Stanford Offense: Stretch

I love studying offenses that run the football.  I get that the spread offense and RPO packaged plays are all the rage in college and HS football, but a team that can pound the ball from 21 personnel is a beautiful thing to watch.  One of my favorite teams to watch is Stanford (both for their style of offense and the fact that they are local).

One scheme I want to analyze here is their Stretch or Outside Zone Scheme.  We run a ton of stretch from multiple personnel sets and do so very similarly to what Stanford does.

In the 3 examples below I am going to analyze Stanford is aligned in a basic Pro I formation.  TE and WR to the left, one WR to the right.  FB and RB (Christian McCaffrey or as i have dubbed him “C-Mac”) in the “I”.


The OL is going to work wide to the playside looking to reach defenders to their playside gap.  If they step playside and have no threat they will work to climb up to LB level.  On the playside, the TE always has the option to turn a defender out if they simply cannot reach him.

The FB is reading the block on the edge and is looking to either insert if the DE widens/comes upfield or work around him to the force player if the DE gives up the edge.

The RB is reading it the same as the Fb. He will work a wide path to “stretch” the defense horizontally and look to make 1 vertical cut up the field and get going downhill.

Example 1 vs USC (i love this play near the goal line, the defense comes right to you)

Example 2 vs Iowa (DE widens, TE turns him. Fb inserts)

Example 3 vs Iowa (DE widens, TE turns him. FB inserts. Now defense flows more faster toward the play, opens up a huge Cutback lane after C-Max gets downhill through the LOS) Notice the great job backside OL guys do to stay engaged and work butt toward the sideline, giving C-Mac an alley.

I just love Stretch.  it is safe against any defensive look you are going to see and it is a great combination (especially with a FB) of an outside run and a downhill run.  It gets the defensive flow of an outside run, but using that FB to insert anywhere he sees the opening along the front, and the RB making one cut and getting downhill give the play a smash mouth feel.

Stanford RB option concept

If you have watched any Stanford film from this season you have probably seen Christian McCaffrey running circles around defenders.  They involve him heavily in the run game and return game but perhaps his most impressive skill is as a receiver out of the backfield.

The core concept to feature his crazy agility, footwork, and cutting skills is the RB option route.


Stanford primarily runs this from some form of 3×1.  By putting 3 to a side they are able to stress the defense to covering up those WRs.  They have to keep a corner home on the backside against the single WR.  This often leaves them with a 1on1 match up on the backside with C-Mac and a LB or safety.  In Stanford’s case he is their best athlete period (most teams best player is their RB).  It gets him matched up 1on1 against a player with lesser cover skills.

Stanford can run any concept to the trips side.  If the defense is playing 2 defenders over their 3 they can pick that side apart with their quick game.  When the defense works 3 over 3, it is an easy decision to work the backside of the field and work C-Mac on the option route.  They can run different things with the backside single WR but they typically will run him vertically to remove the corner from the equation.

IMG_4573 (1)

Stanford often uses a quick out concept to the trips side.  This is the exact play they use in both video examples below.

Option Route

The RB will work around the OT attacking the outside shoulder of the LB or safety over him.  I have read that they try to push this to 5 yards of depth but C-Max often breaks this route sooner to make his move before the LB/Safety is able to get hands on him.

Attacking the outside shoulder puts pressure on the defender.  He has to decide what kind of leverage he wants to defend C-Mac with.  If he stays heavy inside the Rb will break to the sideline and run away from the defender.  If the defender opens his hips to the sideline or is playing with outside leverage the Rb will make a move out but break across his face attacking the middle of the field.

In the 2 examples below C-Mac is abel to put the pressure on the defender, fake him outside, and cut across his face to a wide open middle of the field.

vs USC in Pac-12 Championship (C-Mac 1on1 vs a LB)

vs Iowa in Rose Bowl (C-Mac 1on1 vs a Safety)


Auburn’s Buck Sweep

Here is a brief break down of Auburn’s Buck Sweep.  They will run the sweep with different ball carriers and backfield actions.  It is a flexible scheme that can be used in any style of offense from a true power team to a spread offense.  The scheme is built on angle blocking and Wing t principles.  It provides a great constraint for how defensive ends are playing your inside run game.

Auburn brings a RB in motion from the slot to receive the mesh, while using their QB and Tailback to fake an option course backside, you will see the effect this has on slowing down the defense’s pursuit of the play.


iBook Preview – Buck

In the next preview of the schemes I discuss in my new iBook I will be introducing our RB Buck play.

Our Buck a RB version of the buck sweep.  It was the biggest addition to our playbook this season and we averaged over 10 yards per carry on it.  In the iBook i detail multiple ways we seal the edge and pull our guards to lead block for this sweep that can hit anywhere from the alley to the sideline.  I re use many of the skills we work on in our power and counter schemes and it gives us a great answer for team who are defending those schemes well.

This is a play that has become a huge part of Auburn’s success running the football.

Here is a clip of our buck play that begins looking just like power, and then pops out to the alley for a big gain.

Michigan Power Pass

The “Power Pass” is a play action flood concept used by most teams and is a valuable tool for a run heavy offense to take advantage of the defense’s aggressiveness in stopping the run game.  There are some variations but you will typically see a deep route from  a WR, an out breaking route from a TE on the playside, and a FB flat route from the backfield.  The QB and RB will sell a hard run fake to the play side.

This is a part of our base offense and we usually see a wide open TE or FB because of the defense’s reaction to what looks like a run play.

