Wednesday, October 29, 2008

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Myth #3: the difference in hig school and college from an offensive perspective

Let’s continue to look at the differences of high school and college from an offensive perspective this time, taking in the greatest difference the hashes. (For actual measurement differences, please refer below to Myth #2)

I often see coaches run the exact same “system” offensively that they get from a college or at clinics. Many times, this includes the same method of attacking defenses through the use and placement of formation and / or the structure of their “attacking philosophy” or audible system. While there is nothing wrong with learning new methods and employing new strategies, as we have seen in “Myth #2” the horizontal differences in the playing field cause the college philosophy to be tweaked. As a college coach once showed, with the ball on the hash in high school and using 3’ splits and a 1 yard body width, there is only approximately 11 yards between the tightend and the boundary. This distance is further shortened by the presence of secondary defenders (support, alley, and second contain) whose support pattern can flatten out a runner even more. Not a very large distance to “turn the corner.”

To illustrate this point, let’s look at number of examples from different types of offenses:

1. An option team: for the sake of this article, we will take what is probably the most popular option system today: Georgia Tech’s or Navy’s, and work through some of the “short side” problems.

In this no tightend system the triple option checks are based on “numbers, angles, grass.” This means that if the number of defenders is equal the offense will run to the side with the best blocking angles In the examples above and below (fig 1 and fig 2), the numbers to both sides are equal as are the perimeter angles, so the quarterback should direct the play to the boundary due to the better interior angle: the A-gap player. These are both common structures since the majority of defensive coaches would prefer the 3 technique to the field vs. a non-tightend formation in an option attack.

Assuming that we are not getting a crash on the quarterback and using the width of the option alley as described in Larry Bekish’s Option classic “40 + 60,” you can see that the high school hashes leave about 1 yard of leeway to turn up the field. (fig. 3 below) (I’m using coach Bekish as the option expert. I highly recommend his book "40+60") We are taking 1 yard for the width of each linemen and 1 yard for each split. The 3-5 yards from the halfback represent the average distance to absorb the quarterback. According to option experts the optimal option alley starts here and extends 7-9 yards wide. Further complicating matters is the fact that the option alley forces the running to usually gain further width as he heads up the field. (Running hash, numbers, sideline. The reason the “alley” is tilted.) Add to this the free safety flattening out the runner further and a wide defender on the stalk block using the sideline as a twelfth defender. These additional defenders flatten out and limit the gain by the running back.
To further back up this analysis, this weekend I took 3 college teams running the option from my DVR. When studying options run into the boundary, 75% of the pitchmen turned up within 5 yards from the sideline. (Granted this was an estimate; done completely by eye. So there is no effort to say it is empirical data!) This would translate to turning up 1 – 2 yards from the sideline using the high school hashes. Furthermore, of the 25% that did have a chance, 80% of those were flattened out to 1 -3 yards from the sideline within a 4-5 yard gain. (or less!) All of this data would back up a statement I heard years ago, from Barry Switzer at a clinic, that the current hash situation (old college – same as high school) are 3 yards short of having a consistent option game in which the ball is pitched to the boundary.
(It wasn’t coincidence that one of the leading proponents of moving in the hashes was Tubby Raymond in an era that Delaware became an option and Jet team. Do you think he was setting himself up for success?)

This does not mean all s lost. There are answers and we’ll mention them later. In an upcoming article we’ll talk about tweaking the option offense in order to counter field dimensions in detail. (Remember, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and all the rest of the bone teams had their heyday on the exact hashes!) Also I've included a list that overviews some of these ideas at the end of this article.

2. A zone team: For simplicity, we’ll talk about the stretch play, run to a tightend - flanker into the boundary. (see fig 4 above)

Again let’s add up the 3 one yard gaps and 3 one yard wide linemen and we come up with 12 yards left to turn it up the sideline. (Now I know the stretch gurus out there will tell me the splits are smaller and if we get vertical push by the tightend we can create a soft corner to turn up faster but for the sake of this article we’ll keep the splits consistent [we haven’t counted the ½ of the center’s body] and assume the defense fills all the gaps and plays the play properly. Against a poor or unsound defense you can do anything you want.)

