We’re back with another play in our ‘Inside The Tennessee Playbook’ series. Over the last four weeks we have studied four bread-and-butter running plays the Vols’ are expected to use this upcoming season under new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Two of these running plays — Texas and Ohio — involve zone running principles while the other two plays discussed — Blast and Truck — use gap scheme rules. If you missed these articles, and would like to catch up, you can find the links at the bottom of this article.
Today we will be moving away from the running game to discuss the Snag — occasionally referred to as the Spot — passing concept. Snag is considered a concept passing play because there is a general set of assignments on the play for the eligible receivers, but the offense can accomplish these assignments by using a multitude of players and from various formations. The relevant assignments on Snag are as follows:
- One receiver, often aligned more inside, will have a deep route — usually a corner route.
- Another receiver, typically aligned more to the outside, will have a snag route — sometimes called a ‘slant-settle’ or a ‘mini-slant.’
- A third receiver will run some kind of flat route, whether that is a speed out, an arrow route, or a flare out of the backfield.
What this route concept does is provide a “triangle stretch” to the defense. In other words, it provides both a horizontal and a vertical stretch on the defense. In theory, because the defense is conflicted in multiple directions, the offense should have an answer — an open receiver — against almost all types of coverage. As long as the quarterback has adequate protection and can deliver an accurate pass this play can prove extremely effective, which is why it is used so often at all levels of football.
Coach Chaney’s quarterbacks have ranked consistently well in terms of completion percentage over the years, and concept passing plays are a big reason way. They provide an answer for the quarterback against multiple coverages, and the throws are not particularly difficult to make. Much is asked of the quarterback position on these types of plays in terms of both pre-snap and post-snap reads. However, so far under Coach Chaney’s direction it appears that Jarrett Guarantano feels confident that he is up to this difficult task.
Now we’ll take a look at Snag in action during the Orange & White Game, where we were fortunate to see each of the Vols’ quarterbacks run this play. We’ll begin with the first unit offense running Snag on the second overall play of the game. The offense comes out in an 11-personnel, 2 x 2 formation. To the boundary is the Z-receiver, Josh Palmer, and the Y-tight end, Dominick Wood-Anderson. The Snag concept is being run toward these players with Palmer running the snag route and Wood-Anderson running the corner route. Running back Ty Chandler has the flare route out of the backfield. Here is what the play looks like pre-snap, with emphasis added on cornerback, Bryce Thompson.
The reason Thompson was highlighted above is because his alignment is a helpful indicator to Guarantano of what coverage the defense is playing. Seeing one high safety in the middle of the field, with the free safety rolled down into the box, and Thompson aligned outside of the wide receiver is a major clue that the defense is playing some type of Cover-3. Specifically, the defense appears to be playing ‘pattern match’ Cover-3, which certainly makes sense given Pruitt and Ansley’s ties to Nick Saban.
I am not sure how Coach Chaney specifically plans to teach the reads on this play, but the general rule against Cover-3 — like the coverage above — is for the the quarterback to look to stretch the defense horizontally. This means the quarterback should be reading the flat defender and throwing opposite of where he goes. In this case, Guarantano is likely reading the rolled down free safety, Trevon Flowers. Now, the Snag concept is a great call against this type of pattern matching defense. We’ll go through the specifics of pattern matching in a defensive article, but for now just understand that with pattern matching coverage the defensive backs and linebackers must read the routes of the receivers. This concept makes reading and reacting quickly very difficult for the defense, and in this case Guarantano has two open receivers.
Above is Guarantano at the top of his drop. Defensively, Thompson — red circle above — likely would have made an “under” call in this situation, passing his receiver off to the inside and bailing to the the deep third of the field to take away the corner route. Flowers at safety — orange circle above — essentially becomes the flat defender on this play due to the route distribution. However, it is very difficult to read and react to the threat in the flat as his rule in pattern match Cover-3 would normally be to cover the Y-receiver on anything vertical and breaking to the outside. The linebacker — Daniel Bituli above, the blue circle — is the hook/curl defender and, upon hearing the “under” call should be looking to take away the snag route. However, because the linebacker’s depth on his drop, and because the safety dropped back and now must rally to the flat, Guarantano could throw to the snag route or the flare route as both are open. He chooses the snag, and it’s a gain of 4.
JT Shrout had a couple of chances to run the Snag concept, but the best example from the Orange & White Game comes at the start of the second half. The second team offense is in a 21-personnel group, which differs from the 11-personnel used in the Guarantano and Maurer examples. Secondly, the offense is aligned under center in an I-formation — or pro-style — look. And, Coach Chaney runs the concept in this case with a play-action fake. The defense is challenged by a completely different look, but for the offense it is the exact same play. The Y-tight end runs a corner, the Z-receiver has a snag, and the fullback out of the backfield has the flat route.
As with all of our examples it is important for the quarterback to conduct a read of the defense both pre-snap and post-snap. The strong-safety looks like he is walked down, and post-snap the corners open up in a zone turn type of technique. These factors — similar to the example of Guarantano above — lead the quarterback to believe this is some type of Cover-3. Again, against this kind of look the quarterback is likely trying to stretch the defense horizontally.
I attempted to draw the defense with the same colors as with the Guarantano example above. The corner — red circle — is bailing to take the corner route in coverage. The linebacker — blue circle — is cutting underneath the snag route. The safety — orange circle — looks like he carried the corner route, but was ultimately responsible for the flat area receiver given the route distribution. Because the safety is coming from depth it takes him a while to get to the flat. Therefore, the fullback out of the backfield is open right away and the quarterback can flip it to him for an easy completion.
Tennessee does not really have a traditional fullback on the roster, and is utilizing Jeremy Banks in that role on this play. Calling this play on first down with a play-action fake is a great way to maintain offensive balance and get the quarterback in rhythm with easy completions.
Late in the third quarter it was Brian Maurer’s turn to run the Snag concept with the second unit offense. They aligned in a shotgun doubles formation with 11-personnel. The defense is aligned in a 2-high safety look, as opposed to the single high look that Guarantano and Shrout saw above. Two safeties high, combined with corners in a press alignment, tells the quarterback pre-snap that the defense is probably playing some type of Cover-2/4 coverage. In this case, he will want to look to stretch the defense vertically as opposed to horizontally.
The corner stays with the receiver post-snap in man coverage, so this looks similar to Cover-2 over the top with man coverage underneath, or ‘Two-Man’ coverage. Against this alignment Maurer has the opportunity to make a deep throw that is relatively safe. When the Y-tight end breaks on his corner route it positions the safety behind the tight end. The corner is occupied underneath in man-coverage, so there is a lot of space toward the sideline for Maurer to put the ball that is out of harm’s way. The result is extremely successful. He delivers a strike to Jackson Lowe, who was off the races – but, we’re not going to show you what happens at the end of the run!
That takes us to the end of our discussion on snag. This passing concept should provide Tennessee’s quarterback with easy, possession throws to keep the offense moving. If you have missed any of the other articles in this series please check them out at the links below: