Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2017 Issue

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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36 MAY 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED N otre Dame's offense will have some carryover from what it has done in the past, but there will be some unique aspects brought in by first-year offensive coordinator Chip Long. In past seasons, Notre Dame has used a run-pass option (RPO) sys- tem. Under Long, the offense will look quite different, with the run- pass option becoming a much bigger part of the offense. Notre Dame will push the tempo on offense in 2017, and utilizing the RPO will give the Irish a great deal of flexibility and it is expected to make them harder to defend. BASIC TENETS The RPO is a play call in which the offensive coordinator makes a run game call, and the offensive line, running back and, at times, the tight end are blocking for the called run play. On the same play call, the wide receivers will run a pass con- cept, which varies from formation to formation, from call to call or from game plan to game plan. At no point does the quarterback make a check to the run or pass. The call is made, and everyone executes the assignment he was given. Only the quarterback has an op- tion. He will make a read on a spe- cific defender, which will tell him to either hand the ball off, pull the ball and run (with a possible late throw), or to pull and immediately throw the football. This approach forces the defense to be prepared to defend a run and pass play at the same time. It's not like a play-action pass, which looks like a run but is actually a pass. This is a play in which a run or pass can happen every time the call is made without the quarterback having to audible or check. The primary benefit of an effective RPO system is that it makes it much harder for defenses to insert extra defenders into the box against the run. If that happens, the quarterback has the opportunity to pull the ball and get it to a receiver that is either uncovered or in space with a chance to make a play. Long designs the RPO to make it easier to run the football and then punish a defense for over-commit- ting to the run. Another benefit for the offense is it increases the odds that the defense can be fooled. If a run is called, the defensive coordinator could have his unit in position to defend the run. Same with a pass play. It makes foot- ball very much a chess match. The RPO — when designed and ex- ecuted effectively — makes it much harder for the defense to win that chess match. It often creates more guessing by the defense, and often- times creates more mistakes. You'll see more blown assignments from a defense when it is facing an effective up-tempo offense. HOW IT WORKS Each week, the staff on offense will try to take advantage of specific op- ponent formations that give it a pos- sible advantage — in skill, numbers or leverage. Once the offense aligns, the quar- terback must identify his read key, which is often a linebacker in the boundary. The graphic provided shows a for- mation that Long has run a RPO out of in the past, with the "read key" being identified. How that defender reacts after the snap will determine if the quarterback hands the ball off or pulls it and throws outside to a receiver. When running pass-run option, the quarterback has two options at the snap. If he sees a leverage or num- bers advantage he can simply catch the ball and throw it outside. If the defense is lined up in a fash- ion where the quarterback does not have the automatic throw, he will then receive the snap and carry out the mesh with the running back, put- ting his eyes on the read key to de- termine whether to give the ball to the back or to pull and throw the ball. That is the double-option possi- bility for the quarterback. In some looks, the quarterback has a triple- option look that involves him pull- ing the ball and running it outside, although the throw possibility still remains in that read. ✦ Coordinator Chip Long's Run-Pass Option Offense CHALK TALK BRYAN DRISKELL Bryan Driskell has been a football analyst for Blue & Gold Illustrated since April 2015. He can be reached at The graphic above shows a run-pass option (RPO) that Long has used in the past, with the "read key" being identified. How that defender reacts after the snap will determine what the quarterback does. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS

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