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Freedom to change plays paying off

10/24/2013, 8:29pm PDT
By Craig Malveaux

But La Jolla junior quarterback must be ready to explain his move.

Tyler Roach opted for safe rather than sorry.

The La Jolla offensive coordinator — considering goal-line packages — signaled an inside run to Vikings quarterback Collin Rugg.

Anticipating run, Coronado dialed up a blitz, stuffing the “a,” “b” and “c” gaps with multiple defenders, pre-snap.

Rugg hollered out a couple words.

“(Collin) noticed the matchup,” Roach said, “and checked out of the original play.”


The line caved in. Parrying, Rugg arced the football toward a receiver — isolated one on one with a defensive back — fading to the corner of the end zone.


That was one of four scores stemming from Rugg’s audibles.

“As coordinator, you might not always call the right play,” Roach said. “It’s a chess match between coordinators, both trying to outsmart each other. But because we’ve given Collin more and more flexibility in the offense, we’ve been able to alleviate those instances.”

Since the summer, Roach and first-year La Jolla head coach Jason Carter have granted Rugg autonomy on the field, enabling the junior the freedom to flip sets, call hot routes, adjust slide protections, audible out of and even dial up his own plays.

“If I ask questions about a particular call or a decision, (Collin) has to be able to explain them,” Carter said. “That’s the stipulation.”

In the early stages of their relationship, Carter asked Rugg to name his favorite play. The QB said he liked to throw deep.

The brief conversation revealed Rugg’s inexperience, resulting from two years of backup duty in a wing-T offense.

“I thought to myself, whoa,” Carter recalled. “This isn’t good at all. We have a lot of work to do.”

The former Texas A&M receiver/quarterback and NFL practice squad receiver with the Vikings and Panthers initiated weekly tutoring sessions composed of chalk talk, lectures and film work to accelerate his quarterback’s development.

“My entire perception changed,” Rugg said. “I didn’t know where the holes were, where the openings were. Like cover 2, I heard the fade route would be open, but I didn’t know why, especially when you had two safeties up top. All that changed during these meetings.”

Preparation paired with replication on the practice field yielded comprehension, which progressed during the offseason.

Soon, the conversation came full circle.

What’s your favorite play?

Well, versus cover three, I like … .


Versus cover two man, then … .

In that instance, Rugg described the X’s and O’s — the formation, the individual defensive assignments, each counteracting route and the windows on the field.

He became an orchestrator instead of a cog constrained to a system.

To a certain degree, the foundation of La Jolla’s up-tempo, no huddle offense is built upon creative license.

When operating fluidly — or at “Oregon” tempo, reeling off plays within five to seven seconds of the officials spotting the football — time is precious.

Roach signaling in plays can decelerate that, placing play-calling duties on Rugg.

“I’ll call out ‘rocket stop’ to the nearest player, for instance, and they relay it to everyone on the field,” Rugg said.

Those two words denote formation, blocking scheme, routes, alerts, run or pass and direction of the play.

La Jolla ran 100 plays in a 66-34 loss to Santa Fe Christian, logging 31 first downs and 59 plays in the first half alone, as opposed to its 85-play average.

Results may vary, evidenced by La Jolla’s 3-4 record, however, the Vikings’ 2,625 total yards — 375 average — ranks first among Division IV teams.

“This offense wouldn’t function as efficiently or as quickly without (Collin),” Carter said. “That’s just a testament to the football acumen he’s developed in such a short amount of time.”

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