Tag Archives: offensive formations

Adding Unbalanced Formations to Your Offense

One of least utilized tools in the Offensive Coordinator’s toolbox has to be the use of the unbalanced offensive formations.

What I mean by unbalanced formations is either covering up an eligible receiver by other receivers to create an overload, or switching an offensive lineman and a receiver such as a TE to create dilemma between defending the passing or running strength.

Many option offenses often use different types of unbalanced formations, but not many Zone or Gap teams utilize these looks. The purpose of this article will be to present unbalanced formation concepts to these types of offenses to use against defenses when a schematic advantage might be needed versus a superior opponent. Continue reading

Football’s not about the Jimmy’s and Joe’s, It’s about the X’s and O’s.

Guest Football Coaching Blog Post

This is a guest blog post on the X’s and O’s of football 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. If you’re interested in guest posting for Strong Football, email CoachCP at editor[at]strongfootballcoach.com.

Yeah, I know I got the old saying backwards, but in my first few years in coaching, as I began attending clinics, I noticed something. Many of the coaches sitting in the audience with me said the old saying the way it has always been said: It’s not about the X’s and O’s, it’s about the Jimmy’s and Joe’s. You know what else I noticed? The guys on the stage never said stuff like that. They said stuff like “You can teach almost anyone to do this” or “See how our system doesn’t require tons of great athletes?”

I was a young coach, but I didn’t need the wisdom of experience to put two and two together. Lack of talent is not an excuse for poor play. I think this is particularly true in regards to offense because offensive systems have the ability to control the defense through formations, shifts, motions and play calls. I dare say that the offensive coordinator has more impact on the outcome of a game than any other person in all of sports.

From that perspective I have spent hundreds of hours over the past 8 years constructing an offensive system that is about the X’s and O’s, not the Jimmy’s and Joe’s. What follows are some of the lessons I have learned in the process. I don’t have the perfect offense and I make a lot of mistakes in terms of calling plays, but as our offensive has evolved I have learned some things that are worth sharing.

Football X’s and O’s Lesson #1: Being Multiple is a Good Way to be Average

Perhaps at the college or pro levels a coach can choose to be multiple, actually install that offense and execute it with success, but at the high school level being multiple means not being much of anything. The best offenses we have faced have an identity and they cram it down your throat. My offense is a spread option offense. We line up in the same formation 95% of the time, we run various reads and options from the gun and we dare you to stop us. That attitude has been successful for us and it is the same type of attitude the best offenses we face seem to have as well.

Football X’s and O’s Lesson #2: Every Good Offense is a System

As I have attempted to counter the ways defenses have played us, I have come to realize that great offenses have answers. One of the slogans for our offense is “We got answers”. We have found that the best plays are the counter punches to the defensive adjustments. I don’t waste too much time borrowing and gathering plays from other coaches. Instead, I attempt to understand why their plays work and then discern how that concept can be applied within the framework of my offensive system.

Football X’s and O’s Lesson #3: Develop a system with a few top priority positions

As you attempt to put lessons #1 and #2 into practice, attempt to do so in such a way that very few positions require an excellent Jimmy or Joe. Obviously, you want to have a great team when all 11 guys are studs, but odds are pretty good that most years you’re going to have less than 5 great high school players on your team and a true college talent is going to be even rarer than that. In our system, offensive linemen usually double team rather than work in a one-on-one situation. Our receivers are asked to understand concepts more than they are asked to be fast. The vast majority of the throws we ask our QB to make require accuracy more than arm strength. The point is this: whenever I create a new “answer” I ask myself, “Can we coach kids to do this or does it require too much raw talent?”

Football X’s and O’s Lesson #4: Become an expert at coaching the top priority positions.

Duh! But I think there are three keys to becoming really good at coaching the positions that really matter within your system.

