Saturday, February 26, 2011

coming soon

I have had a request to publish video with many of these articles. I hope to have that up and running soon. Many of the mechanisms with blogging are new to me. However, I will soon get them down.

I also have to upload much of my video collection from DVD to my hard drive, cut it, and format it. Bear with me and we'll get it done.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A couple of unique ways to handle the free in the eight man front

As we continue with the series on handling the eight man front, a couple of ideas we "toyed" with from time to time came to mind.

There are really only 5 concepts to handle the safety and still run the triple and basically everything we've written so far (or will write as we finish up this article) will fit into one of these modes:

  1. Use a blocker to block the free and leave a different person unaccounted for (already discussed)
  2. Add a blocker by formation to account for the numbers (future blog)
  3. Tempo the free safety so as to make him account for everything (already discussed)
  4. Block one of the option responsibilities while leaving two defenders free to play one of the others (already discussed and future blog)
  5. Use one offensive player to become two options allowing for an extra blocker to be added to the perimeter in order to match numbers. (today's blog)

Remember, we are talking about finding our answers within the triple for this concept. Yes, there are other plays and answers that match this defense. However, those are best left for another discussion as the vastness of possibilities would exceed our grasp.

Allowing one offensive player to be two options and then adding a player to the perimeter

When we discuss this we must remember we are talking about a set way to play the triple – a repetitious pattern.

The following two calls have been in our playbook for years. They have been used sporadically with good if not great success. Where they originated I really have forgotten over time. However, the guard pull scheme has been utilized by Air Force against Utah, TCU, and others this past year. (At least I'm assuming it was this scheme. Although the scheme may look the same assignment wise, you really can't tell the quarterback thought process or what "concept" was initiated by a film.)

Using the quarterback as the first two options.

By using the quarterback as the first two options you have freed the fullback to be an added blocker to the scheme.

The guard pull scheme: (see fig.1)

This is the main scheme that I saw Air Force employ this year (to my surprise) It must be run to the three technique.


Playside tackle: Gap, read, down (Use good down block technique on the tackle)

Playside guard: pull around handoff key (#1) for the backer. (See previous article on the fifty for technique) key is to be aware of the tight scrape.

Center back: reach

Playside halfback: easiest release to the free safety (you are blocking for the quarterback and pitch only. See safe call for technique.)

Fullback: triple path, fake. (full-ride) if you don't get tackled block linebacker in hole to levels. (Be physical. You may take linebacker where he goes)

Quarterback: ride hip of fullback. (Do not put ball fully in the stomach) read handoff key. On give key tuck off inside hip of fullback, get north and south, make single gap cut off the fullback.

In essence the quarterback becomes the fullback vs. a give read. Another way to look at is that you have combined the quarterback tuck with the triple and get the best of both worlds. Remember**** you are doing this because you are getting / expecting a heavy dose of squeeze and scrape. This is an answer and not a staple of an offense.

If we get a give read it would look like the following: (fig 2)
A key coaching point is the quarterback must duck off the inside hip of the fullback. This does two things: a) it pulls the quarterback further away from the handoff key; not allowing him to fall back inside, and b) since you are expecting "squeeze and scrape" the cut off the linebacker would normally be through his inside shoulder.

As a variation of this we will add "special" blocking. "special" is a tag that can be used whenever #3 is the free safety and the halfback is assigned to him. (see fig.3) The halfback and wide-receiver will exchange assignments with the halfback arcing the widest corner. The wide=receiver will cut his split 3 yards and push (up to 5 yards) crack the free safety's upfield shoulder.
This is a great way to set up the wheel vs. an eight-man front because the halfback crossing #2's face is now the norm and places him in a bind. (see fig.4)


Again, this is an answer for a problem – not a catch all. It is a way to take a known defensive reaction and use it to your advantage. It also shows that if you take any of the five concepts above and work backwards you can come up with your own ways to defeat the free-safety in the alley. This is the problem solving approach I have used to any situation: List the problem (i.e. outnumbering us with the free), reverse the problem into offensive concepts (i.e. outnumber the defense again) then come up with concrete, rote answers. Of course answers on paper don't always translate into answers on the field due to time, distance, and speed factors.

