No topic, since Neal Brown left town with his bubble screen, has been on the lips of Kentucky Wildcats fans more than when will the freshman tight end, C.J. Conrad, catch a pass.
The offensive coaches had said the tight end would be an integral part of the offense. They had said C.J Conrad was making plays in practice, but until Saturday night he had not caught a pass in a game. On Saturday night against Missouri, Conrad was able to make three catches, one for a touchdown and another on third down to get UK out of its own goal line. Two of the three catches were down the seam where a steady nerve is required, because he can expect to take a hit from a closing downhill safety. Here is a breakdown of his first catch on a 4 verticals concept.
On third-and-two at its own two, Conrad aligned as an in-line tight end to the right with a split receiver outside him. (Wide side) Two receivers were set as twins to the opposite side and the running back set to the left. This has the indication UK will be attempting to run for the first down behind the right side of the line. Prior to the snap the slot goes in motion to the right and the ball is snapped as he passing by the quarterback. The defense is aligned with seven in the run box, two high safeties and two cornerbacks.
Dawson called a four vertical concept tagged with the slot motion. This version has the three receivers running vertical routes attempting to break the cushion of the defender over him. The motion back will threaten the flat to draw the strong side linebacker down and away from the vertical routes. Conrad is running a seam read down the hash. The read for him means If he gets a defender over the top of him he will convert his route to a deep cross, (yellow) or dig. If a safety stays inside him he will remain on the hash( red) on his vertical route. Finally, (as he got on this snap), if he gets two high safeties he will split them by bending his route to the middle of the field. (green)
At the snap the strong side linebacker attacked the line of scrimmage expecting a run to the edge or a quick pass to the motion back. This allowed Conrad to get a free release off the line and into his route. The middle linebacker was responsible for walling off Conrad as he ran down the seam. His job is to stay between the quarterback and the receiver to prevent the throw or cause the ball to be lofted allowing the safeties time to break on the ball.
Because of his speed, and his free release, Conrad was able to get beyond the linebacker and create separation. He read the split safeties and bent his route to the middle of the field. Patrick Towles still had to throw the ball high to get over the walling linebacker, but the height and hands of Conrad allowed this to be a completion.
This was not the only time this play was called against Missouri. Strangely, it was the play in which Towles scrambled in for his touchdown. Missouri showed a two high look and Conrad was set to the boundary side. The motion man went toward the boundary and the safety to that side dropped down and locked up Conrad in man coverage. Towels was looking for Conrad but he was unable to win space and Pat was flushed out of the pocket.
Look for this to be continued to be run but expect a safety to stay low on the hash forcing the read to become a deep cross. This can be a more difficult completion if the linebackers get any depth.