season. Many, specifically Brian at MGoBlog, have suggested that, although change may happen down the road--eventually leading to the re-establishment of "manball"--it would be unwise not to use the shotgun formation as much as possible. I tend to agree with the premise of his post, although I'm not willing to argue for or against the offense's efficacy against Wisconsin (a touchy subject these days).

I'd like to delve into the 2010 TCU-San Diego State contest. As we all found out, TCU was kind of for real last year, stifling the powerful fatback attack of Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. San Diego State, led of course by now Michigan HC and OC Brady Hoke and Al Borges, respectively, led a valiant effort against Gary Patterson's TCU squad. In the interest of information, I would like to take a look at this game, arguably the high point of SDSU's 2010 season despite the outcome. Much like the WVU-OU Fiesta Bowl was seen as an example of the type of offense that RR and Calvin Magee would be bringing to Ann Arbor, this one perhaps represents the essence of what Hoke and Borges will be bringing. Before looking at the game footage, some background on the 2010 SDSU offense's personnel and philosophy:


  • The offense was led by Ryan Lindley, dubbed the "strongest arm" in the MWC according to Lindy's. Lindley will enter the 2011 season as the Aztec starter for the fourth year in a row. Lindley completed 57.7% of his passes for 3,830 yards and 28 touchdowns to 14 picks. 
  • The Aztecs boasted two NFL-caliber receivers in Vincent Brown and Demarco Sampson, drafted in the 3rd and 7th rounds respectively. Brown is a 6'0'' 195 pounder who ran a 4.71 at the NFL combine, while Sampson, standings at 6'2'' 204, who runs an impressive 4.41 (although it appears he didn't participate in the 40 at the combine). Michigan figures to have at two such receivers in Roundtree and Hemingway in 2010, and it would certainly be three if it weren't for Stonum not taking the field in 2011. 
  • SDSU also boasted a 1,000+ yard rusher in Ronnie Hillman, who went for a whopping 1,532 yards and 17 touchdowns. 
  • SDSU ranked 12th in passing, 48th in rushing, and 19th in points (Michigan, on the other hand, was 36th, 13th and 25th respectively). 
  • Borges and the Aztecs operated at a near 50-50 run-pass split 426 passes, 439 runs), compared with Michigan's obviously run-slanted 59-41 split. THE FORWARD PASS IS COMING. On a serious note, I was a little surprised at those numbers; that's balance, and balance is good. 
  • SDSU boasted a serviceable placekicker in Abel Perez, who managed to get 17 of his 22 attempts through the uprights. This is significant, as we all know. 
With that behind us, I'll "break down" the offensive performance to get a feel for the SDSU offense. Pro-style, West Coast, spread...they're all just words. The goal is to score and often, and as great as an improvement on the existing offense would be, we've got what we've got. If you're bored and want more, Boyz n da Pahokee has got the game footage in its entirety here. You will probably be bored enough between now and September 3rd to watch it; no judgment here. 


Drive 1 (1Q, 13:04)
Field Pos.
Down and Distance
Formation
Play type
Player
Play Result
SDSU 46
1st&10
2 Backs, Two WR
Run
Hillman
Gain of 4
Aztecs line up with two backs in the backfield; Lindley hands to Hillman to his left, who crashes to the middle and picks up 4
50
2nd&4
2B, 2WR
Pass
Brown
Gain of 49
Razzle dazzle time early for Borges and Co.; a beautifully executed fake reverse ends with the reverse man pitching it back to Lindley who comfortably bombs it downfield to a single-covered Brown for 49 yards. This type of play is expected when one team has far less talent than its opponent, but the execution is laudable.
TCU 1
1st&Goal
1WR
Run
Sullivan
Gain of 1 (TD)
Tight formation, TE in motion right to left; Lindley hands it off to the fullback who goes over the top for the touchdown (XP Good)


