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IMG 2892By Chris Parker, Head Coach, Pickens High School (GA)

Coach Parker shares the concepts behind his empty package that is averaging 10.4 yds/play out of 3x2 sets and 9.4 yds/play out of his 4x1 formations.



Editor’s Note:  At this point in the season, everyone is looking for a new edge.  Some are looking to keep their struggling teams engaged and competitive while others are focused on adding wrinkles that can push their team over the edge into post season play.  In either case, adding the empty formation, along with a few complimentary plays is a simple way to create such wrinkles without having to completely change your teams offensive philosophy.  The following article gives a great overview of the simplicities and possibilities that can come with the empty formation and will provide you will multiple ways to use as part of your offense starting this week. – Sam Nichols, X&O Labs Managing Editor


IMG 2892Adding Empty to Create Mid Season Wrinkles

By Chris Parker

Head Coach

Pickens High School (GA)


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Empty Package

The empty formation is full of possibilities, but most of all, it clarifies the defensive responsibilities to allow for a simpler and smaller offensive playbook.  We break our playcalling down into 4 play groupings which include inside run, screens, quicks, and drop passes.  Within those groups we run the blocking scheme, passing combinations that are the cornerstone of our offense.  Here is a look at each of those groups and what we are looking for. 

Inside Run

Empty formations force the defense to make decisions on how they are going to defend the box.   If they defend the box with five or fewer defenders, we should be able to have a positive play.  The key to making your Empty plays work is you must be good at inside run with the QB if the numbers allow for it.  It is a misconception that the QB has to be a great runner to make this work.  He just needs to be tough enough to get four yards if the box is open. 

Inside Run plays can be Draw, Zone, Trap or any other variation that your team can do.  We usually block our Zone rules with both Tackles blocking the DE.  You can make the Quarterback attack the box on the snap or have him pass set and run a Draw. 

Diagram 5 shows our basic Inside Run play in Empty.  We have our Receivers run a screen play.



If there are more defenders in the box than you can block it creates an uncovered receiver.  We usually package this play with our draw.  We can call one play and the OL blocks draw while the Receivers block screen and the QB can decide which to run.  Diagram 6 shows our Fast Screen to the #1 Receiver.  All of the Screens are great when receivers are uncovered.


Quick Game

The Quick Game is essential to any Empty package.  The Quick Game is the best way to take advantage of overhang players.  The better teams are going to attempt to play people “in” and “out” of the box at the same time by placing them as close to both as possible.  You have to make these overhang players pay by getting the ball to the flats or up the seam as fast as possible. 

Our Quick Game usually consist of Hitch (diagram 9), Stick (diagram 10), and Choice (diagram 11).  These three pass plays put overhang defenders in a bind and create easy throwing lanes out of empty sets.


Drop Pass

If you get productivity out of your Draws, Screens, and Quick Game you will rarely, if ever, see any six man pressures.  This gives you a good chance of making a 5 step game effective.  Our primary five step Empty play is Curl/Flat with a Vertical push by #3.   We throw underneath and run the ball so much that we can sometimes hit the vertical for a big play.  If we get the safety covering the vertical, it creates throwing lanes for the curl or the out. 




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  • What advantages he looks for in defenses to make his Empty sets successful.
  • How he uses the Quads and Pentagon sets to isolate defensive weaknesses.
  • Additional diagrams and plays used in multiple empty looks
  • Plus game film of these concepts in action and more…


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Our offensive philosophy at Pickens is to give our players a great chance for success on each play.  When utilized properly, Empty formations can create great matchups for your players and give them a chance for success regardless of how the defense aligns.  

Author’s Biography:  Coach Parker is the Head Coach at Pickens High School in Jasper, GA.  He has taken over two different programs that have struggled and turned them around.  He is entering his 2nd season at Pickens.  In 2012, Pickens set school records for points per game and yards per game in Coach Parker’s first season.  Previously he was the Head Coach at Chapel Hill.  He was named the top new coach in the state by the Atlanta Journal Constitution in 2008 after taking Chapel Hill from 0-10 to 9-3 in his first season.





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