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Russell Okung and the Trials of Blocking for Zac Robinson

I have little left to say about Zac Robinson and the Oklahoma State Cowboys. This was surely a miserable game for OSU fans. Robinson was responsible for the worst of it. Quarterbacks are both the most important starter and the most sensitive to the quality of their teammates. It's an unresolved debate which matters more. On the one hand, no position can possibly be more valuable than the surrounding 10, not even quarterback. On the other, one can't ensure the other ten are talented and healthy. So, however frustrating it seems, a team is always pressed to get the most production possible out of its most important position. That leads to a lot of seemingly irrational decisions, like continuing to start Robinson despite his terrible play. Robinson was struggling, but at his best, he was the Cowboys best starter. So he sucked and sucked.

Robinson latched on with the New England Patriots. He is at least one answer to the question, what do pro scouts value more, performance or potential? Another answer might be found in Shaun Hill and Tim Rattay. Both quarterbacks have regularly outplayed their replacements, but are replaced again and again because teams doubt their potential. An NFL team would rather lose endlessly with a player with perceived upside like JaMarcus Russell than build around a steady, mediocre player like Hill.

1. 1st and 10 at OKST 27 Zac Robinson pass intercepted by Jonathan Nelson at the 50 yard line, returned for 37 yards to the OKSt 13.

Robinson throws off his back foot. It hangs. The Sooners are playing pass and have an adequate lead to ball hawk. They completely ignore the poorly-executed play action. Pick.

From Russell Okung's perspective, the game state, tendency of the Sooners and poorly executed play action creates a paradox. He is pass blocking but must sell run. His assignment, standing end Frank Alexander, is fading into coverage. Okung moves forward to block him, but to what end?

(Two plays later: Touchdown)

1. 1st and 10 at OKST 28 Kendall Hunter rush for 1 yard to the OKSt 29.

This play cut out. So...I'm sure Okung pancaked like fifteen Sooners.

2. 2nd and 9 at OKST 29 Kendall Hunter rush for 3 yards to the OKSt 32, tackled by Jeremy Beal.

Okung turns Alexander out and away from the rush. A little incidental holding.

3. 3rd and 6 at OKST 32 Zac Robinson pass incomplete.

Okung attempts to block in on Gerald McCoy. McCoy swims and sheds and Okung stumbles but recovers. The left guard pops and shadows McCoy. Robinson is unpressured.


1. 1st and 10 at OKST 20 Zac Robinson pass incomplete to Wilson Youman.

Okung locks up Alexander. A rare accurate pass is foiled by an uncalled pass interference.

2. 2nd and 10 at OKST 20 Zac Robinson pass incomplete to Hubert Anyiam.

Tight end left. Okung fades to block. Tight end owns his assignment. Okung has no one to block; blocks no one.

3. 3rd and 10 at OKST 20 Zac Robinson pass incomplete.

Overload left. Incorrect blitz read. The left guard moves in to double the nose and that allows McCoy untouched into the backfield. Okung locks up Alexander. Keenan Clayton arrives untouched off left end, leaving the back with both McCoy and Clayton to block. He chips McCoy. Robinson fades deep and throws it away.


1. 1st and 10 at OKST 35 Zac Robinson pass incomplete, broken up by Frank Alexander.

Okung blocks hard right on a PA roll left. He puts a glancing blow on McCoy, but does not factor further.

2. 2nd and 10 at OKST 35 OKLAHOMA ST penalty 5 yard false start on N/A accepted.

2a. 2nd and 15 at OKST 30 Kendall Hunter rush for 1 yard to the OKSt 31.

McCoy times the snap perfectly. He is playing over the left tackle-left guard gap. The left guard pulls. Okung attempts to move in to block McCoy, but McCoy is too deep and Okung is digging out an already buried play. McCoy disengages and tracks Hunter offensive-right for the tackle.

3. 3rd and 14 at OKST 31 Zac Robinson sacked by Frank Alexander for a loss of 11 yards to the OKSt 20.

The depth of the sack sort of says it all. Oklahoma is stunting right on a five man blitz from a 3-3. The blitz is picked up pretty well, but Robinson has happy feet and, for the sake of empty speculation, seems particularly terrified of McCoy. Robinson fades and fades and eventually backs himself into Alexander.

Okung starts with a high-stepping drop step that moves him deep and wide and square with Alexander. He occupies but does not halt Alexander. Then again, stringing an edge rusher ten deep and wide is good left tackle play. Nevertheless, 11 yards deep, the pocket snaps under tension and Alexander reaches from around Okung's left shoulder and sacks Robinson.