Wednesday, May 11, 2016

game planning the midline triple vs. the 4-3 to a three man face (TE or Tackles over)

In our last article we covered the midline triple vs. the 4-3 to a non- tightened flank. That is defined as a two man face. Today we will cover the midline triple vs. the 4-3 to a three man face, defined as three offensive linemen on one side.  This could be a tackle over (two tackles together) or a tightend.

Basically you will get three possible looks to a three man flank vs. a 4-3 and each has specific problems. (see fig 1, fig 2, and fig 3)In all three looks, we will consider the DT as the handoff key for the midline and the DE as the pitch key.

In figure #1 the problem lies in the two backers that must be leveraged in order to keep numbers on the perimeter in your favor. The problem grows in the fact that you only have two potential blockers to handle the two linebackers. For those that keep up with this blog, they know we always like to have two blockers on each linebackers one inside and one outside each read. The halfback must be used to arc the corner so he is out. The guard has the mike inside the handoff key but you are still a blocker short.

In figure #2 the problem is the DE has leverage between the the pitch key and the arc block.

In figure #3 it should be noted we usually see this with the coverage rotated away in some single high look. The problem is now two defenders outside the pitch key that must be accounted for. (this is not a real problem as the defense has become an eight man front for us (tackle empty) and we will block it as such. )

The answers:

(I should address a question that keeps popping up since my last post. People ask how do the linemen know how and who to block? The answer is simple: the QB tells them by applying a tag. All the defensive looks are categorized from day one in a rote method for the quarterback. The above three fit into each of the three categories to a tightened / 3 man face flank. The quarterback will then, based on the package we call, either reinforce the tag called in the huddle or get them into the right one.

If you are interested in the classification system there is an earlier post on this blog.)

Midline Triple vs Fig 1.

In order to neutralize numbers we ask the inside tackle to read from one linebacker to the other. He will step playside foot, backside foot, playside foot. When his third step hits the ground if the lber isn't pressing him, he will plant, turn flat, and work back to the MLB. If the linebacker is pressing him he will block him.

The Tightend /tackle over will loop and block the stack to the mike to the near safety. If the backer over the tackle plugs usually the other is running over the top or vice versa.

Since we are pitching off the DE we feel he will definitely be a QB player and close. (We tell the tightened / tackle to split him out till he shades inside. That lets us leverage pitch off the Mike if we get both linebackers plugging inside.

Midline Triple to Fig 2

In fig two the result is easily gotten by hook the OLB with the TE / tackle over. The leverage he has is different from the quarterback outrunning the five technique since the ball if pitched wider and it becomes a toss sweep. Also we tell the Tightend he can over reach (very wide) since if the OLB goes underneath he will play the QB and his outside movement combined with the pitch makes for two ships passing in the night. If the TE whiffs outside he will work upfield not chase inside.

A note is that our inside tackle will, like the non- tightened flank, will only block the Mike if he attempts to run over the top. With the pitch key on his hip, we can leverage pitch off the scrape of the mike.

Midline Triple to Fig. 3

In figure #3, we basically treat it like an with man front. The tightened / outside tackle will arc for the deep third play (at least three steps of width to find the player.) In our unbalance formation this look allows the tightend / outside tackle to handle the free and get a hat on everybody.

Our Tackle only has the mike if he tries to get over the top.

Additional notes:

A big factor in handling these situations is the play of the safety. On high school hashes he is usually further inside as the defense usually plays this in a cloud / cover two concept. On college hashes the divider for the safety is farther over making him more of a factor in the play. With college hashes I would only run it if the twirl motion forced a tilt from the near safety. (fig 7 and fig 8)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Game planning the Midline triple vs the 4-3 front

Everybody loves the midline tuck play (QB / FB only) but the midline triple is a great part of any flexbone attack. While easily run vs the 50, 3-3, and reduction defenses, the problem lies in the 4-3. Yet the fact that the 4-3 contains a "3" technique makes the play valuable.

The problem lies with being outnumbered with unblocked defenders (see fig 1) and not enough blockers.