A good 9 technique should be able to stretch the zone at least 3-4 steps so we’ll make the turning point now at 8-9 yards from the hash. (fig. 4 above) Certainly a little better then the option example but with an outside leverage team (i.e. a seven man front) to run away from, an alley player coming to flatten out the ballcarrier and a wide defender playing the stalk that can use the sideline, the gain can certainly be kept to a minimum.

A zone option is usually worse as it needs an “option Alley” for the pitch in addition to the stretch of the zone to get the quarterback to the perimeter.

Again, there are answers. (see below and later articles.)

3. The pass: This is perhaps the most intriguing and most unrealized of the group. For the sake of the example let’s use the four vertical pattern: popular for a long time against a single high safety defense.

If you look at fig. 5 below, you can see that the #2 receiver is wide of the hash and has to find a way to get back to it for proper field distribution. A single high safety team can funnel out the #2 receiver pretty easily due to the proximity and leverage of the inside backer. This would force an overlap of patterns for the deep 1/3 halfback allowing the safety to favor the receiver to the field.
(you older coaches might remember that, except for the 3-step game, the original run and shoot people ran almost exclusively from a 3 x 1 final alignment when on the hash and a 2 x 2 when in the middle of the field.)

As a matter of fact the whole 4-wide concept of counting defenders in the box is defeated by the proximity of the hash. With the short distance a defense can overload the box, yet be relative to #2 for the pass. (see fig. 6 below) This defensive concept is still employed today with the narrower hashes but much easier with high school field dimensions.

Finally, the loss of distance into the boundary puts a strain on any horizontal stretch patterns. The other day I saw the Auburn run a short trips pattern with a choice route into the boundary for a first down. The quarterback needed to zip the ball into a very tight window to a ballcarrier who was swarmed immediately for a four yard gain. Although it did serve its purpose as it gained 4 yards for the first down, if you take away 3 yards from the stretch there’s a good chance those tacklers are now intercepting the ball.
So what are we to do?
I’ve composed the following list of ideas to deal with the shorten sideline. I won’t discuss them all here but will try to elaborate on most in later articles.

General: (relative to all offenses)
1. Unless the defense declares strength formationally with you and you can run to the field or you meet one of the following criteria below, putting the formation to the boundary is not a good consistent strategy. (although it works as a good change-up with a specific plan on a specific down and distance.)

2. Avoid, where possible, running consistently into the boundary vs. balanced defense (5 ½ to each side) If the need arises to run to a certain technique (i.e. A-gap player or 3-technique) change the formation to get that to the field. (i.e. using a tightend to the boundary will usually get the a-gap player to the field in a 4-3. A two wide look would not do this)

3. Use formations to equal numbers to the field, allowing you to run there.

4. Use an “Artificial Hash” system in play calling. I first came upon this method while coaching in Cornell in the early 80’s. Simply said, the coach would gameplan based on 5 horizontal spots on the field: the old hashes, imaginary new hashes that are3 yards in from the chalked ones to the goalpost, and the middle of the field (between the goal post). A coach, knowing the room he needed would call formations and plays based on these 5 horizontal positions on the field. It’s really not that hard and, if you know your offensive system thoroughly, you really don’t have to chart it. I’ve been doing this for years off my head; knowing and eliminating the plays that have a hard time with the short side except in position 2 and 4.

5. Use formations that eliminate or put greater distance to the alley player running to the boundary. This eliminates flattening out the running back and gives you a greater chance of getting north and south.

As an example, I’ll give you a situation that arose 2 years ago in our opening day. Play placing trips/ open to the field, a traditional 50 team would go three deep to the field and really skew the free safety to that side. By running midline triple without motion, we were able to break 5 runs over 60 yards to the boundary. The runners (QB and HB) were able to square their shoulders and get north and south without the presence of an alley player to flatten them out. If the defense didn’t comply, we had a field call included in all the packages.

Another example of this would be the one-back zone with twins to the field and wing to the boundary. Tough to get 3 on 2 for the pass and run support to the boundary.

6. Use constricted formations to the boundary. Without a wide receiver to the boundary the offense has a greater chance to circle the defense, seal the pursuit thus creating a “pivot point” to turn up the field, and hit the alley running. (To still defend the field, the safety is usually in the middle of the formation and has a way to go to get to the perimeter.) The nub away from unbalanced is a great example of this.

