Bama’s Offense Heading into National Championship Game

As Monday’s National Championship game draws near, I decided to break down the offense of what has become one of my favorite teams… Alabama.

Yes Kiffin is out and Sark is in, but I do not expect a ton to change offensively.  Coach Sark has been on staff all year and as an analyst I’m sure has had his hand in the game planning process each week.

The offense had some struggles in their playoff game against Washington but I wanted to take a look at the plays that worked well for them against UW and what I think they will use against Clemson in the National Championship.

Below I took a look at several concepts that worked last week and that THEY NEED to work well Monday in order to win.

QB Run Game:

UW did a great job defending the QB sweeps that Bama runs, but Freshman QB Jalen Hurts was much more successful running the ball on some of their read based QB runs.

Toss Read:

I have written about the Toss Read play HERE (Clemson) AND HERE (North Carolina)

RB attacks wide, the DE is left unblocked and the QB reads him.

Bama runs several End read schemes.  They will threaten him with a toss or a sweep path by RB (both with power blocking for the OL).  Look for the Toss Read and the Power Read to be key concepts for BOTH offenses in the Natty.

Inverted Veer/Bash:

Another play Bama uses is the inverted veer or “Bash” concept as some call it.

The OL will block Inside Zone (IZ) leaving the backside DE unblocked.  The Rb runs a wide sweep path toward the DE as the QB shuffles reading him.  If the DE squeezes he gives the ball to the RB around the edge.  If the DE widens with the Rb, the Qb keeps the ball and runs inside.

Zone “Bluff”:

Bama will often use an H back to “slice” across the formation and block the backside DE.  One wrinkle off of this is the “BLUFF” tag.  The H back will now bypass the DE, running around him to block the force player.  This gets the QB an extra blocker outside if the DE crashes and he pulls the ball on the zone read.

Zone Run Game:

Bunch Zone Dive:

I think Coach Sark is going to POUND THE BALL.  Bama can do this in many ways but one particular way to look out for is via the bunch formation.  Bama had several successful runs against UW running a zone dive toward a Bunch Set.  OL looks to be using Zone principles to the right.  In the Bunch the WR blocks the corner and the TE looks to base the defender over him.  As the H back zones right with the Left Tackle (looking to climb if DE pinches inside big Cam Robinson) this creates a natural crease between the LT and the bunched TE.  With the rest of the OL zone blocking, it gives the back options to run to daylight.

Pass Game:

While I believe Coach Sark will pound the ball with Hurts and the stable of backs, they will need Hurts to step up and make some plays with his arm to win back to back titles.

Play Action to OJ Howard:

OJ Howard had his coming out party against Clemson in last year’s Natty catching 5 passes for 208 yards and 2 TDs.  He will be a valuable play action weapon for Hurts in this game.

Play Action Wheel:

One way Bama has gotten hurts the ball is running him on wheels/vertical routes to the boundary.  The play starts off looking like Power Read.  Howard is a great blocker on the perimeter so the defense has to respect the run look.  As the WR releases inside and gets vertical, it clears out space for Howard to settle in the hole.

Sprint Out:

Another concept I look for Bama to use is the Sprint Out Pass.  With an athletic, young QB like Hurts one of the easiest ways to get a completion is to sprint him out to his right.  It cuts the field in half for him, he is moving toward his target and in some ways a sprint out simplifies things for him.  He can roll out, read 1 defender and fire the ball in there.  Sprinting him out also puts stress on the defense to keep him contained because his legs are still his most dangerous weapon and he can take off if everyone is covered.

Here are 2 Sprint Outs Bama hit vs UW.

The second one got called back as a Bama WR covered up his teammate, but look for Bama to use the Sprint out against Clemson.

Conclusion:

I look forward to the National Championship because they gave us such a great game last year.  Both teams are full of NFL talent.  I look forward to seeing how Coach Sark runs the offense and I am sure we will see these concepts in the game Monday Night.

