What happened when one coach gave his players ownership of the offense? More focus in practice, increased participation and 4A playoff berth. See what he did.
Jarrett M. Laws, M.Ed.
Head Football Coach
Salem High School (GA)
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In 2016, when I was hired by the administration at Salem High School in Conyers, Georgia, my immediate goal was to revitalize the program by introducing an up tempo, no huddle form of offense that formerly ran the Wing-T. By year two, we were fortunate enough to reach the Georgia High School Association Class AAAA playoffs for the first time in 4 years. I firmly feel that what made our success unique from other versions of this form of offense has been our embracing the concept of giving ownership to the players, rather than depending upon the play calling of our coaching staff.
We base our teaching on the acronym "F.A.S.T.", which stands for "FOURmation", "Answer", "Selection", and " Tempo". We utilize "F.A.S.T." as a double entendre of sorts, where, by conditioning, when one hears the word "fast" utilized when discussing offense, it becomes engrained in the psyche of the players to operate at a high rate of speed, while simultaneously reminding them of the order of their implementation of the selected offensive concept. Our play menu is quite reduced when compared to many other offenses, but our belief is that if we can implement what we have, from multiple formations, with built in answers to what the defense presents us, while being decisive in our selection, at a high paced tempo, we can never be wrong.
We have four major run concepts (Gap, Zone, Power, Draw) that we run up front, and four major drop back pass concepts (curl/flat, Hitch/Corner, Post/Dig, and Zone Flood) that we implement on the perimeter. When initiating our teaching processes with our kids, the very first thing we tell them is that we only have four runs and four passes that we will run from as many formations that we can create. No matter what the formation, we will always end up running a form of one of these four concepts. EVERYTHING surrounds the number "four". We explain that being in 2 x 2, whether it be 10 or 11 personnel, will equal us out to four. The same goes for 3 x 1. A small play of words on the concept, but it grabs their attention to the special status of the number. Offensively, we major in 10 personnel 2x2, which will be referred to as "Deuce", and 11 personnel, referred to as "Doubles". For 3x1, we title 10 personnel "Trips" (Diagram 1), and 11 personnel "Trio" (Diagram 2). We have the ability to shift and motion to various other forms of 2x2 and 3x1, but for the purpose of this study, we will limit our presentations to our 3x1 formations.
Nearly 70% of our run game is a form of "Gap". In order to focus on the implementation of the 'F.A.S.T." Concept, rather than overview a whole offensive scheme, we will center this information share on it. Whether it becomes a Veer read, Midline read, or RPO is totally dependent upon the decision making of the players as it pertains to the defensive look that is presented to them, as well as the tempo that we have called. For example, if we are in a check at the line tempo, we normally will run a gap RPO. What separates our form of RPO is that the base call is preset according to the formation we are in. If we are in 3x1 10 or 11 personnel and we give a "gap" blocking call away from the multiple receiver side, we automatically tag the "Stick" concept as the pass option. When the play call is signaled, this is where the ownership comes into play as we move into the "Answer" phase of the call.
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- How the “Answer” component of this system is communicated pre-snap from the QB to the offensive line, and the protocol used based on the defensive front presented.
- How a “squeeze” tag is implemented to affect potential run fit players on the perimeter.
- How “light” and “heavy” tags are used by offensive linemen at the line of scrimmage to sort out potential post-snap movement to the concept side.
- How the “Selection” component of this system is communicated against an inside pressure or blitz scenario, particularly how a “stretch” call takes advantage of defenses that didn’t adjust to pre-snap movement.
- How the “Tempo” component of this system is communicated against a consistent inside pressure scenario, particularly how a “speed” call helps account for the run box while adding a read element on the line of scrimmage.
- Plus game film on all these concepts
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These concept descriptions are not unlike many offenses that are successfully attacking defensive coordinators across the country. Our version appeals to the players, in that, we as coaches, are living our credo of telling the kids that, “the game belongs to you.” Because they feel that they are the play callers, we have found that our focus in practice is higher, the vested preparation time is used more efficiently, and with the advent of the perimeter portions of the plays holding a significant role in its success, it has appealed to the basketball kids that previously felt left out of the process.
Meet Jarrett Laws: Coach Laws is beginning his 21st year of coaching, 15th as a head coach. He has led several programs in Florida and Georgia to prominence. Most recently, during his second year at Salem High School, he led them to the GHSA Class 4A playoffs for the 1st time in 4 years. Prior to this stint, he served as the head coach at historically powerful Griffin High School in Griffin, GA, where he was the 2014 Region 4-AAAA Coach of the Year while leading his Bears to one of only seven undefeated seasons in its over 100-year history. In the two years of implementing his offensive philosophy at Salem, his players have broken more than 10 single season offensive production records, producing several current nationally recruited players.