Stopping the Tulane zone bluff option

Here is an example of Fritz’s double-option with a lead blocker at Ga. Southern

Among the many who still remember Wayne Hardin around here, the phrase used most about him was that he was many years ahead of his time.

How many?

Screenshot 2019-11-13 at 11.35.12 PM

A multiple-layer, two gloves and hood kind of tailgate

The two games this weekend at Lincoln Financial Field will provide a very real time frame.

Tulane’s offense will show a lot of the same principles Hardin had with his veer this Saturday (noon, Lincoln Financial Field) against Temple.

Hardin liked to call his offense the “smorgasbord offense” and described it this way: “It’s like one of those food spreads, a little of this, a little of that.”  Whatever Hardin liked from a number of offenses, including a lot of the veer and the triple option and the pro set, he would ‘borrow” and utilize all of those looks to fool defenses. In addition, he invented a whole lot of stuff that Bill Belichick uses in New England today.

Here is Fritz motioning the WR to the RB spot in a goal-line offense.

Temple ran all of those offenses so well other coaches thought the Owls were breaking the rules by practicing 24 hours a day. It drove defenses crazy. The Owls would line up in a Houston (Cougar, not Texan) Veer one series and a Dallas Cowboys’ pro set the next and, on a rare occasion, would use a Texas triple option.

Now that the NCAA limits practices to just 15 hours a week, coaches have utilize their time a lot better and no one does that more than Tulane head coach Willie Fritz.


To me, Fritz has to be
the coach of the year
in the AAC. Memphis, UCF,
Cincinnati and Temple have
been the established powers
in the league over the last
five years. Tulane breaking
into that group despite also
having Ivy League-type admission
standards is a tribute to Fritz’s
ability as a football coach

To me, Fritz has to be the coach of the year in the AAC. Memphis, UCF, Cincinnati and Temple have been the established powers in the league over the last five years. Tulane breaking into that group despite also having Ivy League-level admission standards is a tribute to Fritz’s ability as a football coach and recruiter. Put it this way: If Northwestern is the Harvard of the Big 10, Vandy the Harvard of the SEC, Stanford the Harvard of the PAC-12, Duke is the Harvard of the ACC then Tulane has to be the Harvard of the AAC.  (Err, Harvard is the Harvard of the Ivy League.) So it’s hard to get kids admitted to that school. Since two Big 12 schools (Texas and Baylor) are tied for 79th academically, that conference has no elite school. Plus, Temple coach Rod Carey has paid tribute to Fritz for doing it “the right way.” That could be interpreted as a shot at people like Sonny “15 portal transfers” Dykes for doing it the “wrong way.”

Tulane is the clear-cut “Ivy League” type AAC school, though, and, as such, poses some admission problems that don’t exist elsewhere. All of that dictates Fritz adopts and perfects a unique offensive scheme and he has, just like Navy.  Unlike at Navy, though, sophisticated passing concepts are built into the offense.  Call it a “zone bluff” option.

Fritz says his quarterback’s mid-play read to the dive up the gut to the pitchman on the outside. However, Tulane’s quarterback is in the shotgun, receivers are scattered across the field and there are men in motion at the snap.

No one has stopped Tulane’s offense so far except Memphis and Auburn, which beat them, 47-17, and 24-6, respectively. The way the Tigers did it was not with defense per se, but with the offense. In that game, Kenny Gainwell had 18 carries for 104 yards and added nine receptions for 203 yards. Because of Gainwell, Memphis had the ball for 34 minutes and 10 seconds, while Tulane had it for 25:50. Three of those possessions resulted in interceptions so the damage the Green Wave could do was limited.

Does Temple has an offensive talent equal to Gainwell? No, but the Owls can dominate the time with a running game that features Jager Gardner and Ra’Mahn Davis and receivers like Jadan Blue, Branden Mack, and Kenny Yeboah. It would be nice if Isaiah Wright would join the party but returning punts instead of fair-catching them but that’s up to him. He certainly has the talent to flip the field a few times but so far his will hasn’t matched his talent. Maybe the switch will go on Saturday.

