Running the Spread Offense

Why Run the Spread Offense?

By Coach Mike Rowe 

 

I remember back in 2005 when I got my first head coaching job in Drayton, ND a small 9-man school  right on the mighty Red River. I was looking for an offense that was going to be much different than the power running attack that I grew up with.  My team was not very big, but they had a rich track and basketball history.  Then one night when I was searching the Internet for offensive ideas I found a copy of the University of Utah Offensive playbook that I printed off and studied for many weeks.  This is when I fell in love with the spread offense, and created what is now known as the Spartan Spread System.

My love with the spread offense started very simple. Spread the defense from sideline to sideline and vertically. By spreading the defense out we would be able to get more one on one match-ups and be able to create more explosive plays on offense.

 

Spread Offense

Probably the greatest advantage to running the Spread offense is the fact that when the Quarterback is under center the defense does not need to account for all 11 players as a run threat (Figure 1). When the QB is in the spread he is now a run threat and the defense needs to account for him on every single play (Figure 2).

Probably the play that all my programs have had the most success with running, and has always been a part of my playbook is the Inside Zone Read (IZ). Our program has ran the IZ over 1,000 times the last 4 years.  Once the zone scheme has been taught properly to the players there are very few concepts that have the ability to exploit a defense more.  Below in Figure 3 is our Zone Bubble concept and we like this because we have the ability to stretch the defense sideline to sideline with the bubble, and vertically with the run game. When you pair this play with a fast tempo you ended up creating issues for the defense. Because this play has more than one option you are able to run it over and over again until the defense can prove that they can stop it.

Zone Bubble Concept

Another reason why we love the run game in the spread is that it can help make great defensive player obsolete.  There are always going to be defensive players that are going to give your team issues. By running the spread offense you are able to determine which player you want to leave unblocked or the read player. In our run game each week we choose the player that is going to give us the most issues, and we are going to make them the read or option player.  In Figure 3 we use the IZ to make the defensive end have two responsibilities. He has to decide will he take the QB or the H. This puts him in a bind and makes a great player slow down.

Spread Offense Figure 4

In Figure 4 above this is the exact same blocking scheme up front for the Offensive linemen. The only difference is that instead of the quarterback attacking the outside read defender it is now the H. This makes it hard on the defensive coordinator to communicate with his players. Is the read player going to be a quarterback player? Or running back player?  By running multiple read schemes it will put doubt in the defensive players mind making him play much slower.

As we have evolved as a team, so has our run offense. We used to be primarily only a zone blocking team. The Spartan Spread System has added gap schemes to its repertoire, and has made us go from a pass first team to a run to set-up the pass team.  By adding gap schemes it has also helped us increase our explosive plays on play action pass (Figure 5).

Spread Offense Gap Scheme

In the pass game we try to keep it real simple. We want to run a lot of quick game and allow our athletes to make defenders miss. We like short quick passes because we want to keep the chains moving. The longer we keep the defense on the field the more likely they are going to make a mistake. When we first started running the Spartan Spread System defenses would spread out because they were scared of the pass. So because of this we were able to run the football because we would get a lot of 2 high safeties and a 5-man box (Figure 6).

Spread 5 Man Bo

Over the last 10 years because of the success of our run game we have seen a huge shift in defenses playing with up to 7 men in the tackle box (Figure 7). This has allowed us to get the ball to the perimeter wide receivers much easier. Because a 7-man box leaves the corners on an island they need to be sure tacklers otherwise a lot of explosive plays will happen.

Spread Offense 7 Man Box

The last thing that makes the Spartan Spread System so dangerous is the tempo.  When you are able to play fast and limit mistakes offensively you are able to put the defense in situations where they misalign. When teaching your team to run the no-huddle offense make sure your terminology is not too wordy. Try to limit each play call to 2 or 3 hand signals. By doing this your team can get to the line of scrimmage quickly and start to wear down the defense. This takes a lot of practice, but in the long run it is well worth it. For more spread resources make sure you go to my resource page.

