No running play has epitomized the finesse-oriented ground game of 2005 and 2006 like the draw play. Designed to look like a pass is imminent, the draw is a way to fool opposing defenses rather than to impose one's will through merciless and constant hammering in the trenches. And during last August, when Charlie Weis uttered the infamous phrase from which this series of posts derives its name, how many fans truly believed that the draw, the ideal complement to a passing offense, would play second fiddle?
|Year||% of All Runs||YPC|
Robert Hughes ran that play eight times and picked up a measly ten yards all of last year. Most of his carries looked like the plays in that clip. But by contrast, check out Armando Allen below. Allen toted the ball 12 times, producing 80 yards with a 6.7 yards per carry average and a median carry of 5 yards. Secondly, compare Hawaii's defensive fronts in the clips above to those seen below. Far more advantageous when linebackers are deeper and not aligned on the line of scrimmage.
The next Irish draw play incorporates two backs, with the fullback leading the halfback through a hole. An example can be seen in the diagram to the right. Another common version of this play - seen in 2005 and 2006 - had the tight end motion into the backfield as a fullback. You might recall that Joseph Fauria did this a few times in the spring game with much success. And as you watch the clips from several years ago, notice how rarely on these highlights that Walker is forced to bounce the run outside because of shoddy blocking. Whereas quite a few of the H 40/41 plays were successful because of Walker bouncing them and outrunning the defense to the sideline, here the offensive line blocking is more responsible for success on these runs.
The last set of draws to examine are the plays from shotgun formations, which I've decided to group together even if they are designed to hit different holes (or could even be labeled as H 40/41). Despite the diminished role of the draw in the overall Irish offense, one cannot help but notice the dramatic jump in draw plays from shotgun formations in 2008.
In all but three games, the Irish ran no more than one draw play from shotgun formations. Against Pitt, it appeared as though the Irish saw something in film study, as they opened with a specific shotgun formation and draw play not seen that much all year. They ran that play six times in the first quarter alone and picked up 41 yards. Two other times they called it as well. Against Boston College, they ran four, and those were the result of an inefficient offense stuck in third and long situations. Ditto the two at Michigan State.
As the data clearly demonstrates, the Irish running game began to shed its over-reliance on the draw play last year. Unfortunately, the on-field results were so unsatisfactory that this positive is easily overlooked. What about 2009? A few predictions...
- The use of H 42/43 Ace will be wholly dependent upon the staff's ability to develop a fullback. No competent fullback will likely mean more draws with three receivers (H 40/41) or two tight ends (H 44/45). For the sake of diversifying the offense and making it less predictable, somebody needs to emerge at fullback.
- Draw play usage, as a percentage of the offense, will increase. It's just impossible to see a scenario where teams can afford to put seven in the box against the Irish passing attack. ND will face many six man fronts as a result. Weis will then take what the defense gives him and call more runs, including draws.
- Armando Allen will remind fans of Darius Walker, and what he lacks in vision he makes up for in speed and lack of fear. He's not afraid to lower a shoulder into a defender rather than make an additional cut to avoid the contact.