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Screening to run, running to win: Building an offense with Texas Tech's Dave Yost

It may not look that way on the surface, what with the receivers lined up all over the field, the RPOs, the rapid pace, but David Yost really wants to run the ball. And, let's be honest, the hair doesn't help either. The hair screams, "Let's play hooky from work and drink beers on the beach," and running the ball down after down is sitting at your desk until 5 p.m. and not one moment before.

But every facet of Yost's offense builds toward the ultimate goal, which is to run the ball.

In fact, Yost's Utah State attack ran the ball on 480 of its 945 snaps in 2018, a tick above 50 percent. Compare that to Texas Tech, which threw 535 passes on 972 snaps (a 45 percent run rate) or to Mike Leach at Washington State, where 677 of his 958 plays went through the air.

And Utah State's numbers don't even take into account the focal point of Yost's presentation at last week's Angelo Football Clinic -- the screen game.

The new Texas Tech offensive coordinator talked for more than an hour, most of it on the Now screen -- where the quarterback takes the shotgun snap and fires it immediately to the far receiver on the line of scrimmage, while the slot receiver blocks the corner in front of him.

"The goal is to get four yards or a first down," Yost said. Just like a running play.

That's not to say the Now screen can only gain four yards a pop, though. At Utah State, the Aggies' X receiver caught 44 screens for seven yards a reception over the last two seasons -- all of which are considered runs in Yost's mind.

"We start outside-in. We’re looking to get the ball on the perimeter in our run game through screens," Yost said. "I’ve sat in hundreds of recruiting meetings and I’ve never heard a coach say, ‘This corner is the best tackler I’ve ever seen.’"

Screens are triggered pre-snap at the quarterback's direction -- most often, the offensive line blocks a run play -- and Yost likes them thrown in the following order:

  1. Behind the run to the field
  2. Behind the run to the boundary
  3. In front of the run to the field
  4. In front of the run to the boundary

Once the defense adequately fears the screen game on a snap-to-snap basis, lanes start opening for Yost's running backs. The Aggies ran for 2,641 yards on 5.5 per carry in 2018 -- 15th best in the nation. In their final five games of 2018, four of them wins, Utah State ran the ball 181 times for 1,120 yards (6.2 a carry) and 13 touchdowns.

And none of that includes the yards gained through the screen game, either.

"The whole reason we throw the football is to run the football," Yost said. "We throw screens to run the ball."