 Drive 2 (1Q, 11:01)
Field Pos.
Down and Distance
Formation
Play type
Player
Play Result
SDSU 46
1st&10
Shotgun
Pass
Lindley
Incomplete
Lindley takes the snap in the shotgun, back stays in to block the DE; pass intended for the slot receiver on a 6-yard out is way off and falls harmlessly incomplete.
SDSU 46
2nd&10
I-form, 2WR
Run
Hillman
Gain of 5
I-formation here with two wideouts; the strong side WR comes across in motion, settling in the slot to block; Hillman follows the fullback before eventually cutting it outside and picking up a solid gain of five.
TCU 49
2nd&5
Shotgun
Pass
Lindley
Incomplete (Punt)
Brown goes in motion from the left slot, settling behind the WR on the other side in a stack; Lindley takes the snap out of the ‘gun and takes two steps back before winging it to Brown on a slant to the right side; it goes off of his fingtertips and falls incomplete.  The WR on the opposite side of the field also appears to be on a slant route, with the remaining target settling in the middle of the field near the sticks. SDSU punts; they go on to score a defensive touchdown on the ensuing drive, taking a 14-0 lead early on. 




Drive 3 (1Q, 3:43)
Field Pos.
Down and Distance
Formation
Play type
Player
Play Result
SDSU 20
1st&10
I-form
Pass
Lindley
Incomplete
Play-action out of the I; TE comes across the field on a 
drag route; he’s fairly well-covered but Lindley targets him anyway and the pass is too high for the former to bring in.
SDSU 20
2nd&10
Ace (Single back, 3WR)
Run
Sullivan
No Gain
Lindley hands off to Sullivan, who hesitates for a second before heading
 for the hole between the C and LG; there is no whole because TCU 
defenders have filled and the play is stuffed. Not very good manball here.
SDSU 20
3rd&10
Shotgun (Split backs)
Pass
Lindley
Incomplete
3 wideouts here and 2 backs; 1 back stays in to block and the other flushes out downfield about 5 yards; Lindley targets his guy on the left side on what appears to be a slant corner on the short side of the field; he’s well-covered and the pass isn’t even close either way. Not a good drive here. SDSU punts (SDSU 14-7).



Drive 4, (1Q, 0:32)
Field Position
D&D
Formation
Play Type
Player
Play Result
SDSU 26
 1st&10
 2WR, I-form., TE offset
 Run
 Hillman
 Gain of 1
 TE goes in motion and settles down like a FB but offset; Hillman takes it to the left side but finds nothing and does well to fall forward and get the yard that he does. This play is followed by a 5-yard false start penalty.
SDSU 22
2nd&14 (after 5-yard False Start penalty)
I-form
Pass
Sampson
Gain of 11
TE lined up next to the RT; token play action here, as Lindley takes a 5-step drop and fires to a relatively wide open Sampson on the right side; looks like soft coverage from the DB but it's hard to tell. 
SDSU 33
3rd&13
Shotgun, Trips left
Pass
Lindley
Incomplete
Lindley takes the snap out of the 'gun again; the innermost receiver, Brown, runs about to the sticks and turns in to receive the pass; Lindley puts it on him but Brown drops it. Results in a SDSU punt. 




Drive 5 (2Q, 11:06)
Field Position
D&D
Formation
Play Type
Player
Play Result
SDSU 26
 1st&10
 2WR, I-form., TE offset
 Run
 Hillman
 Gain of 1
 TE goes in motion and settles down like a FB but offset; Hillman takes it to the left side but finds nothing and does well to fall forward and get the yard that he does. This play is followed by a 5-yard false start penalty.
SDSU 22
2nd&14 (after 5-yard False Start penalty)
I-form
Pass
Sampson
Gain of 11
TE lined up next to the RT; token play action here, as Lindley takes a 5-step drop and fires to a relatively wide open Sampson on the right side; looks like soft coverage from the DB but it's hard to tell. 
SDSU 33
3rd&13
Shotgun, Trips left
Pass
Lindley
Incomplete
Lindley takes the snap out of the 'gun again; the innermost receiver, Brown, runs about to the sticks and turns in to receive the pass; Lindley puts it on him but Brown drops it. Results in a SDSU punt. 