Clemson Quick Toss and QB Counter

The Power Read Concept took the football world by storm a few years ago.  The new version of this play is to Toss the RB the ball rather than sweep mesh, to get him outside faster.

I first saw the play last year from a High School Coach and then saw several college use it during the 2015 Bowl Season.

I wrote about North Carolina using it last year here.

The idea is simple… OL blocks Power playside.  The Rb aligns playside and runs a toss.  The Qb catches the snap, shuffles towards the back, reading the DE.  If the DE squeezes or attacks him, toss the ball to the RB now.  If the DE widens to play the RB, keep the ball and run inside.

This is a great way to get the ball on the edge against talented DEs.  It is difficult to reach a great DE to get the RB the edge, but by blocking down with the OT and getting the DE to squeeze that, you can toss it outside and use what he is taught to do against him.

This play became a big part of the Clemson offense in 2016 and they really hurt Ohio State in their playoff game with the QB Counter off of that action.

The Toss:

  • Use what the DE is taught against him and out leverage him at the snap for squeezing down blocks

QB Counter:

  • Deshaun Watson killed Ohio State in this game with the GH Counter (Guard and H back ) off of toss action.

PA Pass:

The next play to look at in this series is play action pass.  Now I will be honest, this play is somewhere in between quick toss and QB power in terms of run action… The Rb path is definitely more vertical than on the toss but it is similar enough that I included it here.  Although incomplete, this is another way to stress the defense.  RB attacks wide outside of the OT and gets vertical down the middle of the field.  A more accurate pass away from the safety and this is a 1st down completion.

Combining Jet And Toss:

Clemson is known for combining their Jet and Toss into one play.  I do not know if the play is called or read but here are 2 ways they did it in the game.  The first from under center with an unbalanced Jet look, with quick toss going opposite.

This other look was not as successful but you will see them going Jet one way, with quick toss the other.  The OL blocks power toward the toss, away form the Jet.

 

 

 

Pitt’s Jet Sweep + Inside Zone

I have been watching a good amount of Pitt’s 2016 film lately.  They did several interesting things under OC Matt Canada (who just got the LSU OC job).

To me, the most interesting thing they do is the way they package Jet Sweep with their Inside Zone (IZ) run game.  It is unique to me in that they are executed the EXACT same.

Pitt runs the Jet going one direction, with the IZ going the other way.  From looking at several clips of this it appears that Part of the team is blocking IZ, while others are blocking for the Jet.

For example, imagine Jet going Right, with IZ (and the Rb) going left.

Everyone from the RT position over toward the left, will be blocking IZ Left.

Everyone from the Right TE position and/or H back Position will be blocking for the Jet .

Notice I said “position” to describe each spot.  That is because Pitt does a lot of unbalanced formations, and often a tackle will be over next to the other tackle, and end up as the 3rd man to that side, or “the TE position”.  His follows the rules as if he was a TE.

Below are some diagrams to describe what I am talking about.

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The beauty of doing it this way, gives the defense NOTHING they can key on and read to get all of their hats to the football.  There is nothing tipping the offense’s hand.  Box players have to play/respect the IZ.  DBs/Force players have to respect the Jet.  DE’s get caught in between, seeing TE/H Backs run one way and OL go the other way, unsure of who has the ball, and still having some responsibility for QB boot if the Jet and IZ were both faked.

Below I will go through some clips of this concept.  You will see it really divides the defense as players have to honor their responsibilities and it isolates defenders, forcing them to try to make open field tackles.

 

My favorite thing about this play series, is that it completely cuts the defense in half.  In the 3 clips above you see defenders being fooled by where the ball is and it reduces the ability of the defense to pursue the ball.  I think it also makes the Jet Sweep a more viable option than just “hope it gets the edge”.  Because the LBs have to honor the Inside Zone action, it removes them from being inside out flow players on the Jet.  Even if the defense is able to force the Jet to cut it up, there aren’t LBs sitting there to blow it up… they are trying to tackle the RB on the other side of the field.

