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.

 

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”.

Scheme

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.

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.

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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.

Protection:

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.

iBook Preview- Counter

Once Power is installed the next part of our offense to go in is Counter.  We were actually significantly better running Counter this season and I called it more frequently, with more success, than our Power scheme.  We often see an extra player or two to the side we set our Fullback so being proficient at Counter going back the other way was critical to our offensive success.

The Basics:

Playside down blocks/doubles just like Power.  We pull the backside guard to kick out the end and have different calls to pull our FB, backside TE, a wing, or any combination thereof .  I prefer keeping the backside tackle home to block backside rather than the traditional “GT” or “Counter trey” that uses the backside tackle as the 2nd puller (2nd puller is the player wrapping up to LB).  This keeps the tackles rules and skills consistent between power and counter, helps in mastery of our backside B gap hinge technique, and allows us to pull a better athlete (FB/TE/Wr).

Below is an example of us running it both from our Pro set, and from out double tight set.

iBook Preview – Power

I run a power based offense at my high school.  I am stubbornly committed to running the football and everything is based off of our 2 back Power Scheme.  I have started working on an eBook series detailing how I teach our run game and I wanted to include a little bit on my blog so anyone who might be interested in it can get a glimpse of what they will be learning about.

Power is the foundation of our offense.  I teach a standard 2 back power with down blocking or doubles at the Point of Attack, a Fullback Kick Out on the end man, and a backside guard wrapping through to the playside LB.  Everything else in our offense comes off of us being able to establish our 2 back power play.

Here is a sideline and EZ shot of a 2 back power play from this season.  We get downhill now with everyone inside picked up and put the RB 1on1 with a FS on the Goal Line.  That is going to be a win for the offense just about every time.

Here is the Link to the iBook I made last year that extensively goes over my exact teaching progression and drill work for our 2 back power play. OL Play in the POWER SCHEME

 

Later this week I will be posting clips of our Counter, Bucksweep, Stretch, and Toss plays that will eventually all be part of the eBook series.

Update: here are links to my other iBook Previews

COUNTER

STRETCH/OUTSIDE ZONE

BUCK SWEEP/ PIN N PULL

TOSS

JET

AND I JUST ADDED A BONUS CHAPTER ON OUR EXPLOSIVE PLAY ACTION PASS GAME

Power Pass!

One of the best ways to help protect Power is to use the POWER PASS

or as Coach Gruden calls it, “Spider 2 Y Banana”

 spider2ybanana
This is a great answer as teams load the box, or crash down hard in an attempt to take away Power.  This play gets better and better with the more players the defense aligns on the LOS.  More guys on LOS, less guys who can cover. We even got some teams into an alignment where their end man had to take on FB as well as cover him man to man… that is like stealing, if he can stuff our FB he can’t cover him, if he can cover him, we are getting easy kick outs.  Either way we win.
Power pass
The route concept is a standard flood play.  WR clearing out.  a TE (or slot to twins side) running the medium route in the flood, and the FB chipping the DE on his way to the flat.
You can read this deep to short, or short to deep.  I have done it, and seen it done both ways successfully.
In my opinion what really makes it work is making it look identical to power.  So we block it the same as Power.  Playside down blocks, BSG pulls.  BST protects b gap.
The only difference is our pulling BSG needs to attack the C gap, rather than work up to a LB.  I need to do a better job coaching this up next season.
Our biggest problems came from back side pressure, usually frontside pressure meant the TE or FB was wide open and we hit it quickly.
One adjustment I have seen and will use int he future is to have the Rb cut back immediately after the mesh, to pick up the backside C gap.
You can use backside WRs to run backside drags, or attach another TE to help secure the backside.
I can’t stress enough how helpful the OL play is on selling play action.  We do not pretend to block power, we full on block power, we just don’t drive anyone past 2 yards down field.
Below are 2 clips of power pass, one hitting the TE, one hitting the FB.

This is just our base power pass that we install in spring ball.  We can run a variety of concepts off of power action.  The play stays consistent for the players in the box.
Power pass action works great to throw double posts, post/dig, verticals, or whatever dropback you hang your hat on.  We would release our TE/FB into routes as well as keep them in for max protection on certain concepts.
Power pass is a the perfect constraint when defenses start cheating.  I should have called it more times last season and it will continue to grow into bigger weapon in our arsenal.

 

Power Variations #6 – Overload Power

One of my favorite ways to run our 2 back power is using unbalanced/overload formations.
We are stilling running our same 2 back power scheme, but we overload the defense by lining up unbalanced and getting an extra hat play side.  Most teams who use unbalanced bring a tackle over to where the TE usually plays.  This past season my TE was my best down blocker so we just covered him up.  I liked this because we still had 2 wide forcing the defense to walk someone out over the slot, but we were still running 2 back power to the TE side.
We had a few overload sets but the diagram below was the main one.

