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September 7, 2010

Scout's Eye View: Breaking down the big plays

Most college football fans, when watching a game for the sake of enjoyment, simply follow the ball and pay little mind to what is happening on the field as far as positional groupings, schemes and whatnot. Each week InsidetheGators.net will take you 'behind the scenes' as former NFL scout Edwin Weathersby breaks down several of the biggest plays of the game.

Janoris Jenkins' Pick-Six

Defensively, from the highlights, it seems the Gators are in a "30 Nickel" package and the coverage looks to be a loose "Cover 1" which is man coverage with 1 safety over the top. The Gators rushed three and blitzed two, where the Red Hawks initially picked up the three defensive linemen.

If you look close, the running back and the right tackle have some slight confusion as they both go to pick up the linebacker blitzing off the edge. Realizing he has inside gap integrity, the running back adjusts late to go after the blitzing inside 'backer.

Another key element to this interception, in my opinion, is the bad spacing by the RedHawk receivers on the play side.

They both run short hitches but are only 5 yards apart at the most. The Gator defensive back over the play side slot receiver seems to be adjusting late at the start of snap, giving up outside leverage to the releasing slot receiver.

Luckily, the slot receiver runs the before mentioned short hitch and not a go route or a corner route, since Jenkins is playing his receiver's hitch and not able to help cover that portion of the field due to the loose Cover 1 coverage call.

Defenses want offenses to clutter like this as it makes it easier for them to defend all the offensive skill players since they are all near 1 spot, which is why spacing is so crucial to an offensive plays success. Playing a "bail" or "side saddle technique", Florida cornerback Jenkins shows great instincts and route recognition to jump the perimeter receiver's hitch route, which was being stared down by the quarterback upon receiving the snap from the shotgun.

The end result - pick-six for the Gators.

John Brantley's TD pass to Omarius Hines

Florida comes out in an empty backfield set with trips to the left, against the RedHawk's man to man red zone defense. The RedHawk defender covering Hines is giving him a "two way go" by the cushion or depth at which he is lined up at off Hines.

This couldn't be more perfect for Brantley and Hines, as they both realize that the two other outside receivers are releasing vertical up the field, which will lift both of their defenders, to create space for Hines on the outside, underneath their routes.

The last and final check Hines has to make, before he cuts, is to read the lone middle linebacker. If that 'backer blitzes then Hines has the option to cut inside over him, yet still underneath the defender covering him, as he would just be filling a void in the coverage for an easy pitch and catch. In the pre-snap phase, if you look at Hines' head and eyes, it's easy to see him looking at the middle linebacker as Hines knows he has to recognize what the backer is doing quickly before he approaches his junction point in his route, which is where he has to decide to cut right to the inside or left to the outside. As the play develops, you'll see the that linebacker drops, and this tells Hines that he shall cut outside to his left.

Here's where and why it is so important to have receivers and quarterbacks on the same page: all of what I have described about what Hines sees and recognizes, Brantley is seeing and recognizing the exact same things.

Another thing that happens is Miami blitzes off the edge and it causes a pass protection breakdown by the Gator offensive line. Left tackle Marcus Gilbert doesn't take the widest edge rusher, which allows Brantley to get hit after his throw, and right guard Jon Halapio gets beaten by a swim move to create pressure.

Overall, Brantley shows guts and grit to hang tough in the pocket, and he and Hines both make the correct reads which results in a TD pass in the Swamp.

Jeff Demps' touchdown run

Much has been said about Urban Meyer's offense, since his stops at Bowling Green and Utah, but the common denominator is that he's won with this offense everywhere he's brought it to. Although the Gators had a less than stellar overall output in their initial game of the 2010 season, the Demps' touchdown run is the outcome of when Coach Meyer's offense is matched with talented personnel.

In a single back shot gun formation with trips to the left, Demps sprung open thanks to the Gator offensive line vs. a 30 front of the RedHawk defense.

Mike Pouncey shows off NFL athleticism and quickness by pulling to right or playside and being followed by left guard James Wilson. Pouncey makes sure he leads up through the hole and gets his hat on the playside linebacker, with Wilson's job being to escort Demps clean to the 2nd second level and pick up the next defensive threat after Pouncey takes care of business, though Demps beats Wilson to and through the hole with his acceleration ability. Right guard Halapio shows solid quickness and positional/wall off ability on his mini-down block to allow Pouncey to pull around him, and right tackle Ian Silberman gets a pancake credited to his bill against the playside defensive end.

With all those great blocks taking place, the most vital is how left tackle Marcus Gilbert does an outstanding job of scooping the backside defensive end and getting to second level of the defense to cut off the middle linebacker. This prevents the linebacker from making the tackle and the play becoming just a 5 yard run. Instead, Gilbert's backside cut off block and Pouncey's pull and block on the playside 'backer, coupled with of the rest of the offensive line making a sure they have put a hat on every Miami defender that could provide immediate run support, a seam is created for speedster Demps who shows his juice through the hole and breakaway speed in the open field all the way to the endzone.



Edwin Weathersby has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, and the Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena League. He spent a year evaluating prep prospects & writing specific scouting content articles for Student Sports Football (now ESPN Rise). He's also contributed to WeAreSC.com, and Diamonds in the Rough Inc., a College Football and NFL Draft magazine.


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