Flipping Offensive Lineman

Optimizing your Football Running Plays

 

Optimizing Football PlaysIf you have been following our Essential Youth Football Plays and Football Plays, Formations, and Adjustments blog posts, you know that come September many youth football coaches will be scouring the Internet looking for football plays to help their struggling offenses.  What many youth football coaches fail to understand are that it may not be the plays they are running, but where they are placing their players. One of the strategies that we would like to suggest is flipping your offensive lineman.  This tactic makes optimal use of your talent while finding spots for less athletically gifted players and is even a strategy used at the higher levels of football.

To illustrate this concept, we will use Coach Bruce Eien’s I Wing Offense.

I Wing Base Formation

I Wing Base Formation

Using the strategy of flipping lineman we will designate the play side of the line as the “Wall” side and the back side of the play as the “Pull” side.

Pull and Wall Side

Pull and Wall Side

Our play calling nomenclature might look something like this:

[Backs Formation] [Blocking Scheme] [Wall Side/Play Direction] [Tag]

Using the examples of the I Back Toss Power Play and I Back Toss Counter Play in our previous blog posts, our play calls would be:

I-Right Toss Right

  • I-Right = Backs Formation
  • Toss = Power Blocking Scheme
  • Right = Designates which side of the Center the Wall side lineman are to line up and the direction of the play.
I Wing Toss Power Play

I Wing Toss Power Play

I-Right Counter Left

  • I-Right = Backs Formation
  • Counter = Power Blocking Scheme
  • Left = Designates which side of the Center the Wall side lineman are to line up and the direction of the play.
I Wing Toss Counter Play

I Wing Toss Counter Play

Player Placement

By flipping the offensive line, positions can be prioritized and players can be placed in spots where they have a greater chance of success.  Keeping with the previous examples, we would use the following guideline for building our offensive line:

Position Description Priority
pg Pull side Guard  (Most Athletic) 1
wt Wall side Tackle (Strongest/Best Blocker) 2
wg Wall side Guard – (Wall side Tackle in Waiting) 3
Y Wall side Tight End – (Best Receiver) 4
C Center – (Confident/Coachable) 5
pt Pull side Tackle (Minimum Type Player) 6
X Pull side Tight End (Minimum Type Player) 7

Since we are running away from the Pull side of the offensive line, we have created two positions, pt and X, that can be utilized for rotating players.  As these positions improve throughout the season, we could introduce tags that have the Wall side and Pull side swap responsibilities.  For example, if we align in the following fashion and our opponent has scouted us enough, they are going to expect that we are going to run Counter to the left of the formation and might shift their defense accordingly:

I-Right

I-Right

To combat this, we could simply add a Tag like “Rhino” or “Lion” that tells the Wall side and Pull side to swap responsibilities and the Backfield the new direction of the play.  Keeping with our I Wing Toss Power Play example, our play call would look like this:

I-Right Toss Left Rhino

  • I-Right = Backs Formation
  • Toss = Power Blocking Scheme
  • Left = Designates which side of the Center the Wall side are to lineman line up.
  • Rhino = Tells the Wall side and Play side to swap responsibilities and the Backfield the direction (Right) of the play.
I Wing Toss with Rhino Tag

I Wing Toss with Rhino Tag

If we wanted to appear to be running Toss to the Right, we could call:

I-Right Counter Right Lion

  • I-Right = Backs Formation
  • Counter = Counter Blocking Scheme
  • Right = Designates which side of the Center the Wall side lineman are to line up.
  • Lion = Tells the Wall side and Play side to swap responsibilities and the Backfield the direction (Left) of the play.
I Wing Toss Counter with Lion Tag

I Wing Toss Counter with Lion Tag

You would only need to use these tags if you think the defense is keying the Wall side of the line and only enough times to keep the defense honest.

Shifting the Offensive Line

If you like the idea of flipping your offensive line, you should also give consideration to shifting to further stress the defensive.  This could be simply done by having your Wall Side and Pull Side always start on the same side of the line and adding a “Shift” to your cadence.  For example, the Wall side could always line up on the Right and the Pull side on the Left of the Center with your cadence being something like the following:

Shift, Down, Set, GO

Assuming that the play call designated that the Wall side is to be on the Left side of the line, the offensive line would flip upon hearing “Shift”.  Otherwise they would just stay in their position.  Below is an example of a youth team flipping their line and better illustrates what we are trying to describe.  Though the team in the video is a Single Wing team, there flip method could be adopted to other offenses as well.

