Hawkeyes Chalk Talk: How one personnel group can unlock Iowa’s offense in 2023
So, now that the talent will be in Iowa City, there are no more excuses. Bluntly put, it is time for the Iowa Hawkeyes’ offense to perform. The transfers of Cade McNamara, Erick All, Seth Anderson, and most recently, Kaleb Brown, have set the stage for an offense desperately searching for answers.
That’s what we are here to look at today. What is a personnel grouping that could unlock this Iowa offense in 2023? Before we get into it, I will give some foundation to where this thought process stems from and why I am comfortable laying it out.
I attended Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, just a short 45-minute trip east of Iowa City. I played four years of football there as a wide receiver. Now, life wasn’t easy for a 5-foot-9, 185-pound slot receiver that wasn’t the fastest or strongest as you could imagine. Due to that, I had to win with a high football IQ, an understanding of matchups, and quick processing of mathematical advantages (which we will get into later). For example, if a linebacker was on me, that was the time to use my best move. Or if we spread it out and it was a run play, I had to know how to handle a linebacker while giving up quite a bit of size.
Due to experience, countless hours of seeing schemes in film meetings, and studying Iowa’s offense, I believe one personnel grouping could unlock this offense. That is ’12’ personnel.
Let’s get into what ’12’ personnel means and how it could change the Hawkeyes’ offense.
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What is 12 personnel? Who is that for Iowa?
First things first, let’s understand what 12 means. Simply put, the first number is the total running back, the second number is tight ends, and the remaining number up to five is how many receivers. So, 12 is one running back, two tight ends, and two receivers. Here are some examples of how personnel groupings work.
You may hear '11 personnel' or '12 personnel' — but you may not know what that means.
I was just talking to someone and they asked what these meant. This is the first image that popped up when I Googled it to help explain. Figured I'd share for others who wonder the same. pic.twitter.com/vwTsXU7lyq
— JWack (@JaredWackerly) May 13, 2020
For the sake of this, I am going to pencil in Iowa’s 12 personnel as the following:
RB: Kaleb Johnson
TEs: Luke Lachey and Erick All
WRs: Kaleb Brown and Nico Ragaini/Seth Anderson (interchangeable)
The 5 best skill players are on the field together
Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK
For Iowa specifically, this personnel group gets their best five skill players on the field to give Cade McNamara ample options. It is no secret that tight end is the Hawkeyes’ strongest skill position. All and Lachey should be on the field together as much as possible.
At receiver, Kaleb Brown needs to be an every down guy and the opposite of him can depend on the scheme and we will discuss why in a bit. At running back, Kaleb Johnson plugs right into this group very well with his burst and would become the lead back.
Luke Lachey and Erick All stay on the field
While Kaleb Brown has helped the receiver room, no one is having it surpass the tight ends. Luke Lachey shined last year in his time and Erick All has received rave reviews from spring practices.
Utilizing 12 personnel ensures these two are on the field together which is a massive headache for defensive coordinators. Having two tight ends that can not only catch the ball but make plays after is a nightmare to defend which leads to the next point.
12 personnel creates flexibility and mismatches
Syndication: The Des Moines Register
Not only does Luke Lachey play the tight end position very well, but he has also been working at splitting out wide during spring practices. The ability to move Luke Lachey out wide creates odd situations for defenses and puts them in uncomfortable positions. They have to make the decision of keeping an undersized cornerback on him or putting a linebacker or safety out in space where they are much less comfortable playing.
This also allows the opportunity to slide Kaleb Brown, Nico Ragaini, or Seth Anderson into the slot and get a favorable matchup. If you can put Lachey and Brown on the same side, you can force the defense to show their hand with motion and give McNamara a pre-snap read.
You can manufacture one-on-one matchups in the passing game
Joseph Scheller-The Columbus Dispatch
Arguably the most important aspect that Kaleb Brown brings to Iowa is the much-needed downfield threat for the Hawkeyes. It appears that they may have a true number one wide receiver. Using 12 personnel can manipulate a defense into a one-on-one situation.
To get Brown into a one-on-one situation, you would put the other receiver and both tight ends to one side which isolates Brown. The defense has to slide a safety over the help or they are giving up a huge disadvantage of numbers. Once that safety slides, McNamara has his one-on-one matchup. Below is an example of how the defense has to slide safety help to the three-receiver side.
A new look by RAC vs 12 personnel. RAC takes out all of the defensive lineman. Two edge in Mercilus and Martin. Addae and Moore in + McKinney and Cunningham. Moore was 4th rusher. #Texans got a hold and incomplete pass out of this look. pic.twitter.com/DSapYjkLgu
— patrick (@PatDStat) December 18, 2019
Mathematical advantage in the run game
(Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
Iowa’s offensive line did not block well last year. They are expected to take a step forward this year but this personnel grouping can make that easier. Should Iowa choose, 12 personnel allows them to split out three or four receivers at a time. A defense has to respect that.
Thinking of it purely mathematical, that means they could at most have seven in the box if they went man-to-man across the board. That is very uncommon. Most defenses would put five or six into coverage in this case. What that means is a defense can only then keep five or six in the box. Should they do that, Iowa has a matchup of six defenders on five blockers and the ball carrier at the very worst. That is a count the Hawkeyes should want to take all day long.
Below is a look at how this personnel forces the defense to spread out. In this case, there are seven blockers for seven defenders so the offense has the advantage. Iowa can scheme their run game to get this advantage.
Best formation in football (in 12 personnel) 👇 pic.twitter.com/DMysWBSHds
— SpreadOffense.com (@SpreadOffense) May 6, 2023
Kaleb Johnson can emerge in the passing game
Spreading a defense out this much with skill on the outside is going to put defenses in a predicament if Kaleb Johnson releases on a route. They have to cover him with a linebacker which is a matchup Johnson should win 99/100 times.
If he can get this matchup, his emergence in the passing game could be similar to Tyler Goodson’s and could add an entirely new level to the Hawkeyes’ offense. The video below is what Goodson did to a linebacker in space and is what Johnson could do if singled up.
TO THE HOUSE ! 🔥🔥🔥
RB Tyler Goodson transforme un catch-and-run en un TD de 67 yards ! Wow !
Maryland 7, Iowa 41pic.twitter.com/IAP1BtbHFI
— TBP College Football (@thebluepennant) October 2, 2021
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