We have also run a loop version of this (the second play using this concept.) to an A-gap player using the tackle as the wrap around blocker. (fig 5) However, that was earlier in my career when the 5-techniques were played much tighter. The rise of the rocket has widened these defensive players and this scheme became a version of the "quarterback follow." However, at times if used properly this can be a great companion to the rocket as the 5 technique becomes in a bind with the wide movement of the tackle. If he peeks inside the rocket is there. If he runs outside for the rocket, there is a huge tuck hole for the quarterback.


I feel I would be remiss if I didn't answer why this must be run to the 3-technique. (Air ran it to an A-gap lineman and I believe it cost them the Utah game in a crucial situation.)

If you run it to an A-gap linemen and still tight reach the center (Not including a 2i), the defensive tackle will "backdoor" the down-block due to the distance and make the play on the QB from behind (what happened to Air Force vs. Utah) (fig 6)
If you have the center wide reach and get at least his near shoulder on the 2i, essentially posting him for the down-block, then you can't block the backside linebacker and he becomes the player that outnumbers you. (fig 7)
These are not your normal answers to handling the safety but they could be very big if used correctly to match defensive numbers

Hope this helps

Feel free to post on the message board. Let's get the community up and running.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is your quarterback an extension of your offense or is your offense an extension of your quarterback?

I recently was watching the NFL channel recap of the super bowl game when I heard a discussion from Brian Billick and Jim Mora jr. concerning the success of Aaron Rodgers. In the course of the conversation they based their opinion that the Packers would have continued success because Aaron Rodgers like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning executed the offense as it was drawn. They, like Rodgers, fit the skill set defined for the execution of the offense and stayed within the structure of the philosophy set forth by the coaching staff. In Rodgers case, the skill set was a quick release with a strong and accurate enough arm to throw the vertical seams, an intelligence to execute hot reads, and the ability to make rhythmic drills down the rhythm. Tom Brady's arm is not as strong, yet in the New England offense his skill set fits the need. Peyton Manning brings a whole different set of requirements in executing the audible rich Indianapolis offense. The final word was that these quarterbacks were basically an extension of the coach and the playbook. They were essentially, "redrawing the play from the playbook to the field."

This conversation struck a chord because a number of years ago I heard Bill Walsh describing the same "fit" when finding a quarterback for his offense. It was his basis for drafting Joe Montana when many people passed. Put Montana in a vertical stretch offense and you probably don't have a hall-of-famer. His arm simply was not strong enough. He went a little further to explain that one of Montana's strong suits was that he thoroughly understood what they (the 49ers) were trying to accomplish and was able (and happy to) function within the parameters set forth by the system.

On the other hand, we've all seen the other side of this. We've all been brainwashed by raw athletic ability and over the last quarter center we've all been "espnized" with highlight reel quarterback. The ad-libber! The guy who makes plays outside the offense. The reversed field scramble followed by the 60 yard heave for the miracle touchdown that is forever imprinted in our minds. And at some time in our career we've all gotten caught up in a great athlete who just "makes plays." And therein lies the problem! An opinion biased on a small portfolio of work. Yet, that work is spectacular enough to sway our opinion.

(In another Fox show the announcers were talking about the same thing when they said that Brady and Manning rarely ended up on the highlight reel except to show their high completion percentages within the structure of the offense. In fact their highlights individual are basically a boring procession of normal plays executed over and over again.)

So I started looking back at the quarterback's I had and the success tied into each of them. The three of the five greatest athletes I ever coached were at the quarterback position including one at the college level. Their highlight film of individual plays would make your jaw drop. Many of their greatest plays were outside the system. Yet, despite all this ability to make plays, I had the worst years of my coaching career. With these "circus," "freak" type plays in our minds we forget the attempted plays outside the system that put us in the hole or, worse yet, came at such an inopportune time they cost a big turn in the game's outcome. We let the great play cloud our overall judgment. Like a high-tech car chase in a bad movie that leaves the crowd buzzing and telling friends to go despite the overall lackluster performance.

