Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Part II Handling the back to back defense with a 4i

In the first part of this article on handling the back to back defense and the 4i (fig. 1), we discussed the quarterback mechanics and reading his way out. But what happens if the quarterback struggles in the game with this stunt? Speed of the defense versus speed in practice can make even the most adapt quarterback struggle in a given situation. Or, what happens if even though your quarterback is reading well, your best athlete is never touching the ball? Do you go a whole game being sound strategically and executing the triple well while the defense dictates the player who has the ball in his hand?
In our system we would never allow these two situations to happen. First and foremost, we are never going to continually put the quarterback in a situation where he has been struggling. In the same realm, you can say that we have supplemental plays to offset this stunt. However, I have always believed that if you are a triple team – you are a triple team! If one stunt can get you out of running the basis of your offense then your offense isn’t the soundest. Along with this, how do you know when the defense is going to call the stunt? Are you going to make play calling a guessing game?
Secondly, we are never going to allow the defense to dictate to us. That means play wise or personnel wise. How do we accomplish this? Simple! All our plays are actual packages. Every package for the triple has a different pre-practiced answer to the defense shown in fig.1. (For quarterback recognition we refer to this as a “fifty.” That means #3 outside and a playside linebacker inside the handoff key) In the first article we referred to our 41-49 package (all our triple packages are 40’s) where we read ourselves out. In this article, we will refer to 44-46 our “load” package and 42-28 our “arc” package that have different answers built into them to handle this fifty look / stunt. In each of these we will block one aspect of he defense and change / simplify the quarterback read while keeping at least two of the three options alive. Additionally, we will explore some tags we run in order to enhance and dictate what we want!
44-46 (fig.2)
In our load option vs. a 50, we are going to block #2 with our tackle (he will drop step and aim outside hip. Do not position – this is a physical log) The halfback will lateral step, wait for the tackle to pass then load the backer. (If #2 is coming down he will go outside the tackle’s hook to seal the wide scrape linebacker.) The quarterback will read #1 (the handoff key) and sprint around the load option support. If the load widens he will tuck. If, as he looks to tuck, the safety fills inside with the halfback he will leverage pitch.

This scheme has essentially eliminated the back to back reads for the quarterback. He now knows he has time to come off the mesh and get to his pitch key.

Although essentially a quarterback fullback play, this keeps all three of the options alive while taking the back to back away from the quarterback.

(I know this resembles the midline tuck play to many people but there are a couple of differences. First the proximity of the FB mesh allows the handoff key to get to the FB and the play to continue to the perimeter. The midline tends to be a give because of the distance to the key. Secondly, we are trying to log #2 – not make it a tuck play. Finally, being a gap wider a physical nose cannot push the center into the mesh.)

42-48 (fig.3)
Fig. 3

In our arc scheme instruct our tackle to make a call vs. any 4i that tells the quarterback and fullback the give aspect of the option is dead. The fullback will now aim wider and wrap for the scraping backer. (In essence, he and the tackle will exchange assignments.) The quarterback will skip out and pitch off #2 (we have him skip because it puts him on the top of a crash pitch key – keeping the ball from being batted down; and it allows him to clear the fullbacks path.)
We have now taken the back to back out of the read and made it a quarterback / halfback play

Keeping the fullback in the game
Many defensive coaches will tell you that once they play a 4i the fullback is dead. They also teach this concept to the defense, letting them run to the other options. A good option coach will not allow that to happen (unless, of course, you don’t want your fullback to carry the ball!) We accomplish this with two tags that become automatic gives.
Check Donate (fig.4)

(When you donate – you GIVE)

Used with 42-48, whenever we add “check donate” to the call, the tackle will change his call vs. a 4i (everything else stays the same except the tackle will only split 2’ regardless.) On the tackles call the quarterback will give the ball off with the fullback bending around the tackle’s block and making a “soft shoulder cut” under a scraping linebacker.
Used sporadically (4-8 times per game vs. a 4i defense) this can create a number of long runs as we are not an outside veer team but have slipped it in without the HB sealing down as a key.

