Getting the Most out of Your I Formation Running Plays
First of all, I want to apologize for the slow posting. I celebrated my 1 year anniversary, started Insanity workouts, and am looking for a new AC unit. I do have some very big things in the works, so keep checking back often. I hope you enjoy this post on I formation plays and how to create defensive confussion.
I’m a firm believer that the I Formation can still be one of the top offenses in football. Actually, any offense can work well if it has the right players and coaches. However, the I formation is, by default, one of the most easy to defend formations in football from a strategic stand point because most people draw up their defense first against the I formation. I think I formation football coaches need to be technique teachers first and foremost, and focus on that and not as much the strategy. Our schemes should be recyclable and sound against most fronts. We need our football players to beat the front seven… or eight or nine of the defense by using superior technique.
That being said, there is a level of strategy that I think put’s some I formation, or any other 2 back team (or 2 tight end H back team), ahead of the pack. We need to create run fit confusion for the defense with the way we run out I formation plays, but utilizing motion.
I formation Plays – Run Fit Confusion
The main goal of run fit confusion is to get players who aren’t 100% focused on the run (aka not defensive linemen) out of position, or to make someone who is 100% focused on the run wrong.
How do you accomplish this out of the I formation? I prefer to slightly play with the gaps, or by running the option. I wrote a post on load option as a complimentary or “constraint” play for the power I formation play, so I’ll keep this entirely to creating gap problems.
I formation Plays – Gap Problems
A lot of coaches think you have to get into overloaded or heavy sets to create gap problems, and that simply is NOT the case. You can create gap problems with I formation plays just by moving the fullback around. Put him in a wing position, put him just insight the tight end, put him in the off-set position to the strong or weakside and “pull” him across the formation (AKA… if you run power-o with the fullback kicking out and the guard wrapping, you can easily run counter with the fullback and guard switching repsonsibilities).
More important than moving the fullback around, or even the receivers, is understanding how the defense defends it. Make sure you do the same thing for a few plays before assuming anything about the defense. They may have lined up wrong, or been locked in a “static” play with minimal flexbibility to adjust. Once you understand how the linebackers or secondary respond, you can begin your attack.
Start by seeing if you have created spacing issues for the defense. Is the safety out of position? Did the linebackers move 2 steps to the strongside when you set the fullback from a weakside wing to a strongside off-set I formation spot?
Simple movements may buy your linemen the time they need to get to a better athlete at the second level. Or it may eliminate the need to block a defender on the backside. Or, better yet, you’ve changed the responsibilities of second level defenders, and first level defenders don’t know this change. Maybe now the defensive end should not spill, he should squeeze. But he’s got so many things on his plate (reading the near linemen, responding, disenaging the block) that he’s used to just doing what normally does. Or maybe, if he does realize it, he’s half a step out of position. And yes, sometimes you can accomplish just this by moving a fullback around from a near LOS position (wing) into the backfield on the opposite side. You’d be amazed at what that extra gap can do.
This may sound familiar for some Wing based offenses. I think the big benefit for I formation plays is that fullback can be an impact blocker, unlike a traditional wing back. He’s used to kicking out defensive ends. He’s used to matching up with the Mike linebacker. But for us I formation coaches, we may need to learn this lesson. If you can’t out athlete or be a better technician, you better cause run fit confusion.
Perhaps my favorite way to cause problems is using a very quick, easy motion, followed by a longer, receiver across the formation type motion. Not only does this make defenders think about their assignment and tendencies (with the threat of the ball being snapped at any time), but it also creates communication breakdowns. Perhaps the safety echo’s commands, but because he’s so busy with everything else going on, he forgot to tell the linebacker he’s not in a position to fit in on the backside of running plays because he’s covering the new slot receiver. Now we can run inside zone, and the cutback lane is open because the backside backer overpursued because he thought the safety was there.
I formation Plays – Communicating Shifts and Motions
As a coach, you should make motions and shifts as easy as possible for your kids. That means, ASK them what will help them remember so you don’t run into play clock problems. Don’t necessarily create a formula for this aspect of your offense if it will cause confusion.
If my players remember motion by me calling out their names in the motion call, then I should do that. Instead of Z Across (or Zac), I should Say “Smith Across”. Maybe they prefer Zac. But teach them why Zac is relevant (Z means the Z receiver, Ac is short for across).
I formation Plays – Conclusions
I think ChiefPigskin.com has some great videos that may address this. You should check them out. Overall, if you have any questions on this topic, please let me know!