7. Understand and gameplan that certain plays are only 4-6 yard runs to the boundary. Live with it WHEN you want it.

Option Offenses (all of the above are included)

1. Only run options that constrict the defense thus bring the reads to you and widening the option lane. This is as opposed to running plays like zone options and rockets and jets that widen the defense and constrict the option alley.

2. Run loaded options. Getting the quarterback in the seam is a great way to counter the limited space. Also, if combined with a constricted formation it gives you the chance to “circle the defense” and allow the pitchman (or QB) to turn up for greater yards outrunning the second and third level defenders.

3. Only run to the boundary where #’s and angles are both on your side.

4. Run options that you pitch off #1 (handoff key) such as midline and double options. They happen quickly and give the back time to turn north and south.

5. If 3 back, run your twirl and no mo options to the boundary, restricting the amount of flow from the defense that constricts the running lanes.

6. Use formations to the boundary to enhance running to the field. For example, we might use a splitend to the boundary to get the three we want to the field or to get the defense to balance up giving us numbers to the field, or to occupy a perimeter defender in our passing game.

7. It should also be noted that the “tougher” the runner your quarterback is; the greater your success will be running to the boundary. (As opposed to a speedier quarterback)
8. If 3-back option consider flipping your better runner to the boundary, giving him a chance to outrun people and get the use of a full option alley.

This are but a few “bullets” the offensive coach has to combat the reduced area to the boundary in high school. I hope to elaborate on these in later articles. Hopefully, it gave you an idea or just made you think. Please feel free to leave a comment or email me directly at
PS sorry for some of the pics! I'm still getting a feel for this

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Have an All Encompassing Recognition System

One of the projects I enjoy working on is to DVR as many option teams as possible and then take my time and analyze the games. The advent of Direct TV, multiple channels, and all the Fox branches allow for a plethora of action to be dissected. My analysis though is not based on technique or new schemes but rather getting a feel for the “system” employed and how a particular school attacks a particular defensive structure and vice versa. Over the years this has given me the advantage when I see something new; for I really have already seen that defense and have a preconceived idea of how to attack it. It is important that a coach constantly put his “system” to the test theoretically before the actual events happen.

To illustrate this point, I will use an Army game I was recently studying. It’s pretty obvious that their system is based in the old Sutton / Young methodology of recognition and play calling. (A fact further enhanced by the info passed on to me that they had Young, Sutton, and former offensive coordinator Greg Gregory in to “school” them in the off season.) They may not be using this system but for the sake of this article we will assume it to get a point across. It is the same recognition system that I learned option football in and the one we have refined to call our own. That makes it easy to make my point.

(Please understand that in no way am I implying Army doesn’t get it. These are just some facts that, over the last seventeen years, people have pointed out to me or “learning experiences” (a positive tag on my mistakes) that have allowed me to correct the system.)

A simple flaw in the recognition system or the “trap” 6 man side

If you know anything about the old Army recognition system, it counts to the non-tightend side and recognizes “looks” to the tightend side. The tightend side is recognized as tackle / tightend +1 (seven man fronts), tightend void or empty (eight man fronts), and tackle / tightend +2 (six man sides). To the non-tightend, although they counted from the outside in, it basically came out the same as counting from the inside-out: #3 outside is a seven man front (50 or ACE) and #3 inside as a reduced front. (plus the variance of six man fronts.)

One of the advantages when playing an eight man is to go unbalanced (end over – tightend or splitend) and be able to handle the free safety in the alley. In the game in question, Army went with a tightend over formation that certainly would handle the pesky free safety in the alley (fig. 1 above), even if the free moved over to that side. (fig. 2 above)

The defensive answer to this was to flip the Corner from the nub side (fig. 3 below) matching numbers with number and absorbing all the blockers while allowing the free safety to still run the alley untouched.

