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Defensing the shotgun run game.

Many football historians agree that the shotgun formation dates back to 1960 when the San Francisco 49ers, with their third-string quarterback, Bob Waters, at the helm, used it to score a huge upset against the Baltimore Colts.

The shotgun didn't catch on, however, and faded from the scene. Tom Landry, of the Dallas Cowboys, revived the offense in the mid 1970's. In the process, he changed its look from a primarily running formation into a passing formation.

For many years, offensive coordinators expanded and improved the shotgun's passing game. More recently, however, many teams re-discovered the advantages of the shotgun running game.

Northwestern has had great success running the shotgun. The Philadelphia Eagles added the shotgun before the start of the 2002 season to exploit Donovan McNabb's athletic ability. Even staid Joe Paterno of Penn State, stung by criticism that his offense was too predictable, installed the shotgun during the 2001 season.

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Many teams have added shotgun packages to their offense, while others operate exclusively out of the gun. Reasons for installing the shotgun cover a broad spectrum. Following are some of the most commonly given advantages:

* The QB is harder to get to with the pass rush.

* The added depth of the QB makes it easier for him to see the field and read the coverage.

* Lanes are created for the QB to see and move around in.

* Shorter QB's are able to see downfield.

* Width of formations makes it harder for the defense to disguise blitzes. Width makes the defense declare its intentions.

* Fakes to the back freeze line-backers, which is beneficial for play-action passes.

* The defense cannot have more than seven defenders in the box. Normally, it will place five to seven men in the box. Five or six will enhance the run game. Seven defenders in the box will invite passes.

* The run game can exploit the upfield-rush mentality of the defense.

* The defense is spread vertically and horizontally; this horizontal stretch creates seams for the running game.

* With an athletic QB in the backfield, the offense is, in reality, a two-back offense.

The diagram illustrates how we defend five of the Gun's base running plays. We will assume a base six-man front an define alignments, keys, and responsibilities.

DIAG. 1 DEFENSIVE PERSONNEL:

We declare the front to the running back.

Stud (ST), ghost six technique to the call.

Tackle (T), three technique to the call.

Nose (N), one technique away from the call.

End (E), five technique away from the call.

Sam (S), 30 alignment to the call.

Will (W), 40 alignment away from the call.

BASE READS:

Stud: Aligns in a ghost six alignment in a two or three-point stance. A two-point stance will facilitate better vision. He keys the back. If the back goes away, Stud will flatten and chase him. He can be a factor on runs away from him.

If the opponent tries to kick him out on the QB mesh play, he will go under the guard and spill the play to Sam.

If the back threatens Stud's outside shoulder, he will explode up field, keeping his outside shoulder free. This will serve to pull the QB up on the QB sweep. Stud can take the pitch on the option play.

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Anytime the offensive tackle pass sets, the Stud will rush the passer and react to the draw.

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Tackle: The tackle plays a three technique. He cannot allow the offensive tackle to combo off on Sam on run plays to him. He must close and pursue on runs away.

Nose: We place the nose in a one technique. This allows us to keep a man on the center. With a Rip call, the Nose would be on a right-handed center's snap hand. He must not allow the center and guard to combo off on the Will.

End: Plays a five technique away from the call. We tell him that he is, first and foremost, a run player. If the offensive tackle blocks down, the End will key the pull lane. He will split any block coming out of the pull lane. If the offensive tackle pass sets, he will rush the passer and react to the draw.

Sam: Aligns in a 30 alignment to the call. He will key the back in case of a direct snap. If the QB and back mesh and Sam isn't sure who has the ball, he is responsible for the QB. If both the back and QB come to Sam, he will fit inside out.

The Stud will pull up any wide play while Sam inserts inside the Stud. If both the QB and the back flow away, Sam will scrape weak side inside out.

Will: Aligns in a 40 alignment. Like Sam, he keys the back. If the QB and the back mesh and Will isn't sure who has the ball, he becomes responsible for the back. If the QB and back flow away, Will will scrape playside inside out. Should the QB and back both come to him, he must fit over the top of the offensive tackle and the first thing that shows.

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DIAG. 2, QB MESH PLAY:

This play has the back and QB meshing, with the QB keeping the ball. The off guard will try to kick out the end man on the LOS.