That’s Coaching!

Unless you are blessed with an abundance of quality offensive lineman, flipping your line puts your team in the best possible position to be successful while creating spots to get more players on the field without sacrificing competitiveness.  Finding ways to maintain competitiveness while striving to involve as many of your players is what Coaching is all about.  If you have doubts, we suggest you take a look at our Should I play my best 11 or risk sacrificing wins blog post.

If you are interested in learning more about the I Back Toss, please check out our I Back Toss (Double Wing Style) clinic.  Also, if you would like to further explore the thought of shifting your offensive line and the choreography required, you might want to take a look at our Flipping with the Unbalanced Single Wing clinic.

Football Plays and Formations

Football Plays, Formations, and Adjustments

(Getting more Power in the Power Running Play)

 

I Wing Toss Power Play

I Wing Toss Power Play

To expand on our theme of Football Formations and Essential Youth Football Plays, we thought we should cover a couple of formation adjustments that might make sense for your situation.  Like many of you we participate in a league where the end man on the line of scrimmage must be under a certain weight limit (ball carrier weight).  Even though we typically get a double team at the point of attack on our Power Running Play, there are times when our play side Tackle and Tight End struggle to get a sufficient push against a dominant Defensive Tackle.  Because of this we have the Wing ON, Flanker ON, and Tackle OVER formation adjustments in our playbook.

Note:  We will be using Coach Bruce Eien’s I Wing Toss play as our example Power Running Play.

Wing ON Adjustment

Football Plays - Wing ON

Football Plays – Wing ON

Because the I Wing offense utilizes a wing, we have the option of using the “Wing ON” adjustment.  Of the adjustments we will cover this is one of the simplest as it usually doesn’t require any assignment changes.  The Wing or Z player simply moves up to the line of scrimmage covering the X player.  Now the Z is the end man and while the X is no longer an eligible receiver he can now be over the ball carrier weight.  This allows you to put a much larger player in what would normally be the Tight End position.  Consequently you should get a better double team on the Defensive Tackle.  The only downside to this adjustment is that you can’t call any pass plays that sends the X out in a pass route.

Football Plays - I Wing Toss Wing ON

Football Plays – I Wing Toss Wing ON

Flanker ON Adjustment

Football Plays - Flanker ON

Football Plays – Flanker ON

The “Flanker ON” adjustment moves a flanker onto the line of scrimmage to cover the X or Tight End.  Now the Z or Flanker is the end man and while the X is no longer an eligible receiver he can now be over the ball carrier weight.  This allows you to put a much larger player in what would normally be the Tight End position.  Consequently you should get a better double team on the Defensive Tackle.  Much like the “Wing ON” adjustment there is the down side that you can’t call any pass plays that sends the X out in a pass route.

Football Plays - I Wing Toss Flanker ON

Football Plays – I Wing Toss Flanker ON

 

Tackle OVER Adjustment

Football Plays - Tackle OVER

Football Plays – Tackle OVER

The “Tackle OVER” splits out the X.  We then move the back side Tackle over to the play side to the position vacated by the X.  We are now in an unbalanced formation, but it is has been our experience that few defenses recognize this as unbalanced.  We now have both of our Tackles to double team the Defensive Tackle.  Unlike the “Wing ON” or “Flanker ON” adjustments we don’t lose any eligible receivers, however we do create a shorter edge on the back side.

Football Plays - I Wing Toss Tackle OVER

Football Plays – I Wing Toss Tackle OVER

If you are interested in learning more about the I Back Toss, please check out our I Back Toss (Double Wing Style) clinic.

Youth Football Plays

Essential Youth Football Plays

Essential Youth Football Plays

If you recently visited our site, you know that we published a blog post concerning Youth Football Formations.  In that post we mentioned that one of the most queried youth football topics according to google is football formations and that the number of searches tends to hit their peak in September when we believe many youth football coaches are frantically searching for magic football plays. Though it certainly isn’t magic, we believe Power Running plays along with a complementary play like Counter are football plays that should be in every youth offensive playbook.  The idea behind the Power Running play is pretty simple.  The offensive line on the play side of the line (side of the offensive line the ball is being run to) blocks down towards the Center and a running back kicks out or blocks the first defender on the line of scrimmage outside the gap or hole that the ball is being run to.  With the exception of the Guard, the offensive line on the back side of the line (side of the offensive line opposite of where the ball is being run to) seals off any penetration to their inside gap.  The back side Guard pulls to the play side behind the offensive line and up into the gap or hole the ball is being run to looking for a different colored jersey to block usually a linebacker.

