Zone Blocking in a Youth Football Option Offense

Zone Blocking

(Youth Football Option Offense)

By Coach Jim Adam

Youth Option FootballFor the very first time this past season I taught zone blocking to offensive linemen running an option-based system. I was pleased with the results, and coaches-clinic.com thought it would be a good blog topic. Some of this post is in the nature of How We Did It. But I will use the beginning of the post to take you through some Why We Did It – and that takes a little background information.

 

Background

I’ve taught option football to many different teams, in a few different offensive systems, and for a variety of player ages.  My youth football coaching curriculum vitae is getting longer by the year, and probably depressing for my wife. But it’s all been great fun for me.

In all the years previous to 2015, offensive linemen that I coached would learn ‘rules per play.’ For example, the left guard learned that for Midline Left he had to

  • identify the ‘dive key’ (being the first defensive lineman to the left of our center) and then
  • block the dive key down if
    1. the dive key lined up in the A gap OR
    2. the dive key crossed his face into the A gap
  • OR, if the dive key was head up or wider, to rip past him to the middle (or closest playside) linebacker

Those have been our rules – we always “protect the mesh”. Not everybody does it quite that way, but that has worked for us pretty well for fourth graders and older.

Last year I was asked to coach a group of 2nd graders, and this fall I just finished up my second season with them. As 2nd graders, they were the absolute youngest kids I’d ever coached in tackle football.   I’d spent the fall of the previous year (2013) introducing a couple of 8th grade teams to the flexbone offense they would be running in high school. That was really fun, because those 14-year-old kids could grasp new ideas very quickly. It was a humbling experience to suddenly start over with 7-year-olds in 2014.

I did my best to simplify things in the backfield that year by running from wishbone formation instead of flexbone (no motion necessary); and running far fewer plays. The only option play we really tried to run for 2nd grade was midline. In spite of those changes though, we really didn’t have much success running the option.  We were able to execute a good outside pitch option in practice a few times – but I was never confident enough to have us try it in a game. Our team was OK – we were about .500, though no scores were officially kept for that grade and the games were more like controlled scrimmages. But we certainly wanted to be better.

As I examined the season after the end of 2014, I noted three offensive problems.  First, neither of our QB’s were quite proficient enough to run an option system. The first was a really good athlete that turned the wrong way from under center too often. The other kid wasn’t quite courageous enough to run with the ball. Those are both pretty important qualities for a QB.

Our second problem was a general lack of athletic athletic ball carriers. We had only three. In a wishbone or flexbone system for kids, you need four to six athletic runners – four that start for you, and at least two more for depth.

Finally, I was not satisfied with the way our linemen were getting off the ball. I thought that some of that problem was due to the complexity of the rules that the linemen were expected to follow. There were just too many conditional statements to process for a young kid before the snap. I knew that all our offensive linemen were actually pretty good, and that they should have been better than they were. So that really disappointed me, because that meant their struggles were really MY fault.

In the spring of 2015 I started planning how I would do things differently. Specifically

  • What would I do if I had only two good runners? Both the QB’s I’d had I knew were moving out of our area, so that was an open position and we were down one athletic runner to start – would we have new guys that were athletic enough for all the backfield spots? Or would we need to run from an I formation? I planned for that eventuality, re-aquanting myself with Power, Blast, ISO, and Speed Option from I formation.
  • How could I get our offensive linemen to be faster to their blocks at the snap, and more sure of their responsibilities?

Pre-Season Thoughts

I found out during the summer of 2015 that of our sixteen 2nd grade players, three had moved out of the area, and four had chosen to do other sports (three soccer, one fall baseball.) It isn’t unusual to have some turnover from first year football players, but having 20% move out of area was pretty bad luck.  In addition, three of our four assistant coaches were now out of the area or otherwise unable to coach. However, we added eight new kids to roster, and two of them came with dads that would help coach. In e-mail exchanges and at the pre-season meeting I held, we all talked about our goals for offense, and my desire to get our O linemen faster to their blocks and more certain of their assignments. We determined that our backs would likely be better than they’d been.

In our meeting I told the assistants about an e-mail conversation I’d had with another youth coach about zone blocking. He’d written to me because he’d always taught zone blocking because it was so relatively easy, but he wanted to run the option. He was going to give it a shot, using some of my system and some of his.  The easy part he described intrigued me, so I had started reading as much as I could about zone blocking. I looked here. And here. And here. And probably a lot of other places that I can’t remember now.  Lots of the ideas I took away were great, but most of them were still too complex for my purposes.