Due to this dilemma, my first couple of years we would check out of midline triple and into a variation of the tuck play vs. a 4-3. However there are too many advantages to keeping the play in your arsenal.  Those include but are not limited to

  1. It allows you to read the three technique that you otherwise may have a tough time blocking. This includes those studs who take away the paper and pencil from the coach.
  2. It forces the three technique to align tighter making it easier to handle him later in the triple or double option.
  3. It allows you to capture the MLB who may just run over the top on triple preventing it to be run to the three technique
  4. It changes option responsibilities causing hesitation in defensive assignments
  5. It brings the quarterback further away from any "echo" or "back to back" stunts. Simply it is an easier perimeter read
  6. It is an easier interior ("FB" read) as there is no chance of an "echo" or "mesh" charge. The closeness of the three also makes the read much more deliberate.
  7. It allows us to use "Twirl" or "No mo" taking away the motion trigger from a defenses game play. It also allows us to run it to flanks that the defense has left exposed without the ability for the defense to adjust back due to motion.
  8. It allows for an A-gap play to the side of motion that, when talking about the 4-3, stops the defense from playing two "2" techniques and slanting to motion, an adjustment used in the early flexbone days with great success.
  9. Since it is usually pitched off the five technique, the ball is out of the quarterback's hands quickly. it basically becomes a fullback / halfback game.
  10. The fact that the FB is on the midline forces the defense to constrict around the fullback (usually no loop blocking to expand the front. ) We will delay our halfbacks movement when in the bone till the QB's second foot hits the ground.
  11. It stops the backside of the defense from rocking inside quickly to stop the twirl midline tuck and the counter iso.
The most common way we found was to load the DE (No.2 in midline rules) and pitch off number three. (see fig. 2) 

We discarded that immediate as the QB had to run around a man we are blocking to get to his pitch key. First your asking the quarterback to get around a man who has leverage on the tackle while the MLB, performing his squeeze and scrape to b-gap can get to him. you cannot leverage pitch off the scrape MLB because you are outflanked by a full man and a half to the pitch key. Finally, you are asking the tackle to hook a man who has leverage on him but he can't "overreach" as he has him man (inside and outside charge) and if the tackle crashed inside he would still be able to play the quarterback as he has leverage on him. (see fig. 2) So we threw this out.

We finally came up with as our base scheme two calls. The first was to a single split end or no split end (nub side) and the second was to a three receiver side (ends over)

Midline triple to a 4-3 single receiver side

When we have a single receiver side, we ask our quarterback to recognize one additional factor: that there are two high safeties. If there is one high safety (Fig 3) we would check away from the strong safety as that side would become reduced. (You can see our recognition system in a very earlier article devoted to it.) 

With two high we would always run it to the three technique. 
(See fig. 4)

In the above, the inside people and backside people, guard back, would run base midline rules. (same as midline tuck)
We will read the three and pitch off the DE (first man outside the handoff key)

Special rules are as follows:
Play side Wide receiver: Stack widest Corner regardless of coverage. Be prepared for hard corner support and react to softer support. (Since motion is away we do not get hard corners to this side even in cover 2)
Playside Halfback: Twirl and arc flat three steps eyeballing the OLB (#2 in our normal counting system) to the safety. Arc block first to come out.
Playside Tackle: Stack release to #2 (Stacked backer) If you can get any piece of him take him. (We do not feel that once blocked, even partially, he can get back to the pitch.) If you can't block the Lber come FLAT right off his ass and sprint to the sideline eyeballing safety. If you can outflank him turn up and block. If he comes up two quick kick him out, the back will run inside.

We feel that do to the twirl motion, either the safety or the outside linebacker will lean in the other direction.  At the very least they will be flatfooted as the motion is away and safety support will be slower.

Simply stated the tackle and the halfback have the OLB and the near safety. (See fig. 5 and fig.6)

Notes: on this scheme:
  1. It usually ends up as a pull and pitch
  2. It the defense is playing games with bringing down a "predetermined" safety, use phoney motion and a long count and check appropriately.
  3. If the OLB "ups" on the line. The tackle will yell "2 is up." Now the DE should be tighter and easier to block and the QB will pitch off the OLB who is usually up to play him hard. (fig.7) The HB will arc #3 now.
  4. Vs. the scrape MLB, the QB can now leverage pitch off off the MLB because the tackle veering brings the DE down inside with him or at worst sits.
  5. To a Nub side the Tackle and Halfback would handle the OLB and the Corner (fig. 8) This rarely happens as the 3 tech is usually to the three man side.

Midline Triple to a three receiver side
Since we have added a receiver we can eliminate a defender. Normally our inside receiver will block the middle to backside safety but in this case we will use our "force" blocking scheme. "Force" tell the middle receiver he is responsible for the support player of the defense (We put our best blocker in the middle.) This call tells the QB to treat it like a "reduced" front and make the appropriate tag.
(Fig. 9)

Vs. a reduced front the Playside HB will arc #2 (OLB) Vs. echo take first to come outside.
Vs. a reduced front the Playside tackle will veer (get vertical) inside backer to the middle to backside safety. (Note: In middle triple we tell the tackle he only has the Mike if he tries to get over the top. If he tight scrapes we will leverage pitch off of him. This usually allows us to get the tackle downfall on the middle / backside safety.)

