Humans hate change. Differences are feared. This is especially the case at tradition rich programs, like Penn State...unless your offense finishes 124th in total yards. Then change – any kind of change – is a welcome sight.
Joe Moorhead comes to Penn State from Fordham and brings what appears to be a new offense with him. Film Room takes a look at that new offense, and breaks down how much of a change it is likely to represent. Hint - it's a lot, and for that we should all be thankful this Advent season.
Kill The Lights
The Personnel File
Who: Joe Moorhead
High School: Pittsburgh Central Catholic
College: Fordham (a Jesuit school), where he was an English major
Why Mention This? Moorhead likely has read The Aeneid. In Latin. That should please the Euhlers.
Spread or Manball: Spread
No Huddle or Painfully Slow: No huddle
Simple (BO'B) or Stupidly Complex (Donovan): Simple
Zone (inside and outside), with a QB as a running threat. And that, mercifully, is it. Generally speaking, you won't see Power, Man, ISO, unbalanced line, tons 'o pulling, three tight ends, four tight ends, a backup guard playing fullback, etc., etc., etc. We're getting a vanilla – but very effective – rush offense that can include using the QB as an actual running threat. The o-line gets two schemes to learn – inside zone, and outside zone. On occasion, they'll mix in a tight end trap or pin-and-pull to counter a defensive shift against the "read" side of the zone read. And, again, that is mercifully all they need to know. Less equals so, so much more.
Coverage Read (BO'B) or Progression Read (Donovan): Coverage read.
Man Or Zone Pass Pro: Man (mostly)
12-Word Play Calls or "Route Concepts": Concepts. Even better, the concept Moorhead diagrams in this video is the same one Film Room has used as its cover photo the last four years. (Foreshadowing. I.E., We like him already.)
Adjustments (Easy or Complex to make): Easy.
Match-ups (Relativism or Pragmatism): Pragmatism. He'll use personnel match-ups to his advantage, because smart is smart. Conversely, dumb is not smart. Dumb is dumb. Objective, knowable truths.
Summarized Table of Changes, Old vs. New
|Category||John Donovan||Joe Moorhead|
|Tempo||Reeeally sloooow||Infinitely variable rheostat
|Rush Scheme||Everything but wishbone||Zone|
|Pass Scheme||Progression read
|Ease of Adjustments||Unpossible
||Pretty easy, actually
|Predictability||Laughably So||Not so much
|Personnel Match-ups||Ignore 'em / Relativism
||Use 'em / Pragmatism
Some Things To Recognize at 2016 Blue-White
1. Spread the Field --> Empty the Box --> Run the Draw Behind Inside Zone When You Have Numbers
2. "Meerkat". No huddle, get to the line, prevent substitution, check with me, audible to new play (which was the draw play immediately above). Changing plays to one that works is a good idea.
3. Play Action. Lots of it, packaged together with actual, real rushing plays. As in, "real" play action, rather than pretend play action that no one - on the defense or in the stands or watching on TV - believes to be an authentic rush attempt. Below the TE fakes a trap before hitting the flat - and watch what happens to Army's LBs and S.
4. More Play Action, with shots down field. To tight ends. Who are running up the seam. Behind the linebackers who were totally fooled. It took PSU three full quarters of horrible football before we tried this in 2015.
5. Unorthodox play calls. Third-and-goal to go from the 14? Not many people are expecting a draw. But when Army shows blitz with man coverage at the line, Moorhead checks to the draw, and there aren't many defenders to stop it, because the secondary all have their backs to the line, running in man coverage.
Hit The Lights
The Fordham at Army game from which we pulled a few plays was the Rams' season opener, with a brand new QB making his first start. In fact, the starting offense featured just two seniors, but six sophomores and freshmen. Of particular note, Moorhead's O-line had three sophomores and only one senior (at left guard). They were young (and Moorhead left behind a loaded roster).
Predictably, the new QB fumbled on his first snap (because of course), and the Rams were dinged for false starts a couple of times (which is how you end up with a third-and-goal from the 14). Yet, the Rams put 450 yards and 37 points on Army, on the road, and generally looked unstoppable (roughly 2x Penn State's 2015 output). That's why, friends, Joe Moorhead is a terrific Christmas gift for your Penn State family members.
If you're looking for familiar comparisons, Moorhead's scheme shares a lot in common with Bill O'Brien's scheme. Both use a simple zone rush attack to balance their greater emphasis on a coverage-read passing attack - a passing attack that can be highly customized for weekly opponent match-ups and tendencies. Pass protection is man-based, rather than zone-based - which, as we've witnessed the last 25 games, generally keeps our QB upright more often than not, even with a mediocre line. Passing concepts are designed to beat multiple coverages from a single look, and can present a different feel to the defense just by changing formations (even though the play call remains static). The QB "knows" where to go pre-snap, which inflates his numbers (see: 2011 McGloin vs 2012 McGloin). Plus, more variability equals more for a defense to defend, even though the offense doesn't have to learn anything new. These are all very nice things to have on offense. This hire, then, represents a huge leap forward for Penn State football, even if the results don't immediately translate to the box score.
That's right, friends. Tap the brakes on celebrating another Festivus miracle. With Christian Hackenberg likely to head to the NFL, JoeMo inherits zero career starts at the most critical position on the field. Points and yards still won't come easily in 2016. But, they'll come more easily than they have in the last two seasons. And climbing out of the rancid, mold-infested cellar (124th) to the first floor kitchen (80th)? Not miraculous, but we'll gladly take it, and be thankful. Welcome aboard, Joe Moorhead.