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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame's Two Back Attack

February 7, 2022

Tommy Rees is not going to be the offensive coordinator at Miami, but anyone who watched the film of Notre Dame’s offense the last couple of years knows why most programs would have interest in him running their offense. He’s proven he knows how to adapt to not only the talent he has at his disposal, but to the limitations of that talent as well.

One thing he did more of in 2021 is have two backs on the field together at the same time and he was able to put the backs into the slot more often. In 2020 Kyren Williams lined up in the slot on only 6.5% of pass plays. That number went up to 11.9% in ‘21. Chris Tyree went from 4.3% to 14.1%.

21 personnel (two backs, one tight end) is an extremely difficult grouping to defend against for Notre Dame’s opponents because of the different things that can be done from it. Here it is with both Williams and Logan Diggs in the backfield together and it’s a give to Williams that results in a score.

It also easily could have been a score from Tyler Buchner if he kept it or if he kept it and dumped it off to Diggs. That play presents multiple problems for defenses to deal with.

This is the same kind of action, but this time Williams is the receiver with Buchner pulling it. It’s an RPO he dumps off to Williams for a nice gain.

Virginia had seen that play and no doubt prepared for it, but then Notre Dame added a reverse to Lorenzo Styles Jr. to the equation.

That’s so difficult to handle when they are already worried about the potential RPO, but then it’s even more challenging if they motion Williams out like they did on this play. This stack release had him wide open on 3rd down.

Later in the same game it’s Tyree out in the slot and Williams in the backfield. A handoff to Tyree leads to a reverse to Lenzy for another explosive play.

Rees was in his bag in that game using 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end) 13 times (21.3% of total snaps) and it resulted in 161 yards (12.4 yards per play). It’s the variety that Rees used in that game which left Virginia struggling to stop it.

A major reason why they had success using two backs, 21 personnel in particular, was the ability to take advantage of Williams’ receiving ability. They won’t have that this season, but it shouldn’t be a deterrent to see plenty of this grouping this fall with Tyree featured more in that role.

He had six catches for 115 yards against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl in his first career start. He also finished fourth in yards per route run for running backs according to PFF, so he made the most out of his opportunities.

That was with him dealing with turf toe for a good chunk of the season as well.

Could we see even more 21 personnel than we did last season? It’s possible, especially considering how often they were in it with Tyler Buchner and the fact that Notre Dame is likely going to be short on numbers at receiver. That’s one way to not overwork that position group during a game.

It’s much more than a way to give receivers a rest, though. It’s another way to stress defenses and attack them in multiple unpredictable ways.

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