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Florida State football Tutorial Thursday: Favorite Play

You only get one shot, and do not miss your chance to blow.

NCAA Football: Miami at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s Tutorial Thursday is a selfish one, but in a group project sort of way.

We’ll be focused on the staff’s favorite plays and formations, to provide our readers with some insight to our football background, biases, and well - because it’s fun. In the comment section we want to hear from you as well. Please tell us what your favorite plays are, favorite formations on Madden or NCAA, or maybe just your favorite FSU play of all time.

Without further ado lets get into it.

CoachAB: Buck Sweep, yes you heard me all you wing-t fanatics out there. Though the version I like comes out of the shotgun. Being born and raised in Delaware it’s only right that I love a play made famous by Tubby Raymond and Dave Nelson at the University of Delaware. I’ve probably seen the 121 and 929 run a million times in my lifetime and hope I get to see it a million more.

As football as evolved though so have some of footballs oldest plays. Gus Malzahn is one of the godfathers of the modern day spread wing-t offense and he was known for running the buck sweep from the shotgun. Here is a quick video of Malzahn talking buck sweep from his time at Arkansas State:

The fun part is Florida State’s new head coach Mike Norvell also likes to run the buck sweep. Jon Marchant was kind enough to share an article he found recently on USAFootball that highlighted this:

So besides childhood nostalgia, why am I such a big fan of this play? Well that is a very simple answer. Series football! I believe that football plays should build off of each other into a series of other things and the buck sweep/wing-t does just that. You have buck sweep, counter, and waggle built in off of one play and that drives defenses crazy. I also like the fact that this is a c-gap run play that can also bounce outside and with two pulling guards you can get a numbers advantage on the defense.

You know a play is getting to be big time when it finds its way onto Madden. I even pulled a clip of that:

Juan Montalvo: Smash.

One of Jimbo Fisher’s go to concepts, to the point it can almost be called his signature concept. The Smash concept itself is simple - a combination of a corner and a hitch (or any stop variant, including whip/pivot) - but lends itself to use against nearly any coverage based on adjustments by the receivers. An obvious vertical stretch, the coverage adjustments make it versatile by adding movement that can force key horizontal movements by defenses.

Here is a diagram of the basic play:

Inside the Pylon

The critical points of this are detailed in this article by Jimbo Fisher himself. I know I link back to it a lot, but it is a great overview of how any pass concept can use coverage adjustments to enhance its versatility and be effective.

Here’s one of my favorite examples. In my opinion, this comes before one of the best halves by any quarterback in FSU history (watch the whole thing if you have time):

At the 1:53 mark, there it is. Christian Ponder hitting the corner to Bert Reed against cover 2. The hitch underneath, scooting wide all the way, keeps the corner at home. Ponder sees the opening, begins his throw before Reed makes his break to the corner. Perfect.

Kevin Little: I grew up a big fan of the air raid offense. It’s what I played in high school. It’s the film I watch in my free time. Heck I even own several books written by the pirate himself. In my opinion people don’t throw the football enough and the ever increasing passing rates in the NFL and NCAA agree with me.

It’s natural to assume these air raid teams must have a massive playbook filled with any route combination possible but that’s not necessarily the case. These teams often have a few key concepts that they go to time and time again. The most prevalent of these concepts is the Mesh concept. To prove just how often this play is called and how useful it can be I’m going to show you three clips all from the same drive from Washington State last year.

The idea is simple in and of itself. You have two wide receivers run in front of the line of scrimmage and rub close enough together to know off any trailing defenders.

If the defense decides to play zone then the receivers are taught to settle in the gaps between the zones.

The only way to stop the mesh consistently is to bring extra help by bringing a safety down. This is when the offense can take shots downfield as the outside receivers now have one on one match-ups.

In the span of one drive Washington State was able to move down the field and score a touchdown calling the same play three times. I hope this shows just how variable and dynamic the mesh concept can be and takes away some of the stigma behind the air raid offense that still exists to this day.

Jon Marchant: I spent days trying to think of a favorite play, convincing myself that I didn’t have one. I love all football plays for what they are; I find joy in the little intricacies of what makes a particular play neat or unique. I’m always on the hunt for new and innovative stuff.

But that’s a load of crap. Not that it isn’t true, it is. But because there’s something I like more than any particular play and that’s scoring touchdowns. So it probably should be a surprise that my favorite play is the shot play, as long as it’s done well. There are a lot of different shot plays, but my favorite is Four Verticals. Cliche, I know. I also love Yankee and Mills. So I guess what I really love is being aggressive in pushing the ball down the field.

You can see a pretty good breakdown of four verticals here, but also in the below video, along with some examples:

There are some base plays that you can do a lot with — we’ve already talked about one, the inside zone run play. Juan mentioned the Smash concept above. Four verticals, imo, is also one of those plays. As explained in the video, it can have a variety of tags or option routes based on the defense’s coverage, even against Cover 4.

Yankee is another great shot play. It’s essentially a Dig route (deep crossing route) from a receiver on one side with a post on the other side, and often paired with play-action.

It’s designed to attack a safety in conflict. If he takes the dig, you throw the post, and vice versa. Some teams even attach a “Dino” stem to it, or basically a double move called a Sting route where they fake the corner route before coming back to the post, like so with Jordy Nelson at the top of the screen (thanks to for the clips):

Funny enough, it can be devastating in pairing that route with shorter route below it, like faking Smash. Last but not least, we have Mills. It’s called that because Steve Spurrier is widely credited for inventing the concept while the Ol’ Ball Coach was at UF and Ernie Mills was his receiver.

Instead of having the Dig and the Post on opposite sides of the field, here they’re paired together with the Dig on the inside, but it attacks the safeties in a similar way. Mills would run the post and the Gators scored a bunch of touchdowns off of it.

It’s still run by every team at every level of football today.

Perry Kostidakis

You won’t be getting any fancy football play diagrams from me, because unfortunately, my brain is not as large as the knowledge gentlemen above.

What you will get, however, is fond memories of the speed option, and me using it to decimate and humiliate human beings made out of pixels in my youth.

I grew up playing Madden, but it wasn’t until I got NCAA Football 04 that I first started to delve into playcalling, rather than picking a Hail Mary every play. Now, I could run two slants, and then chuck the ball downfield.

That all changed once I first played Dynasty Mode, and discovered the absolute waste you could lay upon the field with a perfect placed pitch (and two overall 99 players.) I would take Bethune-Cookman (back when NCAA let you use actual FCS schools), and bring them to glory with a quarterback and running back duo that would’ve made Paul Johnson collapse to the ground in tears. As the years went on, I would temper my urges and learn to actually run a balanced offense (well, as balanced as video game offenses go), but still would always run on back to the trusty ol’ option, especially once things started to evolve. It hurts that running any form of it in Madden is just absolute trash, but at least I have EJ Manuel, James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman (with Jameis Winston, Chris Thompson and Lonnie Pryor Jr. rotations) to run it with for the rest of time.

Oh, and this is my favorite Florida State play ever:


What are some of your favorite plays? Head to the comment section, throw in your clips, or just describe ‘em and we’ll hunt them down for you.