At this point, most experienced option coaches are saying just go to the nub and with the interior leverage (A-gap linemen) either the halfback or the tackle will handle the playside backer with the other coming off for the free. (fig. 4 below) The problem though lies not in the scheme but in the recognition system and the need for an “exception” to the rule. The flaw lays that in this system, the quarterback is recognizing from the alignment on the tackle out. Thus he was “trapped” by the system into running to a six man side (including the unblocked free.)
You can see this yourself by looking at figure 2 and figure 3 and placing your hand over the diagram from the guard in. In essence, both configurations look identical. (With all the checking done in a triple option offense, it is impractical to both label defenders as free safety, etc. and number them as well.) Thus, the quarterback is duped or “trapped” into believing he is not only handling numbers but accounting for the alley player (free safety) as well.

There are a number of these “trap” six man sides in every system; anomalies that don’t match up with a given recognition system. These seem to happen the most in end-over, tackle-over, or funky formations where defensive adjustments (some by design and some by their confusion!) can muddle a picture for a quarterback.

So what do you do?

  1. Give an easy “exception” to the rule – an all encompassing “out.”

When we first started encountering these we thought of a number of ways to recognize them individually. However, these amounted to added work for the quarterback that included the memorization and recognition of specific rules for a situation we may encounter once or even no times during a given year. Too much learning! So the answer lied in a general out. Something the quarterback can hang his hat on and know he is never wrong. We came up with two: one for an unbalance formation and one for a balanced.

  • Unbalanced Formation: The quarterback will scan nub to unbalanced (we always teach him to do this anyway so as not to stare at the side we are running) If the nub side is reduced he will always check the option that way. This gives him a safe out and alleviates him trying to figure out any muddle unbalanced looks since he never even looks there.

(In unbalanced sets - if the nub is reduced there has to be 6 men to the other side.)

  • Balanced Formation: Any time we are balanced and the quarterback gets a look he is confused by we allow him to check any options the opposite way, providing the numbers are applicable.
    (This notion of giving the quarterback an out – a security blanket may seem redundant throughout my post, but, it is the biggest lesson I’ve learned throughout my years with the option and calling 90% of our schemes on the line. An “out” makes the quarterback confident. The last thing I want is an unconfident quarterback making a give / keep or a pitch / keep decision after the snap. Additionally, with the “out” the quarterback will project as a confident playcaller both in the huddle and on the line. This, in turn, will transfer over to an aggressive, confident team with a high level of success in execution. If you ever had an unconfident quarterback call plays, even in the huddle, you will understand this statement, or, as Napoleon said “morale is to the physical as three is to one!”)

2. Know the exceptions before they happen

In the offseason take your package and line up the formations against every defense. Think from a defensive side and draw up every conceivable adjustment they could make. (Let your imagination reign) Then see if your system holds up. You can take one defensive front a week. If it doesn’t hold – save the look and put all exceptions together. Then look for a common thread or rule that gives the QB an out for ALL of them. One rule taught with the system – not a series of individual exceptions taught new each week. (In the science of learning there is always a learning curve. If you a simple exceptions rule in the beginning of the season, the quarterback will make his normal progression of errors early when it doesn’t count. If you teach a new exception and a new “look” every week, he will make the same number of “beginners” errors but now they count. They are in games!)
Along with this line, when you get a chance to watch other teams run your offense or an offense similar in style (I often do this in wing-t games also) do not only examine what the offense is doing but look at the defensive adjustments and analyze how your recognition would hold up. (we are always looking for the “miracle play” and at times missing the big picture.)
The end result is “DON’T WAIT TILL IT HAPPENS.” Have an answer now! Don’t get caught in a game and have to start figuring out what a look is or how to get to the desired side / scheme in your system. It’s too late then. Have the answers before it happens, even if it never happens.
(After the game, I read where the Army coach stated “This is by no means a complete system. We will continue to grow and tweak it as the season goes on.” Well, I hope that the seniors get another year of eligibility so they can come back and run a “complete” system that gives them answers and a chance.)

3. Keep a running notebook:

Every time you see a new look or an exception - write it down, categorize it, and answer the problem. This can be from film study, clinics, brainstorming, after a game, whatever. Just write it down with answers. The book can then be kept on the sideline or in the both to give quick answers when needed. (Also writing will embed the answer into the coach’s mind and will probably result in quick recall when seeing this look even after a long period.

The point of this article was not to criticize Army. I am sure, as they become more experienced with the option, the system will become more and more complete. The whole point of this article was that if a coach does use a recognition system to check, he must recognize the weaknesses in that system and have answers for those flaws.