  1. Identify the actual skills needed by your critical positions. One of our critical positions is QB. We are a shotgun, spread option team. Our QB needs to be able to count to two (as in 0, 1 or 2 safeties high), needs to be able to execute zone reads, options and get his feet set after a play-action fake and make a short accurate throw. We don’t waste too much time working on anything else.
  2. Never allow traditional or popular thoughts about how to play your critical positions impact your assessment of what skills your priority positions need to develop. For instances, the Manning QB Camps aren’t the best for our QBs to go to QB camp. They play QB differently than we do. We don’t need to be like them.
  3. Become obsessed with learning how to coach those skills. Attend clinic sessions, compare video of great players at that position, be willing to experiment with new drills, etc…

I believe that when you, as the offensive coordinator, begin to put all of these ideas into practice you have the ability to impact that outcome of the game more than anyone else in the stadium. Throughout your career there will be fluctuations in the amount of raw talent on your team, but you can always put your players, within the framework of your offensive system, in a position where they have an opportunity to be successful. Ultimately, it’s up to you. Are you going to be a coach that wastes seasons waiting for the Jimmy’s and Joe’s to show up, or are you going to focus on the X’s and O’s and maximize the potential of the players you have?

Make sure you check out Coach Earl’s other post on Football Offensive Play Calling and Tempo. Also check out ChiefPigskin.com.

Disguising the I Formation Iso Play: Fullback Swipe

It’s important, that we as coaches, recognize ways to earn little victories in order to help our players be successful by aiding them in their opportunity to win match-ups. It’s a myth that the fullback in the I formation must be a bruiser (along with the idea that the tight end must be a man among boys). With small enhancements to the I formation, an undersized/under powered fullback can still be effective. The Swipe action on the the I formation iso play helps put the fullback in a position to be successful.

I formation Iso Play Swipe Concept

So what is the I formation Iso Swipe concept? I call it the “swipe” because essentially the fullback is pulling from an off-set position opposite the play to kickout the inside linebacker. I call it swipe because it’s not quite a pull or a wrap technique. The fullback works into the line of scrimmage, and should expect to kickout the linebacker. Essentially, everything is the same from your standard I formation Iso play, except that you are “swiping” with the fullback instead of “leading” up on him.

Fullback kicks out playside inside linebacker, combo gets dumped but accounts for nose tackle and weak inside linebacker.

What the I formation iso play swipe concept does is it essentially provides a really appetizing read to the Middle Linebacker. He gets an open door and sees the tailback coming right at him. It looks like a broken play, or Inside Zone with a combo on the shade. The linebacker presses the line, either looking to make a big play in the backfield, or to beat the combo block, and gets kicked out by the fullback coming underneath.

I Formation Iso Play: Swipe Technique

The fullback should come underneath the quarterback. He will not likely make the block on the other side of the line of scrimmage. If he does, it won’t be very deep. He should anticipate movement on nose tackles thanks to the combination block. He should use a blocking technique to a trap block. He should keep his head up the field, and kickout with his playside shoulder pad. He should use surface by using the flipper, and run his feet on contact.

The tailback wants to open like it’s a normal Iso play. This will get the playside inside linebacker to step up. The tailback should be ready to hug the combination block on the nose tackle.

The quarterback should make sure he doesn’t step off the midline as he reverse pivots to the tailback. If he steps off the midline, he risks forcing the tailback into the kickout on the linebacker. He should carry out whatever your typical play fake is.

I Formation Iso Play: Swipe Play Action

This run action actually works really well with any type of half-slide protection. The offensive line slides away from the call, with the playside tackle setting up on the end. The fullback, instead of kicking out, would sneak into the flat. The tailback is responsible for the linebacker tackling him (aka, playside inside). From there, the play is really up to the offensive coordinator. I always like Post/dig or Pound Pass (TE sits at 8-10, works off leverage of safety, and the flanker runs a post over the top) play action pass concept when the QB can setup right behind the tackle, so this play action works beautifully.

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.

Loosening Up the Box

This post was written by a great friend and even better coach, Joby Turner. Joby was my roommate in college and we also coached together at Crawfordsville High School. Joby has a unique ability to connect with every athlete on the field, regardless of position. You can contact Joby at jobyturner[at]gmail.com.