The point here is that you don’t stop an offense like Tulane with defense alone. It takes a whole lot of help from your own offense in addition to your defense winning at the point of attack.

If that’s going to look familiar to Temple, it should. The Owls faced a very similar “passing read” offense in UCF and the Knights scored 63 points on the Owls. That offense utilizes one back, though. Tulane runs two out there.

Unless the Owls take a more holistic approach than to stopping it than they did on that disastrous night, the results will not be a helluva lot different. Hopefully, one takeaway the Owls had from that night was the best way to stop a good offense is using your own to keep it off the field. Another takeaway is to get more than one takeaway like Memphis did against the Green Wave.

If Hardin was here, he’d tell you that but, since he’s not, we will do it for him.

Predictions: Last week was a perfect example of why logic doesn’t work sometimes. Logically, Florida State was in disarray after firing Willie Taggart and Boston College looking good after scoring 57 points at Syracuse. So I picked BC as a one-point favorite and lost, 38-31, bringing my record for the season to 28-23 against the spread and 32-21 straight up. (Steve Addazio’s head coaching career may be coming to an end.) More than one line strikes me as a “wrong” one as I like all underdogs this week: LOUISIANA TECH getting 2.5 at Marshall, GEORGIA TECH getting 5.5 to visiting Virginia Tech, USF getting 14 against visiting Cincy (it would really help Temple if USF won that game outright), and my pick of the week, NAVY getting 9.5 at Notre Dame to cover but not to win.

Saturday: A Song For Game Day

20 thoughts on “Stopping the Tulane zone bluff option

  1. Tulane may be the “Harvard of the AAC” and is considered one of the top academic schools in the SE, but it’s a stretch to say their admission standards equal the Ivey League.
    And while I agree Isaiah’s will seems diminished this year (something’s not right with him), I’ve noticed that his punt receptions happen when he’s already surrounded by opposing players almost all the time – with little or no wiggle room to start a return run. Why get bashed up or chance a fumble for 1 or 2 yards?
    Yeah IF Temple can grind it out and use up the clock as in the best defense is a good offense, we can win this game. Getting to their QB will be important too.

  2. Tulane’s acceptance rate is about 25%, so they’re not quite as selective as the Dook’s and Vandy’s of the world. Still impressive.

    FWIW- I’ve seen some people here clamoring for more use of the Portal, and I think that is an awful take. Guys who want bigger jobs quickly use the portal. Guys who want to build something recruit high school kids. Extensive use of transfers is not sustainable.

    • The portal is a tremendous asset for the G5 and AAC. It helps to preclude the P5 from monopolizing talent.

      It is here to stay for the foreseeable future. G5 coaches, and Carey in particular, have a choice.

      Ignore the portal and watch the world pass you by; or, incorporate the portal to help increase your team talent.

      The incoming 2020 recruiting class is in the bottom half of the AAC. It shows Carey can’t compete with his peers. Why not use the portal to fill needs?

      The secondary this year would be toast w/o the portal. Why wouldn’t you want P5 guys like Monroe and Hand on your team?

      Flip-phone or smart phone?

      • Hey KJ,

        While I generally respect your opinion and enthusiasm about Temple Football, I think you are missing big on the doom and gloom as it relates to recruiting.

        While I agree that there is value to the portal (see John Belli’s excellent comment), having a highly rated class isn’t the end-all be-all.

        Is it possible that we could look to some of our past recruiting successes, for example:

        Tavon Young, Dion Dawkins, Ventell Bryant, Brandon McManus, Jacob Martin, Nate Hairston, Tahir Whitehead, Tyler Matakevich, Julian Taylor, Sharif Finch …

        and realize that we can be quite successful with 2-star recruits? Thinking of these guys as a sort of diamond-in-the-rough . . . where have I heard that before?

