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Rouse-BioBy Mike Kuchar, Lead Research Manager, X&O Labs

Looking to tweak your option mechanics to fit the pistol? This set of 8 techniques is packed with coaching points you can use on the field today. Read more here...

By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
X&O Labs
Twitter: @MikekKuchar

The following excerpt is from X&O Labs special report on the Veer and Midline Option concepts. Get more on this special report, go here


Pistol Techniques and Fundamentals (Midline Option)

#1: Jump Step Technique

Rouse-BioRalph Isernia, Head Coach, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: “From the shotgun, the QB will ‘jump’ the snap and step with his back side foot opposite of the read. He will clear the midline by stepping up and over, away from the read. The step is 2 feet toward the LOS and 2 feet off the midline. Basically, his toes will be on the center's back side foot. After the first ‘Clear’ step, he will come to balance with his back side foot. With his eyes on the read, he will get his shoulders back and extend the ball back to the FB. The FB will take a drop step with his BS foot for timing and run the midline course 100 mph. With inside arm up, he will soft fold over the ball and feel for ‘push-pressure’ from the QB give. His eyes are on his action key (the block in A gap) so he can read the block.”

#2: Drop Step Technique

Matt Sims Colby High School (KS): “To teach the mesh in the Midline scheme. We tell the Pistol back that he owns the line from him to the center. It is the QB’s job to get out of the way. If we are running Midline to the right side, the QB in the Pistol formation will take a 1-yard step toward the line of scrimmage with his left foot at 10 o'clock. This allows him to get out of the way of the Pistol back that owns the line. The QB will then get depth with the ball as he watches his read man. Most times the decision is made before the mesh happens. The QB needs to show the ball keep bent arms and make his read. As the Pistol back runs straight down hill toward the center.”

Joe Whipple, Schalmont High School (NY): “We run our Midline, Veer and Zone mesh everyday for 5 minutes. I paint a line from a cone where the center would be back 8 yards behind the QB and RB. The RB aligns in 2 different positions in all three plays. We first have them run all three through Pistol (RB aligned behind QB in gun) then align him to the side of the QB, as he would run Zone. He is able to run all three plays from both positions and they all look the same. The painted line gives the QB and RB aiming points to where they have to go. The QB is taught to get off the midline. Ideally his heels are in the back side A gap. The RB runs right up the line, which is the crotch of the center. So if he is aligned in Pistol its pretty much straight downhill. If he is aligned next to QB he gets to the line and works up field. The QB does not ride the RB to the LOS, I think it is tough and it makes the defender play both RB and QB. He rides him until he makes the decision to keep or give. We always tell him when in doubt, give.” 

Research: X&O Labs’ Option Study Uncovers New Trends and “Tweaks”. Go here

#3: Two-Step Technique

Marcus Miller, Englewood High School (FL): “Our midline step rule is for the QB to take his play side foot and put the toe of his play side foot 3 inches perpendicular to his back side foot. His back side foot will naturally progress to towards the LOS, this makes his weight shift forward, but we want his backfoot in the ground as soon as possible because midline is a pull 85% of the time and he will drive off his back foot. After the ride, we push off the (play side) back foot and take two steps and then cut vertically. His mesh point is fast and gains ground to make the DT play it just like he does under center.”
Tim Kilgore, Mansfield Legacy High school (TX): “We run it out of the Pistol. The QB steps back with two quick steps and allows the RB to aim at the crack of center. QB extends ball with thumbs on top and spread fingers on bottom. Teaching their grip during QB school in February, I walk by the QB and try to slap the ball out of their hands. The running back runs his belly over the ball. QB rides from thigh pad to thigh pad and transfer his weight to front foot. This weight shift allows him to take his first step with his back foot without a false step. The QB will take 3 steps parallel to the line of scrimmage before cutting up field. He can cut up quickly if we are cutting up inside of a 5-technique. The RB follows the Zone direction of the center unless he sees daylight in the back side A gap.”

Pistol Techniques and Fundamentals (Veer Option)

#4: Baby Midline Step

Ralph Isernia, Head Coach, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: “From the Pistol, the QB will take what we call a baby midline step. That is to say, he will step with his back side foot to the butt of the center instead of the back side foot of the center like he does in midline. He will come to balance with his back side foot, extend the ball to the TB and get his eyes on the read. The FB will take a narrow stance in the Pistol, one yard behind the QB. He will clear the midline and step up at the center's PS foot. Keeping his hips and shoulders square to the LOS, he will soft-fold over the ball and feel for QB pressure.”

#5: 45-Degree Footwork

Matt Sims, Colby High School (KS): “From the Pistol formation the B back or Pistol back (PB) will aim for the outside leg of the play side guard. If the play is being run to the right the QB will step with his right foot at a 45-degree angle toward the line of scrimmage. We would like him to cover about a yard with this step. His left foot will then travel about a yard and a half. This allows the weight to be on the inside foot so he can push out of the mesh to keep or fake. We use bent arms with our QB and encourage him to get in position with his eyes on the read man. It is important that the ball his behind him we call this getting depth with the ball. The PB is responsible for the mesh and the QB gets depth and makes the read.”

Marcus Miller, Englewood HS (FL): “Our Triple rule is the same principle that we want to make the mesh as close to the LOS (line of scrimmage) as possible. We take the play side foot and make a 6 to 10 inch step at a 45 degree angle towards the LOS (roughly the inside foot of then PSG) and then the back side foot naturally gains when he pivots and gets his body in position to read the Read Key on the LOS. It gets us working downhill for the ride, but then he can flatten out if it's a pull read.”

