Heupel’s Offense


ASFN Consultant and Senior Writer
Jan 7, 2003
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Orlando, FL
I’ve been getting emails about why I like Heupel as the next coach. I wanted to put this up before the big game, so those who are interested can see what happens. It’s all about the offense and its fit with Murray. So what makes Heupel’s offense so effective? First it’s very basic. Second, the defense doesn’t matter. I know that sounds crazy, but they run the same offense regardless of what defense the opposition is playing. There’s simply less for the QB to do.

How does it work? If you’ve seen an Art Briles’ offense, you have some of the basic principles, but Heupel has taken it to another level. First most plays start with the receivers split way out, sometimes nearly to the boundary line. This stresses the safeties, making it hard for them to support against the run and to provide over the to top doubling on a receiver. It also provides extra space for TEs and RBs to be mostly underneath receivers. Of course with a mobile QB this makes the QB a bigger running threat if he breaks through the line.

This system also helps the overall running game. LBs have a tendency to try to help with underneath coverage which splits them wider and opens up wider running lanes. Tennessee runs for almost 200 yards a game.

The system plays to Murray’s strength in many ways. First his running skills become even more threatening. Second it restricts blitzes as it quickly takes defenders downfield, so secondary blitzes are rare. Since the same plays are typically run regardless of the defensive system, reading the defense is minimized. In fact in almost all situations the target is the only target, no progressions. The entire point of the patterns is to create an open or isolated receiver. Third with the receivers being split wide Murray’s arm strength is huge. On deep outs it’s especially critical. This system results in forcing more “island” coverage, so hopefully it will encourage Murray to trust his receivers to make plays. It’s great for Hopkins. Many plays start with paired receivers on each side, either adjacent or stacked. Assuming the outside receiver is the objective and the defender presses, the receiver runs a “go” route and the QB puts air under the ball letting the receiver run to it. Murray will have to work on his touch. The same tactic is used if the defender plays just off the line and the receiver gets even with him within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. If the “target” receiver can’t get even with the defender, he runs a curl back towards the QB. Again this plays to Murray’s arm strength as it’s best to fire the ball to preclude a pick 6. Finally if the defender drifts to the outside to cover the “go” route, the receiver runs a deep post.

If the intention is hitting inside receiver (slot), the outside receiver runs a short route, like a down and out. The inside receiver runs a fade or post route simply running away from the defenders’s positioning. Murray has to be patient enough (unlike Murray’s Ertz based interception) to see which route the receiver chooses.

This a slight oversimplification as there’s motion and a few other disguise elements, but whenever the ball is snapped, this is what’s typically going on passing-wiseregardless of what movement precedes it. I hope it helps you enjoy the game.


Guy Smiley
Super Moderator
Supporting Member
May 15, 2002
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Eye in the Sky
hooker had a hard time throwing down the field. I was hopeful that TN would eek it out.