Drive 5 (Q2, 11:03)
Field Pos.
Down and Distance
Formation
Play type
Player
Play Result
SDSU 29
1st&10
Split backs, 2WR
Run
Kazee
Gain of 6
Kazee in for Hillman; he follows the other back to the left side, picking his way for a nice gain of 6.
SDSU 35
2nd&4
Split backs, 3WR
Pass
Lindley
Incomplete
The backs are split fairly wide here, each one approximately 5 yards behind the tackles; slot receiver goes in motion from right to left; the backs flush out into the flats and the receiver in motion waits a few seconds before attempting to settle in the middle for a screen; Lindley goes Pryor here, tossing into the turn at the guy's feet; to be fair, he had a guy in his face about to make the sack if he didn't get rid of it; FWIW, the play looked like it'd be successful given a decent pass (the receiver is fairly open in the middle and upon catching it, it appears that the closest defender was the safety about 10 yards downfield.
SDSU 35
3rd&4
Shotgun 4WR
Pass
Johnson
No Gain (Punt)
Lindley in the shotgun, tailback is lines up wide-ish like the previous play (i.e., behind the tackle); the slot receiver on the right side goes in motion resulting in Trips Left; innermost receiver heads for the flat, middle guy heads upfield to block and the outermost receiver shoots to the middle where it appears a nice pocket of green is available; unfortunately, the DB gets there just as the ball does and the pass is deflected, only to be caught a few yards back for no gain. SDSU punts once again. Borges and Co. having a rough go of it so far this half but many of the offense's principles are already coming to the fore already. 


Drive 6 (2Q, 6:39)
Field Pos.
Down and Distance
Formation
Play type
Player
Play Result
SDSU 21
1st&10
Shotgun Trips Left
Run
Hillman
Gain of 4
Standard run out of the 'gun; I'm no expert when it comes to blocking schemes, but the OL as a whole rides their targets left, so this may be a zone play (again, I'm not expert); very Mike Hart-esque play, as Hillman simply cuts to the backside and easily gets 4, as most of the wash had been pushed to the left as already mentioned. 
SDSU 25
2nd&6
I-form, 2WR
Run
Hillman
Gain of 2
TE lines up next to the LT; TCU deploying 3-down linemen, 3 linebackers and a fourth backer in a stand-up end position, making it 8 in the box for TCU; fullback blocks the SAM (the aforementioned stand-up "end") and Hillman burrows through the middle for 2; the OL was immediately stifled at the point of attack, getting no push on the first level and never blocking any of the linebackers, who converged to make the play here. 
SDSU 27
3rd&4
Shotgun 3WR
Pass
Lindley
Incomplete (Punt)
TE lined up next to the RT; receiver goes in motion from right to left, settling in a stack before the snap; guy in motion cuts outside and then toward the middle in a right angle, and Lindley targets him but the pass falls incomplete; nice stunt pick-up by the OL on this play at least gives Lindley enough time to throw, which, as is already apparent through the first half, Borges wants him to get rid of the ball quickly. I'd be interested to see if this is specific to the TCU game given the quality of their defense, or if SDSU was similarly West Coasty in other games as well.


