Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sorry for the lapse

Hang in there. Tore achilles, then had family situation. Surgery tomorrow so hopefully it'll be only a few days

Monday, November 23, 2015

Eleven Reasons for Double Options

When I do my consulting I often get the question "Why do you run double options when you can read your way out of all defenses?" So I'll address that here. For the sake of this article we will only include straight double options and not include counter options or fullback pitch speed options.

  1. To get to the perimeter when the defense is dictating you will not. If you read out you are at the mercy of the  defense as to who gets the ball. You are also at the mercy of the defense as to where it is run. If the defense (in this case a reduced front designates a give read every time, it's not a bad play. However, if they can control you inside and, if their defense knows where the ball is going (We're assuming they are well prepared.) This is not a bad play but we need to make the defense defend the full width of the field. In fig 1 below, the ball is getting to the perimeter despite the defense's attempt to keep it inside.This is especially important when you have a speed or blocking leverage advantage at the perimeter and are running to the wide wide side of the field.
  2. To get the ball in a great halfbacks hand. Although theory is the basis of this offense, there are times you just have to get your best players the ball. In the above example, the defense can keep the ball away from a good halfback. In fig. 1 though, the ball is now in that halfback's hand. (we are not counting the rocket here as that is a totally different concept.)
  3. To get the ball in a great quarterbacks hands. Same theory as above, but different runner. Take a 5-2. If it constantly gets the ball out of the quarterback's hands with the outside linebacker, your great runner may spend much of the game watching his pitchman get tracked down. The answer comes in a double option. (see fig.2 run from flex) This is commonly run by Navy to keep the ball in Reynold's hands. A smart move.
  4. To add a blocker when the defense has absorbed all the blockers and outnumbers the offense after the snap. Take a look at fig. 3, where, if the offense was running triple. The end (#1) would take the dive, the scrape linebacker would absorb the halfbacks block, the strong safety would play the pitch and the free safety, reading the halfback's block would be free to play the quarterback. However, by running the double option, shown in fig. 3,you have added an extra blocker (the fullback) and now can account for everybody.
  5. To add and extra blocker to seal the box vs a six man side. This allows you to run into frontal over shifts that, in turn ,lets you dictate the flank. This is important, as a simple triple defensive strategy is to give you a six-man side pre snap and then run to balance up with motion. (Even more prevalent in high school where teams use a six-man side to field and force pure triple teams to the short boundary.) In fig. 4, a six -man side, if you ran the triple, you need to arc the HB to account for numbers on the perimeter. This would allow for the defense to squeeze the DE on the fullback and scrape the linebacker on the quarterback, essentially outnumbering the offense. (You must veer due to the overshifted nose.)Since the double option adds one blocker (the fullback) you can now account for everybody and run to the flank you want to.
  6. To handle the echo stunt when your quarterback can't. I've run this offense for a long time and I can safely say, as much as you practice the "echo" stunt, there will be quarterbacks, days, quarters, seasons, that you have trouble with it. (If you don't believe this break down Georgia Tech's offensive production this year.) Give your quarterback a hand in those situations and block his way out. Fig.5 gives you one simple way to accomplish this. Not only will it save a game but it gives the quarterback confidence knowing he doesn't have to be perfect with the reads as you have the answers he doesn't.
  7. To handle the back-to-back stunt when your quarterback can't. I once had a quarterback that, whether due to poor judgment, slow hands, narrow vision, or my poor coaching, would have trouble at times with the back to back read. Running double (fig.6) takes one read away from him. In essence, you as a coach has read his way out for him
  8. To change option responsibilities. You've heard me preach many times on this site to make defenses change their option responsibilities, tempo of pace to the perimeter, and entry point for the free safety inserting. Double options do that. Never let the defense get into a rhythm: Dive...QB..Pitch. It always them to play as fast as you.
  9. To set up a particular play action pass. Many times the triple doesn't set up the play-action pass we want but the double option can. As an example, the reduced front doesn't usually have a problem with the wheel because the halfback is sealing on the triple, if he arcs the Strong safety will run with him or the Free Safety / corner will combo the post / wheel. However, if you run the double option in fig. 1, you now stress the strong safety with the wheel. To take matters further, if you take a the double option in fig.3 and "switch the receiver, fullback, and halfback assignments you now have a situation where the wheel is running by the strong safety on the run play. When we throw it, there is usually nobody to cover it. (fig. 7)
  10. Force the defense to defend and practice against multiple looks.  I once played against a team that only ran midline tuck to a three technique and the triple to the A-gap player. Needless to say we got very good at defending the triple to the A-gap and the midline tuck to the three. By running multiple options you force the defense to defend multiple looks. That alone takes time away from the triple / midline preparation. They can't defend it as well if they can't pigeon hole you.
  11. Allows you to run out the clock without making reads. Double options are a much safer way to run out the clock late in the game. Loaded options become, basically, quarterback sweeps. One person handles the ball. (Check out Navy videos this year. You get a big dose of zone dive, double option at game's end.)

