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Keep your "I" on the off-tackle power play!

Stick with what you know will hold up on Friday nights

Football coaches are well-acquainted with the need for change. We are constantly chasing after those elusive "somethings" that can improve our players and elevate our programs. But, even with the best of intentions, the modifications we make can become so drastic that we may stop recognizing our own teams.

Change often becomes necessary, of course, but the best way of effecting it is by building on a solid foundation -- retaining what is useful and expanding upon the team's capabilities.

Whenever circumstances dictate the need to develop a new wrinkle, or you just feel the overwhelming urge to reinvent the wheel, try to begin with an evaluation of what your players are familiar with and what you reasonably expect will hold up on Friday night.

By mixing some old school with the latest new wave, you may be able to restructure quickly and allow your program to evolve rather than fall into revolt.

This thinking can be illustrated by tracking the evolution of an extremely successful play as it was modified to meet the demands of change.

THE POWER PLAY

The off-tackle power play is a staple in most "I" formation offenses. When I was the offensive coordinator at Arcadia (CA) High School, the play became a steady workhorse with which our teams and coaches felt comfortable in virtually any circumstance.

Our version of the play was not particularly unique, but we believed that its simplicity produced a reliable football play that our teams understood and were confident with.

As you can see in Diag. 1, the blocking rules are based on a simple numbering system. Any player covering the center, on or off the LOS, is assigned number "O." The remainder of the backside defenders are then numbered consecutively and blocked accordingly.

[DIAGRAM 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The blocking scheme for Power allows for a double-team block at the point of attack, creating both maximum movement on the LOS and security on the inside edge of the running lane. The players involved in the double-team must be schooled in the basic double-team-combo techniques to account for both the down lineman and a scraping LB, but doubling the down lineman is paramount.

We do not want the players to come off of the double team too quickly, as this can lead them to abandoning the technique altogether. But over-stressing the double-team can cause them to lock onto the down lineman at the expense of sealing off the LB when necessary.

A balance can be struck by coaching the double-team players to "Keep the down lineman on his feet and block him to the LB."

The tracks of the running backs and the QB are at the core of the play's success.

The fullback steps straight ahead with the foot opposite the call and then, on his second step, drives at the inside leg of the tight end with his play-side foot. This footwork puts the fullback on a good track to execute his kick-out block and still accommodates the QB's path.

The fullback must always work to maintain inside-out leverage on the end man on the line. If, however, the defender squeezes off the running lane, the fullback can, by staying on track, put himself in position to pin the player's outside shoulder and seal him inside. The tailback can then bounce the play outside the fullback's block.

On the snap, the tailback tracks to the tackle's outside leg with his play-side foot and stays snug to the block occurring at that point, usually the tight end-tackle double-team. The tailback cannot hesitate. He must simply get himself on track and run, trusting his teammates to do their jobs.

The QB opens to either four o'clock or eight o'clock, depending on the direction of the play, but his track may be adjusted to five o'clock or seven o'clock if his stride and the overall timing of the play so require. The QB must push himself into the backfield to get the ball to the tailback as deep as possible.

The alignment of some defensive fronts creates the opportunity to single-block with the play-side tackle, freeing the tight end to "arc" release onto a second-level defender. The linemen must also use their normal adjustment calls to either get help or free up a teammate assigned a double-team.

A single letter added to the play call can be used to tell either guard to pull and bring an extra blocker to the point of attack.

THE POWER PASS

Because of the success we enjoyed running Power, we developed a play-action pass based on the off-tackle run call. The Power Pass is shown in Diag. 2.

[DIAGRAM 2 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The QB play-fakes the run and sets up behind the play-side tackle, looking to throw on side, while the offensive line blocking and backfield action emulate the run play as much as possible.

Although the fundamentals are simple enough, two phases of the play are critical to its success. The QB and tailback must execute a great play-fake and the receivers must be disciplined in running their routes.

The QB cannot run through or hurry the play-action. On the snap, he must seat the ball at his waist and open as he would when running Power. As he approaches the mesh point, he must secure the ball on the front of his play-side hip and present his empty hand to the pocket formed by the tailback.

To effect a believable fake, the QB must settle his feet and ride the tailback slightly. To further enhance the fake, he can focus his eyes on his own wrist, just for an instant, as he makes the mesh.

The tailback should not overdo the fake with any expanded arm movement or unnatural shoulder roll. These exaggerated moves are not as convincing to defensive players as we'd like to believe, and they tend to throw the back off-balance, placing him in a difficult position to complete his assignment.

Because we used the fullback as a receiver in the Power Pass, the end man on the line was left unblocked. This defender had to either tackle the tailback or be blocked by him. In either case, a good play-fake made the tailback's job easier.

The tailback can be used to run the flat route, which, as in the ran play, makes the fullback responsible for blocking the defensive perimeter. This adjustment can alter the play significantly, however, as sound play-action will compromise the tailback's ability to get into his route cleanly.

The defensive pressure created by the three-route combination can utilize the tailback productively by simply converting from play-action to a roll-out or sprint-action pass.

By "slide" protecting to the call side and making the fullback responsible for backside blitz control, both the tailback and the tight end can be free-released into the pattern. A swing route by the tailback can offer another simple, yet effective change of pace.

The second crucial clement to the play's success is the spacing among the three play-side receivers. The fullback must occupy the flat coverage. He must clear the line cleanly and run a flat route at exactly five yards.

