Sammy Watkins Performance against Ohio State in 2014–Fiesta Bowl Thoughts Part 2

Another thing to watch out for in this rematch between Ohio State and Clemson is which team is more effective at getting their playmakers the ball. Both of these teams do a tremendous job of getting their best players touches in games. For them, play calling starts with players then moves on to formations and plays. Clemson did an unbelievable job of this in their game against Ohio State in 2014 as Sammy Watkins set an Orange Bowl record with 16 catches for 227 yards. Again, I think this will be a big factor in this game because both teams have weapons they want to utilize. In this post, I’m going to break down most of Sammy Watkins touches.

First play of the game was a misdirection reverse to try and get Watkins the ball going against the flow. Clemson fakes a perimeter screen and then gets the ball to Watkins going the other way with a blocker in front. Ohio State does a pretty good job of staying home but he still gets 5 yards:

The next touch for Watkins goes for a touchdown. Clemson lines up in a Trips set with a close tight end and puts Watkins as the #2 WR. The #3 guy crosses the free safety’s face and that leave Watkins wide open in the seam:

Here is an overhead shot to see more.

On the third drive, Clemson align Watkins in the backfield as an RB in a split backs look. They motion him early and since the defense doesn’t adjust they get him the ball in space for 10 yards.

His next touch is off the jet sweep. The offensive line blocks power upfront which makes the LB’s commit to stoping the power play and the defensive end crashes to spill the power as well which gets Watkins out in space easily on this jet play:

The next play is off a tunnel screen where they motion the RB out of the backfield early to give the defense some misdirection and flow away from the screen which gives Watkins a little more to work, and he gains 10 yards.

His next touch is an off an RPO where Clemson starts in doubles and motions to trips. Ohio State doesn’t adjust to the motion so Clemson has a numbers advantage, so instead of running the zone, Clemson gets it to Watkins again out in space. Here is another pass caught at the LOS that goes for 10 yards:

Clemson comes back to it the next drive this time without the motion. Clemson has a 3 on 2 advantage so the Boyd gets the ball out to Watkins again to let him work. For many spread teams, this is their toss play.

The next touch is another quick now screen but this time, Clemson shifts to unbalanced look which allows them to all 4 wr’s to Watkins side to lead block. This is a real creative wrinkle that again gets their best player the ball in space with a numbers advantage:

On the ninth drive of the game, Clemson catches Ohio State playing Cover 1 on 3rd down and they run a play-action boot play with a curl wheel concept that allows Watkins to rub with the curl route and gives him a little more separation to make the catch for a touchdown. Again, a great play design and knowing when Ohio States tends to play man.

On the next drive, Clemson goes back to the 3×1 now screen to Watkins. Like any good coach, if it hasn’t been stopped keep going to it especially since its such a high percentage play and very low risk. This time they window dress is it by starting an a doubles formation with an up back to make the defense respect the QB run play and then they motion to the trips side to gain a numbers advantage and again Ohio State doesn’t adjust and Watkins again gets an easy 13 yards.

They do this again on the last drive of the game for more success:

On the last and game winning drive, when they need to score, they go back to Watkins on the now screen. This time Ohio State aligns 3 over 3, but with Watkins ability, it doesn’t matter, he still ends up getting another 10 yards.

I know Sammy Watkins is gone but both of these teams are extremely good about getting their best player as many touches as possible especially in big games. Both of their game planning revolves around it so it will be interesting to see which team does a better job this time around in the Fiesta Bowl. The other thing this analysis brings to light is both teams like to get the ball in space, so perimeter blocking and tackling will be vital to either teams’ success.

If you liked this breakdown, make sure to read my post about players, formations, and plays as I analyzed how Lane Kiffin gets his playmakers the ball in big games.

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