Thursday, April 28, 2016

Game planning the Midline triple vs the 4-3 front

Everybody loves the midline tuck play (QB / FB only) but the midline triple is a great part of any flexbone attack. While easily run vs the 50, 3-3, and reduction defenses, the problem lies in the 4-3. Yet the fact that the 4-3 contains a "3" technique makes the play valuable.

The problem lies with being outnumbered with unblocked defenders (see fig 1) and not enough blockers.

Due to this dilemma, my first couple of years we would check out of midline triple and into a variation of the tuck play vs. a 4-3. However there are too many advantages to keeping the play in your arsenal.  Those include but are not limited to

  1. It allows you to read the three technique that you otherwise may have a tough time blocking. This includes those studs who take away the paper and pencil from the coach.
  2. It forces the three technique to align tighter making it easier to handle him later in the triple or double option.
  3. It allows you to capture the MLB who may just run over the top on triple preventing it to be run to the three technique
  4. It changes option responsibilities causing hesitation in defensive assignments
  5. It brings the quarterback further away from any "echo" or "back to back" stunts. Simply it is an easier perimeter read
  6. It is an easier interior ("FB" read) as there is no chance of an "echo" or "mesh" charge. The closeness of the three also makes the read much more deliberate.
  7. It allows us to use "Twirl" or "No mo" taking away the motion trigger from a defenses game play. It also allows us to run it to flanks that the defense has left exposed without the ability for the defense to adjust back due to motion.
  8. It allows for an A-gap play to the side of motion that, when talking about the 4-3, stops the defense from playing two "2" techniques and slanting to motion, an adjustment used in the early flexbone days with great success.
  9. Since it is usually pitched off the five technique, the ball is out of the quarterback's hands quickly. it basically becomes a fullback / halfback game.
  10. The fact that the FB is on the midline forces the defense to constrict around the fullback (usually no loop blocking to expand the front. ) We will delay our halfbacks movement when in the bone till the QB's second foot hits the ground.
  11. It stops the backside of the defense from rocking inside quickly to stop the twirl midline tuck and the counter iso.
The most common way we found was to load the DE (No.2 in midline rules) and pitch off number three. (see fig. 2) 

We discarded that immediate as the QB had to run around a man we are blocking to get to his pitch key. First your asking the quarterback to get around a man who has leverage on the tackle while the MLB, performing his squeeze and scrape to b-gap can get to him. you cannot leverage pitch off the scrape MLB because you are outflanked by a full man and a half to the pitch key. Finally, you are asking the tackle to hook a man who has leverage on him but he can't "overreach" as he has him man (inside and outside charge) and if the tackle crashed inside he would still be able to play the quarterback as he has leverage on him. (see fig. 2) So we threw this out.

We finally came up with as our base scheme two calls. The first was to a single split end or no split end (nub side) and the second was to a three receiver side (ends over)

Midline triple to a 4-3 single receiver side

When we have a single receiver side, we ask our quarterback to recognize one additional factor: that there are two high safeties. If there is one high safety (Fig 3) we would check away from the strong safety as that side would become reduced. (You can see our recognition system in a very earlier article devoted to it.) 

With two high we would always run it to the three technique. 
(See fig. 4)

In the above, the inside people and backside people, guard back, would run base midline rules. (same as midline tuck)
We will read the three and pitch off the DE (first man outside the handoff key)

Special rules are as follows:
Play side Wide receiver: Stack widest Corner regardless of coverage. Be prepared for hard corner support and react to softer support. (Since motion is away we do not get hard corners to this side even in cover 2)
Playside Halfback: Twirl and arc flat three steps eyeballing the OLB (#2 in our normal counting system) to the safety. Arc block first to come out.
Playside Tackle: Stack release to #2 (Stacked backer) If you can get any piece of him take him. (We do not feel that once blocked, even partially, he can get back to the pitch.) If you can't block the Lber come FLAT right off his ass and sprint to the sideline eyeballing safety. If you can outflank him turn up and block. If he comes up two quick kick him out, the back will run inside.

We feel that do to the twirl motion, either the safety or the outside linebacker will lean in the other direction.  At the very least they will be flatfooted as the motion is away and safety support will be slower.

Simply stated the tackle and the halfback have the OLB and the near safety. (See fig. 5 and fig.6)

Notes: on this scheme:
  1. It usually ends up as a pull and pitch
  2. It the defense is playing games with bringing down a "predetermined" safety, use phoney motion and a long count and check appropriately.
  3. If the OLB "ups" on the line. The tackle will yell "2 is up." Now the DE should be tighter and easier to block and the QB will pitch off the OLB who is usually up to play him hard. (fig.7) The HB will arc #3 now.
  4. Vs. the scrape MLB, the QB can now leverage pitch off off the MLB because the tackle veering brings the DE down inside with him or at worst sits.
  5. To a Nub side the Tackle and Halfback would handle the OLB and the Corner (fig. 8) This rarely happens as the 3 tech is usually to the three man side.

Midline Triple to a three receiver side
Since we have added a receiver we can eliminate a defender. Normally our inside receiver will block the middle to backside safety but in this case we will use our "force" blocking scheme. "Force" tell the middle receiver he is responsible for the support player of the defense (We put our best blocker in the middle.) This call tells the QB to treat it like a "reduced" front and make the appropriate tag.
(Fig. 9)

Vs. a reduced front the Playside HB will arc #2 (OLB) Vs. echo take first to come outside.
Vs. a reduced front the Playside tackle will veer (get vertical) inside backer to the middle to backside safety. (Note: In middle triple we tell the tackle he only has the Mike if he tries to get over the top. If he tight scrapes we will leverage pitch off of him. This usually allows us to get the tackle downfall on the middle / backside safety.)

This scheme is especially good vs. a team that plays quarters and likes to stay in it. This brings the OLB out of his stack. 

Two variations we like to run vs. this look are box (fig. 10) and Boxer (fig. 11)

In our next article (Part II) we will look at the midline triple vs. a 4-3 to a three man flank (TE side or tackles over)