Drive 7 (2Q, 2:10)
Field Pos.
Down and Distance
Formation
Play type
Player
Play Result
SDSU 25
1st&10
1 Back, 2WR (Under center)
Pass
Lindley
Sack (Loss of 5)
Lindley under center here with the TE lined up next to the RT; receiver goes in motion from right to left and settles in behind the LT to block; play action by Lindley here, and the back stays in to block; seems to be only one receiver running a route on this play but the TE eventually releases upfield after blocking for a few seconds; Lindley has a pretty solid pocket to work with for about 2 seconds but it appears that nobody is open because he hold on to the ball and takes his first sack of the game. Looking for the big play on first down? Not a bad idea given that they have struggled to move the ball, and even the first TD drive was the result of a well-executed trick play. 
SDSU 20
2nd&15
Ace
Pass
Sampson
Gain of 8
Lindley under center again; a five step drop is followed by a bullet to Sampson on an out to the short side of the field for a solid gain; can Denard make this kind of throw consistently? While it's hard to compare arm strengths, really, it's obvious that Lindley has a strong one and Denard does too. Of course, with Denard's mobility he will be asked to make a different set of throws (THE RETURN OF THE WAGGLE?) than Lindley, so we'll see. 
SDSU 28
3rd&7
Shotgun, 3WR
Pass
Lindley
Incomplete (Punt)
Back to the 'gun; the two receivers on the right side run routes deep enough to take them off screen, leaving the middle open for Sampson to drag across; Lindley targets him but he's tailed closely by a backer who makes a nice play on the ball. Solid play design, and if Lindley holds on any longer he probably gets dropped within the next second or so. Another punt for the Aztecs here. 


Drive 8 (3Q, 15:00)
Field Pos.
Down and Distance
Formation
Play type
Player
Play Result
SDSU 16
1st&10
I-form 2WR
Pass
Lindley
Incomplete
Another play action here; Hillman doesn't really latch on to his block, forcing Lindley to side-step, which he does nicely; settles in and targets Brown on the right side, but fires it low and incomplete. Sticking to the PA despite not really running the ball well at all. 
SDSU 16
2nd&10
I-form 2WR
Run
Hillman
No Gain
Hillman takes the handoff to the left side but is swarmed over and brought down for no gain. The run games continues to get stuffed by the TCU front seven, which, okay...TCU's pretty good. 
SDSU 16
3rd&10
Shotgun 3WR
Pass
Sampson
Gain of 4 (Punt)
TCU spreads their line out wide and Hillman does a nice job picking up one end; Lindley has a decent amount of time, eventually electing to drop it underneath to Sampson, who is unable to shake the defender and is brought down well short of the first down. Another punt? When are all the rest of those points coming?


Drive 8 (3Q, 9:32)
Field Pos.
Down and Distance
Formation
Play type
Player
Play Result
SDSU 25
1st&10
Split Backs, Two WR
Pass
Lindley
Incomplete
Lindley under center; 5-step drop; gets a defender right as he's reaching the end of his drop, forcing him to get rid of it early. 
SDSU 25
2nd&10
1B, 2WR
Pass
Lindley
Interception
Under center; receiver goes in motion right to left and settles behind the LT; PA rollout see Lindley rolling to his right; he throws a pretty weak ball, targeting Sampson around midfield, but the DB cuts underneath Sampson and makes the pick. Bad throw by Lindley, but I guess Sampson could've done a little more to swat it away here. 







Drive 9 (3Q, 6:08)


Field Position
Down and Distance
Formation
Play Type
Player
Play Result
SDSU 20
1st&10
I-form 2WR
Run
Hillman
Gain of 2
Draw play goes for 2; again, very little push from the OL.
SDSU 22
2nd&8
Shotgun
Run
Hillman
Gain of 6
Shotgun hand off to Hillman; he takes it to the right side, turning the corner for 6 yards. OL does a nice job of sealing TCU’s front to the left side, opening up daylight for Hillman.
SDSU 28
3rd&2
Shotgun 3WR
Pass
Hillman
Incomplete (Punt)
Key third down here (oh, by the way, SDSU is down 14-37 since the last time we checked the scoreboard); two wideouts on the short side of the field, with the slot running a short out to the sticks and the outside receiver running down the sideline; Lindley targets the latter, but he is well-covered and the DB makes another nice play.