(I'll use the quarterback from Georgia Tech as a prime example of what I'm talking about. In a televised game a couple of years ago, on an early drive he started with triple to the right then reverse 180 degrees and ran to the left 60 yards leading to a touchdown. He also pulled the ball down very early (THE RUSH WAS NOWHERE NEAR HIM!) and outran the defenders for a crucial first down that kept a scoring drive alive. Sounds great doesn't it. However, in the 4th quarter, now trailing, he made the same 180 degree cut on 3rd and 2 and lost 4 yards. Then in the two minute offense he pulled the ball down early again scrambled and lost 18, effectively ending any chance of success. When I talked to my option friends they were enamored by the plays he made and chalked off the others as trying to make a play. They were in essence "espnized" by the human highlight reel.)

These out of the system plays don't have to just involve the feet. They can be the QB that holds the ball extra long to make a 30yard fade completion a pass that travels 60 yards in the air. Or a quarterback who ignores the reads of the system and forces a pass into coverage. Or a timing route that is held extra long so as to have to force a ball into a now constricted window. You see it all the time. The throw makes espn and people rave at the strength of the quarterback's arm and his courage to throw it into such a small window.

The fact that we had little success with these great athletes lead me to continue my investigation. Was it me? My coaching style? Why were we lacking success with such great athletes? We had great success with lesser athletes! Why then? Certainly a search into this topic would help my overall coaching success.
The answer it turned out was simple. It's what Billick and Mora talked about. The others were an extension of myself and my play calling. Don't get me wrong, the others were good athletes who "made plays." However, they made them within the structure of the offense. This may be a great cut off a scraping linebacker. Or outrunning the safety in the alley. Or making a perfect over the shoulder throw, right on rhythm, on the wheel. (Staying with Rodgers, he certainly made his share of plays in the super bowl. Whether it be the vertical he threw on the last drive or the post he hit splitting three defenders, he made great plays. He did them tough within the structure of the offense.) How many of us remember marveling at Thomas Lott or JC Watts dazzling us once in the option alley.

It's a simple formula. If you have a sound complete system, one that holds up to everything and contains a logistical methodology of getting into and out of the right plays, then the execution is the essential element. (Which I believe we do) If you believe that coaching up your system gives the players the best chance of success, then a "system" quarterback is what you are looking for. You don't need the plays, both good and bad, outside the system to be successful. In fact the more the quarterback gets away from the system the less chance you have to win. If the quarterback understands what you wants and plays within this system then you always have a chance. You have narrowed the game down to two aspects: coaching and execution. The first is 100% on you and the latter is a reflection of your teaching and preparation. So in essence, you've put the game on your shoulders as a coach.
On the other side of the spectrum, I don't know how many times in the course of the technical aspects of the game and in clinics I've heard coaches say "well the player has to make plays too." Think about that answer. First of all, you've eliminated yourself from the formula for success. It's now him adlibbing. It has become his play. Secondly, you've coped out. What most coaches need to say is "I can't figure out an answer so I'm hoping he does!" It's the football equivalent of a bailout of a bankrupt coach. It's your job as a coach to give him the answers. And, if you don't know find out. If you're one of these coaches then you better have a "magician" to create an offense where it isn't there by design.
In the end, these kind of "outside the box" players will lose more games for you and get you fired quicker than you can say "wow!" to his last great move. If you don't believe that, do some research on Jeff George, who many say had one of the greatest physical skill sets to enter the NFL. His arm strength, release, and athletic ability caused coach after coach to risk their careers on him. Many lost that risk. Over and over again, as he traveled from team to team, you read "he just doesn't play within the system. The fans love the individual plays but they'll quickly blame you when the adlib goes astray. They'll blame it on the lack of structure or bad play-calling. It can't be the quarterback, he just went 60 all on his own.
So now, when defining our offense, we include as the first "skill sets" for a quarterback three aspects that have nothing to do with physical or mental capacity:

Understands what we are trying to accomplish schematically with the offense

Is able to manage and execute within the limits of the offense (this may include other physical skills listed later on.)

Has a burning desire to run the offense as described (this is important because we've all heard the phrase "I just want to make plays."

