Saturday, December 31, 2011

A "Pro Style" approach to the spread offense

I was asked by a reader to talk about the use of a series based offense.  There has also been a lot of talk on coachhuey about series based offense, and using a series based approach within a spread offense.

I think being in spread puts more emphasis on thinning out the defense, making them defend the entire field and utilizing numbers and leverage to move the ball, but one can still use a series based approach to play the if/then game when a defender or defenders begin to "cheat" their responsibilities in order to make a stop.  Offense is all about putting defenders in conflict.

I started drawing up this little series of plays when this season ended.  I looked at how I used to do things out of 2 back under center, and the play action game we had a lot of success with.  I am normally a fan of staying as maximally spread out as possible, for example this past season 100% of our snaps were from 10 or empty personnel... no TE EVER, no 2 Back EVER.  The majority of the season we had a QB who wasn't necessarily a great runner, looking back I think the added back or TE could have helped us since our QB didn't really read BSDE and we didn't run him very often.  Next year we have 2 QBs who can fly and will be more than capable of reading BSDE and designed QB runs.  However I have set up this little package as something that can be used without a running QB, year in, year out, regardless of talent.  Now if you get a kid who can run it and throw it, then it just opens up the options you have even more.

Please excuse the crude drawings... I've tried a bunch of different playbook software, but still find good old microsoft paint the easiest.

I base this series out of an Off-Set I look, just in the gun.  Y by our base alignment is our slot WR, he can be moved to either right or left side, or with the use of a "YO" tag he can come down to a TE position if we feel that will help us.  For this article's sake , all of the drawings are with Y as a slot and H in the offset "full back" position.  Our "H" is our slot WR as well when we are in 1 back, this is a good fit for that "tweener" type of kid.

QB is at 4.5 yards, RB at 6, H even with the QB and aligned over B gap... might play with these alignments, but this is what I have seen a lot of teams do.

Every play in this 4 play series begins with the QB catching the snap and opening to the Left (counter clockwise) and with the RB stepping to the left of the QB.  That is what sets up the series based approach, the fact that the initial movement of the QB and F look the same on every play 

1. Power
Standard Power G scheme to the Left.  Playside OL will down block or double to backside LB. FB kicks out DE, BSG skip pulls to playside ILB.  BST hinge blocks BSDE.  QB can sell dropback or boot action after he hands off to F.  If, let's say, the defense aligns in 2 high look (4-3) then I would have the playside down/double to MLB, and BSG would skip pull to the LOLB.

Schematically, if my H can get a semi decent kickout block I should be OK, my playside OL has good angles and we account for every hat with the exception of the LOLB in the above look.  Now his alignment can vary depending on how the defense wishes to play it, but they have to give something up.  He may stay with a wide alignment to help that corner with our X WR underneath.  If talent is equal, I think my guys should be able to win those battles up front and we will get 4-5 yards a pop on POWER.  The only one who can really stop it is the LOLB.  

That is the next part in the series, taking advantage of that LOLB when he wants to make the tackle on power. We can run a play action pass in to that LOLB and catch him cheating 
#2 Flood Left

 If we slide pass pro the OL right, it looks just like the playside down blocks on Power.  H will attack DE and chip him as he slips into the flat. F fakes Power Left and runs right at that playside DE. (I could also have my OL just block man on if I was worried about the RB on the DE ) X Clears out, Y runs the deep crossing route, Z runs a backside post and we end up in a pretty standard Flood Concept to the playside.  

I would probably semi roll the QB to it after he fakes, most times he will be able to hit the H in the flats right now, if the LOLB does recognize it as a pass and chases the H, the Y will likely come open when he gets all the way across.  I can also help my Y by using the YO tag which will bring him in so he doesn't have as far to run to get across.

Now let's say the inside LBs are really flowing hard to blow up Power, or we get secondary rotation to where our QB is opening we can hit them with Counter back to the strong side.

#3 Counter
coachhuey knows how much I love the counter scheme.  Doing it from this set allows us to block the backside DE, and by removing Y from the box we can remove a LB.
QB still opens up to the left, F steps Left like he is getting power, then plants and gets the hand off over the top of the QB to run counter Right.
Standard Counter Scheme up front, playside OL blocking down/doubling to backside LB, Center blocking back, BSG pull and Kick, BST pull up to LB.

