Tag Archives: power

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.

Running the Football with the Power Play (Power-O, Counter, Counter-GT)

I believe running the power play or scheme, otherwise known as power-o or even “Dave” by Jim Tressel’s offense of Ohio State, is the most successful football play I’ve ever run. The reason being is the blocking scheme is simple and it is easy to recycle the power play’s blocking schemefor other plays like Counter.

I formation Power-O Play Versus Under Front

I formation Power-O Play Versus Under Front

Blocking Scheme for the I Formation Power-O Play

Power’s blocking scheme is relatively simple, regardless of if you run it out of shotgun or pistol spread, under center, or anything else your creative offensive mind can come up with.

I Formation Power-O Play: Playside Offensive Linemen

The most basic way to teach the I formation power-o play is to tell all the playside linemen, they are responsible for their inside gap. If there is any threat to their inside gap, they need to execute a down block. Down blocking has your linemen work on a 45 degree angle, getting their head in-front of the defensive linemen, and running the feet. If there is no threat to their inside gap, then they should look playside in-order to execute combination or “combo” block with their playside teammate. If no threat exits or if a playside combination block is not possible (no playside teammate), the player needs to work to a backside linebacker.

So that sounds like a lot. Once you install the play and run through it, I use the following coach speak, “Inside Gap to Playside Combo”. This has been very successful for us. With these rules, you can easily pickup inside linebacker blitzes. Note, the tight end should know the playside combo never exists for him.

I Formation Power-O Play: Backside Blocking

The backside guard needs to pull playside on the I formation power-o play. His goal is to wrap on the playside linebacker, but often, if that linebacker is good, he will end up meeting him at or near the line of scrimmage. The guard also needs to block any unblocked man (when under center) that exists at the line of scrimmage.

The technique of the pulling guard is widely varied. Some teams will have him take a drop step with his playside foot and then step through with his backside foot. This looks like “karaoke”, the famous warm up drill. This offers your guard the opportunity to get his shoulders parallel right away, and the ability to get up field right away. The problem is his leverage (it’s very hard to stay low and execute the karaoke step at full speed), power (he won’t have the ability to drive a linebacker back until he takes 2-3 steps after his karaoke step), and finally balance (if the center get’s blown up, there is no way you’ll get around. Also, it’s hard for the guard to successfully around the fullback if your fullback is forced to log the defensive end for some reason.

The other technique for the pulling guard, and the one I prefer, is the short pull with a wrap. The guard picks his playside foot up, with his big toe aiming at the playside B gap. This should give him a good up-field angle. He then executes the pull looking to wrap at his first opportunity (usually around the pre-snap B gap). This may prevent your guard from getting his shoulder square and may take him more time to get up field, however he is better able to handle all the other variables that are presented to him.

The backside tackle needs to step and hinge. He does this for 2 reasons. If there is no backside A gap threat, he needs to push the B gap threat to the center and then he needs to hinge backside and pickup the defensive end. If there is an A and B gap threat, he needs to lock onto the B gap threat. If there is no one in the B gap, he still needs to step and hinge, so he can prevent linebacker run through.

Finally, some teams will wrap or pull the fullback on the playside linebacker rather than the guard. This is commonly considered “Counter” or “Counter GT” rather than “Power” or “Power-O”. Pulling the fullback from an off-set I alignment provides a better angle on the playside linebacker for the most part. The fullback can run downhill while not having to worry about penetration by the center or playside guard blocking back. The caveat is the fullback needs to read kickout block by the guard. If the guard logs the end, the fullback needs to continue around the guard and wrap the playside linebacker. This is easier said then done, because often teams that spill guards have engrained a linebacker mentality called “scrape exchange”, where the defensive end and linebacker exchange gaps. The fullback also needs to be ready to immediately take on a blocker once passing the center, looking for run through.

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I Formation Power-O Play: Kickout on the EMOLOS

The fullback or backside guard needs to isolate the inside position on the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOLOS) and drive him out of the hole as he pulls down the line of scrimmage. The EMOLOS is typically the playside defensive end. This block is very important, as is the technique. The fullback or backside guard MUST work inside out on the defensive end and run down hill. At the same time, the blocker needs to maintain a good forward lean and knee bend in order to roll the hips into the block. This is difficult to balance and execute, especially against “violent” defensive ends. If the defensive end works inside and wrong arms or spills the fullback or bubbles him back, the fullback will be forced to execute a log blog and our backside guard must work around his block, and the tailback must bounce it. This will typically leave the safety one on one with our back with a great angle to make the play. This is why understanding safety leverage, coverage technique, and aggressiveness is vastly important on the power or counter scheme. If you know going into the game that you will have problems going outside, you can adapt your play calling, call “power base” (described below), or really focus on getting your kickout blockers to dig out defensive ends. You can help the end by motioning him closer to the point of attack. This can cause tendencies and give away the snap count, so use it wisely with other plays as well.

