Though the wildcat formation once seemed like a novelty from the coach LSU will face Saturday night, Ole Miss’ Houston Nutt, it has been increasingly seen throughout the football landscape, to the NFL and, this season, to 18th-ranked LSU.
The tactic puts an athletic player at quarterback to get a direct snap.
Last season, Arkansas rode Nutt’s WildHog formation and Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden, a running back, to upset top-ranked LSU 50-48 in triple overtime.
“I thought it would catch on,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “There’s a piece to football where that factors in.”
LSU has worked running back Richard Murphy in the “Wild Tiger” at times this season.
“The quarterback carry is certainly the best carry and one that we have an opportunity that if you play coverage on the remaining players, the numbers are best to run the football,” Miles said.
“There’s plenty of deception. They bring the wide receiver in motion. They start the flow to one side and can come back across the grain. They have any number of reverses and perimeter issues. Then, they can attack you right straight up the gut with a quality ground game, so it’s a very capable formation.”
Now at Ole Miss, Nutt runs the “Wild Rebel.”
Junior receiver Dexter McCluster (72 carries for 457 yards and four touchdowns and 34 catches for 498 yards and one TD) has been the primary playmaker for the formation. Freshman running back Brandon Bolden (80 carries for 400 yards and two TDs). The two are a combined 1-for-5 for two interceptions.
“It’s basically playing disciplined, with gap control,” LSU linebacker Darry Beckwith said. “Everybody has to do their own assignment, not their own thing. If everybody does their assignment, we should be all right.”
In the game before LSU lost to Arkansas, Ole Miss’ pass/run threat in quarterback Brent Schaeffer gave LSU fits, although the Tigers beat the Rebels 41-24. However, unlike Schaeffer or McFadden, who was 3-for-6 for one touchdown, McCluster isn’t as much of a threat to pass. That limits the deception in the formation.
McCluster is 0-for-4 with two interceptions.
“I think they have a little bit better quarterback in Jevan Snead,” Miles said. “I think they enjoy him throwing the football. I think he makes plays there. They are really caught between two positives there. I think there are a lot of similarities to what they’ve done at Arkansas.”