Coach Maddox spends the off-season traveling across the country teaching and training quarterbacks. This month, he spent time talking with X&O Labs on how his R4 system for QB's can be adapted into RPO design.
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Dub Maddox is no stranger to quarterback play. As a former assistant at prep powerhouse Jenks High School (OK), Coach Maddox has been part of the Trojans' six state championships. He was offensive coordinator for four straight title teams (2012-15) and passing game coordinator for titles in 2006-07. Just this April he was hired as head football coach at nearby Victory Christian High School. An author of two books- From Headset to Helmet (2011) and Adapt or Die (2018), Coach Maddox spends the off-season traveling across the country teaching and training quarterbacks. He is also an R4 system coaching consultant for football programs on offensive scheme design and implementation. This month, he spent some time talking with X&O Labs contributing writer Taylor Kolste (TK) on how his R4 system for QB's can be adapted into RPO design.
Taylor Kolste (TK): For those who have yet to read Adapt or Die, can you explain how the rhythm, read, and rush framework applies to RPOs?
Dub Maddox (DM): Basically what we did is we took the infrastructure for the rhythm, read, rush, release portion of passing progressions and applied that same concept to RPO's. So, within the RPO, our rhythm concept is going to be the best run that are we are going to use to attack the most anticipated front. What we do with game planning is establish what the base front that we expect is and what runs are tailored best to attack that front and personnel. That's where we spend a lot of our time. It could be one-back power, inside zone, outside zone variation etc. We're going to have those conversations and that's the rhythm portion.
The read portion of the R4 progression is determining who that conflict defender is going to be, and that can change week to week too. As we game plan and as we watch film we're trying to isolate that one defender who we can put in a bind. A lot of times you pick on the weakest defender, but the thing about RPOs and the conflict defender is that with a very aggressive guy who is a very good athlete, you can use those strengths against him, if he's a very fast pursuit player, very aggressive, you can use those strengths against him. So that's kind of what determines the next conversation we'll have is who are those defenders who we want to put in conflict, is it a weaker guy or is it a stronger, maybe a better athlete who we can use those strengths against him, so that's the read portion. And the rush portion is going to be the best pass route or pass concept that we're going to attach with the rhythm run. That will change week to week as well based on the coverage structures they're going to play, or maybe the anticipated movements that those defenders will execute post-snap. The release portion will be that set-up play that were establishing off that run, or off those passes that we attach. That release portion is kind of that shot play that you're trying to set up to protect those concepts. So, each word is just a decision-making bucket and each word has a specific meaning that basically, asks the right question that will lead to the answer in our game plan and in-game process.
TK: What are some of the advantages to using this framework to design and teach RPOs?
DM: I think that it just organizes the decision-making process. I think a lot of time, as coaches, it's easy to get lost in the details, or go on rabbit-trails or chase ghosts, where we end up having 4 or 5 plays when we only really need one. We try to have answers for everything when it's impossible to have answers for everything. So, I think having a consistent framework and a common language helps us build out the most anticipated adjustments that we will see, and then obviously gives us a framework to know where to go to next under pressure and allows us to really play the game before it's been played. If you look at military strategy and how they train soldiers in war in performance under pressure, that's what they're doing. It's that brevity language and that sequential process that provides buckets to know an answer to the question that matters most. So, I think without that framework, or infrastructure, we waste a lot of time with staff members and confuse a lot of our kids as well.
TK: How many run concepts do you carry and approximately what percentage of your run game are RPO concepts?
DM: The number of run concepts we carry from year to year is based on our personnel. We have to determine what our concept capacity is for our kids. I think certain kids have a little bit higher football IQ some years, and then other kids have more talent to do more things, like pull better, or move into space Really what we have to do is during spring ball sit down and establish what we are able to do physically and mentally and then from that, that determines how much we carry in. We’re not going to always be an inside zone team year in and year out, some years we may be more pin-pull, one-back power, or sometimes it might be more outside zone based. So, it’s all based on personnel and that’s what football is, so that kind of determines how much we carry.
For RPO concepts, in terms of how many we take into a game, or what percentage of our offense is RPOs, it's really based on the coverages we see. There's certain teams on our schedule that are pure-man teams, and with that being said, it's not going to be advantageous for us to use RPO-based schemes for those games, it's very hard to run RPOs against man. So, I think you need to sit down and look at your schedule, look at the coverages that your teams play in your district, and then from that, that predicates how were going to determine how much of our offense is RPO-based or just pure drop-back.
TK: How often do you use rush attachments that attack beyond the hard-deck line?
DM: We use a lot. The routes that we decide to attach to our RPO's, the rush attachments, is really based on the scheme that we're running. For example, if we're trying to run a one-back power as our rhythm, it's kind of hard a lot of times to hit those down-the-field routes with that scheme. I've had a few plays where that puller or double team are too far down the field. So I think, as a coach, you have to look at the run schemes you're using with your RPOs, and from that, determine how far down field can those routes get within that time. That determines how much down-the-field routes were throwing with our RPO's. So, we’ll be a little more inside zone based or possibly outside zone based if were throwing that 5-step glance post, but really, as soon as you get over that hard-deck line, you're into that intermediate timeline, so you kind of just got to look at how your officials call it in your district, and how you teach your kids in terms of how far downfield you want to get them. So, there's really a few key things you have to look at before you determine how far down the field we actually can get.
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- Narrated film of the "Pop Drop" footwork mechanics that Coach Maddox teaches his QB for all of his RPO concepts.
- How the "HALO" concept, which cuts the field into four separate components, is applied teach the QB to diagnose and make the correct post-snap read.
- How the Rhythm, Rush and Read progressions for the QB are tied into making the right post-snap reads in RPOs.
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To read more on Coach Maddox R4 system, particularly on how it can be implemented to activate RPOs, check out his new book, Adapt or Die.