Any heavy run team knows that after you have had a couple of good gainers or big plays, the defense starts adding defenders into the box and deep coverage players get closer and closer to the line of scrimmage. This can make it quite difficult to block everyone and create a running lane for the running back. The problem then becomes how do you free up room for your running backs to operate without overhauling your system? Throughout the rest of the post, I plan on presenting different ways to “Loosen Up the Box” while staying true to your system and the formations you already have. I have organized this into three (3) different categories. They are Quick Passes, Runs, and finally Screens. Each will present different ways to create room for the inside run. These are all done with the assumption that you are using some type formation or set with two backs being in the backfield.


Football Quick Passing Game

The beauty of the Quick Passing Game is that the ball is out quickly and efficiently, and these types of passes can be run anywhere on the field. Whether you are backed up, or on the goal line, these types of quick routes can be used to provide an edge based upon the defense’s alignment to your formation. Other than the Out, these routes are also very cheap in terms of practice time it would take to install and rep during the course of the season leaving time to focus on what you really want to do.

Hitch Routes: The first type of Quick passing play you can implement is the Hitch. I have always taught the Hitch route as a 3-5 yard route that breaks back toward the Quarterback. This route is a solid route that will allow the receiver to have a chance for huge yards after catch (YAC) opportunities if the receiver turns back towards the outside after the catch. The beauty of the hitch is that any receiver can run the route from any position on the field. This route is best used against a deep corner in a Cover 3 type alignment by the corner, but is also highly effective by a tight end (TE) as well.

Pros of the Hitch Route:

  • Very safe – Low risk throw that is almost like stealing yardage. The Hitch is probably one of the safest throws a QB can make. It can be thrown by tall QB’s, short QB’s, Left-Handed QB’s etc.
  • Keeps you on schedule – When completing a hitch, you are guaranteed 3-5 yards, and this gain gives you a 2nd or 3rd and manageable. In my opinion, keeping on track to gain first downs is one of the most important traits of any offense no matter the style of offense
  • Frees up Deeper Routes – After you have hit a few hitches, you now have the chance to run a hitch and go, and get the defense to play way off of the line of scrimmage (LOS)
  • Can be run by any type of receiver – Bigger receivers can “box out” defenders, or smaller players can use speed and quickness to create separation from a defender.

Cons of the Hitch Route:

  • Pick will generally equal 6 Points the other direction
  • Slower types at wide receiver will probably not get as many YAC yards
  • QB needs to have a decent arm to get the ball across the field on time
  • OLB/Safety can make it tough to throw on a single receiver side, but you have now done your job.

Out Routes: Similar to the Hitch Route is the Quick Out Route. This route was popularized by Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, and the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980’s. This route is also ran at 3-5 yards, and is characterized by the receiver rolling outside toward the sideline at the desired depth. The only ways to stop this are to either have the corner play press coverage, or have the flat defender cheat out to get underneath of the cut.

Pros of the Out Route:

  • Easy completion that steals yardage
  • Gets the receiver going toward the sideline as he is catching ball, instead of having to get there after the catch

Cons of the Out Route:

  • QB usually needs to have a better arm to make this throw
  • Requires quite a bit of timing compared to the other quick passes

1 Step Slant Route: This route is becoming more and more popular in the NFL, because of the huge YAC opportunities and the overall size of the NFL wide receiver. The actual route is ran by taking one step forward with the outside foot as a plant foot, and cutting inside off of this foot at a 45° angle aiming for an area behind the MLB. After the catch, get North/South as fast as possible. One of the more famous examples is Larry Fitzgerald’s TD catch in Super Bowl XLIII vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pros of the 1 Step Slant Route:

  • As mentioned earlier, great opportunity for YAC, since receiver will generally only have one defender to beat on the way to the endzone.
  • Can be run by any type of receiver. Big players can create a great target for smaller QBs, and small players can use their quickness to rack up YAC.
  • Unless their Joe is better than your Jimmy, they must place a defender inside of the receiver to negate the throw by alignment. You have now accomplished what you wanted to accomplish.
  • Great on the goal line. Good for when you get single coverage on a bigger receiver toward the end zone. A whip route is also great after you have used this a couple times and the corner starts over playing the slant.

