Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Packaging / reverse checking / and teaching conceptually

So people who have heard me at clinics, read, my articles, or had me in for a private session understand I'm always talking about packages and concepts rather then plays. I thought I'd get a little into it here as my people have emailed me for a clarification.
(This will be more of an overview as time and space does not allow for detailed information. Hopefully, it will give someone regardless of his or her style of offense an idea or two.)

Teaching Conceptually

I have always believed in teaching conceptually. In giving the team / player an overview of what your trying to accomplish and how you're trying to accomplish it with each play or package. By doing this you expand your capabilities to expand the packages and allow the player / team the ability to work through unique grey areas that appear on the field.

(An example of this is a stack Lber behind the hand of key in the triple. Is he inside or outside? If you teach rote and are a pure recognition team then you have to treat him as one way only. By his alignment or movement that can hurt you. Additionally, if the tackle recognizes him differently then the quarterback is taught by rote there is a scheme problem. However, if you teach conceptually (we are reading one and optioning #2 and the quarterback will distribute the perimeter blockers accordingly, you are right regardless of where the tackle calls him. Plus you can make an easy adjustment by just telling the tackle or the quarterback to treat him as outside or inside, since the quarterback will apply the concept and distribute blockers according to the concept.)

In our triple system we teach a number of triple concepts within our offense. they may look and be taught as the following

42 - 48 read #1 Option #2; veer whenever possible; block all 4i's and become double option ("jersey" call)

41 - 49 read #1 Option #2; loop whenever possible; Never block a 4i (read your way out)

44 - 46 (loaded scheme) read #1 Option Support (#3 in Ace or 50; #2 in reduced) Veer whenever possible. Block a 4i (double option) except a 50

43 - 47 (load Scheme) read #1 / option Support (#3 in Ace or 50; #2 in reduced) Veer whenever possible. Block all 4i's and move option out Read #2 Option #3 (turns into outside veer on the run)

When a quarterback has these tools and he has already learned option theory (taught in the off season) he can easily come up with the right call in the package.


"Packaging" is simply taking these concepts, coming up with the proper scheme and giving them tags. It is the grouping together of similar or dissimilar blocking schemes to make a concept mechanically sound. It gives us a chance to never be in the wrong play and never be outnumbered on the option.
(Nothing ticks me off more then a play called that has no chance or one that relies on pure athletic ability. That, in my mind, is not coaching. It's not giving the players every chance at success.)

In the all our concepts, our quarterback is trained to recognize FLANKS as a 50, ACE (4-3), reduced front, and a six man side. (For option plays we do not recognize complete or internal parts of the fronts. Our line rules will take care of this.) All our checks are based the same perimeter recognition so once it's learned - that's it. No more.

For each of the concepts above, the quarterback will have a "tag" for each flank (6 man side is to check opposite) One might read as follows:

50 RED; ACE WHITE, REDUCED BLUE (all the terms are just made up for this example)

The tag places the team into the proper scheme.

Some people have said that this is difficult to teach. On the contrary. The recognition is universal so once it's taught - it's taught. The tags are rote. The quarterback must learn them as a times table but that's not hard. First a cheerleader could memorize these tags. Secondly, rote has been proven to be effort. If, your quarterback won't give you the effort - he shouldn't be the quarterback in this offense (really - you're going to out the ball in the hands of a player who won't memorize - think about it!)
Thirdly, our tags are grouped by structure (i.e. all fruit might be used vs. reduced fronts, etc.) Fourth, there is redundancy in the tags throughout our system. Also, since he has already been versed in option theories (i.e. numbers / sealing the box, etc.) he can figure out which tag goes with which defense.

External Tags

"External Tags" are tags added to adapt / add to the offense for a particular play. It allows us to expand our offense greatly without overburdening the team with great learning. Their emphasis and the emphasis of practice is and aways will remain on the base part of the offense.

An example of "external tagging" is our double options. Although we run double options to keep the ball in the hands of who we want, we do not overburden the offense with them. A double option we like against a reduced front is our "Vegas" call where we pitch off the 5 tech. It might be the only double we practice that week against a 4-2-5 team. So we'll tag it onto a triple. It might be called as "42 ck Vegas"

Since the quarterback knows that "Vegas" can only be used vs. a reduced front it would take the place of a  "Blue" call in the above example of "red, white, and blue." If the defense surprises us, we by calls in the package, revert back to our base - something we have run since day one and have great confidence in.

By doing it this way, we can expand and contract our offense easily to handle potential problems. All "external tags" are taught to the team by rote. This can happen because we only run them vs. one defense.

Reverse Checking

Reverse checking is a method of helping the quarterback out and taking away the redundancy of repeating tags over and over again.

