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Monday, September 23, 2013

Charting Ron Prince's first-half play calls in Rutgers' win against Arkansas

Brandon Coleman hauls in a late pass Saturday from Gary Nova. Coordinator Ron Prince's run-pass ratio against Arkansas was 41-to-59. (AP Photo)

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @Tyler_Barto

Outside of Rutgers' opener Aug. 29 at Fresno State, Saturday was the best opportunity to gauge coordinator Ron Prince as a play caller. 

The factors: quarterback deemed healthy following a concussion, legitimate nonconference opponent, fairly even-sided first half. I tracked Prince's play calling and personnel groupings for the first half (before Rutgers trailed by as many as three second-half scores) and here are the unofficial findings:
  • shotgun formation with two backs: 12 plays (six runs, six passes)
  • off-I: 10 plays (four runs, six passes)
  • shotgun with "11" personnel (one back, one tight end): six plays (one run, five passes)
  • shotgun empty backfield: three plays (three passes)
  • singleback: three plays (one run, two passes)
  • off-I heavy (two tight ends): three plays (two runs, one pass)
  • pistol formation: three plays (one run, two passes)
  • I-formation: two plays (two runs)
  • split backfield: one play (one pass)
  • full house backfield: one play (one run)
That's 44 first-half plays, with 18 runs and 26 passes.

Prince offered a few new wrinkles, like wide receiver Quron Pratt lining up in the backfield with Paul James at fullback (Ruhann Peele previously lined up at running back). 

He also unveiled the pistol formation — quarterback in shotgun, a running back a few yards behind him — more often, along with heavier usage of two-back shotgun sets. Two separate occasions led to miscommunication on hand-offs, and one resulted in a lost fumble on a read-option (caution: buzzword) look.

The off-I — the fullback splits to the right or left of center in the backfield — has become Prince's run formation of choice. It has dwarfed the I-formation in most settings, likely because the fullback has a better angle in pass protection.

The second half distorted Rutgers' play calling as it was forced to mount quick scoring drives. Before James left the game with a lower-leg injury, he had carried the ball 17 times, while Savon Huggins had two rushes.

Huggins finished with nine, and true freshman Justin Goodwin earned a goal-line carry.

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