Tuesday Tape Room: Cody Vaz's ‘mental reps’ pay off

Tuesday Tape Room is Pac-12 Networks football analyst (and former USC assistant coach) Yogi Roth’s chance to break down tape in search of details worth focusing on — similar to what’s happening in team meetings throughout the conference today.

Each week coaches look for growth from their quarterbacks. By mid-season they tend to have a solid idea of where they stand in terms of their development.

Oregon State was 4-0 heading into this past weekend’s matchup against BYU due in part to the growth of its second-year starter, Sean Mannion. Due to his recent knee injury however, the Beavs had to turn to unproven junior Cody Vaz, who had yet to face a starting defense at the Division-I level.

The first thing that coaches typically do in this scenario is hope that their backup truly took ‘mental reps’ in practice. Then they scale back their playbook, run the ball and prepare their first-time starter to operate fundamental play-action passes and minimal drop back plays (due to pass protection concerns).

Fast forward to this week’s film session and the Beavers are 5-0 and No. 8 in the first BCS standings for two reasons:

  1. Cody Vaz took ‘mental reps’ as a backup.
  2. Head coach Mike Riley stayed true to his philosophy by proving to his team that he has confidence in his roster.

Oregon State maintained its expansive pro-style playbook and allowed Vaz to perform in the absence of fear. These two throws that finished his first drive prove how confident Riley was in his first-time starter and how prepared Vaz was as he went 5-5 for 75 yards on that initial drive.

On this play, Vaz executes Oregon State’s play-action game flawlessly. The entire front seven for BYU reacts to the run fake, which allows Vaz to set his feet in the frontside A-gap (between the center and guard) and deliver a strike to his tight end, Connor Hamlett.

On the very next snap, Vaz sprints out to his off hand (left). Now most first-time starters would take the simple throw to the bottom of the screen, but Vaz keeps his eyes up and maintains a feel for the line of scrimmage and the sideline while being pursued. More impressively, he senses wideout Markus Wheaton breaking open toward the back pylon. Vaz flashes his front shoulder and delivers a dime to his senior receiver.

What is most impressive about this first drive is that Vaz seems extremely poised. It would have been completely normal for him to throw a few balls high due to his energy being through the roof, but Vaz proves that his ‘mental reps’ in practice prepared him for his first start.

Vaz’s performance is an incredible example to his team that they have the actual depth and skill to excel when someone goes down. But it also proves to Oregon State that Riley has confidence in his players and his system, as they did not alter their offensive package.

Follow former USC assistant coach and New York Times best-selling author @YogiRoth for insight on @pac12 football.

 

 

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