This scheme is especially good vs. a team that plays quarters and likes to stay in it. This brings the OLB out of his stack. 

Two variations we like to run vs. this look are box (fig. 10) and Boxer (fig. 11)

In our next article (Part II) we will look at the midline triple vs. a 4-3 to a three man flank (TE side or tackles over)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Are your mental thought processes and coaching causing as many turnovers as the physical mistakes PART II

In this part we will talk about the actual coaching, drilling, and / or  correcting the mental processes (reads / thought processes) that may be hurting your quarterback and causing misreads, indecision, and eventually turnovers. While all these situations may not cross the lines of various offenses, I have witnessed these personally and in many cases have learned from own mistakes.

a) The sink or swim mentality

I've seen this numerous times. A coach teaches a pass pattern and the thought process. Once on the field the individual routes are thrown on air and then the pattern is thrown in 7 on 7 with multiple stimulus hitting the quarterback while he tries to sort out the read process in his head.

Thought processes must taught the same way as any other skill. For example I teach the quarterback to "give unless the hand off key makes a clear path IN FRONT of the fullback's path."I will start off by sitting there and ask the QB if I've made a path in front of the fullback.  (Notice I'm not saying if he sits do this.) Once he answers, he'll take three or four reps with the fullback just seeing the read and giving it; all the while knowing it is a give. We are TRAINING the thought process. We are TRAINING the eyes. We are TRAINING muscle memory to a particular stimulus. Next I'll give him a crash read in front of the fullback - easiest pull read and ask him what he does by rule. Then he'll take 3 or 4 reps knowing the read is coming. Training the eyes and thought process on the proper response. Once he sees this then I'll combine those two reads only (one give and one pull.)

The second day, I will teach a new pull read the same way. Then I will combine it with the one give read from the previous. Finally I will combine all three. The process is repeated till all looks have been trained into muscle memory. It becomes a reaction not a burdensome thought process.

The same is true with the pass. Take curl flat. Take three Qb's in individual and put one where the curl ends up and one where the flat to be. get a fourth to be the SS. First SS goes directly to the Curl only.  So in "I throw the curl unless" the QB would reload (reshuffle his feet) and through to the QB who is standing where the fat pattern would be. Next have the SS jump the flat. Since he's not going to the curl - throw the curl. Next combine those two. And we will progress to throw all the reads two at a time. By doing this the QB learns the read as a reaction. If you throw him to the wolves it becomes a burdensome frustrating thought process and can lead to imperfect mechanics. Thought process trumps technique and you have turnovers.

b) Bad reads in drills

I don't know how many times I've seen coaches with shields on the line split mat taking one step and popping the fullback on the side of the shoulder and telling the QB it's a give read. FALSE. In order to be a give read the quarterback must understand the path has to be in front of the fullback not to his side. The read previously mentioned would end up as an arm tackle you would expect the fullback to break. Then the coach wonders why the qb can't read the up move or gets caught by the handoff key who stepped down  and then came back out.

If you do it properly you must hit the fullback on the front of the shoulder not the side. This requires two things. You must move your feet and you will have somewhat of a minor collision if the fullback is running full speed. This is why I recommend teaching players in pads to be your reads - not old coaches like myself! (Trust me I learned from the shoulder surgery I was required after my last year at Spirit.)

The same holds true when the old coach plays the strong safety in the curl flat scenario and takes three lazy steps toward the curl and announces "good read" as the QB dumps the ball off to the flat. Then wonders in the game why overtime when the SS just opens his shoulders the QB dumps the ball and the SS makes the tackle for 2 yards.

Reads have to be full and realistic. The best way to get this is teach the players to be the read you want as you teach the QB then use the same guy everyday. Besides if you are so busy being the read and concentrating on how you are dropping, how can you coach the quarterback's mechanics. I could never figure that one out!

NOTE: It's not just using a coach as the read, it's what you expect and demand from your person giving the read.

c) Vanilla alignments by reads in practice.

