Protecting option concepts is critical for teams that live on the veer and midline. Find out how Coach Gardner's squad added perimeter runs during their run to a state championship to protect their base option concepts.
By Ian Gardner
Desert Edge High School (AZ)
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One key to success for any offense is forcing the defense to cover as much of the field as possible. When running condensed formations in the shotgun Flexbone, this can become more difficult. Often times teams will attempt to play a loaded box to stop the inside run. This past year, we regularly saw an 8-man box and even a 9-man box. To address this concern we worked hard on developing a solid outside run game to complement our inside run and triple option game.
Our perimeter run game was all built around the idea that we wanted to protect our inside run game, which consists of the Belly and the Veer. Therefore, the looks we gave for our perimeter run game were the same for inside run and triple option. In our opinion, the more the defense had to worry about the better for us. Our perimeter run schemes helped us do that and were a huge part of our offense as we completed our state championship run this past season.
Before we get into the concepts, here is a quick review of how we personnel this offense. This is important because it drives how we build off of our main concepts.
- OL – Athletic and mean, size is a bonus
- QB –Smartest player on the field. Great decision maker. Athletic with decent running ability and ball security is a must. Leader.
- A Back – Typical “dive” back. Inside the tackle runner. Willing blocker. Speed is a bonus.
- B Back – Quicker and more explosive of the backs. Great for perimeter run game. Willing blocker. Needs the ability to play WR and align in the slot.
- H Back – Most versatile player on the field. Must be the 2nd smartest player on the field. Must understand all formation alignment tags, blocking schemes, and at times catch and carry the football.
- X and Y – Most important thing is effort and desire to block. Strength and physicality is a plus. Pass catching and play-making ability is an added bonus and makes the offense even better.
When we call a play, we always go in order of “Strength – Formation – Alignment Tags – Motions/Shifts – Play Call & Direction”. For example, “R Diamond Sling Ozzy Right”. At times, our plays can get to be a bit long when you include all the tags and motions. Thus, we huddle and utilize a QB wrister for our play calling.
In our offense, the play call determines how the A Back aligns. In the example above, “Ozzy Right” the A Back would align off-set gun to the left of the QB, slightly in front of the QB, splitting the inside leg of the tackle. In “Belly Right” (inside zone read), the back getting the ball would align 6 yards deep, splitting the outside leg of the guard to the left side. Different play calls determine if the A Back aligns off-set gun or in pistol.
Base Formations – Diamond & Navy
For the most part, we ran our perimeter run plays out of Diamond and Navy formations. In our shotgun Flexbone offense, the QB has his heels at 4.5 yards. In Diamond, the B and H Back both align even with QB, splitting the inside leg of the tackle. The B is to the strength, and the H is opposite. The A Back aligns based on the play call. The receivers align on the numbers as the Y goes to the strength of formation, the X goes opposite.
Note : All these diagrams are in “Right” formation strength.
In Navy, the B and H Back align in a wing alignment, angled in towards the QB. The B is to the strength and the H is opposite the strength. The A Back aligns based on the play call. Again, the Y goes to the strength of formation, the X goes opposite.
Perimeter Run Schemes
We basically have three perimeter run calls to attack the “loaded box;” Ozzy, Sweep, and Toss. All three are outside zone blocking schemes adapted for our perimeter run game. There is no read by the QB on these plays for two main reasons.
1. It gave us the opportunity to give him some rest if he has been running the ball (keeping it a lot on his reads)
2. We wanted to have plays we could give the ball to certain players.
In our system, “Ozzy” is for the A Back, and “Sweep / Toss” is for the B Back. Depending on your personnel, you want to get the ball to the player who can get to the outside using his speed and quickness. We were fortunate we could run all three in our offense and utilize several key players without changing personnel. All receivers and backs in our offense must be willing blockers and understand blocking angles and leverage. In all three schemes, the offensive line is responsible for reaching the nearest gap to the play side. We call this our “Sweep” scheme.
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- 5 formation tags Coach Gardner uses to run these perimeter schemes, including his two unbalanced structures.
- The definition of the “hot zone” area and the responsibility of the H back to block the defender located there on all perimeter runs.
- Blocking rules, mesh points and game film of the Ozzy concept in various formations.
- Blocking rules, mesh points and game film of the Sweep concept in various formations.
- Blocking rules, mesh points and game film of the Toss concept in various formations.
- BONUS: Watch game film of these concepts
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We first installed our base inside zone schemes with triple option. Most of our plays early in the seasons were read options, but we started to see defenses bring extra defenders in the box to help against our inside run game. We always saw a different look from the defense week to week because our offense was so different than most teams in our sections. The opponents had three days to practice and learn a “new” form of their defense. The more the defense had to worry about, the better for us. In our opinion, we wanted to be more than just option. About the middle of the season, we developed our perimeter run game and started to see its success right away. It really helped protect our inside read options and also gave the defense another scheme they had to worry about.
Meet Coach Gardner: Ian Gardner has coached at Desert Edge HS (AZ) for the past 4 seasons. He currently works with JV/Var quarterbacks and serves as the passing coordinator at the Varsity level. Desert Edge has compiled a 47-6 record the past four seasons and won the Division III State Championship in 2015.