This are eleven solid reasons to run the double option in your offense. Don't get me wrong, we are a triple option team. Sometimes though I think that is misunderstood. Because your offense comes off the triple, it means exactly that - it COMES OFF the triple. The specific examples do that matter as long as they answer the need. There are many double options that fit all these situations.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Enjoy

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Scores per possession the most important stat when you control the clock

As I watched Navy totally dominate Memphis last weekend I was brought back to an "Old" clinic I went to years ago where a coach outlined a plan for winning, irregardless of style. It was definitely a win for old school football.

Many announcers and coaches disparage the stat of time of possession with all the fast tech football that runs 100 plays per game. However, if you combine it with points per possession it becomes

In the Clinic, a long time ago, the college coach elaborated on the seven most important aspects of winning a game. We've all heard these before but Navy brought them to a new level. Navy did them all. In addition, many are considered "old school" and not necessary for victory.

1. No foolish penalties -Navy had none that would fit into this category. In a world today that emphasizes athlete over team, Navy emphasizes discipline over freedom. Although there is a lot of decision making in the offense, the flexbone system requires that every one is disciplined and stay with the system. It also requires that you stay on rhythm, down and distance wise. You can win with inferior personnel on offense is you stay on rhythm. The lack of penalties allow this to happen. Except for one pitch, the pass, and the "Fullback on the "down" play. you cannot consider Navy's offense explosive. However, how many third's and short did we see.

2. Win the turnover battle - Yes, we hear that often today. However, the meaning of that has changed over the year. In today's world, turnovers are tolerable as long as you have less then the other team and have more explosive plays. (I actually heard a major college coach say "turnovers in today's high octane offenses are inevitable. You have to learn to, not accept them but tolerate them." Hogwash! When this statement was originally made NO turnovers were the only thing acceptable. When you have zero turnovers you always win (or at worst tie) the turnover battle. It was obvious Navy was the most secure with the ball leading to two costly Memphis turnovers in the second half.

3. Don't give up more then 5 plays over 20 yards - While I think this stat has slightly changed do to the new "open" style of play and use of great athletes on the field (the acceptable number may be slightly higher today), I truly believe it is very important. What's more telling is how Navy did this. ALL ZONE DEFENSE and keeping the ball in front. Sure there were numerous catches underneath - tons of them, but they were limited gains by the fact zone defense allows you to have eyes on and break to the ball. Many defensive "guru's" today say you can't play zone consistently versus today's offense. However, this is the way I learned to play and coach. It doesn't count till it's in the end zone!!! Again you can play with lesser athletes if you keep the ball in front and inside and then have great pursuit and great tackling. (by the way I thought Navy's tackling was as good as I've seen this year.

4. Be able to run the football - The stats speak for this but the way they did it is even more of the reason they won. Their efficiency! It just wore down the defense; physically AND mentally. People today can't run the ball with any hardness. Because of that they have a hard time installing any hardness in their defense and have a hard time stopping the run. Like Bobby Sutton once said to me when he was at Army "These defensive tackles today are use to pass rushing for 30-40 snaps. They are not use to people coming out and pounding it in the face for 70 to 90 snaps. It just gets to them mentally and physically."

I once visited a college getting prepared for the flexbone. As they were coming off the field I heard their star defensive end say "Man, I didn't sign up for this! I just want to rush the passer." You think he was mentally into it.

5. Limit the opponents rushing game - I really don't remember Memphis being consistently able to run the ball. Why? My take had to do with the zone defense Navy played behind. They were able to play 5 1/2 men in the box with a fudge player. (He'd have to leave the box in man free.) That allows you to have 6 man run gap fits. That's how you stop the inside run. The addition of the run support brought by zone limited the the outside run and took away many of today's run pass conflicts.

6. Play great goalline offense and defense - Every time Navy got to the red zone they got TDS. While Memphis moved the ball, they had to settle for some field goals or got stopped

7. Control time of possession - That was obvious but what did that accomplish. Less possessions. In the first quarter there were only three possessions! There were only 6 real ones in the first half. (3 each) Think about that. Even if you never score and the opponents score at a 66% rate (above today's average.) you are only down 14-0 at half! Two scores and that's with you NOT SCORING AT ALL! Plus, in the second half,once Memphis fumbles and goes down two scores, they are thinking they have to be perfect. That they'll only have two more possessions. (In today's football yards don't mean anything but efficiency per possession in regard to scoring is the highest stat. Whether it be the Navy - Memphis game with limited possessions or the Oklahoma State - TCU game that TCU amassed 660 yards but scored at a 1.7 pts per possession. And what better way to limit this possessions if you are inferior then to control time of possession.

Therefore, and the point of this article is time of possession as a solo stat is useless. Unless you combine it with a high percentage of scores per possession as Navy did, you are limiting your chances to score also.

8. Win the kicking game. This one is highly subjective as there are so many factors to put into one category. So, I'm gonna call this a

(The final topping on the cake was when Keenan Reynolds checked out of a play that would have given him an all-time record at the end to let another player score. I grew up the BO idea of "the team...the team...and the team!" That has kind of been lost today with all the individual stats, Sabermetrics, and self indulgences. Nice to see it again. Refreshing!)

