Initially, I was a little skeptical of the Jake Peetz hire. It seemed on its face to be a sloppy attempt to return to what LSU had in Joe Brady, almost like the NFL’s now patented “friend of Sean McVay” hires. I had no real idea who Jake Peetz was or what he brought to the table as a schemer and suspected they didn’t either. Look, maybe on Orgeron’s end that was exactly what happened, but Jake Peetz does have some impressive resumé items in his back pocket, and Orgeron was not alone in pursuing him for an OC job.
A couple things moved me off of my initial perception of the move. For starters, Josh McDaniels was set to make Jake Peetz his OC if he ended up taking the Colts job, an arrangement that eventually fell through when Frank Reich was named head coach in the wake of McDaniels leaving Indy at the altar. That showed me that Ed Orgeron wasn’t pulling this out of left field a la Bo Pelini, rather that Jake Peetz was seen widely in the industry as someone to watch. Second is a single Albert Breer tweet.
Peetz was very involved in Nick Saban’s implementation of RPOs to highlight Tua Tagovailoa’s skill set. So Ron Rivera brings a young guy with fresh ideas in. https://t.co/YV6bA4xgXw
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) February 20, 2019
I was really, really excited to see this as it resurfaced upon Peetz’s hire. Yes, you can credit the receivers and Tua for a lot of it, but the Alabama 2018 RPO arsenal remains one of the best I’ve ever seen in college football. A good RPO armory takes a ton of pressure off the quarterback, is hell on the defensive play caller, and allows athletic receivers to go make plays and be great athletes in space. Alabama built an entire offense around that in 2018, dominating college football before sputtering at the end to Clemson. Jake Peetz was, apparently, center-stage in Alabama’s RPO revolution. So here, we’re going to loosely run through a few of the RPOs that stood out to me on tape from Alabama’s 2018 season.
(Credit @JBishopBuzzsawD on Twitter)
The rules are pretty well explained in the excerpt from their playbook, but you can see it in action above. The first clip you see Tua get pressure from the field, so he throws the inside slant on their “Panther” concept. The second clip shows what happens normally in two high, in that case, it acts like LSU’s X glance RPO (shallow post to the boundary receiver) and the quarterback reads the boundary safety to decide between giving and throwing the glance. If it’s single high you can just throw the glance because the safety is responsible for the deep middle and the other defenders are underneath it.
This is just simply tagging a slant flat concept to their run schemes. The object of this is to account for single high with an extra defender possibly taking the flat. That way you can preserve the bind on the field linebacker between fitting the run or taking away the slant. If this were just a slant, the extra defender can hypothetically rob the slant window, allowing the linebacker to fit without worry. This puts an extra stress on the defensive personnel and forces a resource into the flat.
This was another common feature of the Alabama RPO game, The idea is basically the same as zone read but dressed up as split zone. Read the end man, if he plays the run, throw the slice route and vice versa. Super simple concept but effective in sequence with zone and split zone running.
Outside zone lock, backside slant.
I’m sure there’s a playbook codename for this but I don’t have that playbook sheet so, yeah. This is straight out of Andy Reid’s Kansas City offense. The idea is to run outside or wide zone to the frontside, but “lock” the backside in a pass set to protect the QB. The read is on the backside linebacker, who can often run through and make plays against outside zone. If he stays put in the slant window, hand the ball, if he pursues, throw behind him. It’s a great constraint to put on the defense when you’re trying to run outside or wide zone, the Chiefs and 49ers do this all the time.
The pop pass RPO has been a big part of Lincoln Riley’s Oklahoma offenses and have been used to great effect. You can run the pop with either the H or the Y player. The H can be an H-back or in Bama’s case here, a star running back. Alabama did a lot of cool stuff out of two back sets and with a talented backfield, I hope Peetz considers bringing some two-back packages along. The read here is the first linebacker to the play side. If he fits, throw the pop behind him and vice versa. It’s a sneaky way to potentially grab a chunk play, one that Lincoln Riley uses extremely frequently.
This is just a sampling. There are others, of course, the Alabama RPO offense in 2018 was comprehensive. I hope Jake Peetz brings along the concepts he was “very involved” in installing at Alabama.