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By Curt Fitzpatrick Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach Utica College (NY)

"Over the past few seasons our offense at Utica has been effective at throwing the football out of our one back formations. Therefore, we have faced more and more defenses that employ a 2-high safety structure, leaving fewer defenders in the box at the line of scrimmage. When we see this, our eyes light up because we know that we’re going to get the count we’re looking for to run the football effectively." Curt Fitzpatrick, Offensive Coordinator, Utica College

On behalf of our Head Coach Blaise Faggiano and the rest of the staff here at Utica College, I’d like to thank X&O labs for giving me the opportunity to contribute this clinic report to the website.  The work that X&O Labs does in researching and sharing information with football coaches around the country is tremendous.  It is truly an honor to be a small part of all that they do for our profession.  For this report, I’d like to share with you the best way we utilize the Power O play; the one back Power.

The Power O scheme has been a proven winner in the game of football for many, many years.  However, long gone are the days of everyone running this play out of strictly two back formations.  More recently the Power O has evolved into a scheme that is utilized by both pro-style and spread offenses alike.  With many teams moving towards an offensive philosophy that utilizes the skill set of a more athletic quarterback, the Power scheme is being seen more and more as a "read" concept, which adds to its reputation as being an effective "attitude-type" run play.  The point being, Power is a versatile blocking scheme that can be used in a variety of ways, as well as in the red zone and goal line scoring areas.  In 2010, the Power O scheme accounted for approximately 35% of our run game out of various formations and personnel groupings.  About 20% of our runs were of the one back Power variety.  For us, the one back power gives us a physical down-hill run play that can be run out a variety of traditionally "pass heavy" formations.

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As a back drop for this report, I think it’s important first to know what our offensive style is and how the Power play fits into our overall scheme.  While we do use bigger personnel groupings at times, we are primarily a one back offense that utilizes a mixture of 12, 11, and 10 personnel.  From a player standpoint, we currently do not have a QB that we feel comfortable running "read" type plays with, therefore the new age Power front and back side read schemes that many spread teams run do not apply to us.  I believe that this is an important point in solidifying the use of this blocking scheme in any offense.  You can find a way to utilize the Power O with whatever type of personnel that you have!  Over the past few seasons our offense at Utica has been effective at throwing the football out of our one back formations.  Therefore, we have faced more and more defenses that employ a 2 high safety structure, leaving fewer defenders in the box at the line of scrimmage.  When we see this, our eyes light up because we know that we’re going to get the count we’re looking for to run the football effectively.  Formationally speaking, we run our one back Power play out of both 2x2 and 3x1 sets, however there are a couple different criteria that must be true out of any formation in order for us to run this play:
  1. We must run the play to a TE side (at least a 3 man surface).  We also could choose to add a slot receiver (TE Trips) via formation or motion to create a 4 man surface so that we can account for a possible 4th defender to the play side.
  2. We must have an even count to the play side in order for us to keep the play on.  For example, if we have the play called to a 3 man surface the QB must verify that we are getting an even amount of defenders to that side – our 3 vs. their 3 (See Diagram 1). Conversely, if we are out-numbered at the point of attack the QB must recognize this as a bad situation and check the play into a more advantageous run or pass based on the game plan for that given week – our 3 vs. their 4 (See Diagram 2).  As I mentioned earlier, one way that you can account for that 4th defender is to create a four man surface to the play side by motioning into a 3x1 formation so that the slot receiver can account for that edge player (See Diagram 3).  You could also call the play out of a 3x1 formation to begin with, giving you a 4 man surface to work with right off the bat (See Diagram 4).  If you have a slot WR that is a physical blocker this could be a great matchup for you, or it could be a nightmare if that guy isn’t willing to be physical blocking an OLB/Safety type player.
Now that we’ve looked at some different formations, motions, and defensive structures that are conducive for running the one back power play, let’s talk about the overall emphasis of the play and some of the blocks at the point of attack that make this play successful.  The thing that I like best about this play is that it brings with it a "nastiness" up front like the Power O scheme always has.  For our offensive line, we install this play just like if we were running it out of 22 personnel or on the goal line, with a physical mindset.  Our goal when running the one back Power is to remove defenders from the box by formation, then separate the defense with a physical gap scheme that allows for a double team at the point of attack.