Cons of the 1 Step Slant Route:

    • This route can be tough against a very physical corner, or a corner that is a better athlete than your player. Receiver must be a good technician in this situation
    • Receiver can get jacked up by a LB/S if he is not paying attention.

This route is also limited by having an outside alignment. It is possible to run this from an inside alignment by a Flexed TE or slot, but it takes a much more accurate throw with all of the traffic inside, and the receiver has a much better chance of getting lit up. It is safer and more cost-efficient to keep it as an outside WR play only.

Bubble Screen/Route: The Bubble route, as most of you know, is slowly taking over College Football with the popularity of the Spread Offense. The way I have learned how the route is ran came from Gunter Brewer. The receiver takes a Carioca step with the outside foot for timing purposes, and then runs a fish hook type path towards the sideline all the while keeping the shoulders square toward the LOS. The receiver needs to make the catch while moving forward.

Pros of the Bubble Screen / Route :

  • Really great YAC opportunity, especially with a small scat back type.
  • The route pulls the flat defender fast from the box. If not, your player is off to the races.
  • Great Decoy route. Can be used to hold the OLB/S for a second while you are actually running a play. Spread teams kill using this principle.
  • Other secondary defenders must assist to stop the bubble. This will pull even more defenders away from where ever you are potentially running.
  • Great PAP off of it. All the other blocker has to do is “miss” the flat player and it’s money.
  • Usually ruled a forward pass if dropped.

Cons of the Bubble Screen / Route :

  • Requires another blocker
  • The extra blocker better be a good blocker or you will be in trouble.
  • Pick = 6 points.
  • Can be a loss of yardage if not blocked properly
  • Must be run by a receiver in the slot, so you must have at least two (2) receivers to that side.
  • Could be ruled a lateral if dropped.

Stand Up Route: The Stand-Up is another route that is becoming more and more popular in the NFL. The route is run by turning the shoulders toward the QB at the snap. Works best when perpendicular to the LOS. Teams that employ this type of strategy are the Packers and Giants, and it was a favorite of gunslinger Brett Favre.

Pros of the Stand Up Route:

  • Very Quick. The receiver isn’t going anywhere and all the QB has to do is throw it out there.
  • Versatile. Can be run to a 1 receiver side or 2 receiver side to either receiver.
  • Can be used with run action by the other 9 players
  • Can be called anytime the receiver has an adequate cushion on the DB over him

Cons of the Stand Up Route:

  • Tougher throw if the DE gets in the way.
  • You need to have space from the defender to actually throw it.
  • Receiver better have decent acceleration, since he is standing still at the catch.
Tight End Pop Pass, Seam Route, Stand Up Route

Fade / Go / Streak /POP Pass: The Fade/Go/Streak/POP pass is a quick route that’s purpose is to get upfield as fast as possible and take a shot deep. The fade/Go/Streak route is run by getting an outside release, while going no farther than the numbers outside. The idea is to make the catch over the outside shoulder.

Pros of the Fade / Go / Streak / POP Pass:

  • Big play when caught
  • Can work with any type of receiver
  • Pass interference happens more frequently with this type of route
  • It can be considered a punt if the pick is far enough down field
  • “POP” pass can delay LBs on the run

Cons of the Fade / Go / Stream / Pop Pass:

  • Really tough throw to get good at when throwing outside.
  • Easy to pick if not accurate
  • “POP” is only one that can keep you on schedule.

To close my discussion on the Quick Game, I want to bring up the point that there are many different ways to skin a cat with these types of routes. It is all how and what you want to accomplish with them. I would also suggest that if you plan on using the Stand-Up, Bubble, or 1 Step Slant you plan a part of practice especially for practicing these plays on the defense. Your players must be willing to throw these anytime in the game to get the full effect of throwing uncovered. For more reading, I recommend Andrew Coverdale’s Quick Passing Book/Movies. There are 3 volumes in the series. The link is to the first. Footballs Quick Passing Game

Running Plays

The Quick Passing Game is not the only way to “Loosen Up the Box” and exploit the alignment of defenders. Other run plays can also accomplish the task. The main plays I am discussing fall into the category of “Sweeps.” There are many types of different sweeps, and I will try to give them all justice in how they can help eliminate defenders from the box. The basic premise behind all of these different types of sweeps is to get the ball out on the perimeter quickly in order to “pin” the defense into the box and get a huge gain. Some of these sweeps are easily adaptable to what you may be doing already, others may not. My intent is to offer a smorgasbord of a selection to show you how different people attack the same problem of getting players out of the box.