Drive 10 (3Q, 3:13)



Field Position
Down and Distance
Formation
Play Type
Player
Play Result
SDSU 24
1st&10
 1B, 2WR
Pass
Lindley
Incomplete
 Fullback/TE (?) in motion, offset in front of Hillman; another first down PA here; looks deep and wings it to nobody in particular. 
SDSU 24
2nd&10
 I-form 2WR
Run
Hillman
Gain of 4
 Fullback goes right, Hillman cuts well before the LOS and heads up for a solid gain of 4. 
SDSU 28
3rd&6
 Shotgun Split backs, 3WR
Pass
Sampson
Gain of 19
 Lindley in the 'gun, has all day; hits Sampson across the middle of the field for a nice intermediate gain. 
SDSU 47
1st&10
 Ace
Pass
Brown
Gain of 50
 Slot (Brown) goes in motion to the strong side; Lindley on a 7-step drop, fires a Henne-esque parabolic beauty to Brown down the field for a 50 yard gain. Excellent set-up and execution here. 
TCU 2
1st&Goal
 Goalline
Run
Hillman
Gain of 1
 Hillman barrels forward, picking up one. 
TCU 1
2nd&Goal
 Goalline
Run
Sullivan
Gain of 1 (TD)
 Goalline here with a receiver outside on the short side; Sampson is lined up as the tailback on this play, and he motions to the left side before the snap, which is basically saying "hey linebackers hey look at this guy look at this guy look at this guy BOOM FB DIVE." Handoff to Sulllivan and he goes over the top for 6 as he did earlier. SDSU basically surviving on the big play in this game, sprinkling in enough 4-yard runs to keep TCU on their toes. TCU's lead is cut to 37-21.


Drive 11 (4Q, 14:21)

Field Position
Down and Distance
Formation
Play Type
Player
Play Result
SDSU 21
1st&10
 Ace
Pass
Lindley
Interception
 Single back, the outside receiver motions to the weak side; another first down Play Action here; Lindley drops back and has enough time to make a sandwich; zings it to Sampson on the right side, but it's a little behind him and it careens off his hand and lands in the hands of a nearby DB; not a great throw at all but I've got to think that a little less nonchalance on Sampson's part prevents this from happening. 


Drive 12 (4Q, 13:06)

Field Pos.
Down and Distance
Formation
Play type
Player
Play Result
SDSU 10
1st&10
I-form 2WR
Run
Hillman
Gain of 1
Hillman left; pickup of 1. 
SDSU 11
2nd&11
I-form 1WR
Pass
Hillman
No Gain
Fullback shuffles left before the snap (zone left FB shuffle...good times); yet another Play Action, but this time Lindley has a defender in his face just as he's turning around to look downfield, forcing him to ditch it and resulting in an intentional grounding penalty. 
SDSU 4
3rd&16
Shotgun Split Backs 3WR
Pass
Sampson
Gain of 11 (Punt)
Back goes in motion; Lindley rolls right a bit before eventually throwing back across field to an open Sullivan around their own goalline; Sullivan snags the low throw and takes it for a nice gain, getting them out of the shadow of their own goalposts. Still, the drive ends in a punt. 



Drive 13 (4Q, 9:05)

