Guess who leads the team in receiving touchdowns? It's Jordan Leggett with four, followed by Artavis Scott with three. Leggett is third on the team in receiving yards, behind Scott and Cain. We are a school with a deep, deep group of wide receivers. Leggett provides a type of threat in the red zone our wide receivers have not been able to give the team since Mike Williams was injured. We are going to look at where Leggett was deadliest vs. Georgia Tech last Saturday, in and approaching the red zone, where he provided two touchdowns. (All images via Youtube user Tigerray/ESPN)
The play begins with Leggett set up as the third receiver in a trips set before motioning into a wing position on the boundary side of the field. Note the down and distance too, with it being 2nd and five the presence of a tight end forces Tech to respect the threat of the run more so than if Clemson lined up with four true wide outs.
You can see the boundary side safety starts cheating up, most likely worried about his job setting the edge if Clemson calls a run. He should have been worried given how often Clemson was able to get first downs running outside to the short side of the field.
At the snap Watson looks to the left side of the field, where ScElliot have called a switch route. Switch is a variation of four verticals where the outside receiver runs a post route and the inside receiver runs everyone's favorite, the wheel route. The read remains the exact same for the quarterback so very little, if any, teaching is required but it looks drastically different to the defense. I don't know what the field side is running but Gallman has done what running backs do in four verts/switch, checked for a blitz and then looked to get open underneath.The safety, while a bit out of position, winds up dropping back to cover the post.
The corner does not adjust to Leggett, at all, and gets straight up outran by the tight end. Wheel routes are hard to cover, requiring either the outside linebacker, safety, or corner to adjust depending on which defense is called. The safety has done his job and covered the post, if you look at the pre snap the nearest linebacker is head up on the guard, that leaves the corner. It's forgivable for a corner to struggle to cover a 6'5" target on a jump ball. That's not what happened. He just was too slow. Good play calling and Watson's ability to hit Leggett in stride helped a lot, but having a tight end who outruns a cornerback (admittedly a corner being forced to think, and thus a slow corner) is a nice luxury to have.
The next touchdown comes late in the second quarter, with Clemson inside the Georgia Tech ten yard line.
Clemson is lined up in trips, with Leggett on the line of scrimmage to the trips side. Having a tight end who can split out wide provides another benefit here. It is generally thought that it is harder to press a receiver off the line of scrimmage than a receiver on it. By putting the 255 lb Leggett on the line of scrimmage it is harder to press the other two receivers to the trips side. Again notice that GT's deep safety to Leggett's side is playing more inside and shallow than the safety to the single receiver side.
Tech elects to rush five, with the linebacker aligned over Leggett and the middle linebacker to the single receiver side providing the extra pass rushers. This leaves the safety to cover Leggett, and he has dropped down to do so. This makes sense, on the goal line you have to be afraid of a quick pass to Leggett and him simply falling forward for a few yards.
Both of the wide receivers to the trips side run in routes, forcing any and all help away from Leggett, who is running a post route. As a bonus the post/in combination has potential to lead to defensive players running into each other and springing someone wide open. Tech does a pretty good job covering the in routes, but the outside cut from Leggett gets him very, very open. The post is the perfect route vs a safety that has cheated both inside and close to the line of scrimmage. Had Tech covered the post and not the ins it's pretty easy to catch that ball and run upfield. Is it always a touchdown? No. But sometimes you have to put the ball into, say, Artavis Scott or Deon Cain's hands and tell them to make something happen. Players have to make plays.
The safety was in trouble because of the alignment from the moment the ball was snapped. That said, Leggett still has to be fast enough to not give that ground back, and Watson still has to throw that ball. Passes like this are why Watson is a Heisman caliber quarterback. He dropped the ball perfectly into Leggett's hands. When you have a player with Leggett's combination of height and speed a pass that perfectly thrown is nearly impossible to cover. Kudos to the offensive line for not letting a Tech defender so much as sniff Watson on the play as well.
What is noteworthy about both touchdowns are how they happened. In both cases Leggett served as the player taking the top off of the defenses. With Mike Williams out indefinitely that sort of play is something sorely missed in our offense right now. I do not think many of us predicted that we would be a very good threat to go undefeated this year, I know no one thought that Wayne Gallman would be our best offensive threat so far this year. I have another reality to add to the list of things we must sit with, through five games Jordan Leggett may be our best vertical passing threat.