Take a look at the biggest game of the same week: Alabama vs LSU. The key to that Alabama win
1 Alabama won the turnover battle. Alabama had one (and I'm sure that Saban was upset about that )
2 Alabama had 0 foolish penalties
3 I believe Alabama had no runs or passes against them over 20 yards. (Might have been 1 late) Saban is famous for his match up ZONE coverages
4 Alabama ran the ball
5 Alabama stopped the run. (As good of gap soundness as I've seen in recent years.
6 Alabama controlled the clock - which limited the times Leonard Fourquette had to break a big one. Trust me, if you've seen him run, if he had more touches he would have eventually broke one. He's that good. (Not only did Alabama control the clock but they were highly efferent in their points per drive. LSU was not.)
7. They also won the kicking game here.

So what does this give us. Even in today's high tech, no huddle, fast then faster offenses that throw the ball 40 times and run 100+ plays, you still must run the ball to win. Additionally, controlling the clock is still a valuable stat if, and only if, YOU are highly efficient in points per possession. If you run off 3/4 of the clock and are one for 6 in possessions and scoring, they only have to be 2 out of 6. Remember, when you limit possessions in a game, you are also limiting your possessions and each possession is more valuable to you. If you score 3 tds in 4 possessions, that's 75% A team must be pretty efficient to beat you. But you only have 4 possessions to score those three times. One less limits you to 50%.

Never rely on you getting more possessions then them. Even in an ideal world (omitting onsides) you can only have two more possessions then them and that rarely happens.

I've heard coaches say they ran off 3/4 of the clock and lost 21-3. There are no moral victories. Everything fits together. The more you control the clock, the more your goal line efficiency is important, the more your penalties hurt (off rhythm), the more fumbles hurt, and the more giving up big plays are killers. (If you run off 8 minutes and scored and then they take two plays to score, you have defeated the goal. They have accelerated the number of positions.). Since each possession becomes more valuable, each lost possession becomes more critical.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Getting the running quarterback to the edge. Part 2 flex split ends

In this article we will continue with our "Loaded options" in order to keep the quarterback in play. Today we will run them from our flexed end position. It is important to note that we use two distinct flex end positions. Our first "flex" places the end at 3-5 yards. He will go to 3 is there is a man on the line between himself and the tackle. and expand that area to five or even six if there is nobody on the line of scrimmage. The second or "nasty" position places the wide receiver at 3' to 5' from the tackle. (almost in a tightened position.) We can have both sides flexed or nasty or just one side. We can go ends over and have our inside receiver flexed or nasty or even have both ends flexed or nasty. (we like the rocket from the latter.)

We use this formation for a number of reasons:

  1. To create leverage on an inside defender
  2. To block an interior defender with a bigger player
  3. To change secondary structure. Seven man fronts will usually change from sky support to cloud support. In addition to changing option responsibilities, this usually puts a non-tackler (corner) in a tackling situation.
  4. To slow backside rotation by the free safety in a seven man front. In corner support there is due to alignment slower and deeper rotation then if the Free was in quarters (basically man)
  5. To bring the support player closer to the arc or, if he is getting optioned,closer to the quarterback. This does two things. First it allows the arc to leverage the pitch defender quicker as well as blocking a defender not use to this. It also allows the pitch man to quickly circle (outflank) the whole defense.
  6. It forces an eight man front to explained the force players or be outflanked quickly. This opens up the midline tuck play without the threat of a fold player outnumbering us.
  7. In cloud support, due to the two quick receivers, the safety must stay inside longer to handle the vertical threat. This allows us to run base schemes and block him easily with the wide receiver.
  8. The support player in a seven man fort is quickly put in the run / pass conflict of the wheel due to his positioning. This requires a much quicker reaction then if they are in quarters in a normal set.
  9. It forces the defense more preparation time with different problems and schemes, all while we run our base offense.
This are just some of the ways we will use the flex and nasty formations in our offense.

Now for the double options.

The first thing we will run from the flex is the normal double options (explained in part one.) With the ability to get the SE quickly on the safety, we will make their corner quickly decide to take the pitch or the QB. taking either can be deadly. (fig. 1)

Using the Wide receiver as a leverage blocker 

Wide receiver on #2

We will use the wide receiver as a leverage blocker on #2 with our chip and zone scheme (Vs 7 man fronts.) We can do this from either flex or nasty.

Wide receiver on #2 with chip scheme vs. 4-3
(fig #2)

In this scheme the wide receiver will block the stack #2. Nothing changes. The fullback must eyeball the echo stunt between the stack as he continues around and blocks the free. (If they echoed the Wr would block the mike and the HB would go to the BS safety. (He usually would not get off the chip.) We would let non-support go as there is a lot of area for the quarterback to get vertical in.

If they walked up the echo, as before we would get a gap call with the HB and Tackle would handle the stunt, the wr would go to the Mike and the Fullback to the free. (fig.4)

Finally, if #2 ups the wide receiver will crack him in flex (Fig 5) and will base him in nasty. Step near foot just get movement, quarterback will cut off him. ( Fig 6)

Note: if the OLB #2 goes on a flex end (we've seen this) he will base him as if in nasty.

Wide receiver crack with zone scheme vs. 5-2
(fig #7)

Vs. a seven man front (5-2) we will crack the lob (#2) if in flex / arc the HB around for near deep safety and let the FB wrap, reading the crack and sealing backer to safety. We run our power zone just as the first article.(remember due to FB threat DE's in a 5-2 will usually play inside conscience making them vulnerable to the scoop)

(Note: an important aspect to remember is the quarterback must work from depth off the line.  That lets him clear any penetration. We reverse (roll into our loaded options) but you can skip out in order to keep the footwork consistent with your other double options.)

