This past season the Texas Tech run and screen game absolutely took off. To say it was a bright spot in an otherwise woeful season would be pretty accurate, especially Deandre Washington and the running game. The differences between 2014 and 2013 are staggering, in 2013 the Red Raider's leading rusher was Kenny Williams with 497 yards, with Deandre Washington close behind with 450. 2014 was an entirely different story, Deandre Washington rushed for over 1,000 yards, and Justin Stockton added 397. Receiving statistics ended up being very similar, but the 2014 running back duo edged out the 2013 running back duo. The telling portion of these statistics is the amount of carries Stockton got in 2014 as opposed to Washington got in 2013. Stockton had less than half of the carries in 2014 than Washington had in 2013, and was only 53 yards away from tying his season total. This massive jump in YPC (yards per carry) can be attributed to many things, including quality offensive line play and the necessity of running the football. However, the biggest jump that I have seen is the quality of downfield blocking.
Downfield blocking is very simply defined as the blocking that occurs after the running back breaks the line of scrimmage, and is most commonly regulated to wide receivers attempting to block safeties and corners. The best example I can give of this is Oregon. The Ducks are the best in college football bar none, and it shows in their explosive spread-option based offense. This season, the quality of Red Raider downfield blocking has significantly improved, which has been a huge boon to our running backs. Easily the most visible evidence of this has been several massive blocks on both running plays and screen passing plays by budding star Devin Lauderdale.
The first instance of this comes against UTEP, when Justin Stockton broke out a huge 75-yard TD.
The blocking is pretty standard, the play is designed to hit in the "B" gap between the guard and the tackle. The Miners were in a strange stack with their linebackers, more than likely designed to throw off Davis Webb. The stack ended up working against them as the play progressed. The defensive end opposite tackle Le'Raven Clark gets blown off of the line of scrimmage, unfortunately right into the hole that Stockton is supposed to hit. Fortunately, the Miners were in their stack formation, and the linebackers were not able to get to the ball quickly due to positioning. Stockton takes the ball off the left hip of Clark, and has only one defender between him and paydirt. The lone blocker in position to help Stockton out is none other than #6, Devin Lauderdale, who promptly charges the defender. Lauderdale catches the defender flat-footed, and knocks him off of his feet, allowing Stockton to cut towards the middle of the field instead of having to slow down to make a juke move on the defender. Lauderdale has finished his block, looks back at Stockton, and sees that he has a defender diving at his back. Before the defender can get a solid grip on Stockton, Lauderdale leaves his feet and launches at him, knocking him off of his feet too. From the very beginning, Devin Lauderdale could've sat this particular play out, but instead he chose to make a difference, which he did twice, Without Lauderdale's extra effort, the Red Raider offense doesn't score on this play.
Next up, we have a swing-screen pass to Justin Stockton against Oklahoma State.
Justin takes the ball on the 23, as we see several Oklahoma State defenders being chopped down by the offensive linemen of the Red Raiders. The vast majority of their defense has bit on the screen fake, and are too far towards the middle of the field to be a factor against Justin Stockton's blistering speed. The play looks like an easy score from the get-go. However, at the very end of the play we see Stockton cutting behind Devin Lauderdale, who is once again making a big block down the field. He could've very easily been done with the play a second or two early, in the grand scheme of things this is a fairly long-developing play. But instead he stuck with his block, and it was the difference between a gain of 12-15 and scoring a must have touchdown.
Here, we see a true swing pass pass, only this time against Iowa State.
On this play, Lauderdale is lined up on the opposite side of the field. Once Kenny Williams catches the ball, he has just one defender that has a prayer of making a tackle on him. It seems as if he is going to be able to run Williams down, until Lauderdale cuts in front of him, prohibiting him from making the play. The result? Kenny Williams could probably have walked the last couple of steps into the end zone and no one would've bothered him. Without Lauderdale making the effort to run halfway across the field to a guy he very possibly wasn't assigned to block, this play might not have scored, and we might not have taken home a win against Iowa State.
This block Lauderdale had against TCU didn't have much effect on the outcome of the play, but he cleaned his clock and it's against TCU so I'm adding it in anyways.
Devin Lauderdale was far from the only player whose blocking was superb this season, but his blocks were easily the most visible. The difference between last year and two years ago is like night and day in terms of blocking for the screen/run game. It's very clear that Kliff has emphasized blocking down the field in practice, and I'm excited to see what kind of bone-rattling shots that our receivers and offensive linemen put down on defenses in 2015.