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.”

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