November 5, 2019 by AJ Klopfenstein in Opinion with 0 comments
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Handlers dream about it, cutters train all offseason for it, and spectators scream for it. Everyone loves the exhilarating feeling of a fast cutter taking off deep and the handler bombing a huge throw for the score. Generating the deep look is a common goal in a lot of offensive schemes, but pulling it off successfully and consistently is difficult. For an offense to effectively generate scores from hucks, it all comes down to one thing: timing.
Okay, it isn’t quite as easy as that. There are a lot of factors that impact a huck play, but they all relate back to the crucial element of timing. The thrower needs space to make a big throw, the cutter needs to get a few steps on their defender to run onto the disc, and the defense needs to be conditioned so the deep throw isn’t pounced on by multiple defenders at once.
The quintessential lead-up to a big huck is generating power position for the thrower. Power position entails catching a pass while moving in the direction of the attacking end zone, leaving the defender trailing behind. This cut gives the thrower an unmarked opportunity and momentum to throw a deep pass. Check out this example from San Francisco Fury:
The Fury handler times her cut to get separation from her defender just as the downfield cutter catches the pass. The distance between her and the defender as she catches the disc allows the thrower to step out smoothly and deliver a long pass before the Denver Molly Brown defender can catch up and stop the backhand look. Throwing a breakside backhand huck wrong-foots the defense entirely, allowing not one but two Fury cutters to have a chance at the catch.
A well-timed strike cut can have the same effect on the force side of the field, as demonstrated by Carleton Syzygy:
The handler catches the disc with momentum moving downfield and the mark is trailing, allowing the handler to step out and deliver a perfectly placed flick to the corner of the end zone. You can’t draw it up much better than that. However, against tight handler defense it can be much more difficult to create momentum with upline cuts.
To keep the mark from interfering with the long windup and precise release angle needed for a long huck, the thrower can utilize big, expressive fakes to open up space to throw a huck from a standstill.
The New York PoNY thrower shakes his mark off with a quick shimmy to the flick side before putting up a big backhand throw. The fake doesn’t open up as much space as a full power position cut might, but timing the fake with the cutter’s downfield movement gives the PoNY player the space he needs to prevent the mark from jumping in front of the backhand windup and disrupting the look.
The key in moving the mark around is faking in an expressive and realistic way. Throwing a fake that forces the defender to react can open up space against even the most flat no-huck marks:
Seeing an opportunity to connect with a cutter streaking deep off a turnover, the Syzygy thrower moves the mark with a big flick fake toward the middle of the field, opening up a lot of space on the backhand side to put up a big throw.
Having the space to make a big throw is only half the battle of a good huck play, however. Without a cutter open deep, all that handler work will be for naught. So what makes for an open deep cut?
The simplest way to time a deep cut is to watch the disc movement to find an opening. This is particularly useful when the handlers are just starting to generate power position, or the cutter is ending an under cut with the defender trailing:
The Molly Brown cutter to the right of the frame sees the in cut developing and recognizes her defender is sitting underneath her, giving her the space and timing to make an out cut. Just as the throw is going up to the under cut, she swings toward the middle of the field and goes deep.
By swinging out into the middle of the field, she creates more space along the line for the disc. The thrower doesn’t have to put the throw perfectly into a small slice of the field, and the cutter can take an angled line onto the disc making reading and attacking the throw easier.
Another important element of cutter timing is cutting into the deep space when you have a thrower that can put the disc where it needs to go. This example from Washington DC Truck Stop shows the trust that the team puts into their thrower:
The cutter sees the in cut developing and is ready to set up a second cut. He doesn’t try to shimmy around the defender and take up extra time, because he knows the thrower has a good arm for the deep pass. The cutter just runs straight deep as the disc is being caught, timing the run to be open just as the thrower is looking down the field.
To avoid predictable plays and keep the cutters one step ahead, offenses need to generate deep cuts more effectively than the cutter simply running deep. Later in the same PoNY vs. Truck Stop game, the same thrower receives a pass and looks to throw deep. By this point, the defense is wise to the thrower, and because the cutter is simply running deep in a straight line the defense is able to catch up and contest the catch:
By establishing a deep threat early and continuing to cut deep even without a throw, cutters can keep the defense honest and open up opportunities in other spaces on the field.
Here, the Truck Stop defenders know that PoNY have been looking to throw deep all game, so when a cutter takes off, he pulls a second defender with him, leaving the open space clear for an easy throw upfield.
Conditioning the defense to respect the deep throws creates a cycle for the offense. Gaining easy yards on under cuts forces the defense to contest their matchups more closely. When the defenders play more tightly, cutters can take off deep more easily in response to power position. This Molly Brown play shows just how open the cutters can get:
Thanks to aggressive under cuts timed with the handlers breaking out of a lane poach, 3 separate Molly Brown cutters are open on their cut to the deep space.
Putting these three elements together is difficult, but that’s why the element of timing is so crucial in generating long throws downfield. The thrower needs to have time and space to send the long throw, either by gaining power position or utilizing good fakes to throw the mark off balance. The cutter needs to recognize the opportunity and shake off their defender to be open deep. The defense needs to be conditioned to ensure there are no extra defenders lurking deep to poach onto long, floaty throws. Good offensive systems consciously look to create these factors to ensure the hucks are open all game long.