Sometimes there is crossover between the teams I write about (Purdue, Kansas State, Clemson) and this is one such occasion.
I was working on a film breakdown of Kansas State’s victory over Oklahoma while simultaneously trying to figure out what to write about Purdue (ADD for the win). If I’m being 100% honest, I’m hard up for Boilermaker material at the moment. There are only so many, “Who is Going to Play Quarterback?” and “Is the Offensive Line Going to Improve?”, article I can write before I get tired of writing them and you get tired of reading them. I was hoping recruiting would give me something to talk about, but with only 10 recruits on board, I don’t have much to say about that either, and certainly nothing good to say.
Anyway, I was breaking down the Wildcats stunning upset/comeback in Norman and was impressed with how offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham deployed his pair of true freshman running backs, Deuce Vaughn (5’5, 168 pounds) and Keyon Kozee (5’7, 180). Then it hit me.
Purdue has a similar player in the 2020 class.
As far as I’m concerned, 2020 recruit Marcellus Moore is the most interesting player on the Purdue roster. He’s one of the fastest players in the 2020 class, as evidenced by his stellar debut on the Boilermaker track team this spring. At 5’8, 160 pounds, Moore most resembles Kozee at this point in his career. Kozee was a track star in high school and was among the fastest players in the 2020 class. He has a 10.58 100 meter and a 4.43 laser timed 40 on his resume. The dude can fly.
If Kozee is “among the fastest” Marcellus Moore may be “the” fastest play in the 2020 class. His 10.31 100 meters is world class and his 4.35 at the opening set the track on fire. To put his 40 time in perspective, it would have placed 3rd at the 2020 NFL combine only behind Henry Ruggs and Javelin Guidry. I’m not exactly sure how old Marcellus is, but it’s safe to assume he was somewhere in the 17-19 year old age range when he put down those times. Physically, he’s not fully developed yet, and he’s out running elite athletes that have spent their last 3 or 4 years being developed in elite strength and conditioning programs.
If this were a regular season, I’m not sure Moore would see the field. He’s still raw as a football player, and could use a year of eating and lifting to pack on a few more pounds. As we all know, this isn’t a regular season. It’s a freebie year for everyone, which means you’ll see more freshman overall getting a chance to make a difference, if only in certain situations. That brings me to Kozee against Oklahoma.
Deuce Vaughn is the Wildcat freshman everyone is talking about, and for good reason. When the little dude gets the ball in his hands, it’s a similar to Rondale getting the ball, you get out of your seat in preparation (seriously, if you haven’t seen him play yet, check out some K-State highlights). Kozee isn’t the dynamic football player that Vaughn is yet, but his speed is a weapon too valuable to keep on the bench. I think the same can be said for Marcellus.
Against the Sooners Keyon touched the ball twice. He had a non-descript 2 yard run, and a 78 yard reception that would have been an 79 yard touchdown if he hadn’t outrun his quarterback’s arm. This is the role I envision for Marcellus this season. I don’t think he’ll get many touches, but the touches he does get could be vital to the Boilermakers offense.
Note: In the spirt of transparency, most of the next section appeared in my Bring on the Cats article on Kozee.
Getting The Little Guy Involved
At this point in the game, it looked like Kansas State was done. They scored a touchdown on the previous possession aided by a 70+ yard Deuce Vaughn catch and run, but Oklahoma’s offense came back on the field and matched the K-State touchdown without much trouble. Any momentum K-State picked up from the Vaughn touchdown was squashed by the Sooner answer. If the K-State didn’t score on this drive, the game is over and I wouldn’t get to spend an entire week mocking Oklahoma.
On the previous play, K-State’s every down back, Jacardia Wright had a carry for minimal gain out of the shotgun formation. He came off the field and the Kansas State staff replaced him in the backfield with Kozee. I’m not sure if the Oklahoma coaching staff wasn’t paying attention, or if they didn’t read the scouting report, but Kozee is a totally different back than Wright. Instead of adjusting their defense accordingly, they were caught off guard, and punished severely.
This is how I envision Brohm using Moore this season. If you quietly plug him into the middle of a drive, it’s possible the defense won’t adjust fast enough to take his unique skill set (world class speed) into consideration. Worst case scenario, you get the other team to burn a time out and then you come back onto the field with your normal group of players and try again later in the game.
T.V. used a weird camera angle at the start of this play, but it’s important to know that Kozee originally started in the backfield lined up beside K-State quarterback Skylar Thompson in the traditional shotgun formation before motioning out of the back field.
This shot shows Kozee (purple circle) in motion, heading to a wide receiver spot just outside the numbers. What’s crucial on this play is the Oklahoma linebacker shifting outside with him. The Sooners are caught in man with 6’2, 220 pound reserve linebacker Bryan Mead (green square) responsible for the running back. Unfortunately for Mead and fortunately for K-State, I’m not sure anyone realizes which running back he’s matched up with. Instead of a traditional back like Wright, he’s locked up in man coverage with the fastest player on the Kansas State squad.
