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By Donnie Mays, Head Coach, South Charleston High School (WV)

20 personnel continues to be a favorable grouping of choice in the RPO game and the reasoning is simple: the presence of an H back accounts for a spread pass game and provides for a two-back run game. Donnie Mays, the head coach at nationally ranked South Charleston High School (WV) blended his two back power run with a levels pass concept he studied from the Indianapolis Colts to develop his most potent RPO concept. The Black Eagles averaged 10.6 yards on the ground and 245 yards in the air using this concept, which accounted for 6 TDs. Not only does this stress the run box, but it manipulates third level safeties who are triggering on run keys. Coach Mays details the concept in his clinic report.


By Donnie Mays
Head Coach
South Charleston High School (WV)
Twitter: @CoachDMays


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The Arrow RPO is a simple concept that we came up with after studying the Indianapolis Colts Levels Concept. We simply combined the Power Run Play from the shotgun with the Levels concept and applied some rules for our high school players to understand and simplify things. We initially wanted this RPO as a Tempo play, but found that it can be ran again and again with different players touching the ball with success. Our study also shows that we can run this RPO against various fronts and coverages with similar successes.

In all, we ran Arrow 20 times this past season. Here are the results:

  • 9 Runs 96 yards [10.6 Avg] 1 TD – 1 Fumble
  • 10 Passes (7/10) 70% 245 yards and 6 TDs.

The entire package combined averaged 17 yards per play and 7 TDs defining it as explosive for us. In other words, we should have run it much more.

Running RPOs

We first dabbled with RPO’s in 2006. Like mostly everyone, our process took us on the horizontal attack (Fast Screens) with Zone Runs. In 2008 when I became the Offensive Coordinator, we decided to expand our system. We loved getting the box to 6 and running quarterback isolation while tagging a horizontal fast screen to the edge. What we came to realize is that more teams were defending the screens as part of their daily routine, and therefore getting better and forcing the quarterback to run the ball. We also noticed that the Free Safety was becoming a huge run support player to tackle our quarterback.

Our answer was simple, send our slot wide receiver on a vertical while running quarterback isolation. We called it “Dump” because we wanted to treat it like the old tight-end dump pass. Eventually, it grew into a tremendous play for us. We made some simple rules for the quarterback for reads and timing so lineman wouldn’t be called down field. People started complaining to the officials saying, we were cheating and should be penalized more often, but we realized our lineman weren’t getting down the field that far at all. At this point, we were ALL-IN with RPO’s and haven’t looked back since.

After our quarterback graduated, we knew we had to start planning to fit the new quarterback’s abilities. We learned quickly that he was not a great runner but was very good at reading defenders. This is when we decided to tag our down field passing game with parts of our run game. One of the concepts we use (which is the study here) is our Arrow concept. The Arrow RPO is one of our two third level RPO’s. We currently run nine RPO’s from four base runs. We attack the field both horizontally and vertically in the RPO game. Our views and goals for Arrow is quite simple.

  • To Outnumber the Box for Run Game
  • Force Defense to Play 1v1 In Secondary
  • Eliminate the FS as part of Run Support


Clip Synopsis:

Editor’s Note: Coach Mays segments each game clip of his arrow concept and provides their respective coaching points based on each clip below:

Clip 1:  The QB identifies the FS is in Quadrant D (Q-D) and immediately knows to read the Levels side (2 WR side). Once the ball is snapped, he looks for the OLB to collision or cushion the vertical. Notice on the snap of the ball and the power action, the FS becomes part of the run game. Also notice that the OLB works a run fit allowing the vertical to slide right by him. Once the QB has made the decision to throw he has to make sure he throws the ball inside enough to keep the ball from the corner.

Clip 2: Coaching Point: When the FS is down, take the shot. As you can clearly see here, the FS has tightened toward the LOS and is playing run 1st. Our goal now is to take the vertical shot if possible. This situation shows the OLB cheating back, so the QB should be looking at the Box Slant from #1 on the 2 Receiver side. The decision to take a shot isn’t wrong because we want all 1 on 1 matchups as possible, but a safer throw here would be the Box Slant. 

Clip 3: This time the QB identified the FS in the Q-D again, but didn’t like the space given to him by the OLB. He could have worked the Box Slant to #1 WR on the 2 receiver side, but chose the safe route and ran Power. A 5 yard pickup is a victory for the offense on any play.

Clip 4: This is an example of a “Shot” call to a specific matchup. Notice that the 2 WR’s on top are run guys now. We worked the Twins side enough to get the FS looking that way and having those two block gives the FS a run fit read if he is peaking at the two WR side. Also notice that the OLB is now trying to collision the #2 on the twin’s side. The QB does a nice job understanding that we have to take the “Shot” and is patient like pass pro and steps up into the pocket to give us a chance.  As you can see, we have moved receivers to different spots here to create the matchups we want.

Clip 5: This clip is an excellent example of a team trying to take away our two WR side. The have moved the FS in Q-B over top of the Slot and are daring us to run the ball. The key here is that the single receiver and the QB are on the same page. Because we work this single side so much in practice it is an easy completion for us. The single WR rules are Hitch vs Space, Vertical vs Press, and Speed Out vs Invert. He clearly sees the invert player taking away the hitch and the corner taking away the vertical so he is in phase to run the speed out. The QB immediately knows that this defensive look puts the ball in the hands of the Single Receiver or the RB. Because there is an invert player, the QB must flash fake the run for timing and space for the WR. This was a huge 10 yard gain for us because on 1st down we had a 5 yard penalty. This completion put us back into a good 2nd and 5.

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  • How Coach Mays uses the “quadrant locator” to teach the QB to locate and read the Free Safety, who is the post-snap movement key on the concept.
  • The route progression for the receivers based on one-high and two-high secondary rotation.
  • The pre-snap indicator Coach Mays will use to dictate where he wants the ball to go.
  • A narrated clip-by-clip breakdown of the 20 game cutups of the concept, provided by Coach Mays.

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The Arrow RPO is like any other RPO in that it takes time to perfect. RPO’s aren’t something just to try anymore. They are vital to whom we are. With that said, I believe that they should be used as necessary and not every down. There are occasions where you must run the ball to get yardage or pass the ball to get a first down. It is imperative that we keep the simple structures of football offense and tie in the pass-options.


Meet Coach Donnie Mays: Donnie Mays took over as the offensive coordinator for the South Charleston Black Eagles in 2008 where he helped the Black Eagles win back-to-back Class AAA State Championships and break school team scoring records, rushing records, and passing records. Coach Mays was recently named head coach of the South Charleston Black Eagles in 2013 where his team made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. In just his 2nd Season, Mays led the Black Eagles back to the State Championship for the 1st time since 2009. The Black Eagles are (27-11) under Mays with three straight playoff appearances and one State Title appearance.



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