Category Archives: Quarterbacks

Choosing and Developing the Generation Y Spread Option Quarterback

Kurt Earl Post

This is a post by 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.

Coaching the Generation Y Spread Option Quarterback

We work in a rapidly changing profession. The generation of young men that fill our rosters, commonly referred to as Generation Y, perceives and engages in football very differently than we did or do. The most important player on the Generation Y football team — and in the evolution of the current game — is the spread option quarterback.

If we are going to effectively lead this generation to success on and off the field we have to be willing to change and grow while maintaining our core values and integrity. We have to understand our players and know how to relate to them, but we must never compromise what it means to be a man of maturity in the process. Continue reading

Quarterback Drills Video from USC: A Good QB Workout

This will be relatively quick, but USCFootball.com posted this quarterback drills video from their 2013 spring practice. It’s not perfect, but it’s a pretty good watch. It’s got 3 or for pretty solid quarterback drills, despite the fact it’s really a media piece. It’s worth a few minutes, that’s for sure! I’ll even take a shot at improving one of the drills. Continue reading

Breaking Down the Triple Option Quarterback’s Mechanics and Reads

Guest Football Coaching Blog Post

This is the second part of a guest blog post on the Triple Option Quarterback’s Mechanics and Reads by Levi Steier. You can follow him on his Twitter Handle, OptionFootball. If you’re interested in guest posting for Strong Football, email CoachCP at editor[at]strongfootballcoach.com.
Option Quarterback's Mechanics and Reads

The option quarterback needs to be keenly aware of the defense when running the triple option

In Part 1, Breaking Down the Option Quarterback’s Responsibilities, we discussed the option quarterback’s responsibilities and thought processes from the time he breaks the huddle, through the mesh, and up until the first read. We will now move on to the read phases of the triple and progress through to the whistle.

The Quarterback’s Reads: The Dive Read

Once the option quarterback has gotten the snap, located his Dive Read, taken his steps, and pushed his arms back to begin the mesh he is ready to make his first read. While in the mesh the quarterback decides whether or not he is going to give the ball to the fullback, or pull the ball and move into the next phase of the triple option. His decision is based on the action of the Dive Read player (#1 in the count shown in the diagram to below) and it is essential for him to be decisive and confident in his reads.

Numbered Option Quarterback Reads

Numbered Option Quarterback Reads


The option quarterback has learned to think in terms of a “one way” process. He knows that the Dive Read will react in one of four basic ways. He also knows that three of them result in a give-read and a subsequent handoff to the fullback. Therefore he will think to himself, “Give unless the Dive Read makes me pull.”

In response to the triple option blocking scheme, the Dive Read will typically respond by (1) crash stunting, (2) squatting, (3) going up field, or (4) charging the mesh.

QB Dive Read Crash

1. Crash stunting involves the Dive Read crashing toward the mesh, but re-directing late for the QB. Give-Read.

QB Dive Read Squats

2. The Dive Read squats, or sits, attempting to react to both the give and the pull. Give-Read.

QB Dive Read Up Field

3. The Dive Read attacks up field, taking away the quarterbacks path. Give-Read.

QB Dive Read Charge

4. The Dive Read charges the mesh or runs flat down the line to take away the FB’s path. Pull-Read.

As the option quarterback rides the mesh, he is watching the Dive Read’s reaction and deciding on his course of action. If he sees the Dive Read crash stunt, squat, or move up field, he gives the ball to the fullback. He then disengages and runs out his option fake. The crash stunt is the most difficult reaction to read as it looks like a mesh charge but turns into a move up field late. The key with this is to be patient in the mesh and see the DE make his move up field. Each of these reactions from the Dive Read give the quarterback a give-read. If a misread occurs, the quarterback should tuck the ball away and get behind his fullback.

Alternatively, if he reads a mesh charge, he pulls the ball, snaps his eyes to the Pitch Read and attacks the defenders outside hip. The option quarterback cannot guess, and cannot be hesitant.

Hesitation and doubt are primary causes of mesh fumbles.

If the quarterback has any doubt as the ball reaches his front foot/hip, he gives the ball to the fullback and lives with the decision.

Option QB Fullback Mesh

The option quarterback must make his decision before the ball/mesh pass the threshold of his front hip.

It is far better to take a loss on the play, and avoid the turnover. Conversely, the quarterback knows if he pulls the ball on a give-read, he never makes it worse by pitching off of the Dive Read. His only course of action is to tuck the football and get behind the fullback. The quarterback knows this is the safe play because the fullback’s responsibility is to collision the Dive Read when the ball is pulled. Again, the option quarterback never pitches the ball after misreading the dive phase of the triple option.

Prior to the snap, the quarterback had taken note of the defensive front as well as any other indicators that would help him make the correct read. One of these factors would have been the alignment of #1. If the defensive end was in a wide 5 technique, or even shaded on or outside the play side slot back, the quarterback would be aware that the Dive Read must make a more definitive move inside to indicate a pull read. Alternatively, if the Dive Read is aligned as a hard 5 technique and tilted to the inside, the quarterback has a pre-snap read indicating a quick pull might be necessary. He must be proficient with his reads. He is prepared because he has developed a feel for the mesh and his read through thousands of repetitions.

Along with the pre-snap indicators, the option quarterback needs to develop an ability to focus on the Dive Read while maintaining an awareness of the Pitch Read. If he is capable of this, he improves his ability to run the triple option effectively and makes the offense extremely explosive. Defenses will attempt to make his reads more difficult by moving people around and bringing pressure. Because he is able to simultaneously read both players, also known as “reading the stack,” he is able to handle the various stunts and is less likely put the ball on the deck.

In the YouTube videos below we see how a couple of these reads look as executed by Josh Nesbitt at Georgia Tech. The first video is an example of crash stunt. Nesbitt displays excellent patience in his ride, holds the mesh, and gives at the last second just as the Dive Read slows his charge and gets up field to take the quarterback. The result is a long gain for Jonathan Dwyer.

The second video shows a mesh charge and Nesbitt reads it well again. He pulls the ball and attacks his pitch key. Again, the result is solid gain.

The Option Quarterback’s Mechanics and Reads: Breaking Down the Mesh Mechanics

Once the quarterback’s decision is made, he must respond accordingly and either give the ball to the fullback, or pull the ball and attack the pitch key. Both of these responses require a certain set of mechanics that will help to make the mesh more efficient and reduce the likelihood of turning the ball over. To perfect the Ride and Decide mesh method, the quarterback and fullback must develop a cohesive feel for these techniques and practice them extensively.

Option Quarterback Mechanics: The Give

During the mesh, the quarterback has his eyes on the Dive Read and is thinking to himself, “Give the ball unless the Dive Read makes me pull.” As the mesh is occurring the quarterback sees the Dive Read squat and he knows he will be giving the ball to the fullback. To initiate the give, he stops the forward momentum of the ball with his front hand and slides his back hand out from in between the ball and the fullback. As the back hand is removed and ball’s momentum stops, the quarterback creates pressure on the fullback’s stomach. The pressure is the fullback’s indication that he will be the ball carrier. The quarterback keeps his front hand on the ball until he feels the fullback’s grip tighten on the ball.

Once the fullback has the ball, the quarterback will pull his front hand out and explode off the mesh at full speed with his eyes focusing completely on the Pitch Read. He must “take the air out” of the space behind the fullback, but be careful not to make contact with any part of the ball carrier. Once the fullback clears, the quarterback carries out his fake and continues until he is tackled or the whistle is blown. He knows this is essential to ensure the defense honors the perimeter phase of the triple option. He also knows he must always maintain awareness of defenders, especially the Pitch Read, to avoid taking a big hit. Being consistent with the give and fake is a critical aspect of the quarterback’s mechanics, and should be an essential coaching point.

QB Fullback Give
QB Mesh Give

When executing a give read, the option quarterback will stop the forward momentum of his front hand and slide his back hand. This will create pressure on the fullbacks belly indicating he will be getting the ball.

Option Quarterback Mechanics: The Pull

Conversely, when the quarterback sees the Dive Read charge the mesh or come down inside off the tackles veer release he knows he has a pull-read. During the Ride and Decide, he has seen the “unless” contingency of his one way thought process and he knows he must pull the ball. This is the most critical technical aspect of the triple option due to the potential of having a football on the deck. To reduce the risk, the quarterback must ensure that the pull is clean and does not place any pressure on the fullback’s belly. He must always remember that his fullback does not see the Dive Read and reacts to the pressure in his gut. The quarterback’s mechanics on the pull are essential.

To pull the ball, the option quarterback dips his back shoulder slightly and bends his back elbow while snapping his elbows and wrists back to his chest. He knows this will help to disengage the ball cleanly while also keeping him from coming into contact with the fullback. Once the ball is disengaged, the quarterback seats the ball slightly away from his body at chest level and flares his elbows slightly. Always ready to pitch, he explodes off the mesh, and attacks the #2 defender. He is now ready to make his next read.

QB Option Pull

After disengaging the mesh, the quarterback should have the ball at his chest, ready to pitch

QB Option Mesh Pull

The Option Quarterback’s Read: The Pitch Read

As previously stated, during the ride of the mesh, the quarterback should have the Pitch Read (the #2 player in the diagram on the right) in his peripheral vision as he is making his first read. This will help him find his read more quickly and assist in making quicker adjustments if the defense stunts or does something unexpected. After exploding off the mesh, the quarterback is ready to attack his Pitch Read defender and make his read.

Numbered Option Quarterback Reads

Numbered Option Quarterback Reads

The quarterback will focus on the Pitch Read’s outside hip and attack it downhill. He knows attacking the outside hip forces the defender to declare his option responsibility sooner and widens the quarterback running lane if the defender dictates a keep-read. This allows the quarterback to utilize his speed in space. Speed in space is always a good football play. The quarterback also knows attacking the Pitch Read’s outside shoulder will allow the pitch back to out-leverage the Pitch Read more quickly. Leverage on the Pitch Read leads to a huge running lane for the pitch back and often keeps the quarterback from taking a big hit.

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As the quarterback attacks the Pitch Read, he will wait for the defender to show his responsibility or for the pitch back to gain leverage to the outside of the Dive Read. Again, he has a “one way” decision to make, and thinks to himself, “Keep the ball until the Pitch Read makes me pitch.” If the defender commits to the quarterback or the pitch back gains leverage, the option quarterback will sit and fall back as he pitches the ball. This will soften the impending hit and will help reduce the risk of injury. When this happens, the quarterback’s responsibilities in the play are complete and he should go down easily after the pitch is made.

The YouTube video below shows how the pitch portion of the triple option looks.

If the defender feathers to the outside or commits to the pitch back, the quarterback has gotten a keep read. His reaction is to stick his backside foot into the ground and cut inside the Pitch Read. Once he has cleared the defender he will tuck the football, using three-points of contact, and run the ladder to get on the pylon path. He knows that once he is in the grasp of a defender he will never pitch the ball. This is another major cause of turnovers when running the triple option. Again, another important quarterback mechanic is discipline. Knowing when to pitch and throttle down and when to keep the ball, forgoing the pitch, is important.

The YouTube video below shows keep reads from a pistol Flexbone set. We see the Pitch Read commit to the pitch back and the quarterback stick his foot in the ground and cut up field.

Option Quarterback Mechanics on the Pitch

Once the quarterback sees that the Pitch Read is responsible for him, commits inside, or is out-leveraged by the pitch back he knows it is time to get rid of the football. To pitch the ball he stops his forward momentum and points the toe of his back foot at his target. He sits low, and pushes back off his front foot as he drives his thumb down and through the ball. His aiming point is slightly in front of the pitch back who is running at a 4×1 pitch relationship (4 yards wide and 1 yard back). The ball should lead the back slightly and travel through the air with an end over end rotation. The key is to deliver a soft, catchable ball that allows the back to make the catch at full speed. Once again, the quarterback knows the pitch back will be in good pitch relationship as they have practiced the timing thousands of times. Option football is about consistency and timing. Both of which are predicated by repetition.

In the video below, Ty Detmer explains some of the mechanics of the option pitch.

Final Thoughts on the Option Quarterback

The development of the option quarterback is integral to the success of an option offense and requires a great deal of time and effort from both the coach and the player. Coaching the option quarterback’s mechanics well is of pivotal importance. Coaching the option quarterback’s reads thoroughly is also critical. This series only touches on some of the intricacies of the play and how the option quarterback functions within its concepts. Additionally, there are several different schools of thought on how to best accomplish the goals of option football. For instance, some coaches prefer the Ride and Decide mesh method discussed in this article while others prefer the Point method. Some coaches also prefer to use a basketball style pitch as opposed to the thumb down approach I discussed, or might count out to 3 or 4 with their pre-snap count.

This is why football is such a great game. Individuals take schemes and techniques and modify them to fit their needs and philosophies. The fun part is trying to figure out what the other guys are doing on Friday nights and coaching your kids up to execute your scheme more effectively than they can. If you are successful, that’s great. If not, you go back to the drawing board the next week and do it again. It is an exercise in dealing with adversity and presents those of us who take part with many life lessons.

Thanks for reading and feel free to visit my website at OptionFootball.net and contact me at optionfootball[at]optionfootball.net if you want to discuss the game of football.

Breaking Down the Triple Option Quarterback’s Responsibilities

Guest Football Coaching Blog Post

This is the first part of a guest blog post on the Triple Option Quarterback’s Responsibilities by Levi Steier. You can follow him on his Twitter Handle, OptionFootball. If you’re interested in guest posting for Strong Football, email CoachCP at editor[at]strongfootballcoach.com.

Developing the option quarterback is an essential aspect of most offenses, and this is certainly true for option football. In an option football scheme it is the single most important element of success. The reality is an option football play can be blocked perfectly, but if the option quarterback makes an incorrect read, the result will likely be a loss, or worse, a turnover. In light of this, lets break down exactly what the option quarterback does in the triple option from the time he breaks the huddle to when the whistle is blown.

The Option Quarterback: Part 1

Army Option Quarterback

The option quarterback needs to mentally isolate the read players prior to the snap of the football.
(West Point Public Affairs Flickr Feed via http://www.flickr.com/photos/west_point/)

For the first portion of this article we will take an in depth look at what the option quarterback’s responsibilities are after the huddle is broken up until he needs to make his first read.

The Option Quarterback: Approaching the Line of Scrimmage

After the huddle break, the option quarterback moves to the line of scrimmage (LOS) with urgency but without rushing. It is important to set the tone but also to stay calm and capable of analyzing any pre-snap information that might help him make good decisions while executing the play.

One of the first steps in this process is getting a sense of what the defense is doing. As the quarterback approaches the LOS, he looks at how the defense is responding to the formation. The option quarterback determines the defensive front and coverage. If they do not correspond correctly, (e.g. 4-3 Cover 2, or 4-4 Cover 3) he will take a mental note of it and try to understand why.

With this information the option quarterback can more easily identify the two read players necessary to run the triple option.

Knowing the front and the coverage shell will usually give clues as to how the defense will respond to the play. At this point the option quarterback is thinking about the play call and how the defense might react to it. The option quarterback, through thousands of practice and game time reps, garners an ability to pick up on little things that will help him with his decisions long before they need to be made. He develops a feel for it. It becomes second nature.

The Option Quarterback: Pre-Snap Considerations

While at the line of scrimmage, the option quarterback first ensures his players are set and in the correct formation. As the quarterback, he is an extension of the coach and understands where every player on the offense needs to be and what they will do once the ball is snapped. Now, the quarterback looks left, then right, and then left again. This occurs on every play, regardless of the call or the snap count. This ensures the option quarterback sees the entire defense, and helps to eliminate any unintentional cues for the defense.

During the left, right, left check, the quarterback goes through a mental count to determine the read players. In this count he determines a #1 player and a #2 player. (Note – Systems often count out to 3 and 4, however, I have limited the scope of this article in the interest of simplicity and brevity.)

The first player identified is the Dive Read and is labeled #1. This is the player that determines if the quarterback gives the ball to the dive back, or keeps the ball and continues on to the second read.

There are many different variations on how to determine these players, but for the purposes of this article, the rules are:

Rule 1 – The first down lineman outside of the play side B-Gap is the Dive Read. He is #1.

Rule 2 – The next primary run defender behind or outside of #1 is the Pitch Read. He is #2.

The diagrams below illustrate what the counts are against four common fronts.

The Option Quarterback: Count Diagram 1

The Option Quarterback: Count Diagram 1

The Option Quarterback: Count Diagram 2

The Option Quarterback: Count Diagram 2

The Option Quarterback: Count Diagram 3

The Option Quarterback: Count Diagram 3

The Option Quarterback: Count Diagram 4

The Option Quarterback: Count Diagram 4

After determining the count, the option quarterback makes note of anything that might help him make his read more effectively. He should be aware of a stacked playside linebacker, or that the five-technique defensive end has cheated his alignment to the inside eye of the tackle. He is actively thinking about what could happen and therefore increases his chances of making the proper decision when there is adversity.

For example, against the 4-3 defense, the quarterback must always read #1 and #2 simultaneously because of the high probability of a cross charge. The video below illustrates this nicely. The linebacker comes inside of the DE, becoming #1. The quarterback needs to recognize this and read the DE as #2. This will usually result in a quick pull-pitch and is one of the most difficult option reads to make. If you would like to read more about the intricacies of the option read, go to Dissecting the Option Football Read .

The Option Quarterback: Getting to the Mesh Point

The option quarterback has made his pre-snap analysis and is ready to get under center and begin his cadence. His primary responsibility now is to get the ball cleanly without fumbling. He sets his feet just underneath his armpits and bends his knees slightly. He places his hands under the center’s backside, aligning his middle finger with the midline. He keeps his wrists firmly together and rides the center’s momentum forward slightly as the ball is placed into his hands. To accomplish this, he applies pressure from his bottom hand, pushes up into the center’s backside and extends his arms out as the center steps away.

Once the quarterback has the ball in his hands he must simultaneously adjust his grip on the ball, seat it near his stomach, and take his first step. All while keeping his eyes on the Dive Read.

For the grip, the quarterback adjusts his hands so his thumbs and pointer fingers are near the top stripe of the football. He “chokes” the ball and has his pitching hand on the laces or seam. He knows high hands through the mesh are important for improving his ability to pull the ball without fumbling.

While adjusting his grip on the ball, the quarterback will take his first step. Footwork is important and he has spent a lot of practice time perfecting this technique.

When the quarterback is under center he is facing at 12 o’clock and can go either direction with his feet straddling the midline. When running the Inside Veer, the quarterback will step to either 4 or 8 o’clock with his play side foot while keeping it parallel to the LOS. He will then bring his second step and get his feet parallel to the fullback’s path. This path is also referred to as the “Crease Line.”

Football coaches use a variety of teaching methods to ensure the proper steps are taken. A common teaching tool in this regard is the Clock method. Below is a series of diagrams illustrating the quarterback’s steps as they would look on the face of a clock.

Option Quarterback Step 1

The option quarterback’s stance

Option Quarterback Step 2

The option quarterback’s first step

Option Quarterback Step 3

The second option quarterback step

As the first step occurs, he brings the ball to his midsection and extends it through his back hip toward the fullback. It is important to not swing the ball, but to push it back while keeping the eyes on the Dive Read.

The option quarterback’s eyes are positioned on the Dive Read and the arms extended back fully.

The option quarterback’s eyes are positioned on the Dive Read and the arms extended back fully.

The quarterback takes his second step and gets parallel to the crease line while keeping the ball fully extended back and his eyes on the Dive Read. At this point, the chin is on the front shoulder and the fullback is making contact with the ball.

The option quarterback and fullback begin the ride. The option QB keeps the ball slightly ahead of the fullback through the mesh while keeping his chin on the front shoulder. The option QB never takes his eyes off of the Dive Read until after the disconnect.

The option quarterback and fullback begin the ride. The option QB keeps the ball slightly ahead of the fullback through the mesh while keeping his chin on the front shoulder. The option QB never takes his eyes off of the Dive Read until after the disconnect.

The quarterback keeps his eyes on the Dive Read and moves the ball slightly ahead of the fullback on the crease line. He feels the fullback wrap his arms around the football in a soft seal and shifts his weight from his back foot to his front foot as the fullback runs the crease line. The option quarterback is focused in on the Dive Read and is ready to separate from the mesh and attack the pitch key at any time.

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The option quarterback’s read is based on the action of the Dive Read and he must decide whether or not he is going to give the ball to the fullback, or pull the ball and move into the next phase of the triple option. This must be decided before the mesh passes the quarterbacks front hip.

In part two of this article we will go over the quarterback’s responsibilities through the two reads of the triple option and what needs to be done through the whistle. We will take a look at the mechanics involved and a “one way” process of decision making.

Thanks for reading and feel free to visit my website at http://optionfootball.net and contact me at optionfootball [at] optionfootball.net if you want to discuss the game of football.

Part two of this awesome guest post will be released next week.

Eliminating False Start Penalties

Yep, every offensive football coach deals with false start penalties. Every coach tries to deal with it after they notice the problem. Coaches, here’s your issue, it’s too late if it’s already a problem. Sure, you may help the issue. But if your offensive line coach AND the quarterbacks coach didn’t start planning it from day 1, you’re going to have issues.

Why do I say the quarterback’s coach as well? Because the Quarterbacks have to change their cadence on every snap in team as well so the whole offense gets used to it.

Changing The Cadence in Practice – Offensive Line

I feel like this year, our freshmen squad is tremendous at going on multiple counts. Why? We addressed it right away. If they jump, it’s up downs for everyone. I gave them a free-bee or two on the first couple of days, but after that I’ve been very strict on it.

Every time we did any drill, I would give them a count. When I don’t give them one, they ask. That’s when you know they respect the importance of going on a different snap count, even in practice.

Changing The Cadence in Practice – Quarterbacks

Quarterback coaches should make sure their QB’s change the snap count. When a play is given in the huddle early on, tell the QB what snap count to go on. If you can’t remember to do this, build it into your script. Next to the play, write “on 2″. Quarterbacks should change the play count they’re directly calling a play. Working on timing with the backs? Have the QB dictate the snap count. Working inside with just the line or in 7 on 7? Have a different snap count.

Understand that certain plays probably should go on certain snap counts, especially with younger players. Running jet sweep? Go on one or on set. Running a play with jet motion across the formation, go on two. Defenses will start to tee off on jet sweep or other plays like this if you don’t do these things. So drill it in practice with those specific plays.

If quarterbacks aren’t drilled on changing the snap count, they’ll constantly use the same snap counts in team drills or in games. Then your team will get used to it. Teach the importance of why you change the snap count. Let’s remember how it can be important.

  • Keep the defense from jumping the count
  • Disguise a play call (like jet sweep)
  • It can get us free yards or a free play
  • Identify a blitz/coverage

Teaching the players to understand the importance of changing the snap count will hold them more accountable across the board. When importance is placed on an element, it also earns focus from the players. A lot of coaches say a snap count is imporant, but don’t really explain the full depth of it’s importance. Don’t make this mistake.

Conclusion on Snap Counts

Make sure you start every season by emphasizing their importance by personally changing them up in your drills. Don’t accept failure in this regard, and make sure you emphasize the importance overall.Also, make sure you 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.

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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.