Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Auburn Offense

It has been a little while since I last posted. In that time I took a short break and began compiling a full breakdown of the 2010 Auburn offense. I do not claim to know everything or most things about offensive football, but I've done my best to compile a more than general understanding of the Gus Malzahn directed Auburn offense. Hopefully after all is said and done people who are interested in learning more about the Auburn offense will be satisfied.

Before looking at the coming posts I'd recommend checking out other things written about Auburn's offense.

By me, by Brophy and by Chris at Smart Football.

The forthcoming posts from me will feature a review of Auburn's formations, run game (which hasn't already been covered), and pass game. Intertwined in there will be a discussion about Auburn's no huddle methods as well.


Before going into the Auburn offense, I think the first thing that needs to be shown is the most highly utilized formations that Auburn used this past season.

Auburn operates out of standard "spread" and "not-so-spread" shotgun sets, while incorporating under center formations as well. Out of those formations Auburn will utilize multiple personnel sets, with their base set being three wide receivers, a running back, and a H-back.

Their most used formation set was their twins formation, which is a 2x1 set, with an H-back and running back in the backfield.

Twins Left

As Brophy detailed in one of his posts on the Auburn run game, the formation calls Auburn uses usually only apply to the receivers alignments, with backs aligning based on the play call.

As it appears below, the H-back is now aligned towards the twins side.

This limits the number of formation signals used, and allows Auburn to appear to be much more multiple. Receivers alignments will also be changed and shifted based on play call as well. As is shown below with tight alignments by the receivers.

Here is the twins formation with a split backfield.

More 2x1 Sets

Here is a "Pro" formation from the gun. To the right is a tight end/flanker, with a split end on the left. Once again we see a tailback and h-back in the backfield.


Here is one of Auburn's unbalanced formations. This one has the tight end being covered up by a split end.


And now with the tailback on the other side of the QB and in a tackle-over unbalanced set.

Auburn also uses lots of motion. A good portion of that motion focuses on aligning a running back as a flanker and motioning him into the backfield, essentially giving Auburn three backs in the backfield, along with the QB.

Under Center

Auburn also utilized a few under center formations as well this year.

2 x 2 Sets

Like most "spread" teams, Auburn also makes use of a 2x2 sets.

Here is a basic spread set, with two wide receivers to each side.

Auburn will also flex the slot receivers onto the LOS, as show below with the left slot. A lot of the time they flex the slot onto the LOS in order to motion the flanker in towards the formation.

They will also condense the set in tight.

They can also stack two of the receivers.

Below is Auburn using a common spread formation of tight end/flanker to the right and split end/slot to the left.

Finally, for the 2x2 sets here is the tackle over set from above, except now the tailback is flanking the formation to the right.

Here is the same set, except now the tailback is a flanker to the left.

3 x 1 Sets

Here is Auburns standard trips formation, notice the #3 on the left and his depth. This usually indicated a bubble route.


Trips with the #2 receiver flexed onto the LOS.

Bunch Trips

A bunch trips formation with a tight end backside instead of the standard split end.

Auburn also used their tackle over unbalanced set with a trips formation, I've highlighted the eligible tight end backside.

Here is the unbalanced trips set, this time with the trips opposite the unbalanced side (which actually covers up the tight end), the formation also includes an h-back instead of a tailback.

Auburn also uses a trey formation, with a tight end, slot, and flanker all to the same side.

They also use the trey look opposite of their tackle over unbalanced set.

Empty Formations

Here is a standard 3x2 empty set.

This is an empty trey formation with the strength to the left.

Here is a 2x2 empty formation, I count it as empty because the lone back is an h-back who Auburn really does not utilize as a running threat.

Here is Auburn's use of one of their trick formations, they split their left tackle (highlighted) all the way out to the right slot to form an empty formation. He is covered up by the split end to his right, which allows the tight end on the backside to stay eligible.

Auburn also uses some 4x1 formations, here is a quads formation.

This is a quads formation which leaves the #4 receiver actually covered up an ineligible.

That concludes a basic introduction into Auburn's formations, and ultimately an introduction into their offense. If you haven't checked out my other articles on some of their running game, check them out here. Counter, Buck Sweep, and Inverted Veer.

In the next few weeks I will be posting multiple articles on the rest of the Auburn offense.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Diamond Formation - Oklahoma Sooners

The Sooners showed an array of different plays from their use of the diamond formation, although once again none of it was truly revolutionary. Like the Cowboys and Horned Frogs they took a formation and ran their base offense from it. Lets take a look at what they showed against their rivals the Cowboys this year.

Inside Zone

The Sooners showed the same type of inside zone play as the Cowboys with the right halfback leading and the left halfback cutting off the defensive end pursuit from the backside.

Inside Zone Cross

The other version of inside zone that the Sooner's showed was a criss-crossing backfield action. On this particular play which is zone to the left the left halfback will cross the formation and cut off backside pursuit by the defensive end. The right halfback will flash fake in front of the QB and run an outside sweep path and the tailback will run his zone course. This was their most prominent way of running the inside zone.

This would have bee a good play had the back hit the hole to his right.


The Sooner's also showed a power play. This one is to the right with the right halfback kicking out the defensive end and the left guard leading through for the tailback. The left halfback sells his outside fake once again.

Dash Solid?

The final run play from Oklahoma was tough to figure out. I originally thought it was outside zone just glancing at the backfield action, however after seeing the blocking scheme upfront it more closely resembles the dash play that TCU ran, with one key difference. Instead of reading the frontside defensive end Oklahoma had him blocked by the play side halfback. Since they're blocking him I don't think we can really call this dash because it's not a read, but I'm not sure what to term it. The front side of the offensive line down blocks and the play side halfback cuts the defensive end.

Notice the cut block on the defensive end?

Play Action

Here is the first of three play action passes the Sooner's showed. The split end to the right will run a dig, with the other running a skinny post it appears. The backfield action resembles the inside zone crossing series

Jones will eventually hit the dig over the middle, which I've highlighted.


This next pass play looks like a basic waggle play, it is off of the inside zone action with a halfback and tailback faking one way and the opposite halfback sneaking under the formation into the flat. The halfback in the flat is a bear to cover because of the inside zone action with him crossing the QB's face to cut the defensive end, and on this instance running past him and uncovered into the flat. It was hard to tell which routes the split ends were running because Jones gets rid of the ball pretty quickly.


This is similar to the waggle, we have both halfbacks crossing the QB, this time however we will see the right side of the offensive line release downfield specifically to help seal the inside backers as Jones looks to dump a quick screen to the tailback. Along with the right side of the line the left halfback will lead for the tailback as well.

I'm sure Oklahoma did more out of this formation, as this was only a one game sample. The same can be said for OSU and TCU as well. A few parting points on the diamond:

1) It's only a formation.

2) However, with the said I think you can do a TON from this formation, as I've noted all three teams really didn't do anything outside of the box of what they would normally do on offense out of this formation.

3) I think this formation will get some more use this coming season from more college teams and I'll be interested to see some more misdirection run plays, and see what teams that do more gap-scheme blocking do in the running game.

4) I think you could adapt most offensive ideas to this set, and I think the three biggest things this formation offers to an offense are the possibility of a deceptive running game from the shotgun, a power running game from the gun, and the play-action passes off both of those.

5) Thanks to the poster who asked to see this, I not only was able to check into this formation but also into what Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and a little of TCU did this season. So many offenses, so little time.

If anyone ever has a suggestion or would like me to cover something in particular I'll do my best to research into the different offensive schemes and ideas of the college football landscape.