Types of Running Plays

Jet Sweep: This Sweep comes in with a variety of different blocking schemes, due to the reason that it is very modular. The sweep is recognized by a sweeper back moving in full speed motion directly behind the QB at the snap of the ball. The sweep back is then in good position to attack the perimeter before the defense has a chance to adjust. The idea of the play is to get outside of the defense before they can react and find the ball. In order to stop the play, the defense must over shift toward the perimeter leaving valuable room inside to run the ball.

Pros of Jet Sweep

  • A very fast Sweeper can do some serious damage on the perimeter
  • You don’t have to block that many people
  • Spread the touches out between players
  • 2 for 1 chance getting a secondary player to suck up on the sweep

Cons of Jet Sweep

  • Somewhat time intensive to get the mesh point down pat
  • A little tougher for slower RB’s
  • Chance to get behind schedule
  • Can’t allow penetration on the play side
Quick Pitch and Rocket Screen to the Strongside

Rocket Sweep/Toss: The Rocket Sweep/Toss is very similar to the Jet Sweep in terms of what it is trying to accomplish. It wants to get a player on the perimeter as fast as possible. The main difference between the Jet and the Rocket is in the mechanics of the play. The Rocket wants to hit outside of the tackle on the catch by the sweep back. The Rocket also wants the sweep back deeper and away from the QB at the snap of the ball. As is the case with the Jet, there are numerous ways to block it, so I will not go into detail. I will let you explore it more on your own.

Pros of Rocket Sweep/Toss

    • Fastest hitting of all the sweep plays
    • You do not need to block many people for it to work
    • Quick sweeper back will devastate a defense
    • 2 for 1 chance getting a secondary player to suck up on the sweep


Cons of Rocket Sweep/Toss:

  • Fumbled toss can be a disaster
  • Somewhat practice intensive
  • RB needs to be good at reading blocks
Quick Pitch and Rocket Screen to the Weakside
Quick Pitch: Quick Pitch is a staple play used by many old school Pro-Style teams, but most notably with Split Back Veer teams. Quick Pitch is a hybrid between the Old School Toss Sweep and the newer Jet and Rocket Sweeps. The actual toss is usually to a stationary back at the snap, who is offset of the midline in a formation. This play can also be blocked a number of ways, but they are generally similar to the way people block Rocket, Jet, and the Old School Sweep.

Pros of Quick Pitch:

    • Can get a perimeter run by a player who may tend to run inside more
    • Hits perimeter quick. LB/SS can get outflanked in a hurry.
    • Can run no matter the WR situation


Cons of Quick Pitch:

    • A dropped pitch can be bad news bears
    • May get you behind schedule
    • Can’t allow penetration

Old School Toss Sweep: The old school toss sweep is generally characterized by a Quarterback reversing out and the entire “Student Body” all going outside to block while the running back gets the pitch. The Fullback generally attacks the Force player hopefully springing the back for a touchdown. The blocking could also be a Pin and Pull type of scheme popularized by the old Colorado Buffaloes and more recently the Indianapolis Colts and Howard Mudd.

Pros of Toss Sweep:
  • Everybody and their brother is blocking for you.
  • No motion needed
  • Chance to have a big play

Cons of Toss Sweep:

    • Slower hitting play, since no one is moving at the snap.
    • Better have some good in space blockers
    • RB must be good at making reads and reading blocks
    • Fumbled Toss could be a disaster
    • Get behind schedule on a tackle for loss
    • Not the most effective method for removing people from the box.