Field Position
Down and Distance
Formation
Play Type
Player
Play Result
SDSU 12
1st&10
 Split backs 2WR
Run
Hillman
Gain of 21
Lindley hands off from under center; Hillman picks through and gets to the second level where he shows show good speed in beating everybody to the corner, turning it upfield for the first long gain on the ground of the day.
SDSU 33
1st&10
 Ace
Pass
Lindley
Sack
 PA one more time; edge rusher comes through untouched with a straight path to Lindley, bringing him down for the sack. 
SDSU 22
2nd&21
 Split backs, 2WR
Pass
Sullivan
Gain of 42
 PA into a screen to the left side; Sullivan does a nice job in splitting the defenders early on in order to make this a long gain. 
TCU 36
1st&10
 I-form 2WR
Pass
Lindley
Incomplete
 Lindley takes a shot to the endzone; Brown has single coverage and the throw is good enough to make a play on but the DB does a nice job and it falls incomplete. 
TCU 36
2nd&10
 Split backs 2WR
Run
Hillman
Gain of 3
Lindley hands off too Hillman to his left, who goes left for 3. 
TCU 33
3rd&7
 Shotgun 4WR
Pass
Sullivan
Gain of 33 (TD)
 Receiver on the left side goes in motion and Lindley rolls right on the snap; Brown, the slot guy on that side, appears to just run a straight up fly route, almost running side by side uup the field with the other receiver on his side until they reach the safety...Brown continues upfield and the other receiver cuts it outside at this juncture; I can't tell for sure what exactly happened but Brown was side by side with a linebacker as Lindley is about to release the ball, and appears to pull away right as Lindley is about to release it, leaving only a safety between Brown and the endzone; whether the backer "let him go" by design or not I'm not sure, but either way it's clear that the safety hesitated when presented the option of covering either Brown or the other receiver, and, as a result, Brown is open like 2006 Mario Manningham against the Irish ("Oh, wide open."). Lindley makes a nice throw on the run to complete the play, but this was set up by a nice combo of routes on the outside. Hard to believe that Brown runs a 4.7 because he looked pretty fast on this play, but then again part of that probably has to do with the indecision on the safety's part. SDSU now down 28-40. 


Drive 14 (4Q, 4:58)

Field Position
Down and Distance
Formation
Play Type
Player
Play Result
TCU 35
1st&10
 Shotgun 4WR
Pass
Brown
Gain of 35 (TD)
This is the last "drive" for the Aztecs of the game, and they cash in after getting great field position; SDSU lines up with Brown on the sort side and three receivers on the other; TCU rushes four on the play, with the linebackers dropping in their zones; this play is a little strange, as having just been burned by Brown on the previous drive, you'd think the TCU defense would be aware of him on the field, especially when he's all alone on one side, but, TCU's safeties inexplicably bite on the action on the other side; the two innermost receivers on the other side run a quick out, occupying a linebacker each (I can't tell what the third receiver is doing but he's not on the screen so the assumption is that he's keeping himself pretty far out wide). Once again, I'm no expert but I don't understand why both of the safeties seem to slant towards that side of the play when it's clear that the routes on that side are token decoy routes...but, then again, play defense on a D1 squad ain't easy. In any case, Brown still has to do something on the other side to complete the play, and he does just that (there's a reason he was a 3rd-round pick)...after a few yards upfield he gives his DB a little hesitation move before heading outside unimpeded. No jam, no nothing, and Brown scoots down the sidelines to haul in a perfect pass from Lindley for the score. Eerily reminiscent of Henne to Manningham against ND; a wideout making a DB look silly and a quarterback dropping a perfect pass right where it needs to be. Memories. 


And that's that! SDSU would of course end up losing 35-40, as TCU would run out the rest of the clock. Some general points to take away:


  • 18 rushes to 26 passes in this one (compared to TCU's 54 and 36, respectively!)...obviously the running game was going nowhere in this one. While SDSU was obviously in comeback mode for much of the game, it is impressive that they were even able to get the game as close as they did. They did this with almost no threat of a run game. I don't even think TCU "let up" like many will argue that certain Big Ten teams have against Michigan; SDSU just executed and took advantage of TCU's rare defensive miscues. That's good offense, regardless of scheme.
  • Obviously the passing scheme that Borges will bring will be worlds different that what RR brought; much like Urban Meyer's passing schemes, RR's were notoriously simplistic, mostly because you don't need to draw up anything too complicated when your primary running threats have assured acres of wide open space in the secondary to pass at if necessary. With that said, Lindley seemed to get rid of the ball pretty quickly early on, either out of the shotgun or after a 2 or 3 step drop from under center. This went out the window after TCU started to pull away, and the Aztecs were forced to PA their way into something, which led to a couple sacks. 
  • The OL, which returns largely intact this season, did a fairly solid job of keeping Lindley's jersey clean. two sacks against a defense like that while also being forced to use 5/7 step drops and lots of PA is no small feat. 
  • Receivers: Sampson and Brown both looked good when they made plays, but unfortunately they only combined for 6 receptions. However, Browns plays were all big gains, and making those kinds of plays with the defense generally rushing 4 and dropping everybody else back (with third-down blitzing here and there) means that you have a receiver that's just better than the guys guarding him or you have a superior scheme (SCHEMATIC ADVANTAGE). There seemed to be a combination of both here, as Borges seemed to know how to move the pieces in a way that got his guys open for big plays. Brown looked pretty good, but I've got to think that Michigan has a similar amount of wide receiver talent in their top options (Roundtree and Hemingway...Odoms isn't really an NFL guy but still a talented option that can do some things), as well as a lot more depth. You have to figure that somebody else will emerge this season (Stokes? Jerald Robinson? Jackson?). 
  • Lindley obviously didn't have his best game here, but some of it wasn't entirely his fault. When he had time he generally delivered some excellent passes for big plays. Although I still can't reliably gauge his arm strength vis a vis Denard, his arm seemed pretty strong and Denard's is probably comparable. More importantly, though, the throws that Lindley made will need to be made on a regular basis now; I have faith that Denard can, especially since the staff is certainly not going to ask him to be Peyton Manning from the get go or anything. On the plus side, Lindley is not a mobile guy, and there were no designed runs for him (although Borges did move him out of the pocket some on PA). Needless to say, Denard will carry the ball quite a few times, so if you can sprinkle some zone read and general run-pass options on the entree that is this gameplan then you've got some good eatin'.
  • Overall, I came away with a good impression from this game. While we don't have a tailback as prolific as Hillman, you just have to assume that somebody will emerge from the logjam that is the RB depth chart right now. There's too much talent not to, but then again that's probably what everyone said last year too. With Denard still figuring to make up a significant portion of the rushing offense, we just need someone to be consistent enough to be a clear #1 option; he won't need to produce like Hillman did, but if somebody wants to do that then, you know, please do. 
  • Formation-wise, SDSU came out in the 'gun and under center, with two backs and in Ace, as well as the I. There was a solid diversity of formation in this game (Touch The Banner has a response to Brian's pro-shotgun post where he lists the plays by formation, for easy perusal), and players were sent in motion frequently. I'd have to give it another run through, but I didn't notice too much TE involvement in this one. Gavin Escobar was kept off the stat sheet in this one despite having a pretty good season last year. Again, I'd have to check if this was due to a lack of targets or just good coverage, but it'll be interesting to see what kind of role Koger plays this season. At this point, if he can mirror Escobar's 2010 stats then I'd be pretty happy. 

All in all, while I wasn't as wowed as I expected to be, but that's probably more my fault for not knowing that most of the points came after they were already down 23 in the third quarter. I will admit to being worried about what's in store for the offense, particularly after the spring game, which was about as bad as the 2010 game was good. However, watching this only further underscores the idea that Borges just knows offense. We're not going to be the spread-and-shred team we were, but that's okay. Production is production no matter where it comes from or how; as much as we'd all love to see Denard rack up the stats to make a run at the Heisman, I'd rather we win a few more games and see him healthy for all of them. 

I'm still worried to an extent, but it's more of an anxious feeling as to what the O will look like rather than a premonition of impending doom. Borges has always been a guy that's been successful if given the talent, from UCLA to Auburn to SDSU. The guy knows what he's doing, and every time he speaks I feel more and more comfortable with whatever it is we'll see on offense. 

I agree with Brian that more shotgun is a good thing right now, and if this game is any indication we will see a good bit of it. However, if we see a lot of Denard under center, it won't necessarily be a bad thing. Jimmy's and Joe's, not X's and O's. 

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