Vs a reduced front (No change)
(Fig. 8)

If we get a reduction front we will have no change to our chip scheme and the WR will go back to stalking.

Using the Wide receiver as a first level blocker vs the 4-3
(Fig 9)

We haven't used this much as we haven't used our nasty formation much but there is a place for it.
The wr. receiver will now switch assignments with our nasty end and block #2. If #2 ups, he will attempt to hook him with the fullback reading his block and blocking the MLB. (He still has the echo with the HB getting the Mike.) The negative of this scheme is the inability to get the near deep safety. you are giving that up to secure an 8 yard play consistantly. (This is Navy's preferred way.)

Play action pass off the double option
(Fig 10)

With the corner tight and the deep safety also tight based upon the constricted formation we like to get on the safety quickly with two quick receivers. At 8-10 yards the wr receiver will break at an angle for 18-20 on the sideline. The Hb will continue and bend slightly looking over his outside shoulder. (aim hash to wide side / 8 yards inside corner of end zone to boundary. We throw opposite the safety. Note: If Backside safety is jumping this we will go Backside with post corner choice route by wide receiver.)

The other play-action we like off our double options is our crossing routes. (Fig 11) The backside wide receiver runs a hash route. (Near Goalpost if in middle) The playside end climbs as he crosses to 14-16 yards (must get past opposite tackle.) The play side HB crosses climbing to 6 yards by sideline. The QB will glance deep then go to the deep crosser unless the corner drops here. 

Hope you enjoyed and got something out of these two articles.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The five most important elements to picking a job you can turn around

Gonna change pace from the X's and O's a little bit. I'll be back with part II of the loaded double options from the flex next week. Since the open job season is coming up, I thought I'd look back at my multiple jobs and pick out the five most important questions / characteristics to look for in taking a losing program with a chance to win.

Understand, I've taken over 11 programs in between moving and going back and forth to college. I have been able to get 7 of the programs deep into the playoffs. Most were never there before and all were very unique. The ones that I didn't win at had some common threads. Even some of the ones that I was successful in had some of these traits and made my work seem as if I was pushing a car uphill. (Understand I am old enough, mature enough, and intelligent enough to realize part of the problem in these settings was me. Time off allows you to analyze and take long looks at yourself.)

As I've gotten older I've learned to listen better and interview the interviewers better. There have been many times I've taken jobs that didm't answer these questions right (see #6) but looking back I wish I had listened to the message. Don't get lost in being interviewed - remember you are making a decision also. Get the info you want.

1. Is your vision and their vision the same. This is not as simple as saying "we want to win." This entails everything from "what is winning?" to structure and demands of the program to what is expected from the coach and the program on and off the field. Questions such as "Define winning?"  and where would you like to see the program in three / six years?" will not only help you understand what they are looking for but give you an idea if they have any clue as to what they want. (Many don't! They just interview in generalities as to what feels good today. These get you in trouble as the "Flavor of the day" changes often.)Pin them down. And if they have no clue - well I am at a stage where I really want to be someplace else.

If your two vision are not perfectly in sync, then there will be a time when you feel you are fighting with one arm strapped to your side. There will be a time when something you feel is on track will be totally derailed as it didn't fit in with their expectations. (Don't get me wrong - this is a group effort and compromise is essential as long as the train gets to the same destination.)

Most losing program will answer with "we want our program to be successful on and off the field!" Well what does that mean in absolutes. Make them answer in absolutes and if they can't you know they have no idea of what they want. You will be at the mercy of daily whimsical fleets of fancy. The more concrete you are the more they should want you.

(Imagine interviewing at Chrysler for a manager of a new car line. When you ask the CEO "What is your vision for this car?" He says"we want it to be good!" Wouldn't happen.)

2. What is their "ideal coach?"  This seems stupid and trivial as no one can get their ideal but every coach is different.Somebody told me years ago there is a right job for every coach and a right coach for every job and sometimes they are not mutual. Everybody is different. Everybody has different personality traits. Everybody has a different coaching style. Not everybody - no matter how good you are as a coach is a perfect match. (Just take "intensity" level - and you get a job in a laid back liberal school. No! Not a good match.)

So when I interview I always ask them, "So describe your ideal coach." Listen closely and be honest with yourself. Am I that person. (Many many of the schools I interviewed at, especially lately, looked at me like deer in the headlights when I asked them. They had no idea. Trust me - this method of picking a coach doesn't work. In my last interview in January, I flew out to another city to be met by a thirteen person panel. When I asked this question they went from one to the other asking "do you want to answer that?" Nobody had a clue. How do you pick something if you don't know what want?
Its like me giving you a blank check and saying, go buy "something" on amazon.

This question will also give you an idea as to how important sports are to the school. If they haven't prepared a list of why they are looking for, its probably not that important to them.

Again, compromise is the answer. You will always have to change to fit into the new environment but a total remake? Eventually, it'll rain, the whitewash will come off, and the zebra stripes will appear. You are who you are.

