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Jay Johnson’s offense in GIFs

If you love tight ends, you’ll love this

NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-Minnesota vs Washington State Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

A new coaching staff on offense means, well, a new offense. One year after Brian Lindgrren left for Oregon State, Darrin Chiaverini moved back to WR coach following one year calling plays. When Mel Tucker took over the Colorado Buffaloes program, he brought along a familiar face at OC.

Jay Johnson had been quality control at Georgia for two years, but his resume is extensive. He has been a P5 QB coach, a proven G5 OC, and then a P5 OC for one short year at Minnesota before the great Tracy Claeys exodus. He had worked with Tucker at Georgia, and Tucker was comfortable enough with what he saw to install his offense. I hadn’t seen any of his offense, so I decided to take a look.

There are some Minnesota games on YouTube, but I wanted to see his ULL offense at full bore. He spent five years there and put up some nice numbers. There are a few things to note about his offense:

  • They run out of the pistol
  • They are balanced as can be
  • They use the tight end in blocking and receiving

The quick power and play action should remind fans of the Gary Barnett offense, but the pistol and read option looks offer something new. I picked out five plays from a game against Texas State from 2014 (the full game is available on YouTube and fair warning, TSU’s defense was horrendous) to show the tenets of the offense.

This is a simple read option run from the QB. He’s running it out of the pistol formation with a running back to his side and the tight end slightly off the line. The defensive end dives for the RB, which means the QB has an easy read to keep. The tight end (81) seals the OLB (3) to the inside, which gives a wide open lane for the QB to run through. This is something Montez could run with great success.

These two plays are variations of each other. They both use play action and a crowded backfield. In the first variation, thee two receivers to the top of the screen run deep routes, clearing out a bunch of space before the first down line. The play action sucks the LB and safety up to the line of scrimmage, which means the TE scraping across the line has free access to all that open space. The QB makes the easy throw. In the second version, they use one receiver to clear space and run a 2nd tight end up the middle of the field to collect the attention of the safety and linebacker. Just an easy five yards. With grad transfer Jalen Harris and Brady Russell comfortable at the line of scrimmage, we should see a lot of simple tight end play action.

This is the second favorite play I saw. Out of the pistol, this uses the RB and tight end to perfection. It makes the QB’s job so so easy. In a designed roll out, the QB moves towards his comfortable side. The tight end, slightly off the line of scrimmage, seals off the DE to give the QB time. The RB, who has run out ahead, occupies the linebacker. The receiver on this side has a one on one with the QB. Now, this play has two options. Throw to the receiver if he’s open, run for a nice gain if he’s not. Beautiful. With Steven Montez and his propensity to roll out anyways, this play should be successful.

Now my favorite play that I saw Jay Johnson call. This is a counter speed option run of a weird pistol/full house formation. The QB is in a short shotgun. He has two running backs flanking him, one power and one speed. The tight end is slightly off the line of scrimmage. When the ball is snapped, the power RB fakes the handoff and dives to the right. The offensive linemen are blocking towards that hole, which sells the fake to the linebackers. The QB pulls the ball out, and now we have a speed option. The second RB is already towards the sideline and drew his man assignment out of the play. The tight end has scraped across the line of scrimmage and sealed off the linebacker again. Now the QB has an easy alley to run through or an RB to pitch to. Beautiful.