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
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:
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
My TEs and FBs are usually with me during Indy time
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.
Will practice a good “banana path” to kick out the DE on Power
Will Pull and Wrap to LB on Counter
Will Skip Pull and Wrap to LB on Power
Will Square Pull and Kick out the DE on Counter
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Now that we have blocked both plays to the right, we turn around to switch our lines and now we block to the 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.
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.
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.
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.
A friend asked me to describe a backside cut off technique for an OL away from the play. This is a skill set used in a variety of plays ina variety of offenses. As more and more teams use the gun/pistol you see less teams working cut blocks (I know from experience refs are all over the place with allowing, or flagging you for cutting while in gun). The old “just cut on the backside” is not always a viable option, so an OL needs another tool in the tool box.
I present to you, the backside cut off. Imagine stretch or power to the left… something where we all KNOW the ball is going left, and your backside RT just needs to stop/occupy a backside 3 technique (so you can have RG work zone or so he can pull). The RT needs to put himself between the defender (who has already out leveraged him, and the football (ball will be to the left off tackle or wider probably).
If the 3 technique isn’t that good he can just work a standard reach block technique… angle step, aim at his arm pit, get head across, run your feet… blah blah blah, he is sealed.
But if the 3 technique is too good (whether he is penetrating or reading and flowing) to cut off with a basic reach, we will use this cut off technique.
We call this a “Rip through” or a “box out”.
RT will “bucket” or “drop” step with his inside foot in order to get depth off of the LOS, and open his hips up to run.
he will bring the right foot aiming outside the defender WHILE ripping up through him with the far (right) arm. This motion happens together.
He will attempt to run around the defender, keeping pressure on him with the back of his right hand/arm/shoulder and back.
once he feels the defender on his backside he will widen his base and just like a basketball player in the paint, he will “box him out”.
The OL can give up ground off the LOS to make the block, he can even get pushed down form behind onto his face, i don’t care… but if he is able to get his body in between the defender and the ball, he has effectively CUT HIM OFF from the play.
Step by Step of myself working the backside cut off/box out.
Here is a clip of an NFL LT working the backside box out technique. I give credit to @coachmattjones for this clip, he does a great job breaking down OL play on his twitter account.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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).
While going through the film for the large Baylor O Write up I did here I saw North Carolina running something that caught my eye. They used a quick toss to the RB from the shotgun to try to get outside. Now this was nothing new, I have been doing this from gun for years… it gave us a “same side” RB alignment play and we tried getting to the edge. The problem is, we would always outside zone/reach block it… The better DEs would string it out, we couldn’t get around them, and we wouldn’t gain much. North Carolina DID NOT reach it, they used the defense’s technique against them. They blocked the play using “Power” blocking rules. The play side Down Blocks, and they pull the Backside Guard up inside to LB.
This had a tremendous effect on the Baylor DEs. They had to respect the tackle’s down block, and they were taught to squeeze everything down and wrong arm the guard. Rather than fighting him and trying to reach, they use his own technique against him. The tackle steps down, the DE squeezes him, thus giving up the edge and you are able to get outside of him.
Here is a diagram of the play
I highlighted the DE with a large circle to indicate that he can be read. In the clips below you will see the UNC QB taking a quick shuffle step and tossing it out there. My personal hypothesis is that it was a pre determined play, UNC knew Baylor would squeeze the down block and they would get the edge immediately. It is very possible (I have talked to several HS coaches who do this successfully) as a true read play. This is just a variation on the Inverted Veer or the speed option. The action would be somewhat like speed option, but the blocking is with a standard power scheme (what most use for inverted veer).
Play Action Pass
Baylor ran a play action off of the Toss backfield look. It appears the QB wanted to go deep, and had nothing open so he threw it down to a backside route. Although the play didn’t gain any yards, watch the effect it had on the OLB and the MLB. You will see them take off initially to attack the toss. They definitely opened up space to throw the ball behind or between them.
