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Notes: Whit looks forward to pain-free '13; Pistol Primer

Posted Jan 28, 2013

Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth felt doubly invigorated after Sunday's Pro Bowl.

Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth felt doubly invigorated after Sunday's Pro Bowl.

Not only was it his first foray into the all-star game as well as his first chance to ever play right tackle, but it's also going to the last time he'll play with the pain he's had in his knee for the past two seasons. He said Monday that he plans to have a procedure to deal with some scar tissue that will take him out of the spring practices but have him back in plenty of time for the start of training camp.

"It's just a little repair; nothing big," Whitworth said. "Everybody in the league deals with something like this. I did it about two years ago and it just wasn't getting any better. Now we've got a chance to get something done with plenty of time to rest."

It is minor enough that Whitworth was able to hold off and wait to see if he would get the call from the Pro Bowl. His Bengals-best streak of 67 straight starts that includes playoffs isn't in jeopardy.

"I'm really excited about getting it done and feeling good again and getting a lot of rest and rehab and having a great year," he said.

PISTOL PRIMER: If there is anyone not surprised with how the 49ers and quarterback Colin Kaepernick have taken the Super Bowl by power point with The Pistol formation, it's a Cincinnati college coach who is getting inducted into the Ohio High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame in the spring.

While implementing The Pistol at Division III College of Mount Saint Joseph before the 2011 season, offensive coordinator Vince Suriano spent hours watching tape of Kaepernick run it at the University of Nevada during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

After the Mount broke its all-time rushing record, it was more of the same in the film room when Suriano moved across the bridge to Thomas More College this past season. As the senior offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach, he brought The Pistol to blend with the rest of the offense and Thomas More averaged more than 30 points and 350 yards per game in 2012 while Suriano collaborated with offensive coordinator Trevor Spellman.

The irony here is that while 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh made the bold move with Kaepernick in the middle of this season, Suriano has ties to Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, a friend from the days Harbaugh recruited Suriano's Anderson High School during his eight seasons as a University of Cincinnati assistant.

"I think it's here to stay," Suriano says of The Pistol. "I don't think people will go to it exclusively, but I think sooner or later everybody will have it as a part of their offense. You don't always have to run zone read out of it. You can run other things. I see Alabama jumping into The Pistol, but the quarterback is not a runner. So they don't run zone read. They run power out of it or (the) stretch (run). Boise State gets into it and uses a traditional zone running play."

When Suriano started his project two years ago, The Pistol was so scarce that Nevada was the only college team he could find that ran it as is its offense and he's still not sure how he got the video. But once he watched it, he was surprised more teams weren't running it with more regularity, particularly those by coaches from his generation.

When he arrived at Anderson in 1987 to begin a 19-year run, Suriano used the 'I' formation until the Redskins became the first area team in 2000 to use what Suriano calls the "pure Tommy Bowden-Rich Rodriguez spread" offense out of The Shotgun.

"The Pistol blends the I formation with the Shotgun. You're putting two offenses into one," Suriano says. "The quarterback stands three to four yards behind the center with the tailback sitting anywhere between six to eight yards behind him. The key is there has to be a three-yard differential between the quarterback and the tailback and how close the tailback is, is based on how fast he is coming downhill with the ball.

"The zone read is the staple of The Pistol. The linemen are all blocking in one direction and they leave the last defender on the opposite end of the line of scrimmage free and the quarterback is reading him. If he collapses on the running back, the quarterback pulls the ball and runs it. If the end stays there and is soft, the quarterback gets the ball. That's the general premise."

The series of plays is called "The Midline" with the running back's path going right up the center's back. Suriano says it is the midline concept that makes the defensive end commit and forces the defense to make a decision.

Suriano says teams are discovering they can run just about any pass or run out of The Pistol, particularly play-action. For instance he says while Nevada didn't use any running power plays, the 49ers run more power and he sees the Michigan influence.

Suriano says former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh is using "the traditional power play principles" as taught by his college head coach Bo Schembechler and offensive line and quarterbacks coach Jerry Hanlon. Even more irony is that Hanlon and Suriano visited each other often at Anderson and Ann Arbor to pick each other's brain.

"The fullback kicking out with the backside guard wrapping around," Suriano can still recite.

But now it's not the 6-3, 215-pound Harbaugh directing power, it is the 6-5, 233-pound Kaepernick running it supersonically. It almost seems as if The Pistol had been devised with him in mind.

"What I didn't realize when we started watching him is how fast he was," Suriano says. "He didn't look it because he was so tall and lanky, but every time he turned the corner no one would catch him. It would be a 10-yard gain and then all of a sudden it was 30 yards. Oh my goodness.

"His arm is really, really strong. I think he can make every throw. They had a bootleg off play-action at Nevada and he really threw the comeback route well. But they didn't drop back and throw it as much as a traditional college team would. He did it, but it was maybe only 15 percent of the offense. Maybe that's why he went a little lower than the other quarterbacks because there wasn't a lot to evaluate in terms of dropback passes."

But while he has dissected Kaepernick, Suriano has seen John Harbaugh's quarterback during three spring sessions at Harbaugh's invite to the Ravens facility.

He gives the edge to Joe Flacco.

"I have to go with Flacco's experience," Suriano says.

The Pistol can only account for so much.

   

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