Defensive coordinators are leaning on Man coverage to defend RPOs. See how Coach Smith is countering that approach with Man Coverage answers built into his RPOs. Read the report...
By Jeff Smith
Warrenton High School (MO)
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The popularity of RPOs have exploded in the past couple of years and there are very few offenses that don’t use some aspect of them. With that being said, defensive coordinators have been scheming at a consistent rate to stop the advantage the offense gains. In doing research, I have found that the only sound answer they have, without guessing, is to play Man Coverage. This kills most RPOs that are out there because it triggers an automatic give to the running back or forces you to win the 1-on-1 between the wide receiver and defensive back. Another huge problem that this creates is that defenses then can have a +1 advantage in the box. My goal was to find simple answers to flip the advantage back to the offense and take advantage of the matchups that man coverage creates.
The 4 Answers
As I said before, man coverage forces RPO teams to go a different route. I wanted to keep things simple for my kids, so I wanted to create RPOs that would work against man and zone. In looking for these answers I found that there are 4 things that mess with man coverage that you can use as part of your RPO.
- Pre-Snap Motion: This can be in the form of a jet motion or sending the running back to the flat.
- Hit the Edges: With the defense having a possible +1 advantage in the box, you have to go outside. The extra linebacker on the backside then is not going to be a threat at the point of attack.
- Be Creative with Your Running Back: In most cases when a team locks up with you, there will be a linebacker manned up on your running back if he starts in the box. This is a great matchup in regards to skill in the open field. Find ways to exploit this matchup.
- QB Runs: If your QB is the ball carrier, then you have a chance to even out the +1 advantage the defense creates or even make it a +1 for the offense.
One of the four Answers to defeating man coverage in an RPO offense is to hit the edges. I have found the best way to do this is with an outside zone blocking scheme. We treat it differently against an even front than we do against an odd front. When facing an even front, we cut off the backside as opposed to leaving the backside unblocked. We do this because we want to create cutback lanes.
The play side blocks are key with this scheme. On the play side, we always gain ground laterally and try to reach and seal the play side defender. If we can't seal him then we run him to the sideline. If we are uncovered play side, we work a combo/fold to the next level and try to seal that level off.
Head and hands are key for the play side blocks. Our goal is to get our head to the play side shoulder of the defender and get a quick hook. We teach zone holds to lock onto the chest plate and push/pull to help us get our head where it needs to be. We want to lock out with our play side arm and pull with our weak side arm to naturally turn the defender. We then want to run our feet to get our head where it needs to be and turn our hips to get the seal. If we can't get our man sealed, this is usually because he is running outside and his hips are turned that way. If this is the case, we then push/pull the opposite way that we had originally. This pulls his hips the opposite way that he is running and normally results in a huge wash or a pancake. A wash is just as good as a hook in this scheme.
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- The Crack/Stick fundamental that Coach Smith will use with this number three receiver based off the reaction of the play side linebacker in his outside zone RPO.
- How his RPO routes vary between Cover 0 and Cover 1 coverage structures.
- The difference between the QB/RB mesh in power read and outside zone read.
- The two route options Coach Smith will give his perimeter receivers, which are based off the leverage of defenders, in his Swing RPO.
- Plus game film on all these concepts.
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As defensive coordinators look to evolve their schemes to defend RPOs, we must continue to adapt on the offensive side of the ball. These are only a few examples of what can be done with the 4 answers that I have talked about. These concepts do not require a ton of repetition and keep it simple for the guys up front. We feel that these concepts give us answers and allow us as an offense to not be wrong no matter the defensive alignment and coverage.
Meet Coach Smith: Jeff Smith is the Offensive Coordinator at Warrenton High School in Missouri. Warrenton is a Class 4 school outside of St. Louis, MO. and this is his 2nd year at the school. Before coaching in Warrenton, he coached at Marshfield High School, Belton High School, Glendale High School, and was a student-assistant at Missouri State University.