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By Dan Ellis, Head Coach, Great Valley High School (PA)

In an effort to stay simplistic, many high school offenses employ a half-man/half-slide protection scheme and Great Valley High School (PA) head coach Dan Ellis is no different. But with the potential of various defensive blitz patterns, the need to build in “hot” or sight adjustments made by the quarterback are imperative. In this exclusive clinic report, Coach Ellis details how he teaches his QB to identify the trigger points in secondary alignment and rotation to prepare for pressure and he does it without asking his receivers to break off their routes. Read the report here...



By Dan Ellis 
Head Coach
Great Valley High School (PA)
Twitter: @CoachDanEllis


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My goal as a high school coach is to limit the amount of thinking our players need to do on a play-by-play basis so we can maximize our talent and athleticism. I like to throw the football and I like to keep our QB safe, so our protection schemes are critical. However, I do not have enough practice time to invest in too many protections and still get everything repped that we need during a practice week. We do not feel we can afford to teach another 5 man protection on top of the other protections we use (slide, half-slide, roll, naked/boot). Therefore, we have made sure that we protect ourselves by building hot or sight adjustments into our play calls and use a version of our 6 man protection.


Our basic protection is half man/half slide protection, which has been talked about numerous times on XandOLabs.com by others. Below is our basic protection with the H reading inside out. Play side, the PSG has #1 down, the PST has #2 down. C has backside A and his general rule is that he cannot allow a slide side player to cross his face to the man side of the protection. The BSG has backside B, and BST has backside C. Even in this 6 man protection, the weakness is always 4 to a side. If both the SS and S blitz (or the M and W), we cannot protect and have to throw it hot. 

Before I touch on the built in hot, we also use the same protection for our 5 man protection. The only difference is that we have a signal for the H to be a free release player from the back field. The H always has a route to run in regular 6 man protection if no blitzer shows, but with this tag he is automatically releasing. If we are in empty, it is assumed that he is free released by his alignment in an empty formation. Again, the coaching point here is that no receiver will have to adjust their routes and linemen will not have to learn or practice a new protection call. The center still has the same rule about a slide side defender crossing his face to the man side, he has to block him.  

In each of our pass concepts (shown below), we always have a player that is running a short/quick route.  When we teach them our route concepts, the only thing we say is if they see a blitzer as they run their route, be prepared for the ball. The offensive line will always block the protection called and do not need to make any calls to adjust. The QB is the thinker. He needs to know what is happening, be surprised if the blitz doesn’t come, and if it does, deliver the ball to the appropriate receiver.  

Concepts (10/0 Personnel Drawn)

These are just a few of the concepts we run, but we do a lot, and we run them from 10 and 0 personnel.  Our concepts are not unique and they are run from any personnel group/formations.


Shallow is a concept we run in order to get the ball into our best athletes hands while they are on the run. Our progression for cross is cross (A), dig (Y), sit/angle (H). We really like this play because it is not a difficult throw for the QB, but it also gives him good options to our best players, and it also is great against blitz/man coverages. We always call the protection to the crosser, which gives us the internal triangle read.


We love to throw snag and we love to throw it to just about any of the 5 skill receivers. In the concepts below, we show a couple of ways to run the concept. In 10 personnel, we can call the protection to either side, but with 0 personnel, we always call it to the 3 receiver side. This way we have the two short routes in the eyes of the QB if the defense tries to overload the protection while we also have the zorro route on the backside. Again, the only player who needs to adjust if that happens is the QB.


Smash is a simple, great concept. We like to from numerous formations, especially 0 personnel. We like to do that to put the pressure on the D, all the while making things solid for the QB. Again, we will call the protection to the three receiver side so the QB has a throw in his face. In 10 personnel, we also can adjust the route from week to week if need be. Drawn below is just a basic sit route, but we can also run an angle or circle route.  

What You’re Missing…

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  • The pre-snap indicators that Coach Ellis will teach his quarterback as it pertains to secondary alignment and overload rotations.
  • How he adjusts his shallow concept out of 00 personnel to get two quick throws right in the QB’s eye line.
  • Where he tells the QB to go with the ball in the snag concept when he identifies four to a side.
  • How he adjusts his H route in the smash concept based on the type of pressure the QB is seeing. 
  • Plus game film on these concepts.

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With this type of protection structure and adjustment, it may sound like a simple adjustment, and it is.  The reason is simple too. If I constantly add plays, tags, or calls that result in new teaching off of our basic concepts, I’m adding thinking to people I don’t want to think. Having a bigger playbook doesn’t make me a better or smarter coach, it just means I have a bigger playbook! I want our players to maximize their practice reps and play fast on Friday nights and we feel this is the best way to do it. This concept has allowed us to do that.


Meet Coach Ellis: Coach Ellis completed his 2nd year as the Head Football Coach/QB/OC at Great Valley (PA). Prior to this position led teams at W.C. East High School (2011-2013) and Springfield High School (2008-2010). He also has additional years of experience as quarterback coach and offensive coordinator at Rustin High School (2007) and Downingtown East High School (2003-2006). Coach Ellis is on the Board of Advisors at XandOLabs.com and is one of our most popular contributors.








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