How Baylor used isolation run concepts from spread offensive sets

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    Despite the controversy at the end of Art Briles’ tenure, Baylor consistently had one of the best offenses in the nation during his time there. Although known primarily for his vertical passing game, Baylor also had a great running game. In 2015, Briles’ final season, Baylor ranked third in the nation in rushing yards per game with 319.6. Baylor excelled at adapting isolation run concepts typically used in pro-style offenses to fit his extended offense.

    Below is a diagram of the weak iso concept commonly used by the NFL and other pro-style offenses:

    Baylor running play

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    baylor ran isolation schemes like this from extended sets in two different ways. The first part of this two part series will be about how they ran iso pulling their tackle instead of using a fullback. this running concept is commonly known as a “dart”. Baylor rushed darts 276 times throughout the 2014 and 2015 seasons for 1,823 yards (6.61-yard average) and nine touchdowns. With the way Baylor ran the dart, he was better against five-man boxes. because of this, he primarily executed the 10-man darts concept against teams that predominantly played two safeties. When he was playing against teams that were mostly single-story structures, like West Virginia, Texas, or Oklahoma, the dart wasn’t a big part of the game plan.

    Below is a diagram of the blocking scheme against a four-man front:

    Baylor running play

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    Compared to a four-man front, the game-side tackle through the back guard would be responsible for blocking all four downline linemen. the back tackle would throw and drive through the first open space at the front of the run to block the microphone linebacker. here is a diagram of this scheme when executed towards the three technique:

    Baylor running play

    Versus a three-man front, the center and playside guard will double-team the nose tackle up to the backside linebacker. Here’s a diagram of this:

    Baylor running play

    Baylor most frequently ran dart as an RPO play from 10 personnel. Here’s a diagram of their dart variant that they ran most:

    Baylor running play

    The offense is trying to place both outside linebackers in run-pass conflicts with back-out screens to the slot receivers paired with the inside run. Rather than the traditional bubble screens used by most offenses, Baylor would have their slots take two steps upfield before backing out toward the sideline.

    The wide splits used by baylor help clear the read for the quarterback and put these defenders in even greater conflict. the qb will read the outside linebacker’s lineup from the side of the field before the snap. if he is glued to the box then the qb will catch and throw the field side screen. If he’s expanded to slot receiver, because of Baylor’s wide divisions, he’s too far out of the box to be a factor in the race. yes expands to no. 2, as it is in the diagram above, the qb will read after the snap the outside edge of the linebacker. if he stays outside the box or widens with the slot, the defense is left with only five defenders in the box and the qb will deliver the ball to his back. if it is thrown towards the area, the qb will pull the ball and throw the screen.

    here is an example of qb getting a run read on this move:

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    Sam’s linebacker expands to the field slot receiver, so the post-snap QB reads the will. the will stays outside the area so the qb passes the ball to his back. the playside tackle through the back guard takes care of all four downhill linemen, leaving the offense with what they want in this scheme: the isolated drag tackle on the mic linebacker.

    here is an example of qb getting a read pass at this rpo:

    This time, Will jumps into the box as the QB fits with his back, leaving the offense with good perimeter space for rear screen. Also note how the offense ran this play with the running back on the play side and still the QB reading a back defender. most teams will only have the post-snap qb read defenders who are lined up on the same side as the comp running back, but baylor sometimes flips the read and has the opposite qb read defenders line up on the back like they do here.

    baylor also ran this same play from double stack formations. here is a video of it:

    When running their screens from stacked formations, baylor would have the receiver at the back of the stack work the field for 3 steps before turning to the screen. notice here how the receiver is already two yards downfield when he catches the screen.

    baylor also liked to run darts from 3×1 with a backside stick route from no. 3 receiver. here is a diagram of this:

    Baylor offense

    The thinking here is very similar to their double-screen RPO. If the read-key linebacker, the Mike in this case, stays outside of the box, the offense should have a five-man box to run dart against. If the Mike steps in toward the box, the offense should have good space to the No. 3 receiver on the stick route. Note here how the No. 2 receiver works to the outside a lot quicker on his screen than on the double-screen RPO. This is because he’s trying to pull coverage away from the stick route. Baylor never actually threw this route to the No. 2 receiver when running this RPO.

    Baylor’s offense under briles has been called “lazy” due to its tendency to give receivers certain plays. As they do here, Baylor would often give receivers the tiebreaker when they were leading the inside runs.

    here is a video of baylor directing this play:

    The microphone stays outside the box, so the QB passes the ball back against the five-man box. here is a video of the qb throwing the stick route on this play when the mic hits the run:

    baylor could also pair this execution with a choice route to create a third level rpo. here is a diagram of this:

    Baylor offense

    The offense is placing the backside safety in conflict here with the backside choice route. If the free safety steps down in run-support, the offense will have a 1-on-1 on the perimeter. The receiver, in theory, should be able to beat the corner because he can adjust his route on the fly based on the leverage he has on the corner. If the free safety stays at depth, the QB will hand the ball off on the dart play as the defense should only have five defenders in the box. Here’s the video of this:

    Free safety falls into the area, so the qb pulls the ball to launch the chosen route. the corner pops out as the receiver starts to work his shot, so he takes the inside shot and runs a skinny post route.

    baylor could also run this play with 11 people. when at 11 staff, the defense is likely to have six defenders in the box, so the offense will have to find a way to account for the back linebacker. one way baylor did this is with the rpo stitching of him. here is a diagram of this:

    Baylor offense

    As they were doing with their stick RPO, the offense is trying to place the Mike in a run-pass conflict. The read is slightly different now for the QB, as the receiver is starting in the box and then working away from the box on his route. If the Mike turns and runs with the tight end on his seam route, the QB will hand the ball off to the back. If the Mike stays in his place or plays the run, the QB will pull the ball to throw the seam route behind him. Here’s an example of the Mike playing the pass on this play:

    here is an example of the microphone playing the race in this piece:

    unfortunately for baylor, they had one of their extra linemen in the game at tight end. baylor could have potentially scored on this play with a better receiver playing tight end.

    another way baylor executed this 11-person play is with a rear arc block from his back to get the back linebacker out of position to defend the run. here is a diagram of this:

    Baylor offense

    Here’s video of Baylor running this play:

    this is a very good game planning job by baylor coaching staff. By understanding the responsibilities of each defender, they knew the will would follow the right back to the perimeter on his arc block, creating good space for the dart game.

    baylor also ran the wildcat dart in their 2015 bowl victory against north carolina, where they went almost exclusively to wildcat sets and rushed for 645 yards. here is a diagram of this:

    Baylor running play wildcat

    Here’s video of this play:

    running back jab step and quick feint to the side of the three receivers to try to sway the mic linebacker, who is actually swayed to move out of the box, and the drag tackle works to the security.

    This was the first part of a two-part series. the second part will be about baylor zone isolation concepts.

    contact taylor kolste at, or find him on twitter @taylorkolste. Check out more of his work at

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