Toss Play Action
I love the simplicity of this play. You can make it a predetermined call if you know from film/scouting that a DE is disciplined and will squeeze every time. If you are not going up against someone who is more disciplined, or you want to be able to get the QB involved in the run game more, making it a true option read might be better. I just love how easy the RB is able ot get out of the box. There is no fighting to reach a DE, there is no turning him out. He just goes away from the play because he wants to do what he has been coached to do all week, in this case “block down – step down”. Like I mentioned in the video, the most critical component to the success of the play is the WRs’ ability to block in space. North Carolina’s successful toss plays came when their WRs were able to occupy those playside threats.
One of the big stories of College Bowl Season was the dominating performance by the Baylor Bears ground game against North Carolina. Baylor famously played the entire game without a true QB (due to injuries). They used a collection of different RBs and WRs taking direct snaps in route to the most dominating ground performance in Bowl game history.
The major components of the Baylor ground attack were Inside Zone (IZ), Iso/Lead, Counter, 1 Back Power, Dart, and Jet. The majority of this post is going to focus on their “Dart” Scheme.
Dart combines elements of a man scheme and a gap scheme. The playside is blocked similar to “1 back power” but the backside tackle pulls to wrap through the first open hole playside. By pulling the tackle rather than the guard, it allows the OL to use the C and backside guard (BSG) to combo up to Will LB. The backside End is left alone. The play is designed to work against a 6 man box and UNC gave Baylor favorable box numbers all game long (5 and 6 man boxes).
Below are two diagrams of the play. Note that the playside guard will either down block the 1 tech, or base block the 3 tech out… it just depends on the alignment of the DT on his side.
Against a 3 man front the guard would combo with the nose. It would be tough to play a 5 man front against a spread offense but if it happened you would need to man up with the playside OL and still pull BST through the first open gap he can up to playside LB.
Baylor ran this concept with the RB and QB (wildcat guy) over a dozen times. Below I will breakdown several of the variations they used. These are just a few examples of the many times they ran Dart. What I love is the little variations/wrinkles they threw in, but the play stays the same for the OL up front.
Dart 2 (with H back motion out)
Dart 3 (with a TE backside) Here is an example against a 5-2 look. By having the TE run up the seam it occupies the DE briefly, and the LB carries here vertically which takes him completely out of the play.
Dart 4 (from empty)
Dart 5 (TE backside again)
Dart 6 & 7 (Ran it back to back plays with tempo)
Dart 8 (H back motion across to empty) includes skyCam angle
Baylor also ran a QB counter scheme that timed up similar to a draw. In this scheme they would use the BSG to kick or log the DE like usual but would hinge backside with the BST. Their 2nd puller, or “wrapper” was the RB.
In all 3 of the examples below you will see the play side DE squeeze the down block and wrong arm the guard. This forces the BSG to log him and seal him inside. This is a clear read for the RB to get around him to pick up the LB. The QB now just needs to give the RB enough time to get ahead of him, and cut off of the block the RB makes on the LB.
QB Counter 1
QB Counter 2
QB Counter 3 (Great End Zone Shot)
The last series Baylor used that I want to discuss is their Jet Sweep series. For any one unfamiliar with Jet Sweep, it involves bringing a WR in full speed motion to run a sweep to the edge. Typically a team will use outside zone or reach blocking to try to run around defenders, sealing them inside. Baylor does some interesting things with Jet Motion, and for a team with no real threat to throw at this point, Jet sweep becomes a great way to get the ball in the hands of your playmaking WRs. Baylor uses some unique formations to set up the Jet Sweep. They will often run Jet from an unbalanced formation or cover up WRs. This allows them to get an extra blocker outside or an extra OL playside working to reach defenders. It is also common for Baylor to use a TE/H back aligned just outside of their end man to help seal the edge and lead up on an OLB. Perhaps the most interesting thing about their Jet Sweep package, is that they DO NOT hand the ball off to their jet motion man. The QB will do a quick touch throw/flip forward. The benefit of this quick flip is it technically makes the sweep a “forward pass”. This gives Baylor some built in protection in case the mesh is mishandled, it will be called an incomplete pass, rather than a fumble and a potential turnover (you will see why soon).
Below are 2 examples of the Jet Sweep. North Carolina’s defense does an excellent job of fighting the reach blocks and not giving the jet sweep player an easy lane to the outside. They are able to stop these 2 attempts without letting them develop into long runs. Their defense flows incredibly fast to the football.
