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THE FILM ROOM PREVIEWS: The SFA Lumberjacks

The Film Room is back with a vengeance, talking everything you need to know about SFA and how Texas Tech matches up with them.

It’s football time. It’s finally here. Less intro, more football. First, time for some music to set the mood.

PLAYLIST:

FIRST GLANCES

Following the trend around the nation, SFA switched to a tempo, no huddle look this spring. Previewing their offense in an in depth way will be difficult, as there’s no real public video of the Lumberjacks at work. Whether this new offense makes an actual difference in the game will be difficult to say, the Lumberjacks are particularly thin at the offensive line, an area that no one wants to be thin at. The good news for SFA is QB Zach Conque is back, and he isn’t bad at all. The bad news is that if they can’t protect him well, he can’t be that effective.

On defense, DE John Franklin is a guy that jumps out at you. Last year, LeRaven Clark shut down PJ Hall in the opener. Here’s to hoping that whoever lines up opposite Franklin has the exact same effect. SFA is an FCS team. That doesn’t mean every player that lines up for them is trash.

SFA went 4-7 last year, but had a rash of injuries that contributed to that bummer of a record. Of their two wins, only two were solid wins. Of their losses, multiple were close games. How that transfers to the FBS remains to be seen.

OFFENSE

(picture of offense withheld because we have no solid bead on how they’ll line up.)

Zach Conque is the obvious threat here, but SFA has a pair of solid running backs in Joshawa West and Loren Easly. The Jacks won’t be a pushover in the FCS this year.

DEFENSE

Once again, most defenses will line up in the nickel or dime based on how we play offense. The actual defensive formation used by the defense in their regular games will be irrelevant to the vast majority of the games we play, outside of TCU, who already runs a 4-2-5. As far as players go, John Franklin can really rush the passer.

WHY I’M WORRIED

First game jitters get to everyone, and we haven’t exactly handled FCS opponents in our openers the way we should. Texas Tech is more talented than SFA at nearly every position, but I’ll have to see the retooled offensive line and second-year defense in action before passing any holistic judgements. I’m hoping we’ll be improved on defense and be staying the course on the offensive line. Right now that’s all they are though, hopes.

WHY I’M NOT WORRIED

We are so much faster on paper than SFA that it isn’t funny. We have eight wide receivers that could start at the majority of D1 schools and be stars. We have a literal stable of running backs. We have the magician himself, Patrick Mahomes. On defense we’re unproven, but we return two of last year’s biggest contributors, Breiden Fehoko and Jah’Shawn Johnson. On paper, we throw this SFA team in the dumpster.

Oh, and one thing: SFA gets to be the team that we unleash Patrick Mahomes on. Kliff has said that the kid has improved in his first full offseason in the football program. If a moonlighting Patrick Mahomes can do what he did last year, every team we play should be terrified of a fully football Mahomes.

DEEP CUTS

If you think that SFA won’t run some trickeration on us, you’re sorely mistaken.

If it hadn’t been for the SFA offensive lineman blocking his own receiver, this play could’ve gone for a lot more. I’d look for some of the opening plays in the game to feature something like this, or maybe a squib kick on the first kickoff of the game. SFA is going to need to outscore us if they have a chance. Plays like this against our defense, who has struggled heavily with backside pursuit in the past, are especially effective.

Against TCU last year, SFA really, really loved their screen plays.

The good part about this is that they’re really bad at selling it. SFA doesn’t even try to fake-block #95, and it leads into him reading their play like a book. In order for a screen to work effectively, the offensive line must make the defense truly believe that they’re being blocked. One of the first things you’re taught as a defensive lineman is really simple: if you ever get through the line clean, something is horribly, horribly wrong. Kudos to the TCU DT for recognizing the screen immediately.

If our defense is to improve, we must stay at home, as the TCU defense does here. This was a huge part of SFA’s game last year, and while we’ll face better talent down the line, I’m interested to see how we react to these plays.

If last year is any indication, when SFA runs the ball, it’s almost exclusively a zone-blocking scheme. If there are pulling guards/tackles, they’ll likely be in a sweep scheme, not a misdirection or a counter scheme.

This isn’t to say that SFA won’t ever run counters, their offense is brand spankin’ new and we’ve seen next to nothing of it. However, with what they have returning, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the running backs take the reins and read the defense in the zone blocking scheme.

Again, we don’t have any video on SFA’s new look (a wise move on their part), so the offensive portion is even more speculation than normal.

Here’s one thing that I know for a fact will happen: SFA is going to put some defensive pressure on the flats, and attempt to take away the slant patterns from the Texas Tech offense on a solid percentage of their snaps.

This is fairly simple, SFA mixed up their coverages, and the safety got to the flat fast enough to tip the ball and pick up an interception for his team. It’s disguising coverages 101, act like you’re sending two defenders deep and have one of them come screaming into the flat to take away the short game or at least lay down a big hit. Texas Tech hits deep passes, yes, but we’re particularly dangerous when we can get the ball to our receivers underneath.

Here’s some insanely good news. Our passing threat is going to open up some huge holes in the A and B gaps for Justin Stockton.

If SFA is going to declare this hard to a formation with an H-Back in it, we should have a field day on the ground. Their linebacker that didn’t blitz is a full six yards off the ball, and their DT’s splits are far too wide to be able to make a play on this at all. This is an easy, easy ten yard gain in our offense. In this game, SFA was getting burned through the air, so I understand the declaration, but you can’t allow the center to go untouched to the linebacker’s level and expect to stop the run. If SFA lines up and plays anything like this, Texas Tech will have a field day on the ground, especially if they’re going to line their linebackers up six yards deep.

THE VERDICT

SFA has some ballers, that much is certain. I really like Zach Conque and his dual threat ability, he’s going to be a handful to deal with. There really isn’t much hope for SFA in this game, they’re arguably worse than the two FCS teams that came to the Jones before them. I try to be complimentary of our opponents in these articles and point out things that they do well, but I can’t really point to anything SFA does well enough to beat, much less stay close with Texas Tech. They have the template to beat us in the nickel defense, but I don’t think they have the speed or the size to compete with us on most levels. I hate doing this, because I always think that I’ll jinx it, but I’m calling a Red Raider victory that isn’t close in any second of the game.

FINAL SCORE PREDICTION

Texas Tech: 56

SFA: 24