In reverse checking, the play is called in the huddle with the anticipated tag for the predicted defense. In the above example of "Red, White, and Blue," if we were playing a base 4-2-5 team then our huddle call would be "42 Blue" rather then just 42. The quarterback would then only use the other tags if the defense wasn't reduced. Otherwise the quarterback will give a non-sense check (something that doesn't mean anything) to tell the team to stay in the original call.

This method also clears up some grey areas. In the case we started with, if "blue" is called in the huddle, the quarterback knows that we want to consider that stacked linebacker inside unless he is clearly outside.

Practicing Reverse Checking

If you are going to reverse check, then you must make sure that the quarterback knows all the tags (and the team also) So, the first two weeks of practice he will call all the tags at the line of scrimmage. We will simply call 42 in the huddle and he must put us in the right play every time. This will go right through our scrimmages.

We will then start weening the QB off the no help system by every one out of three plays we will help and reverse tag (care must be given to make sure all of the tags are still practiced)

During the year, on Monday and Tuesday, he will call all the tags in our half line. (we cover every flank look in this) On Wednesday and Thursday we reverse tag. Care must be given in your scripts to make sure the quarterback has to check out. If you don't do that. He will get lazy AND the team will get lazy in their listening.


I hoped this helped you. I really believe any system can use and benefit from checking and using tags regardless of your offensive style. As I stated before, there is no reason for your team to be in a bad play or scheme.

Hope you got something from it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Rants from an idle coach #3

Redundancy in play call- the good and the bad

Something to just get you thinking a little! Hopefully it does.
Just reading an article in another site about playcalling and the ability to run the triple time and time again,whereas other plays in the offense do not have that ability. I agree with the post but I think there is more of a reason then just what was written. There are certain plays that can be run time and time again but there one catch which we will get into in this article ans there are plays that cannot be run repetitiously because of certain demands. Which plays fit into what categories? We'll try to give you and easy method for figuring that out and also how each category should fit into the design of your offense regardless of what you run.

First of all, we divide all our plays into "rhythm" plays and "intrusion" plays. The "rhythm" platys are hose we talked about that you can run over and over again, such as the triple option that we talked about above. As a play caller you and your offense can get into a rhythm calling the play over and over again and only disruption or lack of execution stops it. An "intrusion" play is one that is designed to take advantage of a particular reaction or alignment to stop your rhythm plays.

(It is important to note that here we are talking about playing against sound teams that are equal or slightly better then you. For teams that align unsoundly or you have a great talent advantage - any play can become a rhythm play if it exploits those aspects.)

Rhythm plays

There are reasons that these plays are able to be redundant in a playcalling sequence.

  1. They do not depend on defensive alignment. therefore they can be run against any "numbers equal defense"
  2. They have a way in your offense of getting away from numbers disadvantages. For example, in our triple scheme, we will check opposite if the numbers are greater then we can run against. No play can be run if there are extra defenders. Great talent can be run against extra defenders but then it is not the play that was successful, it was the athlete who beat the extra defender by skill alone. (I have never had one of those so they are foreign to me.)
  3. They read the defense at the point of attack, therefore they do not rely on a particular defensive reaction. (As an example I'll use the rocket - it is an "intrusive play because if the 5 tech is wide and runs up the field and out. He will destroy the play as it develops. As oppose to the triple where that becomes a give.)
  4. Rhythm plays must attack across a broad front. That means they must make the defense play either assignment football or be gap sound. (A play that has limited entry points can be greatly outnumbered by defensive reaction after the snap.) This is not to say that you have to attack the whole field on a play but you have to have multiple entry points threatened.
Let's take a look at a "rhythm" play I consider so but many people do not - the traditional power. (trust me from playing defense I've seen it run over and over again.) First, it can be run against any defense. Only numbers will stop you from running it and with a sound system the quarterback can check "opposite" easily. As the play has developed, the running back is able to read the defense. He can hit it in the off-tackle hole, read the wrong arm and bounce it, and, with the way the double teams are run now and the tighter entry point, he can cut it back to the A or B gaps. Based on that it is a rhythm play.

The inside and outside zone and zone read schemes are examples of this also.

"Intrusion" plays

There are reasons these plays cannot be run over and over again. (we call them intrusion plays because they intrude on the defensive flow or alignment.)

