RPOs are far from new at this point. That said, Coach Smith believes that offensive line play within RPO schemes has not had as much attention as it should. This report will focus on how to coach offensive linemen that can be effective in an RPO heavy offense. Read the report...
By Jared Smith
Offensive Line Coach
Sioux Falls Roosevelt High School (SD)
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RPOs are far from new at this point. X&O Labs has done a great job of spreading the word about these concepts since day one. That said, I believe that offensive line play within RPO schemes has not had as much attention as it should. This report will focus on how to coach offensive linemen that can be effective in an RPO heavy offense.
Every defensive coach that has played against a team that effectively runs RPO concepts has complained about linemen being illegally downfield. From Nick Saban to your biggest rival, they are constantly reminding refs to watch for linemen down field on every RPO. That is until they have the ball and their OC starts running them too!
When we first started using RPO plays a few years ago, we did have linemen down field occasionally. Sometimes there was even a flag thrown. We knew that if we were going to get better and avoid these penalties, we needed to make some adjustments to blocking schemes and improve how I coached the linemen. In addition, we added calls from our QB that have been very helpful in keeping that to a minimum. Now, it is very rare that we have a lineman illegally downfield on our RPOs which means that we are far less likely to have a big play brought back.
Throughout this report I will discuss how our program redesigned our RPO playbook to make things as easy as possible for our linemen. This will include choosing which run and pass schemes we use as well as how to pick a name and/or signal for each play. Each of these three steps started with the OL in mind.
Know the Rules
As a coach, it is your job to know the rules so you can teach your players correctly and to also use the rules to our advantage. Many of you witnessed the Baltimore Ravens hold every Cincinnati Bengal on punt coverage for 11 seconds to end their game last year. Whether that is unsportsmanlike conduct is a conversation for another day. What we do know is that the Ravens coaches know the rules and used that rule to their benefit at the appropriate time, just as they did in Super Bowl XLVII against the 49ers.
With that said, the NFHS rule book states the following;
“Rule: 2-28-2… The neutral zone may be expanded following the snap up to a maximum of 2 yards behind the defensive line of scrimmage, in the field of play, during any scrimmage down.“
By understanding that rule, we designed and stole RPO concepts that would help us succeed and we ditched any that made it tougher on our lineman. My linemen quickly adapted to the RPO plays because they’re all run schemes with which they are familiar.
Choosing the Pass Scheme and Coaching Points
Several of our RPOs are run from a 3x1 formation. Our QB and WRs have hands signals on both sides of the formation letting them know what our best options are pre-snap. They also do this on every play that isn’t an RPO so that the defense can’t figure out when it actually means something. The 3x1 formation often isolates our X with a corner playing man, which we love. In our early RPO days, when our QB wanted to throw a deep route we didn’t have a way of letting the OL know they shouldn’t go down field. A few times this resulted in a lineman chasing a LB beyond the expanded neutral zone. While we will still throw deeper routes to our X and other receivers on pop passes our QB needs to communicate that to our OL. Similar to our hand signals with the receivers we came up with a few terms that our QB could call to our OL on any play, but it would only have the meaning to not go down field with an RPO call.
With any short pass and obviously bubble screens, we don’t give the OL any call to change their run game. In these situations, we are not worried about a lineman getting outside of the expanded neutral zone because the ball will either be thrown before the lineman gets passed it or the ball is thrown behind the line of scrimmage. In these instances, all the OL is concerned with is executing their blocking scheme for the given call.
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Join X&O Labs’ Insiders, an exclusive membership-based website, and you’ll get instant access to the full-length version of this report—including access to everything X&O Labs has ever published. Plus, you’ll receive up to 4 FREE books mailed directly to your home or office. Here’s just a small sample of what you’ll find in the full-length version of this report:
- How he trains his offensive linemen to execute double teams in an RPO offense based off if a linebacker is dropping (for pass), pursuing (on the outside run element or RPO) or working downhill (on inside run element of RPO).
- The drill work Coach Smith uses to train his offensive linemen to gain a visual, physical and mental understanding of the expanded neutral zone in RPO blocking.
- How Coach Smith correlates the run vs. pass terms to alert his offensive linemen not to go downfield.
- How he differentiates the terminology of OL calls between deep throws and short throws, which can affect the timing of the route.
- Plus, game film of both the Wedge RPO and Counter Trey RPO Concept.
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Love your linemen! They often get pushed to the back burner. The linemen know coming in that they won’t get the attention they deserve when the offense is successful, however, we have made it a point to get them involved in ways that make them feel important. Allowing the linemen to name some plays as well as giving them the freedom to come up with signals has been a fun way to get them involved and make them feel special.
While I only focused on a few concepts in this article, I would be happy to share other RPOs we use in our program. If you are interested in the power read scheme that I mentioned, check out the X&O article that I helped James Stubkjaer put together titled, The Shovel/Bubble Triple Option RPO. Also, be sure to check out the other article that James Stubkjaer and I collaborated on where we discuss our wedge scheme is titled, 4 Options for the 3x1 Stick Draw. Special thanks to coach Stubkjaer for his insight while I wrote this article as well.
Meet Coach Smith: Jared Smith currently coaches the offensive line coach at Roosevelt High School as well as at Riggs Premiere Football Academy in Sioux Falls, SD. Coach Smith has coached for 14 years and has been at Roosevelt for the last eight years. The Rough Riders compete in the highest class in South Dakota and have played in six state championship games since 2005, winning three.