Power-O Play: Read the EMOLOS

Some teams, instead, will choose to read the playside EMOLOS on Power out of the gun. They will offset the runningback away from the play or to the playside. If the back is offset away, he will come across the fullback on a stretch path. Instead of kicking out the end, the QB will read the end. If the end can tackle the QB, he gives to the back.

On the other hand, the back and line up to the call side, but he probably needs to be at least 1 yard to a yard and a half behind the QB. This will make the runningback the dive person. The QB reads the playside end, and if the end can tackle the runningback, the QB keeps the ball off the edge. This is different from the counter from the gun, where the back takes the hand off going to the backside, stops, and then comes back to the playside. This is a playside, down hill run for the tailback, more of the traditional “power o” mentality and footwork.


Power-O: Reading the End

Power-O: Reading the End. Source: My Spread Power-o fishduck article



Both variations are great alternatives if you want to install a few spread sets but minimize new blocking schemes, or if you come into the year without a fullback or tight end type to execute good kickout. It’s also good versus teams that spill, because the defensive EMOLOS will always be wrong. Overall, I feel this version is best used against a wider front or an over front. A tandem from the under defense cause problems (see below for more information on tandems below).

I Formation Power-O Play: Power “Base”

Power base is a wonderful adjustment to the kickout version. Some teams, like the Wisconsin Badgers, strictly run power base against a 9 technique EMOLOS. Versus a team that provides a traditional over front with a 3 technique on the outside shade of the guard and a 9 technique on the outside of the tight end to the strength, the fullback can lead up either on the Mike or the Sam. Usually, I prefer the Sam just because the fullback should almost never be taught to run past anyone in an I formation offense, in my opinion. The backside guard would then wrap for either the Mike linebacker in a 00 or a 10 technique in the strongside A gap, or the Sam playing over the strongside C Gap.

This adjustment can be limiting though, since Under fronts can give you a tandem on the edge. A tandem, in this case, is when there are two defensive players covering the last two offensive EMOLOS players. Against an under front, the fullback would lead up on the 30 technique strongside linebacker, or the B gap playside linebacker. The tackle and tight end would go “out” “out” on the tandem players, the strongside 5 technique defensive end and the Sam Linebacker, aligned in a 9 technique. The backside guard would pull into the first openning he sees and lead up on the first threat (often in this scenario, its actually the backside linebacker). Often times, Wisconsin will be in a two tight end set or even 22 personnel, with 2 tight ends in a fullback. This allows them find the 9 technique without a tandem and base him.

This variation can be run from pro style 3 receiver, 1 tight end set as well (11 personnel). This allows the power blocking scheme to be adaptable overall.

Weakside Power

I Formation Power-O Play Weak

I Formation Power-O Play Weak

It should be noted that weakside power (specifically to a split end side) is essentially the same as strongside power. All of the rules stay in tact. Playside linemen look (1) inside gap to (2) playside combo, before working to (3) a linebacker. The weakside tackle, who is now also the playside tackle, can eliminate step 2 and go straight to a linebacker. However, for younger kids, and Russ Grimm (power-o expert of Redskins, Cardinals, and Steelers), you may want to call the play something else since the read is different for the playside tackle and the wrap from the backside puller may happen quicker.

Red vs. White Side

There are some coaches who believe in the “Red” and “White” theory of playcalling, especially for counter and power. For those unfamiliar, the advocates of this system believe plays are run best to either a reduction (red) or a wide side (white). The reason for this is the technique and run reads will always stay constant. A reduced front means that there is a defensive linemen in the B gap (usually a 3 technique on the guard). On any down, there can be both a red and a white side, a double red call, and a double white call. (Yes, I summed this up quickly so I didn’t take an hour explaining all the scenarios). An example, an under front, with the 5 technique to the strongside, has white call to the strength, and a red call to the weakside (3 technique). Versus an over front, a red call would be made to the strongside because of the existence of a B gap defensive linemen (the 3 technique), and a white call to the backside (no B gap defensive lineman). A double red call could therefore occur in a Bear front (with two 3 techniques), so no white call would exist.

