Lane Kiffin has given the Alabama offense an interesting makeover. As if he calls plays from a menu, Kiffin has mixed and matched the most successful combos from various offensive styles and put them together to the tune of 550 yards a game.
The pro style roots are still there. The big change comes with quicker pace, and the use of more spread concepts. Against Ole Miss the offense had some struggles in the second half. Missed field goals and penalties killed drives along with some stout play by the Ole Miss defense, but the offense was able to run and pass effectively. Overall this is a very potent and effective offense. The questions for this team mostly reside in special teams and on the defensive side of the ball.
What Alabama is trying to do looks a lot like a Bobby Petrino type system where Kiffin looks to pass early to set up the run late in the game with a lead. It uses a heavy amount of play action and roll out passing game. It also looks a lot like Malzahn and other spread teams in both style and play call where they use multiple formations and various personnel groupings to run a small amount of plays, and a large amount of packaged plays to take advantage of matchups.
Against Florida the Tide were in Shotgun or Pistol 40 out of 87 plays. They called 20 run and 20 pass. Evened out late in the game when Alabama went up by two touchdowns and looked to run out the clock.
Against West Virginia they were in Shotgun or Pistol 33 out of 69 plays with 14 run and 19 pass.
Against Ole Miss, Alabama was in Shotgun or Pistol 41 out of 75 plays with 22 run and 19 pass.
Empty and Four Wide Sets
This one against Florida on the their first offensive play went for 87 yards. Drake (now out after a sick injury vs Ole Miss) is lined up as an outside receiver with Amari Cooper split to the opposite side of the field. The read for Sims presnap is to determine whether Drake has a LB or a DB on him. Florida put LB Antonio Morrison in an off coverage position covering Drake.
A linebacker running a 4.7 40 versus a 4.4 running back with half the field to work with is a mismatch every time. Even if Florida covered Drake with a safety the play had an outlet built in to throw to Cooper on the WR screen. Drake's injury removes him from this formation but I am certain it will be used with some combination of personnel to attack the Arkansas secondary.
Lane Kiffin has also added some flexibility to the Alabama offense including presnap "lookies, or can I's" attached to a base run play. Most of these have been used in the pistol along with some playaction out of that set. In the play below Cooper is lined up at the bottom of the screen and gives the signal that he can beat his man who is in one on one press coverage.
Cooper is too quick and gets by the corner for the fade over the top. Hopefully the Arkansas secondary plays this different than Florida did, because Cooper is next to impossible to stop in these situations. The safety on the hash just is not able to get to the sideline due to the run action freezing his read. The way Arkansas plays this situation may very well be key to the game.
The most interesting addition to the Alabama offense has been the Zone Read game, which out of this Ace 3 Back set looks identical to a version that Auburn uses. Blake Sims has the ability to get out in space, and has been coached to get on the ground after a decent gain. Just another aspect to game plan for that makes Bama more multiple.
Playaction/Traditional One Back and Two Back:
In the 20-25 plays that the Tide are not in shotgun sets, they use some formations that have been staples of the Alabama offense and some that will look very familiar to observers of the Arkansas offense. Kiffin hired Jim Chaney as his OC at Tennessee so there is a considerable amount of mixing between the two coaches styles. This play is a perfect example.
In the loss to Ole Miss, Alabama won time of possesion, first downs, third down conversions, total yards, rushing yards, but had one more turnover. Seems to be the nature of SEC football where it is a lot more like the NFL game in that a few plays can determine the outcome. Parity makes the margin for error much smaller, and Arkansas will need to play a mistake-free game and cause a few to win against the Tide.
Amari Cooper will be a tough matchup for a group on the Arkansas defense that has had well documented struggles. Can Tevin Mitchel cover Cooper out of the slot, or if he lines up wide? Does Robb Smith play zone and keep safeties deep giving up the underneath routes and leaving the linebackers alone in run support? The biggest advantage for Arkansas to what Alabama has shown on offense this year comes in the amount of 5 step longer developing plays that Kiffin has drawn up. There will be some of these situations that the talented Arkansas defensive line will be given opportunites to put pressure on Blake Sims. Capitalizing on a big turnover in one of these situations will go a long way toward pulling the upset. Woo Pig!.