My next article (after the next “Myth”) will be slightly different from the theory approach of the first two and concentrate on the teaching of the combo (bumplead) block to a three technique when running the triple.) Feel free to comment and also use the message board listed below and on the side panel.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Myth #2 The college game and the high school game are the same

Throughout my years I've probably attended hundreds of coaching clinics. In that time, I've come away with many great ideas. Truth be told though, many of those ideas had to be adapted to the high school level and there are two basic reasons for this:

  1. The field dimensions
  2. The timing of the game

Anybody who does not understand this difference is depriving themselves of a valuable resource to be used in the success of their team and, although not as obvious, are probably not getting the most from the conversion of their learning experience to actual playing strategy.

(For the sake of this article we will concentrate on the effects of the field dimensions from a defensive prospective and hope to touch on the offensive in the next "myth."

If you look at the high school hashes they are equally distant (53'4" to the middle of the hash.)from one another, dividing the fields into equal thirds. The NCAA field has the hashes set disproportionately (60' from the sideline and 40' in the middle) Although this does not seam like a lot (6' 8" from the hash to the sideline and 13'6" between the hashes) when one takes a look at it closely you will see the difference.

In high school the ball is approximately on or near the hash 83% of the time. That means that 83% of the time you are attacking a "skewed" field of 2/3's to one third.

On the college level, you are probably on the hash a greater amount due to the closeness to the middle and the field disproportion is now approximately 3/5 to 2/5. Not as great as high school.

So where does that change the game? Strategy and Alignment.

First lets look from a defensive view:

Prior to the changing of the college hashes (To all you younger coaches: yes, the college field was once the same as the high school.) the top defenses in the country were schools such as Michigan and Ohio State that defended field first by personnel or / and alignment. The thinking being that if you ran the ball into the boundary the defense could be outnumbered and / or out manned but could quickly make up the disadvantage by closing the short distance through pursuit and using the closer sideline as a 12th man. (Where the term originally started) It wasn't till the hashes started moving in that the complete conversion to the balanced or formational defenses took hold.

(To illustrate my point I am going to use this year's Ohio State / Wisconsin game. The winning touchdown was scored on an option run by Terrell Pryor to the boundary that "squeaked" it's way into the endzone. Even with the college hashes, if Pryor had to pitch the ball, the running back would have gone out of bounds. And with the defense stretching the zone, he turned up about 4-5 yards from the boundary. (I'm giving a generous estimate here.)

Now look at the same play with the old hashes. If you take away the 6 yards, he never would have been able to turn the corner. The size of the field would have forced him to turn run out of bounds. Thus the "immediate" pitch / support player (necessitated on the college hashes) could have come more slowly from a secondary alignment skewed to the field.)

Besides the easier ability to defend the boundary, the added 6 yards to the field create a different defensive dilemma. The ability of offenses to make "formationally" set defenses align to the boundary and then attack the field puts a greater stress on run support with the added widths. Although "read" and "soft" support systems can be gameplanned, there is a definite need to a field based call. (throwing the ball to trips set into the boundary often results, on the high school field, in a 3 man pattern that is so bunched one man can cover or a flat pattern running out of bounds.) The use of extended formations (i.e. Twins, Trips) forces a "tiled" or 3 on 2 / 4 on 3 defense due to the extension of inside coverage people.

The second place that the hashes affect the defenses is in alignment. First and foremost this is seen in any two high safety defense. Take quarters for example. How many times do you see the safety over #2 align as if the ball was in the middle of the field. You look out and he is standing virtually next to the corner. In essence you have two guys aligned in the outside 1/3. And, if you are a zone drop team, your field distribution is way off with regards to the field side. Additionally, if you pattern read, the inside patterns will most likely be run far to your inside. We've all had underneath curl players who consistently overrun curls and slants thrown to the boundary.

So what does that mean for the defensive coach? Does he ignore what he hears at clinics from college coaches? Absolutely not. But he adapts so as not to lose the advantages the high school field gives him.

