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Notre Dame Football

Scouting Report | Oklahoma State Offense

December 19, 2021
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Before Mike Gundy was known for his mullet, he was known for coaching offense at Oklahoma State. From back when he was calling plays to the hires he’s made at coordinator, the Cowboys have put up plenty of points.

From 2011 to 2018, they finished in the top-25 in points per drive in six of eight seasons and three of those they finished in the top-10.

It’s gone downhill the last three years when they’ve ended up 49th, 81st, and 60th in PPD this past season.

This offense, coordinated by Kasey Dunn, has been average at best. They’re ranked 61st in F+, 90th in EPA per play, and 91st in yards per play. The matchup on paper isn’t a good one for them against Notre Dame’s defense. They don’t play games on paper, though. The Cowboys only need to score more than their great defense gives up as well.

Expected Strengths

It all starts with running back Jaylen Warren. He’s a 5’8” 215 downhill runner who is the focal point of their offense. A tackle breaker who does a lot of work even when he doesn’t have a lot of help, not having him healthy in the Big 12 Championship was likely the difference between them winning the conference and coming up less than a yard short.

He can make one cut and explode for a big play.

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They finished 14th in sack rate. Quarterback Spencer Sanders can escape the rush and does his best to get the ball out to avoid getting taken down in the backfield.

Sanders throws a high arching deep ball. Oftentimes he under throws it, but it gives his receiver a shot to make a play or draw a flag.

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He can be a threat as a runner and Notre Dame has to prepare for him scrambling as well as speed option and zone read. He’s not afraid to run through a tackle and take a hit to make a play.

via GIPHY

Potential Weaknesses

The run blocking isn’t great. The line doesn’t open up a lot of big holes. They’re 103rd in average line yards, 102nd in stuff rate, and 103rd in EPA per run. They’re 96th in rushing success rate.

Sanders has had some serious struggles when teams have elected to only rush three or four against him. He has thrown 11 touchdowns to 11 interceptions when not blitzed.

Dave Aranda and Baylor in particular did a number on him with what they did. In the first meeting they only blitzed him once out of 26 total drop backs. Overall they blitzed him on only 12% of drop backs in the two games. His numbers in those situations were 6.7 yards per attempt, one touchdown, and seven interceptions.

What Baylor did particularly well is simulatedpressure by showing potential rushers and only rushing four. They confused Sanders and Oklahoma State’s protections and that led to plays like this.

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They don’t have a receiver with dynamic ability after the catch and Sanders isn’t the most accurate in helping to create those opportunities. They don’t have a receiver on their roster that finished in the top-100 in the country in YAC.

Scheme

When they get things going they want to play at a fast tempo. They’re 17th in plays per game and three of their last four games they ran at least 87 plays.

They are a heavy run offense. They run it 59.8% of offensive snaps and are at 64% run on 1st down. It’s a zone scheme and a lot of outside zone. 87.8% of Warren’s runs were zone blocked and it’s about 80% overall that are zone.

With that, it’s unsurprising they run quite a bit of play-action. Just under 40% of Sanders’ throws, 38.6%, were play-action this season.

The primary personnel grouping is 11 personnel (one back, one tight end).

One thing that Notre Dame has to be aware of is that they will break out stuff they haven’t run all season. If they can dig deep into some older Gundy stuff, it would be wise to do so because they will mix in a throwback screen that they didn’t show all year and do a nice job adding in certain plays for big games.

Key Players

RB Jaylen Warren - He’s 3rd in the country in forced missed tackles according to PFF.

QB Spencer Sanders - 5.5 YPC minus sack yardage. 93-yards on the ground against Oklahoma helped them win Bedlam.

WR Tay Martin - Their top target and someone they will throw jump balls to. He’s 9 of 20 on contested catches.

LG Josh Sills - The West Virginia transfer is their best run blocker, but he’s average in pass protection. Notre Dame can target him with some stunts.

LT Cole Birmingham - He gave up nine total pressures in the two games against Baylor. His matchup with Isaiah Foskey will be one to watch.

Key for Notre Dame

Confuse Sanders

Whether it’s not knowing where pressure is coming from or disguising coverages, Sanders is someone who will force the ball into a spot he shouldn’t when he’s unsure. His first reaction is to get rid of it rather than do anything else and that creates opportunities like what happened against Baylor.

With the way Notre Dame has executed stunts later in the season, they can get pressure with four and if that happens then it won’t be a good day for the Oklahoma State offense.

 
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