Inserting H allows us to block the backside DE.

Now depending on the type of kid I had at Y, I could bring him down to a TE position, to widen the playside DE, he would down block on the PSILB, and the tackle would pull to that OLB who would likely condense with the Y condensing in YO.  Just depends on the kid I have there, how I would handle it.

Lastly when teams begin to jump the counter, we can hit them with another play action flood concept.

#4 Flood Right
Same concept that we had to the left.  Ol can man protect or slide it. H can chip DE on his way out to help the protection, F sells counter. QB can half roll to it if that makes it easier and we get our standard flood to the playside.  Again, I can mix in the YO tag if I want.  

These 4 plays(really only 3) are simple, effective and can yield a lot of mileage.  They are good under center and in the gun.  I could easily seeing us install this package, plus 4 verts and do nothing but work that for the first week of spring ball.

Looking Beyond these 4 plays
While I think this is a pretty good start to an offense, I do not think that it is enough by itself to beat a good team.  These are some ideas I have just glancing at the formation.

Screen Game, all of our screen game exists still, really with little to no changes.  We can fake run and throw screen to either direction, this would especially be good if we get soft corner over X and the OLB wants to crowd into the box to play run.

We can use an OZ scheme and run stretch, or just pitch the ball to F going to the H side (Left in the above diagrams). H would lead block on the OLB, OL just uses OZ to seal the edge.

I have seen teams run sweep (OZ) with H going to the right, and having F lead block around he edge for him... one could use this or the inverted veer Dash concept with H has the one getting the ball.  F would lead block to the Right in either case, H would come across the QB as he is reading the Right DE, OL uses the Power G scheme that they already have a ton of reps in because Power G was the first play installed in the series.  

We are already in a 7 man protection, we could run the outside WRs on anything we want deep to exploit a 1 on 1 match up with the corner and we can use Y to control the middle with a search route.

I can go ISO either way very easily.

If I wanted to get into a triple option look, I can use H as the dive on veer, or have him run zone and read BSDE... with F stepping around running pitch relation.  I could run a loaded speed option quite easily.

I could easily get in to the air raid staples of mesh, shallow, stick etc. (they started from 2 back offense anyway)

Heck I'd still probably be able to get H up the Hash and run 4 verts from this set.  

These are just some examples of simple things that could be done from this formation beyond the 4 play series I started with.  If I wanted to include more QB runs because he was a kid I wanted to feed there are a number of ways I can do so.  Naked QB runs after fakes to F, I can run follow plays with the QB to really try to overload a defense by having H and F lead block for QB.  
Again I can use the option plays mentioned above (dash,veer,zone triple,speed option)

Now of course everything I mentioned would probably be TOO MUCH offense to ever get really good at something, but a few of those ideas can be picked out, added to the 4 play series I started with and then you have an entire offense that can stretch the field in any direction as well as put defenders in conflict.  

One other benefit is in short yardage or goal line...Many people feel spread can not work in short yardage situations... I do not agree with this, but say for some reason (weather, injury to Center) I did not want to be in the gun, I could pretty easily go under center and run this series pretty much the same way, I would just need a little bit of work with the QB on the footwork, because in Gun he just catches and turns.

Being an OC in HS is all about putting the 17 year old kids on defense in conflict, so much internal conflict and sadness that after the game they turn Emo...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I actually finished a book! (Dan Gonzalez - Concept Passing)

I got this book for Christmas, started reading it late Christmas night and finished it in 24 hours.

I must say that I hate reading books.  I am a fast reader, enjoyed it as a kid, but reading books just bores the life out of me now.  The last time I finished a book was 10 years ago when I was in 8th grade.  Once I got to High School I began hating reading, both for school and for pleasure.  I went through HS and my entire undergrad without reading books, even textbooks.

I have started a couple of coaching related books, thinking they would be interesting enough to captivate me but they never are.  I can read threads of all night but something about sitting down and reading a book is almost unbearable.

The fact that I finished this book, and in 24 hours, speaks to how well written and interesting it is.  I must say that this is the first time I have read this book, but it will not be the last.  The diagrams help to "flesh out" what Gonzalez is saying but there is so much content that I do not think you can truly soak it all in on the first read through.

