Chalk Talk: Three Things to Take Away From the Spring Game

first_imgThe Oklahoma State spring game gave a glimpse of OSU fans what they could see in the upcoming 2017 season. Although the game plans of most spring scrimmages are fairly conservative, only using a handful of base plays, there were still some notable things that one might have noticed during the game. Here are three most noteworthy play observations in the Spring Game.Three Down/Four DownThe OSU defense has committed to using a more varied personnel in 2017. The Cowboys used some three-down fronts last season, and the recent hiring of Brian VanGorder has solidified their commitment to three-down sets. The Cowboys have clearly worked on three-down formations in the offseason. They used a nickel set on multiple occasions with the rush backer on the left side taking place of the end (most defenses will put their best pass rusher on the quarterback’s blind side).They also used a nickel set with two rush backers on each side and three lineman spaced between.This is a good sign for Cowboy fans. Last season, they used three-down sets conservatively, bringing it out in likely pass situations. There was little variety, but it makes sense considering they started using it mid-season. Now, they’ve added variety, and it’s not just for prevent situations anymore. Expect three-down sets to play a bigger role in the Cowboy defense next season.Y AlignmentA number of Cowboy fans thought that the OSU offense would minimize the cowboy back position in 2017 considering how many talented receivers they have. If the Spring Game was any indication, it’s not necessarily that the Cowboys aren’t using the cowboy back anymore.Rather, they’re adding more variation to the back’s alignment. The Orange team, for example, lined cowboy back Keenan Brown all over the field, often playing in the backfield, as a tight end and as a flexed receiver all in the same drive. The Black team did the same with Dawson Bassett on the first couple of drives.The Cowboys showed formations with the tight end flexed in the slot in both two-by-two and trips formations; in the latter, the cowboy back aligned on the line of scrimmage in both the inside slot, known as “trey” alignment, and in the outside slot, known as a “trio” alignment (terminology varies).When used correctly, flexed tight ends can be a headache to cover. If the strong-side linebacker plays the flexed end head up, then he leaves the box susceptible to the run. But if he stays in the box, then he has to leave the end uncovered before the snap which gives the offense an advantage in the passing game.If done correctly, this formational versatility should give opposing defenses headaches throughout the upcoming season, especially considering how quickly the Cowboys operate. Four-receiver sets are effective, but the use of a tight end in this fashion has its advantages as well.QB Run GameThe Cowboys’ run game looked slightly different than last season’s in the spring game. It almost appeared as if they reverted back to their 2015 ways. They put a big focus on the outside zone out of the shotgun, with no use of the pistol (which, as we’ve talked about before, allows backs to utilize their vision better in comparison to the shotgun).They used inside runs with a wing tight end, but there weren’t any available running lanes because of the extra linebacker in the box due to the tight end’s presence. Their only successful play was an inside zone read. Mason Rudolph converted a 4th-and-1 with it in the game’s first drive, and the play was used in the latter half of the game to open up holes up the middle for the running backs.This play is an example of something the Cowboys never do enough of, and that’s to run against a six-man box. Yes, cowboy backs can help in the run game, but they can also help spread a defense out as well. This play also signifies the possibility of using Mason Rudolph in the run game more in 2017. Could we see more plays like this? That’s currently unclear, but the Cowboys consistently used this play throughout all four quarters.The Spring Game in its entirety was fairly lackluster, as OSU fans should come to expect. Gundy isn’t one to show too much before the season starts, and rightfully so. Although the scrimmage itself wasn’t all that special, the game was telling of what we could see in the future. While you’re here, we’d like you to consider subscribing to Pistols Firing and becoming a PFB+ member. It’s a big ask from us to you, but it also comes with a load of benefits like ad-free browsing (ads stink!), access to our premium room in The Chamber and monthly giveaways.The other thing it does is help stabilize our business into the future. As it turns out, sending folks on the road to cover games and provide 24/7 Pokes coverage like the excellent article you just read costs money. Because of our subscribers, we’ve been able to improve our work and provide the best OSU news and community anywhere online. Help us keep that up.last_img

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