3. Do they have the fortitude to support you? There are going to be disagreements and you being the new kid / outsider will be put on the chopping block and tested many times early. Will you have to change, apologize, give in with any agreement or are they hiring your philosophy. This is less and less as more and more money gets into education. As a former principal said to me, when he started principles were making 20000 and teachers about 13000 (He's a dinosaur like me.) So when put on the spot they supported the coach. They could easily make 20000 in another profession. So they did what they deemed right with no second thoughts. Today principals make well into six figures with bonuses for test scores, the decision is not so easy. Getting a job that pays as much as that is pretty hard.

So I asked them to define the word "support" as it pertains to their role with coaches. I could fill a book with the answers and PC crap that came out of most but the good ones said the right things and understood athletics. (The late great principal of Langley answered "My job is to get the peoples out of the way of the cart so you can drive it easily." I signed up immediately.)

4. What is the current state of the culture and do I as an outsider fit in? To be honest, this is one I haven't followed always and gets me in a lot of trouble. At Holy Spirit they wanted an alumni and three applied splitting the groups. They also wanted the AD (non-alumni) out and he was hiring me. Not a good culture to enter. At Manassas I received an email inviting me to a baptist church that Sunday. When I replied I was Catholic, the response stated "not for long if you want to coach here." (I later realized the the city was a resounding majority Southern Baptist! Nothing wrong with that. In my stay in Virginia many administrators and friends were Southern Baptist. Great people. The point is that this was a very closed group. Very hard for an outsider.

When you take over a "Losing" program, you have enough on your plate. You don't need to be walking on pins and needles trying to fit in at every corner.

While there is no specific question you can ask here, you need to do your homework. Research the internet. Browse around town asking questions like a tourist, eat at a local diner. You will be surprised as to the inside info you can get. (but don't tell them you're a candidate for the job or they'll tell you what they want to hear.

5) Are the people interviewing you trustworthy and taking ownership for the program? Tough to figure out but you can if you ask the right questions. First and foremost, ask them what happened with the last couple of coaches and why they don't think they are successful. If the blame is constantly on the previous coach / coaches, they are just hiring another scapegoat. Yes, some of the blame starts there but all of it. I once had a school that had 14 coaches in 20 years. When asked why they hadn't been successful, the AD said sternly, "We have the perfect program here. We just haven't plugged in the right coach!" You've been losing for thirty years and had 14 coaches, one of those must have had some ability. Do you think it may be a bigger problem. (I took the job and it was. Micromanaging from above, answering every hint of displeasure (The AD and head coach were required to go to every board mtg.), split little leagues arguing and putting the head coach in the middle, split booster clubs, etc.)

Now, to the contrary when I took over North Stafford, Woody (one of the best AD's a coach can ask for!) said to me. "John, I don't think we've ever had a great coach but then again we've never had a great program. We are looking for somebody to come in and tell us how to do it." Can't ask for more. Easy turn around for a school that lost 37 in a row. Did I get everything I wanted - NO! But the effort was there to give me everything I needed. They took accountability for the problem!


6. Why am I taking this job? This is one you have to ask yourself and nobody on the search committee. As one AD told me "Everybody wants to coach and more want the title Head Coach" As a result we trick ourselves. This perhaps is my biggest career mistake. I take a job so I can coach. End of story. All the questions above were answered wrong - yet, despite my gut, I had this overriding need to coach. Like if I didn't I never would again or that some value of me would be missing.

Take a job because you want to be at THAT school. Is there a perfect job? NO! its give and take and adaptation. However, there is an ideal situation - one you and the program can grow with the umbrella of the school district, making all sides happy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Getting the running quarterback to the edge. Part 1 2x2

There are times when you have a great running quarterback and you just want to get him to the edge and load the option. Optioning support can get a great running quarterback in the seam, confusing option responsibilities, forcing alley players to play a responsibility they think is taken by another player, and foiling a game plan that puts the ball in the fullback's hands and then either takes it away by numbers or by superior personnel.

First lets start with our two by two formation. We will start the idea with our zone scheme although we have some adjustments to make. Additionally, we will cut our splits to facilitate zone blocking. (T/G move to 2 feet)

It is important that we set the edge / set a corner otherwise the play turns into a foot race and we are running nothing more then outside zone with our quarterback. We want the edge and will create this with either a chip or leverage scheme.You cannot let the defense dictate the option choices to you. You cannot let the defense get in a comfortable dive quarterback pitch rhythm.  You cannot let the defense take your better athletes out of the scheme!

It is important to note that the QB works off the line to avoid any garbage and gets to the perimeter and upfield as fast as he can. (We estimate a yard to a yard and a half.)

Vs. a reduced front

Vs our reduced front, we will run our Chip scheme with the qb reversing and the HB chipping.  We tell the HB to chip to the playside to backside linerbacker. If you get the front one good but the full back will make you right.  (see fig 1)

Vs. a 4-3 defense

fig 2

Vs. A 4-3 defense we will load with the Fullback on #2. He has him inside and outside the chip scheme The blocking reverts to triple from the guard back (Although in certain years we have still zoned it.  (see fig 2)

With the fullback loading, the HB and tackle know that vs. a walked up echo they will gap it, allowing the Fullback to wrap to the Mike. (fig 3)

vs. 5-2

We don't like this scheme vs. a 5-2 and will often check out of it but if we did, we would get into our HB load scheme.  (We normally don't like to load with a HB so personal mismatches become a priority. we would rather do it from other formations we will explain later) (fig 4)

Because all 5-2 teams vs the flexbone will have their tackles B - gap conscious, we do not worry about setting the edge. The power scoop between the guard and tackle should handle this.