If you find somebody with some athletic ability that can adhere to this and you have a complete sound system then you have it all. If you don't have that great athlete or if you have to settle for a little less ability, by sticking to these principles you still have a chance the offense will do as it was designed to do and score through execution and coaching.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A different way to block a 50 without a tightend or three man side

Traditionally one of the hardest defenses to block without using a tightend is the 50. Having #3 outside forces a halfback arc scheme in order to produce numbers. If one was to veer this look the defense, usually played with heavy 4's would squeeze for the dive and scrape the backer for the pitch. (fig 1) This would outnumber the defenses on the perimeter. If one loops (fig.2), which is usually the best scheme, the defense now can plug the backer in the B and force the dive back to the nose and backside linebacker. In most 50's I have found that the nose usually creates the biggest problem. By the defense reading the scheme they have in essence gained an advantage. (By the way, this is one of the ways that Air force handled Georgia tech combined with a backside stunt (double A's) to handle the cut back.

When I first started running the flexbone my research lead me to a unique blocking scheme that Air Force vs. this look. (In the past 3 years I believe I've still seen them incorporate this at times.) We want the best of both words. By veering the tackle with the defensive tackle squeezing down, we insure that the dive is taken essentially eliminating the need for a double to handle the nose. By pulling the guard around for the backer, we have ensured a seal block on the scrape linebacker, basically doing the same thing that the loop did but getting the results we want. (fig 3)

There are a couple of coaching points on this play:

  1. The veer tackle, once the linebacker scrapes and is on his way to cutoff the backside safety must check the backside linebacker. With the nose in frontside A, the backside linebacker can come off late and be a factor on the quarterback. So the tackle has playside linebacker to backside backer to backside safety.

  2. When pulling the guard must open step. This gives him about ½ yard of depth. Additionally he wants to stay as square as possible to the line of scrimmage and as tight as possible to the tackle. This accounts for the tight scrape by the linebacker and does not let him come underneath and play the quarterback. (fig 4) We want his eyes on the linebacker so he can adjust to the wider scrape. In order to do that and come tight to the tackle, we tell him to take his playside hand and pull himself (feel himself around might be a better term) around the tackle. (fig.5)

  3. Some people don't like this scheme because of the guard pulling in front of the quarterback's vision. With practice though I never have had a major problem. You do need to tell the quarterback that any contact made on the guard is an automatic give. Thus the handoff key crashing the mesh would usually be disrupted by the guard and a give would result.

Vs. a 4i

As with all our veer schemes when we get a 4i we will make a call and block the 4i, turning the triple into a double option. (we read our way out in our "loop" scheme) When the fullback hears this call, he will abort the fake and am at the inside leg of the wing, wrapping himself around for the scrape backer to the backside safety. The quarterback will skip out and execute double option technique on #2 (OLB) (fig.6) We have two people on the backer (Guard and fullback); of which, we expect one to block the backside safety. We can get a hat on EVERYBODY here.

In conclusion, although we haven't used this scheme recently because we don't see a 50 that much, in the past it has been very successful for us. It has given the offense a chance to "veer" a 50 without using a tightend or tackle over. It also adheres to basic 3 back option philosophy of have two people on the inside linebacker.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

More ways to defeat the 8 man front’s free safety in the alley

This is a continuation on the previous post on handling the free safety in the alley. We are adding 2 new methods and a play action pass off each.

(Note: in the first couple of drawings the DT to the play shows an outside shade, 3 technique. The player should be in a 2i or inside technique on the guard.)

Read Cracking the Free Safety

Another way to handle the free safety is to "read crack" him. The read part of the crack comes into play to make sure you don't get double support. (Both the corner and safety support the run on the play.)

When you perform this technique you are in essence leaving the corner one on one with your pitch man. You are making a cover player tackle. (see below) In addition to his tackling of the pitch in this style of defense the corner is usually responsible for the vacated post area. He can do that in two ways. The first is a zone or off technique that allows the him to read the release of the splitend and only man up on routes over 8 yards. The second places the corner in inside man and usually plays him in a bump or tight alignment in order to stop him from cracking.

Fig 1 shows the read crack in action. Since it only involves the wide receiver it is the easiest adjustment to teach and adapt.

Wide receiver's technique: (as I learned it from West Point and Air Force)

  1. Cut split 3 yards (we call that a minimum split)

  2. Push off the line with speed at the outside corner of the wide receiver.

  3. If the corner goes back or is in man (presnap read) as you push down the field eyeball the safety.

  4. If the safety starts to fill you will now crack him

    1. Vs. zone your push should be strong enough that you come back aiming at the upfield shoulder. You need to get this push (about 8 yards to allow the pitchman to turn his shoulders upfield and create a two-way go on the corner.) You should be coming back at a negative angle to the line of scrimmage.

