Run Fits and Second Chances
Two teams have challenged the Carolina defense running the ball this year. Louisville did in the first half of their game and Duke did last week. Both teams used a combination of two backs and three wide receivers. I’m surprised others haven’t copied this template and will be curious to see if State does. These are tough fits for defenses because there is uncertainty about where the extra gap appears.
In a one back set, there are seven gaps the defense must defend. Two A gaps, two B gaps, two C gaps, and a D gap to the side of a tight end. (Gaps to the formation strength are often capitalized and weak side gaps are generally in lower case.) While an offensive coach can create difficult fits in the run game with one back sets, there is not as much variation. The extra gap is to the tight end. Because tight ends generally don’t carry the ball it is easier for Defensive Coordinators to plan run fits. In Figures 1 through 4, the extra gap (D gap) is always to the tight end.
Illustrated are some common ways to defend the 7 gaps.
If they defend the gaps well, there are still three wide receivers that the QB can throw to on quick screens. What happens in a two back/ three wide receiver set is that defenses are unsure where the 7th gap will appear. There are two backs in the backfield and either could carry the ball or be the extra blocker. The defense is forced to fit the D and C gaps after the snap. If the defense is able to diagnose and fit the runs, then the QB still has three wide receivers in the set to catch quick screens. This is the offensive formation that has given UNC trouble this season. In fig. 5, the extra gap is created to the defense’s left. In the particular defense drawn, all the gaps are accounted for, or fit.
In fig. 6, the extra gap is created to the defense’s right. And if the defense has the same fit as in fig. 5, they will be short in the d/c gap and have two defenders in the C gap. Needless to say, formations like these can cause headaches when coaches are trying to defend the run.
Whether it be one back or two back, these fits become a lot more complicated when facing a running quarterback like Colin Klein from Kansas State. But Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville and Sean Renfree of Duke are not running quarterbacks and neither is Mike Glennon of State. I will be interested to see if State tries to give UNC some complicated fits. One advantage that Louisville and Duke gained in doing so is that they kept the explosive UNC offense on the sideline. Louisville and Duke averaged 36 minutes in time of possession.
In 2007 Braden Hanson was the North Carolina Player of the Year as the quarterback at Charlotte Latin High School. Latin won consecutive State Championships under his leadership and for first time ever, a private school was ranked the #1 team in Charlotte. UNC recruited Braden hard and I was very excited when he decided to come.
Upon arriving in Chapel Hill, Braden was redshirted for the 2008 season. T.J. Yates and Cam Sexton handled the QB position. Then in 2009 and 2010, Braden was T.J.’s back up. During that time, we recruited Bryn Renner and upon T.J.’s graduation, Braden and Bryn battled for the starting position. It was a very close competition through the spring and training camp of 2011.
I was surprised that so many people assumed the job would just go to Bryn. Braden was stiff competition for Bryn and the decision was difficult. I remember how disappointed Braden was when I told him that Bryn was going to start the 2011 season against James Madison. The competition sharpened both QB’s play and they were both playing really well.
Always one to put the team first, Braden assured me that he would work his tail off to be what Bryn, his teammates, and I needed him to be.
Bryn went on to be the most efficient QB in the ACC and have a record setting season. Braden was a great team member. He studied hard, worked hard, and graduated from the business school but still wanted a shot to play football in a system that fit his talents. Toward the end of the season Braden and his parents, Bryan and Janet Hanson, came to my office and asked if I could help Braden find a place to play. It was Braden that discovered the University of North Dakota.
I contacted North Dakota Head Coach, Chris Mussman, and the Offensive Coordinator, Chuck Brietbach. We talked at length about Braden’s ability as a player. I told them how highly I though of Braden and that he might have enough talent to play in the NFL. At UNC he had simply been stuck behind T.J. Yates, who plays for the Houston Texans, and Bryn Renner, who I am certain has the ability to play professionally.
More importantly, we talked about what a great person Braden is. The University of North Dakota offered Braden a scholarship without ever meeting him and Braden accepted without visiting.
In the opening game of the season, Braden started and completed 13 of 14 for 188 yards and 2 TD’s before breaking a bone in his leg. Braden and I were both deeply disappointed as we talked on the phone after that game. But at the end of the conversation Braden confidently stated that he was going to be back this season and help his team win games. Last week the 6’6″ lefty with a smooth and repetitive motion came back with a vengeance.
In what was the first college game that Braden started and finished, last Saturday he led North Dakota to victory over FCS powerhouse Montana. Braden threw the game winning TD with 12 seconds left as the Sioux topped the Grizzlies 40-34. In a performance unlike any I have ever seen, Braden finished 42 of 61 for 660 yards and 5 TD’s.
Congratulations Braden! You are a great player and a wonderful blessing to my family and me.