cs icon 70



mertensBy Luke Mertens, Head Coach, Lakes Community High School (IL)

Find how Coach Mertens used his Choice RPO concept to increase the effectiveness of his both his IZ and Bubble while slowing defensive reaction to all plays in the series. Find more here.


By Luke Mertens
Head Coach
Lakes Community High School (IL)
Twitter: @LakesFootball1

Insiders Members: Login here to access the full-length version of this report.


How many times have you seen an open window on the perimeter close instantly due to less-than-desired receiver blocking, despite dedicating an enormous amount of practice time on this exact skill? After cycling through a few receiver coaches and yelling at more than a few players, I have come to the realization that what receivers are asked to do in spread offenses is one of the toughest tasks in football. The solution was to take advantage of those reads by implementing RPOs into our offense. This allows us to now take advantage of perimeter defenders that are so well coached at reading run/pass cues.

Zone Read Choice

Every offense needs a “hat-hanger” and there’s no question that Inside Zone is ours. Over 80% of our run game called on Friday nights is Inside Zone. Like most spread teams, one of the looks we really like with Inside Zone is the Zone Read; however, we incorporate a pitch option for our QB more than most Zone Read teams.

After self-scouting, we came to realize that our Triple Option was predictable, which, combined with the difficulty of WR perimeter blocking, was not yielding the desired results. That said, we were also frustrated with the lack of productivity when we called Bubble. Since both of these concepts were central to our overall game plan, we knew we needed to make a change. The result was combining those two schemes into an RPO concept. We found that this change would both minimize our predictability and allow us to put those well-coached perimeter defenders in a bind.

Our Choice package tells our back side, perimeter players to execute Bubble while all box players and WRs to the play side to execute Inside Zone. It is then the QB’s job to put us in the best play based on both what he is seeing before and during the play.

Triple Option

Another component to our Zone Read Choice package is a true Triple Option look. In this case, the options are the give read of the Inside Zone, QB pull, or throw the Bubble (which is the pitch phase). When called, our QB does not have any pre-snap read. Like any Triple Option, he has post-snap reads of the dive and pitch keys. Although we vary who our dive key may be, our QB is taught to think “give.” If he pulls, his eyes go to the pitch key. If the pitch key plays the QB, he will “pitch” the ball, which is throwing the Bubble.

As you can imagine, often times may be an awkward throw. After trial and error, we have learned that QBs need to just “get it there” if he’s throwing the Bubble. We found that adhering to strict throwing mechanics will only hinder the QB’s ability to make this play. The QB is more apt to think overthink the throw which will slows him down on a play that requires split-second decision making.

Choice Slant

The final aspect to our Zone Read Choice package is the coupling of a Quick Game concept on the back side with IZ on the play side. We will run this as both a Choice (pre-snap read as referenced above) and an Option (post-snap triple option read). We can call any of our Quick concepts (Hitch, Slant, Stick, etc.) for either, which has enhanced both our Inside Zone and efficiency at the quick passing game. The QB reads and rules for the perimeter and box players are exactly the same as what has been previously described; consequently, we have minimized the chance of slowing down our players with too much information. For example, “Choice-Slant” tells our back side, perimeter players to execute our Slant Concept, all box players and receivers to the play side to execute Inside Zone. Just like the earlier concepts, it is our QB’s job to put us in the best play based on both what he is seeing before and during the play.


Choice RPO Continued…

Join X&O Labs’ exclusive membership website, Insiders, and get instant access to the full-length version of Coach Mertens’ clinic report. Here’s just a short list of what you’re missing in the full-length report:

  • The pre-snap read and the post-snap progression of the quarterback in the Choice RPO concept.
  • How Coach Mertens makes sure the Bubble receiver in his Triple Option phases gets the proper depth post-snap.
  • The quarterback reads and rules for the perimeter on his Choice Slant concept RPO
  • What Coach Mertens does against man coverage in his RPO package.
  • VIDEO: Watch Coach Martens’ game film on these concepts.

Join the Insiders. Go Here.



There are unlimited ways to couple the pass with the run game to attack defenses. In addition to what I have described above, we also have combo called both our screen and sprint out series with Inside Zone; moreover, all of these combinations can be run with Outside Zone, Stretch, or Jet Sweep as well. We have found that using RPOs and allowing the QB to put the offense into the best play will keep defenders on their heels and in turn force them to defend the whole field.

Meet Coach Mertens: Luke Mertens has been the Head Football Coach at Lakes Community High School (Lake Villa, IL) since the school opened in 2004 with only freshmen and sophomores. Since becoming a 4-year school in 2006, L.C.H.S. is a 7x IHSA State Playoff Qualifier and have won four consecutive conference championships. Prior to Lakes, Coach Mertens was the QB coach at both Chicago Catholic League power St. Rita High School (Chicago, IL) and St. Patrick High School (Chicago, IL).


Get More Run/Pass Option Concepts…

Join X&O Labs’ exclusive membership website, Insiders, and get instant access to the full-length version of Coach Merten’s clinic report, including all the game film.

Plus, with your Insiders membership, you’ll also get full access to X&O Labs’ Run/Pass Option Concept Study. This powerful study not only takes you inside football programs that have optimized the Run/Pass Option concept to get maximum offensive production, this in-depth special report also gives you the step-by-step guidance needed to train your quarterbacks, manipulate both box and perimeter defenders and everything else you'll need to effectively implement this system into your program.

To be clear, The Run/Pass Option Concept Study is one of the largest studies ever conducted by X&O Labs. It is 60,000 words, includes 85 detailed diagrams and, best of all, over 2-hours of game film and instructional video.

Here's exactly what this study includes...

Our research staff studied the most effective implementation strategies for training offensive personnel - especially, the quarterback. Plus, their research also discovered the most effective run/pass option concepts based on attacking box defenders and perimeter defenders.

This study brings you all the latest trends, methods, strategies and concepts that can only come from X&O Labs' in-depth research.

The Run/Pass Option Concept Study is presented in three cases:

  • Case One: Run/Pass Option System Development (Implementation)
  • Case Two: Manipulating Box Defenders
  • Case Three: Manipulating Perimeter Defenders

2-Hours of Video:The Run/Pass Option Concept Study includes over 2-hours of game film and instructional video. Here's a complete list of all the RPO concepts available on video:

  • Stick Draw
  • Stretch Stick Draw
  • Empty Stick Draw Concept
  • Free Access Throws
  • Vertical Settle
  • Zone Seam
  • Bolt
  • ROW
  • Outside Zone/Seam
  • TFS Trips Pop
  • Zone Cup Pop
  • Horn
  • Double Pop Out
  • Power Double Out
  • ISO Read
  • Power Read
  • Power Hitch
  • Quads Bubble
  • Smoke Screen
  • Flare/Now
  • Zone Bubble
  • Slant/Bubble
  • Read Spacing

Whether you've been running the Run/Pass Option for the last few years or you're looking to implement the concept for the first time, X&O Labs' in-depth special report, The Run/Pass Option Concept Study, is your best resource for maximizing the full power of this new form of option football.

We published The Run/Pass Option Concept Study, including over 2-hours of game film and instructional videos, in our exclusive membership website the Insiders.

Join the Insiders Website. Click Here.




Insiders Members Login Here To Access Full Length Reports and Videos