    2. Vs man it will happen quicker. The key is to get the corner to open up and turn his feet. Swat him by with your inside hand to the shoulder nearest the line of scrimmage and come underneath with a swim or rip move. The corner should follow you inside, in essence, taking two defenders with one blocker.

  5. If the corner sits – you must forget the free safety and stalk him as usual

There are a couple of key points here that must be emphasized:

  • You must get a push upfield otherwise the corner reads the crack and is waiting on the line of scrimmage for the pitchman. I have seen people do this from right off the line and have mixed results depending how good the defense was in executing the call. (An example of this is army vs. ND when the corner replaced instantly and no gain was made. Also in Air force vs. Utah, the wide receivers flat path vs. bump was

  • The crack usually starts between 8 and 12 yards in zone or off man and between 4 and 6 yards in bump.

  • Aiming for the upfield shoulder allows the play to "circle the field." The only way for the defender is to slip under you. This precludes a "bad" angle to a footrace to the corner.

Although we "read crack" regularly, there are certain situations that we like it better than others.

If the defense is playing the free on the pitch, then we especially like it against a man concept on the perimeter. The corner should follow you inside (man responsible) which means that you are essentially blocking two people for one. (see fig. 2)

If the defense is playing the free on the quarterback, then we especially like this with a zone and a crack replace concept. Most DB's are taught to replace outside (second contain) on the pitch. In essence this gives the defense two players on one option assignment, allowing for a huge running seam for the quarterback. (see fig.3)

This does not mean they won't work in reverse situations. It just means these are ideal.

Play action pass off the read crack (fig.4)

As with everything else we do, we always go into a "read crack" game with the potential to throw the read crack pass for a touchdown. This is a simple pass to throw.

Read Crack: pass assignment

(Note: there are adjustments when we are in two high defenses. They will be mentioned in the rule but not explored here as the basis for this article is the eight man front with a single high.)

Playside wide receiver: cut split 5 yards so as to emphasize the fact you may crack (we tell the wide receiver to do anything he can to give away the fact he will be cracking the free – look at him, etc.) Release hard 4 steps then crack aiming for the upfield shoulder of the free. Anticipate the crack and break to near goalpost looking over your outside shoulder. (you have from pylon to goalpost to work.)

Playside Halfback. Vs. single high safety: Take a seal path off the handoff key and sprint to the opposite flat at a depth of 4 – 6 yards. (Width is more important than depth)

Vs. two high safeties: Run read wheel. With coverage over the top break it off at 14 back to 12. (We will not cover this in this section.)

Backside wide receiver: Run read takeoff. If even or by corner run takeoff. Coverage over the top, break it off at 16 back to 14.

Quarterback: single high safety. Go to the playside Wide receiver unless the safety stays over the top. If safety over the top, shuffle up and go backside WR (takeoff if corner beaten. If corner back – comeback to flat.)

Remember, you can go to the backside wide receiver because with a single high you are basically getting one-on-one coverage and running a man route.

Note: At times we will have theplayside hb in the protection and the backside halfback continue on his option path. Sometimes the free safety will read the motion and sprint to centerfield when he sees the hb block. This has a better pull on him.

Allowing two players on the quarterback and leverage pitching:

With our "safe" call we handle the free safety by taking one of our front blockers and allowing him to block the safety. (see fig. 5) It is important to note that the only time we do this is when we are getting a steady stream of the OLB / SS playing the quarterback and the free safety playing the pitch. If the reverse is true, you are sending your quarterback into an unblocked linebacker. Additionally, the quarterback must know that you are leverage pitching off the OLB and there is very limited (if not no chance) you to run.

Playside HB:
Start as if to seal the linebacker and take path to cut off free safety. Make sure you take angle to cut him off and keep him over the top.

Play action pass off the "safe" call (fig.6)

As we said above, we like to have a play-action pass off everything we run. Our "safe" call is no different. The pass we would run here is the "Divide" concept. Again, as it is explained we will give you the rule for one and two-high safeties. However, we will only discuss the single-high variant.

Divide: pass assignment

(Note: there are adjustments when we are in two high defenses. They will be mentioned in the rule but not explored here as the basis for this article is the eight man front with a single high.)

