Football 101: Sun Devils deliver dual-threat offense

Updated: May 26, 2006, 10:18 AM ET
By Bob Davie | Special to ESPN.com
When you take a look at the 2005 NCAA Division I-A offensive statistics, it doesn't take very long to find Arizona State. The Sun Devils ranked No. 2 in total offense (519 yards per game) and No. 3 in passing offense (373.4 ypg). ASU also ranked sixth in scoring, posting 36.8 points per game. No wonder college football programs from all over the country are studying Arizona State's offense.

Coach Dirk Koetter's offense has been remarkably consistent during his tenure in Tempe. In his five seasons at ASU, Koetter has produced the school's all-time leading passer in Andrew Walter and all-time leading receiver in Derek Hagan. However, one of the most impressive aspects of ASU's offensive success is how Koetter has achieved the gaudy numbers using a variety of players.

The 2005 season statistics are a great example. Arizona State had five players with more than 1,000 yards of total offense in 2005. ASU posted 560 total yards against LSU and 679 against Rutgers. Two new quarterbacks, Sam Keller (2,165) and Rudy Carpenter (2,273), combined to pass for almost 4,500 passing yards.

These statistics are even more impressive when you consider that Arizona State is not a spread offense that throws it every down. The Sun Devils maintain balance in their offense and have the ability to run the football first.

Balanced offense

When you think of Koetter and the Arizona State offense, you think of the pass first and the run second. This is deceiving because ASU is a balanced offense on running downs. The Sun Devils average 77 plays a game, and 41 percent of those plays are considered run downs. Amazingly, ASU is balanced at 50 percent run or pass on these downs. The Sun Devils' objective is to be balanced whether the run is successful or not.

What other staffs want to know

Because of the balance in its offensive attack, ASU might be the best in the country at play-action passes set up by the running game. Coaches are studying the ASU play-action passing game because of its big-play potential and the way Koetter takes advantage of his individual players in the attack.

Keys to play-action passing

1. Create the illusion of the run
Play action must fit with the running game and show the identical formations and pre-snap motions.

2. Make routes fit the protection
Great pass protection is not available on certain play-action pass plays, so the quarterback must be prepared to get rid of the football quickly. If fewer receivers are in the route and protection is better, a team can take longer and try to throw the ball downfield for the big play.

3. Teach QB not to be greedy
On most play-action passes, the checkdown or short throw is there every time. The quarterback should never take the sack or throw the low-percentage pass if the checkdown is available.

4. Sell the run
All 11 players sell the run and make it look exactly the same as it does in the running game.

5. Take advantage of individual players' skills
For example, ASU incorporates two tight ends with different styles into the offense. Zach Miller is the better blocker, but Jamaal Lewis is the better receiver. In fact, Lewis has been moved to wide receiver for the '06 season. When ASU runs the ball, it normally runs behind Miller. The Sun Devils' passes come off the same action with Lewis as the motion man and primary wide receiver.

Arizona State excels in executing the play-action passing series, which is set up by its effective running game. Take a look at the animations below to see how ASU executes the concept out of its power and inside zone formations.

Power run
power run
Launch play breakdown

Power pass
power pass
Launch play breakdown


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Bob Davie

College Football
Bob Davie, a veteran college football coach of 25 years, most recently as head coach at the University of Notre Dame, serves as an analyst on college football game telecasts and select studio shows.

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