OU vs. Tulsa Freeze Frame - The return of the Ninja Formation

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Fans of the 2000 Sooners championship run under the direction of the swashbuckler Mike Leach will remember fondly the Ninja formation.  It's one of those things that left when he took the job at Texas Tech and something a lot of fans have longed for OU to bring back.  Well that and the shovel pass, but only to a diminutive RB who just so happens to also wear #22.  I think we might have a guy on the roster that fits that very description.  As you can see and as you'll probably remember from the game Saturday night, it's clearly designed to draw attention to the strong side of the formation while hopefully setting up single coverage on the opposite.

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If one of those guys in the four man set out to the right, well that would make sense because it just so happens to be our starting left tackle.  That's right, Donald Stephenson is lined up as a WR.  No big deal, just a 6'6" 300+ pounder. What is interesting about this wacky formation is that even with Stephenson lined up out wide, they still actually only have five offensive linemen on the field.  The fifth guy on the actual "o-line" is actually TE James Hanna.  Again, even out wide, Stephenson is lined up so there are still enough men on the line of scrimmage in order to avoid a penalty. The other three with Stephenson are Brennan Clay, Trey Franks, Dejuan Miller.  Broyles is to the top of the picture in single coverage, just like they drew it up.

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So as the ball is snapped, you can see (with the help of my fancy visual aids) there are actually five things that start to take shape.  (1) The aforementioned James Hanna comes out of his stance and runs a short crossing route.  Landry gives him cursory look, drawing both the LB and safety to Hanna.  (2) Both Stephenson and Miller take on blocks giving the impression that there is a potential screen pass coming.  (3) Clay starts his route obviously taking another Tulsa defender with him.  (4) Franks adds to the screen pass illusion by taking a step back anticipating the pass from Jones.  (5) Finally, at the top of the screen, all these other things going on have sufficiently distracted the defense into leaving the greatest WR in Sooners history one-on-one with a helpless corner back.

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If we focus more specifically on Broyles, the beauty of the play is in its simplicity.  You can see just a few steps off the line, he's already looking back to Jones for the ball.

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You can see here the ball is already in the air and Broyles really hasn't given the defender any kind of move.  Just the threat of this guy lining up across from you is enough to overwhelm the defender.  He essentially just posts the guy up and waits for the throw.

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In a common designed play, Landry throws the ball to Broyles' back shoulder and away from the defender. Obviously this makes defending the pass much more difficult for the CB, having to either go through the man and risking a PI call or hoping he can break up the pass before Broyles can come down with the ball.

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The defender makes a half hearted attempt for the ball, knowing that he just became yet another victim on the personal highlight reel of #85.

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End result, Landry and Ryan have themselves a little celebration.

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