My Play Calling Thought Process

Duece gave a great break down of Paul Johnson’s If/Then thought process when calling offense the triple option…HERE .

It got me thinking about If/Then games within our spread offense and what I use when calling offense.  Now I do not have it broken down into an actual sheet, this is all stuff that has been floating around in my brain, this is actually the first time I will have put these thoughts down in writing so please excuse me if it becomes an incoherent mess.

I believe in having answers for anything a defense may throw at you.  What I like about being in spread, and using no huddle forces the defense into a lot of vanilla looks, or they are at the very least predictable… most teams sit in 1 or 2 different things against us and just stay.  We see very little interplay variability.

We primarily operate from 2×2 and 3×1 formations.  I will refer to our 2×2 formation as Ace for the remainder of this post.

The Box

If we are in Ace, the defense will surely have corners aligned in the area of our outside WRs.  Every team we play will have at least 1 Safety high.  Defenses must put defenders at least somewhat removed from the box in .  That is 5 players that we have removed from the box.

Basic math: 11-5 = 6 Defenders in the box… 5 if they play a 2 high coverage.

As an OL coach I can draw up a multitude of schemes to run against 5 and 6 man boxes.

Keep them out of the box
Next I look at the defenses overhang players… the guy between the team’s CB and their DE.  If they are sound defensively they will likely have this player at least splitting the difference between our OT and slot WR when we are in ACE.  I WANT to run the ball… if this player begins cheating his alignment toward the box in order to play the run, then I will use bubbles or screens outside to out leverage him immediately.  Play action bubble was a staple of my offense last season, it is a great answer for OLB/SS’s who wish to play the run.

 I am a huge believer in using trips.  Being in trips puts a great deal of stress on the defense, some defenses have major adjustments, some have no adjustments… either way you must be ready with the appropriate answer for the defensive reaction.

Using TRIPS is especially important when on the hashes.  HS Hash marks are so wide I feel you almost HAVE to be in trips to the wide side.  Being in Ace on a Hash does not spread the defense out because your slot and SE are so close, the overhang does not have to remove himself from the box.

Remember removing defenders is not just critical for running success, it makes pass protection much easier and more clearly defined.

I look at numbers to the trips side.  How many defenders do they have aligned to the trips side?
If they only have 2 defenders to cover my 3 WR’s then I want to attack that area of the field.  I can do this through a flood concept, any of our screens, and outside runs to that side… I have them outnumbered and that is where I must attack.

If they put 3 defenders over my 3 WR’s, any of the above plays can still work, but I begin looking at the rest of the defense as well.  To put 3 defenders over my 3 WR’s the defense has to do one of 3 things:

Walk a defender out of the box
If they walk an inside backer out of the box to the trips side then I want to run inside.  Think about it… we already have reduced numbers in the box via formation, and they have just removed one of the defenders.

Shift backers to the Trips side
Seeing as removing a backer from the box weakens the inside run ability of the defense, many DC will either flop their overhang player from the weakside, or bump the backers over…  Overhang bumps inside, bumping all backers over until the ILB on the trips side now walks out over the #3 WR.  If a team does this they have covered your 3 WR’s on the trips side, maintained their numbers in the box they began with, but they have opened up possibilities on the backside.  Without an overhang player on the single WR side, that WR has a lot of room to work with, this is where you play your stud WR.  Without an overhang player (and often a soft corner) I can attack the weak flat area with slants, curls, and screens.

A great play when on a Hash is going trips to the wide side, and throwing a play action screen back to the single WR. Play fake gets the defense flowing to the wide side, and being on the hash gives the OT a shorter distance to run to block the corner.  Without an overhang player to the weakside this can really hurt the defense.

Hitting the RB in the weak flat is another great way of exposing no overhang player.  Outside runs (Jet or my favorite, QB sweep) also do the trick.

Bring down the Free Safety
If a team walks their FS down to our trips side… then I want to attack deep.  I can run my backside WR on posts and he has the whole field to work with , since there is no FS.  Most teams will not do this, he may cheat to the trips but few teams I have seen will walk him up to play over one of our 3 WR’s.  The other 2 scenarios are more likely.

For this scenario to take place a defense would have a CB, LB, and FS over your 3 WR’s.  Keep their box numbers and keep their overhang, they can stay sound against many of the plays I have described but they are completely vulnerable deep down the MOF.

That is the thought process I use when calling plays.  I enjoy the chess match component of coaching football more than anything else, and a playcaller must always have the next answer ready.

Last year I went even crazier into this, I would use 4×1, some unbalanced stuff with WRs… all trying to gain numbers advantage somewhere.  I followed the same logic as above.

Of course there are other factors that go in to play calling but these are some general things I examine from the defense when calling plays.


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