Some suggestions as to how:

  1. Play your best people to the wide side when on or near the hash. People did this for years prior to the moving of the hashes. (When I usually suggest this - most coaches say "You just can't put all my bad athletes on one side! They're that bad." My reply is always the same: "Would you rather have them defending space? I even like my odds of defending Michael Jordan in a phone booth!") You can then adjust tactically by scheme to defend what the offense is doing to the sideline.
  2. Have a package completely set to the field. I'm not saying "be unsound to the boundary," I'm saying defend the field first in this package.
  3. Have hash rules for your secondary and underneath droppers. In certain coverages (actually we do it in all our coverages except where the free is spun down) the safety should not cross the hash. You cannot tell me a zone technique to the boundary you cannot play from the hash. (Even the flat - it was done for years!) Playing contain from the inside out is not a problem with 18 yards and a boundary helping. (An offshoot of this is that when your defense starts getting confused, this is a "static" defense you can line up and just let them play.) Our Hook / Curl player knows the maximum width of his drop with relation to the hash.

Hopefully this gets you thinking. It was done for that. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat and it's great to learn as many as possible. Defending the field is not the only way.

In my next "Myth" I will explore have the differences on offense between high school and college.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Give the Quarterback an out vs. the “echo” stunt

The initial reaction of most defensive coaches when they play the triple option is to test the decision making process of the quarterback. Simply stated that means either a) disguising or giving multiple looks to see if the quarterback can get the offense into the right scheme or side, b) playing games with the handoff key (i.e. “bluff” or “up” moves, or 3) using perimeter stunts such as the back to back stunt (fig. 1) and “echo” (fig.2) to put pressure on the quickness and stability of his decision making while, hopefully, causing that added pressure to take away from the mechanics of the mesh.

I have found over the years that many coaches will attempt to read their way out of these stunts no matter what. If that fails they will go to another section of their offense. “Reading out” is not a bad philosophy and our offense starts there. However, no matter how good the quarterback there will be times this gives them trouble. Why? Perhaps the speed and execution of the defense is too fast for him to handle. Perhaps the alignment of the defenders, for some reason (quarterbacks are human), confuses him. Or, perhaps, he just has a hard time with this particular stunt.

(I was once told and since came to understand that coaching a triple option quarterback is much like hitting a baseball. This is not only true in “one-way” decision making but also in “pitch” selection. Every quarterback, like every hitter has an “Achilles heel.” A read he just, for who knows what reason, doesn’t read as well as the rest. This is akin to the hitter who can’t hit the curve or has trouble with the high heat. If football many of us have actually witness this watching “NFL films” with Jon Gruden or Mike Holgram meeting with his quarterbacks and asking which plays in the game plans they felt comfortable with and which throws they felt comfortable making. It’s up to the coach to acquire that knowledge and not only work on those weaknesses more (we script a hard read at least 30 – 50% more throughout practice) but also give him “outs.”)

So the answer of reading the stunt is not the problem. What becomes the problem is the abandonment of the triple if the quarterback has trouble reading his way out. You are now basically saying to the defense, you have eliminated the biggest portion of the offense and made us play left handed. Not only is that true but the defense, once this weakness is exploited, does not have to continue on this strategy for just the threat of a repeat performance is enough.

So what does a coach do?

Simply stated, he gives his quarterback outs. These are mechanics, packages and tags that are built into a system and allow the quarterback to still function in the triple vas this stunt or any stunt. Understand, these are not licenses to decide he doesn’t want to read the stunt but rather controlled strategies (we call our triple packages and tags – so we control if he reads it or not.) to enhance his confidence and execution. If he knows you can take him out of reading it, he will gain confidence in attempting to and trust in confiding with you what his problems are.

So here are some of those answers
1) Allow the Quarterback to check away from any stunt or any look he has trouble with: (This would be akin to a hitter staying away from the pitch he doesn’t like.) Since all of our “packages” are symmetrical (run to all flanks) and inclusive (have “tags” for all defensive fronts. If a quarterback doesn’t like the perimeter look he is getting (seem just about every bastard option defense in 17 years.) or he isn’t comfortable with a “stunt look” he is getting, we allow him to check “opposite” providing the #’s are similar. This means we will give up interior leverage (angles in the “numbers, grass, angles” vernacular.) in order to give the quarterback confidence in the execution of the offense. The play is still “option sound” but just not the best way. However, speed of execution through added confidence will level the decision to go that way. As Napoleon said “morale is to the physical as three is to one.”)