If the route is run short, the flat defender can void the zone and elevate to the "out" being run on top of the fullback by the tight end. If the fullback's route is run at more than five yards, the flat zone will never be threatened and the defender can simply stay on top and effectively take away both the fullback and the tight end.

Though the fullback is rarely thrown to with Power Pass, his importance cannot be overemphasized and he should be "coached up" for taking pride in doing exactly what is expected of him.

The widest play-side receiver runs a "go" or "fade" route to occupy the deep outside coverage. There is nothing spectacular about the route. The wide receiver must get a clean release and pressure deep and outside. Like the fullback, the flanker rarely receives the ball, but again, pride in execution makes the play effective.

The single backside receiver runs a basic post route. A "throwback" is an effective way to get the ball to this player against a safety who tends to vacate the middle third with the run fake or who does not "squeeze the post". A "throwback" route should attack the backside zone more quickly than the receiver's standard post route.

The tight end is the primary receiver on the Power Pass. He makes his initial move as if blocking the run play, but getting into his route is the principal concern. He must never bury his head or get tied up with the defensive lineman. He must step inside for a count or two, as if doubling with the tackle; release, working to regain his width immediately, and drive up field eight to 10 yards.

The depth of his stem depends on his speed and the ease of his release. Upon reaching the proper depth, he looks to the outside receiver, breaks outside, and stays on track to that spot.

The tight end cannot be allowed to break on the same angle each time he runs the play. The angle of his break must vary according to the speed of the receiver outside of him. If he actually runs to the point at which he first sees the wide receiver, as he should, he must adjust his route accordingly -- the more speed outside, the more steep the angle; the less speed outside, the less steep the angle. Automatically coordinating the routes this way helps to ensure proper spacing.

By staying on the proper track, the tight end will find himself in the void between the flat coverage underneath and the secondary coverage above. He cannot chase the go route uphill, as that can allow the deep coverage to defend both receivers; nor can he flatten his route, as this will bring him too near that flat route, again allowing a single defender to cover two routes.

We were satisfied with both Power, which was our most productive running play, and Power Pass, which became our most successful play-action pass, but we were soon faced with the need to adapt our system to accommodate a backfield that was particularly suited to an option attack. Although we had no intention of committing to a full-blown option defense, we agreed that the ability to run an occasional option play would be beneficial.

The question became whether or not to invest the time and energy that would be needed to develop a new scheme.

We decided that to satisfy our requirements, any new play would have to meet three criteria:

1. Require a minimum of time for implementation.

2. Be run from a formation currently in use to avoid the necessity of developing any additional plays for a new formation.

3. Be a true triple option to take advantage of our players' abilities and to create maximum defensive pressure.

With our goals defined, we began searching within our program for the bits and pieces from which to develop a new offensive play.

We knew that our split backfield set was both our least-used run formation and our most-used drop-back pass set. The development of an additional running play for this information was of obvious merit and the decision was made to generate a split-back option play.

For our purposes, the set of our running backs virtually eliminated dive and freeze option considerations and made an outside veer style option the most feasible. Our decision to develop an outside play led us to incorporate a known commodity -- the effectiveness and reliability of the blocking scheme for Power.

OUTSIDE VEER OPTION

The resulting play is shown in Diag. 3. As you can see, the blocking scheme for the front eight players is exactly the same as it is for Power. From day one, when discussing the new option play with the offensive linemen and receivers, we talked only in terms of blocking the Power. For them everything is handled in the same way.

[DIAGRAM 3 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

As a result, more than 70% of our offensive team knew how to run the Outside Veer Option and, more importantly, believed that they could run the play successfully, without ever having been exposed to it.

The action of the backs is basic to most triple-option style plays. The fullback must attack his aim point at the outside leg of the play-side tackle. He cannot wait on the QB to arrive at the mesh point and then try to hurry to get there. The QB, too, must hustle to make the mesh and be reading on the run.

The cleanest mesh occurs when the fullback is on a forward stride with his outside leg as the QB presents the ball. The fullback can adjust his depth slightly to arrive at the mesh in this position, but both players must arrive at the same time, regardless of the positioning of their feet.

There is no need to talk to the fullback about how to know whether or not he is going to get the hand-off. He simply has to stay on track, attack the line, and never "steal" the ball from the QB.

The final thing the fullback can do to help the play is to bend inside without the ball and outside with the ball. Working inside helps to keep the defensive pursuit from the bah and working outside helps to keep the ball from the defensive pursuit.

Because the Outside Veer Option is a true triple option, the QB has two keys. The first read is the end man on the defensive line. He is the read key for the fullback give. The QB is taught to make a simple and incisive decision: "If the read key does anything except attack the fullback, give the ball."

If the read dictates keeping the ball, the QB must snap his eyes outside and downfield and attack the first unblocked player in the alley. That defender is the QB's second read. He becomes the option key for the pitch. The QB must turn upfield quickly to avoid stretching the play horizontally.

The tailback is always responsible for maintaining the pitch relationship with the QB and he must be prepared to receive the pitch at any time. The exact spacing between the players depends solely on the QB's ability to execute the pitch. Two yards deep and five yards outside is a reasonable starting point, but the wider the better. Maximum defensive pressure is created by maximum separation.

The Outside Veer Option accounted for more than 20% of our run production in its first season of use. Players' abilities aside, we firmly believed that the play's success was the direct result of the play being evolved from familiar components.
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:football playing techniques
Author:Hamby, Dennis
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Dec 1, 1997
Words:2475
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