Today, I had the pleasure of re-watching the spring game and trying to dissect the FSU offense to the best of my ability. While spring games should never give you a major hot take on players, it should on base formations and base plays. What you work on during the spring is going to be the foundation of your offense. Today we are going to focus on the “Pop Pass” and this is a play that FSU ran five times in the first half!
In a gif below, you will see the pop pass in action (failure and success), and this is one of the formations that Florida State was in to run it. The pop pass depends on one player on the defensive side, and that is the one player marked in the image above. The playside linebacker is going to determine what option the quarterback selects on this play. He has the option to hand it off to his featured back if the playside linebacker stays back. If the linebacker comes downhill pursuing the run, the quarterback will “pop” it to the tightend or the reciever playing the “Y.” The run play that sets up the pop pass is the zone read. The reason why the pop pass is successful is because the zone read has been successful multiple times within the game, causing the defense to come up.
Bailey Hockman throws the POP for Success
The first thing you should notice is where is the head and eyes of Bailey Hockman at? The whole time he is staring down the playside linebacker who is screaming downhill. If that linebacker decides to hang out, it is an easy hand off for at least 3-5 yards. Since the linebacker is coming up, it is an easy window to throw to the “Y”, right before he reaches the safety.
Bailey Hockman fails with timing on the POP
While the snap is iffy, it was manageable enough to where this play should have been a touchdown. There is only two linebackers on the field, and neither had a chance to cover #32 Gabe Nabers the tight end. Hockman freaked out with the snap and automatically went into the hand off. While this play should have been a touchdown, the golden rule of the “POP” is “when in doubt hand it off.” That way it avoids interceptions from uncertainties. At the end of the gif you can see how disappointed the TE (Gabe Nabers) is, knowing he had a touchdown.
Blackman throws the POP for success
This could have been the easiest read of the day, as the defender covering #16 McKitty is at least 12 yards away. Pair that with both linebackers heavily playing the run makes for an easy pitch and catch. Remember the defense fearing the run is what makes this play action pop pass successful.
Blackman fails at the POP Pass
This is where the pop pass gets tricky, as the playside linebacker Dontavious Jackson baits Blackman to interrupt the passing window. I am guessing that three weeks of spring practice helped prepare Jackson for this moment. If you look at Blackman’s head it appears he didn’t have enough time to read DJacks initial movements but was trusting his pre-snap read of no safety support.
Pop Pass Rules
- Read the playside LB
- Hand it off when in doubt
- Do not put too much air on the ball, that gives the safety a chance
- You must have success with the run, to call this play in the game