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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 26, Digital 5

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Page 41 of 92

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED OLUME 26, ISSUE 5 42 Where's the weakside guy aligned? Is the Sam shading outside the tight end? On others, they're watching the cornerbacks. Are they playing press man? Are they playing off? How big is the cushion? Each answer to the defense reveals big-picture an- swers for the offense. Each play has a progression read — receiving options are set from 1-5, depending on the personnel — and Lester is teaching his players to use that pre-snap time scanning the defense to eliminate options. That's new for these QBs. Previous QB coach and coordinator John Shoop stressed a post-snap pro- gression read, which meant, even if the QBs may have read the defense pre-snap and didn't think that first option would be the right one, they still were required to work through their reads in order after the snap. Though post-snap reads are crucial — defenses don't always show a look and stay there after the snap; dis- guising and late movement are part of the chess match — Purdue's quarterbacks have found it much simpler to eliminate options before the snap. Oftentimes this spring, it allowed them to get the ball out of their hands quickly and make completions at a generally high rate: Unofficially, both Blough and Sindelar were plus-60 per- cent during 7-on-7 and team scenarios. "It's just training my mind to make decisions as fast as I can," said Blough, holding his personal pair of gog- gles that have a sticker with his No. 11 on them; each QB has his own. "You want to make the right decision every time. I have to become as obsessed with kicking a defensive coordinator's butt every single play as I am with trying to make a big play. That's what makes Drew (Brees) great. That's what makes Tom Brady great. They make the right decision every time and they're so efficient that there's no way they'll ever come off the field. That's where my next step is, and I think this tool is helping me get there." But those are only the steps before the snap. The software goes beyond that. It tells players whether they made the right decision. After the snap, there are three beeps as the screen counts down 3-2-1. And that's still a vital time because defenders could be moving at that point, shifting from a two-deep safety look and, now, maybe, the strong safety comes on what seems like a dead sprint — literally, it takes two seconds for him to reach the backfield on a specific blitz — and you must be mindful of that. Al- ways peek at that guy. Always. If not … A play that starts under center, a play-action that has you looking to the back before swiveling the head to the field and, say looking left, trying to hit a guy for what you think could be a touchdown, well, the defense lulled you into that. You didn't look at that safety on the right side. And so, after the play, when you "threw" to that receiver on the left — all you do is stare at him and your intended receiver lights up — and the screen tells you "incorrect," outlined in red, and you turn your head back right? A shudder: The safety is right in your face. A line- backer right there, too. You were looking in the wrong place. The defense shifted late, and you weren't paying attention and now … "I'll visit you in the hospital," Lester says of the mistake. In this case, fortunately, the "sacked" report- er-turned-QB was able to peel off the goggles instead of being peeled off the turf. Next time on that play guess where the eyes go to first? And that's the point. About five minutes after Sindelar had gotten the go- ahead to start using the program over spring break, he texted Lester: "You brought the safety!" Sindelar saw it, though, watching as that player was covering 20 yards at seeming mach-speed to get to the line. Wondering if the speed is accurate to what QBs see in real games — if routes develop as quickly, if cor- nerbacks can cover ground as quickly, if reads are only available for seconds? There's a function on the program that actually tells quarterbacks if they're "too late." That's an incorrect response, and that play will be run again at some point. So there may be unlimited time before the snap to

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