Stud (ST): If the back goes away, the Stud will flatten and chase. This route will put him on a collision course with the off guard who is trying to kick him out. The Stud should spill the play to Sam who is still unblocked.

Tackle (T): Must not allow the offensive tackle to work to the second level. If the defensive tackle cannot defeat the combo block, move him to a 40 alignment.

Nose (N): We allow him to backdoor the play.

End (E): Will get a pass set or a base block. He should locate the ball and pursue.

Sam (S): Whenever the QB and the back mesh, Sam is responsible for the QB. He should be unblocked at the P.O.A. Stud will bounce the play to him.

Will (W): On the mesh play, he is responsible for the back. Once he determines the back doesn't have the ball, he should pursue. Since we also key the guard with the bottom of our eyes, Will should read the pull and flow play side.

DIAG. 3, BACK MESH:

Has the QB giving the ball to the back, with the off guard pulling to kick out the end, who'll normally be in a pass-rush mode. The QB will carry out a fake away from play side.

Stud (S): Will probably get a base or pass set. He should locate the ball and pursue.

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Tackle (T): When the guard pulls, the tackle will get a turn back block by the center. He can cross face or backdoor the play.

Nose (N): In our base defensive scheme, the Nose is usually a smaller and quicker type of lineman. Penetration would obviously be harmful to this play.

End (E): Versus a down block, he eyeballs the pull lane. When he sees the off guard flat in the pull lane, he will stack and spill the play to Will.

Sam (S): When he reads that the QB doesn't have the ball, he will pursue. He should see the guard pulling away, letting him get to playside more quickly.

Will (W): Scrapes over the top of the offensive tackle's block. The end will spill the play to him.

DIAG. 4, OPTION:

This play has the QB attacking the Stud on a keep or pitch option.

Stud (S): With the back wide and outside, the Stud will work up field and take the pitch.

Tackle (T): Must not allow the center and off guard to combo on him and Will.

Nose (N): Must not allow the center and off guard to combo on him and Will.

End (E): Versus a pass set or base block, he must find the ball and pursue.

Sam (S): Scrapes and fits inside the Stud. He will take the QB.

Will (W): Must not allow the center to cut him off from play side.

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DIAG. 5, QB SWEEP:

A designed play to get the QB on the corner with a running play.

Stud (ST): Will pull up the play and force the QB to run inside. He must not allow the QB to stretch the perimeter.

Tackle (T): Must not allow a combo to the second level.

Nose (N): Must not allow the center to combo to the second level.

End (E): Finds the ball and pursues.

Sam (S): Fits inside the Stud who will pull up the QB.

Will (W): Must not allow the center to cut him off from playside.

DIAG. 6, UTAH PASS:

Designed to run underneath an end who is normally on an upfield pass rush. The offense may trap the end or choose simply to run underneath the end with no trap.

Stud (S): With a pass set or base block, he must locate the ball and pursue.

Tackle (T): When the guard pulls, the center will turn back and block the tackle. The tackle can backdoor or crossface and pursue.

Nose (N): Penetration will disrupt the play.

End (E): Uses a down block to close and far-shoulder the off guard. He must spill the play. If the offense chooses not to trap the end in the hope that he will be on an up field charge to rush the passer, the end will destroy the play if he closes. The QB will have to hang on to the ball.

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Sam (S): With full flow away, Sam will flow inside out.

Will (W): Should the offense trap the play, the ball will have to bounce to Will, who is unblocked. If the offense reads the Utah Pass, the QB will be stuck with the ball if the end closes. Will, scraping over the top, should make the play on the QB.

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DIAG. 7, SAM GO:

A great way to get seven in the box with a five-man rush on the QB is to stunt a linebacker and have the free safety drop down and assume that linebacker's responsibilities.

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DIAG. 8, WILL FIRE:

We feel that the use of the base sixman front package in conjunction with our Bears or 46 look, lane exchanges, and a good mix of change-up coverage's, will give us a chance to be successful against the Gun's running as well as passing game.

By Kenny Ratledge, Defensive Coordinator Sevierville (TN) County H.S.
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Title Annotation:FOOTBALL
Author:Ratledge, Kenny
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Dec 1, 2004
Words:1776
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