Collin Klein And The Magic Of Bill Snyder

The Fiesta Bowl wasn’t the original destination on Oregon’s itinerary, nor was it its backup plan, and now a trip to Phoenix for a BCS game has become somewhat of a consolation prize for the nation’s newest elite football program. Unlike nearly every other BCS matchup, the Fiesta Bowl immediately brought a load of intrigue to the college football world simply because the game will feature the “intended” national championship matchup between Oregon and the Kansas State Wildcats.

Despite the 11-1 record, Heisman candidate, and conference title, Kansas State is a flawed team. Their talent level is subordinate to Oregon’s in multiple facets, and there is no way to disguise the fact that Kansas State would fail an eye test to Oregon on paper. But then again, Southern Cal made the same argument when Oregon smashed the Trojans in Los Angeles, in that Oregon really had no definitive advantages talent wise over SC in their matchup. However, Lane Kiffin coaches in South Central, and Bill Snyder coaches in the Little Apple (Manhattan, Kansas).

I can think of no better words to describe Bill Snyder, other than “miracle worker.” Snyder is a coach with no agenda, other than winning; he will schedule to win, he will play-call to win, and he will coach to win. Despite his less-than-glamorous location, Snyder should be held in the same ring as Chip Kelly, Nick Saban, and the rest of the country’s elite coaches. Snyder cooked up an extremely adaptable system for Kansas State, and made his offense work for his personnel, as opposed to the more stubborn approach of forcing personnel to work for the coach’s style. The best example of his craft has to be Collin Klein – an athletic, but truly mediocre quarterback that was molded to play at the level of a Heisman contender.

Klein’s best quality is his ability to run the football with tactical patience and efficiency, and as expected, Kansas State is a run-first team. Their concepts aren’t extremely complicated, nor are they unconventional, but they are very effective with fundamentally sound blocking and running. While he does not get all of the team’s carries, Klein can still be called KSU’s primary ballcarrier in numerous situations, and contrary to Oregon’s scheme, Klein does not need a defender to bite on the running back to run the ball.

Here is Klein’s dive play (image above), which features the running back as the lead blocker behind a simple blocking scheme aimed at the left side of the offensive line (orange line indicate blocks, green line indicates Klein’s path). However, this play is aided significantly by Texas’ defensive tackle stunting to the outside (yellow arrow).

As the defensive tackle opens the hole, the running back (red arrow above) starts his path as a lead blocker as Collin Klein (green arrow) patiently glides through the backfield before heading upfield.

When the play fully develops (as shown by the blocks along the orange line above), Klein bursts through the hole. Klein is a physical runner with deceptive speed, and is a master at finding blockers to extend his run. Whether its by design, or through broken pass protection, Oregon can not let Klein run wild while covering KSU’s exterior threats.

Kansas State will run loads of speed option plays, power plays with Klein as the ball carrier, the Inverted Veer, and zone read plays to fully feature Klein’s athletic abilities. Luckily, Oregon’s defensive coordinator Nick Allioti had plenty of success stuffing Ryan Aplin earlier in the year, and the superior Cam Newton, who ran similar concepts in the 2010 national title game.

Other than Newton, the most obvious person to compare Klein to would be Tim Tebow, who’s athletic ability carried him in Gainesville, and caught the NFL off-balance (at least partially) last season. Tebow’s biggest criticism is his throwing ability, and Klein shares the same critique. With a similarly whacky throwing motion, and a duck-like trajectory to his throws, Klein won’t be making the technical throws that Marcus Mariota will be making on January 3rd, but Klein will likely be just as efficient as Oregon’s freshman gunslinger.

Part of his efficiency stems from defenses overcompensating for his running ability, and any sort of play action draws a lot of attention from the secondary and linebackers. Whenever Klein runs downhill, defenses collapse down to stop the lumbering quarterback from gashing the interior, leaving plenty of space for Klein to lob a pass downfield.

The infamous jump pass is an extremely deadly form of play action Klein has at his disposal. The defense will read QB dive, as shown by the two orange lines above (yes, this play is illegal, more on that in a second). Klein, indicated by the yellow arrow, will approach the line of scrimmage as his tight end (red arrow) streaks downfield.

[Edited: Clarified rule on downfield linemen on pass plays]

As Klein heads to the line of scrimmage, the center engages a linebacker (yellow circle above), making a pass play illegal at this point, as there is a blocker downfield. However, there was no call, and the play action becomes almost unfair to the defense. Klein continues his path downfield before stopping just short of the line of scrimmage.

In the picture above, Klein hops up, and throws the ball to his tight end who is wide open between the hash marks. Texas has no linebackers in the vicinity, and gives up big yardage on a simple play action call. While this particular play should have been called back, KSU runs plenty of play action passes with the quarterback acting as a run threat, and has legal variations at their disposal as well.

Collin Klein is essentially the definition of a great college quarterback. He fits the system perfectly, avoids mistakes, and utilizes his athleticism to create big plays on the ground and in the air. Bill Snyder’s unparalleled ability to put his players in the best position possible makes a previously venom-less offensive skill group very dangerous, and presents a very big challenge for the Oregon defense.