The theory of playcalling, for the most part, is simple. You call power to the red side because it is supposed to be a quick hitting play that goes down hill. The 3 technique, the person causing the “red call”, should be driven down inside with the combo block between the guard and tackle, and the tailback should be able to run the true “A gap” power then, where the back has an A gap mentality and footwork. Counter or Counter GT, on the other hand, should be run to the white side, because it will take a longer time for the double team between the tackle and tight end to move the 5 technique or C gap defending end down the LOS, and the back is typically making some kind of counter move with an aiming point in the B or C gap.

There are holes in the theory. For the most part, while this strives to minimize technique on certain plays (ie Always a a “deuce” or guard/tackle combo on power), a team can still provide different techniques. A combo block on a 4i is much different from a combo block on a 3 technique, at least in my opinion. It also limits you. I believe I can still have an A gap mentality on Power or Counter to a “white” side, especially if my tight end is a man. Overall though, the logic is there for this system, however, it involves great in-game scouting, careful game-planning, or a very smart offense to make the switch at the LOS, so this is a college or pro-style theory of calling power/counter (and a lot of other plays for that manner).

Running the Power O

Overall, yes you can make the scheme as complicated or simple as you’d like. However, at it’s core, the base power or counter scheme is simple and worthwhile for most offenses. You can run it and read the playside end out of a spread look. You can run it from the I or from the single wing or wing T. It can be adjusted easily and simply to be executed versus a wide variety of defenses and techniques.

Modifications to the Power Play

I want to thank Buckeye Football Analysis for this little update (or, reminder) of a way to use the Power play. Basically, its an adjustment for disciplined ends that wrong arm and over pursue the traditional power play (the LB’s press the LOS and the hole created by the double team(s)).

Buckeye football dates it back to the traditional T formation, but we actually ran a version of this when we ran the Counter GT in the Delaware Wing-T back in high school. If the end closed hard and stayed tight to the LOS, the guard would wrap on him and the tackle would read him and wrap around his block. It was also an in-game call (instead of counter, we called it counter sweep). 
For today’s Power Play, which Buckeye Football correctly cites a great article by SmartFootball.com in regard to it being one of if not the most famous run play in football, this play is similar.

If a defensive end closes hard and inside on the fullback, it would traditionally blow up the power play. The linebackers scrape over the top and then immediately press the LOS to cut off the runningback as he adjusted his path (naturally) to the outside.

Modifying the Power Play

This modification, which I like to call Power Flip, has the fullback wheel on the defensive end. With this idea already in play, it takes any indecisiveness out of the offensive guard. As the guard knows he’s wrapping, he can quickly get around the corner. The linebackers and force defender (especially the playside safety who fills inside when he sees power in Cover 4) will be out of luck. Now, where do the double teams occur? This depends on how you designed power. For instance, against an under front, some people cut off a backside 3 technique tackle with their backside offensive tackle, and the center and playside guard combo block to the backside inside linebacker, with the playside tackle/tight end combo going to the playside inside linebacker. The guard would wrap around onto any extra defender, hopefully a safety. Others have the center block back on the 3 technique, the guard block down on a shaded nose and the tackle and tight end double to the backside linebacker with the guard leading on the playside linebacker.

So, in power flip, you could follow those blocking rules. If the backside inside linebacker likes to press the LOS, this would likely work out very well. If he’s great at pursuing, you run the risk of him beating the playside guard to the hole and bubbling the playback.

Perhaps the best adjustment would be out of the gun. Running this out of the gun and reading the 3 technique versus an under or the backside end (maybe pulling the tackle instead of the guard) would give the offense a plus one advantage, with the pulling guard wrapping on the safety.

Some key coaching points would include the pull technique for the guard. While the fullback is wrapping, this would create “trash” at the point of attack. The guard needs to throw the playside arm back and really take a deep pull, and then run downhill from the LOS form there. Also, the fullback needs to be schooled on proper wheeling technique (sometimes called a log or a J back). The runningback needs to have his eyes meet the playside inside linebacker and nearly mirror the steps, except his toe needs to point probably off the tight ends playside hip. There will be no cutback on this play.

Overall, I feel this play would be a great addition to anyone who runs whatever variation of power. Again, I’d like to thank Buckeye Football Analysis and Smartfootball.com. Also, thank you for reading despite the fact I have no diagrams (remember, no internet at home yet, so no playmaker pro).

Feel free to leave comments!