Tommy Rees' legal issues this off season have drastically increased the chances that Notre Dame will have a first-time starter under center in Dublin. While the thought of Andrew Hendrix or Everett Golson starting at quarterback have most Irish fans salivating, neither one has a fraction of Rees' game experience. Hendrix and Golson have all the physical tools to take the offense to new heights, but fans will need to be prepared for some growing pains should either one win the starting role.
To limit the inevitable growing pains, the coaching staff must design game plans that put QB1 in the best position to succeed, i.e., avoiding obvious passing downs. Outside of a strong running game, one of the best ways to help QB1 succeed is by calling plays with simple route concepts and easy throws. An example of a simple route concept is the stick/flat combination. It's probably used in some fashion by every team from high school to the NFL and is excellent on early downs to stay ahead of the chains.
Chris Brown at Smart Football has written extensively on the stick/flat route combination also known as the "two-man" concept. The "two-man" concept attacks a defense horizontally. One receiver pushes up field five to six yards and looks for a crease between defenders while a second receiver runs out to the flat. The quarterback reads the flat defender. If the flat defender widens, the stick should be open. If the flat defender drops back into coverage, the flat should be open.
Although the "two-man" concept can be run from a variety of formations and personnel groupings, Brian Kelly frequently uses the "two-man" concept in short yardage situations from a bunch formation. Below is an example of the Irish using the "two-man" concept in the red zone against Western Michigan in 2010.
On fourth and goal from the two, Kelly calls a play with a "two-man" concept to either side. On this particular play, the outside receivers will run five-yard stick routes, and the inside receivers will run to the flats.
If the defense plays zone, the play will horizontally stretch the flat defender leaving either Michael Floyd or Mike Ragone open. If the defense plays man, Floyd's stick route should "pick" the defender lined up over Ragone.
Here, both defenders head toward the flat leaving Floyd wide open. It's an easy read and throw for Dayne Crist. The defense has no chance of recovering.
Strike up the Victory Clog.
While it's difficult to predict if the Irish will use the "two-man" concept with any frequency next season, it's encouraging that notes from the Notre Dame Football Coaches Clinic suggest that the offensive staff will be packaging run and pass plays together in a single play. Below is a diagram of the increasingly popular stick/draw combo.
Like the "two-man" game, the stick/draw combo's beauty is its simplicity. The quarterback initially looks to see if the tight end is open on the stick route. If the linebacker drifts over to cover the tight end, the quarterback hands off to the running back on the draw.
Based on the notes from the coaches clinic, it also appears Notre Dame will couple the stick with a shovel pass or even a quarterback draw. Below is a diagram of the stick combined with the quarterback draw.
When the stick is combined with the quarterback draw, it eliminates the timing issues on the handoff. Without having to worry about the exchange with the running back, the quarterback could make multiple reads before taking off. Can you imagine the possibilities for Hendrix or Golson? Perhaps we'll find out in Dublin.
Really impressed by the post @blogdavie . It's easy to picture an emerging ground attack allowing a young QB to find himself in situations where these simple reads and plays can take the offense to the next level.
Like Domer mentioned, the progression post-Floyd is a major concern, but the optimist might think the lack of guy who needs to be force fed could lead to a younger QB becoming more balanced in progressions and reads. There is no deep threat but our massive TEs should combine to create mismatches before even considering the smart play-calling.
Many forget that post-Gray injury in 2011 the offense literally stopped passing to the RBs which seemed counterintuitive with Riddick/Wood taking the snaps. They need to figure out how to get these guys in space on passing play if Eifert & Co. continue to command some extra attention. Thanks for the high end reseach and photo graphics. Really enjoyed it.
@HB_Sports your points are well taken. My hope is that QB1 will distribute the ball more evenly next season. My gut, however, tells me QB1 will focus heavily on Tyler Eifert.
I'd say my gut probably feels the same, especially if it's Rees who has grown Eifert's career almost single handedly. ND's hand may be forced without Floyd because Eifert should demand the extra safety the majority of the time. If Eifert is being forced early it takes away so many possibilities.
So many wild-cards to play out though. Niklas (healthy/playmaker?) and obviously the type of offense that can be run by different QB types. Again - your post hits the nail on the head for what a simplfied attack could start with, especially if joined by a dangerous running threat by anyone in the backfield.
Great post @blogdavie It will be very intriguing to see what the "bread & butter" of the passing game turns out to be. Also scary as all hell with no Floyd, and no known & absolute playmaking edge WR (Eifert doesn't count).
@TheSubwayDomer As Pete Sampson astutely pointed out to you, the "bread and butter" could be an out route from the slot combined with a go route on the outside. In all the games I re-watched, that was a popular route combination.