The entire premise of the St. Anselm College (NH) offense is a No Huddle, multiple defender read operation, which is why the Hawks use a F.S.L. (formation to sideline) package. The reasoning is two-fold: it makes a defense choose whether or not it needs to defend numbers or defend space. Read Coach Murphy’s clinic report here.
By Patrick Murphy,
Head Football Coach,
Saint Anselm College
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Conventional offenses have often scoffed at the idea of running trips into the boundary, but at St. Anselm College we have found a way to turn this type of thinking into an advantage. We find that by putting trips to the boundary, we force the defense to make a choice; defend numbers or defend space. From there we can build plays to attack the different choices that they make.
To give you an understanding of why our philosophy is what it is here at Saint Anselm College, you have to understand the history of the program since my staff and I arrived here in spring of 2008. When we arrived, we inherited the nation’s longest losing streak (38 straight D-II losses with the average loss by more than 30+ points). We had only 35 players on roster that first spring, the program was dead last in nearly every offensive statistic, and there was zero confidence in the team’s ability to move the ball, score points or be successful at anything.
Unlike the rest of our league, our program had yet to make the jump to scholarships, so we were operating as a non-scholarship program in a scholarship league with some of the toughest admissions standards in the area. We’ve since began to add scholarships to the program, but we are still far behind the rest of the league in scholarship numbers. It is because of these hurdles that we have developed into a no-huddle, multiple read, “smoke & mirrors” offense that relies more on not blocking defenders than it does on scheming to block the outstanding defenders we compete against. For us, we spend time as a coaching staff devising ways to not block these defenders so we “Improvise, Adapt, & Overcome”.
I think our offensive philosophy itself allows us to play at a very fast pace that dictates that the defense play “vanilla”. The FSL package further magnifies that tempo and can handle different fronts/coverages/pressures because it has “built in” answers to each. Along with the base package, we also build a surprise or two into it, just as we do with our base offensive attack, on a weekly basis. So the package is constantly growing and presenting different counters to defensive problems.
We have either lead the league or been in the top 2-3 teams in the conference in rushing, passing, total offense and scoring during our time here at St. Anselm. The last several years our FSL Package has helped tremendously to “even the playing field” against some of the more talented programs we face. Ultimately, it still comes down to “Numbers, Angles, & Grass” and how to engineer those three elements to our advantage.
Depending on what our opponent is doing from a coverage/scheme standpoint, we are capable of reading all 11 defenders in a 2-high shell defense (Diagram 1). Against an 8-man front, we are capable of reading the entire front 8 in a 1-high shell defense (Diagram 2). Who we read will be determined by several factors, some of which are personnel, formation, the scheme employed against us, and where we can turn the numbers angles and grass to our advantage. Throughout the game plan process, we’re looking to take the path of least resistance. We do not spend a lot of time scheming to block the top defenders we face. Instead, we “erase” them by either formationing them or reading them. The FSL package allows us another way to disguise how we are erasing their best defenders.
For us, the FSL package is a complete offense in that it incorporates inside and outside runs, speed option, screens, quick game as well as vertical elements of the pass game. It simplifies the process of getting “speed in space” and forces the defense to declare their intent on what they want to defend. It gives us possible numbers advantages from sideline to sideline and we simply go where we have the numbers. That may be an inside or outside run, a 1 on 1 situation on 1 to 2 thirds of the field with a top athlete, or a screen into the boundary where we have an extra player. Simply put, we’re presenting the defense with a decision to either defend the field or to defend the numbers into boundary. It’s similar to presenting them with an unbalanced formation then working away from their numbers.
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- St. Anselm’s Open Concept, which is applied to the single receiver based on the leverage and depth of the Corner.
- The quarterback thought process and concept he utilizes when he sees 2 over 1 to the single receiver side.
- The quarterback thought process and concept he utilizes when he sees 2 over 3 to the trips side.
- The quarterback thought process and concept he utilizes when he sees 3 over 3 to the trips side.
- The quarterback thought process and concept he utilizes when he sees 4 over 3 to the trips side.
- VIDEO: Watch Coach Murphy’s game film
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Ultimately the FSL Package has allowed us to be, from an offensive standpoint, competitive against teams with as much as a 300% advantage in scholarships over us. It allows us to play extremely fast as our 3X1 and empty packages can just line up into the boundary and we have ready answers to move the ball. It also gives us the ability to get speed in space in order to get in the end zone early and often.
Meet Coach Murphy: Patrick Murphy produced his best season at Saint Anselm in 2014 and was named the Northeast-10's Co-Coach of the Year for his efforts. Murphy guided the Hawks to a 6-5 record, which produced the first winning season in 14 years. D2Football.com also named Murphy its Coach of the Year, selected the Hawks as Team of the Year and chose their 37-34 heart stopping win at New Haven on Nov. 8 as the Game of the Year. Murphy coached seven players to All-Conference honors as the Hawks set a new season record for total offense (4,746), tied the second best rushing mark (1,324) and came up just two yards shy of setting a new passing yard record (3,429).
In 2013, the Hawks set new single-season marks for total touchdowns (45) completions/catches (330), passing/receiving yards (3,431), total offense (4,471) and all-purpose yards (6,237), despite having a freshman take over at quarterback midway through the season. Senior RB Keith Charles and junior WR Justin Bernard were both named Northeast-10 First Teamers, while freshman QB Yianni Gavalas was recognized as a Northeast-10 All-Rookie Team member.The Hawks' offense maintained its explosiveness in 2012, despite the fact that it had graduated one of the top players to ever come through the program and was being run by a new quarterback. The offense set nearly every major passing program recording, including passing yards, touchdowns, passing efficiency and completion percentage, as well as total offense. The Hawks also set school records for points (52), total offense (774) and passing offense (612) in a 52-45 victory at Seton Hill on Nov. 3.
Murphy also coached for six years at the Division 2 level, including as associate head coach at UMass Lowell and as the outside linebackers coach at Bryant University. While at UMass Lowell, Murphy began as the secondary coach, as well as the special teams and recruiting coordinator. He was quickly promoted though and served as the associate head coach and defensive coordinator from 1999-2001.