Think of how many times indecision caused a fumble. Then we blame the quarterback for it. Well as a coach, we could alleviate that indecision.

2) Take the stunt further away from the quarterback giving him more time: (This would be akin to moving a hitter back in the box in order to give him more time to pick up the pitch.) the easiest way to do that is to add a tightend into the formation. (see fig. 3)By widening the stunt (that is, if they even continue to stunt due to alignment changes) a number of phenomenon happen, all good for the offense:

a. The read is further from the quarterback / fullback mesh meaning that the stunter must go further to get to his fullback assignment. This gives the quarterback more time to decipher the angle and the stunt. (As a byproduct, I’ve seen quarterbacks read wrong and give the ball (“one way thought process”) and the stunter not get there.
b. Since the stunter is further away, he must make a flatter and faster path to the fullback. Thus it is an easy read. (I’ve seen the “echo” stunt where the player coming inside bypasses the dive and plays the QB and the looper runs to the pitch. In essence fooling the quarterback by the initial actions of a “false” echo.)

  • In order to make up lost ground the stunter will usually show it by alignment. Plus the usual seven-technique will have to cheat out to avoid having the whole defense pinned in on a supplemental play.

    (Another form of the echo that is perhaps the hardest mechanically on the quarterback is what we refer to as the “mesh echo.” (Only saw it once but QB didn’t like it) This is where the end comes right off the mesh and under the QB’s jaw while the stack backer performs the echo. (fig. 4) While the QB is reading the echo, he disengages and is suddenly smacked under the jaw with the ball flying out. This form of the echo is impossible to perform to the tightend.)

3) Block the stunt: Our quarterback knows that, if he is having a hard time with the echo, we will bail him out by going to our loaded scheme. (44-46 in our terminology – fig 5) By doing this we are in essence taking away the stack read from the quarterback. He now reading the 5 technique and pitching off the support player (#3) He doesn’t even look at the stack player.

  • A couple of coaching points on this are the loading HB, on seeing the stunt must check the middle linebacker for a wide scrape before working up to safety. (a well coached stunt will take dive and QB lleaving the middle linebacker free to scrape over the top) The guard must bump up through the MLB but only comes off for the Mike at his level if he sits or shuffles. If the MLB runs over the top the guard will stay on the bump to the backside backer. Also if the guard is covered (i.e. a 2i; we rarely see the echo to a three technique due to sound gap coverage.) he must go stack to MLB before working up o the safety.
  • An added advantage of this scheme is that it puts the fullback back into the triple against a well coach stunt that is predicted on taking away the fullback and the quarterback.

4) Block half the stunt: Running the load scheme is great but it becomes a fullback, quarterback play. What happens, as it did my first year at Langley High School where your quarterback is a marginal runner? Well, we solved the program by adding a tag that allowed the quarterback to check to a “half load” scheme if he faced a 4-3 with a hip player. (see fig.6)

What it was is simply a combination of our load scheme for the people inside the handoff key and our arc scheme outside the handoff key. The quarterback would not read the “echo stunt” since it was protected inside by the tackle’s release. However if they didn’t stunt and the tackle came down to take the fullback, the quarterback will pull the ball and pitch off #2 (the outside linebacker.) Thus we effectively had a way to NOT read the stunt, keep the fullback in the game, and keep the ball out of the quarterback’s hands.

  • (I have often been asked if you can effectively load a loop scheme to the non-tightend side and handle the stunt. The answer is an absolute “NO.” if the echo you essentially leave three people unblocked – the two in the stunt and the support player to take the three prongs on the triple. They win! If you loop vs. a 4-3 you must read your way out.)

In closing let me say there are other methods that we use for taking advantage of the “echo” such as double options, rockets, and other non-option plays. (Hopefully for another article.) The point of this article was to give ways out for quarterback to execute vs. the echo and yet, stay with the triple. To reiterate the most important points:
1) Always start with reading your way out
2) Have a system that has built in methods that will allow you to stay away from the stunt thus giving the quarterback confidence in the offense and your play calling. There are two important points I want to stress here:

  • Have a system. We always go into the game with all three of our triples. Thus our quarterback feels comfortable running all of them. Remember, this is an offense you run all the time. They only have one week to defend it. Don’t take that away from yourself.

