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The Tape: Deon Butler Excites, Fails to Catch a Pass

The fun starts tomorrow. Today I'll cover some preliminary stuff and breakdown Deon Butler's performance in Penn State's first drive. I'm using tape from the Rose Bowl because it's a game I've watched several times and it pits Penn State against one of the best defenses in the country. USC was first overall in pass defense, first in scoring defense, third in Bill Connelly's "+" rating and fifth in defensive FEI. Southern California's five most active defensive backs were: Taylor Mays at free safety, Will Harris at strong safety, and Cary Harris, Josh Pinkard and Kevin Thomas at cornerback. Harris was drafted in the sixth round by the Buffalo Bills. Pinkard and Thomas are talented corners that have struggled with injures. USC's linebackers will feature prominently, too.

  1. Penn: 3 WR (left), WR (right), RB. Butler is the innermost receiver on the left. He motions right before the snap. Butler decoys deep. Derrick Williams runs for three. Butler does not otherwise factor.
  2. Penn: 4 WR (left), Butler (right), Shotgun. Butler is matched opposite Harris. Harris is in man-cover, positioned close, looking to press. After the snap, Butler takes a quick step forward, briefly shimmy-shakes left and right, instigates hand-fighting and is able to win some separation. Harris is known for his press and upper body strength. He benched 225 pounds 18 times at the NFL Combine. Butler starts an up route fading towards the sideline, stops, braces himself against Harris, using Harris rapidly flips counter-clockwise and reaches for an overthrown pass well over his right shoulder and out of bounds. Butler might be a little late with the break, but more likely Darryl Clark is quick on the pass. Beyond the inaccuracy, the pass seems poorly timed.
  3. Penn: 2 WR (left), 2 WR (right), RB. Butler is the outer-right receiver. He's again matched opposite Harris. After the snap, Butler gets a clean release and runs a fifteen yard square in. He gets good separation and the route finds a soft spot between USC's shallow linebackers and deep safeties. Clark targets Butler but the pass is tipped by Kaluka Maiava. Maiava palms it almost straight into the air and falls under but fails to get the pick. Nevertheless, Butler had a good step and a half on Harris and an expanse to cut into and up field towards the end zone.