Here is an example of why doing Jet as a “forward pass” has merit. The toss is bobbled, but because it was forward, it is ruled an incomplete pass, Baylor loses a down but they do not lose any yards or the football.
Noticing North Carolina’s fast flow to stop the Jet Sweep before it gets started Baylor had some success with the QB keeping it on the backside. This can either be a true read on the backside DE, or it can be called by the coach from seeing the defensive reaction from the pressbox or sideline.
Jet QB Keep 1
Jet QB Keep 2 (80 yard TD run)
The Dart, QB Counter, and Jet Series were certainly not Baylor’s only reasons for offensive success against North Carolina. Inside Zone, Iso/Lead, 1 back power, and a few completed passes were critical to their success throughout the game. I thought these plays were unique and deserved to be highlighted here.
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.
No matter how talented your QB or skill guys might be, we all know you will only go as far as your Offensive Line can take you. Coming in to this season I was nervous. The 2014 team had broken every school rushing record for a season and game, and we graduated all 5 starters. My new 5 starters (plus our TE and our RB) were a great group of kids who embraced the GRIND of playing OL. We spent most of our time alone in our corner of the field working block after block, rep after rep. I try to be a source of energy for my players during INDY time to liven things up. Working down block steps thousands of times can get boring so I found when I would go ALL IN in terms of energy level, they would match it.
I knew we would at least be OK but the Major turning point for the OL was when I introduced syrup to them. At the end of the summer, just prior to our season starting, i was reviewing film and we just were not finishing blocks. I explained that we would work every single drill to FINISH through the whistle ansd strive to pancake a defender every play. I took an empty bottle of syrup, cleaned it out, and would fill it with cold water every practice. When we got a pancake in an INDY drill from a great effort to finish I ABSOLUTELY LOST IT. I would scream “POUR SOME SYRUP ON EM” or “PANCAKE” at the top of my lungs and pour the water on the kids on the ground (its usually 90 degrees plus so they really enjoy it). “Get the syrup” became a common expression at our practices. It significantly improved not just our “finish” on blocks, but it amped up the in practice competition level. Guys wanted to pancake other kids, and they wanted to get revenge if they were the ones who got pancaked.
That was just a little background that leads me to the real point of this post. This OL (along with our great RBs/WRs) improved on last years record breaking totals by over 800 yards. We rushed for over 4400 yards and had a team average of 9.3 yards per carry (best of all medium and large size schools in our area).
Below is a simple step by step of what I did to recognize the starting OL, our TE, and our FB for their work.
I made each their own brand of syrup.
print a pic of each player
buy 7 bottles of syrup (or as many as you want to make). Dollar store is cheapest
trace the label and make a stencil
4. Trace the stencil over the pics you want and cut them out
5. use glue/adhesive spray to glue the label on to each syrup bottle
6. Get stickers from a craft store and put the players’ jersey numbers on the bottle
At our awards banquet Sunday night our RB was given the Offensive MVP Award (no surprise if you know who he is). After I gave a speech about him and his accomplishments and brought him up front for the award I had HIM help me pass out the syrup bottles to recognize his OL/TE/FB for all of their work in blocking for him.
Here I am with our starting OL, TE, FB, and our RB.
This is a cheap, easy thing all OL coaches can do to recognize their OL. It cost $7 in syrup. A few dollars in stickers. It took me about 10 minutes to download the pics from a website and print them. My GF helped me trace, cut, and glue the pics on to the syrup bottles. It took us less than 30 minutes from start to finish. So for about 10 bucks and an hour tops, you can make something to give your OL that they can cherish and has a deeper meaning to them. it is a symbol of ALL those reps throughout the summer and season, all of those steps, all of those blocks, all of that work.
We added a quick toss to our offense this season. It became a wildly explosive play for us averaging just over 10 yards per carry. We try to overload the defense on the perimeter by pulling multiple offensive linemen to the perimeter and using angle blocking for our WRs to stop inside pursuit of the play. This is a great play for us to get our RB outside and away from the loaded boxes we see.
We will run this play the exact same from Pistol and with the RB off set to the side of the QB. All of the blocking rules, drill video, and cut ups with my voice over are included in the iBook.
Here is a sample of the toss play I detail in the iBook.