Great concept from Pitt, and I look forward to seeing LSU run it next season.  I am curious to see the challenge it presents to those NFL SEC defenses.

Pitt Panther’s use of Power Read Shovel against Clemson

The Power Read Concept is nothing new in football.  It has taken many college and HS offenses by storm since Cam Newton and Auburn made it famous in their National Title run 6 seasons ago.  A good chunk of his rushing yards on the way to his Heisman trophy came from the power read concept.

Traditional Power Read involves some constants… the OL will block POWER.  The playside will block down or double, the backside guard will pull playside and insert onto the playside LB, and the backside tackle will check B gap to hinge on the DE.

The RB will run a sweep as the QB reads the defensive end to that side.  If he squeezes the QB gives it to the RB to run the sweep outside, if he comes upfield or out, the QB pulls the ball and follow the guard inside off tackle.

This is option football with the RB sweep being the outside threat and the QB pull being the “Dive Phase”.

It looks like this

qb-power-read-diagram-11

 

Pittsburgh worked a different version of this play as one of their main concepts in 2016.  Rather than run the QB as the Dive Phase, they used an H back/TE on a shovel pass to replace the usual QB run.  The benefit of this is it allows you to run the concept without having to run your QB.  This is beneficial for a team who either does not have an athletic QB or who wants to limit the contact that QB takes throughout the season.

Another great thing that the former Pittsburgh OC Matt Canada (Recently hired at LSU) is known for is his use of formations, shifts, and motions.  In some of these clips you will see he gets to this play from a variety of looks.

Even within the core concept of power read, with a shovel built in as the dive, or inside run, he gets into multiple looks with how the ball threatens the perimeter.

Power Read with Shovel:

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Power Read with shovel: Giving Sweep

Multiple shifts/motion with Power read shovel:

Below is an End Zone Shot of the play, so you can see what the QB and OL see.  After starting in empty, RB Connor comes in Jet motion to be the sweep phase and the h back does his usual shovel.  When the DE comes upfield attacking the Jet/RB, the Qb shovels it underneath for their first TD of the game

 

Speed Option with Shovel:

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Sprint Pass paired with Power Read Shovel:

Here is a clip from earlier in the game where Pitt came out with the same look, but the DE flew upfield allowing the QB to shovel it underneath to the TE.

Play Action Deep Shot:

Here, off the same Speed Option Power Shovel Look

Pitt takes a shot down the sideline to the RB running a vertical route from the backfield for a huge TD

Pass Pro Indy Drills Part 2

Continuing on with this series of Pass Pro OL drills

Today we will take a look at 2 new drills, as well as a circuit of 2 drills I have now written about when I have large groups.

 

Softball Drill:

This drill works the OL’s lateral movement and is really designed to get them bending in the knees/hips, not bending over at the waist.  The key is to “drop your butt”.  The OL is across from a coach or teammate on a knee.  The player on a knee rolls a softball or baseball side to side.  The OL has to work laterally keeping a wide base, then lower the hips to pick the ball up and toss it back.  Try to keep them from getting lazy and bending over or getting a narrow base.  We get 3-4 reps each and rotate.  The flow of the Line works softball tosser, to OL, to the back of the line.

Softball/Medicine Ball Circuit:

When I have a bigger group of kids I like to work 2 groups in 2 drills and then rotate the groups.  I do not like long lines of kids standing and waiting so this gets us more reps in.  Here I have the OL, TEs, and FBs split into 2 groups with half working Softball drill, and half working Medicine ball drill.

Christmas Tree Drill:

This drill gets it’s name from the shape the cones on the ground make, similar to a Christmas Tree.  2 players can go at a time, one working right side stagger, one working left.  The players will kick slide on roughly a 45 degree angle, then lateral step inside and so on until the end of the tree.  At the end of the tree they will turn to their outside and sprint.  This simulates when you are beat by a defender, you aren’t in position to block him anymore and all you can do is sprint to try to get back in his way as he works up the field.  If you have a large group, you can set up more cones to make more Trees.