Overload

We had a lot of success using this formation running power.  In the clips below, both were done near the end of the game where we had to run the clock out to finish off the game, the type of situation where everyone knows you are running the ball.  The first clip is from a series where we ran overload 2 back power 5 consecutive plays, to march down the field, while running the clock out, and eventually scoring to end the game and beat our cross town rival.  They never adjusted to our overload and we kept pounding the ball.

Yes it sets us up in a very heavy formation to the strong side but i feel it makes play calling easy, it all comes back to numbers and seeing how they adjust.  We used this formation for some play action shots and if I felt they were loading up to the overload side, we could run power to the weak side.  The clip below is an example of weak side power away from the overload, it isn’t blocked great, we miss a down block, but we are able to punch it in.

 

The last example I am going to share of an overload set we used on the first play of the game in our 1st round playoff match up.  We still covered up the TE, but we removed our slot WR, and replaced him with our usual starting TE (best blocker) and lined him up in a wing position.  We are still running power but you will see him work inside and we get both him and our BSG through the hole. 70+ yards untouched is a great way to open the game.

 

Small adjustments like this are great wrinkles to mix in through out the season.  It just expands a base play by using another formation.  This can be difficult for a defense to line up to, especially if they haven’t seen it on film to prepare for it.  My only caution is to have something ready in the play action game, and back to the weak side, so you can take advantage when they over adjust to stop that strong side run.

 

Power Variations #5 – Super 1 back

Today’s power variation is simply combining two concepts I have already discussed.
From our double tight formation we would run 1 back power (because we don’t have a FB in, we are in 1 back) and I would add our super tag on to tell the back side TE to also pull.

Super 1 back power

 

Another way we can run super 1 back power, is to call our 1 back power scheme, but from 21 personnel.  Since our TE is the kick out guy in our 1 back power, the Fb is used as another insert player along with the back side pulling guard.
21 super 1 back power
Here is a clip of the play, we get good base blocks from our RT and TE, and a very good down block from our RG to open up the B gap.  Now we lead our FB and LG through the hole and our RB can get downhill behind them.

 

Tomorrow will be my final post in the Power Variations series, it will also be my 100th Post!
Tomorrow I will focus not a a new power scheme, but running power from unbalanced formations.

Power Variations #4 – Power Arc

Any well coached defense is going to have answers to try and shut down your base plays.  Most teams will try to stop POWER by coaching up their DEs to squeeze the down block and blow up the FB.

Power Arc is a great way to handle well coached DEs who do a great job with block down step down.

This is the simplest tweak we have in my opinion.  “Arc” simply tells our end man (could be the TE or the OT to the weakside) to Arc release instead of their usual down block.  They will open up wide, trying to clear the DE, and block the defenses force (OLB/SS depending on defense).

So while we are running power, that DE is seeing a reach block, the better coached the DE is the more effective this tag is.

 Power arc

In the clip below, the DE we are going against (#59) is an All Everything DE headed to BYU next year.  He is very well coached, and very difficult to run power against.  In this clip we use the Arc tag, he expands with our TE because the block looks like reach.  This gives our FB a much easier kick out block, and helps us run Power right at one of the best defensive players in Northern California.

 

Power Variations #3 – 1 Back Power

Standard power is a great play, BUT it requires you have a lead blocking back in the game.  I knew early on that POWER would be our best play, but wanted to be able to do it from different formations and not rely on HAVING to have our FB in the game.

So after we had some solid experience using our regular 2 back power (first half of summer worth of practice) I  installed our 1 back power.  We call it power base.  In power base, since we have no FB in, we use our TE to be the “kick out” guy.  The “base” tag tells our TE and play side tackle they will base/kick out on anyone head up or outside of them.

EVEN:
I include the play side Tackle in understanding this base tag.  If he doesn’t have a base block to execute he does his usual down block like every other time we run power.  Against a 4 man front, we often see a 3 tech (b gap DT) on the TE side, so our tackle would down block as usual.

 Power base even

ODD:
Against an odd front we most often see the play side DT lined up head up to outside of our OT so he would base block. We just about always see a defender lined up head up or outside of our TE and this is the player our TE will base block.

Power base odd

By simply adding the word “base” to the play call we are running our bread and butter power scheme and only changing the TE’s block, and the OT’s block against an odd front.

Here are a few clips of us running 1 back power.