Terps Film Study: Option Game with Caleb Rowe
Last Friday, the Maryland Terrapins’ football team held their annual Red-White Spring Game, in which we saw a lot of good offense from the White team. One of the battles that had been going on all Spring was the one for the backup quarterback job between Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe. Shane Cockerille also seemed to be getting a chance to win that job as well. I have stated many times that I believe Caleb Rowe has won that job already with his strong Spring, but some are concerned about how the offense might struggle under Rowe’s leadership.
While C.J. Brown is a perfect example of a dual-threat quarterback, Caleb Rowe doesn’t have nearly the same running ability. Therefore, offensive coordinator Mike Locksley certainly has to change his offense around when Rowe is taking the snaps. Rowe started two games in lieu of an injured C.J. Brown last season, and went 1-1 with a win over Virginia and a loss to Clemson. He wasn’t spectacular by any means, and looked out of sync with his receivers on many plays. But I believe that much of his struggles last season were due to a lack of reps, not due to his ability as a quarterback.
Since it seems like Rowe will be the backup quarterback once again in College Park, I thought I’d take a look at how the offense changes when he is taking the snaps for the Terps. With C.J. Brown, the Terps have a dual-threat quarterback who can run a lot of different option plays for them. With Caleb Rowe, they have a pocket passer who has a better passing ability, but can’t run those same option plays.
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In my first foray into film study, I take a look at two of the option plays that Mike Locksley altered to fit Rowe’s skill-set.
Shotgun 20 Split – Triple Option Pass
This first example comes from the 1st quarter of Caleb Rowe’s start against Virginia. Here, we see Virginia come out in a 4-3 look, with their outside linebacker giving a blitz look on the right side of the Terps’ formation. Maryland comes out in a split-back look, with both backs offset to the sides of Caleb Rowe. Rowe will motion for Brandon Ross (the back to his left) to come in motion across the formation. While he does that, Rowe runs an inside read-option with the fullback, Kenneth Goins, Jr. (the back to his right). The offensive line executes a basic zone blocking scheme, leaving Virginia’s strong-side linebacker unblocked.
Here, we see Caleb Rowe reading Virginia’s outside linebacker (indicated by the blue circle). He sees that he is leaning towards Brandon Ross (the back in motion), so Rowe hands the ball off to Goins, Jr. for a short gain. Sal Conaboy also moves off of his double-team and heads upfield to block Virginia’s weak-side linebacker.
With C.J. Brown taking the snaps, this would be a simple triple-option play, with Brandon Ross serving as the pitch-man. But with Caleb Rowe, Mike Locksley altered this play just enough to serve his skill-set. He left the inside read-option element, which you see here, but the pitch element was converted to a bubble screen element (as you’ll see in the next example).
Shotgun 11 – Triple Option Pass
Later in the 1st quarter, the Terps line up in a very simple shotgun formation, with Brandon Ross offset to Caleb Rowe’s right. Virginia comes out in another 4-3 formation, with their outside linebacker giving a blitz look on the left side of the Terps’ formation. Stefon Diggs will move from his slot position into the backfield before the ball is snapped.
Once again, the offensive line executes a simple zone-blocking scheme with Sal Conaboy immediately moving upfield to take on Virginia’s inside linebacker. You also see that Stefon Diggs has moved into the backfield, ready to run an option play. The Terps ran a large number of these plays each game with C.J. Brown taking the snaps, and now are running them with an added wrinkle under the direction of Caleb Rowe.
Here, Caleb Rowe is reading Virginia’s outside linebacker (indicated by the blue circle). He actually makes the wrong read on this play, as the linebacker stays home and plays the bubble screen. What Rowe should have done is hand the ball off to Brandon Ross up the middle, where he had a good amount of room to bounce the play outside between Mike Madaras and Dave Stinebaugh. Instead, Rowe pulled the ball and passed outside to Stefon Diggs, where the defense was waiting for him and rode him out of bounds.
Even though Rowe made the wrong read on this play, you see how Mike Locksley wants to run his option game with Caleb Rowe taking the snaps. Instead of the quarterback pulling the ball and running a lateral pitch option to the outside, there is the option for him to pull the ball and throw a bubble screen to the pitch-man. These two examples are perfect for showing how Mike Locksley can alter plays just a bit to fit Caleb Rowe’s skill-set.
Zack is a financial analyst for a defense contractor in Washington, DC. The Owings Mills native focuses most of his efforts on Maryland Football recruiting and individual coach and player pieces; but also covers Terps Basketball. He has established relationships with Big Ten beat reporters across the conference, which he utilizes in his game previews. Now a Sr. Terps Analyst for BSL, Zack can be reached at: [email protected]