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.
Use what the DE is taught against him and out leverage him at the snap for squeezing down blocks
Deshaun Watson killed Ohio State in this game with the GH Counter (Guard and H back ) off of toss action.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 here, here, and here.
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.
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.
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.
Stanford often uses a quick out concept to the trips side. This is the exact play they use in both video examples below.
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)
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.
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.
Every off season I look for new things to research for personal use as well as old resources to re-watch to consider adding to my offense. One thing I have been reviewing this off season is the use of the Bunch Formation. Andrew Coverdale and Dan Robinson came out with DVDs years ago that focused on the Bunch Attack. Over the long Winter break from school I watched 2 of their videos on efootballflix that focused on the bunch formation. Their original video focuses specifically on a concept they call “Mesh” from a 3 man bunch.
While watching the National Championship game I saw Alabama run a play and thought “wow that looked just like Bunch Mesh”.
After replaying it several times my thought was confirmed.
Here is a basic diagram of the concept.
#1 has a whip or pivot route. He will work inside aiming to settle at 6 yards. He can sit down in open space or burst back out toward the sideline.
#2 has a corner route (he can flatten this off if he needs to get away from the safety)
#3 has the flat route (or arrow)
Coverdale and Robinson read this as a THROW THE FLAT FIRST type of concept. They want to get the ball to the flat route immediately and work to throw the whip or corner routes as 2nd and 3rd progressions if the flat is taken away by a defender.
For those that use R4 you would likely teach it as rhythm corner, read whip, and rush flat.
How Alabama Sets it up
Alabama starts in a balanced 2×2 set.
With a quick motion they put OJ Howard into an H back/Fullback position which gives them a 3 man bunch. By condensing the split of the WRs to the wide side pre snap, Alabama has brought the Corner and Safety further inside. Before the snap, and at the catch Clemson has 0 defenders between the hash and the sideline. On an NCAA field that is 20 yards of width!
#1 works inside and sits, he is covered but he sits because the playside LB is either on a blitz or is attacking Derrick Henry. When i first watched the play live I thought it was a play action off of stretch but there is no ball or mesh fake from Coker and Henry. However Coker moving that direction, and Henry attacking the LOS give it a feel similar to play action and you see an aggressive response from the playside DL and LB attacking the backfield.
#2 works vertical and runs a flattened corner route against the safety.
#3 OJ Howard gives a slight chip to the DE and gets to his flat route.
Their is pressure in Coker’s face but just like Coverdale wants when teaching the Bunch Mesh, he hits the Flat immediately.
The Safety takes #2 going vertical. The corner (who is inside the hash mark due to formation) stays on #1’s route and it leaves no one to cover OJ Howard in the flat.
Bunching WRs and condensing the formation are powerful tools for an offense to help confuse defenders and free up guys by creating natural picks against man coverage. The trips bunch formation is notorious for causing coverage break downs leading to wide open targets.
I get messages at least once a day asking me something football related. This off season I would say the number 1 thing has been asking how to teach vertical setting. I have written articles in the past on vertical setting and drills for pass pro but I want to use this article to tie it all together.
This is the order I would go about teaching things.
Find a scheme
Vertical setting can and will work in any type of pass protection scheme. I have used it and seen it used at the HS and College level in BOB, half slide, and full slide protections. Pick a scheme (maybe have a 2nd as a change up or adjustment) and beat your rules in to your kids head. Vertical setting is great, the best thing since sliced bread, but if you flat out don’t attempt to block a defender because you’re kids don’t know who to block, or more importantly, where their eyes need to be, it won’t matter if you back hand spring set… you’re QB is dead.
Decide your ideal depth
Colleges and vertical set purists have been using a 4 step vertical step approach )inside out inside out) as far as I know since it’s invention. My original Vertical Set post explains this. Middle of 2 seasons ago I adjusted ours to a 2 step approach. 4 steps was getting us too close to the QB’s face and he felt uncomfortable and I felt we could still do our job with 2 steps of depth. I dubbed this technique Vertical Set 2.0 because it was the new edition and used 2 steps. You need to decide what is best for your kids. If I was brand new to it I would work 4 steps initially and see how the OL and QB felt with it and then adjust it to 2 steps from there.
Over exaggerate the set
I believe, in the beginning it is best to have the kids flying backwards. I like to have them go for more yardage or steps than I would ask in a game when we first teach it. My thought is similar to track coaches who train their 100m kids by running 200’s. After doing all those 200’s, the 100 seems easy. Same thing with setting, after working back for 5 yards, or 6 steps, doing our 2 step vertical set is faster, and feels more comfortable to them.
Below is a video of my kids setting for depth (6 steps) followed by our wave drill. Sorry the video starts a half second too late.
The next thing I would get really good at is wave drill. You can work a ton of kids at once. You can burn some muscle memory in to them. You are teaching the kids how to step to cut off an inside rush move or a move to their outside. I refer to them as Power Step and Slide Step. The Power step is a hard step, 45 degrees up field and inside with a powerful inside hand punch to cut off a defender. The Slide Step is a pretty traditional kick slide backwards and out at a 45 degree angle to continue getting depth and widening a defender should rush your edge.
This drill is great for checking kids pass pro posture, hands, body position, stagger, and their footwork. This clip below shows the kids after a squat day (you will see their signs of leg fatigue). Here I have them all working one side (same stagger and stance), once we get rolling and kids know what position they will be playing the most and where they will be getting most of their reps we will just line the kids up and they will use the stagger of their position. I just point to a side and for half of them it would simulate an outside rush more while it is an inside rush to the other half of them.
Next I introduce our mirror drill. This helps them reinforce keeping good body posture and moving their feet laterally to “mirror” their defender. Here is a LINK to a post I did a while back on the mirror drill.
We eventually progress to working mirror, and then I yell HIT, on HIT the defender rushes and the OL has to execute a punch.
The next drill I use is what I call “Partner Sets”. We get a lot of good reps in this drill if the kids will work each other. We partner up and designate one guy as the OL, one as the defender. On the OL movement the defender will rush and pick a side working 1 move. The OL has to Set, incorporate part of wave and mirror drill to stay head up with the defender, punch the defender, and work his feet to cancel this first move.
As the kids improve at this drill I then allow the defender to work a first move followed by a counter. This can be a great time to work kids on the moves you see most from an opponent, or a specific defender’s best move and counter move.
Live 1 on 1s
By this point we are pretty close to letting them go full out and put it all together. We will work live 1 on 1s next. I think of this as the test of how well I have taught them. They will need to use things they’ve learned doing all of the above drills to be successful.
Blitz Pick Up
As long as you have been chalking, walking through, and teaching your specific pass pro scheme(s) your kids should be able to execute the blocks now. You can include the RB and QB if you like, or just keep your OL by themselves, whatever works best for you. Now you will use a full defense to bring pressure (combining the 1 on 1’s into a 5 on 5 situation for your OL, or 6 on 6 if you add the back). You are evaluating where their eyes are and the blocks they are making.
My biggest piece of advice with this drill is to have your fronts/stunts/blitzes pre printed out on cards. This is something given to you in TFS but it could be made in PPT in an hour or with HUDL in probably even less time. Make a card for everything you even think you could possibly see. Make a copy for each of your lower level coaches as well. Put them in a binder, keep it in the ball bag, your trunk, your briefcase… whatever. It makes going through and getting the reps so much easier when you can hold it up rather than talk to the defense and see where to go. If you are fortunate enough to have an assistant helping your OL or an injured kid they can be holding up the card for the defense while you are coaching up/correcting/praising your OL in the drill.
Here are some other drills from a post a did a couple of years ago. Drill Videos