Gonzalez gives a thorough break down of his passing scheme.  He begins with a break down of his terminology, the importance/use of formations and personnel groupings within the concepts, and pass protections.

Gonzalez then goes in to each of the 9 pass concepts... he refers to them by name and by number.  Each is given a digit number, that when partnered with the pass protection gives the play.  Plays in Gonzalez's system use a 2 digit number, the first gives the protection, the second the base pass concept.  They have many backside tags and route alterations to add on to the concepts.  To be honest I think there is too much for a high school offense.  The way he offers it up, if you did everything then yes, you could beat every single coverage under the sun, as well as every single adjustment from every single defensive player imaginable.  The problem is I think it is just too much to teach to 16 year olds, and I think it puts too much on the QB.  That said, the base concepts, with a tag or two is definitely doable and would provide the basis for a very effective HS passing game.

I am going to give a very brief description of the 9 concepts within the book.

Drag Concept:

Very similar to Air Raid Shallow, some tags/variations add a mesh look.

Vertical Concept:

 4 verts, but Gonzalez teaches a seam read from one slot WR, as well as streak read routes from the outside WR.  I really like the way he teaches it much better than how we have taught it for the last 2 years.

Two Man Game Concept:
This is the stick concept in air raid terms.  

Quick Concept:
This is actually multiple concepts.  They have several quick concepts that are called by name after the number

Corner Concept:
This is Smash or Hi/Lo.  Gonzalez offers two versions of this that are similar but have a couple slight difference.  Each is given it's own number in his playcalling system but they are taught together because they are so closely related.

Horizontal Concept:  
This is your standard curl/flat concept.

Numbers Concept:
This concept is designed to isolate WRs in one on one match ups.  Basically you are using a 7 man protection, having your two outside WRs run a deep out or something that isolates them on the corner.  Another WR will run a route to the middle of the field to give 3 vertical routes if you end up going against a cover 2.  

Three Level Concept:
This is a flood concept, Gonzalez also includes a variation where instead of flooding the outside 1/3 of the field, the routes flood the middle 1/3 of the field... so you are high/lowing an inside backer rather than flat defender.

Object Concept: This is essentially a way of tagging a specific WR on a route designed to get him open 1 on 1, it is added on to another one of the base concepts (that are called by number) one WR is tagged with an object concept route and only that WRs route changes.

After reading this book I think the Object concept and other tags can be a lot to handle for most kids... I really don't see myself incorporating them this year.

One thing that I liked is the pass game I have been drafting all off season for us next year lines up very closely to the concepts at the core of Gonzalez pass game.  It lets me know I was on the right track, and I will continue to use this book to help learn how to teach these core concepts better.

I am really in love with the Vertical, 2 man game, numbers, corner, and 3 level concepts in this book.  

The Drag concept is a possibility for the future, we ran shallow and mesh this year... I didn't love either one, but perhaps reading this chapter over again several times will make me value it more.

I highly recommend this book to any of you who think you have something to learn about the passing game.  

Now I am off to start working on all of my rules to make these concepts able to work in all of our formations with as simple rules as possible.  I'm also starting to work on our verbal and signal no huddle for next year.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


The Screen posts I put up last year seemed to be the most popular so I picked out a few highlights on our screens this year... you will see they vary from solid to jail to RB screens. They are a big part of our offense and I have found we can run them pretty much against anybody when our WRs commit to blocking.

Sorry for the poor video quality... The video is in good quality when I watch it on hudl and on my computer but something about uploading it to this blog makes it look like Atari.

Enjoy !

Friday, December 16, 2011

Counter, Counter, Counter, and more Counter

I want to thank every one's favorite French coach, Julien for suggesting the topic of this post... Counter from the spread, or as some other spread coaches refer to it, GT.

This is my favorite play in football, not just from spread, I made a living off of it when I coached in the fly and when I coached in a more pro style 21 personnel offense.  I just live the scheme, its simplicity, and to me it has an answer for every defense.

The scheme itself is quite simple:

Play side: we block down or double to backside backer... we always leave PSDE and PSLB alone (unless they cross face

Backside Guard pulls and kicks out PSDE
Backside Tackle pulls and leads up on PSLB

Nothing magical about it, and I am sure we have all seen it or run it in our careers.

