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By Mickey Mays, Researcher, X&O Labs

During an S.E.C. game last year, the announcer stated that one goal of Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn’s game plan was to "wear down the opponent’s defense both physically and mentally by using a fast tempo, multiple formations, and pre-snap shifts and motions."  A confused football player performs with doubt in his mind instead of the inner confidence needed to excel.  Simplifying offensive formation recognition will help your players eliminate the thinking process by making precise run and passing strength calls, align correctly and concentrate on assignment and technique. This report will focus on one back and two back offensive formations, which will be divided into three categories:

  1. Two back formations.
  2. One back 2x2 formations (meaning two eligible receivers on both sides of the formation; a balanced set).
  3. One back 3x1 formations (meaning three eligible receivers on one side of the formation).
Through recognition simplification, the different possible one back and two back formation total is nine.   Although personnel groupings may change, man coverage match-ups and zone coverage drops can remain the same with one exception – some defensive coordinators flip the back-side corner vs. Twins or Trey when playing zone coverage.

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For the purpose of this report, we will identify the five eligible receivers as follows:

F: Running back

H: Blocking back or 3rd receiver

Y: Tight end

Z: Flanker

X: Split end

***U: Second tight end (two tight end formation)

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It must be noted that formation terminology can vary widely from team to team.  Regardless of terms used to label each formation, your players must identify and communicate all nine.  We will use the following terminology for the nine one and two back formations:

Two Back Formation Possibilities (diagram 1):

    • Pro: 2 Backs, 1 T.E., 1 Wide (receiver) each side
    • Flex: 2 Backs, 0 T.E., 3 Wides (receivers)
    • Twins: 2 Backs, 1 T.E., 2 Wides (receivers) aligned opposite the T.E.

One Back Formations: (2 x 2) Possibilities (diagram 2)

  • Ace (1 Back, 1 tight end, 3 Wides)
  • Deuce (1 Back, 2 T.E.’s, 1 Wide each side)
  • Quads (1 Back, 0 T.E., 2 Wides each side)

Formations: (3 x 1) Possibilities (diagram 3) Trips: 1 Back, 1 T.E., 2 Wides T.E. side, 1 Wide opposite Trey: 1 Back, 1 T.E., 3 Wides aligned opposite the tight end Trio: 1 Back, 0 T.E., 4 Wides – 3x1

Formation Tags: A tag may be added to any of the nine formations.  They include the following:

  • Tight: a second tight end added to Pro or Trips
  • Wing: an eligible receiver aligned off the hip of a tight end; Pro Wing, Deuce Wing, Trips Wing
  • Slot: an eligible receiver aligned off the hip of an offensive tackle; Flex Slot, Ace Slot,
  • Bunch: all three receivers in Trio, Trips or Trey aligned within 3 yards of each other
  • Close: two receivers in Twins or Flex aligned within 4 yards of one another
Diagram 4: two-back tags

Diagram 5: one-back (2x2) tags

Diagram 6: one-back (3x1) tags

Backfield Sets: Though the backfield sets I, Split, Strong, or Weak are critical in breaking down film and charting tendencies, they are not necessary for linebackers and safeties when making strength calls and coverage adjustments.  The exception for specific game plans may be identifying an off-set back as a "slot" or "wing."

Shifts and Motions: Understanding the big picture of possible formations will help your players not only recognize the new formation created by a shift and motion, but also anticipate the defensive adjustment before it happens. Motion will create a "new" number 1, 2, or 3 to the side of motion.  Below are examples:

  • Pro: "Z" across motion=Twins   "H" shift strong= Trips "H" motions weak= Ace (diagram 7, below).
  • Flex: "H" out weak= Quads    "H" motion strong= Trio (diagram 8, below).
  • Trips: "H" across motion= Ace (diagram 8, below).

Formation Into Boundary: Offensive formations into the boundary may change the coverage call, specifically if a defensive scheme includes aligning the 3 technique into the boundary or the wide side of the field.  For this reason, a "Boundary" tag may be added to any of the nine formations (i.e., Pro Boundary).

Researchers’ Note: You are reading the summary version of this Clinic Report. To access the full version of this report, please CLICK HERE.

Questions or Comments? X&O Labs Researcher, Mickey Mays, will be available to answer your questions. Please post your questions or comments below in the "Comments" section and Mickey will respond quickly.

2011 Copyright X&O Labs



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