LSU Bunch Formation Passing Concepts: Film Analysis


One of the major storylines during LSU’s undefeated national championship season was the revolution that their offense underwent. From 2018 to 2019, LSU went from averaging 32.4 points per game to 48.4 points per game. Quarterback Joe Burrow improved from just 16 passing touchdowns all the way up to a whopping 60.

Part of the improvement in scheme and the development of Burrow and his weapons was new passing game coordinator Joe Brady. After spending two seasons as an offensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints, Brady brought some of those NFL passing concepts to Baton Rouge. Brady was hired this offseason as the new offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers after winning the Broyles award for best assistant coach in college football.

One of the trademarks of the LSU offense last season was their use of various “Bunch” formations, both in the run and passing game. The bunch formation requires three wide receivers in close proximity, generally with the middle receiver attached to the line of scrimmage.

The Los Angeles Rams under head coach Sean McVay have become known for their heavy use of bunch sets. Oftentimes, the bunch will align close to the offensive line to create space towards the sideline for passing concepts while still being in position to get involved in run blocking.

Some of the passing concepts from bunch formations that we saw from LSU will almost assuredly be apart of the Carolina Panthers’ offensive scheme moving forward. On top of that, we’re sure to see the more successful concepts remain at LSU even post-Joe Brady. I detailed the six best passing concepts that I saw LSU run out of bunch formations last season.

In LSU’s win over Ole Miss, the Tigers used a version of the “mesh” concept. Instead of the traditional mesh routes, LSU used the three players from the bunch to screen for the running back and solo receiver. LSU specifically ran this in the red zone to catch Ole Miss in man coverage, forcing the defenders to work through a lot of traffic in order to match the routes being run towards the field. Both running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase were open on the 4th-and-1 play, making for an easy conversion.

On the following play, Ole Miss was playing “38 cloud” coverage, a version of cover 3 with five underneath defenders. LSU runs the “leak” passing concept with an added play-action dimension. The play-action and flare route by the running back caught the attention of the boundary flat zone defender, and the “dig” route from Ja’Marr Chase pulled the cornerback and safety with it. This left the leak route by Justin Jefferson essentially uncovered down the sideline.


In the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, LSU ran a version of the “follow” concept once they entered the red zone. To the boundary, the solo receiver ran a comeback route while the running back ran to the flat, moving the safety to that side. Georgia was pressing the point of the bunch but used that player to blitz off the edge. With the point receiver of the bunch pulling the cornerback towards the pylon, that left the safety responsible for both in-breaking routes from the bunch.

Once again in the Georgia game, LSU ran a passing concept that exposed Georgia’s plan to cover the bunch in the red zone. Using play-action, LSU was able to pull the linebackers down towards the line of scrimmage. Georgia’s outside cornerback is supposed to cover the first outside route, and Justin Jefferson initially blocked before working towards the sideline, pulling two defensive backs with him.

Terrace Marshall split the bunch, leaving the safety to cover him with a two-way go (the threat of a break to either side). Marshall stemmed the safety towards the inside before crossing face to the corner of the end zone. LSU was able to get a safety in man coverage against a talented wide receiver with space to work on both sides, a matchup that should create separation in the end zone every time.

Later in the SEC Championship, LSU ran a version of the “mills” concept against Georgia’s Cover 2-man. The two safeties split the field in half, covering the deepest routes to either side while the rest of the coverage matches up man-to-man. Due to the bunch formation, Georgia’s cornerback to the field aligns with strong outside leverage to keep contain, despite having to play LSU wide receiver Terrace Marshall in man coverage. The post route from Justin Jefferson pulled the safety away, leaving the dig route to cross the field against a cornerback already giving up the inside.

In the National Championship Game against Clemson, LSU added in a pre-snap motion from the running back to the bunch side. LSU ran a version of the “vertical” concept that widened the safeties away from the middle of the field, leaving a linebacker to cover Justin Jefferson on the dig route. Clemson safety Isaiah Simmons was trying to split the routes by the boundary wide receiver and Jefferson’s route, creating an intermediate window well in front of him but behind the linebacker.

LSU’s innovative passing concepts from bunch formations translate to both college football and the NFL. After the success that potent offenses have had using these sets, we’ll likely see these plays used by multiple teams at both levels moving forward.