When he was getting game clips uploaded, flaco asked me to address the touchdown pass to Julio Jones out of the Wildcat, and I also so he uploaded the video of Julio giving out free piggyback rides later in the game, so let's take a minute to look closer at those two plays. This is a bit of a blurb piece that won't be as detailed as the usual individual play breakdowns, but we'll still look closer to see what happened and what we can learn.
First off, let's look at the touchdown pass in the Wildcat. Of course, we used the Wildcat quite a bit in the season opener against Virginia Tech, and though it has generally seen little usage since we left Atlanta, it was still clearly something in our offensive repertoire. Now, coming into the Arkansas game about the only thing that we had done out of the Wildcat was to just run the football straight into the line. Greg McElroy always stayed on the field when we ran it, but the biggest wrinkle we had shown to date was a jet sweep around end. In the previous three games, we had shown absolutely nothing even remotely hinting at a pass play.
Of course, though, we had been sitting on at least one pass play all along. Watch the following video of the touchdown pass to Julio.
Notice that everything we do gives the impression of a run, and in particular a run to the right. Look closely and you will notice that we have revamped the offensive line for this particular. We have taken left tackle James Carpenter and lined him up outside of right tackle Drew Davis, and in Carpenter's absence we have lined up Colin Peek's back-up at tight end, the 6'7, 270+ pound Michael Williams (who, as an aside, as actually been playing quite a bit lately). With the particularly physical Julio Jones, plus Preston Dial, also lined up to the right, it certainly gives the look of one of our typical Wildcat runs. When Terry Grant comes down in motion at the snap, everyone is looking for either Grant to get the hand-off or for Ingram to pound the middle of the line.
But watch Julio Jones closely. He has safety Matt Harris (#39) lined up right in front of him, and while Jones feigns a block, he quickly runs right by the safety. Cornerback Tramain Thomas (#5) was playing the middle of the field and probably had deep responsibility on this play, but again everyone just lets Jones run right by them, Thomas included. They are all looking to come up and stop the run, and it's entirely too late before they realize that Julio has gotten far behind the last line of defense. The pass from McElroy is a bit underthrown, but it's a safe throw that Julio is almost guaranteed to catchcatch, and once he secures the pass Thomas cannot bring him down in the open field. Touchdown Alabama.
It's a big play for the Tide against the Hogs, but perhaps an even bigger one moving forward. There is no rocket science behind this play, simply put. Arkansas sold out to stop the run, and we slipped a wide receiver behind them for a long pass. Moving forward, though, opposing teams will be forced to respect the passing attack once we lined up in the Wildcat, and that will make the rushing attack out of the Wildcat that much more effective.
The second play I want to look at here is Julio Jones' second catch of the day. This play comes with 'Bama leading 21-7 mid-way through the third quarter, driving into Arkansas territory. First down didn't go so well, so the Tide here is faced with a 2nd and 9 situation from just inside the Arkansas 35-yard line.
Now, it goes without saying that this is a fairly obvious passing situation. However, when we come out in the Pistol with two tight ends in the game, the Hogs, apparently respecting the ability of our running game, nevertheless puts eight defenders in the box.
This means that Julio Jones, aligned to the far left of the formation, gets single coverage against Arkansas cornerback Rudell Crim (#4). Watch the follow video of the pass to Julio.
With single coverage, Crim opts to play well off Jones, obviously a smart move. With almost ten yards of cushion, however, Jones just runs a simple three yard hitch route (something that he likely did on a hot route once he saw the cushion). And notice what happens here. This is a simple three yard hitch route that ought to, if completed, gain about three yards. But, of course, this is Julio Jones we are talking about here. He catches the little three yard hitch, throws Crim to the side, and then carries nine Arkansas defenders down the sideline. It's simple... takes a three yard hitch, pulverizes a defender, and the next thing you know that three yard hitch is a fifteen yard gain.
So what did we learn? Play off Julio Jones at your own risk.