Fly Sweep: The Fly Sweep is probably one of the least used plays in the Sweep family, but it can be one of the more effective plays. The play is characterized by a receiver moving in motion at the snap away from the intended play side behind the QB in a reverse type look. The purpose is to hold the backside pursuit from destroying the play. The beauty of the play is that you only have to have success on a couple of plays to get the attention of the defense. The inside run then becomes more equitable. Some more recent teams that use the Fly Sweep are USC under Pete Carroll and Oregon State with the Rodgers Brothers. Also, check out Mark Speckman’s DVD devoted to the entire package. Coaching the Fly Offense

Pros of the Fly Sweep

  • Gives you a can to get a stud WR a carry or two in a game
  • Creates a cloudy picture for the D. The D must waste precious time figuring out who has the ball
  • Very formation friendly
  • Can gain a numerical advantage by having more than one player attack the sweeper back.

Cons of the Fly Sweep

  • Very time intensive to install and time up.
  • Need to have some decent speed with the Sweep back
  • Can bring a front side defender into the box which can be counter productive

Some additional resources for checking out the different types of sweeps are listed below.


Screens to Loosen up the Box

The last type of play that I would like to look at while we are discussing ways to “Loosen Up the Box” are Screens. Screens function similarly to the Quick Passing Game, yet they allow you to get blockers down field and create bigger gains. I have picked two screens to discuss in this section, and they are the Rocket Screen and the Running Back Fast Screen. (I have already discussed the Bubble Route, therefore I did not want to include it again.)The reason I chose these two screens is because they really place stress on the Curl/Flat player to make a play, and they take advantage of too many players being in the box. Air Raid teams use these screens to take advantage of hard pass rushing players, but run first teams can use them to force an adjustment in the alignment of the defense.

Rocket Screen: The Rocket Screen is an Air Raid Staple used heavily by Texas Tech in the Mike Leach years, but has also been used arguably more successfully with the Purdue Boilermakers and the Indianapolis Colts. The receiver who is running the route generally will take one step up field and retrace his path behind the line of scrimmage following his blockers to the endzone. Some of you may also know this play as “Tunnel Screen.” I will not discuss blocking scheme as there are numerous ways to block that could themselves be a post. However, I will include a diagram of one of the more popular ways to block it.

Pros of the Rocket Screen:

  • Can be run anywhere
  • Tons of YAC yards
  • Slows pass rush down too
  • Forward pass
  • Easy throw with receiver coming toward the QB

Cons of the Rocket Screen

  • Better have good in space blockers (OL and WR)
  • Receiver can get jacked up if a block is missed
  • Can get ball batted down
  • Pick will probably be 6 the other direction
  • Somewhat time intensive to get players where they need to be going

Running Back Fast Screen: This play has been utilized heavily by Rich Rodriguez when he was at West Virginia. While he has used this out of the Spread Gun, I think it can be particularly useful for an under center run team as well. The play is characterized by the running back shooting directly towards the sideline at the snap of the ball. There are generally receivers in position to block for the RB. I think this play can be made even greater with a flash fake to an offset FB to the playside.

Pros of the Runningback Fast Screen:

  • Another good way to get a good RB the ball with emphasis on being on the perimeter
  • Hits perimeter quick
  • Slows DL & LBs down
  • Secondary players must wait a second before going to play.

Cons of the Runningback Fast Screen:

  • Dropped pass could be ruled a fumble
  • Need good perimeter blocking

In conclusion, I hope you are able to add one or two of these different ideas to your current package to “Loosen Up the Box” for your bread and butter inside runs. I realize some of these descriptions are not very detailed, but I hope I have piqued your interest in learning more about some of these different types of play on your own. Feel free to direct any questions to CoachCP or myself. My email is jobyturner[at]gmail.com

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Designing your offensive terminology

I’ve encountered four different offenses during my playing and coaching days. I played in the Wing-T, I coached a youth double wing team, I’ve coached a traditional Pro I formation offense at the non-varsity high school levels, and I’ve called a off-set I/singleback offense as a JV Head Coach and helped run it as a varsity assistant.

