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heidelberg620By Mike Hallett, Head Football Coach, Heidelberg University

Heidelberg University (OH) finished second nationally in total offense at the Division 3 level last season, scoring 48.1 points per game. Much of that production was in part to a play-action concept off its Pistol pin and pull sweep play. Head Coach Mike Hallett details the boot pass that averaged 10.8 yards per call last season.


By Mike Hallett - @coachhallett

Head Football Coach

Heidelberg University

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heidelberg620Editor’s Note:  Coach Hallett currently is entering his 8th season as the head coach at Heidelberg University.  All told, he has over 20 years of coaching experience, including three (2004-06) as head coach at Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Ky. Prior to taking the reins at Thomas More, Hallett served as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach for the Saints. His coaching career began as an assistant at his alma mater, Orrville High School. The 2012 season was one of the most memorable campaigns in the 100+ year history of Heidelberg football. Hallett’s squad finished the regular season with a 9-1 record and earned their first trip to the NCAA Division III Playoffs. Though the Student Princes dropped their first round game, the nation recognized his remarkable accomplishment -- Hallett had taken a team riding a 36-game losing streak to the playoffs in six seasons. Hallett is a 1994 graduate of Mount Union and was a member of the Purple Raiders’ 1993 National Championship team. He was a two time All-American, and was named National Defensive Lineman of the Year. He is enshrined in the Mount Union Athletics Hall of Fame.


It is an honor to present our Boot Series to X and O Labs.  At Heidelberg, we are committed to having a strong run game and we want to use our play-action passing game to complement our run game and keep the defense off balance.  This article will focus on our Boot action which complements our sweep play (pin and pull) run play, which has been very successful for us over the past three seasons. 

Editor’s Note:  Heidelberg’s Pin and Pull concept was detailed earlier in a clinic report.

With the advent of our sweep as our primary perimeter run game, we want to have action that works opposite the sweep action and our boot has been a very good match for us. Our sweep was called 80 times in 2013, gaining 668 yards, and 8.4 yards per carry.  Our boot was called 70 times, with 2 QB runs.  68 passes resulted in 736 yards, averaging 10.8 yards per call. 


We will have some base rules for our offensive line with regards to protection.  We also have some base adjustments to our rules to help handle problematic fronts, which we have encountered historically.  With our offensive line, we use the term “Elephants on Parade” (EOP) for the group.  The OL will turn and run to the sideline of the run action, blocking defenders they encounter on the way to the sideline of the run fake.  We feel the strong run look will affect the linebackers and force defenders, drawing away from our front side of the route distribution.  Our base rule will include a pull from our BS guard (FS to the Run Action), who will work to secure the edge for the QB (Diagram 1).  Our puller is instructed to kick out or cut a hard charging EMOL, and to log any read technique defender.  We want our puller to take the widest defender, if two show up on the edge.  We feel securing the widest allows our QB to get to the edge to have a run/pass option in the perimeter.  The innermost guy must run the hump.  The end should get sucked in with run action.




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  • Adjustments he makes in protection against dominant three-techniques.
  • Front side number one-receiver variants including the stutter, which stresses over anxious or rolled corners.
  • His boundary Miami concept designed to the backside of trips formations.
  • QB read progressions based on pre and post-snap coverage indicators.
  • Plus game film of these concepts in action and more…


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Route Distribution

In the majority of our routes, we will have a flat route and a hash route.  In a 2x2 set, the front side #2 will be our flat, and backside # 2 will be our hash player (Diagram 6)The Hash Player is going to work the area near the call side hash, finding windows in the 13-17 yard depth range.  If we are in a 3x1 set, our #3 will be our Flat defender, and #2 is the hash player.  This may change if we have a two- man combination called with our #1 and #2 front side.  In this case, we’ll run a vertical route from one, a flag route from number two and put number three in the flat (Diagram 7).  Our secure player (FB/TE/Slot) will be the flat route and we would like them to secure EMOL/LB physically, and make a two count before they release to the flat.  This helps timing with the QB and buys the puller time to get to the edge. 


QB Footwork and Mesh Action

We marry this concept up with horn sweep. The tailback counter steps (one, two) and runs sweep away.  We run sweep left to time it up. He gets some more depth that way.  We tried having him come across the QB, but he can’t get to the edge that way.   It’s a backside handoff.  The RB needs to be 8 yards in depth pre-snap for the right timing.

QB Read Progression

Our base reads for the QB are to work flat to hash to outside route called.  A comeback is one of our best routes called for the outside number one receiver, and often that route is the second vision read for QB after checking the flat.  The distribution of the comeback over the flat is a natural fit, and we don’t over coach this with the QB.  If we have a two-man combination (vertical/flag), our QB will read this flat to flag (taking place of hash) to vertical.

To see game cutups of the Horn PAP Concept, click on the link below:


If you run the horn play out of the Pistol formation, it is strongly recommended that you implement this play-action off of it.  The run action is identical, which is usually the main factor of those second level players biting on the run fake.  It has big play potential and has been a tremendously productive and efficient concept for us here at Heidelberg.  




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