Went from a zone based team in 2010 to a gap based run team this year and it worked much better for us. We rushed for 1700 yards with 100% of our snaps being from 10 personnel or empty.  Not bad IMO for a team that passed as much as we did.  Counter was a staple of our run game throughout the season... I must admit that as the season went on teams got better at stopping it... that is what I want to focus on now... the little things we did wrong, that I have learned from, that we can correct to run the hell out of Counter next season.

I want to first clarify that we had 3 variations of counter this season... regular counter (read on BSDE by QB), CAT (front side counter, RB aligned on same side as counter , took a few steps then cut back following tackle), and Q Counter (RB fakes across, blocks BSDE and Q keeps it).

Our first problem came from backside Ends... it was a problem that should have an easy answer... the whole point of running this from spread is the read on the backside End...I do not know what happened to us this season but for whatever reason this was never stressed enough.  We had 2 QBs, a pocket passer, and a wildcat type kid as a change of pace... the passer wasnt a great run threat but we never repped the read aspect enough so DEs would chase without fear of consequence... when teams could catch us from backside it really took away our ability to call this play.

We tried putting some band aids over this by bringing a slot WR split down to a wing like position in order to step across and seal off the DE from chasing tackle... but our WRs never understood how to do this properly so it was pretty much a waste.

Our CAT play is good in theory because it actually has a counter action by the RB starting one way and cutting back but we could only run this with a team who had their BSDE sit and not chase pulling tackle

Q counter was the "safest" way to call counter because our RB could account for BSDE... with the wildcat kid in this was a great play for us this season and even the pocket pass had a couple big first down runs for us on it this season, the highlight of which came when he just about piggybacked our pulling tackle into the end zone to ice a big comeback win for us mid season.

So my 2012 answer for this problem is

  1. Rep the crap out of the read aspect... the wildcat kid comes back and will likely start, his competition is our JV QB from last year who is a very good athlete himself, either way if teams want to have DE chase next year against us, our QB will be GONE out the backside
  2. I want to incorporate some 2 back sets so we can use 1 back to block the backside DE when we want to pound our RB, if i want to pound the QB I can run our Q counter the same way we did this year
Our next issue was the PSDE, as we went along this season we faced 2 problems from DEs
One team wrong armed us... My OL had the right response, guard logged it, tackle saw it and bounced it naturally, our problem was our RB didn't see it and wouldn't bounce it outside... the coaching staff took the blame on this one, our guys up in the press box couldn't see this was happening so we abandoned counter but really the issue was us not telling the back to run it wide like sweep... looking back on film there were 3 times the RB ran wide and it was a 10+ yard gainer each time.  Looking back I do not know how we missed that one.

Problem #2, The teams that stuffed us had physical specimens at DE and were able to read our down block and crash down so hard down the LOS that they laid the hammer on our guards... we never got a good kick out.

My answer for this next year is the DART play...  We did a good job of 1 on 1 blocking these same DEs when we ran dive and sweep... instead of trying to kick him, I want to base him with our PST, have everyone but the BST base block, and then have BST pull and lead up on the PSLB... instead of trying to dig him out with the guard, the PST has an easier assignment riding the DE out

That play, mixed with our counter scheme, mixed with our sweep(OZ) scheme... puts a lot on that DEs plate... add in the fact that we can option him by running inverted veer and he doesn't know what to do on the snap.

Although we ran less counter in the 2nd half of the season because of the above issues, I think it will be the core of our offense in 2012.  The speed bumps we faced this season only helped me to learn more about the scheme and how to adjust it in order to make it work.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I need Ideas

I haven't been on here in way too long, this was a long season but in a good way.
We went from 1 win to 6 wins...More than doubled our points scored from last season, made the playoffs for the first time in 8 years, beat our cross town rival for the first time in 7 years, and nearly pulled off a huge first round upset against our most hated rival.

Now that the season is over and we are approaching the winter break I have some free time on my hands again and feel like getting back to writing.

Please email me at

and let me know the things you would like to see future posts about, the more suggestions I get, the more I can write about in the coming weeks/months.

Please flood my inbox!