For setting up the tree Each cone is 2 yards wider and 2 yards deeper than the previous cone.

Click here if you missed PART 1 of this series. 

3 Day Install and Practice Planning

Each year in Spring Ball or the earliest part of Summer, High School’s across the country begin installing their base offense. More and more teams are beginning to use the “3 day install”. This is a popular way that many colleges (and now High Schools) go about installing their offense. They break the offense apart into 3 total days. I first read about the 3 day install from a Smart Football post by Chris Brown  here back in 2011.  I have used a rough version of this since then but this year was by far my most organized/OCD spring to date.

The basic idea is to put it all in 3 days, and keep repeating that 3 day rotation.

  • Divide offense into days A, B, C
  • on Day 4 start back over with A
  • follow the rotation throughout Spring

Now I will discuss how I broke everything down for my days, how I installed, and how I have continued to use this progression into the Summer.

The Science behind 3 day install.  

Some people might think you are better off mastering one basic skill, or base play before moving on to add more.  This is an “old school” way of thought that is often referred to as blocking… this would be AAA, BBB, CCC learning.

The same skill concept 3 days in a row, before moving on to something new.  On the Surface this makes sense but modern educational research studies have shown that interleaving, “mixing it up” or ABC, ABC, ABC learning (rotating the skills/concepts being taught) is the most effective for skill and concept mastery.

This is applicable to education, learning musical instruments, and sports.  A more detailed article explaining this study can be found here.

Now that we understand why mixing it up works best, we can begin to apply it to an offense.

Deconstructing My Offense

The first thing I did was to make a spread sheet with every single personnel group, formation, motion, and play I wanted to install during Spring.

I had an ambitious install plan for the Spring in which we would install over 90% of the entire possible offense.

I broke the offense up as follows

3 day rotation ( A, B, C)

Each day would include

  • 2 run plays (grouped by family)
  • 2 quick game plays
  • 2 drop back plays
  • 1 “other” pass… screen, boot, power pass

After the 3 day rotation we have the potential for 6 runs, 6 quick concepts, 6 drop concepts, and 3 “other” concepts.  If you do not want to install that many plays… then “double up” on certain plays.  We did this with the quick and dropback game.  Each play actually got included 2x during the 3 days.

Day A: 

This is our Gap Scheme Day.  We work power and counter, as well as play action off of that.  We picked passes from the menu I created.

Day B:

This is our Zone Scheme Day. We work Inside and Outside Zone.  We work screen game off those actions and I picked passes from the menu I created.

Day C:

This is our “other” run game day.  We work buck sweep and toss on this day.  We rotate the passes again.

Formations/Personnel:

We started by teaching all of our 21 and 11 personnel formations during the first 3 days of practice.

Day 4, 5, 6:

Moving on to the 2nd time through our rotation… days 4, 5, and 6 we began adding more personnel/formations.  We added our split back, 12, 10 and 30 personnel groups/formations.

The order of the plays we worked stayed the same… The formations became the new learning.

Day 7, 8, 9:

Moving on to the 3rd time through our rotation… days 7, 8, and 9 we began adding in motion.  With our personnel and formations installed, the various motions became the new learning and how the motions related to the concepts.

Why I love this rotation:

I love this 3 day rotation because it makes scheduling practice… both the drills, and the scripts much easier to manage.  By splitting the offense up like this it narrows the focus down for each day… both in terms of Indy reps, and group/team reps.

I am an Offensive Line Enthusiast!  We have more skill development work to do than any other position.  I can not come close to working all of the various blocks we need in our tool box in a single day.  By splitting up the schemes, it lets me break down the Indy time to work on exactly what they need to do that day.

To put it in perspective… let’s look at just the run game.

On a gap scheme day (A) we work down blocks, gap doubles, and our pulls.

