STILLWATER — On a third-and-7 play against Lamar last Saturday, Oklahoma State's defense crowded the line of scrimmage with 10 players. And every Cowboy — including big defensive tackle Calvin Barnett — was standing up.
Lamar quarterback Caleb Berry couldn't get the snap off in time and was called for delay of game, essentially showing that look can be baffling for offenses and fun for the OSU defense.
No, really. It's called the “fun” package, another wrinkle that helps illustrate the more aggressive style new coordinator Glenn Spencer has implemented this season.
“It's kind of like, ‘What's going on here?'” end Tyler Johnson said of what the package tries to do to the offense. “That kind of mindset. They really don't know who's coming (on the blitz) or who's doing what. I think that's the benefit.”
The goal is to create confusion for the opposing offense right before the snap, and a moment of hesitation right after it. The offensive linemen don't know who they'll need to block, while the quarterback doesn't know where the pressure will come from and where the throwing lanes might be.
But even though the pre-snap package may look like a jumbled hodgepodge of players to the outside eye, it's actually quite organized.
“You're creating pre-snap chaos, but there's still a system to it,” Spencer said. “You still have to be sound. We know that. We're just trying to disguise and confuse some things.”
Mission accomplished, said Cowboy quarterback J.W. Walsh, who said he “hates” facing that look in practice each week.
“You've got guys standing up, moving around,” he said. “They're just trying to disguise everything and come at you from different angles. It's just the factor of not knowing who's coming where or who's gonna drop back.
“It makes it tough, because when the ball's snapped, you've got to make a quicker decision than normal.”
Spencer is quick to point out that the fun package is nothing revolutionary. It's been used periodically throughout his personal coaching journey, including at OSU. NFL teams like the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots have used packages that look similar because every player is standing up, though those looks use fewer defensive linemen and more linebackers and defensive backs than OSU's package.
OSU's current version of the fun package was first installed in the spring and then used more extensively during fall camp. And at first, it was difficult for some of the defensive linemen to take their hand off the turf.
“Come on, get up,” safety Zack Craig remembers needing to tell those teammates. “Get in a two-point stance. Come on, have some fun with it.”
But now, it's become a legitimate option for the Cowboy defense, particularly on third down.
It first debuted in the opener on Mississippi State's first drive, causing Bulldog quarterback Tyler Russell to call a timeout. The Cowboys have used it at least once in every game so far, showing different combinations of linemen, linebackers and defensive backs rushing the quarterback or dropping into zone coverage. Even Barnett, who hovers around 300 pounds, has occasionally traded battling in the trenches for playing the pass out of the package.
One word for it all?
Fun, of course.
“When they call the fun package,” Johnson said, “and they say that we're gonna stand up and kind of give a different look, we all kind of looked around like, ‘Wow, this is fun.'”