The Fullback will aim at the but of the wing and find his entry point: inside or outside the load with the qb usually tucking /wrapping behind him.

The key coaching point is for the tackle not to overstep and allow the OLB underneath. We actually step with our inside foot first then try and get back to the outside number

Vs. 4-3 #2 ups

Fig 5

Vs. a 4-3 and #2 ups, we will run our HB load with our zone scheme exactly like the 5-2.  The important aspect is that the teams that usually do this will crash #2 at the QB. We feel this is an easy block as long as the hb steps with his near foot and the quarterback approaches from off the line to clear any garbage. (fig. 5)

An important note on all these options is that since there is no threat of the quarterback encountering a pitch key in his face he can reverse (roll) out. allowing him width and depth to get on the flank faster. Also on the chip schemes the QB should work up the field as fast as possible. Setting the edge forces the alley quicker or the pitch man must come to you.

Next up Loading it with the WR from the flex.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


As a last article to attacking the 5-1-5 structure, we will explore the supplemental plays. Plays that either keep a specific aspect of the option in play or plays that take advantage of the structure itself.

Part I - First let's talk about keeping the fullback involved:

There was a time that 4i's gave us a problem in keeping the fullback in the game and in order to be an triple option team you MUST keep the fullback threat alive or the defense will get into a rhythm of flying out to the quarterback and pitch and outnumbering you at the flank. (trust me, I learned this one the hard way.) Just the threat of the fullback slows down the alley safety, the middle linebacker and forces the defense to change option assignments or die with the first threat.

First thought pattern vs this defense is that the 4i's are fullback player. Why else would they put them in there. (They can't get to midline from 4's) Additionally, they must be fullback players due to the lack of inside numbers to be stout against him (NG and MLB)

First option "Outside Veer" (see Fig. 1)

(Note: In order to keep the mesh consistent we will cut down our splits to g-c two feet and g-tackle one foot. We can now aim at the inside foot of the tackle for an easier fullback entry path. However, the QB / fullback steps and mesh have remained the same. This also allows for an easier power zone with the guard and tackle. [they will double until the tackle is forced to come off.) You've cut down a total of 3' and expanded the path 3'. So the fullback's path is essentially the same.)

You now read # 2 (DE/OLB) and pitch off #3 (Strong safety)

This play has the added affect of helping with a hard charging strong safety that is hard to arc by the halfback, as we are optioning him now.

With a single lber  defense we have the option of wide sealing the halfback (See fig 2) as the power scoop can handle the MLB and now we not only influence #2 with our outward move but can account for the free. Thus everybody is blocked.

If you want to make this this a QB fullback play setting up the wheel. You can also run this with our special call (fig.3) having the Wr and HB switch assignments. Or run it from twins. (fig 4)

Second Option: "Zone dive" (see Fig. 5)

Zone dive does the same thing as the outside veer, except there is no reading it and the splits remain normal. The fullback will now "read the tackle's block. Either will be successful here.

Third Option: "Midline Dive" (see fig 6)

We love this play vs any odd defense but especially against this one. First thing you must analyze is can your center neutralize the nose. We prefer this agains an active nose as he is doing our job for us.
We will take as big as splits as the defense will allow and cut the inside leg of the tackle. (take 4-5 foot if possible) The FB reads the nose (we will back him up an extra foot some some years) and stays A to A. You must make the defense pay for letting one linemen cover so big of an area.
The play can be run to motion, no motion, twirl motion, whatever gives you the best movement out of the nose

If a team is trying to play us in 4 tech's with this defense, we will run this till the cows come home!

One year we were playing this defense with a great 300lb D1nose. We cut our guard / center splits and really opened our tackles. All three players came off at the nose with him him deciding who came off (if anybody!) It worked extremely well.

Part II - Keeping the quarterback in play

The defense basically declares itself as back to back vs the triple.  By alignment this is a pretty easy scheme to figure out. (They may stunt #2 and #3 but rarely as the free has to move over and we handled that before.) They are expanding their defense and then declaring the ball to go outside NOW into their strength.  In essence they are saying - You will not run the QB or Fullback on the triple and they will have close run support to force the pitch player back to pursuit quickly. You need to make them respect the QB. We've already done a little of this with our midline tuck play. You also need the close support to pay (other then the play-action pass.)Let's look at some more.

First Option: "Triple T-load" (see fig.7)

We've talked about this earlier as a midline play but it is better as a triple due to the fact that the quarterback gets out quicker. He can circle the defense quicker. The OLB should be an easy log due to his aggressive nature as a true c-gap player. The HB can read inside or outside the tackle and the quarterback can still tuck.

Second Option: "Double option wide receiver load" (fig. 8)

We will run our zone option from flex and let the Wr crack #2. He must stay inside to be sound. If he comes out on the flex run OV (Navy did it to Notre Dame for 50 yards and 6 points) The skip out by the quarterback allows him to bypass any penetration. (Don't load with the wide receiver off the triple as he can't get around the garbage!)