On a zone day (B) we work base blocks, combo blocks, and reach blocks.

On our “Other day” (C) we work different skills, fast reaches, Fb Logs, and perimeter pulls.

By narrowing the focus of what we will run during inside run and team that day, I can narrow what I need to work on during Indy.

It makes my time scripting plays for run, pass, and team periods much easier as well.  I do not have every play to choose from.  I have no more than 2 from each category to choose from, this lets me get multiple reps of the plays in, from different personnel groups or formations.  This also makes my practice planning much easier, and take up less time.  I don’t create a new practice plan each day.  There’s a practice plan and script for A, B, and C.  I can copy and paste these (using google drive for both) and make any small changes I need for that individual day.  I am never starting from scratch.  Having the schedule and script for A, B, C stay mostly the same lets me knock out any small changes or additions in less than 10 minutes, then I am printing it out and ready to roll for practice.

Moving into Summer:

Now that we have moved into Summer I have kept the same basic rotation but I will be tweaking it in one small way.

We practice 4x a week.  Monday – Thursday all Summer long.

So far I have stuck with the exact rotation (adding small wrinkles here and there, but the core is the same).

Mon A

Tues B

Wed C

Thurs A

Mon B

Tues C

Wed A

Thurs B

Mon C

Tues A

Wed B

Thurs C

 

What I will begin doing from Mid July on, is to “test” my players more.  Currently practices are focused on INDY and small group time with very little “team” going on.

I will begin starting the ABC rotation every Monday, and rather than restart on Thursday… I will use Thursday as a “review of ALL concepts” day.  I will use more team and group sessions, mix all of our schemes, and use this to really test how well things have sunk in with my kids.  This will be my assessment not just of how well they are learning, but more importantly how well I am teaching.  This will act just like a test in the classroom, and let me know what I need to spend more time working on on the white board, and on the field.

Mon A

Tues B

Wed C

Thurs: Review all “test day”

Moving into the season:

Once We begin school and move into the season I will have to get off my this Spring/Summer rotation because we are more limited in the days/time we have to practice.  I won’t be able to give each group of plays it’s own day, and practices will be about the game plan and match ups.  In season the focus shifts more to the opponent, but now… in the Spring/Summer portion of the off season, their is no opponent, it is all about learning for yourself and this system of installing an offense has been the most productive I have ever used or seen.  We were running plays better after 10 days of spring ball this year, than we were to start the season in 2015.

 

 

Getting Your Playmaker the Ball – Braxton Miller

2 of the most common phrases in coaching are “get the ball to your playmaker” and “put athletes in space”.

One drawback against “the spread” offense is is easy to get the RB touches, but it can be difficult to get a WR touches.  In 2015, Ohio State took their former dynamic QB, Braxton Miller and transitioned him to being a WR.  He did so many great things with the ball in his hands at QB that Ohio State had to make sure they continued to feed him the ball in his new position.  We as coaches often find ourselves with a “tweener” or a shifty WR that we just need to get the ball to any way we can.

Below I will explain several of the things Ohio State did to get their human highlight reel the football.

WR

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Officially Braxton was a slot or “H” receiver. Below are a few clips of him showing his speed, quickness, and hands to catch the ball down the field.

RB

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They already had a dynamic RB in Ezekiel Elliot, but using Braxton in the backfield gave them another lightning quick runner.  OSU would both align Braxton in the backfield pre snap, as well as motion him into the backfield just before the snap.  Here is a clip of them motioning him into the backfield to run counter from a splitback set.

Aligning him in the backfield became a great way to throw the ball to him as well.  Aligning him in the backfield has 2 big advantages, it can match him up vs slower LBs, and it is easier for defenders to lose routes (not see them) if they come from the backfield. Here are 2 examples of him taking short, high percentage passes for good gains.

 

QB

braxton 1

The popular term for this would be “WildCat”.  Put your best athlete at QB, let him run around and make plays. Ohio state used both designed QB runs and option style runs with Braxton.

