Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
April 3, 2012Today we will try and attack some of the basic principles of KU's offensive line strategy as well as look at how some of the current players will fit into Charlie Weis' system.
First, here is a good article that explains the differences between zone, man, and gap scheme blocking.
Second, let's do a brief recap of some of the different Kansas offensive line schemes the current linemen have run during their careers at Kansas.
During the Mark Mangino regime they relied heavily on zone blocking. Some former players would say that between 75% - 80% of all blocking schemes they ran would fall under the zone blocking category. Among the zone blocking schemes, about 15% - 20% were outside zone plays while the rest were considered inside zone plays. They rarely used any true man blocking schemes.
After Turner Gill took over there was a larger emphasis on man blocking schemes. Former players estimated that between 65% - 70% of all plays came from man blocking. One of the problems that Turner Gill ran into was a lot of the linemen he inherited were recruited to play in Mangino's schemes which required more athletic and mobile linemen.
Although while under Gill KU relied heavily on a man blocking system, they didn't completely abandon zone blocking. As far as using the outside zone, it wasn't until the Iowa State game last year when teams began to stack the box that Kansas started using that play.
Looking at this year's offense, it's probably fair to say after talking with current and former players that the offense is going to use a lot more zone blocking than what Kansas fans have seen the last two years. Offensive line coach Tim Grunhard said they will use their zone plays to stretch the defense out and to create double teams.
At Florida, the outside zone was one of their more successful plays last year in large part because of their dynamic running backs in Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. Current players said that when they got their playbooks they were excited that there was going to be a heavier emphasis on the outside zone.
"There are some plays where you can get out there and make some plays in space so those are always fun to use your athleticism," Tanner Hawkinson said.
Offensive line coach Tim Grunhard has a lot of experience in zone blocking schemes. During his first several years with the Chiefs in the early 90's, his offensive line coach at the time Howard Mudd switched to a zone blocking system.
"From then on it was all zone blocking," Grunhard said. "That's where I cut my teeth in zone blocking and why I feel so comfortable teaching this offense. There are some things in the pass game that I still have to learn and that's part of the process. One thing I do know is calls and angles in the zone blocking schemes that we are able to implement will work very well if we have a running back who will be patient."
Of course, Kansas will use a lot more than just zone blocking schemes. At Florida, Weis' former players said he used a good blend of zone and power blocking schemes. At this point in spring practices, the offensive linemen are learning a little bit of everything.
"It's a nice mixture," Grunhard said. "In the midst of that there are passes off of our runs and runs off of our passes. Our offense is very diverse but it is a fair offense. It is a fair running game to teach because the rules are consistent. "
Learning the offense
One player who has a great deal of knowledge of Weis' offensive line strategies is ex-Notre Dame and Florida center Dan Wenger. He started 19 games at Notre Dame before transferring to Florida before last year to play his senior season with Weis. Wenger didn't have much experience when he arrived at Notre Dame as a freshman with some of the more advanced offensive systems that Weis employs.
"It's going to be tough on the guys and they may have never seen a true pro playbook," Wenger said. "The way I looked at it when I went to Notre Dame we were running the New England Patriots offense and it was awesome because it expanded my football knowledge to a degree which I never thought it could be at."
Wenger said Weis doesn't overload players with information during spring ball. Generally they could learn between three to five new formations a day. Although it wasn't uncommon for the offense to spend an entire day perfecting one formation to make sure everybody got it right.
"You might see during summer camp that everything we put in those 15 spring practices is just day one of summer camp," Wenger said. "Then day two comes and it is almost like a whole new spring ball. There are a whole new set of plays that are just as big as the first day of camp."
Wenger said Weis does a good job of tailoring the offensive schemes to the personnel that he has, but a lot of the basic principles of his pro style offense stayed consistent through the years.
"Nothing really too much changes from when we were at Notre Dame to Florida," Wenger said. "The first day of camp stuff that we would do is inside and outside zone. As camp moved along and we went through that process we went through the power schemes and gap schemes."
Looking at KU's current offensive line
The strength in KU's offensive line comes from their left side. Tanner Hawkinson, who is a quicker, athletic left tackle thrived in Mangino's zone blocking offense his freshman year and struggled to adapt to Gill's system the following year. Offensive line coach Tim Grunhard thinks Hawkinson could be a player selected somewhere in the middle rounds of next year's NFL Draft.
Alongside Hawkinson is Duane Zlatnik at left guard. Both players were moved over to the left side of the line from the right before spring practice.
"They communicate well together and it's always good to have a strong left side to run with because a lot of time you set up with your pass game on the right side," Grunhard said. "If you are throwing off your right side and the pass protection is leaning towards your right side and you run left it will cause a lot of problems for the defense."
The right side of the line is still under construction. Gavin Howard is the starter at right guard and Riley Spencer at right tackle, but Aslam Sterling will likely challenge for one of those two spots when he arrives this summer.
Trevor Marrongelli will slide over to center from the guard position. Marrongelli played some center in high school and was initially recruited under Mangino to play center. He played some snaps at center last year whenever Jeremiah Hatch was out of the game.
In Weis' system, quarterback Dayne Crist will have the authority to make calls at the line of scrimmage depending on how the defense lines up and then Marrongelli will follow suit and make calls to the line.
"We can see some things but [Crist] has a better picture of it and it allows us to just focus on what we have to do once we hear the call then we can make our reads and calls off of that," Hawkinson said.
Of course, in terms of analyzing Charlie Weis' offensive line schemes this article barely scratches the surface. If you have time and want to research his offense even more, go check out the 2004 New England Patriots offensive playbook that's online.
Also, The Blawg House does a good job of breaking down some of Florida's stretch plays from last year.