This is the coach who has his defensive key (SS or handoff key or other) align in the exact same spot every time. Reading defensive reaction to a key is based three things: 1) distance from the rule (i.e. how far he is from the fullback's path.) 2) Angle he takes (the further his distance aligned the steeper his angle must be be. A 7 tech has to come flatter to get in front of the fullback then a 4 technique does. A screwed down safety from a cover two has a lesser angle then an OLB in a 3-4 to get to the curl.) 3) speed of his movement. (the further the defender is from the QB's "unless" rule the faster he has to move. (a 4-3 wide 9 better be sprinting to get to the fullback as opposed to a four tech who just has to step down. The screwed SS basically is in the curl with little or no movement. The 3-4 OLB better be on his horse.) So speed, distance, and angle are the three differentiators that a QB must understand and process in order to be a "good reader."

If you have your key align in the same spot every time (i.e. HOK on mat in a 4, cover three SS at 4 x 4) the quarterback will never understand this.

On the contrary, if on the mat ,we would have our read in a 4 or in a 5 or in a 6 or in a 7 or in a 9. Every day would be different while teaching the mental process. We would talk about the alignment as the drill was taking place. Talking about speed, distance and angle to get to the "unless" aspect of the read.

Even in our QB individual segment (other QBs as finished routes.) we may practice curl flat with the SS at 4x4 one time, 1/2 way out one time, screwed down from cover three one time.

In Part III we will deal with D through F

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Are your mental thought processes and coaching causing as many turnovers as the physical mistakes PART I

We all study film of our turnovers endlessly. We go back and forth looking for the reason in the physical aspects of the game. Did the player have the four points of ball carrying covered? Did the players mesh properly? Did the quarterback read properly? What if the cause of our turnovers, including some of the causes for the physical mistakes lay in the way we coached the mental side of the game? What if it lied in the verbiage we used? The way we taught? Or even the way we corrected?

What am I talking about? I once had a running back who made a crucial fumble at a critical time in a very very big game. It happened when he was switching the ball to the proper side but very late. You certainly could take this as a physical error as I initially did. So, when he got to the sideline, I asked the typical rhetorical satiric question "What were you thinking?" The answer was more then I expected. You see, he couldn't decide which way to cut. So when he made a last minute decision, he knew he had to change the ball but wasn't prepared to do so. Hence the sloppiness due to indecision. The error was created by a mental decision.

Take this thought one step further. What if the way we taught caused this indecision? What if the way we corrected caused this delay? Not in the case of the running back's cut but in other decision making processes. Can we inadvertently be causing turnovers? The answer is yes and here are five reasons why?

Drawing too many pictures!

The mind works by taking pictures and then processing them. In order to have a clear, quick choice the most limited number of pictures the player has to respond to the easier the decision. Simple example: If I asked you to pick a picture of a girl you liked from two pictures. pretty simple. You make a choice from two. Now if I give you 1000 pictures, your choice is harder. you'd probably go back and forth narrowing it down. The easiest choice is if I gave you one picture with one choice: Attractive?. You can understand how multiple pictures creates indecision. Indecision causes delay. Delay in the mesh or on a throw causes turnovers. Simple.

Look at teaching the triple. We teach one picture. It either matches that picture or not. The thought process "I am giving the ball unless the read key makes a direct path in front of the quarterback." We don't teach if he's a sitter - give. If he' crashes the mesh pull. If he squeezes pull. If he comes up the field give. We also do not teach teach read the helmet stripe. Or the shoulder tilt. That would be like you trying to pick that picture by checking every hair on the head. (See spatial vs. Fine focus below.)

Do all the multiple pictures lead to the same decision? Yes, on paper at least. It's just more of a cumbersome process.

The same goes for passing. Take a simple curl flat combination.

I interviewed for a college OC position and the conversation lead to teaching the quarterback to read the all curl pattern. When I talked after presenting a pre-snap method of direction I said "I throw the curl unless the flat coverage makes a direct part into the throwing lane then I go to the flat." Simple and precise. The head coach responded that they do the same. "We throw the curl if the strong safety sits, goes straight back, or covered the flat. We throw the Flat if the strong safety opens his shoulders 45 degrees or sits at depth." Think about that thought process for the quarterback. And he fired his QB coach because the QB threw too many picks!

Again it comes out the same on paper in the end but the quarterback doesn't have paper or time!

Will there be early mistakes with one way decisions? Yes. Every read has a distance / time factor built in. How far the read starts out plus his angle of approach plus his speed of approach. This is the learning curve that comes with any process but it is easier in a one way decision.

Using a fine focus read vs a spatial focus read.

