Category Archives: Offensive Formations

NFL Offensive Play Calling Terminology: Simplify and Minimize

NFL Play Calling Terminology

I was once a proponent of systematic play calling terminology like the NFL. This included formation adjustments, the play and tags. I even had an equation for it. It’s can be very flexible.

For this, Steve Jobs would beat me with his “simple stick”. Over and over again. Why? It’s flexible but it’s complex. It’s not simple.

The Future of NFL Play Calling and Terminology

The NFL will eventually meet an offensive coach who is a much better coach when it comes to communicating. With the way college coaches are calling plays, be them hand signals, 3-5 word max calls or boards with pictures, it’s truly only a matter of time. The big difference is that college football needs these systems, where NFL has the coordinator talking through a headset. So for this moment, let’s start with the actual play call in words and why they’re inefficient and how they can be simplified.

Flexibility Versus Complexity

Flexibility only matters if it’s truly understood quickly. Let’s face it, the game of football is faster than ever before. To understand something quickly, it must be succinct and simple. 8-12 word play calls take time to process. That doesn’t include snap count or anything like that either. If we could cut that in half, we not only save a split second or two on the clock, we save our players processing power for more important things, like the defensive adjustments or remembering the snap count.

What’s the Solution for NFL Play Calling Terminology

I’m not an NFL coach. I didn’t play college football. But if Apple can change the wording for MP3 players from what it technically was, specifically a “four inch, sixty gigabyte hard drive with a USB port” to “1000 songs in your pocket”… then the NFL can change “Brown Right Over 73 Chicago F arrow X curl” to “Rex Chicago Calf”.

How can this be done? Make your most used tags, motions or other adjustments and tie them together as much as possible. “F arrow x curl” is a curl/flat concept tag that is tied to the original play call (“73 Chicago” in this case), so why not make it one word, aka “calf”.

You may be thinking, okay smart guy, but what about pass protections? In the NFL, the center sets them in a lot of offenses. Heck, the Bears took over 20 into some games last year. The center can call them with the appropriate play. The center knows Chicago is a 5 step drop, he can call a five step protection. While your HS center may not know this, hopefully a full time NFL player will.

What about the formation? “Brown right over” became “Rex”. I dropped 2 words. Because of the extra time NFL players have, learning formations could become part of the meetings and be rep’d without the contact for 5 minutes before or after practice. If someone signs in the middle of the season and needs to get caught up to speed quick, his teammates could help him out. Regardless, I could argue learning an extra 20-40 formations would be easier than trying to figure out how each slight adjustment to a formation could affect a receiver. This is probably where my philosophy has changed the most since a few years ago, where I used to believe that receivers/fullbacks should adjust the formation. Quite frankly, this is something we should just make easy because while formations are important, they aren’t as important as the play. I’d rather have them thinking about the play then making sure they adjust the formation correctly.

I know Trent Dilfer would say that a formation is one thing, but personnel is another. That is the added benefit of the NFL system, so they can get personnel matchups. Or wait… can’t I just use a word like a brand of car? Maybe say it before the play? Or use a signal? Or maybe a board? This way I can have slot and flanker switch positions. That seems easier than “Brown Right Over Flip” doesn’t it? I could say “Rex Mustang” instead of all that. On Mustang, slots and flankers flip. Doesn’t matter what the call is. They flip.

You may ask about shifts and motions. That’s easy. Some NFL teams already use this method so it should be even easier. “Rex zac” means the z moves across the formation to Rex. Or vice versa (moves from his spot in Rex to somewhere across the formation).

So, if we take a sample full NFL play call, with my slot and flanker flipped now, like “Brown Right Over Flip Zac 73 Chicago F arrow X curl” (11 words), I could easily make it “Rex Mustang Zac Chicago Calf” (5 words). This has cut 6 words out of the play call, and can easily mean the same thing. Heck, if we just yelled “Mustang” to the players or used a signal (because NFL stadiums are so loud) for that after the huddle, I can cut that word out. So now we’re at 4 words, “Rex Zac Chicago Calf”. Wait… I could probably use a signal for the motion too… since we’re motioning into the called formation anyway so it ultimately doesn’t matter to anyone besides that receiver or the QB. So… “Rex Chicago Calf”…3 words. Mustang and Zac can come separate if the need arises.

So what have we learned? By simply packaging tags and simplifying formations, you can suddenly and drastically impact the simplicity of a play call. But… OUCH… Steve Jobs hit me with the “simple stick” again…

Why Signals and Boards are Still Useful in the NFL

Why did Steve Jobs hit me again? He would look at my process. The offensive coordinator/QB relationship through their headset specifically. Despite the occasional glitch, it’s inefficient for play calling reasons. Why is it inefficient? I’ve added an unnecessary user interaction. My other 10 players on the field have eyes and ears, don’t they? They can see signals from the sideline. They can see a board, or whatever the next cool looking thing will be.

If my play call can be 5 words, then I can easily use 5 quick hand signals. Defensive coordinators, for the longest time at the NFL level, would use more than that and maybe even boards to signal information. So I know us offensive guys, because we are supposedly smarter after all, could do the same thing. And all 11 guys could see it, get lined up, and run the play. Some NFL teams may already be using this in no huddle situations. So why not use it all the time and just line up at the line of scrimmage, skipping the huddle all the time? I’d save my offensive linemen from running 5-10 yards after each play (maybe more even). I’d give myself more time, as the play caller, to give my QB tips through the headset as we watch the defense setup because we’re already aligned. We could easily analyze the play and do it before my “timer” runs out on the headset, if I wanted to do that kind of thing. And if we want to control the clock, we could always huddle again, as useless as that may now seem.

I know, the logical argument would be why did the defensive coordinators want a headset if the signals were so great? I think the logical reason is it’s easier… for the coordinator. Which it most definitely is. I get to make some elaborate call. Let my players decipher it. They’re being paid to do just that, aren’t they? Or, maybe the less cynical person thinks it’s so they defensive coordinator could point out tendencies and such during his allotted time, just like the offensive coordinator could do. Either way, it doesn’t really matter.

Calling plays through the headset is terribly inefficient because it slows down the process and adds an extra step. In this process, you rely on (1) a coordinator to call the play and (2) the quarterback to call the play again and (3) the other players to hear the play. In the signal system, I can (1) call the play and (2) all the players can see the play call. I mean, if you don’t believe me that eliminating user interactions is important, did you ever play that telephone game in elementary school? In it, one person would sit and say “Mr. Teacher is Awesome” and by the last person in class, 20 people later, it would be “Mr. Teacher was caught making out with Ms. Other Teacher at the Movies”. While that exaggerates the problem, it’s the truth. The more interactions you have, the more chances for error. Let’s streamline the terminology and the process NFL.

Get Strong Football’s E-Book On Developing A Physical O-Line

Are you interested in coaching the offensive line? Get Strong Football’s e-book called Developing a Physical and Aggressive Offensive Line!
[purchase_link id=”1331″ text=”Add to Cart” style=”button” color=”green”]

Concluding thoughts on NFL Offensive Play Calling Terminology

Some coach, probably pretty soon, will revolutionize play calling in the NFL. You may not think it’s a big deal. However, the NFL is entrenched in this position, so it may seem doubtful that it will change. They were entrenched with playbooks. Now teams like the Packers and Broncos are using iPad apps for their playbooks. It adds video in real time pretty much. Just more efficient process.

Everything can be minimized and reinvented, no matter how entrentched they are. Ask Microsoft about complexity versus simplicity… and how Apple showed how awesome simplicity could be (and how flexible it could be too). You can ask Hudl‘s competitors too the same question. Simplicity, especially flexible simplicity, always wins. It will win the NFL soon as well.

The Logic and Science of Offensive Play Calling and Tempo

Guest Football Coaching Blog Post

This is a guest blog post on offensive tempo and play calling by the Coach Kurt Earl, offensive coordinator at Lincoln Christian School and publisher of Compete4Christ, a football blog. You can follow him on his Twitter Handle, KurtEarl14.

As a man of deep faith in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ I try to live my life intentionally. I do my best as a husband, teacher and coach to live with a purpose and to make intentional decisions. As the Offensive Coordinator at Lincoln Christian School I have designed our offensive strategies and schemes with the same intentionality.

Lincoln Christian is a small school (averaging about 40 students per grade) and we rarely have more than 35 boys out for football. Of those 35 or fewer boys roughly 6-10 are linemen. Thus, nearly every starter starts both ways and we are always making linemen out of young men who are probably better suited for fullback. Furthermore, our skill players tend to be very skillful and quick, but often lack the sheer strength needed to pound out yardage between the tackles.

A few years ago we realized we were wasting our time trying to develop our young men into your prototypical football players. Like Brad Pitt’s character Billy Beane in the movie Moneyball we embraced the fact that we simply could not compete with the New York Yankees of our district by trying to match them man for man. Also, like Beane we did not and would not have players that fit into the classic molds and systems. As a result we have adopted an offensive strategy intentionally structured around two specific slogans.

Slogan #1: We got science

Slogan #2: We got answers

We Got Science – Biology Behind the Tempo

“We got science” means that we operate in a no huddle, full throttle offense because it does not allow the defense to recover between plays. The lack of recovery between plays forces our opponent to operate in what is commonly referred to as the Lactic Acid Energy System. Defending us is more like running an 800 meter sprint and less like throwing the shot or running a 40 yard dash. Our strength and conditioning program, practice tempo and overall mentality prepare our players to compete in their Lactic Acid Energy System.

As a result, we have the advantage every time we step onto the field. Our intentional effort to operate in a different energy system than our opponent gives us a leg up from the opening kickoff. The vast majority of teams, even those who run a no huddle offense, do not move from play to play fast enough to force their opponent out of the ATP-PT Energy System. The ATP-PT Energy System provides the necessary energy for intense bouts of exercise that last 6-8 seconds. Sounds like a football play, right? The key to “we got science” is to transition quickly from play to play.

We Got Answers – Logic Behind the Play Calling

We do several things to help us transition from one play to another quickly, but the biggest key to our quick transition is “We got answers.” Slogan number two, “we got answers,” means that our offense is a collection of series not a collection of plays. Each series features a base concept. The base concept is then complimented by a number of plays designed to provide answers to the defense’s potential adjustments to the base concept. Using the feedback the other coaches are giving me in the headsets I call THE play that is THE response to THE adjustment the defense is making. This means that I can call plays in a split second. As the play caller I roam the sidelines with a chart that outlines our series and plays. The chart is structured so that I can easily find THE play we need based on the information I have.

“We got answers” makes play calling a systematic, intentional response to the defenses’ attempts to stop our base concepts. We do not have a collection of plays thrown together in a play book. We have 5-8 base concepts that are complimented by dozens of “answers” to potential defensive adjustments. As players grow and mature in the system they begin to understand it and actually anticipate play calls. When we are hitting on all cylinders, I watch everyone nod their heads in agreement with the call as they line up for the next play.
I recognize that everyone is calling plays based on the information the defense is giving them. At the same time, however, I think our offense is unique in that every call I make is a counter punch. We don’t really have a “bread and butter” play. We take what the defense is giving us. We wait for the defense to show their hand and then respond.

Simple, Exciting, Fun

When everyone in the game is on the same page like this it creates an environment in which operating at a fast tempo is simple, exciting and fun. We take great pride in eight play drives that cover less than two minutes of game clock and make defensive linemen feel like they just ran an 800 meter while stopping to push a car every 20 seconds.

I would like to conclude by recognizing that there is more than way to score points in football. One of the greatest things about football is the diversity it allows. No two offenses are exactly alike. Thus, my goal here is not to convince you to run a no huddle, spread offense. Rather, my goal is to encourage you to embrace your circumstances, your players and your opportunities and to adapt an offensive strategy that is intentionally designed to fit your needs. Don’t identify excuses, create answers.

Finally, if you’d like to know more about how competing in athletics can be a tremendous aspect of a person’s walk with Christ take a minute to check out my blog Compete4Christ at www.compete4christ.blogspot.com

Side note, make sure you checkout ChiefPigskin.com for interesting play calling information.

I formation Plays – Get The Must Out of Your Running Game

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.

Free E-mail Updates
Do you want Strong Football’s latest posts delivered directly to you inbox? It’s free and easy!

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

I formation Plays: Full Back Movement Creates Safety Displacement

Full Back Movement Creates Safety Displacement

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!

Football Coaching Videos on YouTube

Free Football Coaching Videos on YouTube

So I just thought, for all those coaches who don’t know, that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world behind Google. That means, if you’re looking for free football drills, football technique information, or football x’s and o’s or strategic insight, YouTube is a great resource. Heck, it’s even a great resource for getting an idea on a football video that you may order. Tog (from CoachHuey) posts some great youtube football video content through his Twitter Account. There are a lot of other great football coaches on YouTube who are putting out a ton of videos that can be useful for us as coaches.

Heck… Strong Football by CoachCP… yes, this blog right here, has a channel with 2 videos that you should be looking at! *Shameless Self-Promotion* Sorry, couldn’t help it.

Searching for Coaching Football Videos on Youtube

Searching on YouTube is a little different for us coaches. You have to be specific in what you’re looking for. Nothing is worse then seeing a video named the right way… and it turns out to be a video from the Madden or NCAA Football Video game… and worse yet, it’s the game from 6 years ago so it’s even less realistic than it is today! I will say though, it is quite humourous to hear them speak about some stuff. Mainly because I’m sure they work in the video game, but won’t work for the real world. I mean… I wish I could run the option well and have the most dynamic passing game in the world.

Other Things to Be Careful Of When Searching For Football Videos

Some people who claim to be football coaches don’t know what they’re talking about.  Some I think are new to football coaching and don’t just provide quality information. Now, I’m sure some of you have accused me of this from time to time, and you were probably right about me! But there are some videos on YouTube, although I’m not willing to point them out, w are just way off, or are done probably by that Madden Guy who wants to be named the Defensive Coordinator for the Patriots (aside: A guy once did apply for that position and cited his Madden record… no joke).

Be Specific When Looking For Football Videos

Be specific, but not too specific. The reason I say that is because YouTube depends on the video creater typed in.  Now, YouTube is smart and if something is way off, it will see that people leave the video and drop it down.  But, at the same time, don’t be too specific because very few people who make videos know this aspect of YouTube. So don’t type in “5 step pass patterns out of Red Formation” … because guess what, that’s not going to give you any relevant results.  One, they don’t know your formations. Two, they probably just typed in “I Formation 5 Step Passes” or something a lot simpler. Instead, search for  “I Formation Passes” or something along those lines. Heck, the easiest way to find my videos is by typing “Cover 4 defense” or “Split back Veer”. Yes, you have to sort through some BS, but you’ll know the good stuff when you find it.

However, you can’t be too general either. You can’t say “football drills”. You’ll get way too much stuff. Try “offensive linemen drills” or something like that. If you leave it at “football drills”, you’ll get all that other crap… and maybe even some soccer drills (*gasp!*).

Looking for Non-Free Football Video Information/Reviews

Sometimes, e-commerce stores like Championship Productions will post a clip of their videos on YouTube. If you wanted to get a better idea of what the content is on a video before you buy it, you should see if their is a clip of it on YouTube. Maybe even research the topic for some non-related videos as well, which can help you see if it’s an area of interest before you buy.

Conclusions on Searching For Free Football Coaching Videos on Youtube

Football videos on YouTube is worth your time. You may find a new football drill or some other golden nuggest of information. I strongly encourage you to do a few searches and figure out what you can find. Also, another great source of videos is ChiefPigskin.com.

Coaching the Split Back Veer Video: Basics of Inside and Outside Veer

Split Back Veer

I placed a new video on the Strong Football Youtube account. This one covers inside and outside veer out of the split back veer offense versus the under front defense.

Inside Veer and Outside Veer Basics

This video will offer the basics on inside veer and outside veer out of the split back set. It won’t have a terrible amount of detail, but I feel it’s a good 7 minute video giving you guys the basics. Check it out!

For more information on other offenses or other videos, check out ChiefPigskin.com.

Coaching the Spread Offense

Spread Offense Philosophy

Let me start by saying I typically don’t like the idea of making a general term apply to an offense. Each offense is different. The typcial spread offense that is seen in college and high school football today, by definition, is designed to attack the football field horizontally and vertically by using player leverage and field spacing. That’s basically the one aspect of the spread offense that is applicable for all teams.

So basically, this is my plead for all coaches, calling your offense the spread offense is limiting and lacks seriously detail. You’re creative, tell people that you like to “make defenses defend the width and length of the field with your running game”.

But still, is that enough? Is that an accurate description of your “spread offense”? Perhaps you should describe your spread offense like this… “From the shotgun, we displace defenders by using spread sets and when they’re isolated we attack them with multiple option plays”.

You might say, well, is all this necessary? It is if you’re telling you’re players you’re offensive philosophy from a technical stand point in a meeting. Maybe it’s not the kids (probably shouldn’t be unless you’re really trying to build buzz and can show them previous examples). Maybe you should save it for your coaches meeting, when you’re installing your offense. The main point is, telling people “I coach the spread offense” or, “We run the spread offense” is way too generic.

Coaching the Spread Offense Running Game

If we go back to the most basic theory, that our offense is “designed to attack the football field horizontally and vertically by using player leverage and field spacing”, then our running game should support that foundation. A necessary component of that theory is using the space defenders void when they go to cover a receiver. If teams don’t respect your passing attack or receivers, then they will close down at that spacing, making the spread running game ineffective unless you have vastly surperior talent.

For the spread offense, you have an advantage over the I-formation (“CoachCP… are you feeling okay?!?” – peanut gallery). The advantage is defenses cannot disguise what they are doing as easily on film or from the box view. It’s a lot harder to tell alignment and assignment when you’re coaching 21 or 22 personnel football (which is why I think it often get’s overlooked).

Overall, it’s important to establish then some sort of attack out of the spread that forces the defense to honor the width of the field and the players across the field. If they don’t, you’re offense will struggle. From the running game perspective, you can use quick jailbreak screens or bubble screens as an extension of your running game. Think of it as your I-formation toss sweep play.

In addition, speed and load option can quickly put full flow to one side of the field, making defenders cover a lot of grass to catch up to them.

Once you force defenders to honor your slot receivers, you should force them to respect the box as well. By utilizing the zone read, or trap, or QB inside runs (like the QB Power Play), you suddenly force the defense to be wrong. They can no longer properly defend the box running game. A lot of teams feel that the running game inside is limited. This is simply not the case. You can be creative. Almost anything you run out of the I-formation, can indeed be run out of the spread offense sets as well. You may need to utilize the quarterback or make the quarterback read a defender, but it can be done.

Coaching the Spread Offense Passing Game

The same element about the running game can be said about the passing game. Forcing defenders to respect the box should open up your passing game significantly.

Using coverage beaters on both sides will hamper you though without a strong play action passing game. You need to be able to have receivers cross the formation to force “playside” defenders in the passing game to honor them. That way, the defenses linebackers simply don’t flow directly to the hook/curl. If they do, the drag from the backside will hurt them. Overall, full field passing games are necessary to attacking the full width of the field in the spread offense. Use your quick passing game when you want to attack specific coverages (hitches versus cover 3 or cover 4, and double slants versus cover 2).

In addition, utilizing a strong quick passing game will force the defense to cover receivers right now. Enabling your quarterback to quickly throw those routes will only amplify your running and passing game. The rest of your offense might run zone read, but your QB may have identified the quick bubble being open and simply makes a call in his cadence or with his hands to the slot and #1 receiver.

The play action passing attack is great if you don’t feel you can adequately attack a portion of the field (horizontally or vertically). Play action and good “ride” actions by the QB will ensure that defenders at the linebacker and secondary don’t just jump passing routes. A safety being flat footed for half a second may open up the post route directly behind him.

Coaching The Spread Offense’s Forgotten Tight End and Unbalanced Sets

I think the least understood aspect of the spread is the idea of gaps. This is prominent in 21 personnel attacks (we go overload sets, tight end over, unbalanced, ect…). I believe this is lost sometimes for spread coaches. The theory of the extra gap that a tight end can present is excellent as well. Some teams simply don’t use a tight end because they can’t find the prototype. Your tight end doesn’t have to be 6’4″+, or over 220lbs even. He can be a regular athlete, who can block decently well for his size. If you’re tackles are road graders, they can make a huge difference in helping him block on the edge. So even if it’s a slightly above average sized athlete, you can still use him well and have a lot of aspects of the spread. Presenting that extra gap changes run fits entirely for a defense as well. Using him on the backside or the 3rd receiver in trips can change the entire dynamics for a defense, but all your blocking schemes can stay the same.

In addition to the tight end in general, using unbalanced sets can work. A lot of times, defense will have problems finding a good answer early in a game for an unbalanced set in the spread. With the element of the zone read and other option plays, even by showing it on film or using it once or twice a game will force defenses to spend signifcant time defending the running game and still ensuring they respect the passing game in practices. If they don’t do that, then you can take advantage of a poorly aligned defense quickly.

Conclusions on the Spread Offense

I hope you enjoyed this post, designed to detail the basic theories of the spread and how to be successful with it. A good spread offense will typically be able to force the defense to defend the full length of the field and the players across it. You can do this and be focused on the rushing attack or the passing attack. However, you must use both to keep defenses honest and to maximize efficiencies. Mike Leach may disagree, but even his team will run versus 5 in the box.

Make sure you check out ChiefPigskin’s videos!

Load Option versus Defensive Ends that Spill

How the Load Option Can Defeat Defensive Ends that Spill

I hate defensive ends that spill. They irritate I formation offensive coordinators. The defensive end spills power or some other off-tackle play and the linebacker or safety replaces him. It’s a good theory for defenses that want to use their speed and the sideline to give I formation teams fits.

Power versus Spill

Power Versus the Spill Technique

What is Load Option Option

Depending on your terminology, Load Option is the ability to block someone who is responsible for one aspect of the option on defense. For teams that spill, I like to use what I call load option on the defensive end. If a team follows block down step down rules, when the tackle blocks down or zone blocks inside, the defensive end should step inside as well. One of two things will occur. The defensive end will fly inside, thinking the play is power or some scheme to kick him out with the fullback. Some teams run Load Option to block the Quarterback Player, others the Dive player, and finally some Load run load option where they are blocking the pitch player. I like to differentiate the terms, but it’s whatever works for your terminology.

Load Option versus Defensive Ends that Spill

Load Option versus Spill

Playside EMOLOS Technique

When the defensive end drives inside to spill, he will be giving the play to a linebacker or safety to make the tackle. It is of pivotal importance that your end man on the line of scrimage (EMOLOS) rips UP the field if he’s working to a linebacker directly or if he’s comboing he needs to keep his shoulders parralel to ensure he can at least get his body on the linebacker who is supposed to replace the defensive end when he spills. Usually defensive ends who are taught block down/step down rules are taught to get hands on the person executing the down block to help keep them off the linebacker. Well coached teams do this better than others. The tackle, if he has does not get a free release to the linebacker, needs to fight pressure with pressure and expect contact right at his first step. He should lean into his rip, much like a defensive end would do against him. If the EMOLOS, be it the tackle or tight end, can’t get directly to the linebacker, he needs make sure he gets his hands on him enough to run him past the hole. Sometimes all you need is a body on a body. The ball carrier (or potentially carriers in the case of the option) should be able to see this and adjust their path.

Fullback Technique on Load Option

For the fullback, the fullback should attack the outside hip with his inside shoulder and be ready to really drive his feet on contact. He should be aiming as low as possible so he can bury the end at least back to the line of scrimmage. He can’t fall down as he rotates his hips either. Some fullbacks try to do this when kicking out, but when they rotate and fall, they clog the running lane with their feet. They must keep their feet driving and underneath them.

Quarterback Technique on Load Option

The Quarterback needs to step off the line before moving down the line of scrimmage himself. When a defensive end spills, he will be fighting to get into the backfield, not just to clog a hole, but if the play was power, to prevent the guard from getting to the linebacker who was replacing him. By clearing himself from the LOS, the quarterback ensures he will be able to get around any trash. Teams that run two back pistol or shotgun power and load option will likely be able to avoid this problem all together since they are removed from the line of scrimmage at the snap.

Formation Adjustments to Increase Big Play Opportunities

I Formaiton Twins versus Spill

The Secondary Rotated to the Twins Side, Opening up a big play opportunity to the tight end side

Understand how the defense will adjust to your different formations. If you get into a twins or slot formation out of 21 personnel, will they play 3 over 2 to the 2 receiver side? If that’s the case, you should try to run load option to the strong side and isolate the pitch on the deep half or deep 1/3 player, as seen in Diagram 1.

Using unbalanced formations can really boost the big play effectiveness, however, I do not recommend running the option on the first play or two. It’s hard to predict how teams will respond to overloaded lines or unbalanced offensive lines. This is because coaches may change their philosophy for your team OR the players may be misaligned. While sometimes misalignment is good, it can also spell doom for your playcall if you can’t check it at the line of scrimmage, and in the best case scenario you may need to call a time out. Once you understand the defensive run support system from the secondary, you can execute option plays.

What to do when the EMOLOS Boxes Out

So what do you do when the defensive end starts to box out your fullback, meaning play contain rather than spill. He may do this because they switched their run support… or because he doesn’t trust his coaches anymore. Either way, if he starts to do this, forcing your quarterback to run into C gap, which many I formation coaches won’t like, the best solution is to run power again. Remember the reason we run LOad Option. It’s a constraint play. It’s designed to make the defense play us honestly. I want to run Power or Iso every single play. Period. But… if the defense takes our A – C gap running game away, they’re giving us something else. People usually think you have to pass and that is simply not the case. You need to understand what the defense is trying to do to make an impact on them as a play caller.

What to do when the defense rotates to the fullback

i formation twin speed option versus spill

Run Speed Option away from a team that has a secondary that rotates to the Tight End Side

My favorite way to defeat a defense that shifts the position of their linebackers or the secondary is to run speed option quicklyaway from the fullback. By rotating the secondary and because the play hits so quick, the possibility for a steady run game exists. Any other running play that works away from the fullback can work as well.

Chiefpigskin has a 3-3 stack video up from Glenbard South HS in Illinois. Check it out.