So I did what I usually do, and simplified it down to make up my own system. I wanted our linemen to be sure of what they were supposed to do, and get there quickly and aggressively. From day one we began describing just four blocks to our third grade linemen:

  • Zone Right, which we would call Zorro
  • Zone Left, which we would call Zulu
  • Outside Right Zone, which we would call Oreos
  • Outside Left Zone, which we would call Olives

Instruction During the Season

Teaching these blocks would require our guys learning four general topics: Direction, Responsibility, Step, and Target.

The Direction for the block was pretty simple, because we used the direction in the words for the blocking assignment itself. In the huddle in the early part of the season we’d say “Zone Right, Zorro.” Later on we were able to shorten that to just “Zorro.” The direction part is in the name, and the kids picked up on the left and right aspects of the naming pretty well. None of the guys had any problem with the left and right direction of the blocking, even later on when we used only the shortcut words.

Responsibility (which man to block) was taught using pictures, repeated instruction from ready stances on the line, and drilling. Below are the pictures that we used that showed the responsiblity priorities. Our players were told to imagine themselves as the filled in circle player, and that their teammate on the line would be the open circle player. We drew that teammate just as a landmark.  The numbered boxes represented where opponents might be lined up, or might show up in the first step after the snap. The most important opponent to block would be #1 – but if no one was there, and no one suddenly showed up in that space at the snap, then the opponent to block would become #2, then #3, and then finally #4.

Zone Left PictureZone Right PictureZone LeftZone Right

Outside Zone LeftOutside Zone Right

Outside Zone Left PictureOutside Zone Right Picture
The drawings are pretty close to what we taught. The only added information had to do with the third and fourth options on each style of block. First, if on Zorro or Zulu our blocker has only #4 to block, then he is encouraged to combo on from there to any linebacker that shows up in the 1 or 3 area.  For the Outside Zone Blocks, if the teammate stepping in front of you gets to #3 first, OR you can’t get to your target in four steps, then climb to the #4 area and cut someone off.

From ‘ready’ stances on the line, we’d put defenders out in all the places they might block, call out the block (i.e. “Zulu”) and then see if the linemen could point out to the coach who they’d be blocking. We did these ‘identification’ drills at each practice. Those would be followed by live drills – the same exercise, but step and block on the snap count.

Each block had a different style of first Step. The drawing below is from one of the articles I linked earlier.

ZBS footwork
Zone Blocking Footwork Image
For our purposes, we only used the B step and C step. The Zorro and Zulu blocks used the B step. The Oreos and Olives blocks used the C step. We worked on the two B steps and the two C steps at every practice. When we did the step and block drills at practice, we’d start with one step, then go to two steps, then go to live blocking. During the one-step and two-step drills we would work on stances, get off, and body position at the step. We worked on six inch first steps, and how wide to open that first foot. For Zorro and Zulu, the distance of the second step would vary based on the Responsibility. For Oreos and Olives, our second step could cross over if we hadn’t reached our responsibility yet.

Target means our aiming point for blocking contact. For Zorro and Zulu the target is the Direction half of the defender (as we look at him) struck with the opposite hand. For example, in Zone Left (Zulu) if our lineman identifies based on Responsibility that he will probably be blocking jersey #61, he aims for the 6 on the front of the player’s jersey, and tries to get it with his right hand. For Oreos and Olives, our linemen are trying to get the far side shoulder of their opponent with their own near side forearm, make contact, and then (in most cases) climb. So for Oreos (Outside Right Zone) if our right tackle has identified a six technique to his right as his likely block, then he is trying to get his own left forearm on the 6 tech’s outside shoulder to pin him inside. We teach that if he can’t get to him in four steps to pin him, then to just drive him on in the direction that he is running away.

Putting It All Together

By teaching these four blocks as the basis of what we were doing, I could shorthand every lineman’s responsibility for every play. For 3rd grade we ran Midline Lead, a couple of different off tackle Power plays, and a couple of different Sweep plays as our most prevelent plays. We had a lead ISO dive for the fullback that hit the B gap that we called Bazooka, which used a split zone concept and a lead A back blocking through the split. We ran an Outside Veer Triple option out of pistol successfully several times as well, though didn’t use it as much as we eventually will. The matrix below shows each lineman’s responsibility on each of those plays. The slight variations of the normal zone blocks have an asterisk and are described below the matrix.