Third option: "Tackle or TE load" (See fig 9)

Because of the c-gap need of the OLB / DE This becomes steeling. I they play a 9 run the down till the cows come home. (fig 10)

Part III Using the HB to exploit the defense.

There are a couple of plays we use to keep the halfback in the game and take advantage of defensive structure.

First option: Counter Dive (fig 11)

This is our way to influence the nose guard. He will chip play side as in a reach and come off flat for the 4i. The fullback and the center are responsible for the 4i to the Strong Safety.

If the nose slants hard on motion, the center will take him and the guard will go up to the backer who is usually flowing away. (fig. 12)  Again, we will wider our splits with the key being the backside tackle's cut block.

Second option: Double option. (fig 13)

This is our zone option with the fullback wrapping. Again, the fullback can only take so many hits from a 4i and the quart back may have trouble with the back to back. In this scheme the fullback should be able to get to the free. We use the same splits as in our outside veer to facilitate the zone. Plus the quarterback can read only one person, eliminating the back to back.
(Note: we can run this away from trips or unbalanced in order to soften the arc. Or we may crack arc #! and exchange the halfback and wide receiver's block. In this defense, the numbers usually remain the same but the softness of support and the dual threat [run or pass] conflict on the support player may make the arc easier.)

That's a complete running game vs this "junk" defense.  You don't need it all, just what you do best. Remember, the stranger the defense the bigger the voids, the less you have to do.

We will get into another junk defense next time. You may never see these but the key is to be prepared if you do. If you do have a defense you would like to see attacked, email me at 3backoption@gmail.com.

Note: Due to time, I purposely left off the passing game as the tradition single high attack works.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Today we'll deal with the same 5-1-5 defense and answer how and why we would run the midline. In this case we will talk about both the midline triple and the midline tuck play.

NOTE: In some of the early diagrams in this article, the backside tackle is not drawn in - he will reach the 4i cutting him.

Midline triple.

First lets take a look at the midline triple. (fig 1) vs the 5-1-5 with the tackles wide in 4i's.
We will use twirl motion to better phase it up with the pitch phase.

From the tackle out it is the same as our loop triple. The only difference is we tell the tackle he will go directly to the free. There is no way our guard cannot handle the MLB with leverage on him, the fullback staying on the midline, and motion away. Remember that this is a single MLB defense and the only way they can outnumber you is to get that lber over the top on triple.

Additionally, the guards must step with inside foot to protect the path of the FB.

The center has the nose. A lot of people don't like running the midline at a zero nose. I love it. The key is to just get movement. We use a "slide base" technique. with take a short 6" step play side but delay the backside foot for a micro second. (its not even noticeable) This allows for the center to take the nose where he wants to go. If he doesn't pick a side then the center will force him backside.

(Remember, in earlier articles I've always said you need a good center to run this offense. At times he has been our best linemen. IF THERE IS A MISMATCH AT CENTER REFER TO OUR "MUSH" CALL. - see below)

The backside guard steps inside to the MLBer. Either him or the PS guard will continue downfield.

The backside tackle will cut the 4i. If the backside overhang is chasing it down we will add a third linemen away from the play to widen his path (Tac over or TE in game) or make a mush call allowing us to fan the backside..

When we get a "zero" nose we tell the Fullback to read the center's block. It is either a playside or backside a-gap play. The key for it is to tell him think playside and react to backside and always stay square to the line of scrimmage getting upfield. Problems arise when the fullback thinks he's a HB and flattens out to the B gap. (One of the key structural problems of this defense is the nose is a two gap player - take advantage of it.)

Why use midline triple.
  • The quarterback is having trouble with the quick back to back read. (fig 2) This is one of the reasons they play this defense. To get the ball out of your fullback and quarterbacks hands now. The midline triple pulls the mesh away from the stunt.

  • Different angle for dive key. It slows down the hard mesh charge by the DT that can cause havoc. Because the fullback is further away the Dt must change his course. He will hesitate now on the mesh charge also. (TRUST ME YOUR FULLBACK WILL LIKE YOU A WHOLE LOT MORE) (see fig.2 above)
  • If they are trying to get 6 people placed post snap.  Many people will in the defense slant the nose to motion, trying to get him to come other and play the FB. They will also run the Backer over the top. If the Free is flowing, this becomes a seven man side. (fig.3) Take advantage of it.  (we don't like counter option as much because of the overhang in the QB's face. We will run it at times but this gives the QB a chance to read his way out.)

  • The people who have run this defense on me in the past have used the idea of two close strong safeties to their advantage, They have (like most 8 man front teams) blitzed off the edge to the side of the free safety. The difference is that it is the side the free ends up on after motion. (see figure 3 above and fig 4 for examples of this.) They can't stunt off both sides and be sound against the pass. (at least is my mind.) If they are coming to the motion - they will be soft away.

  • It is a simple way to keep the fullback in the game. Because the mesh happens behind the center it is a long way to go for the handoff key. (and as mentioned previously a different angle!)  Additionally, splits do not affect the integrity of the mesh so you can take the guard and tackle out as far as they will go. Make them pay for having only two players to protect such a huge area.  If the MLB is flowing with the motion - now its one man in that large area.
  • The free isn't usually as active vs the midline triple due to the twirl motion.

