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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Week 2 variables affect scheme shift in Rutgers' win against Norfolk State

Paul James and the running game factored heavily into Rutgers' Week 2 gameplan. (Tyler Barto)

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @Tyler_Barto

As details of Rutgers' offensive coordinator search emerged in late-January, Kyle Flood held several constants. One of them, he said, would be that his second play-caller in as many years would build his offense around the team's playmakers.

It is an obvious thought. What coach wouldn't?

But at the time, most of Rutgers' impact players lined up on the perimeter. Few known commodities returned in the team's backfield. 

MORE: Brandon Coleman's ascent — Part 2 — Part 3

The result in Week 1: 53 percent of the Scarlet Knights' plays featured three wide receivers. What changed in Week 2? For one, the emergence of sophomore Paul James, now the nation's fifth-leading rusher.

Second, a far physically inferior opponent. Keep that in mind when reviewing Rutgers' personnel groupings and play calls through its fifth touchdown Saturday against Norfolk State.

Below are the unofficial results of 54 plays, culminating with James' third-quarter score with 5:47 left (Full disclosure: I missed personnel groupings on a four-play drive in the first quarter that featured three passes and one rush):
  • off-I formation: 21 plays (18 runs, three passes)
  • single back '31' (quarterback under center, three receivers): 15 plays (nine runs, six passes)
  • shotgun '31': six plays (six passes)
  • shotgun two-back: four plays (two runs, two passes)
  • heavy I-formation: four plays (four runs)
  • I-formation: two plays (two passes)
  • trips with base-package personnel: two plays (two runs)
That's 35 runs, 19 passes before Rutgers' first-team personnel slowly drifted toward the sideline.

Because of heavy usage of the off-I, powers and counters featuring pulling guards littered Rutgers's play calls. It appeared a shift from the team's season opener, when Ron Prince dialed up more off-tackle runs.

Flood said it was both part of the game plan and the effect of early run success Saturday.

"We have a good multiplicity of run schemes that we use," Flood said, "and I think that defense probably lends itself a little bit more to some of what they call gap schemes (on power and counter runs)."

Prince entered with a prominent zone-scheme philosophy, in which offensive linemen are responsible for blocking specific areas rather than defenders. James enjoyed the shift in Week 2.

IN PRINT: Rutgers' running game keys easy victory in home opener

"I don't really hesitate. I hit the holes and get the yards we need," James said Saturday. "If we need five yards, I'm going to fight for that five yards and get it no matter what. I try to play really upfield. I don't really try to take my time going outside, left and right."

Savon Huggins' success between the tackles also likely figured into the decision.

RELATED: Why Paul James fits Rutgers' offensive scheme

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