Playside wide receiver: read takeoff. If even or by corner run takeoff. Coverage over the top, break it off at 16 back to 14.

Playside Halfback.

Vs. single high safety: release as if sealing the backer. Run at safety. As he flows break deep for near goalpost looking over playside shoulder. You have from goalpost to pylon to work.

Vs. two high safeties: release as if arcing #3. Depth down the field is more important than width. Aim inside shoulder of safety. As safety passes, continue up field getting width but never wider then (high school) hash. Look over inside shoulder

Backside wide receiver: Run read takeoff. If even or by corner run takeoff. Coverage over the top, break it off at 16 back to 14.

Quarterback: single high safety. Read middle safety. If he fills, go to halfback. If the safety gains depth to cover the halfback, shuffle up and go to the playside wide receiver wide receiver.

Vs. two high: Read near deep safety. If he does anything but cover the halfback go to him. (do not lead him to backside safety.) If the near safety covers the halfback, shuffle up and go to the playside wide receiver.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


The all new 3backoptionfootbaal forum has been open! Ask a question, discuss a topic, give a new idea, answer a problem, or get an answer! It's all free. We only ask that you register to post. Again - it's free!
See the link above

Friday, February 4, 2011

WE're Back

We're Back!!!!
After some time off we've decided to start posting again on the blog. We've started up with a mega post (that'll be done in series!) In the next week or two I also hope to update the site as far as easiblity in reading and gadgets and links. I figured as I am looking again there is nothing better for the soul then to talk football. As always since these ideas were shared with me by some gracious coaches the site will always be free. So check back often, post your comments and enjoy.
Pass it on to a friend too!!


If you are a triple option coach for any period of time you’ve come across the eight man front with the free safety running the alley. He can either be a pitch player (fig 1) or a QB player (fig. 2) with the strong safety playing opposite his fill.

In order for this defense to be successful a couple of specifics must happen:

  1. The defensive end must squeeze hard enough to keep the tackle to the a-gap defensive linemen from getting a clean release to the lber and then up to the running safety. This necessitates a tighter alignment / shade of the 5 technique
  2. The inside linebacker must successfully read the veer scheme so that he can scrape tight and hard and absorb the halfbacks block from the inside –out. He must also widen this block to either help the Strong Safety bide time (Free safety on pitch) or not make the alley too big to cover the quarterback (Free safety on quarterback)
  3. The Strong Safety (outside linebacker) must bide time for the Free safety. If the Strong has the quarterback, he must sit and play the quarterback from a squat / feather position. This allows the free to get to the pitch and allows the Strong to turn and run and become the overlap player on the pitch.
    If the Strong has the pitch, he cannot just run to the pitch. He has to play the pitch from the line of scrimmage so as not to open up so wide of a lane that the quarterback can run away from or gain a two-way cut on the free safety
  4. There must be a way to handle the slot vertically. Either the free safety must read through #2 on his way to his option assignment or what Utah does is cushion the backside strong safety (OLB) and then run him through the middle on playaction pass. (fig 3)

  5. The corners must have inside leverage to take away the post. (Free safety vacating the middle) and can either play zone or man concepts. Regardless of their technique this basically will become man on any deep patterns.
    Attacking this defense means taking advantage of what the defense does. It does not mean forcing a bad situation. Consider it like Judo and use the power of the defense against itself.
    In the next couple of articles I will define a number of concepts for an option team to use against this defense. Hopefully one sticks in your mind and helps you with your game planning. There is no definitive answer. A lot depends on personnel (yours and theirs), the entire defensive structure, and your packages available. Over the years, I have used or practiced most of these. A couple where mentioned are ideas I’ve accumulated from other sources but have not actual run.

    Concept #1
    Based on personnel run your regular offense including the triple.

I know this sounds like a copout but it really isn’t. Too many times offensive coaches see this defense and immediately say “I’m outnumbered. My triple is dead.” There are a lot of factors that indicate your offense may be alive.