Mush call:

We use a mush call when one of two things are bothering us. 
  • The nose is a mismatch for our center
  • There is a 4i and an overhang that is chasing down the midline.
If is a simple technique that we practice for about 2 1/2 min every week in case it comes up.

The center will stay square and step for the back half of the nose. (see fig 5) The guard will step for the front half of they nose. They will knock the center straight back.  They will only come off if they get to LBer level or the Lber shows in the gap. We tell them to push the Nose into the LBER. 
(Note: usually the Lber is flowing to get good option number. )

Because both a-gaps are secured, the guard can make a "fan" call (something we usually do with a three tech. ) and the guard and tackle can handle the B and C gap rushers, stopping the chase from behind. (see fig 5)

"Mush" can also be used with the midline tuck below.

Using the Midline tuck play (fig 6 and fig. 7)

The midline tuck play is also an excellent addition vs. the 5-1-5. Many of the same reasons apply. Additional reasons include

  • With back to back reads the free safety will usually be a pitch player and assume the first two of your options are taken. (with motion to you will have a blocker for him and the strong due to leverage on the middle backer.
  • If the free strong read the HB tucking. You can switch the assignments of the HB
  • With B/B reads there is very little room for the QB running. This keeps him in play and  changes entry points of the QB.
  • It gives you a lot of formation leeway.
  • It keeps the backside SS honest with twirl. If he peaks inside for the tuck / the midline triple is a give me. If he stays outside the tuck is.
  • Due to the distance the 4i must travel and the fact the overhang is the next player out, the gap just becomes too big. I've see both safeties fill inside,we get a hat on them, and there is still plenty of room.
Note: you can still use a "mush" call on the tuck play  (see above for details.)

Variation on the midline triple: The loaded midline triple

Because of the structure of the 5-1-5 in which they have stretched the interior of the defense. At times the DE ?OLB (#2) will try and play inside the fan of the tackle. If we know we are playing this defense we will add our loaded version of the midline tuck and turn it into a false key the free safety. We do this by changing one persons assignment - the OT. He will now block the outside hip of the DE/OLB and the quarterback will stretch the play trying to get to the SS.  (See fig 8)

If the DE (#2) widens he can still tuck. If the SS peaks inside he will leverage pitch now! (there's nobody out there! see fig 9) If he gets around the corner - he's usually free to go as the FS either reads the HB tuck and fills inside or is a pitch player due to the QB usually being accounted for by the DE (#2)

NOTE: we also run this scheme off the triple with a great running QB in order to get him on the perimeter quicker and slow the FS down.

In our next section we will talk about keeping the fullback in the game with the zone dive, midline dive, and the outside veer. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Running the base triple vs the 5-1-5

Because of the leverage on the middle backer this defense loans itself to being a great defense to run the triple against. As a rule we will pound the triple to the field as log as we can block run support and/or control him with play action pass.

With the 4i we will start off with our loop scheme. Initially, we handled this defense as an even defense but two problems occurred with our labels and their interpetation into our positional rules as they apply. The first is that in our triple, we would bump off the nose and the lber would have to be blocked by the tackle. It is safe to say, as the only second level support the defense has the lber is running over the top and can be treated as such. By treating it as an 50, our guard now goes directly to the backer. (note: we step playside foot and go to where the lber is going.) Also as we will see later the odd call allows us to run midline and midline triple without fudging any rules. This would not be available in the Even calls.

In essence, we have leverage on the backer AND free safety with the tackle and guard. We can handle everybody. Theoretically, with leverage on the lber and the guard stepping placed, we should pin the lber every time allowing the tackle to go straight to the free. It is a great play. If the free is running the alley the SS must account for the HB running vertically and is usually deeper. With the arc block the HB is running away from the free safety so if he is playing the HB vertically he must play flatter and slower and doesn't become a really alley threat. (Note: I've seen teams play this defense with deeper SS ala 5 across in order to handle the HB vertically. ) See fig 1 (The play action pass off this is a killer!)

If the SS is deep enough we can switch block taking the pitch further away from the free safety. See fig.2. This also sets up the wheel.

If there is a problem with handling the perimeter we can go end over. This defense is usually a match up type defense and will flip the corners over. (see fig 3 ) They like to do this to keep the three safeties in the same configuration.

You can see in these looks that the remaining DB /SS to the short side is really in a bind to play the arc and covering the HB deep on the play pass.

If they do not flip the will either bring the safety over (fig 4 we have a blocker for him.) or bing the SS out (fig 5) this softens up the flank, makes the HB block easier) and makes the threat of the inside receiver going vertical a threat. (we can easily make him eligible)

Finally if the Strong Safety fudges and does not cover #2. We will throw the quick screen to #1 (fig.6) if #2 is ineligible. Or the bubble if #2 is eligible. Both of these set up 2 on 1 fast breaks.

With middle to backside pursuit usually stopping homers in the option, you can see that against this defense running the loop scheme allows for big plays because of the ability to get the tackle downfield. It should be number one against this defense and run with the placation pass till they stop it. All other plays, as we will show in later articles,  should come off it.  

In part C we will deal with running the midline tuck and the midline triple. Why and how?