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November 22, 2010

Scout's Eye View: Breaking down the big plays

Most college football fans, when watching a game for the sake of enjoyment, simply follow the ball and pay little mind to what is happening on the field as far as positional groupings, schemes and whatnot. Each week InsidetheGators.net will take you 'behind the scenes' as former NFL scout Edwin Weathersby breaks down several of the biggest plays of the game.

WATCH THE HIGHLIGHTS AS YOU READ THE BREAKDOWN (Scroll through the plays on the right hand side)

John Brantley 37-yard completion to Omarius Hines

UF shows a field side trips alignment in shotgun, with a wing (quarterback Trey Burton) as the inside receiver. ASU employs a 4-3 look with a stand up rusher on the boundary, with a quarters/quarters-halves coverage scheme on the back end.

Florida receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. is the widest receiver on the field side and he runs a "go" or a "9" route, which essentially is a deep streak, with the route's design to clear and push the Appalachian State wide corner vertically to clear space for Hines' corner route into that area.

Underneath Hines, Burton runs a quick flat route which holds the field side outside backer down and away from Hines' corner route. The key is Hines, watch him release inside and act like he's attacking the inside linebacker. What this subtle move does is set up two defenders, in the inside backer and the safety on top of him.

The move gives him more leverage and space to work with after his junction point (where he cuts and changes direction) of his route to which Brantley hits him with a completion for the Gators.

Chris Rainey's 35-yard scamper in the second quarter

The run by Rainey shows great instincts and creativity with the ball in his hands, but I would like to shed some light on the big uglies upfront for the Gators. Versus a three down odd front from Appalachian State, at the snap, watch center Mike Pouncey show easy movement and athleticism on his wide pull to get to the edge and look for work up field, thanks to a good down-block by left guard Carl Johnson.

Also look at left tackle Marcus Gilbert's quick target location skills to quickly take on the first oncoming threat after his reach to the perimeter. This allows Rainey to keep pace with Pouncey to get the edge. Then watch the backside angle right guard Jon Halapio takes to cut off the backside linebacker.

If Halapio takes a poor angle and allows the 'backer to scrape and pursue freely, then the 'backer has a chance to go cut Rainey off for a minimal gain.

From Rainey's perspective, as a scout, I would note that Rainey has skills to create in space, evidenced by what he does on the 2nd and 3rd levels of the defense on this run. All in thanks to four key blocks of UF linemen doing their jobs to afford you, the Gator fans, the joy of seeing the speedy Rainey run rapid on a pretty Fall afternoon in The Swamp.

Brandon Hicks forced fumble

Florida's defense shows an odd three down front with nickel personnel employed to a cover-3/rat scheme. UF also brings LB/DE Ronald Powell around on a stunt to pressure.

The key defender for me here is safety Matt Elam, who is playing in the box like an outside linebacker. Elam sees his inside receiver release inside and passes him to his inside linebacker, then reads his next receiver, who is the running back out of the backfield, releasing outside whom which Elam is to take. Watch as Elam takes the outside threat (back out of backfield) then re-directs inside to play the oncoming shallow cross route to his side.

Another key component to this play is Hicks forcing a fumble.

Takeaways and turnovers are crucial for a defense because you want to always look for ways to give your offense the ball, as the more chances they have to score the better and also the less the opposing team's offense has the ball, the less chances they themselves have to score. Hicks does a solid job of getting his hat on the football and jarring it loose. In all, this is a solid showing of how to play zone defense and a defense geared to force turnovers and takeaways.

Jordan Reed 20-yard run off of a fake in the fourth quarter

There are some people who always ask "do play fakes really work or do anything to help the offense?" The answer is yes. Not only do play fakes help with timing with the offense to get in sync, they also help block defenders.

Earlier in this season's Scout's Eye View series, we talked about how the Gator running game is predicated on getting key defenders blocked and a play fake to move other defenders to create holes and lanes for UF runners.

I want you to watch the ASU left defensive end on this play. At the snap, Reed will fake to running back Emmanuel Moody and watch how the hole opens up big time on the right side of the UF offensive line.

No one upfront mauled or got a great push on the ASU defensive end, but he gets blocked. How? He comes in so hard inside to play the fake run to Moody that he leaves his gap/area so open for Reed to get to and through the whole up field. The hole was open because the defensive end responsible for that gap took himself out of the play, thanks to the run play fake to Moody by Reed.

Question answered.

Edwin Weathersby has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, and the Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena League. He spent a year evaluating prep prospects & writing specific scouting content articles for Student Sports Football (now ESPN Rise). He's also contributed to WeAreSC.com, and Diamonds in the Rough Inc., a College Football and NFL Draft magazine.


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