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Double Team When facing a 40 front defense many times this will result in them playing their 3 technique to the TE side (over front).  In order for the play to be successful vs. an over front, the "deuce" block by the PSG and PST is critical.  Their ability to get movement on that 3 tech, which is usually the defense’s best interior lineman, makes the job of the pulling guard that much easier and allows the play to hit more downhill where we want it.  We teach our guys to get "hip-to-hip" and knock the 3 tech off the ball getting as much vertical movement as possible.  We believe that getting vertical push is the best case scenario for two reasons.  First, this creates a problem for the play side ILB because of the traffic coming directly into his lap.  This could force him to play slower, which makes the block of the pulling guard more effective.  Second, getting vertical push on the double team allows the PSG and PST better angles when eventually one of them comes off the double team to block the back side ILB.  This forces the LB to make a deliberate choice to either play in the front side A gap which would result in the PSG coming off the double team to block him, or play over the top of the double team which would result in the PST coming off.  In either case, because we’re square our guard and tackle are in a better position to execute the play successfully (See Diagram 5).TE vs. DE: C Gap Drive Besides the double team, the next most important block when running the play vs. a 40 front is the block by the TE.  In a one back power, the TE is in a one-on-one matchup with the DE whether he’s aligned in a 7, 6, or 9 technique.  In this scheme, the TE is responsible for securing the C gap.  X&O Labs has recently done studies on the emphasis that the defense places on properly leveraging the C gap to help control the run game.  In the one back power, we are trying to take away that leverage with the block of the TE.  The most difficult scenario for the TE in trying to accomplish this is vs. a 7 technique DE (inside shade of the TE).  We term this block as a C Gap Drive to emphasize the importance of winning the leverage of that gap.  The two things that we try to instill in our TEs when they are making this block are:
  1. Under no circumstances can they allow the DE to penetrate and play on our side of the line of scrimmage.  We get this accomplished by instructing the TE to "bite the inside number" of the DE.  The head placement across the bow of the DE ensures that we will at worst keep the DE on the LOS.
  2. If the DE fights hard to maintain his leverage in the C gap we want to wash that gap down inside to let the play get to the edge.  Ideally we’d like to get inside leverage on the DE, creating an extra gap for us, and drive him up field finishing the block.  This, combined with a dominating double team, creates the downhill play we’re looking for.  However, if we can’t dig the DE out of the C gap we will wash him inside and let the pulling guard lead the RB around the pile (See Diagram 6 vs. Diagram 7).
Pulling Guard Assuming that the front side blockers do their job, the block by the pulling guard on the play side ILB is an easy one.  If those blocks are successful the puller will have a clean look at the LB and should have no indecision.  As a base rule, we teach the BSG to "scrape paint" with the play side double team.  He initially must assume that the TE is going to secure the C gap so that we can run the ball downhill over the top of the 3 technique.  However, as I show in Diagram 7, the guard must be aware that if the TE washes the DE down inside he must lead the RB around the TE and up to block the ILB.  Because we feel like his ability to make this read is so critical, we employ the skip pull (or square pull) technique.  I know that X&O Labs has recently compiled research that shows how coaches teach both the skip pull and the open pull techniques on the Power O play (read more here: One-Back Power Game Seperating the Defense).  We like the skip pull because it allows the guard to see what’s happening in front of him with the double team block and the block of the TE.  This helps him to quickly and accurately visualize his entry point into the LOS.  Furthermore, it allows our guards to react quicker should the play side ILB shoot through the LOS to try and make the play in the backfield.

As we finish up talking about the pulling guard, I thought this would be an appropriate spot to mention the job of the RB on this play.  On our Power play, I think it’s critical to teach the RB to read the play just like you teach the pulling guard to read for his entry point.  The phrase that we use with our RBs is to get on the "high hip" of the puller.  The initial landmark of the RB on our one back Power is at the butt of the PSG.  This will ensure that he leaves himself a good angle to run downhill should we get the best case scenario with a great double team and block by our TE.  However, the RB must understand that the ball may bounce outside the TE if he can’t dig the DE out of the C gap.  In order to do this it is essential that the RB is not too quick to the LOS.  The #1 mistake that our RBs make on this play is that they get there too quick and can’t react to the block of the pulling guard.  They must stay patient!  Footwork wise, under center or in the pistol alignment we will have the RB take a drop step with his back side foot for timing, then get downhill aiming for the butt of the PSG.  From the Gun (aligned to one side of the QB) the RB will align for a same side handoff.  This means that our RB will align to the side of the Power, initially look like he’s meshing across the QB’s face, and then come back to the play side in proper relationship with the pulling guard (See Diagram 7).

How to Utilize a Read Scheme With This Power Play to Take Advantage of an Athletic QB: One of the best read schemes that I’ve seen recently is the front side C gap QB Power read.  This play has become more and more popular recently with teams like Auburn and Nebraska using their athletic QBs to run it with great success and a lot of explosiveness.  It is a great play to compliment the traditional one back power because it combines blocking an outside zone stretch play to the perimeter and the Power O gap scheme on the interior.  The beauty of this play is that it negates the advantage that the defense has by leveraging the C gap with a 7 technique DE.  Plus, the QB reading the C gap defender allows the offense to account for 4 play side defenders with only a 3 man offensive surface (See Diagram 8).

Power O vs. an Odd Front: When we face a 30 front a few things have to change.  First, let’s define what we consider an odd front, or a 30 front.  For us, this means that the defense is playing with two 4 technique or 5 technique DEs, and a 0 technique NG.  The count rules that I talked about earlier still apply here.  We are looking for even numbers – either 3 vs. 3 or 4 vs. 4.  On the play side, blocking Power vs. a 30 front means that we are going to get two double team blocks.  Instead of getting a "deuce" block by PSG and PST we are going to get a "trey" double team block on the DE by the PST and TE.  They will attempt to vertically displace the DE and combo off onto the play side ILB.  Also, we will get an "ace" block by the PSG and the center who are double teaming the NG to the back side ILB.  Instead of skip pulling to wrap up inside, versus an odd front we have our BSG trap pull and kick out the edge defender.  The path and footwork of the RB do no change.  He is still reading the block of the pulling guard; the only difference is that the assignments have adjusted slightly with the change in front (See Diagram 9).  

Researchers’ Note: You are reading the summary version of Coach Fitzpatrick's Clinic Report. To access the full version of this report – including the additional diagrams – please CLICK HERE.


In conclusion, the Power O scheme can be effective for any style of offense.  More specifically, the one back version of the Power play can be great for teams that are looking for a physical play to take advantage of defenses trying to defend a passing formation with two high safeties.  No matter who you’re playing, you can most likely find a formation or motion to run this play out of.  It’s a proven play that has been working forever, and it seems to keep getting better and better.

NOTE: Coach Curt Fitzpatrick is available to answer your questions.  Please post your questions or comments below in the "Comments" section and Coach will respond.

Copyright 2011 X&O Labs



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