  • The athletic ability and speed of the safety. If you watch an old film of Air Force vs. a Brian Urlacher lead defense from the 90’s, you will see that he made every tackle waiting on the line of scrimmage for the pitch man. You need adjustments now. If you watch William Paterson University vs. Springfield College in 1996, you get a whole different perspective. As the offensive coordinator at WPU, I watched as Springfield shredded our defense without making a single adjustment. Our starting free safety was out and the replacement simply could not get there. He ended up chasing from behind every time. So be aware of personnel.
    (What helps this is the act that the use of motion allows a flexbone team to get a “running start and pitch flat down the line rather than a backward pitch common with the old bold teams. (see below) Additionally, the use of leverage pitching combined with the flat pitch angle allows the QB to pitch off an outside linebacker who is slow playing the pitch while bidding time for the free safety to run the alley in order to play the quarterback. The same is true if you reverse responsibilities of the defenders. An earlier leverage pitch off the outside linebacker gives the pitch man a greater chance to outrun the free safety running the alley to the pitch. These techniques were thought previously unsound in the old option days where the pitch was made backwards and only after a firm commitment by the key allowing the slow play defender to run it down.)
    NOTE: In analyzing personnel, this advantage is not diagnosed prior to the game on paper but during it in seeing if the safety can get there. (If you went on a pregame analysis Navy would never even try to run a play!!!!)

  • The threat of your fullback and the ability of your offense to get the balls in his hands despite this scheme. If the fullback (and the quarterback for that matter) remains a threat to crease the line of scrimmage then the free safety must be slower in his path to the pitch or face the threat of every 5 yard gain becoming a home run with no back line defender available to save the touchdown. (Bowl game Navy vs. Utah a couple of years back. Utah plays this defense flawlessly except for the 3 or 4 times the fullback creases the front all resulting in TDS or very long runs setting up scores. Navy wins.) Simple put – you must slow down the free and give yourself an advantage in the footrace to the corner. In a latter part of this article we will discuss ways to keep the fullback alive.)
  • Your ability to “flat pitch” down the line rather than back into the backfield. One of the advantages of running the flexbone over the traditional bone offenses is the ability of the pitch man running (motioning) prior to the snap. This not only makes a 4.8 seem like a 4.6 in the footrace with the safety but also allows you to pitch flat down the line of scrimmage rather than backward which restricts the ability of the pursuit to catch up to the pitch.

    An offshoot of this reason that is seldom talked about is the ability of the back to square his shoulders to the line of scrimmage when catching the pitch. This allows the back a “full field” cuts rather than restrict him to a one way go. (fig.4 and fig. 5) Anybody’s who taught on the defensive side of the ball realizes the hardest tackle to make in football is the head on, one-on-one tackle with the back square to the line. When running the safety in the alley it is far easier for him to keep his inside-out leverage on a pitch man who is already turned to the sideline. You must strive to catch the pitch going north and south.

Your ability to “tempo” the free safety in relation to the ball. How many options do you run? I ask this because most options contain the same aspects (2 way – QB and Pitch or 3 way – with a dive, quarterback, and pitch.) Well from a free safety’s aspect all of those options represent a different angle of approach and speed to the perimeter. Additionally the entry points of the backs are all different causing the threat of the creased front going the distance. (see above) Add in the rocket which is a whole different angle and speed and the threat of play action pass and you force the free safety, already placed on a one on one tackling predicament to think about a whole lot more. An example of this is the midline tuck play run with normal pitch motion or Rocket Motion (fig. 6)

  • How complex is the defense scheme. Some teams play quarterback and pitch responsibilities regardless of the option while others try to read and adjust to everything. The former is easy to scheme for with many of the specific adjustments or tags we will talk about throughout this article. The latter makes running your entire offense and forcing the defense to execute vs. all reads the way to go. (all with a couple of “screw ‘em” reads thrown in for fun.) Remember that since the back end of the defense has been jeopardized playing this way you have a lot of chances for a big play.
  • Patience. This is a defense that when played right will have a player for dive, quarterback, and pitch. It will be very tough to “grind against this defense and you will have a lot of zero to 2 yard plays. However, you will also have the chance for big plays.

    COMING UP IN THE NEXT PARTS OF THE SERIES: Formationing a blocker on the free safety, read cracking and play action passing the free safety, catching the free with leaning or slowing him down with formations, letting 2 people play one option to block and play action the free, running double options to account for the free safety and play action off them, keeping the triple concept with 2 options to gain a blocker, getting the defense to play 2 people on one option and allowing another option to uncovered, and keeping the fullback in the game.