Florida State Seminoles fans watching FSU’s new ‘Gulf Coast Offense’ undoubtedly noticed the new frenetic tempo at which the Seminoles operate. But did they notice where the receivers are lining up? Wide. Really wide. “Spitting on the sidelines” is how one Florida State coach described it.
Take a look.
That’s weird. But it’s by design.
By using every yard, FSU creates more 1-on-1 opportunities
With all the matchup zone being played in college football, defenders are able to help each other. But they can only do that if they are close enough to get there to help on time. With the horizontal stretch created by the width of the receiver splits in Willie Taggart’s offense, that often isn’t the case. FSU is creating more obvious man-to-man opportunities, which it is betting its athletes can win. Given how Florida State recruits, that seems like a good bet.
“That’s big spacing, it gives our running back a lot of room to work,” receiver Tamorrion Terry said. “We’ll make that linebacker make a decision, and we’ll come back with a hurry-up play and the defense won’t be lined up.”
“I know I’m taking it to the house,” Terry said about what he feels when the safety doesn’t creep over and he recognizes he has a 1-on-1 matchup.
Defenses already have to make a vertical choice when it comes to how shallow it wants to play its safeties, whether close to the line of scrimmage to stop the run, or deep to help prevent the big pass. But Taggart’s receiver alignments (which were first popularized by Art Briles at Baylor) make the defense choose both vertically and horizontally. If the safety doesn’t get out near the sideline before the snap, he often cannot cover that much ground to help out after the snap. The same applies to the alignment of the linebackers.
The spacing also really hurts the ability of the defense to successfully bring blitzes off the edge, because if a defender is in his original alignment, he has so much more ground to cover to get to the QB than he would against a normal alignment. That means the QB and offense have more time to see the blitz coming and adjust.
This increases the amount of knowledge the offense has to work with before the snap of the football, decreasing the amount it must gather after the ball is snapped, when the bodies are flying around.
The lack of combo coverages defenses can play against this alignment also means that instead of helping out a corner, a safety is often matched on a freak athlete in the slot like D.J. Matthews.
This also helps the run game
But this also has a huge impact on the run game. If the safety or backer vacates the box to go help with the receivers, FSU will have more favorable numbers to run. Given that FSU will make defenses respect the QB’s legs, it can put a defense at a numerical disadvantage, with Cam Akers coming downhill.
The width of the receivers also creates abnormal or uncomfortable pursuit angles, since it’s so foreign to be lined up that wide.
Combine this with tempo, which limits defensive complexity, and you have a recipe for a lot of big plays.
Later this summer, we’ll talk about what else FSU can do with the splits, and what an offense cannot do with them.