  1. Some are designed for an exact defensive alignment and cannot be run vs. everything. (Back when the 46 became big I know teams that had a complete package that was only checked to when the 46 - a unique alignment - appeared.
  2. They are based on a particular defense reaction and counter that. The majority of time these plays are "counters" or "reaction" type plays based off the defensive reaction to the "rhythm" plays. The problem with running these plays on sequential downs is the rhythm of the defensive reaction is broken on the first play. (A good example of that was Georgia Tech vs. Georgia. After running the triple Tech countered with the counter dive and had success. However, they repeated this play a number of times with no luck. The reason - the last reaction of the defense was to the counter - a play that needed the defense to be reacting to the triple away.
  3. They can be outnumbered after the snap without change of defensive alignment. Take the midline tuck play. Defenses have learned to fold players inside to outnumber the play. (Yes you can formation and that is exactly what we do. However, then it becomes formation restrictive.) The same is true of the Quarterback follow play - if you don't believe this just look at the Georgia Tech - Virginia Tech game. Short yardage became an exercise in frustration as numerous follows were outnumbered by a normal 4-3 alignment and a "universal" option stunt. (Of course I have an unfair advantage due to the fact that I'm critiquing after the fact. So any comment here should be no reflection on any playcalling. I'm sure there were reasons for this)
  4. It has limited entry points. Take a look at the zone dive. With the fullback getting the handoff right behind the line of scrimmage - he is limited to a one gap cut. (A-B or even if it's behind the nose - for anybody who's run this knows that with the nose working down the line it is a one gap cut!)
What does this mean in playcalling:
  • First you must call you intrusive plays with care and in conjunction to the rhythm of the offense. you cannot make intrusive plays the basis of your playcalling. (except of course against a poorly coached unsound team or teams you totally dominate athletically.)
  • Don't be scared to repeat your "rhythm" plays. Too often we out coach ourselves. Unconfidence shows in thoughts of "I have to counter them here" or "My run pass ratio isn't good." Make the defense stop the base of the offense. If they can't - don't get "fancy play syndrome."
  • Limit your "intrusion" type plays in your gameplan. You probably won't get to use them. Too often we worry about what we'll get - when in realty we get what we saw on film. (I've been guilty of this.) To quote a famous general "Don't defend ghost!" This worry will only take away from practice time of your rhythm plays and their execution. It will also overload the players with stuff you will never use. If they do come up with a "bastard" or surprise look go back to your base rhythm plays - they should by definition not be defensive restrictive and you've been running it for multiple weeks against a team that has only practiced a junk defense for one week.
  • Don't be afraid to have a personality in your offense due to your rhythm plays. It may not be popular but the object is to win the game note get votes. I once had a reporter accuse me of being limited offensively because all I knew was one play - the triple. We were 5-0 at the time. Along the same point - it's interesting that in an age of spreads Alabama and LSU are power teams that hang their hats on the power O. I don't think Miles and Saban are interested in being called innovative.
What does this mean in practice organization:

  • The majority of your practice should be on your rhythm plays. At least 60% of that aspect (run or pass) Maybe more.
  • The "rhythm part of the offense must be universal and practiced as such. This allows you to run this aspect vs. everything. For example - we have limited the defensive looks to 4 to the tightend and 4 to the non-tightend for the triple. Every week we have a 40 min 1/2 line segment where we practice all 4 of our triples vs. all these looks. Even if we are not facing a 4-3 we will run it. By doing this - we pray that the defense changes for us! Our advantage. I believe that this is why offenses can't get in rhythm anymore. Like people say they've caught up with the power. Yet teams run it. (Ask LSU / Alabama / Stanford) It's the way your practice it. When those teams run it, they don't care what you're in except for numbers. They have practiced and taught it to handle all situations.)
  • I truly believe that rhythm plays - since that involve reaction to defensive movements must be practiced live at some place in the week.
What does this mean in designing an offense:

  • The base of your offense should be rhythm plays - 3-5 at most. (for us it's our 4 triple packages) Any more is unpracticable. Any less is limiting your offense greatly.
  • An offense based on Intrusion or unrelated plays is a smorgasbord and at the mercy of defensive alignment and reaction.
  • Your rhythm plays must have a system built in to check yourself out of number disadvantages. The only thing that can stop rhythm plays is breakdowns or number disadvantages. (interestingly, one of the best defensive coordinators in the ACC told me in confidence - you don't stop the triple - you slow it down and hope it gets off rhythm or the offense makes a mistake. Many times he said getting off rhythm was a result of the offensive running a complimentary play that was easier to stop!)
  • "Intrusive" plays must be simple in design and easy to install (see article on Payout vs. cost) In addition they must come off or be answers for your "rhythm" part of your offense.
The key is that "rhythm" plays and repetition is not limited to the triple teams. It's also with spread teams, power teams, zone teams and even passing teams. (I heard BYU under Lavell Edwards say they had 3 "universal passing concepts and they would run those over and over against any defense. And interesting many more gun plays fit the rhythm section due to the depth of the backs.)

I hope this just makes you think a little about your offense this offseason. It's completely theoretical but I think it has it's place in offensive design