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The Power Pitch: an outside play with muscle.

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How do you get to the outside if you don't have a running back with great speed or are facing a defense that moves well laterally?

Answer: Try the Power Pitch-an outside run play that does not require your running back to outrun people to the corner. It is run just outside the last blocker on the corner (either a tight end or wingback) with a lead kick-out block.

As you can see in the diagrams, the ball is run in the alley created by playside blockers. It can be run from formations such as the "I", split backs or Wing-T with either a tight-end wing set or to a tight-slot set.

The power portion of the Power Pitch is generated by the number of lead blockers in the play. The path is led by the quarterback, the backside guard and a lead back. (The specifics of these blocks will be discussed further on.)

The Power Pitch has simple blocking rules that are effective against blitzing defenses because they use gap-blocking principles. No matter what the defense does, every gap will be accounted for and penetration prevented.

PLAYSIDE LINEMAN

The blocking of the tight end, playside guard, and tackle is the same: Block down on the first defender from your inside gap. Never block a head-up defender unless he slants, pinches, or blitzes across your face as he tries to release inside. A LB who is set over the inside gap or on the inside leg of a playside blocker is not considered the first defender to the inside. He is treated the same as a head-up defender, since he will fast flow to the ball--making him unable to be blocked by a playside lineman.

If, when down blocking, a defender disappears by blitzing or stunting away from the inside gap, the blocker must continue to the next defender. It is important to stress that each of the playside blockers is solely responsible for his inside gap on the way to the defender inside of him.

For example, if the first defender inside a playside guard is the backside linebacker and a playside linebacker blitzes the inside gap, the guard must block the playside linebacker even though the LB was not aligned inside of him.

Each of these playside blockers should use a flat first step--a step directly down the LOS. This will help the blocker get inside a head-up defender or get his head across a man lined up inside of him on the LOS.

This kind of step will also enable the blocker to pick up a blitzing linebacker or stunting lineman entering the blocker's inside gap, as well as put him on a path to block a linebacker inside of them.

Coaching Point: A head-up defender is NOT the first person to the inside unless he goes to the inside gap on the snap!

Players must be coached to rip with their outside arm as they start their flat step release inside on a down block. This will prevent a head-up defender from jamming them and hindering the release. This applies to the interior line as well as the tight end.

TIGHT END

The tight end's block is crucial because this is where the corner will be established. The tight end might, however, not be the one establishing the corner. This would occur if the defensive end aligns head up to outside of the TE.

If the DE aligns on the TE's inside shoulder or in his inside gap, the TE will block him.

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If the DE aligns head-up, the TE will not block him, unless he crashes into the C gap.

If the TE has no responsibility for the DE, he must block the first man inside of him. This could be a LB or a down lineman.

The TE must also be aware of a C gap blitz by an OLB. If the play is run to the slot side, the TE must backside block by ripping inside the DE and climbing to the first defender he encounters. If the DE lines up inside the TE or tries to cross his face when he releases, the TE should get his head across and block him.

Taking appropriate splits is also critical in the execution of the Power Pitch. When a player is going to down block, he must "choke" his splits. A smaller split will put the blocker closer to the inside defender he must block. The farther inside the defender, the more choked the blocker's split will be.

If a down block is to be made on a defensive lineman who is exceptionally quick, the split may be very tight. It may possibly be near foot-to-foot with the other lineman.

As a rule, the entire interior line, as well as the TE, will choke their splits on the Power Pitch. The choked splits will shorten the corner and give the running back a better path to run.

The tight end must not take a normal split on the power pitch because it stretches the corner and makes the play harder to execute.

WINGBACK

The wingback's block is the other half of establishing the "corner" on the Power Pitch. The WB, in essence, must take the man that the TE does not block. He becomes responsible for the DE who aligns head up to outside of the TE.

If a head-up DE crashes into the C gap on the snap, the WB must redirect to the first LB to the inside.