For option runs they used the “inverted veer” and “speed option” schemes.  Braxton was familiar with these schemes from his 3 years playing QB and it added another wrinkle for the defense to defend.

OSU used a variety of designed QB runs and backfield actions but one of the most common OL schemes was COUNTER. (I have written about Counter herehere, and here.

Jet

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One last way to “feed the beast’ was to use Jet motion to get him touches and get him on the edge of the defense.  Ohio state used 2 schemes with their Jet to get Braxton to the edge.  The first was to full reach or outside zone the Jet.  The other was to cross block with the OT and OG.  The down block from the OT was used to make the DE squeeze slightly and allow the guard to pull and try to run around him.  Against a disciplined DE, this can be an easier way of getting the edge than fighting to reach him.  Also, notice they use the touch pass to execute the Jet, rather than hand it off.

Get more reps Blocking Power and Counter during Indy

If you frequent my blog or my twitter account you know I LOVE POWER and Counter!

I am often asked how I work the blocks associated within the schemes.  I set up my drills up in a way that I think is efficient and maximizes my players’ reps.

  1.  My TEs and FBs are usually with me during Indy time
  2. I do not pull my tackle on counter, I pull my FB and/or TE as the wrapper(s).  (This comes in to play with efficiency in skill acquisition later)

I work our down blocks and double teams as separate drills.  I have written some about my general blocking progression (that can be applied for down blocks) here and here.

What I am about to share is how I work all of the other necessary blocks on Power and Counter in an efficient way.

Position:

FB:

  • Will practice a good “banana path” to kick out the DE on Power
  • Will Pull and Wrap to LB on Counter

Backside Guard:

  • Will Skip Pull and Wrap to LB on Power
  • Will Square Pull and Kick out the DE on Counter

Backside Tackle:

  • Will Step to B gap and Hinge on BOTH Power and Counter
  • The efficiency in pulling the FB on counter, is the BST’s job doesnt change.  He can master this skill

Center:

  • Execute a great snap and block back
  • he has 1st threat backside, BST has 2nd threat

Setting up the Drill

First I teach the kids the name of the drill so we can move faster (speaking the same language).  I call this “backside pulls”.  They know which line to get into.  We always start off setting up for Power Right.  All Centers are in one line.  All Guards are lined up at LG.  All Tackles are lined up at LT.  All FBs are aligned to the right.  2 players hold bags as DEs.  1 player holds a bag as a LB.  Keep your lines of kids to rotate at least 5 yards deep so the kids getting the reps have room to pull.  Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.45.07 PM

The blocker takes the bag and becomes the defender.  The defender jogs around and joins the line for their position.  The other Center(s) catch the snap from the Center getting the rep.

Power Right

The FBs practice their kick out.  The LG skip pulls.  The Center works back.  The LT Works the hinge on the DE.  I let the backside DE play games, sometimes slanting across the face, sometimes changing it up.  This lets them get a variety of looks.

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Counter Right

After a few minutes (can get a lot of reps in 3 minutes) we switch to counter.  I hand signal the new play.  So we do not have to switch lines we just bump our FBs over to the left.  This makes the transition quicker

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Switch Sides

Now the LG is kicking out the DE.  The Fb is pulling to wrap up to LB.  The Center and LT’s job stay the same.

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Now that we have blocked both plays to the right, we turn around to switch our lines and now we block to the left.

Power Left

The FBs kick out the DE.  The RG skip pulls to LB.  The RT will step to B gap and hinge.  The center will snap and block back.
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Counter Left

Again we just bump the FB over to transition quickly and we are set up for Counter left.  The RG pulls and kicks out the DE.  The FB pulls and wraps up to LB.  The Center and RT’s continue to rep the same skills.

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When I first teach this drill I go much slower, and I take more time.  In Spring Ball i will spend probably 5 minutes on each play because they are still learning so much (so 20 total for the circuit).  By the time we hit the season it is roughly 2-3 minutes a play before we switch to the next one.