    • True. There’s a couple ways to do it. I prefer the Al Golden method. Consistently recruit the top class in your league. Is Carey the kind of closer in homes that Golden was? Doubtful. Is putting Fran as the CEO of recruiting enough? I hope so.

      • It’s not a matter of “ignoring” it. You just can’t rely on it and you can’t build with it. You finish off your roster with it. You use it to get the last piece. Not the foundation.

      • Agee. If you can get me a big-time rusher off a pass-happy P5 squad for next year, that’s a good career move for both that guy and us. Love Ray Davis but he’s 5-11 200. Give me a 1,000-yard P5 rusher off a P5 spread team. Dykes is rolling the dice on the 15 transfers to get him back to California. Pretty transparent. If the SMU fans don’t see that, it’s on them.

    • Do not forget that Tulane’s acceptance rates and “selectivity” changed drastically after Hurricane Katrina. I would bet that it has never gone back to past conditions. Still, though, a wonderful school. Our neighbor’s daughter went there a year or two after Katrina and had a wonderful experience.

  3. Getting some productive portal transfers every year is a major key to future success. Bottom line is that this area produces dozens of D-1 football players every year and TU gets very few of them out of high school. What they have gotten are transfers from this area who went to other schools and were either blocked by better players or got hurt and replaced. Those that played for their respective schools already have shown that they can play at the college level and are less risky than high school recruits. Over the last five years, TU got some very good players who transferred in and hopefully they will continue to do so in the future. TU has to make itself an attractive landing spot for disaffected or unhappy players from other schools because any school not taking advantage of the portal is doomed to fail.

  4. The Wayne Hardin Show was also ahead of its time! No gladiator movie music, no John Facenda heavenly voice, but scads of memorable players, plays, and replays: Hynoski, Joachim, Grossman, Klecko, et al. Ivy League analysis versus Nick at Nite.

    • Kinda surprised that Luke Fickell turned down WVU to stay at Cincy. Mike Norvell is the next guy to leave IMHO. If UNC is willing to hire 77-year-old (really 68 but I was exaggerating for effect but someone didn’t get it) Mack Brown, then I think Sonny Dykes leaves as well. Ken Niumatalolo turned down Arizona and BYU to stay at Navy and I think he’s the closest thing to a lifer that the AAC has. Fritz? Does a P5 want to run a hybrid triple-option? That’s a tough sell. Fritz, Carey and Kenny will be here next year to boost the AAC profile further. Pretty sure the multiple portal guys will be leaving every year.

      • Memphis is paying Norvell very well; he doesn’t need to leave for just any P5 job. I don’t know that I would leave Memphis for say, Arkansas. He could probably get Memphis to match that level salary and not have to deal with the ridiculous expectations of SEC fans.

  5. As far as the recruiting goes, if you look at the classes from Golden, he’s the guy who generally produced the bulk of NFL players. So getting a higher-ranked class is No. 1. No. 2 would be identifying diamonds in the rough (Tyler Matakevich, Robby Anderson, guys who were recruited by no one and Western Michigan, respectively). No. 3 would be to fill in the holes via JUCO or portal. To me, we need a big-time back for next year (I’m talking Pierce/Armstead/Thomas level) and some ready-level offensive line guys. I’m not sure we’re finding those at No. 1 or No. 2 but certainly No. 3. Losing Hennessy for UCF and getting Russo sacked right up the middle just as he snapped the ball twice in that game was not a good sign for next year.

    • Need to get some quality transfers in Mike . Last night Kent State beat Buffalo , tell me Temple is not better than Kent State this year .

    • Thanks, John – great article!
      It contains a great quote from Matt Ruhle:
      “I think the biggest thing is that we just try to find value in guys, even if it’s just their toughness and their dependability. And I think if you have enough guys like that, then I think your team can become a tough, dependable team, because teams are not built with stars. Teams are built with, you know, the glue guys, and then the stars, you know, take you over the top.”

  6. Pingback: Tulane has the right approach – Temple Football Forever

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