If the DE aligns inside the TE, the WB must go directly to the first linebacker to his inside. He must work hard to shorten the corner for the running back when blocking on a DE. It is important for him to line up in a position that will give him an angle on the DE. After he makes contact, he should work to get his back numbers to the sideline to seal the corner.

The wingback must understand that he is not responsible for an outside linebacker or strong safety lined up head-up on him. This is the force man, and the lead back will take care of him. The wing should never allow an OLB or strong safety to cross his face.

All players on the playside should get their head across when blocking a down lineman. They should block with their opposite shoulder and not allow themselves to get beat up field by an inside down defender. They must use the flat step and never step directly at a defensive lineman. Stepping directly at a defensive lineman inside of them will allow the defender to beat them up the field.

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A good example of this is a playside tackle blocking down on a defensive lineman aligned head-up or on the outside shoulder of the guard. The same holds true when picking up a blitzing LB. The flat step allows the blocker to get his head across and stop penetration.

When playside blockers take on a flowing LB, they must take a good angle to intersect his path and cut him off. The block on a LB does not have to be a crushing blow. The blocker need simply wall him off and impede his flow to the ball.

If a playside lineman is beaten across his face by a LB, the blocker should continue to the next LB. If no defender shows, he should climb to the next level and downfield block.

Coaching Point: Step where the defenders are going to be, NOT where they are lined up because they won't be there after the ball is snapped.

CENTER

The center is considered a playside blocker on the Power Pitch. He uses the same blocking rules as the other playside blockers with one exception: He will never block a LB unless he blitzes the backside A gap. The center is responsible for filling the backside A gap.

In reality, he is filling for the backside guard who is pulling to lead the play.

The center blocks any defender aligned from his inside shoulder all the way to head-up on the backside guard. He must do his best to block all the way back to a tackle lined up on the outside shoulder of the backside guard. He can, however, expect help from the backside tackle.

The center should not block a head-up nose unless he slants into the backside A gap. He must take a flat first step with his inside foot, just as the other playside blockers do. I call this a "back block." It is the same kind of block used by a center when filling for a pulling guard on a trap against a four-man front.

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QUARTERBACK

The quarterback gets a chance to prove his toughness on the Power Pitch, since he is a lead blocker on the play. His steps are of major importance. Improper footwork will negate him as a lead blocker.

He must reverse out and make a soft pitch to the running back while pivoting his body 180 degrees. The analogy I use to get the proper first step is to reverse out to three o'clock or nine o'clock, depending on a play to the right or left. The pitch must be made on the move as the QB starts down the LOS on his path as a lead blocker. He should hug the LOS as he makes his way to help lead the play.

It is crucial for the QB to pivot 180 degrees on the pitch. Failure to do so will prevent him from getting out in front of the play. As he comes down the line, he should look for the corner established by the TE or WB block.

It is essential for the QB not to run by any defender penetrating along the LOS. Upon reaching the corner, he should turn up and block, looking from the inside out for the first wrong-colored jersey.

BACKSIDE GUARD

The backside guard, as stated earlier, pulls on the Power Pitch. First, he must choke his split to give himself a head start. Next, he should pull, hugging the LOS. The guard should look for the TE or WB block and turn up as tight as possible, looking from inside out to block the first defender he encounters. Like the QB, he must block any penetration along his path.

BACKSIDE TACKLE

The backside tackle's block might be viewed as less than critical, but ask any running back who has been chased down by a pinching defensive tackle or a blitzing LB and he will tell you differently. The backside tackle is responsible for scooping the backside B gap.

He is also responsible for reaching a DT on the backside guard's outside shoulder or picking up a LB blitzing into the backside B gap. In order to pick up a blitz or reach a down lineman, he must choke his split and step with his inside foot first or he will get beat inside.

It is not uncommon for the backside tackle to have to line up foot-to-foot with the backside guard in order to make his block, using the same flat step as the playside blockers. Remember, the tackle is working in a free blocking zone, and he is allowed to clip any defender in the B gap.

