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By Mark Holcomb, Head Football Coach, North Davidson High School (NC)

The POP RPO is a rather simple RPO at it's core, but Coach Holcomb and his team have taken it to the next level to protect their Iso, Counter, and Truck concepts. Click here to read the report.


By Mark Holcomb
Head Football Coach
North Davidson High School (NC)
Twitter: @FootballHolcomb


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As our program has delved into the world of RPOs the past 5 seasons, we have added many concepts to our offense, but none have been more productive and easier to install than the Pop Pass. We did not have to change any concepts for our offensive linemen which are the most important part of any offense. This article will focus on formations, reads, and wrinkles we use to make this play as successful as possible and it remains a mainstay of our offense.

We run the Pop pass concept with a variety of run looks. Below I will detail the Iso, Counter, and Truck concepts as they relate to the Pop pass.

Isolation Play:

The isolation play is a simple fold play with the back side guard pulling into the open gap to lead up or isolate on the play side linebacker. The play side Guard and Tackle will simply zone or fan block based on the front and open gap. Against a shade Nose, the play side Guard will block down because B gap is open. The Center has the job of blocking back on the first down defender on the backside.  The back side Tackle must make sure there is no penetration by the Defensive Tackle or Defensive End into the B gap. There are numerous adjustments that can be made against slanting fronts and blitzes.

The main adjustment we use against blitzing Linebackers is to make a “zone” call and the Offensive Line will zone block and there will be no pullers. This read is usually is fast and easy for the QB because the zone covered by the Linebacker(s) will now be open for the Pop pass. Below are the most common fronts we see and the blocking assignments against each.


Counter Play:

The Counter has always been a staple of our offense no matter whether we were in a Pro I offense or the Spread. The rules remain the same for the front side and back side no matter what front we are facing. The front side rules are “Gap, Down, Backer” and we double everything we can to the back side Linebacker who is our actual “QB Read” on the play. The Center has the job of blocking back on the first down defender on the backside. The back side Guard will pull and maintain a track into the line of scrimmage and attempt to “dig out” the Defensive End to the play side. The back side Tackle will pull and fit in the line to the front side Linebacker. We drill each week against teams that will use the “squeeze and spill” technique with their defensive ends. Against that technique, our back side Guard will log the Defensive End and the back side Tackle will continue on the outside of the Guard to the play side Linebacker.

The main adjustment we make on the Counter is against a chasing back side Defensive End. When we see this, we simply make a “Texas” call which locks the back side Tackle on the back side Defensive End and the play is essence becomes a long trap by the back side Guard. We will also try and double the front side Guard and Tackle to the front side Linebacker in the event of a give read by the QB. Below are the most common fronts we see and the blocking assignments against each.     


Truck (Pin/Pull) Play:

The Truck play is the new version of the old Packer Sweep but is used now as a change up to the Outside Zone play. We will typically not take both the Truck play and Outside Zone play into the same game plan. As a staff, we will decide if we can reach the Defensive End. If we can, we will run the Truck play with the advantage of pullers as lead blockers. If we cannot reach the Defensive End(s), we will run the Outside Zone and reach to widen for the cutback by the Running Back. 

Our Truck play has simple rules except for the play side Tackle. The play side tackle will reach block the Defensive End and attempt to set the edge. All other players have the same rule which make this a simple play to implement.  If the player has a down block they will take it and if they do not have a down block they will pull to the play side. For example, if you are running the play against a 3-4 defense that is not slanting the assignments will be as follows:

  • The play side Tackle will reach the Defensive End
  • The play side Guard down block on the Nose
  • The Center will pull and look to kick out the first man who shows
  • The back side Guard will pull and attempt to get outside of the play side Tackle but most often has to fit up for the Linebacker.
  • The back side Tackle will protect the B gap with a step and hinge method.

If our Center is quick enough to step play side and reach the Nose we will pull both Guards. This is the most ideal way we like to run the Truck play but depends on the ability of the Center. Against a 3 and 5 technique to the play side we will usually fold. Below are the most common fronts we see and the blocking assignments against each.      


Continue to the full-length version of this report…

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  • How Coach Holcomb adjusts the aiming point of his receivers in his pop scheme against man coverage.
  • How Coach Holcomb uses formations and pre-snap movements to alter whom the pop receiver will be based on personnel and structural matchups.
  • The adjustment Coach Holcomb made when defenses would play man coverage on the inside receivers taking away space for the pop.
  • The adjustment Coach Holcomb made when defenses would play the pop area with the deep safety in man coverage.
  • How Coach Holcomb develops the pop concept during practice week.
  • Plus game film on all these concepts.

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By making the Pop and Pop Switch plays a staple of our offense, we have been able to help our running game by slowing down the back side linebackers and safeties and also have been able to make big gains in the passing game. This play is a high percentage passing play and since we work on the reads so much with the quarterback and receivers miscommunication happens less frequently. Since getting into the world of the RPOs, we have worked with many different concepts.  The Pop and Pop Switch plays have been our most successful plays and will continue to be a big part of our offense. 

Meet Coach Mark Holcomb:  Coach Holcomb has been the head football coach at North Davidson High School in Lexington, North Carolina for 15 years. They are a 4A high school which is the highest classification in the state. His program has qualified for the state playoffs every year and has won 2 Conference Championships since joining the 4A ranks.   



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