By Mike Kuchar with Phil Longo
University of Wisconsin
Selecting the Projected 95 Percenters
Once these formation breakdowns are completed, Coach Longo and his offensive staff will begin their process of devising their play menu for the week. Here’s where the selection process becomes finetuned and the 95% method starts to take shape. Coach Longo will start to tally each concept he feels will be effective based on formation. “The first thing we do is put up a formation and list all the run, passes, screens draws, PAP’s and exotics we think will work with that formation,” he told us. “We go down the offense by the formation and ask questions like ‘what do they do against Reo off (trips attached)? What do we like against it?”
“Then we start to list the concepts we feel have a good shot that week and start to examine all the possible things defenses can do to take things away. As an example, we say here are their 5 fronts, 6 coverages and 4 pressures based on the formation. To us, it’s about finding answers. So, we’ll put up power and research what problems we’re going to get like maybe two off the edge, or spilling the H back on the kick out, etc. Most of the football world will try to solve those problems with push calls, fan it calls, etc. But the more issues that defensive coordinators present, the more calls and checks offenses have to have. Calls complicate things and that just makes things more difficult for your players. I like to be in a situation where I can tell them you’re only going to get a couple of different looks and we work them heavily during the week.” If there are too many problems associated with the concept, Coach Longo won’t run the play.
As noted in Course 1 of this report, the underlining principle of Coach Longo’s system is to contain concepts that can be universally tweaked to attack any front or coverage structure. This is why he’ll only carry four to five formations each game week. “80% of our offense we feel we can run against everything,” he told us. “So, every play we carry needs to be run against all those coverages. If they can’t we won’t carry it.” In order to keep the play menu tight, there will be weeks where he won’t even run a particular formation because they do a great job of defending that concept. “We may not want to run a trips passing concept against a coordinator that plays trips well because they can severely outnumber you to the trips side, maintain box integrity, and have a good enough corner to handle your X,” he told us. “So, we may get into Rock (doubles formation) because the defense may have more weaknesses against two by two. There is more potential grass in doubles.”
“The question always remains; do they do anything different that take us out of these universal plays that we are running?’ And we want to know does that often happen? A lot of times it doesn’t. The majority of times we have answers. Those are the ones we like and the ones we carry in the offense. I don’t want to have that plays that are less than 70% efficient because there is so much other teaching when you have to live in the 30% realm because you have to answer all of those issues. It takes away from them being instinctive and forces us to have to game plan the whole 30% for a minority part of the time. That’s not efficiency.”
Basically, Coach Longo and his staff will make a judgment call on a play based on how much we think we’ll see a particular coverage that may cause a problem for that concept. “Let’ say we have a concept that may have a great shot of being successful against man free, cover two, quarters coverage or three buzz and those are the four main coverages they run against this formation. But there is this one coverage like two man that we don’t like it against. But they only ran it two times all year. It’s a very small percentage of their defense. So, basically, we like it against 98% of what they do so we will carry it that week. But if they ran four coverages (against the formation) and one they ran 25% of the time we don’t like it. We will not carry that play.”
Getting to the 95%: Ranking Each Play
This process gets streamlined one step further by ranking those plays on a 1-3 scale based on how effective each could be for the current week. In order to do so, he uses the following ranking system:
“1”: A great play for the week. A must use. Projected 95% chance of being effective
“2”: A good play for the week. Projected 75% chance of being effective
“3”: Possible successful play. Projected 50% chance of being effective.
Some coaches tinker back and forth during the game week with the possibility of using “threes” based on how they progress during practice week. But in this offense not only are the three’s non-negotiable, they won’t even run the two’s during game week. “I’m not running those plays because 25% effectiveness can get you beat,” he told us. “Some coordinators want to carry the 2’s. We don’t. If they’re just good, it’s not good enough. I want to call runs that I can run at any time. But if I can’t run it against almost everything, I won’t run it.”
“For example, in the passing game if a defense is able to take the first look away by structure, a decent job of taking the second look away and forcing you to the third look we’re not running it because you know you’re holding the ball against them,” he told us. “In that case, their defensive line just got better because I’m holding the ball. That is a bad play. I’m trying to get to the perfect call all the time but when I’m not right I want the QB to make us right with plays that have a high percentage of being successful.”
Building the Projected 95 Percenters:
While Coach Longo’s system only consists of up to 28 total concepts (as detailed in Course 1), he’s able to mix and match several of them together to get into the projected 95% effective play call. In other words, different concepts can be paired to exploit a particular defensive structure or scheme. Offensive analyst Josh Snow calls them puzzle pieces.
Consider the following scenarios:
- Run concepts can be built in that week that may be opportune against certain front structures. An example may be an outside zone concept vs. a voided alley.
- Pass game tags can be built in that week that may be opportune against certain coverage structure. An example may be a double slant concept vs. two-high coverage.
- X game or free access tags can be built in that week that may be opportune against certain personnel advantages. An example may be verticals or stops based on cornerback leverage.
Game Planning the One-on-One Advantage via Structure:
Once the plays are ranked and each coach presents his research based on the formation he is assigned to, it becomes time to formulate the game plan. While there are several components to devising the game plan, there is one overriding premise that trumps all: construct plays that access the one on one matchup. The best offenses thrive when they have a numbers advantage; for Coach Longo, he’ll take the matchup if the numbers are even. If he gets a numbers advantage that’s a bonus. He game plans for the 50/50 ball because it’s his belief his player will be aptly prepared to win them. We provide a couple of scenarios of this below that illustrate this concept: both in the run and pass game.