Advanced Skills

As your players improve you can begin to work more advance skills in.  You can have your bag holding DEs squeeze and wrong arm to get your kick out man practice at “Logging” and get your 2nd puller (wrapper) practice at seeing the log, bouncing around the log, and finding color.

Impact on Player Safety

The biggest changes in football are not RPOs they are what we are doing now and in the future to ensure player safety.  Brain health is no joke and the way society is moving progressive measures to keep players from full contact is reality.  Here in California a rule is about to pass where we can’t wear helmets all Summer, not even for 7on7 because they do not want the risk of players making contact.

What I love about this drill is that we can get great work from it, improve our skills, AND avoid beating each other up.  We always do these drills with the defenders holding bags/shields.  We do these drills the same whether we are in full pads or no pads.  We are a smashmouth team every Friday night, but Monday-Thursday we are not risking injury and slamming into one another.  A lot of this comes from our culture as football coaches (and former football players) that drills have to be about “toughness and violence” but they DON’T!  Drills are about making your players better at what they need to do for you to win games.  They can’t win games when they are sitting out for a month on the sideline.

Stanford Pin n Pull

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Stanford is one of the best in the country at utilizing the Pin and Pull Scheme (PNP).  PNP is a style of outside zone that gives some offensive linemen better angles to achieve their blocks.  Rather than rely on a full zone or reach scheme, PNP uses a combination of PIN or down blocks, and pulls.

TE:

The TE is they key to a successful PNP scheme.  The TE will typically work to seal the edge by reaching a DE.  If he is unable to hook the DE he will flip him outside and try to expand the C gap for the pullers and Rb to turn up inside.

Variations:

Against a C gap defender or 7 tech as many call it (often in an odd front) the TE can either pin him and rely on a puller to block whoever has walked up on the edge (D gap) or he can make a call for the OT and him to both reach playside.

There can be some variation in how the TE/PST choose to block this.  A personnel or gameplanning decision will often dictate how they want to block the edge for the week.  A team can also use blocking tags to tell the TE/PST when to follow the PIN or PULL rule, and when he and the OT should reach it.

Another variation is with the backside guard.  Sometimes Stanford chooses to pull him playside as well, and use the backside tackle to cut any backside interior DT.  My guess is they pull him when they think they can do it without risking a big loss and against the better DTs choose to zone it to avoid a big hole opening for a dominant DT to penetrate through and blow up the play int he backfield.

Pullers:

This scheme can use anywhere from 1 to 3 pullers from the OL working playside.  They need to have vision like a good Rb as they aim to work around the block of the playside TE.  A general coaching point would be to “follow his butt”.  This means that as each OL pulls playside, he is looking to work off of the butt of the OL in front of him.

So as one OL pulls, if he sees TE’s butt getting around the edge, he follows it outside and works to either kick OUT a force player or lead UP.  If he sees the TE’s butt facing him, the TE has had to kick out the DE, and he must turn up inside of this block.  The next puller(s) are chasing/reading the butt of the puller in front of him.  If he kicks out force, the butt will be facing them and they should turn up.  If the butt gets square and is working around, they should follow it outside.

Stanford often ends up with a wall of bodies leading through the alley for Christian McCaffrey.  It helps having a back with great vision as he can find holes that open up in the defense as they are stressed horizontally but teaching the OL to have great vision is critical to the play’s success.

I run a similar concept at my school and the general rule for all pullers in space is OUT, UP, IN.  Their eyes/hips/feet should be following this general progression.  First puller would likely be getting a kick out on force or leading up on a LB/SS.  The next puller would be reading the butt and leading UP or IN based off of his block.  I tell our pullers on this play they get to be a RB and find the holes.

Backside:

The backside OT and OG will scoop/reach their playside gaps while the general rule for the frontside OL is to PIN or PULL.  Pin a defender if they have one to their inside gap, or pull playside to lead the play.

