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By Adam Hovorka, X&O Labs Managing Editor, Former Head Coach at Schreiber High School (NY)

Creative ways to get your playmaker the ball from the slot, flank and in the backfield.

By Adam Hovorka
Managing Editor, X&O Labs
Former Head Coach at Schreiber High School (NY)
Twitter: @XOLabs_Editor



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You probably have that one player that is just better with the ball in his hands than the rest of the guys on the team.  When he has the ball good things happen and the more touches he can get the better your chances become.  If that special player is not your running back you have to be very creative in how you get him the ball.   We are a shotgun inside zone heavy team and our dynamic play maker (DP) just wasn’t the type of player that we could just hand him the ball in inside zone and be that effective.  We had to be very imaginative in how we got him the ball.  We moved him all over the field and used him in an assortment of ways.


Concepts for the “DP” in the Slot

The first way we got our DP the ball was to align him in the slot and run some simple jet sweep.   We would run some empty or end over formations to get the number advantage on the perimeter. This is your typical jet sweep that almost every team runs. 

Diagram 1


This formation was the most successful for us running jet sweep and enabled us to get the ball on the edge to our DP with some good blocking angles.   The first clip we are in a TE/wing formation with a wide receiver split wide to the same side.  In the 2nd clip we are in an empty formation with two receivers on the line of scrimmage.   A key coaching point f or the DP to cut down his split and snap the ball on first sound.  We do this to slow down the defense from recognizing the play and less likely to react to the motion.  We also would tag the play with a word for the outside receiver to crack and have the back on the corner.

Keeping that DP in the slot we liked our matchup vs outside backer/strong safety types and simply would run everyone vertical and get him the ball running across the formation.  We could also run this as a mesh route also.  We liked our options putting the DP in the slot because he is much harder to double cover here than he is if he aligned split out wide.   Besides the short shallow route from this position, we like putting the DP here vs one high teams and run four verticals or some sort of smash route. 

Diagram 2


A key coaching point here is to have your DP run the shallow at the heels of the defensive line and for the quarterback to hit him with the ball as he passes the tackle box.   We feel this a good route vs either man pressure on zone coverage. 


Coaching Points:

1) Coaches, you need to come up with your way of how to communicate where you want your DP to align.  For us being a no huddle team that only uses hand signals we had to be creative yet simple with how we communicated where we wanted him to align every snap.  By the middle of the season it was understood where he would be based on the formation and play.

2) Practice, practice practice; to be able to do all these things in games coaches need to design smart and effective practices utilizing game day communication. 

3) Our quarterback run game increased drastically when attached with a fake jet sweep to that DP.   We would fake the jet and run qb power to the motion or fake the jet and run qb g/t counter away from the motion.

4) After teams studied up on us and saw what we were doing, we had to protect our DP plays with some fakes and counters.  Be creative with some trick plays involving that DP directly or using him as a sort of decoy. 

5) Also have that playmaker return kicks; there is nothing more in the game of football that can change the momentum as quick as a return touchdown. 



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Getting the ball to your dynamic playmaker should be a priority for any offensive play caller in any type of offense. We had one player that was clearly our number one option and we had to find different ways to get him the ball. Hopefully for us, we will have multiple play makers in the future. If you do not have that luxury you need to be creative in getting the dynamic player the ball. Coaches, use your resourcefulness and be innovative; find multiple ways to have your best player touch the ball. I want to thank all the coaches out there that are working everyday making our game better. Thank you to all the coaches that have I have worked with and taught me along the way and for everyone else I hope you got something from this report.


Meet Coach Hovorka: Adam Hovorka is the Managing Editor of X&O Labs. He was formerly the head coach at Schreiber High School in Port Washington (NY). In his final year at Schreiber High School, he guided the team to a perfect 9-0 record for the most wins in school history after posting a 2-6 season in his first season at the school. Adam can be reached through his email adam@xandolabs.com.




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