Jet motion adds element of surprise, explosiveness to Badgers' offense

Jet motion adds element of surprise, explosiveness to Badgers' offense

From the Get ready for the Badgers' home finale against Purdue with State Journal coverage series
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Danny Davis photo

UW wide receiver Danny Davis ran for a 17-yard touchdown in the Badgers' win over Iowa Nov. 9 at Camp Randall Stadium.

The University of Wisconsin football team fakes the jet sweep so often that opponents might feel comfortable ignoring that wide receiver sprinting across the formation.

But when the Badgers see that happening, they strike. Taking out two kneel-downs to end the game, the Badgers ran 64 plays at Nebraska last week. Jet motion — a receiver running across the formation and being near the quarterback at the time of the snap — was involved in 16 of them, one-fourth of UW’s plays. Six of those were handoffs, totaling 67 yards, and 10 were fakes.

Jet motion wasn’t nearly as prevalent in the Badgers’ offense against Iowa on Nov. 9, with four of 69 snaps (5.8 percent) excluding kneel-downs, using the tactic. However, the one jet-sweep handoff UW tried turned into a 17-yard touchdown run by receiver Danny Davis.

“It’s a common play for us, man. We take pride in it, especially as receivers. When we get it, we want to make something shake with it, do something fun with it. It’s really fun, I hope to continue to get them and make big plays out of them,” Davis said.

Receivers on the run

A look at how UW receivers are making an impact in the ground game.

Name Carries Yards TDs
Danny Davis 6 86 1
Kendric Pryor 4 80 1
Aron Cruickshank 8 75 0
A.J. Taylor 3 24 0
Jack Dunn 1 3 1

Handing off or faking a handoff with jet motion has helped the Badgers threaten defenses on the edge, and when so much of an opponent’s attention is going to be on tailback Jonathan Taylor between the tackles, creating another element to worry about makes No. 14 UW more difficult to defend.

The fakes also can create a moment’s hesitation for defenders, which is all the line needs to be able to block the play effectively, center Tyler Biadasz said.

“We just found areas where they’re playing us tough in the game, and wanted to keep them honest,” Biadasz said. “I think the jets help them not necessarily close down gaps, but made sure they were honest to not just one play attacking them, but multiple, and making their backers really read J.T. and (quarterback Jack) Coan in the backfield.”

Multiple factors are working well when offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph calls for a jet-motion handoff, but the biggest key has been the blocking up front. Davis said he believes UW has the best line in the country, and the work those players have done to create rushing lanes for receiver handoffs is a bit different than what they do on inside runs.

Tight ends Jake Ferguson and Cormac Sampson have combined with tackles on either side of the line to generate push and turn the edge of the defense on these plays. That decreases the distance a receiver must run parallel to the line of scrimmage before turning up field to gain yards. On some of the Badgers’ jet sweeps, linemen away from the play block in the opposite direction of the receiver running the ball in order to deceive defenders into thinking a run with Taylor is coming their way.

“You can do a pretty good job of seeing when you have it and when you don’t. The guys are good blocking it. They make things go because they get it. They understand it,” Rudolph said. “There’s a flow to the whole thing. And the run’s been good off of it, and I think that’s the reason why it’s worked the best, the whole package.”

Davis played running back for a time in high school, so taking a handoff in the backfield isn’t new to him. But for other receivers, getting the ball behind the line of scrimmage can take some getting used to.

A key component to jet sweeps being effective is a receiver’s ability to read his blocks and cut up field at the correct time and in the correct spot.

“The way you’re reading, sometimes you want to circle it (around the edge), but sometimes the way the line and the backs are blocking, you have to cut it up inside,” senior receiver A.J. Taylor said. “I guess it is a little different, but at the end of day it’s playing football, reading what you can and coming to life.”

Rudolph said one element to jet-motion plays that often goes overlooked is the responsibility Coan has.

UW runs jet motions in a variety of formations, both with Coan under center and in the shotgun. He has to ensure the timing of receiver coming in motion and the snap of the ball are on point. That hasn’t always been the case, as even on Davis’ touchdown run against the Hawkeyes, the handoff was almost botched because Davis got to the ball a hair too quickly.

“Timing it up with that receiver, and there’s different receivers doing it, so that’s a big component,” Rudolph said.

“And then I think just really trusting it. The one thing we used to do is we’d get into it, and it’d look good, it’d look good, it’d look good, you get to a game, and it’d be like, ‘Oh, everything got faster.’ I think (receivers coach Ted Gilmore has) done a great job in helping those guys to trust it. We’ve probably repped it enough to help them as well.”

One of the biggest advantages jet sweep plays give the Badgers is providing an easy way to get its handful of fast, talented receivers the ball with a chance to get into the open field.

“It opens (defenses) up a little bit,” A.J. Taylor said. “You know we’ve got weapons and assets coming that way, you’ve got to watch ‘em both. It takes a little bit of pressure off J.T. Anything helps.”


No. 14 Badgers vs. Purdue: Who has the edge?

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