Play / Player Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle
Midline Lead Right Zorro Zorro Zulu Zulu * Zulu º
Midline Lead Left Zorro º Zorro * Zorro Zulu Zulu
Power (16, 36) Right Zorro Zorro Zorro Zorro Zulu
Power (17, 27) Left Zorro Zulu Zulu Zulu Zulu
Sweeps (Rocket 38, Jet 38) Right Oreos Oreos Oreos Oreos Oreos
Sweeps (Rocket 29, Jet 29) Left Olives Olives Olives Olives Olives
Bazooka Right Zulu Zulu Zulu Zulu Zorro
Bazooka Left Zulu Zorro Zorro Zorro Zorro
Veer Right (OSV from Pistol) Zorro Zorro Zorro Zorro Zorro **
Veer Left (OSV from Pistol) Zulu ** Zulu Zulu Zulu Zulu

* Playside Guard’s first Step for Midline is toward the center, but he dips shoulder to skip a head up dive key if possible. If head-up crosses inside we block him down.
º Playside Tackle has a Zone block inside – but skips the B gap player if he is the dive key.
** Playside Tackle’s has a Zone block on any head up player, but he skips the closest outside overhang, who is the dive read for this play.

There’s much more to all of this, but I was pretty pleased with the results. We had better backs this season, but our linemen improved a lot. Of 13 teams in our league, only two were better than us, and one other was about even with us. We ended up 6-2 on the year, and we’ll be getting better!

Below is the first of two planned videos about some aspects of our season:

Beating the Press in Youth Basketball

Beating the Press in Youth Basketball

7 Tips for Youth Basketball Coaches

 

The Press in Youth Basketball can be both devastating and demoralizing for your team if not properly prepared for.  Below are some Coaching Points we use when teaching our Youth Basketball teams how to handle the Press:

Tips for Beating the Press in Youth Basketball

Tips for Beating the Press in Youth Basketball

 

  1. The best way to beat the Press after a made basket is to attack it before it can set up.
  2. The Press is beaten with the pass and not the dribble.
  3. Teach the inbound passer to avoid initiating the Press Break from behind the backboard.
  4. Teach the inbound passer that after a made basket they can run the baseline if needed.
  5. Teach your players to face the Press and not turn their backs to the defense.
  6. Show your players where the Danger Zones are on the court and teach them to stay out of them.
  7. Don’t fear the Press, but rather see it as an opportunity to score.

If you would like to learn more, we encourage you to take a look at our Youth Basketball – Attacking the Press eBook below:
 


Youth Football Drills – Offensive Line

Youth Football Drills

(Offensive Line – Fast Get Offs)

 

One of the difficulties Youth Football Offensive Line coaches face each year is getting their young Offensive Lineman to fire off the ball.  A youth football drill that helps address this challenge that has been a staple in our practice plans through the years is the tennis ball drill.  Another drill that we recently came across comes to us from Coach Kyle Mlinek on the Dumcoach.com forum.  The name of the drill is the Topple Drill and much like the tennis ball drill its purpose is to help players quickly come of the ball.

Youth Football Drills - Topple Setup and Execution

Youth Football Drills – Topple Setup

Drill Setup and Execution

  • 1 Standup Dummy
  • Create 2 lines with players on either side of the Standup Blocking Dummy about 1 foot way.
  • On your Cadence, each player will try and topple the Dummy first.
  • Once done, each player rotates to the other line.

 

 

 

 

 

If you are looking for additional youth football drills for your team, we encourage you to take a look at the CLYFL Youth Football Drill Book.  It consists of 85 drills covering many aspects of the game.  If you need more drill ideas, please take a look out our YouTube library of football drills.  Our library includes drills for Offense, Defense, and Special Teams.  We have even included some Flag Football drills.

Youth Basketball Drills – Rebounding

Youth Basketball Drills

(2 on 1 Rebounding Drill)

 

In our previous Youth Basketball Drills blog post we shared our tweak to the 6 Shot Circuit Shooting Drill called the 10 Shot Circuit.  In this post we are going share a simple Rebounding Drill that over the years has become a staple in our practices.