Print Friendly
Josh Schlichter

Josh Schlichter

Josh is a College Football enthusiast from sunny Southern California. He has written for several self-operated prep sports blogs, as well as multiple SB Nation sites. In High School, Josh played football for four years, and helped create and operate the team's no-huddle system. Most of Josh's football knowledge branches from watching College Football his entire life, and is backed up by his first hand experience in both option and spread offenses. Above all, though, he is a proud student at the University of Oregon. @joshschlichter

  • hokieduck

    “Collin Klein – an athletic but truly mediocre quarterback…” Hmmm. Don’t think I would be saying that Josh. He seems to run this KSU team to its best advantage and almost won a Heisman Trophy doing so. Isn’t running the team to its best advantage the ONLY real measure of a quarterback? At the very least, 11-1 and runner-up for the Heisman are not exactly mediocre accomplishments. Yes, I agree he is a Tebow-like talent (without the main characteristic which makes Tebow remain at least a conversation piece in the NFL despite his poor throwing ability – the dude/Tebow simply refuses to lose and has that “thing” which brings a team with him). I don’t think Klein can boast that same ineffable quality.

    However, make no mistake. He and KSU are very dangerous. This Bill Snyder team will *not* beat itself with turnovers and stupid penalties … whether the Ducks can say the same thing Jan3d remains to be seen. It will require great patience and discipline for the Ducks to remain in their lanes on defense and great athleticism and solid tackling to stop the Wildcats. On the other hand, I do not think that KSU has experienced the speed on a defense that Oregon has, when healthy. And let’s hope this month gives us a chance to get healthy.

    Go Ducks. WTD.

    • At KSU, Klein is an elite quarterback. Just as Tim Tebow was elite at Florida. If you had to pick a quarterback to form a team around in the NFL where athleticism alone can’t carry you, Klein wouldn’t be considered in the same regard as Luck, RG3, Rodgers, etc.

      He’s athletic, smart, experienced, and effective, but his raw skills as a Pro capable quarterback are at best mediocre

      • hokieduck

        I agree; however, that does not make him a mediocre quarterback in his system on this team. He is making KSU the best it can be. That is superlative quarterbacking.

        I am betting that KSU fans will hop on to your words, Josh. Bet they will not find it funny that their award winning bohunk is being called mediocre by some Oregon website. I imagine that it will end up on more than one bulletin board. Not that that matters mind you. But it surely will add fuel to their fire.

        • That’s exactly what I had said in the article, and in my comment above.

          And In no way am in insinuating that Klein is not dangerous, otherwise why would I write an article featuring his two best strengths?

          • I am curious as to why you said this play was illegal and reversed your position.

            On a side note you earned a huge amount of creditability in my eyes by NOT altering your article and simply correcting the errors. it shows journalistic integrity and I give you MAD respect in a world of internet news.

          • As I learned today, linemen are allowed to block a certain distance downfield. It was one of those rules that I never received clarification on, and needed to correct.

            Thank you for the kind words… although I would rather not have to routinely go back on my analysis, it means a lot that someone would notice my adjustments as opposed to completely rescinding my error.

          • C. Deezy

            The play where CK fakes the run for a pass down the field is, in its most basic principle, no different than a flea-flicker.

          • It isn’t that big of a deal. I make the argument all the time that Klein wouldn’t probably start at QB for any other BCS team in the country because he wouldn’t have been coached up to the level he is due to his lack of standard QB “tools”. Snyder was gone when the new clock rules come into play…I have no doubts he was salivating when they were put in place. Our offense was probably the best defense in the Big 12 this year. When we control clock and score slowly, we are hard to beat. I actually prefer to NOT see huge offensive plays when we have the ball, of course you take them, but I want to see 8 or 9 minute methodical drives that just sucks the soul out of the opposing defense AND forces the opponents offense to sit and watch. Our offense did NOT do it’s job early on when our D did get a couple of stops vs. Baylor. We had our chances and we played not to lose and it snowballed. I love our chances going against the Oregon D, but as a whole…I don’t like this matchup for us overall because of playcalling problems when we get down…and we will be down at some point in this game, hopefully not the entire day??

          • i respect your argument, and fandom as a kstate supporter… but you should be worried about oregons D.

          • tsherman1

            I find it so funny what uniformed posters say about our Defense, please come back after the game and let us know how our D did…

          • tsherman1

            OK, I’m back… So how about that Oregon Defense? Still excited about playing against it?

          • tsherman1

            Auburn fans said the same thing…

        • I am not really jumping him for not calling Klein an elite quarterback. His passing skills last year were very suspect and that reputation has stuck around since.

          That being said, I have seen him make some very tight throws. I’ve watched him throw the ball 60+ yards and hit the man on the numbers. Does that happen all the time? No, but then again Kansas State is not built around the deep ball. Their bread and butter is won in the trenches with four plus yard pickup’s. If they run the ball for four yards, their happy.

          If Kansas State is able to disrupt your spread offense the same way they did Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and most importantly West Virginia then Oregon is going to be in for a long day.

          Not trying to be rude, but I see a lot of similarities between Oregon, West Virginia and Baylor. All three teams have strong offenses and a questionable defense. I note West Virginia and Baylor because they represent the best and worst games Kansas State had this season.

          If Baylor’s defense had been playing the way they did against Kansas State all season, they would have been the Big 12 champs. If Kansas State’s defense played Baylor the way they did West Virginia, they would be playing Notre Dame.

        • None of it matters, K-State players will be concerned with what we do and what we need to do. Oregon is a tough match-up and without Zimmerman, a very tough task for our D. Decent analysis, but these arguments are old hat for Cat fans. We know it, we get it…we aren’t the most talented team…our margin of error is VERY small…we win games. That’s pretty much it.

    • Your speed will be your undoing if you don’t stay in your gaps. Over the years we have played much better Ds with more speed and had success. I don’t believe you guys have played anyone that does what we do as efficiently…unless you take into account Stanford?? This game will be won or lost pretty early. If we don’t have a good start, it WILL get ugly for us I’m afraid.

      • tsherman1

        Nope, no where near like Stanford… Still a well coached team and congrats on a great season…

  • Are you this condescending in all your articles?