RSP Rorschach No.1: Fitzgerald Toussaint


Fitzgerald Toussaint and the Michigan Wolverines offense gets to be part of the first RSP Rorschach Series. Photo by Adam Glanzman.

Fitzgerald Toussaint and the Michigan Wolverines offense gets to be part of the first RSP Rorschach Series. Photo by Adam Glanzman.

Some plays are like Rorschach inkblots because there’s no definitive answer to why they unfold the way they do. This new series examines plays that have more than one viable explanation and may be too difficult to draw a single conclusion. The fun part is that you have a voice in it.

RSP Rorschach No.1: Fitzgerald Toussaint

This is a two-yard gain on 1st and 10 with 2:01 in the first quarter from a 21 personnel set. It’s an offset I-formation with the fullback to the strong side and one receiver split to the weak side. Notre Dame is in a 4-3. Before the snap, the safety at the left hash creeps to linebacker depth over the receiver. Also note that the outside linebacker in the left flat takes a couple of steps towards the line of scrimmage as his safety reaches this depth.

At the snap, the line slants right and the fullback works across the formation to the left edge of the line. The outside linebacker executes a run blitz and the fullback is confronted with two choices: block the outside linebacker or attack the middle linebacker. The fullback chooses the middle linebacker, allows the outside linebacker to continue his blitz unimpeded, and Toussaint takes a path directly into the middle linebacker and falls forward for two yards.

Why did this play unfold as it did? Here are some of my thoughts. While I have my opinion that I like the most, I’m not sharing it. I want to hear what you think is the most viable of these theories. Have your own that’s not listed? Post it in the comments.

Theory 1: The Fullback Makes A Bad Choice

The fullback’s original assignment is the middle linebacker. If the outside linebacker doesn’t blitz, the fullback seals the middle linebacker inside and Toussaint bounces the play to the outside shoulder of the fullback.  But with the outside linebacker’s run blitz, there’s no outside line unless the fullback changes his plan and attacks this run blitz. In theory, this change would have given Toussaint a chance to bounce the play outside to the left flat where there’s a ton of room, a block by his wide receiver on the cornerback, and only a middle linebacker chasing Toussaint from behind.

Theory 2: The Left Guard Fails To Identify the Appropriate Linebacker Assignment

Watch the play unfold and the left guard works through the line of scrimmage and attacks the linebacker inside the right hash, allowing the linebacker in the middle to run free and occupy the lane this play is designed for Toussaint to attack. Was the linebacker inside the hash the “Mike” or was it the linebacker that makes the tackle? Did the guard attack the wrong defender? If he took on the linebacker just left of the hash, the fullback takes on the blitz from the outside linebacker, and the Toussaint has a lane inside for a bigger gain.

Theory 3: The Quarterback Fails To Identify The OLB Blitz

When the safety creeps to linebacker depth, this should be a pre snap indication that there’s a potential blitz from that side. Considering the alignment of the outside linebacker and the depth of the safety, it’s conceivable that the quarterback should have read the blitz and made one of any number of changes:

  • Shift the tight end to the opposite tackle and run the play so the tight end and fullback can account for the two linebackers.
  • Change the direction of the direction of the run to the strong side away from the blitz.
  • Change the play to a pass.

In theory, all three of these options have a better outcome than what actually happens.

So what do you think?

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Categories: RSP RorschachTags: , , , , ,

3 comments

  1. Given that the right guard also works up to the Mike, I’m inclined to believe the LG theory. QB theory doesn’t make sense to me as you still have to account for him regardless of his blitzing. FB initially attacks OLB but thinks better of it to attack MLB (presumably hoping his RB can outrun the OLB).

    It is of course entirely possible that the FB is given a choice here if the play fails the way it does and he chose poorly. Should the blocking up front fail to isolate a single blocker, perhaps his decision criteria is to allow the RB to “bail” (which usually means bouncing outside).

  2. None of the above. This is a zone bend play and the offensive front executes its assignments well, but the defense executes better.

    Offense: The ILB is the LT’s assignment initially. The FB is supposed to kickout the DE. The LG’s job is to step down and get to the 2nd level if the Nose Guard vacates to the play side, which he does, so the LG goes to the 2nd level looking for work.

    Defense:
    The field side of the defense is playing a sky force- the safety rolls down to turn any run plays outside-in. The DE and ILB know that they have a gap exchange versus line and backfield action away (indicates a zone play). So when the play starts, the DE crashes into the interior gaps to plug the middle. The ILB recognizes this and scrapes immediately off the DE’s butt to secure the lane there. The safety recognizes run and steps up to cage the runner.

    The Fullback can only turn up and find a threat, so he tries to pin the ILB in as best he can, but the defense has forced the RB to cutback into a waiting force player and an ILB with leverage on the Fullback, so the RB does the only thing he can do, which is get 2 yards the hard way.

    If anything, this is poor play design- this is a play that the defense anticipated well and was able to execute against well.

    There really aren’t missed assignments here, just varying degrees of awareness and execution.

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