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.)


midlineqb said...

Awesome article!!!

Steve said...

Wonderful article, Coach! I hope to link to your new site as soon as I get time to update veersite. I use the Lead tag on ISV to help when we have slanting 4i's and backers scraping thru B-C gap. The psT blocks the 4i and the FB wraps thru to LB. The QB moves to an immediate Keep or Pitch read off the end man. This does take away our FB, but we can get him back with Midline and Trap... and also using him as the pitch in Speed Option

- Coach Smith