I saw Michigan run this type of concept early in the Citrus Bowl against Florida.  One interesting thing Michigan did was to run it from a heavy personnel group.  They were in what I call “Jumbo” which is 22 personnel (2 backs, 2 TEs, 1 WR).

By using a TE on the backside of the play (rather than an X WR split out wide) it allows a short drag route to immediately fill space vacated by the playside LB.

Here is a diagram of the play from double tight.


In the clip below I give a brief summary and analysis of the play.  You will see the corner take the WR, and the safety play the Right TE on the out right.  The Sam LB triggers on the run fake but does an excellent job of recognizing the FB flat route and redirecting to cover him.  The Mike LB fills and continues to rush at the QB.  With the Safety and Sam covering other players, and the Will and backside secondary players trailing by alignment, it leaves a natural hole for the left TE to drag in to.


There are different ways to protect power pass, many teams will pull a guard to sell the exact same blocking action.  Michigan uses the simplest and safest way to protect it by sliding their entire OL to the left away from the run fake.  This ensures gap integrity across the front from play side B gap to the QB’s backside.  The RB is responsible for picking up the play side edge pressure by blocking the DE after his fake.

Alabama’s TE flat screen packaged with Inside Zone

Throwing quick bubble screens as stand alone plays and attached to run plays is nothing new.  The idea is to get the ball to an player quickly in space with the playside WR(s) blocking the secondary for them.  The play is successful when you have a numbers or leverage advantage because of how a team may be playing your run game.

A new trend in football is rather than a bubble, offenses will use a quick flat route from a TE/H back.  It is a designed quick throw to the flat but the other WRs are not running routes, they are blocking the secondary from the start of the play.  The route is caught behind the line of scrimmage so there is no penalty from pass interference on the WRs for blocking with the ball in the air, and there is no illegal man down field on the OL if they go down field because you are working it as an RPO.

In the clip below I analyze how Alabama ran this concept in the National Championship game against Clemson.


Alabama aligns in a 2×2 set, a quick motion puts OJ Howard into the H back position.  Alabama is showing an “inside zone slice” concept up front.  The OL is doing IZ right, and it looks like OJ Howard is “slicing” back to block the backside DE.  Rather than block the DE, Howard bypasses the DE to run his flat route and turns for the ball immediately.  The 2 play side WRs stalk the Corner and OLB to give Howard space to run after the catch.

The QB is reading the DE end on the play and can choose to give the ball to the RB on the inside zone, or pull it and throw the quick flat.

In this clip Coker feels the end has closed down and pulls the ball to quickly flip it out to Howard in the flat who turns it in to a huge gain.

How Alabama ran the Coverdale Bunch Mesh Concept vs Clemson

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.

bunch diagram

#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.

How to Download Video, Create Cut Ups, and Analyze with Hudl Technique

I have to give Todd Greenwell credit for inspiring me to write this post.  I saw some great analysis/breakdown he was posting and asked him to explain how he was getting his video, trimming it, and analyzing it both with telestrations and voice over.  He explained what he did and I began looking in to easy ways to download videos from YouTube as well as trim them down into smaller clips.

Below is a screen recording I did that shows you step by step

  1. how to download a youtube video you want
  2. how to trim the clip into the individual plays you want


Using HUDL TECHNIQUE for further analysis

hudl technique

The newest thing I have started using this off season is Hudl Technique.  It is a mobile app that Hudl offers (was another slow mo recording app that Hudl bought out).  I have been using it this off season to film kids in the weight room, and break down in slow motion their lifts to help them improve their form.

Coach Greenwell recently opened my eyes to the film analysis possible with Hudl Technique.  Once you have the clip(s) you want you can load them to your iPad/mobile device camera.  You can do this through the computer or I sent my plays from my MacBook to my iPad using AirDrop.

Once you have the video you want on your device (in my case my iPad) open the Hudl Technique app.

  1. Click Record
  2. Click Import
  3. Select the video you want to analyze
  4. It will appear in your videos.  Now simply click play on the clip and it will go to full screen.

From here you will have the ability to draw on the video using different drawing tools, and at the top of the screen you will see a microphone icon.  In the pic below you will see a screen shot of this exact part.  A red arrow points out the microphone icon, a yellow arrow points out the drawing tools (if drawing tools do not appear click the pencil icon and they will appear).


Now you can really get in depth and not just analyze a play in slow motion (varying speed control in bottom left corner of playback screen) but you can draw in different colors over the top of your video using the drawing tools.  If you want to share your work with others (your staff, coaching friends, your players, or write for a blog like myself) you will hit the microphone icon on top.  Pressing this microphone icon will began a screen recording that will also pick up audio.  Now you can provide voice over as you go through the clip at whatever speed you want, adding in whatever drawing you want, and replaying it as many times as you want.  Once you are done, press the microphone again to stop the recording and you have a new video saved that you can export to share in any way you like.

This is a great way for coaches to integrate technology into their teaching.

You can now easily create video teaching tools for your players/staff with your audio/feedback over the video plus the ability to annotate on screen.  This is great for drawing blocking schemes, coverages, and highlight players to read on runs, passes, and RPOs.

BCS Breakdown

I just set my DVD recorder up for the National Championship.

I will be recording the whole thing so I can further break it down in upcoming posts.

Very excited to see both Offenses in action and look at their adjustments.

This will be my first time breaking down anything off of the TV so I hope everything works out alright, but I think some good stuff will come out of it.

Stay tuned for future posts related to this Game