Youth Basketball Drills - 2on1 Rebounding Setup

Youth Basketball Drills – 2on1 Rebounding Setup

Drill Setup

  • 1 basketball
  • Line up players in a single file near half court from the shortest to tallest player.
  • First player goes to the rebounding position in the middle of the lane.
  • Second and third players line up on the elbows as shooters.
  • Coach is on the wing with the basketball.
  • Rotation is rebounder to end of the line, shooter to rebounder, shooter to shooter, next player in line to shooter.

Youth Basketball Drills - 2on1 Rebounding

Youth Basketball Drills – 2on1 Rebounding

Drill Execution

  1. Coach passes to one of the shooters who then takes a shot.
  2. Rebounder blocks out the opposite shooter who is trying to get the offensive rebound.  Note: If the shot is made, just treat it as a miss.  
  3. If the shooter/offensive player gets the rebound, the rebounder must do 5 push-ups on the side of the court prior to rotating to the end of the line.
  4. To make the drill more challenging require the rebounder to let the ball hit the floor before securing the rebound.  This will put an emphasis on the rebounder moving their feet.

 

Coaching Points

  • Rebounder should find the player first, block out, and then go get the ball.
  • Emphasize proper spacing from the basket.  If the rebounder is too close to the basket, the offensive players has the advantage.
  • Teach the rebounder that if they get pushed under the basket to spin putting their rear-end on the offensive player’s rear-end pinning them under the basket.

If you need more drill ideas, please take a look at our YouTube library of youth basketball drills.

Youth Basketball Drills – 10 Shot Circuit

Youth Basketball Drills

(10 Shot Circuit Shooting Drill)

 

In our previous Youth Basketball Drills blog post we shared a simple drill to help your players develop their weak hand.   In this post we are going share our tweak to the 6 shot circuit drill outlined in the YouTube video below:

 

 

Youth Basketball Drills - 10 Shot Circuit

Youth Basketball Drills – 10 Shot Circuit

Drill Setup and Execution

  1. We add 4 cones to the 3 used in in the 6-shot circuit above.  2 in the short corner and 2 on the wing.
  2. Execute the 6 shot circuit as normal.
  3. After the 6th shot, the player sprints to the short corner for shot 7.
  4. After shot 7, the player sprints to the opposite corner for shot 8.
  5. After shot 8, the player sprints to the wing position on the opposite side of the floor for shot 9.
  6. After shot 9, the player sprints to the opposite wing for shot 10.

We like this drill for a number of reasons:

  • The variety of shots being practiced.
  • Weak hand development with both the drop step layup and hook shot.
  • Works on shooting on the move.
  • Practicing shots when fatigued.

Coaching Points

  • Have a player or coach rebounding each shot and passing it back to the coach on the foul line.
  • Make sure players are going around the cones and not short cutting the paths.
  • Emphasize using the weak hand on both the drop step and hook shots.
  • On jump shots players should be catching the ball and squaring up prior to taking the shot.  By squaring up we mean get their shoulders and feet pointing to the basket.

If you need more drill ideas, please take a look at our YouTube library of youth basketball drills.

Youth Basketball Drills – Weak Hand

Youth Basketball Drills

(Weak Hand Development)

 

To be a good basketball player it is critical that a player learn to shoot and dribble with both hands.  A simple youth basketball drill for Weak Hand Development is what we call the Weak Hand Layup Drill.  The purpose of this drill is to work on dribbling and shooting layups with our weak or non-dominant hand.

Youth Basketball Drills - Weak Hand Layup

Youth Basketball Drills – Weak Hand Layup

Drill Setup

  • Place a cone on the wing 4 feet outside of the 3 point arc.  Note:  For very young players you can move the cone closer and for older players you can move it out a little more.
  • Players line up behind the cone with a basketball.  Note:  You can split your team up onto multiple baskets and turn this into a competition to see which team/group makes the most layups in a given time period.

 

Drill Execution

  1. On Go the first player in line dribbles to the basket with their non-dominant hand and executes a layup with the same hand.  They then get their own rebound and dribble with their non-dominant hand back to the end of the line.
  2. As soon as the player in front shoots their layup the next person in line goes.
  3. This drill should be done for a set period of time like 2 minutes with the coaches counting each made layup.  If you choose to make this a competition, losers can do 5 pushups or sit ups.

