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Coach’s Corner: Scouting Boise State

Cozart? Rypien? Does it matter?

Troy v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

Boise State’s offense is boring. There. I said it. Don’t @ me. The coach in me knows that boring isn’t a bad thing. On Friday night, our high school guys are going to line up in the I-formation and run 33/34 Iso a billion times because we don’t think the other team can do anything about it. Incredibly boring. But, assuming it works like we expect, scoring points and winning football games is better than being exciting.

NCAA Football: Troy at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

The WSU fan in me doesn’t particularly care about Boise’s offense and how vanilla it is, but the general football fan in me gets a little bit annoyed. Boise football used to be fun. What happened to Jared Zabransky scrambling all over the yard in his ugly orange pants? Kellen Moore carving up defenses? Byron Hout getting punched in the face? Those were the good old days.

Watching BSU’s opening game against Troy, I wanted to focus on if there was any noticeable change to the Bronco offense whether Brett Rypien was behind center or Montell Cozart was running the show. I came away underwhelmed because, it turns out, there is hardly any difference. When Rypien plays, they are a one-back offense that uses a vertical passing game to complement a power/lead running game. When Cozart is in, they are a one-back offense that uses a vertical passing game to complement a power/lead running game. Same formations, same scheme, little variation. Cozart rolls out of the pocket a bit more, and is more likely to run when the pocket breaks down, but that’s pretty much it.

NCAA Football: Troy at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

The paranoid coach in me immediately jumped to the conclusion that Boise was being vanilla on purpose against a lower-tier opponent, in the same vein as NFL teams during the preseason. Don’t put the good stuff on film. But Troy isn’t terrible. In fact, they’re pretty good and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them win the Sun Belt. They kept it within one score for 57 minutes, and Boise never showed anything different. So maybe this is their offense? If that’s the case, it seems like they’re wasting Cozart. But I guess that’s why I’m not making the big bucks in Boise.

Enough whining, let’s get to the good stuff.

Boise State Offensive Formation: Ace Right Open Gun (There’s a receiver off the screen at the bottom.)

The Play: Y-Corner (China)

This is a pretty common route combination. In the Air Raid, we call it Y-Corner. Non-believers refer to it as China. BA breaks down Y-Corner in his Air Raid Playbook installment, so head there for a full description.

Rypien gets fooled here. Pre-snap, it looks like Troy is blitzing from the playside (top of the screen). So Rypien’s read is to attack behind the blitz to the Z running a quick curl, or to the back in the flat. At the snap, Troy bails into coverage on that side and brings heat from the opposite side. Because Rypien is looking to playside, by the time he gets back to the double slants at the bottom of the screen, his receiver has run through the open window and into coverage. On top of that, Rypien can’t really step into his throw because of all the clutter at his feet. As soon as he saw the edge defender drop into coverage, Rypien should have been off that side of the field and back to the bottom. The inside slant is open early, he just waits way too long to deliver the ball. Troy’s DC wins this one.

Boise’s offensive line was, to be kind, not very good last week. In fairness, Troy, again, is not terrible, and is a legitimately solid college football team. But I was expecting more from the Bronco hogmollies. Troy was resetting the line of scrimmage into the offensive backfield, and getting tons of pressure on the QBs all day. If that continues into this week ... hoo boy. Hercules and the fellas are going to have themselves a night.

From here on out, we’re going to talk Montell Cozart. Rypien is the type of quarterback we’ll see all year in the Pac-12, and the offense is pretty standard when he’s in there. Cozart, on the other hand, has the added dimension of being a good runner and that’s something the Cougs have struggled with recently.

Boise State Offensive Formation: Ace Left Open Heavy Gun

Double tight ends to the bottom of the screen. It is fourth down here, so a passing situation most likely. With this play, I’m not sure how comfortable Cozart is in BSU’s passing game.

The Play: Mesh. Yes, that Mesh. The Air Raid is everywhere.

This is the variation on Mesh that I’ve seen more of recently. They will mesh with three receivers and one of them - in this case, the wing tight end - will sit right at the mesh point, exploiting a hole in the coverage. Cozart gets a little impatient here and probably misses the open read, which was that tight end. Instead, he goes deep to the vertical. It’s very nearly a catch and a big play, but Cozart definitely made things harder on himself than he needed.

Here’s where we should be a little concerned with Cozart. If the protection breaks down, or the coverage is good, he is more than capable of making something happen with his feet.

Boise State Offensive Formation: Ace

Third and short, BSU is showing run and Troy loads the box to match up. Pretty good concept here, essentially giving Cozart a run/pass option. Again, I think Cozart gets a little impatient and could have had the pass, but he ends up picking up the first down easily so it’s hard to argue too much.

The Play: 923 Drive F-Delay

Cozart fakes the inside run to the left and boots to the right. The receiver and tight end to the top of the screen run the drive combination, which is a shallow by the receiver underneath a clearing in route by the tight end. At the bottom of the screen is a vertical or something with a vertical stem, and the F tight end will show run block on the edge, seal the defender, then release to the seam/flat for a dump off. The shallow comes open, and the delay probably would have been there, but Cozart is fast and he outruns the angle, making it a tough throw.

The Cougar edge rushers will have to maintain their integrity when Cozart is in. If they get sucked down like Troy’s outside linebacker does here, Cozart can hurt them with his legs.

Lastly, whenever you have a mobile quarterback, designed QB runs are a cause for concern. BSU sprinkled in a few of those against Troy, and I have to imagine we’ll see them try to get Cozart loose Saturday night.

Boise State Offensive Formation: Ace Right Open Gun Zip

Twins to the top, with the receiver motioning down into the formation. The left guard is back slightly and his hips are high; that’s almost always an indicator that an O-lineman is about to pull.

The Play: Lead Draw

The receivers at the top of the screen show bubble to freeze the corner and the flat defender and hold them in place. Cozart gives a token shoulder fake there, then follows his pulling guard and the lead of the running back straight up the gut. Good work by the right guard down blocking on the opposite linebacker. He shoves up him the Bronco’s nose, which is good for style points. The center also down blocks, freeing out for the pulling guard, while the left tackle hinges down and the right tackle and tight end seal theirs to the outside. Running back doesn’t do much, as Cozart chooses a different path and ends up picking up about seven.

Troy does a decent job of reacting and rallying up to the tackle, which the Cougs will need to do just as well when Cozart is on the field. I’d like to think that #SpeedD has a little bit more... well... speed than does Troy, so I’m hopeful we’ll be able to bottle him up. Cozart (and mobile QBs in general) scares me more on the edge with designed rolls and broken plays than he does on inside runs like this.

Head Football Coach Bryan Harsin is adamant that there isn’t a quarterback controversy in Boise. He might be right, but I think there will be one sooner rather than later. The Bronco offense feels smoother in the hands of Cozart, is more difficult to defend with Cozart, and is more potentially explosive with Cozart’s ability to make plays. There’s a reason Cozart played virtually all of the fourth quarter when BSU was trying to put the game away, and I expect we’ll see him early and often come Saturday night.