This is how I think Brohm will (or at least should) utilize Moore. Oklahoma was playing man across the board all day in an attempt to limit K-State’s short passing game. It was effective in the first half. The Wildcat receivers had a hard time getting off press coverage, and when they completed a pass, an Oklahoma defender was a 1⁄2 step behind limiting any possibility of a yards after catch.
Kansas State countered in the 2nd half by utilizing Vaughn and Kozee in the passing game, and Oklahoma had no solutions. When either Vaughn or Kozee went in motion and emptied out the backfield, they were followed by a linebacker. If Purdue can gets a team playing a similar coverage scheme, and they will with Moore and Bell on the field, Marcellus Moore could be utilized in the exact same way.
Alex Grinch gets paid 1.4 million dollars to call the Oklahoma defense and he’s robbing the Sooners blind. One of the key tenants of coaching is putting your players in a position to succeed, and Bryan Mead has no chance to succeed on this play.
First off, unless he flattens him at the line of scrimmage, there is not way he can keep up with Kozee’s speed. Next, he has no idea what he’s doing on the outside, and I’m almost positive he somehow thinks (as you’ll see in a moment) he’s in zone, even after sliding outside in obvious man coverage.
This has to be a timeout. I don’t care if Riley has already burned two on offense in the 3rd quarter, you can’t leave you linebacker on an island with a guy who has 4.4 speed unless your linebacker in Isaiah Simmons.
Bryan Mead is not Isaiah Simmons.
Again, this would be the ideal role for Moore. If the other team is paying attention, you force them to burn a timeout. If they’re not, you’ve got one of the fastest players in college football matched up against a linebacker on the outside.
If you enjoy playing Madden or E.A. Sports College Football (RIP), an easy way to see the other team’s coverage is to send a man in motion outside the numbers. If a defender follows your player, it’s man coverage. If the defender stops before he gets outside, or no one moves, he’s playing zone. If he’s in man, call a go route with the receiver you put in motion and read the safety on that side. If he’s not covering the deep outside, throw the 1 on 1 go route and profit.
There isn’t anything sophisticated about this route. Kozee runs a straight go down the sideline. Even in the best of circumstances, the O.U. defender is toast, but he makes things worse by peaking into the backfield and appearing to confuse the coverage. My guess is that he has no idea what he’s doing and hasn’t played outside the numbers since middle school. Your guess is just as valid, but either way, he’s lost and about to get burned to a crisp.
I think y’all understand where I’m going with this, because I’ve mentioned it several times, but in the spirt of keeping this Purdue centric. Moore would do similar, unspeakable things to a linebacker.
All Together Now
I wanted to put this play into one GIF, but the SB Nation editor says it’s too big. That’s fine though, because it gives me a chance to talk a little more Purdue.
As you are well aware, based on the numerous articles written by every Purdue site, there is a bit of a quarterback competition in West Lafayette. Arm strength is one of the factors you need to consider when judging a quarterback. It’s often over emphasized, because it doesn’t matter how hard or far you can throw the ball (cough...Mitch Trubisky...cough) if you can’t throw it hard and to the open receiver.
At the same point, if you want to feature a down the field passing game, you don’t want this throw to happen either. I love Kansas State’s quarterback. Skylar Thompson is a tough kid you can win games with, and I personally think he’s got a shot at making an NFL roster because he does all the little things correctly. The big thing he’s missing is arm strength. To be fair, he’s also dealing with a nagging ankle injury, and that’s probably taking a little juice out of his throws, but this thing is a wounded duck fluttering into Kozee’s hands. This should be a walk in touchdown, but Kozee has to turn all the way around and field this pass like a punt, giving the Oklahoma defender a chance to scamper back and attempt to make the tackle.
If Purdue wants to feature a down field passing game, all other things being equal, they should probably go with whoever has the biggest arm. I’m honestly not sure who that is at the moment, but I’m sure the coaches have an idea. At the same time, they may just go with whoever can get the ball into Rondale’s hands as efficiently as possible. You don’t have to throw it 50 yards down the field when Rondale can do that work for you.
Kozee manages to fend off the gassed Oklahoma linebacker with an sweet stiff arm, but still gets run down by the deep safety because he had to wait for the ball and fight off the linebacker while the safety was running full speed. He still almost outruns the angle, but the safety gets a shove in at the end.
The difference between running a 4.43 and a 4.35 is half step or less, and for my money, Moore takes this thing to the house in the exact same scenario. K-State managed to punch it in a play later, so no harm no foul on the lob wedge pass.
The fun part about this season is their are no limits on your roster. Freshmen can play as often as they like, and in as many games as they like, without having to burn their redshirt. A specialty player like Moore can play in every game, only if he only sees 2 or 3 snaps.
I’m excited to see what Brohm can scheme up to get Marcellus involved, because a play like this could be a momentum changer for the Boilermaker offense. With all the attention being paid to Rondale and David in the secondary, I don’t think sneaking the fastest player on your team (yes, M. Moore has better track speed than R. Moore) into the game for the occasional go route is a far fetched idea. Either way, I’m desperately looking forward to seeing what Brohm has in store for the Purdue offense in 2020.
I really need some fresh Purdue material.