Coaching Points

  • Head up when dribbling.
  • Try and get to the basket with as few dribbles as possible.
  • Go above the block to get a good angle to the basket.
  • Make sure the player is going off the correct foot when shooting the layup.  Left hand layups should be off the right foot and right hand layups should be off the left foot.
  • Aim for the top corner of the square on the backboard.
  • Dribble all the way back to the line.

If you need more drill ideas, please take a look at our YouTube library of youth basketball drills.

Youth Football Drills – Offensive Line

Youth Football Drills

(Offensive Line)

 

In our last blog post we shared a drill we call Slow Stalk Block that we are planning to use this coming season to help teach our Running Backs and Receivers how to properly execute a Stalk Block.  In this post we are going to share an Offensive Line drill we like to use for our Power Plays called Block the Backer.  The purpose of this drill is to make sure that our Pullers are finding Linebackers and making contact.

Youth Football Drills - Blocking the Backer

Youth Football Drills – Blocking the Backer Setup

Drill Setup

  • 6 Cones
  • 1 Stand-up Blocking Dummy.
  • Line 4 cones slightly angled downfield with a lineman in front of each. Place two cones 3 yards deep in front of center representing a Linebacker. The Linebacker stands in between the cones.
  • 1 Line. Rotate LB to Drill Line. Drill Line to Center. O-Line shifts one position to the right with PT becoming the LB.

Note: This drill is setup for an unbalanced line with the playside Guard pulling.  It can easily be adapted to a balanced line with the backside Guard pulling.

 

 

Youth Football Drills - Block the Backer

Youth Football Drills – Block the Backer Execution

Drill Execution

  • At the snap of the ball the Puller (G) must pull down the line.
  • The linebacker must try and tackle the dummy and the Puller (G) must get around the corner to block the Linebacker.

    Coaching Points for Puller

  • 6 inch first step with right foot at 2 o’clock.
  • Good rip with outside arm.
  • Low sprinter stance finish.
  • Spy the linebacker getting head to touchdown (outside) side.

If you are looking for additional Offensive Line Drills for your youth football team, we highly recommend, that you take a look at Coach O’Gorman’s How to be the Coach Your O-line Deserves clinic.

For additional drill ideas for your team, we encourage you to download the CLYFL Youth Football Drill Book, as well as visit our YouTube library of football drills.  Our library includes drills for Offense, Defense, and Special Teams.  We have even included some Flag Football drills.

Youth Football Drills – Running Backs

Youth Football Drills

(Running Backs and Receivers)

 

Inspired by Coach O’Gorman’s Offensive Line Drills we have come up with a Running Backs Drill called Slow Stalk Block.   The purpose of the drill is to not only re-enforce our Stalk Blocking technique, but also to teach the Running Back to read the block.  It’s a competitive drill that has both a winner and a loser.

Slow Stalk Block

Youth Football Drills – Slow Stalk Block Setup

Drill Setup

  • 4 Cones in a 5 by 10 yard rectangle (Note:  Depending on the age of your players the size of the rectangle made need to be adjusted.)
  • 1 Ball
  • 3 Lines (Runner, Blocker, and Defender)
  • The rotation of the drill is Defender to Runner, Runner to Blocker, and Blocker to Defender

 

 

 

 

Slow Stalk Block Drill

Youth Football Drills – Slow Stalk Block Drill

Drill Execution

  1. The Blocker and Defender line up 3 yards apart in the center of the rectangle with the Runner 2 yards behind Blocker.
  2. The Blocker approaches the Defender lowering his hips and keeping his head up while keeping the Defender from going where he wants to go.  The Defender is trying to tag the Runner.
  3. The Runner walks toward the end line reading the block and must stay within the rectangle.  (Note: Walks to the side of the Blocker’s rear end).
  4. If the Defender makes a definitive move in one direction, the Blocker should attempt to keep taking him that way.
  5. If the Runner is tagged, both the Runner and Blocker have to do 5 push-ups.  Otherwise the Defender must do 5 push-ups

If you are looking for additional youth football drills for your team, we encourage you to take a look at the CLYFL Youth Football Drill Book.  It consists of 85 drills covering many aspects of the game.  If you need more drill ideas, please take a look out our YouTube library of football drills.  Our library includes drills for Offense, Defense, and Special Teams.  We have even included some Flag Football drills.

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, their 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.

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