A point of contention early in season of the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles has centered on the running game, or lack thereof in the opinion of some fans.

March 22, 2017

“The Hurry Up” is Shawn "Coach of the Fans" Liotta's weekly blog with information from his coaching experience, film study and conversations with industry leaders that may be pertinent to current trends and strategy in the Indoor Football League. It will give fans a greater insight into the game.

A point of contention early in season of the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles has centered on the running game, or lack thereof in the opinion of some fans. With the fans at the controls of all playcalling, the Screaming Eagles have rushed the football on only 34 percent of plays. This has led to the Salt Lake offense having to rely on the pass and often long-yardage scenarios on second and third down, greatly decreasing the odds of converting those situations.

It is important as a playcaller to put yourself in a good position to have success or “win” on first down. This does not mean that there are not opportunities during a game that present themselves with the opportunity to attack down the field on first down. However, by keeping the sticks at a manageable distance, a great deal of stress is placed on the opposing defense. With 2nd-and-4 or 2nd-and-5 situations after a successful first-down run, screen, or quick pass, the defense is now in a bind as they must be prepared for the run or pass in this situation. Compared with a scenario such as 3rd-and-10 after two long incomplete passes, and the defense can attack the quarterback, knowing he's throwing.

The Indoor Football League has very favorable rules that allow an efficient running game to thrive, due to an inherit advantage in the offensive box at the point of attack. Many fans from Utah's previous professional indoor football team may be confusing the Indoor Football League rules with those from the Arena Football League, where it is nearly impossible to generate an effective rushing attack.

This is not the case in the IFL and, in fact, a close review of recent seasons indicate that the road to the championship may be paved with the ground game. No team emphasizes the running game more than the Sioux Falls Storm, who have dominated the Indoor Football League. The Storm rushed the ball more than any team in the league between 2014-16, leading them to the championship each season. Sioux Falls is also leading the league in rushing attempts during the 2017 season, running the ball on 60 percent of plays, or 26 percentage points higher than your Screaming Eagles.

The chart below illustrates the run to pass tendencies of playoff participants in the IFL over the past three seasons. During that time, only two franchises made the playoffs while rushing the ball less than 40 percent of the time, and the lowest rushing tendency for a team who made the playoffs was the Wichita Falls Nighthawks in 2016 (37 percent).

It is important to remember how the presence of a veteran quarterback can skew these numbers, as the Nighthawks featured record-setting veteran quarterback Charles McCullum, and the only season that the Sioux Falls Storm did have a higher run-to-pass ratio (45 percent run in 2014), they were piloted by the top quarterback in IFL history, Chris Dixon.

Look for more later in the week as the Screaming Eagles head towards a key Intense Conference re-match with the Spokane Empire on Friday March 24th. As always I welcome your feedback and questions, so give me a follow on Twitter (@ShawnLiotta or shoot me an email (coachliotta@fanchi.se.

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