Mark me down as a fan of the short passing game. Done correctly, it can devastate defenses as it stretches them sideline to sideline. Using screen concepts can also leave defenses susceptible to seam routes later in the game.
UH fans have seen this work great with the Air Raid and even in Tom Herman’s offense. Not to mention, a short passing/screen game fits perfectly with the personnel we can realistically recruit. Get your athletes the ball in space and let them make something happen. Dana Holgorsen is running short passing concepts and he’s calling them in the right situations.
But the execution sucks.
As simple as it sounds, it takes more than just throwing the ball out there and letting fast guys run. To make these plays work you need buy-in from everyone. One of the places UH is failing is at wide receiver, specifically getting them to block when the ball is thrown elsewhere. After one game, it’s likely that the UH receivers could be the worst blockers in college football. I just can’t imagine a group being worse than this one. Let’s go through a few examples:
I can’t tell if Ke’Andre Street is trying to make a block or if he is trying to imitate a turnstile. A receiver should never be on his heels when blocking especially knowing the ball is coming to his side. When #17 takes a slide step before the ball is snapped, that should tell the receiver that the DB knows the ball is coming that way. Street has to be the aggressor – take the fight to the defensive back. If he was trying to make a block, he lost this battle with his first step.
But if he was going for the turnstile cosplay, he killed it.
In this one, the defensive back is literally right in front of Seth Green. He’s less than 5 yards away and Green barely lays a hand on him before the defender makes the tackle. Green is beat before he even engages. His angle here is awful – he pushes (in the back, no less) the guy right into Herslow.
Jeremy Singleton and Carter got in a pretty good position to make a block but they just got completely outplayed. This play could have busted wide open but had no chance with that lack of blocking.
Here, Erwin gets downfield to attempt a block. Excellent! But you haven’t done your job when the first time we see you, you’re turned around and watching that man blow by you straight to the ball carrier.
Erwin does much better job in this video from when he was at UCLA. He’s at the top of the screen and ran his man into the end zone, creating a lot of space for the receiver on the edge. This is a great idea against man but doesn’t work against a zone defense.
Street does a great job escorting the defender straight to the ball carrier and gives a nice assist on the tackle.
As you can see, the UH wideouts are just not good at this part of the game. Under some head coaches, Houston’s receivers worked hard to block downfield. They took pride in it, but unfortunately, it’s been about 6 years since that happened. It was under Major Applewhite that the wide receivers blocking just disappeared.
That’s what happens when details are not prioritized. If this offense is going to continue to run this play, this group of receivers must learn to love blocking. Daikiel Shorts was put in a bad spot when he took over as wide receivers coach. But to make a mark, he’s got to get these guys to commit to blocking and doing it well.