Texas Tech's big gaps can cause big headaches for defenses

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 20, 2012 - 6:39 AM

The Red Raiders spread out their offensive linemen more than most teams, and that can create problems for opposing defenses.

hide

Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege.

Photo: Max Faulkner, Mct - Mct

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The difference amounts to two or three feet in each direction, maybe 45 inches at the extreme, nothing so significant that the average football fan would necessarily even notice. But those roomy gaps between offensive linemen that Texas Tech has made a signature component of its offense have an outsized effect on the defense that must line up against it.

"It doesn't look to the naked eye like it's a big deal," said Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, who has documented and catalogued the Red Raiders' wide-line tendencies in preparation for next week's Meineke Car Care Bowl. "But it can be."

By not standing shoulder-to-shoulder at the line of scrimmage, the Red Raiders essentially announce what the stats prove, too: They're a passing team first, second and third. A predominantly running team never would leave those lanes to the backfield unguarded, because a tailback would be smothered before he could take two steps.

But the Red Raiders, the second-most prolific passing team in the nation last season, don't hand the ball off much, only a little more than one-third of the time. Instead, they spread out the line to spread out the defense, then use a three-step drop to get the ball downfield or toward the sidelines before pass-rushers can get there.

"The philosophy of the big splits is that you don't need as athletic linemen, because you're just asking them to backpedal and not cover [running] lanes on most snaps," Claeys explained. "It means our edge rushers have to come further to get to the quarterback. It's like running around five mountains, and the ball is usually out before you get there."

And once it's out, good luck containing the Red Raiders' receivers. Texas Tech, with senior quarterback Seth Doege normally operating the offense and completing 70 percent of his passes, connected on 42 touchdown passes this season to 10 different receivers. Darrin Moore, a 6-4 senior who along with junior Eric Ward give Texas Tech two receivers who average more than 85 yards per game, also caught 13 touchdown passes. That's exactly as many as the Gophers defense gave up this season; only 20 teams in the nation surrendered fewer.

"It'll be one of the biggest challenges we've faced all year, if not the biggest," junior safety Brock Vereen said of the Red Raiders offense, which piles up 370 passing yards a game. "Those wide splits and the quick outs make it a lot harder to get sacks, so coverage will be key."

It also means linebackers figure to blitz less and cover receivers more, since Doege is so well-versed in dumping the ball in a hurry. Besides, the Red Raiders frequently split four receivers wide, keeping safeties busy and making the defense more vulnerable to draw plays and delayed runs.

"We're going to have to play a lot of different coverages, but there's a lot of pressure on the linebackers and safeties," Gophers coach Jerry Kill said. "They're going to have to make plays in space, because [Texas Tech] will throw those little 6- and 8-yard out routes. They just do a lot of stuff that makes you tackle them in space, and if you get too greedy, then they'll go over the top on you."

The extra room on the line also means that when Texas Tech does run the ball, it's easier to create a hole.

"That's one of their biggest plays, the full draw. Once they get inside leverage on a [defender], they push that guy out and the center blocks back, and the hole is bigger," Gophers linebacker Keanon Cooper said. "As much as they throw, it means we can't overplay the pass."

Of course, there are weaknesses to the wide split, too. One big one: "They can't double-team me," defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman, a disruptive force in the middle, said with excitement in his voice. "I'm going to be one-on-one a lot. I love the wide gaps."

  • GOPHERS FOOTBALL MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL OF TEXAS

    8 p.m. Dec. 28 vs. Texas Tech • Reliant Stadium, Houston • TV: ESPN (100.3-FM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 8 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: E. Volquez 0
Minnesota 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 1 FINAL
Buffalo 6
Carolina 3 FINAL
Columbus 6
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL
Detroit 0
Montreal 3 FINAL
Chicago 1
Arizona 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Fla Atlantic 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Hamilton 10/10/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Ottawa 10/11/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pm30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 am
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Gophers do against Michigan?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close