LEAD BACK

The lead back, whether lined up as a fullback or a halfback, is responsible for kicking out the force. He should take what I call a banana step to get the proper inside-out angle on the force man. This step is executed by leading with the playside foot. The foot should start forward and swing quickly in an arced path toward the force man.

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This arced path resembles a banana, thus the name banana step. The step will aim him at the inside shoulder of the force man. He must block the inside hip with his outside shoulder and get his body between the defender and the ball.

If the force man crashes down tight enough to prevent the lead back from kicking him out, the lead back should seal him by blocking his outside hip with his inside shoulder. This is a last resort, however. The lead back should kick out if at all possible.

If the lead back fails to take care of the force, the play will get spilled to the sideline. When the play is run to a tight slot set and the defense is playing a Cover 2 look with the cornerback forcing, the lead back will lead the alley on the play because the split end will now have the responsibility of blocking the force.

If the force man were to beat the split end and come hard inside, the lead back would have to block the force as usual.

SPLIT END

The split end can be aligned to the playside or backside, depending on whether the play is being run to a tight-end wing set or a tight-slot.

If on the playside, the split end should take a wide split and stalk-block the cornerback. He must work hard not to let the corner back get inside and force the play.

If the defense is playing Cover 2, the split end will become responsible for the force.

If the split end is lined up on the backside, he will take a good path to cut off the backside cornerback and prevent him from making the tackle on a cut back or a long gainer.

Examples of the blocking of different fronts, line stunts, and linebacker blitzes are shown in the diagrams.

RUNNING BACK

The running back's path is critical to the success of the Power Pitch. If he hits the play either too tight or too wide, he will reduce the effectiveness of the play. No matter what formation he is in, the ball-carrier must run this play downhill! His first steps will vary depending on the formation.

In the "I", his first step will be with his playside foot on a 45-degree angle aiming just to the outside of the TE or WB block, depending on which one of them is sealing the corner. After receiving the soft pitch from the QB, the ball-carrier should get his shoulders square and run downhill, looking for the kick-out block on the force man.

In a strong Wing T, regular Wing T or split back set, the ball-carrier's first step will be at the lead back's toes. This means he will step with his playside foot at the point where the lead back's toes were before the ball was snapped. Upon reaching the center of the formation, he must work to get downhill with his shoulders square. The play is more difficult to teach and harder to execute when run from these sets, but it is still a good play.

The running back must be patient on the Power Pitch, maintaining a good relationship with the lead back, pulling guard, and QB. Hurrying the play will not allow them to do their job. On a good play, the running back can sometimes be seen with his hand on the back of a lead blocker, allowing him to clear the way.

It is very important for the ball-carrier not to over-run the hole and have to make a hard cut to get downhill. This tells us that he has run the play too flat. He must be coached to take the proper steps in order for the play to have the correct timing.

The running back must be reminded to read the lead block and not bounce the play to the outside. He has to understand that the Power Pitch is an alley play with a seal created by the down blockers and a kick-out by the lead back. If the ball-carrier runs it too tight or too wide, he will not be hitting the seam created by his teammates.

Executed properly, the Power Pitch will force the defense to adjust. Defenses will have to move players to the point of attack by alignment or movement after the snap in order to get enough bodies to defense the play.

Once the defense does this, you have begun to dictate what they do--which will aid your play calling. Whenever a defense begins adjusting to stop the Power Pitch, it will open options to the weak side.

The Power Pitch is an effective play no matter how the defense lines up. The offensive players need simply follow their blocking rules to handle anything thrown at them.

BY STACE MCRANEY, Assistant Football Coach, St. Stanislaus HS, Bay Saint Louis, MS
COPYRIGHT 2003 Scholastic, Inc.
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Copyright 2003, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Football; run play
Author:McRaney, Stace
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2003
Words:2776
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