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A Sneak Peak at the Texas Offense Under Sterlin Gilbert

Ryan Bridges

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The next time the Longhorns take the field they’ll be running a new offense, but we don’t need to wait until then to get a glimpse at what it will look like. Rather than diagram a bunch of plays or compile clips of Tulsa or 2012 Eastern Illinois, I thought it might be useful to show examples of this year’s Texas team running plays that are similar or even identical to what you can expect from Sterlin Gilbert. 


I paid the most attention to the Bowling Green offenses because (1) there’s more video of them, (2) the quarterbacks weren’t very good (like Texas’ quarterbacks), and (3) Gilbert had more influence at BGSU than at Tulsa. In addition, Gilbert spent three years coordinating offenses for Dino Babers and only one year (at Tulsa) with Phillip Montgomery, so Babers probably had more of an influence on him.


Before we get into the plays, a reminder of the three major differences. First, the tempo: This year’s Texas would need roughly another 15 minutes each game to run as many plays as Gilbert’s offenses. Second, practically every run play in Gilbert’s repertoire has a quick pass option attached (run-pass option, or RPO). Third, receivers in Gilbert’s offenses line up far wider than in regular offenses. To help you picture the difference, here’s where Texas’ receivers would line up if you put them on the field with Tulsa.






It's easy to miss, but there's a third Tulsa receiver on the bottom in the second picture. The Longhorns used wide splits like this once that I can recall, against Cal.




Run Plays


Gilbert’s offenses will run stretch, sweep, speed option and draw (regular and quarterback), but we need only four plays to cover almost everything. 


Inside Zone






The most frequently run play in the games I charted was inside zone with bubble screens on both sides. The Texas version is zone read, whereas Gilbert rarely had a quarterback run option as part of the play. What he does at Texas will probably depend on who he has playing quarterback.


The pass option tendencies are pretty simple. If there’s one receiver to a side, he’s running a hitch. If there are two receivers, they’re running a bubble screen, now screen or bench screen (examples below). If there are three receivers, now screens and bubble screens are most common, but they’ll also run a stick concept.




Here’s inside zone with the stick concept. The outside receiver runs a go route, the middle receiver runs a quick out and the inside receiver runs either an out or hitch depending on the leverage of the nearest defender.








Obviously the Texas example isn’t great, but it was the only one I could find where the receivers weren’t blocking. Gilbert runs this with an H-back like in this example or with an in-line tight end, in which case the backside guard and tackle will pull while the tight end seals off the pursuit. Texas didn’t pull tackles often this season but they will in 2016. 


Notice the difference in how Gilbert runs the bubble route and how Texas was doing it. The advantage of running it Gilbert's way is that the quarterback doesn’t need to worry about leading the receiver at an awkward angle; he just has to throw it at the receiver’s chest. The drawback is that the receiver can't get upfield quite as quickly, but with all the trouble Jerrod Heard and Tyrone Swoopes were having making the throw, that's a worthwhile trade.






I wasn’t able to find an example of Texas running power as an RPO, but just imagine the previous example with this happening inside the box.






Gilbert also runs some tackle power, which, when poorly blocked, looks like the Texas example. The Tulsa example shows something else Gilbert might do with the receivers — a slant/arrow concept. And in the Texas example there’s a now screen on the bottom.




So you don’t think it’s a horrible play, here’s a better look at tackle power.


Lead Zone






This was one of Texas’ best plays in 2015, especially when run from 20 personnel (two running backs and no tight ends). The BGSU example shows another concept that can be attached to run plays.


Those are really the most important run plays to know. They can look like a couple dozen different plays because of all the possible outcomes, but it’s as simple as calling the run and tagging the pass concepts to be attached to it. 


Pass Plays


The RPOs cover a lot of the screens we’ll see, but there are a few more Gilbert runs frequently. 


Crack Screen






In the Texas example there’s not actually a crack block (pretend Marcus Johnson blocked that linebacker), but it’s the closest I could find. Running backs don’t get a ton of targets in Gilbert’s offense, but they’ll see these screens, and sometimes he’ll line them up wide and throw hitches or comebacks to them from empty sets. 


Middle Screen






Texas ran a few of these this season but I wasn’t able to find one where Daje Johnson caught it. Seriously.


Bench Screen




I wasn’t able to find an example of Texas running this one — they’d have the outside receiver run off the corner instead of block him. The trick is to get the ball to the receiver before the blocker engages the corner. Otherwise it’s offensive pass interference because the throw is going past the line of scrimmage. This is a very effective play if the timing is right.


Fake Screens




There’s tons of big play potential with these, which can be run off bubble or now screens.


Y Stick and Slant/Flare




This play features two concepts Gilbert’s offenses run a lot. We’ve already covered the stick concept, and the slant/flare concept to the boundary is pretty self-explanatory. 




From empty sets, Gilbert mostly runs stick routes. Basically the outside receivers run go routes and everyone else runs to the 1st down marker and stops. 


Everything Else


We've covered screens and the quick game. A great deal of the intermediate and deep passes are based off play-action, and often the quarterback will just duck down for a moment instead of faking a handoff. 


As for the routes, most of them are just running straight ahead to different depths. I’m really not kidding.






Sometimes they'll get fancy and switch release.




There are very few bootlegs, but there's the occasional sprint out. 


That’s not the entire offense, but that covers probably three quarters of it. Tulsa did some different stuff in the Oklahoma game, but that was Montgomery’s show and featured a quarterback with more experience than Gilbert will be working with at Texas. I expect him to keep it simple next season.


To recap and oversimplify: linemen pulling on run plays, quick passes attached to run plays, and receivers either running slants or straight lines to varying distances. I don't know how it'll go, but it should be fun to watch.

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