Check Kebbler (Fig. 5)

Fig. 5

(The Kebbler Elves made chocolate chip cookies – we are chipping the handoff key with our guard!)

Used with 41-49, whenever we add a “check kebbler” to the call, the tackle will call “kebbler” vs. a 4i. This tells the fullback and the quarterback it is a give and the fullback should square up as soon as getting the ball. The tackle will loop as called but go right to the near / middle safety. The guard will step lateral so as to gain width and catch the slant with his near shoulder, blunting his move as he continues to the safety. The blunting action should stunt the 4i enough to allow the FB to pass. (Note: we do not cut down our split in Kebbler)

Run Midline triple vs. the defense (fig. 6)
The midline triple is, in essence, the same play as 41-49 (see first article) except for the fullback mesh is further removed from the read. This does two things. First, there is a greater chance that the fullback may get the ball. (The path of the defensive tackle must change for the two meshes!) Secondly, the back to back is easier to read due to the time it takes to reach the quarterback.

An additional element of this play is the position of the force player relative to the pitch. To be successful with back to back reads you must get force to the pitch immediately, otherwise the halfback has a great advantage in the footrace to the perimeter. The use of twirl and no motion will put the secondary in a softer position vs. the pitch.

Some additional notes on the 4i and the back to back reads:

  • Reading a 4i consistently will add wear and tear to your fullback. The proximity of the 4i and the force he comes down with, unimpeded due to a loop scheme, will take its toll. One thing I didn’t like when I use to visit Army was this aspect of their offense. It seemed like every week another fullback was out with a nick or a concussion. By keeping the fullback alive they were killing him.
  • Putting in these calls for a specific game may be okay but having them always in your repertoire is better. You will perform them better. There will be less doubt in the team about them (especially the quarterback) And you’ll have answers when the defense tries to surprise you!
  • If your quarterback is constantly getting battered by a crash pitch key or not recognizing the back to back, the first thing you need to do is look at your teaching methodolgy. This includes your teaching progression, system for recognition, mechanic taught, practice methods, and vocabulary used. Secondly ask him what he is seeing. It will give you great insight into why you are having this problem. Too often we blame the kid and his ability. Triple option is a coach's offense and as a result a teacher's offense.

You can see that my philosophy is to not let the defense dictate to you, whether that be
In what play you run, In the quarterback read mechanism, or in who handles the ball.

The second partof that philosophy is to be a quarterback friendly offense. We tell him we will never ask him to do something he can't do or doesn't understand and we will never ask him to take a beating for the team! He's gotta know you have his back!!!

I hope you find this article useful. Any questions can be addressed to 3backoption@gmail.com

I hope to get 2 or 3 articles up during the holidays

Merry Christmas to ALL!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008


I was watching the Navy game versus Army the other day and I noticed a number of “leverage pitches” by the the Navy quarterback, so I thought I’d write a short article on the subject since it is often ignored and misunderstood when teaching an option quarterback to attack the perimeter. It is definitely a technique (or concept) that can add numerous explosive plays to an option offense as seen by Shaun White’s first run from scrimmage. To the naked eye many of these pitches seemed like the quarterback was pitching off the wrong man.

So what is “leverage pitching?”

I first came upon the term back in the early 80’s during a routine conversation with a good friend of mine and option guru, Tony DeMeo. At that time, I was just making a gradual transition from the wing-t to becoming a full fledged triple option coach. Naturally, I was more concerned with the basics than some advanced concept that, in order to be implemented you needed a thorough visual understanding of the application of these concepts. (You really needed to see and understand when a pitch could and couldn’t be made with leverage pitching ven though you might be pitching contrary to basic option rules. It was not a concept that could be taken from paper to the field and taught rote by a system of rules which was where I was a the time.)

Later in the late 80’s and early 90’s I spent every spring at West Point and probably studied over a 1000 game tapes of three back option football. One thing that kept popping up was “leverage pitching.” (If Tony hadn’t talk to me about it, I would have thought that most of these situations were a product of getting lucky on a bad pitch decision!) So we started teaching this concept on the run.

