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BSD Film Room: Inside The Huddle

Let's break down a play call.

Around the 0:38 second mark of the video above you'll hear QB Christian Hackenberg calling a play in the huddle. "Gun Power Left Whack 3 Jet Z Circus Dig Switch, on 1". And, near the 1:35 mark we get a second play call: "Gun Double Left Paint 3 Jet Y Seam, on the double."


After hearing that 10-word play call, one thing is certain: Jon Gruden just got flush with excitement.  Chuckie loves verbosity.  The longer it takes a QB to spit out a single play, the happier and more proud Gruden becomes.

Sadly, Gruden isn't here to talk about "this guy" Hackenberg, or to help translate "that guy" John Donovan's play call jargon into English.  He'd be the perfect guy to do it, too, because the language Hack spoke in the huddle is a Bill Walsh, "West Coast" influenced dialect.  Instead, BSD Film Room will take a whack at the translation, and probably screw something up.  But that's what we're here for - just like Rex Grossman, it doesn't matter that we don't know what we're doing, we still sling it.

The Formation

"Gun Power Left" and "Gun Double Left" tell the 11 guys in the huddle how to line up.  The five offensive linemen are always in a row, of course, but the formation can influence their splits (the distance between each lineman).  The QB tells everyone he'll be in the (shot)"Gun" (important information for the center, who needs to snap the ball).  "Power left" and "Double left" tell the 5 eligible receivers where to line up.  Obviously, the job of lining up correctly is a bit harder for the backs, tight ends, and receivers.  "Power Left" is probably shorthand for a tight end (Y) and/or  fullback (F) aligned to the quarterback's left.  And if you're the flanker (Z) or split-end (X), then you need to memorize where to go (Z goes left with the tight end, but off the line of scrimmage; X splits wide to the right side).

The Mystery Word

The next key word in the play call is a mystery to me.  I have no idea what "Whack" or "Paint" might mean.  Luckily I'm just a blogger, and have no responsibility to be smart or accurate, and no fear of looking stupid (obviously).  So here's my wild guess: it's motion.  One of the five eligible receivers hears "whack" or "paint", and performs some type of pre-snap motion, which generally serves a two-fold purpose: 1) to get the defensive out of alignment; and 2) to make the defense show their coverage.  But again, fair warning: I'm typing out of my *** on what this mystery word means.  Sounds cool, though, doesn't it?

The Protection

"2 Jet" and "3 Jet" are the most commonly used pass protections in the world famous Bill Walsh "West Coast" offense.  They let the O-line and backs know how to pass block (with adjustments allowed at the line).  Typically, "Jet" is a slide protection, where the O-line slides left or right to block Big-On-Big, with the running back responsible for a Will or Sam linebacker, should he blitz.

The Route (Combinations)

"Z Circus Dig Switch" and "Y Seam" tell the receivers which routes to run.  In Bill Walsh, West Coast parlance, the play call contains ONLY the primary route (e.g., "Y Seam", which tells the tight end - "Y" - to run a seam route).  It's a reinforcement tool for the QB, since he's literally speaking his first/primary read on the pass play.  Everyone else, though, has to know what to do when Hack says "Y Seam".  The "X",  "Z" and "F" all have route responsibilities they must memorize/know off of the phrase "Y Seam".  Those routes are specifically designed to draw attention away from the "Y" tight end, and open the way for that dude to get open and make a big play.

Of course, those designs are all pre-snap, formulated against an imaginary defense that is running some presumed coverage, such as "Cover 2".  What if the defense doesn't run "Cover 2"?  Well first, Hack has to be able to decipher what the defense is running.  Then, after figuring that out, he has to know where the coaches prefer he throw the football based on the coverage he sees.  If he sees "cover 2", then throw the "Y Seam".  If he sees "cover 3", then maybe the "Z" is running a "stick" to the "Y's" side, and that's where he should go.  Last, if he doesn't know what he sees, or if he sees something else tempting like 3 run defenders to a side, he can audible to a run or a different pass or call timeout.  Hack gets about 10 seconds to figure all of that stuff out, and then he has around 2 seconds after the snap of the ball to confirm everything he read in the 10 seconds prior to the snap.  (And as PSU fans know, the play has to get into the huddle quickly, or the 10 seconds get shrunk to 8, or 5, or [delay of game]).

The Snap Count

"On 1".  It's on 1.  Don't forget that part, or 107,000 people will groan in unison.


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