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How Arkansas used misdirection against Alabama’s young defense

A bit of film study for your Monday.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Arkansas Razorbacks limped into Saturday’s game against Alabama having struggled mightily on offense in two consecutive games against SEC competition. To their credit, Chad Morris and staff put in solid film work and came up with a great plan to use misdirection against an inexperienced Alabama defense.

I’m not going to bother with garbage time in this one, instead focusing on five key plays in the first half in the Razorbacks’ three drives, the first stalling out in Tide territory and the other two ending in touchdowns.

Right off the bat, Ty Storey used his eyes masterfully to manipulate the defense.

This is tough to see because of ESPN’s sorry camera angles early in the game, but on their second offensive play the Hogs gave a preview of their strategy to open the middle of the field with a delayed TE screen. Trevon Diggs comes across in man coverage on the motion man, and Storey immediately uses a shoulder fake to that side that draws Mack Wilson. Storey then clears the middle out with a quick look toward the RB on the other side that draws Dylan Moses up before dropping it off to Cheyenne O’Grady with a couple of blockers in front. Moses simply over-committed on this play, particularly considering the down and distance. As he gains experience, he will be a little more certain before selling out.

Arkansas used their other TE, Austin Cantrell, later in the drive.

This is a simple TE delay that works because Mack Wilson is coming on a blitz. We have no way of knowing whether the blitz was called or if Mack made the decision because the TE initially stayed in to protect before leaking out, but considering the slight delay I would lean toward the latter. In any case, Storey delivers the ball to the space vacated and makes a nice gain. The Tide has seen a ton of max protect this season and likely expected the same from the Hogs. This was a nice design and execution.

Next we have every fan’s favorite pass route: the wheel. Even better, this one incorporates a pick.

Simple stuff here, really. What we don’t know is whether Alabama is in straight man defense or if they are supposed to be matching. If it’s the latter, Patrick Surtain II should pass off his man when he goes inside and move to curl/flat, which would have matched him up on the back. This is the most likely scenario, and will make for great film study for the super-talented freshman.

Next, we have the TE screen from the first example run to the other side of the field.

Storey’s eyes once again part the Red Sea and O’Grady gets a nice gainer.

Last, a play that Alabama has had a ton of success with: counter off of jet motion.

Watch #2 Surtain. He is in man coverage on the motion man. Unfortunately, he takes a bad path as he tries to follow him across the formation and makes a great lead block on Dylan Moses. If Moses is able to get to the pulling guard, this isn’t going for 30+ yards. This play demonstrates why in years past the Tide would pass off the motion man. Could be that the communication isn’t yet where it needs to be with this young defense to accomplish such a task.

In summary, these are all mental and fixable issues. Young, athletic defenders tend to be overly aggressive, and Morris conspired with Storey to use it against them. Hopefully the staff and players will be able to use this film to instill the need to read for another beat before committing. Opponents most certainly will be studying it carefully.

Roll Tide.