I've known coached who will not run triple option football vs back to back reads. They say its too hard to read. When they try it they get turnovers. I also know coaches who get a ton of interceptions on reads that are "right" by there verbiage but nevertheless lead to disaster. Why? They use "Fine" focus when they should be using "Spatial" focus.

What's the difference? "Fine" focus is narrowing vision to a small area. i.e. the logo on the short. It is necessary once the act of throwing the ball has been triggered. It is what pitchers and shooters use. it is what allows accuracy. "Spatial" focus is the ability to see a specific action while your vision takes in a wide scope and is aware of surrounding stimulus.

Take the helmet stripe read mentioned above. That's fine focus. The problem is that he can't see the back to back coming. He can't see the second man crashing at him till he refocuses which is usually right after the smelling salts take affect.

The same is true in passing. A coach explained this to me with the curl flat by saying that "we read the flat players numbers. If the quarterback can see one, two, or zero numbers and their tilt." I asked him what about robber coverage. His answer was "we live with that!"

Sure you have to teach pre snap awareness of possibilities. (i.e. is #2 in a back to back position.) Once you do though, spatial focus allows you to see and reaction to stimulus surrounding your read. (i.e. the flash on #2 crashing while you were reading #1) With practice in a spatial focus read the quarterback cab react to outside stimulus precisely and correctly.

The "Loading principle" in all muscle movements

In order for any muscle action to take place you have to load it to get it out of a state of being static.

Think of a baseball player batting. He goes to the plate with his muscles loaded to swing. (you can actually see the load in many batters as the pitcher winds up.) He then reacts to the ball out of the strike zone by stopping his swing. If he went up with a list of reactions (i.e. "If the ball is down the middle I swing.""If the ball is low I take" "If the ball is on the inside corner I swing" "If the ball is on the outside corner I take" etc.) he would have to load after the pitch was thrown. Needless to say, he'd be a little behind.

The same is true with the quarterback. If I say I am throwing the curl unless ......" when I hit my drop I am loaded to throw the curl. Vs. a"fudged" dropper I am still throwing the curl by rule but my load allows for it to be on rhythm and quicker into a smaller window. He only has to reload if he throws to the flat and that is part of the rhythm.

The same is true in the one way "give unless" decision. It's just like the batter reacting to his initial load and swinging on a strike or stopping the load on ball outside the strike zone.

Like the batter, the quarterback who works off a "listing" of mental processes will not be loaded and late on throws causing interceptions or in the mesh too long causing fumbles.

Being too simple

Considering we are talking about being simplistic this is here because the extreme doesn't work either. He is the coach who says "curl or flat throw to the open man." What is exactly the open man and how does the quarterback get there?

This is the same coach who watches film and says "he should have thrown the flat because he is open." What brought the quarterback to the flat?

Along this line is the attempt to be too simplistic in structure that it causes turnovers due to the quarterback properly executing the mental process. This happens in play design. Take the all hitch pattern. Simple in design. Coaches try to make it simpler by running all the hitches at the same depth. They do this to simplify teaching.

So now the quarterback goes though his read either outside to in or vice versa depending how its been taught. The problem is the timing will be there only for the first load. By the time the quarterback reloads for the second choice the hitch has been sitting there and jumped.

Good play design accentuates good mental training. In this case if the read was outside to inside, the inside route should have been deeper. If it was inside to out then the outside route should have been deeper.

Decisions that lead the quarterback to the dark side

What do I mean by the dark side? It is the area of the field that the quarterback cannot see due to the verbiage in his mental process. This has a lot to do with play design and application of the thought processes to that play. To explain I will give you two examples:

1) Any pass play with a crossing pattern. In our case let's say the tightened is running a crossing pattern from left to the right. If the quarterback's thought process brings from left to right also, he is throwing into an area he has no vision of (Since his eyes were on the other half of the field when they brought him to the drag, even spatial focus will not tell him what he is throwing into. ) This leads to interceptions. Ones thrown to a defender just sitting there in the dark side.

Rather any crossing pattern must be read from the finalized side to give the quarterback a vision into the are he is throwing and avoid interceptions.

2) Inside breaking routes (slants, curls, digs) must be read from the inside out because of the same problem as the crosser. If the mental process brings the read from the outside in. (deeper slant to inside slant) then the quarterback is susceptible to interceptions by people he cannot see. If the mental process brings the quarterback's eyes from the inside out.the only problem defender will be a chaser not an unseen defender. (i.e. "I am throwing the inside slant unless" not "I am throwing the outside slant  unless")

In part two I will talk about how certain correction methods lead to turnovers