Leverage pitching” is simply pitching the ball in a situation where the quarterback technically does not reach the pitch key, HOWEVER, the pitch man has such great leverage on the pitch key that it is impossible for the pitch key to chase him down.

Leverage pitching is a product of the Flexbone / spread offense; where the use of motion allows the pitch to be flat down the line rather than back into the backfield, characteristic of the I / wishbone offenses of old. If you do not pitch the ball down the line and wide then do not read on because the depth of the pitch will allow the pitch key to chase it down. (Our pitch relationship is 6 yards wider and only 2 yards deeper then the QB. Our pitch is almost literally down the line of scrimmage. We've even been called for a few illegal foward passes. I got this from Delaware and listening to Bobby Sutton preach that the motion back can never outrun the quarterback, so sprint as wide and as fast as you can.)

The execution of this is simple. If the quarterback thinks that the pitchman cannot be caught by the pitch key, he pitches it. This takes place as long as there is no immediate support outside the pitch key (i.e. cover 3 strong safety or rolled up corner in cover 2) as this constricts the running lane and allows for a shorter alley the pitch key has to run.

The easy way to understand this is through a number of examples:

  • Army-Navy game: There were numerous times the quarterback did not get to the pitch key, yet had big games. In most of those situations the MLB or playside inside LBer, depending on the defense would scrape over the top and insert himself between the pitch key and the quarterback, technically outnumbering the offense. However, because the pitch key was FLATFOOTED and close enough to the quarterback, the pitch was made and a big result occurred. Technically, Navy pitched off the wrong man but with “leverage pitching” the ball is out and on the perimeter.
  • Georgia – Georgia Tech game: Counter speed option away from trips. The pitch key stepped inside and got hung up with the tackle. The guard could not get the log who kept stringing it out. Technically the quarterback should have tucked up but upon seeing the pitch key hung up inside, he makes a successful “leverage pitch
  • Georgia – Miami game. (I believe that was the game.) Tech runs triple to the stack. They get a give read with the lber “hanging” to tackle the fullback after it is given. Since it is not an echo stunt the correct read should be a give read for limited yardage. However, Tech pulls and pitches because the pitchman has leverage on the pitch key. Big gain.

(For us this read is a “never wrong.” If he gives and the fullback hugs inside you get 5 yards / if he pulls and pitches – you get big play.)

  • Vs. any slow play pitch key: The pitch key feathers the QB in order to bide time for the support. There is a time in the sequence where the pitchman will out leverage the pitch key. If the quarterback isn’t by the pitch key he should pitch, rather than being stretched to the sideline for no gain.
  • Vs. any load block: Take a tightend load with the halfback sealing inside vs. a 50. As the quarterback attempts to out run the tightend’s block to get outside, he realizes that the stretch is too great. However, when he looks in the seam, he realizes the pitch key has folded (not a stunt) inside with the halfback and is waiting to fill inside or out. PITCH IT. The pitchman outflanks the pitch key.

You can see the advantage of the leverage pitch. What is even more important is how you teach it. First and foremost, we teach our Quarterback he is always right as long as the pitch key does not tackle the pitch. Simple. That’s his job. Period!

Secondly, although we talk about leverage pitching and we’ll walk him through and run him through some situations in order to understand the concept, it is only through numerous “live” reps that he’ll get a feel for it. Point it out on film and on the field when the opportunity occurs but never force it. Over time he’ll get it. Over twenty years of teaching the option, I’ve realized that “leverage pitching” is not a technique, not a concept, but a “feel” acquired over time and reps that can separate and average quarterback from a great one and a three yard offense from an explosive one.

We have always felt that big plays come in the perimeter. We will get our fullback yards no matter what but if you get the ball on the perimeter, "circling the defense" your offense becomes EXPLOSIVE!

Hope you enjoyed!

Looking forward to your replies.
My next article will be Part II of the back to back reads – “Blocking the stunt in order to keep your options alive.”