Every off season I look for new things to research for personal use as well as old resources to re-watch to consider adding to my offense. One thing I have been reviewing this off season is the use of the Bunch Formation. Andrew Coverdale and Dan Robinson came out with DVDs years ago that focused on the Bunch Attack. Over the long Winter break from school I watched 2 of their videos on efootballflix that focused on the bunch formation. Their original video focuses specifically on a concept they call “Mesh” from a 3 man bunch.
While watching the National Championship game I saw Alabama run a play and thought “wow that looked just like Bunch Mesh”.
After replaying it several times my thought was confirmed.
Here is a basic diagram of the concept.
#1 has a whip or pivot route. He will work inside aiming to settle at 6 yards. He can sit down in open space or burst back out toward the sideline.
#2 has a corner route (he can flatten this off if he needs to get away from the safety)
#3 has the flat route (or arrow)
Coverdale and Robinson read this as a THROW THE FLAT FIRST type of concept. They want to get the ball to the flat route immediately and work to throw the whip or corner routes as 2nd and 3rd progressions if the flat is taken away by a defender.
For those that use R4 you would likely teach it as rhythm corner, read whip, and rush flat.
How Alabama Sets it up
Alabama starts in a balanced 2×2 set.
With a quick motion they put OJ Howard into an H back/Fullback position which gives them a 3 man bunch. By condensing the split of the WRs to the wide side pre snap, Alabama has brought the Corner and Safety further inside. Before the snap, and at the catch Clemson has 0 defenders between the hash and the sideline. On an NCAA field that is 20 yards of width!
#1 works inside and sits, he is covered but he sits because the playside LB is either on a blitz or is attacking Derrick Henry. When i first watched the play live I thought it was a play action off of stretch but there is no ball or mesh fake from Coker and Henry. However Coker moving that direction, and Henry attacking the LOS give it a feel similar to play action and you see an aggressive response from the playside DL and LB attacking the backfield.
#2 works vertical and runs a flattened corner route against the safety.
#3 OJ Howard gives a slight chip to the DE and gets to his flat route.
Their is pressure in Coker’s face but just like Coverdale wants when teaching the Bunch Mesh, he hits the Flat immediately.
The Safety takes #2 going vertical. The corner (who is inside the hash mark due to formation) stays on #1’s route and it leaves no one to cover OJ Howard in the flat.
Bunching WRs and condensing the formation are powerful tools for an offense to help confuse defenders and free up guys by creating natural picks against man coverage. The trips bunch formation is notorious for causing coverage break downs leading to wide open targets.