STARKVILLE

You ever have those dreams where you’re back in college, sitting in a class, and you have no idea what the instructor is talking about?

Maybe you didn’t study, or you’re in the wrong room, or you’re just dumb. Well, that’s kind of how I felt on Wednesday.

I was sitting in Mississippi State’s Seal Complex Team Room with several other media members, listening as Joe Moorhead gave us a crash course in the run-pass option offense. This “Chalk Talk” session focused on one running concept (inside zone) and one passing concept (over-under).

On the two large projection screens were a pair of play diagrams, with the header “Gazelle/Giraffe.” I wondered for a moment if perhaps I’d accidentally stepped into a zoology class.

As Prof. Moorhead explained, these “g” words stand for the “graze concept,” in which the tight end is tasked with blocking the defensive end away from the point of attack. Or at least, that’s what I have in my notes.

Listen, I’ve always been more interested in covering the human side of sports. The X’s and O’s hold limited appeal to me, although Moorhead’s class was enlightening.

Hands-on approach

It was not merely a lecture. He took our questions, would quiz us about something he’d just explained, and walked us through a film study.

Not all of it was lost on me. In the over-under concept, the goal is for the three receivers running pass routes to form an inside triangle • “as isosceles as possible,” Moorhead said. I did poorly in high school geometry, but I had no trouble grasping this.

He talked a lot about how the quarterback reads defenses when deciding whether to hand off, keep or throw. There are “give keys” and “pitch keys” and “throw keys,” and it takes a quick eye to spot these and make the right decision.

For instance, when the defenders representing the give and throw keys both attack the line of scrimmage, the quarterback should pull the ball back and look to pass.

A signal-caller who has a mastery of the offense can take some “creative license,” Moorhead said, when it comes to these quick decisions. His offense is not a straitjacket.

“The worst thing you can do to a quarterback is coach the playmaker out of him,” he said.

Nick Fitzgerald was a playmaker and ran the offense pretty well, especially considering it was new to him and the rest of the team.

Fitz had a great year running the ball, but the goal for Moorhead this fall is to be a little more balanced. He said that in his offense, the QB should not run the ball more than 10 or 15 times per game.

Last season, MSU quarterbacks averaged 18.8 carries.

This offense should only get better and better. I already suspected Moorhead was a smart guy, and this tutorial convinced me.

And while all the diagrams and odd terminology would have normally put me to sleep, Moorhead’s passion for teaching his offense is what made the experience interesting.

I just hope I don’t have to take a test later.

Brad Locke is senior sports writer for the Daily Journal. Contact him on Twitter @bradlocke or via email at brad.locke@journalinc.com.

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