After reading various articles, and more specifically the Charting posts, a number of readers have asked me if there was a glossary they could reference while looking at the posts. As always, the glossary at Inside The Pylon tends to be a great resource for a number of terms or phrases you’ll read here at Husker Chalk Talk. That said, as good as it is, it doesn’t apply specifically to the Huskers and it doesn’t provide the visual clues that some need to understand a concept.
Accordingly, this is the first post of many I’ll call the “Glossary Series.” These won’t be the typical deep dives you’ve seen thus far from the site, but rather surface level posts in which I’ll post descriptions and/or film cut ups of certain words or phrases that you’ll see in the Charting posts. And so if you’re ever confused about a particular concept and the Inside The Pylon glossary doesn’t answer your question, this series will hopefully have something in it to solve the riddle.
For our first post in the series, let’s take a quick look at the types of motion that we’ve seen from the Husker offense in 2015 and 2016.
Pre-snap motion is a large part of the Riley/Langsdorf offense. Thus far in 2016, 24% of Nebraska’s plays involve some sort of offensive player in motion before the snap. Most often it’s a wide receiver, though Langsdorf will also heavily move tight ends and running backs. And when I refer to “motion,” I’m referring to action that has a single offensive player moving before the snap.
Nebraska will also frequently reset its formation on short yardage plays, moving multiple players around at the same time to reset the formation’s running/passing strength or to create better angles for its runs. When that happens, I will chart that as a formation “reset” and not a “motion” play.
Finally, the terms used for any given type of motion are team specific, and by design I don’t use the motion terms that Nebraska uses. So when I refer to a motion as “jet motion,” Nebraska has a different (and much cooler) term for it. What I call “Rip/Liz” motion from a RB may in fact be Dart/Dash, Laser/Rocket, etc. The important point here isn’t the actual term used, but instead the motion associated with the term.
So with that, here are the most common types of motion that Nebraska has run since Riley and Langsdorf arrived. If you click on the URL, it’ll take you to a separate window with a Husker play featuring that type of motion.
These are the primary motions that Nebraska runs with its wide receivers. Thus far, Jet and Orbit motions are ways to get the ball immediately in the hands of a Nebraska WR on a running play, either through the Jet Sweep on the former or a WR reverse on the latter. They haven’t been used much if at all for the passing game, though you can certainly use either motion as a natural bridge to the Huskers’ Bubble and Flare screen package.
By comparison, Langsdorf has used Short and Across motion in both the passing and running game. Regarding the former, Langsdorf will use Short motion to create extra space for the route tree (think Alonzo Moore’s long catch against Northwestern or his TD catch against Fresno State), and he’ll dial up Across motion to reset the passing strength or to attack certain coverage looks. He’ll also use these motions to put receivers into Stacked or Tight splits to confuse coverage responsibilities. Finally, Short motion also frequently functions as a way to get the Savage Professionals better blocking angles to add to the interior run game, typically with them targeting an outside linebacker or safety inside the hash marks.
Langsdorf will motion the tight end, H-Back or fullback to change both the running and passing strength of formations. By doing so, he can gain leverage on a defense in the running game or stress certain coverage combinations in the passing game. And, as seen in the play in the Wing to Near/Far clip, he’ll move that player around to serve as the split zone blocker in Nebraska’s zone Slice/Bluff concepts. It’s also a great way to see how the defense adjusts to motion, as the movement of each level of defenders gives the offense a clue as to what coverage the defense is running.
We haven’t seen as much movement from Luke McNitt at fullback this year, though that’s largely because Nebraska isn’t running as much 21 personnel and also because Andy Janovich lined up in spots reserved for a traditional H-back rather than solely at fullback. With Jano lighting up the NFL and Nebraska now having both Cethan Carter and Sam Cotton at their disposal, Cotton often takes the spot of the traditional tight end on the line of scrimmage while Carter moves around in the H-back role.
Rip/Liz motion has primarily been a way for Nebraska to expand the defensive box, or alternatively, to throw the Flare screen we’ve discussed before. Against UCLA, Nebraska used the motion from two-back sets to force UCLA’s defense to chase a defender out on the motion man. When they did so, Nebraska ran zone Read with Tommy Armstrong and Andy Janovich, resulting in gaping holes the entire night.
As defenses adjusted to this in 2016, Langsdorf switched the game up and now runs this motion from one- and two-back sets, as well as ripping the Flare screen off it if the defense doesn’t expand. He’ll still run Read from it, but the tendency has shifted more to running QB Draw off the motion or throwing the Flare screen to get Nebraska’s backs in space.
Wrapping It Up
Motion is vital to Nebraska’s offense, and I expect that to remain unchanged moving forward for as long as Danny Langsdorf is in Lincoln. For a much deeper dive into the benefits of that motion, you can take a look at this link covering the variety of ways that pre-snap movement taxes defenses. Suffice it to say that the options add to the efficient complexity of this offense, and most importantly, they make defenses work extremely hard to prepare for it. Keep an eye on it in 2016 as well because I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll see at least a couple of new motions down the back half of the schedule.