Below is an example of our version of Coach Bruce Eien’s I Back Toss using a modified version of G.O.D. (Gap, On, Down) blocking rules verses a pretty common youth 6-2 defense:

I Back Toss Power Play

I Back Toss Power Play

 

Something that you may notice right away is that the play side Tackle is not blocking down towards the Center.  As we mentioned earlier, a Power Running play typically has everyone on the play side of the offensive line blocking down.  If we were to do that, the X Tight End would end up with a one on one block on the Defensive Tackle. Since many of us coach in youth football leagues where an eligible receiver has to be under a certain weight, the Tight End many times will be at disadvantage having to block a much larger player by themselves.  We account for that by tweaking our play side Tackle’s Power blocking rule such that they will form a double team on the Defensive Tackle.

 

 

Below are the blocking rules that make up our Power scheme:

  • Back side Tight End – G.O.D.
  • Back side Tackle – G.O.D.
  • Back side Guard – Pull
  • Center – M.O.M.A.  (Man On, Man Away)
  • Play side Guard – G.O.D.
  • Play side Tackle – G.O.O.D (Gap, On, Outside, Down)
  • Play side Tight End – G.O.D.

If you are an inexperienced coach and some of these terms are unfamiliar to you, a nice reference concerning Rules Blocking is Coach Parker’s Rule Blocking Vocabulary for Youth Football Offenses.

Here is the I Back Toss in action:

Complementary Football Plays

As mentioned earlier, we believe complementary plays to the Power Running play are football plays that should be in every offensive playbook.  By complementary we mean one that starts off looking like a Power Running play, but ends up attacking a different part of the field.  Keeping with Coach Eien’s I Back Toss, a good example of a complementary play is the I Back Counter.

I Back Toss Counter Play

I Back Toss Counter Play

 

The I Back Counter play starts out looking very much like the I Back Toss with the Quarterback and Tailback faking the Toss.  The Fullback steps to the back side as if he is going to execute his Toss kick out block, but instead comes under the Quarterback to the play side hole or gap the ball is being run to looking for different colored jersey to block.  The Wing or Z player comes underneath the Quarterback receiving a hand off and then running inside the kick out block of the Pulling back side Guard.  Though this play is considered a Counter play, it is effectively a Power play with some misdirection built-in.

 

 

Below are the blocking rules that make up our Counter scheme:

  • Back side Tight End – G.O.D.
  • Back side Tackle – G.O.D.
  • Back side Guard – Pull (Kick Out)
  • Center – M.O.M.A.  (Man On, Man Away)
  • Play side Guard – G.O.D.
  • Play side Tackle – G.O.O.D (Gap, On, Outside, Down)
  • Play side Tight End – G.O.D.

Here is the I Back Counter play in action:

Complementary plays are essential football plays as they allow you to punish the defense when they start committing to stopping your Power Running play.

If you are interested in learning more about the I Back Toss, please check out our I Back Toss (Double Wing Style) clinic.  Also, if you are interested in learning more about the Power and Counter concepts, you should take a look at our Multiple Ways to Run the Power Concept and Counter in the Youth Game clinics.

Youth Football Formations

Youth Football Formations

 

One of the most searched for youth football topics on google and often misunderstood is football formations.  Interestingly enough the search queries tend to peak in September during the heart of the youth football season when I suspect many offenses are struggling and coaches are looking for that magic play.

Formation Alignment Rules:

  1. Must have a least 7 players on the line of scrimmage, but can have as many as 10.  I say 10, because someone has to be able to take the snap.
  2. Can have up to 4 players in the backfield, but as pointed out in Rule #1 there can be as few as 1.
  3. Of the players on the line of scrimmage only those players on each end are considered eligible receivers.
  4. All players in the backfield are considered eligible receivers.

