What made Western Michigan so much fun to watch again is more then their intriguing leader and motivator P.J. Fleck. Not only can coaches appreciate his focus on the team aspect of the game, but he is also on the cutting edge of the latest in run-pass option offensive innovation.
Coach Fleck brought in some pretty good talent at Western Michigan. But his best recruiting win was their star receiver Corey Davis. Corey gave Fleck the opportunity to be a threat to the defense on every single play. In the run-pass option (RPO) offense, teams identify a defender to put in a pass or run conflict. If the defender attacks the run, the ball is pulled and thrown to the vacated area. In the Mac Championship game alone there were over 13 different run-pass options that Western Michigan ran.
Run-Pass Option to Corey Davis
What makes Fleck’s version of the run-pass option so deadly is that he had an elite talent in Corey Davis as the receiver option. Teams who didn’t defend Davis well would pay the price as he gashed them with huge yards after the catch.
In this first Run-Pass Option from a 3 x 1 formation, the linebacker over Davis attacks the run right away. All that senior Quarterback Zach Terrell has to do when he sees this is flip the ball out to Davis and let him do the rest. Davis snags the ball and sidesteps the first defender before racing up the sideline for another ten yards after the catch.
The next play is a 2 x 2 look with a wing formation to the side Davis lines up. Fleck calls a Wham block run play that traps an unblocked defensive lineman. Because the defense has cheated their outside linebacker pre-snap to bring pressure on the outside, Terrell knows that the slant to Davis will be an easy downfield gain.
Slot Bubble Run-Pass Option
Western Michigan lines up in a 3 x 1 with a wing and the back to the strong side. The RPO is a full zone run weakside but because the outside backer comes up on run action, Terrell sees the opening for the bubble screen. Western’s slot catches the toss and gets upfield for a nice gain behind a solid Davis perimeter block. What I love about Davis’ block here is that he’s technically sound in his breakdown. Most stalk blocks fail because receivers don’t break down soon enough. Davis settles his base early and then can really get into the “stalk” part of the block. He finishes it off with a Contact and Drive showing that he’s much more then just a great receiver and can block the perimeter as well.
In this combination of zone run with a lead blocker on the linebacker, the defense’s linebacker responsible for covering the bubble freezes. Terrell sees no opening for the run-pass option here so he gives the ball on the run and the line powers ahead for a solid four yard gain.
Fleck’s variety in the run game shows again here with a Strong Iso called behind their powerful blocking tight end who lines up in the wing again. Again the outside LB has to freeze to cover the bubble screen or risk Terrell passing it for an easy perimeter gain. Instead Western Michigan gets the look they want for their run game and again get a solid gain.
Watch More Flick Run-Pass Options Here
If you want to see more run-pass options Western Michigan ran in this game, you can access them free here.