Category Archives: Spread Offense

Running the Option to Keep Defenses Gap Sound and Stable

As a coach, I don’t like non-gap sound defenses. By that, I mean defenses that send two guys to the same gap. One’s that over-shift the safeties to one side. I like them from the stand point that we can get big plays on them. I don’t like them because typically it creates confusion after the initial time or too. Some defenses choose to be a little less strict on their gaps when they identify a tendency or when they think a pass is coming. It’s at these points that having a little bit of an option running game can get big plays for the offense, or in the least, prevent these exotic looks. Running the option will keep defenses stable.

Running the Option: Arc Option

Courtesy of http://zeaocre.blogspot.com/2011/10/return-of-option.html

Running the option also keeps defenses from blitzing or doing some stunts. Having a problem with a backside linebacker run through? Run an option play and kill their backside pursuit by gashing them. A defensive end sometimes spilling power, but sometimes boxing it out? Run load option and win every time by kicking him or logging him and optioning the next guy.

Running the Option: The Excuses

Some teams will say they don’t have time to run the option, because it takes too long to install. They have some… elaborate passing game and don’t have the time to dedicate to the option. Or they don’t want their QB to get hurt. Or he’s too slow. Teams that use these excuses are avoiding a major solution. The bottom line is your QB doesn’t have to be a terrific athlete to make it work. He’s in just as much danger dropping back 30 times a game being protected by a 16-18 year old left tackle.

Don’t believe you have the time to be running the option or teaching the reads? Pre-call the silly thing, or call it from the sideline with a check with me type of deal. OR, spend pre-practice just going over your reads. Trust me, reading the option should be easier than reading 3-4 defenders on a passing play. Finally, the fear of turning the ball over is the other excuse. Personally, this is the worst one. You can run plays like the shovel option to make any dropped pitch an incomplete pass.

Running the Option: Two-man Option

I like the idea of the two-man option or double option when you don’t have a lot of time to install it. Really, you can use whatever your outside zone or veer blocking looks like.

Milt Tenopir, legendary Nebraska o-line coach, used the outside zone scheme for all his double options, which many times included a fake to the fullback to give the illusion of the triple option. He would change up the block of the offensive end man on the line of scrimmage, usually having them combo block with their inside teammate to the nearest linebacker, but everything else was the same. Using the outside zone scheme will eliminate confusion on the offensive line by recycling, as they should know your outside play already. It also only involves reading one defensive linemen, even if it sometimes looks like you’re reading two. This will help keep that defense gap sound. It makes running the option a lot easier as well.

Running the Option: Triple Option

The triple option takes more time to install, but the reward can be greater. If you don’t focus on the option, just install one version of this play. Usually, that version is outside veer or mid-line, depending on what the offense typically sees defensively. I like outside veer better, which can really be blocked using the outside zone blocking scheme (but having the offensive end man on the line of scrimmage combo with his inside teammate to the nearest linebacker). From here, you essentially are just reading the last man on the line of scrimmage.

Again, don’t make this more intimidating than it should be. Once you clear that guy, you’re reading the second man, typically the force player for your pitch key. Again, if your QB can read the flat player to the hook to curl player, then you can execute the triple option. It comes down to how well you teach both concepts.

Running the Option: Coaching it Up

I highly encourage you to Google for the specific option play you want to install. Once you have an understanding of it, go talk to another staff you think has experience with the play and get the nitty gritty details on it. See if you can borrow game film or practice film of a high school team running the option play to see what their difficulties are. Don’t just draw it up and try to do it on your own without knowledge of the play. There are some minor tweaks that may need to happen. Some of you may think this is daunting, but really, whenever you install new plays, not just when running the option, you should be doing this level of research.

Running the Option: Conclusions

Running the option is only daunting when you make it that way as a coach. We’ve used it this year, sparringly, but enough to keep defenses honest. When they start trying some exotic stuff, we typically get a big play out of our option running game. Again, running the option is not a major time investment. It’s worthwhile though, and can really help you offense get moving.

FishDuck.com: Power-O in the Spread Offense

I know I’ve been slow here during the season, and I apologize (well, I’m focused on our team, so not so much!). I did want to give you guys a post I never mentioned here that is over on FishDuck.com. Power-O in the Spread Offense discusses the famous play we all know I love so much being utilized in the spread. It includes some clips and plenty of new innovations to help make Power-O work from shotgun sets.

It also discusses how to deal with defensive ends who spill the guard to stop the QB dive and linebackers that aggressively flow outside to stop the sweep.

I do have some new posts coming soon, they just need some images, so make sure you keep coming back to Strong Football!

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.

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!