Michael Muedeking, Mountain Range High School (CO): “Out of Pistol, the QB leads with play side foot, taking a half step play side and setting it at a 45 degree angle to LOS. QB brings other foot into parallel alignment with lead foot, shoulder width apart while getting ball as deep as possible for mesh with running back, and rides the RB to QB's front foot while focusing on his read man.”

Paul Murphy, Waubonsie Valley High School (IL): “The QB opens at 5 or 7 o'clock, in the gun, our RB is aligned on the outside leg of the guard, so they lateral step and then aim for the near leg of the center. The RB will make a soft pocket, the QB will extend the ball back at a 45 degree angle, put the weight on the inside of his back foot, ride the RB to the inside of his front foot, QB keeps his eyes on the 5 tech for the give/pull read, when leaving the mesh we teach the QB to push off the inside of his front foot, give a little ground and attack the inside shoulder of the defender who has QB.”

Note: Quarterback Football in the Mesh. See Full-Report…

#6: Pivot Technique

Brady Hoff, Imperial High School (CA): “We are a Pistol team, our QB's foot work is to pivot on the play side foot. From there our mesh is the same as what we teach on midline. Ball on the back hip, ride to the front hip, if it gets to the front it is an automatic give. Our dive back aims at the outside leg of the PSG.”

Ed Maloney, Dundee High School (MI): “From the Pistol flex bone, we shuffle with the B-Back while reading the first defender on or outside our PST. However, rather than open step (traditional), since we are already off the LOS, we pivot on our play side foot to ride with the B-Back.”

Rod Stallbaumer, Lyndon High School: “We run Veer from the gun so our QB pivots forward on his play side foot while seating the ball back towards the RB. The RB steps towards mesh and the ride takes place on the pivot, QB's second step takes him back and around mesh.”

Brian Sheehan, Defiance College: “Our heels are at 3 yards, the B back’s toes are at 5 yards. We are trying to get on an ideal mesh point for the Veer. It’s a B gap play with the option for A gap. QB is just a pivot step.”

Rob Harris, Broadneck High School (MD): “If we are running Veer right, he pivots on his right foot. The QB will ride the mesh until his front hip, by then he has to make his decision, the running back never takes the ball, he is given the ball, we lost no fumbles this year on mesh. The QB will give the ball, unless the read attacks hard at the TB, if the read sits, give, if he comes up field at all, give, we want the running back to carry the ball, that is different than a lot of teams, they run midline to run the QB.” t is disabled in your browser.</div></div>

#7: Parallel Feet Technique

Ron Jones, Hoosick Falls Central High School (NY): “Pre-snap read the alignment of the read key and formulate a contingency plan. If he is wide or loose, plan to give the ball unless he makes a dynamic move to make you pull. Against a tight alignment, expect to pull unless he jets outside immediately. Attack the snap with the play side foot. Stay on the midline and work toward the center (this is a major key to the play. If the QB forces the RB mesh wide, the DE has a better chance to play both dive and QB). Point your toes at your read key (defender aligned on or wider than the OT). Extend the ball back and find the read key as you bring your back side foot forward to a position parallel with your play side foot. Ride the ball well past your hip. This allows you more time to make the decision, commits the defender to make a choice and helps to shift your weight downhill to carry out the fake or pull the ball. After the ride get downhill and score.

“The RB steps into the A gap with his inside foot. He must challenge the QB to get him the ball by going as fast as you can. Press the A gap to set up the double team and influence the play side LB into the A gap. When the QB tucks the ball press A as long as possible, then slide outside the double team into the B gap. If the ball is pulled, roll over as if you have the ball and make a cut to influence tacklers to pay attention to you. The most common mistake young RBs make is to run right to the B gap. This forces the mesh wide and closer to the read key defender. In this instance, the defender must tackle the RB every time and he will never get the ball.”

#8: Snatch Technique

The point method mentioned earlier can be used in gun alignments and is very similar to a technique we detailed earlier in our Pistol special report, which is called the Snatch Technique.

This technique was first reported to us by Jim Mastro, the former running backs coach at Nevada (under Chris Ault), who is now the running backs coach at Washington State University.

“He will drop out and be a cocked angle at the defensive end (read key),” said Mastro. “We don’t want to be parallel to the sidelines. We want him at a cocked angle. He will drop and cock out. The back foot goes a yard and a half. The front foot goes a yard, which puts him at a cocked angle. That ball is an extension of his arm. The arms will be bent and the ball will be right in the face of that defensive end. The big thing is to have bent arms. The QB can’t have a stiff arm or the ball straight out.”

“It’s not a ride and decide,” he told us. “The QB does not want to push the ball back to the running back. That ball is just held out there at that angle. By the time the running back gets to the QB that snatch, he knows if the QB is either pulling it or giving it. That’s why we had hardly had any fumbles. When it’s a ride and decide, he’s deciding pull it, keep it and there is hesitation. When it’s the snatch technique, by the time the running back gets there the QB knows either I’m pulling the ball or giving the ball. If he’s giving the ball he just loosens his thumbs if he ‘s giving the ball he squeezes his thumbs. By the time the back got there, the QB already knew what he was doing. There is no grey area. It’s a three-step movement. If the QB is going left it’s left, right, then once the RB clears his window the QB is going to pull the ball and then push out with his play side foot. If he’s going to his left, he pushes with his left foot. There is no wasted movement. When your feet are moving, your eyes are moving and you’re not concentrating on what your supposed to be concentrating on. It takes a day or two to master and they like it better because it keeps their eyes calm. They don’t worry about pushing the ball back. It’s a drastic difference. The footwork never changes. His eyes may change based on who he is looking at, but the footwork doesn’t.”

The Option Study: Get the full-length version of this report. Go Here… 



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