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By Mike Kuchar, Senior Research Manager, X&O Labs


Find out how Albion College and others design their run game off of the front structure here...

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



The following research was conducted as part of XandOLabs.com special report “Designing RPO Systems.”

Designing Runs off Front Structure

Some runs work particularly well against different fronts. We all know this as coaches. But there are some coaches who put a premium on which run concept they are calling based off the front that they are seeing. We’ve found that in general terms, coordinators who plan against even front structures are more susceptible to call gap scheme run concepts, particularly against play side 3-techniques in order to get movement at the point of attack. These are also the same coaches who will choose to run zone concepts at the bubble (or shade/5-technique) side so their front side guard can climb to the next level. Alternatively, coaches that are designing their RPOs against predominantly even front teams have chosen to use some double pull concepts, mainly in the form of buck sweep and other pin and pull variations, because of the probability of getting two linemen out at the point of attack.

Eric Davis at Mankato East High School (MN) told us his power and counter gap schemes were less efficient vs. 3-4 teams, partially due to our inability to block the outside linebacker when our kick out player blocked the 4-techhnique or 5-technique.  “We also had some struggles getting to the backside linebacker with our backside guard on inside zone vs. 3-4 teams.  So we’re hoping that an expansion of our RPO package will fix that problem. We did run our buck sweep very effectively against those teams as well as power out of tackle over. While inside zone was not great against the 3-4, it was extremely effective against the 3-3 Stack, probably due to the fact the gaps the defenders were responsible for were more clearly defined immediately post-snap.”

Mark Holcomb at North Davidson High School (NC) will break the run concepts from his RPO package into attacking front structure as well. Against four man fronts, Coach Holcomb will use his fold scheme, where he will block down on the nose and wrap the center or the uncovered lineman for the play side linebacker (Diagram 1). It’s a way for him to block the sixth man in the box. Against three-down looks, the gap blocking structure of the buck sweep helps even against 4i-techniques because he will use his tackle on that player in order to have two puller with the guards (Diagram 2).


Joe Osovet, the former head coach at Nassau Community College (NY), will check the portions of his RPOs to the shade techniques in four-down fronts. Although his run portions are not married to his RPOs at all, he told us he will run the best run concept that we will think is best against the front we are going to face. Then he tags his RPO concepts to what we think the back end of coverage is going to look like. “If we had our druthers, we want to gap things,” said Coach Osovet. “We want to run our inside zone to the low shade, our G/T counter to the high and our dart scheme is predicated on where the bubble is or the second level linebacker alignment is.”

Jessie Montalto, the head coach at Ellsworth Community College (IA), will vary his run schemes from week to week, which is based more off defensive personnel than front structure. He did tell us that even-front makes it a lot easier for his run schemes. “The even front is just cleaner for us our double teams are better and cleaner,” he told us. “Against true Okie fronts with 5-techniques, we are fine but it’s when you get those 4i-techniques that makes it more difficult. It’s a game plan thing and we will change how we block our inside zone that week. One week we would work all the way out to front side backer and edge rusher and we will take that back side guard and center and work to that inside backer to let the end go (Diagram 3). If we get double 4i we will have to block 5 for 5 and read off those outside guys (Diagram 4).  We do something different every week of off the game plan.”  




Designing Runs Off Box Count

Coach Montalto was one of our sources who tags and RPO on every single run game he has. He will put a bubble screen on the backside of the run and quick game to the front side, which seems to be an ongoing trend for offensive coordinators this season. Because of this, he puts a large responsibility on the quarterback to identify box count as well. “The quarterback has to know he is responsible for depending on the box,” he told us. “Some is pre snap and some is post snap. For instance, we are running inside zone and we get a five-man box, we are going to block 5 for 5 with our guys and we are going to key off the two outside linebackers. They both are pre snap. So if you have a B gap defender to the boundary, and he is tighter, we think we can throw front side quick game.We will run more bubble stuff to trips and quick game to single side wide receiver, whether its slant or hitch the quarterback has freedom to hand signal over there too. Or if we get leverage on the backside initially then we throw the bubble on the backside. If we get a six-man box, now we are going to block the six and work the double team to the backside middle backer, then read the end and triple off of the alley player who ever that apex player might be. If we get pre snap read to the front side, and the blitz front side, we will pull and throw quick game out there (Diagram 5). The running back knows he has to cut back and block the defensive end.”


Dustin Beurer, the offensive coordinator at Albion College (MI), will typically see three types of run boxes, a 4-2 box, a 4-1 box and a 3-2 box. So he correlates his RPO run package based off these fronts to have his quarterback make the proper read. He breaks his run game into inside zone and pin and pull and details those adjustments below:

Inside Zone vs. a 4-1 Box: The conflict linebacker will be playing outside of the box and playing our screen side. Therefore our offensive line will take care of the 4 down defenders to the Mike LB.

See Diagrams 5A and 5B Below:


Inside Zone vs. a 4-2 Box: Against a 4-2 box, the conflict linebacker could be playing anywhere from the backside A gap to stacked over top of the backside defensive end. Our offensive line will now be thinking the four down defenders to the front side linebacker.

See Diagrams 5C, 5D, and 5E Below:


Inside Zone vs. a 3-2 Box: Inside Zone vs. a 3-2 box, the conflict linebacker now becomes the outside linebacker. This will now cause our quarterback to ride the run to read what he wants to play (i.e. run or screen) longer. Our offensive line will now be thinking the three down defenders and two linebackers in the box.

See Diagrams 5F and 5G Below:


Pin Pull Paired with Pops and Quick Game:

Pin Pull vs. a 4-1 Box: Against a 4-1 box, the conflict linebacker will be playing outside of the box and playing our Pop/Quick Game side. Therefore our offensive line will take care of the four down defenders to the Mike linebacker.

See Diagrams 5H and 5I Below:


Pin Pull vs. a 4-2 Box: Against a 4-2 box, the conflict linebacker could be playing anywhere from the backside A gap to stacked over top of the back side defensive end. Our offensive line will now be thinking the four down defenders to the front side LB.

See Diagrams 5J, 5K, and 5L Below:


Pin Pull vs. a 3-2 Box: Against a 3-2 box, the conflict linebacker could be playing anywhere from the backside A gap to stacked over top of the back side defensive end. Our offensive line will now be thinking the three down defenders and two linebackers (outside and front side in the box LB) to the play side.

See Diagrams 5M and 5N Below:



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