Youth Football Nuances

High School, College, and the Pros have numbering restrictions when determining the eligibility of a receiver.  Due to the nature of Youth Football, most youth leagues don’t enforce this restriction.  Here is a nice article that outlines in great detail if a player is eligible based on formation alignment.  Also for those youth coaches in leagues where there is a maximum weight for a ball carrier, they are often faced with the restriction that players on the end of the line of scrimmage must be of ball carrier weight.

Having Fun with Formations

As mentioned above we must have at least 7 players on the line of scrimmage and the end players are eligible receivers. Below is what Coach Bruce Eien calls his Stupid formation:

Football Formations - Bruce Eien's Stupid Formation

Football Formations – Bruce Eien’s Stupid Formation

Remember by rule the end man on the line of scrimmage is an eligible receiver.  Because the “C”enter is an end man he is eligible to go out for a pass.  From this formation you can run Sweep, Counter, Sweep Pass, and as mentioned before a Center Pass.  Keep in mind that if you use this formation and you participate in a ball carrier weight restricted league, the Center must be able to carry the ball.  If you are interested in learning more about the Stupid formation, as well as other exotic formations Coach Eien uses check out his Trick Plays and Exotic Formations clinic.

Here is another fun formation that we learned from Coach Mike Ranson called Monster:

Football Formations - Mike Ranson's Monster Formation

Football Formations – Mike Ranson’s Monster Formation

Again in this formation the Center is an eligible receiver because he is an end man on the line of scrimmage.  The trick with this play is the snap which looks more like a lateral, but is legal as long as it is one continuous motion. The following video illustrates what I am talking about:

What is the Purpose of a Formation?

While we have been having fun with some of the more unusual formations above, there are a couple of questions that you should ask yourself when wanting to use a new formation in your offense.

  1. What advantage or leverage does the formation give me ?
  2. Can I run most of my base offense from it or is it a “one trick pony”?

Often times inexperienced coaches utilize formations and really have no idea why they are doing it other than it is something they saw another coach use successfully.  Because they don’t understand why it was successful, they often don’t enjoy the same result.  Another mistake many inexperienced coaches make is that they run a single play from a specific formation.  While the play may work once or twice, the play or formation will become almost useless as they get deeper into the season and other teams have had an opportunity to scout them.

Now is the time to be planning and thinking about what formations you plan to utilize this coming season.  Don’t be the typical youth coach searching for formations and plays in September.

 

Youth Football Drills

Youth Football Drills

drillsIt’s that time of year that many of us youth football coaches are deep into planning for our upcoming season by working on our practice plans and thinking about what drills we will use.  Over the last several years we have been able to compile a list of quality football drills.  Our list includes drills for Offense, Defense, and Special Teams.  We have even included some Flag Football drills.

7 on 7 Youth Passing Playbook

7 on 7 Youth Playbook

For many of us the arrival of Spring means that 7-on-7 Season is just around the corner.  We love this time of year as it gives us the opportunity to start working with players on the basics… stance, first steps, routes / coverage.  As much fun as this is, we also like to be competitive and that is why we have developed our 7-on-7 Youth Passing Playbook.  Below are some of our favorite plays out of the playbook verses the most common defensive coverages we see.

Cover-2 Man

Youth Passing 7 on 7 verses Cover 2-Man

 

Cover-2 Zone

Youth Passing 7 on 7 verses Cover 2-Zone

 

Cover-3

Youth Passing 7 on 7 verses Cover 3

 

Here is some of the feedback we have received from coaches using our playbook:

“FYI, I didn’t coach our teams this past weekend because it was graduation weekend at RU and I had to work. Gave my iPad to a coach who has never been to a 7on7 before and he did a fantastic just because of your system. He loved it. He told me that it was the easiest thing he has ever had to do. I told him give the kids a number that is associated with the routes and tell that kid he is that number until he is told otherwise. The kids already new the deal but he was very nervous he would mess something up. This weekend I will get the recorder so you can see us in action.”

Coach Robert Stockwell
New Jersey

If you are interested in purchasing or just want to learn more about the playbook, please visit our Digital Store and scroll down towards the bottom of the page.

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