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Shun Brown notes interesting change in Arizona’s offense

The Wildcats’ wide receivers are running fewer option routes these days

Arizona v California Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Shun Brown hardly sees any difference between the Arizona Wildcats’ new offense under Kevin Sumlin and the old one they ran under Rich Rodriguez.

“The only thing that is different is terminology, since both offenses are spread,” the senior wide receiver said after two days of fall camp. “There’s nothing different about it. It’s just the names and terminology.”

Well, except for one thing.

“There’s more locked-on routes,” Brown said. “In the last offense, we had more read routes. Now, it’s more like if you have a corner route, you run a corner. If you have a go route, you run a go, rather than run a go route and turn it into a curl.”

Unlike “locked” routes, read routes — also known as option routes — allow receivers to adjust their course of action depending on the coverage they are facing.

“If the defender looks to gain outside leverage, the receiver adjusts his route inside, and vice versa,” explains Doug Farrar of Bleacher Report.

The benefit of option routes is that, when executed correctly, they put receivers in the best possible position to create separation. The downside is that both the receiver and quarterback have to read and react to the coverage the same way.

If not, a quarterback might throw the ball inside as his receiver breaks outside, or heave a pass deep down the sideline as his receiver does a button hook 10 yards from the line of scrimmage.

That’s when bad things happen.

“You gotta understand the game because if the quarterback sees one thing and you see one thing, there can be a miscommunication,” Brown said. “If the routes are locked, then he knows where you’re going to be, I know where I’m supposed to be and that’s it.”

Arizona’s coaching staff has talked about developing Khalil Tate’s ability to throw from the pocket, and perhaps limiting option routes is one way they plan to simplify the game for him.

Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has been encouraged by Tate’s studiousness so far, but the junior quarterback did have trouble picking up Arizona’s offense earlier in his career, albeit that was under a different coaching staff.

“Some of this stuff is a little bit new for him,” Mazzone said Saturday. “Obviously it’s a new offense. Right now he’s kind of going through the process of learning about progression reads and reading coverages and doing those types of things. I think the summer really helped him..... so he’s a little bit further along right now than I anticipated. So I’m kind of excited about moving forward from today.”