While this really is not that much experience, I feel it is a lot for someone who is as young a coach as I am. From this limited experience, I can tell you there are definitely organizational practices you can use to BEST teach and design your offense to your athletes. Now there may be quicker ways to do design offensive formation and adjustment terminology, but this system builds on itself and allows you to be as multiple or simple as you like.

When I have the opportunity to design an offense, I will adhere to the following principles.

1) Directional Calls – Determines the tight end, or Y, which sets our strength.
2) Formation Calls – Determines our base set that we are in, and comes before the directional call
3) Adjustment Calls – Determines how we will adjust the base formation call, but comes after the directional call.

For instance, the illustrations below show how our formation adjustments build upon one another.

Directional call – Right


Formation Call – King Rt


Adjustment Call – King Rt Twinz


Now, this may be simple, but that’s the point. This system is simple for kids to learn and me to adjust on the fly in the middle of a game. I can be complex for myself, but simple for the kids.

Lets say my “Z” is an incredible athlete who I know the defense has to game plan for. I know that an outside linebacker will have to move almost onto the “Z” to keep the ball out of his hands. At the same time, I want to keep the lowest possible number in the box because I plan on going into the shotgun and reading the backside end on my inside zone play. So I call, Flanker Right Twinz Gun. For almost all my formations, the formation only adjusts the “J” back. The Adjustment call often moves the receivers (X,Z) or the tight end (Y). Flanker tells my J back that I want him to move out past the Z to replace him as the traditional flanker. If I was to call Split Right, he would move past the X on the left side of the formation, to move outside the split end (though the J would remain off the line). This way, I can move my receivers around at ease. For Flanker Right Twinz Gun, I am moving the J to the flanker spot, and with a twinz call, I’m pulling the Z receiver to the slot on the split end’s (X) side. Right gives me the formation strength. This formation is illustrated below.

Flanker Right Twinz Gun

And for those who are curious, my traditional 2×2 TE slot formation would like this…

Slot Right Gun

So, as a coach, I can call the offense to put my players in the best position to be successful and give our offense the best opportunity to move the ball.

But how do you teach a play to a kid when he moves around so much? It obviously takes work. However, I am a big believer in teaching concepts to players.

What do I mean by concepts? Defensive coaches often label receivers to one side as #1, #2, #3, ect… Well, I like this same idea. This involves more mental work with the receivers, but teaching them the concept in this way is a big step forward rather than teaching them by position (X runs a curl, J runs an arrow, ect…). For instance, lets say I’m teaching a smash concept for those two formations above (Flanker Right Twins and Slot Rt). I would teach the pass concept to the relevant players in the following way, #1 runs a stop/hitch at 4 yds, #2 runs a corner at 10-12, and #3, if involved in the routes, runs a seam roue.

Two Tight End Offensive Formations

Two tight end sets are pretty tough to defend. Manipulation of multiple tight ends allow your running game and passing game to flourish. Now I know what you’re thinking, I don’t have two tight ends. So what?! Use an undersized linemen or an oversized or slow receiver. Anyone from 5’10+ will work for high school!

All you want in the passing game, for most offenses, is someone who can attack the flats, run a drag, or run directly at a safety and maybe break inside or outside. Also, in my opinion, technique trumps size in 90% of your on the field battles. Chances are, you are not going to have the prototypical tight end, but you don’t need one. Put your kids in a position to be successful. If they can block better, sneak them out on a flat route after selling pass pro for a count. If they can run routes, flood the defense.

Regardless, lack of ideal personnel should never be an excuse for not using one or two tight end sets. Think about this, you use defensive ends I bet without prototypical defensive end types, and you use two of them…

Two Tight End Gap Advantage

Now, onto the X’s and O’s regarding two tight end sets. Remember, what you want is the gap advantage. It is very difficult to defend and offense that puts two tight ends on the field.

First of all, is the extra tight end treated as a receiver, a blocker, or a second full back?

Do they have him on or off the line, and do they move him around?

If they move him around, what are their tendencies with motion?