  • Your system of recognition and communication must be consistent throughout your offense. We teach a “method” in preseason and ALL future packages and plays are based on that system

3) Time and distance always are a factor in reading. The further you take any stunt away from the read the easier it is to read.
4) Never give up your best player. Do not allow the defense to run one stunt and take your best or best two players away from the offense. Scheme it (within your system) to keep them getting touches within the offense, in general, and within the triple, specifically.
5) Don’t allow one stunt to take the base of your offense (the triple) away.

Thank you for your time and to everybody who ever taught me the concepts expressed here. Please respond with comments as to your thoughts on this article. Hopefully it’s the first of many more. (Please excuse the formating of the pictures. After I imported them, I realized there was a better way to do this from the start. Next one will be better.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Myth #1 - The "Gamer"

One of my pet peeves is the notion of the "gamer" - the player who turns it up a notch in the game but is perhaps not the best practice player. Let's look at this notion logically -

1. we all agree that proper practice increases the excellence in performance of the player and team. (anyone note agreeing with this notion is basically saying we all are wasting our time and belittling the title of coach.)

2. the job of the coach is to secure the optimum performance of the individual player and team regardless of the ceiling the individual's ability may have.

3. with this information, the "gamer" no matter how well he plays in the game will never be as good as he could be, had he practiced properly. Simply stated his performance will never be as good as it could be.

4. if a coach relies and believes in the "gamer," he is essentially saying he has very little control over the performance of his team and the result of that performance is akin to rolling the dice or leaving it up to the "football gods." (aka matural ability)

The greatest example of this is Marcus Dupree (yep, I'm showing my age here!) He excelled in high school despite only showing up for games. He excelled at Oklahoma despite being allowed to slough off. When he finally got to play in the pros he failed because despite his great natural ability. It had not grown close to his potential. I am sure with a different work ethic - rather then saying "who?" people that read this post would be reminiscing about a great pro career he had.

So myth #1 is the idea of a "gamer"

There simply is no animal!

In my career I've associated this phrase from a coach with the interpetation of "I just can't get him to practice hard."


About 35 years ago I decided to enter the world of coaching football. During that time many people (too many to even attempt to list) have helped me in my growth as a coach. Without all those people and all their efforts (sometimes resisted by a very stubborn and often stupid young coach.) I never would have had any success. They stayed with me through my mistakes, guided, pushed, and cajoled me until I had the skills that enabled success.

This blog is an effort to give back what was given to me. I feel along the way I was fortunate to have been handed the keys to the kingdom. This is not to give the premise in any way that I know everything or the way listed here is the only way. The keys that were given to me were a great appreciation for those that went before me, a great thirst for the knowledge associated with this game, and a thorough understanding of the ingredients that led to success in this great profession. Based on that, I wanted an avenue to pass those ideas on. Thus grew this blog.

In this blog will discuss many aspects of coaching, ranging from the technical, to the inspirational, to the mechanical, to the moral dilemmas facing the coaching profession. Much of the information given here is not mine and mine alone but rather a library of collected thoughts gathered from many of the great minds I have had the pleasure of being associated with.

Although my main love now is option football and we will concentrate in that area, I will not limit the entries to this topic. Rather, we will include many of the peripheral subjects that are instrumental to having a successful program and team. Items that maybe are overlooked by many technical sites but make the experience of playing and coaching football what it is today - the greatest sporting experience in America.

We'll also have some fun with lists (such as the one for the best technical books I've read currently in the margin.) myths about coaching, "war stories" with a meaning, a just some plain rants at times.

Please take this site for exactly what it is - an effort to give back to a game that has absorbed and filled most of my adult life - and understand that at no time is it meant to infer that the author knows everything or is complete in his learning.

My only hope is that you get out of it what a young coach, disgruntled at the content of an attended clinic, learned many years ago "If you get just one idea, one thought, or even if it just reinforces what you believe in, then it was a good clinic."

I look forward for input and welcome you to the site.

Please stop back often. (or subscribe) My goal is to write at least one major entry each week. The list, myths, quotes, etc. will be an ongoing process so please check them often for upgardes.

I will continue to grow this site and attempt to make it a great place to exchange ideas.