Below is a basic example of what PNP would look like against a 4 man front.  The backside zones.  The RT down blocks.  The TE reaches the DE.  The RG and C pull.

Diagram 1: Pin and Pull vs 4 man front

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Here is an example against an odd front.  Here the TE will pin the DE/7 tech and the OT will pull to the walked up OLB.

Diagram 2: Pin and Pull vs 5 man front

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In this variation the TE and OT will work to reach the DE and OLB while the rest of the OL follows their PNP rules.

Diagram 3: Pin and Pull vs 5 man front with OT/TE REACH

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Below are video breakdowns of several of Stanford’s PNP runs from this season.  These video breakdowns show some great examples of both the most basic PNP rule following scheme (first video), to their variations in the scheme (other videos).

 

Some more resources/info on the Pin n Pull Scheme can be found herehereand here.

Stanford Play Action

One of my favorite offenses to watch is Stanford.  I admire how they pound the ball from various personnel groups and formations, and are able to get big plays in the play action game.

Below I will break down a few of the different play action concepts Stanford uses with unyielding success.

  1. Power Pass – Basic concept used by most teams in the country.  Stanford does this often to a Nub side, forcing the defense to condense down and defend a run heavy formation. This play aims to capitalize on a corner or safety getting over aggressive in the run game, and allowing the TE or back to get behind them. They bring the lone WR on a short motion, to make his drag route get across the formation quicker.  One interesting thing Stanford does is to release the RB on the flat route and leave the FB in to block.  Many teams slip the FB out and have the RB block on power pass.  The OL slides away from the play and the FB blocks the playside edge.  The RB fakes off tackle and attacks the front pylon of the end zone.

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In the clip below I break down a game clip of this play.

2. FB Wheel – From another run heavy formation, Stanford fakes to the RB and the QB sets up in the pocket.  The lone WR and playside TE attack vertically down the numbers and seam, this pulls the deep coverage with them.  The FB widens at the snap and runs a wheel route.  His route ends up following the vertical routes and he is able to settle in a wide open space cleared out by the vertical routes.  The backside TE works the middle of the field to get open as a check down option for the QB

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In the clip below I break down a game clip of this play.

3. 3 verticals Switch – From a heavy personnel set, Stanford uses the 2 TEs to widen the safeties and open up the middle of the field.  The boundary TE widens on a vertical route.  The field TE widens with his release and runs a corner route to occupy the safety over him.  The Wing (on the wideside) works vertically with some width, and crosses underneath the TE’s corner route.  This “Switch” or criss crossing gets him wide open

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In the clip below I break down a game clip of this play.

4. Wheel – In this concept Stanford fakes a perimeter run, in this case their Rb quick toss (with power influence blocking) .  By stacking the WRs by formation, they are able to cross their route stems.  The outside WR pushes vertically and settles inside.  The slot works wide like he is attacking the corner to block him, and then turns it into a wheel route.

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In the clip below I break down a game clip of this play.

5. RB Wheel – From a 2 back (splitback) set, Stanford shows inverted veer, or power read in the backfield.  The blocking scheme sets this play up.  They would often have the single WR crack the LB, and put the playside RB (in this case Christian McCaffrey) on the CB.  On this play action, C-Mac is actually running a wheel as the corner follows the #1 WR inside, and the safety flies up to aggressively force the run.

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In the clip below I break down a game clip of this play.

Conclusion: Stanford is able to protect their best run concepts by having answers in the play action game.  The play action pass concepts Stanford uses look just like their top run concepts, and are designed to attack specific defenders who are being overly aggressive, and vacating their pass coverage responsibilities in order to make plays in the run game.  Stanford’s play action game is efficient, and is a balanced mix of quick hitting routes, vertical routes, and wheel routes.  From the examples above it is clear that the wheel route in various fashions is a main concept in their offense and provides big play potential.  In the clips above Stanford was able to get big plays on wheel routes to a slot, a FB, and a RB.