These are just some of the questions a defense must ask itself. Now imagine you are a linebacker. The tight end goes from a wing position away from the tight end to a position to the strength. First of all,when are they going to snap it? Second, what are the new play call tendencies from here?

As a play caller, use the two tight end sets and motion to manipulate the defense. Some people ask, how can you limit verbiage in your offense? I personally like the idea of calling the “set” formation during the playcall, and having your tight end start off in a set position called before the formation.

For example, the tight end starts off in “Ace” and moves to “Plus”. The formation call in the huddle is “Ace – Plus Right”.  From informing our players and rep’ing our calls in practice, the players know we don’t have an “Ace – Plus Right” formation. They do know they are two base formations for us.

All formation adjustments, for this offense, come after the direction call. For example, Ace Right Twinz would be a regular formation call. “Ace – Plus Right” tells our J-Back (H-back like player) that he needs to move across the formation to a wing position off the tight end or Y.

What kind of structural problems can we cause for the defense? Lets start off with our first example, “Ace – Plus Right”. As the tight end gets set to the strength, we put the defense in a bind. Suddenly, what do we have?

We have gone from a 2 x 2 formation (two receivers to both sides) to a 3 x 1 formation, or trips. Not only that, it is a form of bunch.

Bunch, a subject of great advantage for another day, causes numerous defensive problems, even if its two players. First of all, it forces the defense to recognize a new gap, the E gap. The D gap, depending on the defensive structure, may need to be played in a new way.

Secondly, how are they going to match up to defend these gaps? Will they bring a strong safety over or bump the linebackers?

Maybe they’ll do neither, depending on the down and distance. But if they don’t, they’re minus one in the run game, and probably going to force the players to play a weird form of coverage that is slightly unfamiliar to them.

I’ll give some examples of how this formation’s intricate structure provides mis-matches against an opponent. The first play I like off this motion and formation is Inside Zone. Take that J-Back across the formation again to block the backside defensive end. First of all, linebackers, in the heat of all the motion, may assume that it is a puller and could over pursue, opening a cut UP instead of a cut back, probably through the C gap, putting a runningback on a safety or outside linebacker down hill, something you should like as a play caller if you have a talented back. On the other hand, the linebackers could lose that backside edge blocker and not play the cutback as well as they should, which is always great for an inside zone running team.

The next play I like is obviously the run action off of this play call. Oregon State gives USC a bunch of fits off this, but with a receiver. As the J-back comes back to act like he is blocking the EMOLOS, he hits the DE with his inside shoulder. This will knock the the DE inside allowing the bootleg. You can have your traditional backside flood then off of that bootleg. Also, you can run curl flat combos and even smash variations.

4 Verticals can be LETHAL if you have two undersized tight ends from this formation, and if the zone structure of the defense is unbalanced, or if the safeties jump on crossing routes. The Y, or traditional tight end, will run at an aiming point of 8-10 yards to the OPPOSITE hash mark (depending on his speed).

He should be looking for the ball against any inside linebacker blitz. The J-back or wing should move up the seem and hash mark, looking for the ball, especially if the free safety follows the ever so tempting crossing tight end. The X and Z can run comebacks if the corners settle inside or, if they have a step, run deep routes.

My personal favorite, however, is using the motion and formation combo against your traditional Under front, ESPECIALLY if they roll the inverted safety to the weakside before the motion.  You can run stretch, or outside zone, toss, or what I call power base, where the Y blocks the end and the J is responsible for the Sam and the Guard wraps on the Mike.

So, as a play caller, how can you know how to approach these tools in your offense? First, ask yourself how the defense plays the formation.

Do they rotate the safeties, move the linebackers, or both?

How does the top of the coverage work?

Remember, the coverage often dictates the front and how they play the run. Use YOUR playbook and find out how your plays can manipulate them. You shouldn’t be installing these plays, instead, you should use them as ideas on how to manipulate YOUR offense around your players. Maybe you pass more, and use the trips and bunch advantage to the strongside, which I didn’t mention. Maybe you run more, and you will use some form of counter or trap by utilizing the tight ends.

What about other two tight end formations, such as the tradition Ace back, 2 x 2 we were in before all that motion?