What happens when you put your best three linemen on one side? One coaching staff tried it and found out. Read their report...
By Will Compton
Associate Head Coach
Conroe Oak Ridge High School (TX)
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As coaches we are always looking for ways to boost our run game. Going into the past spring we felt that our offensive line was going to be a strength of our offense. We decided to take our best three lineman and put them on one side. We would use our H-Back/TE to serve as the tackle on the weak side. We wanted to keep our schemes as simple that could easily be translated back to our basic offense. The unbalanced sets allowed up to add a power aspect to our Offense and still hold the defense accountable for all the skill players on the field. We finished this year averaging 231 yards per game running the ball, with 31 rushing touchdowns. Our unbalanced sets accounted for 24% of our formations throughout the season. In these sets we were able to average 6.97 yards per play.
Benefits of Using an Unbalanced Line:
- Put the defense in an alignment issue
- Get your best lineman at the point of attack
- Take the safeties out of the run game
- Ability to utilize a three man surface without having a true Tight End
Offense is evolving each year. It seems that everyone today has some type of RPO regardless of the level of play. This in my opinion has led to more defenses going to a 3-man front. We see odd front defenses 80% of the year. This began to give us issues on our interior run game. This spring we began to look for an answer to this issue. As coaches we know that the thing that puts an odd front in a bind is a tight end in the Offense. However, we did not have a tight end. What we did have was five lineman and an H-Back that was willing to block. Our answer was to put our three best linemen on one side and use that as the point of attack.
By using an H-Back on the 2-man side we were able to keep the safety away from the point of attack. When we set it up we decided that we would call the 3-Man surface to the right “Green” and 3-Man surface to the left “Yellow”. We would use our “Houston” personnel. “Houston” is our personnel package where we take out our slot receiver and bring in our H-Back/TE. If you have a true tight end this package becomes even better because you can get in and out of it without having to change personnel. This puts the Defense in a bind because now they must always find the tight end and make sure their safeties are in the right spot. If you are able to mix in your unbalanced sets along with some trips tight formations, you are able to keep the safeties constantly having to figure out how to line up the defense. What we saw this year is that many defenses would play our tackle over set different than our trips tight sets with their fronts. Now defenses are spending more time on aligning correctly giving the offense the advantage.
Formation Advantages in Unbalanced:
The way we set up our unbalanced set is that we use the words “Green and Yellow”. Green means that the 3-lineman surface side will go to the Right. Yellow means that they will go to the left. Early in the season we would break this out of a “muddle huddle” however as the season went along, we were able to just line up in it.
What we have seen this year is that most teams have one adjustment for how they will play the unbalanced set. In our opinion a defense must decide if they are going to play Nickel (Down Safety) to the 3 man surface side or to the multiple wide receiver side. This seemed to determine how the defense would play the front. If the defense played the Nickle (Down Safety) to the 3-lineman surface side, we would see some version of a 1-5-9 to that side and a 4i/3 weak. If the defense did not want to play the Nickle as a 9-technique vs the 3 lineman side it would look more like an even front with a 1&5 weak with a 3 and 6/7 strong making the defense look more like a 4-3. Once you know how the defense is going to play you up front you are able to move around your WR to create matchups.
Green Flip Heavy and Yell Flip Heavy:
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- How using the overload bunch formation prevents the offense from adding a safety into the run fit and provides for three combo blocks at the point of attack.
- How using base three-man surface formation structures splits the safeties, perpetrating a one-on-one matchup to the boundary without any additional help in the pass game.
- How using overload three-man surface formation structures places an offenses two best receivers in a man to man situation without safety help.
- How placing three receivers to the same side of the formation opens the possibility of three-man route concepts while also matching the running back on a drop safety to the weakside.
- How Coach Compton game plans each of these formations when designing his weekly run game menu.
- Plus, raw and narrated game film of all these concepts.
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Because we decided to take our best three lineman and put them on one side, we finished this year averaging 231 yards per game running the ball, with 31 rushing touchdowns. Our unbalanced sets accounted for 24% of our formations throughout the season. In these sets we were able to average 6.97 yards per play.
Meet Coach Compton: Will Compton is currently the Associate Head Coach at Conroe Oak Ridge. Oak Ridge is a 6A located just north of Houston. This is Coach Compton’s second stint with Oak Ridge serving as Offensive Coordinator from 2012-2014. He comes back to Oak Ridge after serving as Athletic Coordinator and Head Football Coach at Rudder High School in Bryan ISD. Coach Compton has also served as Offensive Coordinator for some of the top programs in the state including Tyler John Tyler, La Marque, and Refugio. Coach Compton is married and has 2 kids Tristan (13) and Levi (9) . In 2015 Coach Compton was awarded the Brazos Valley’s Character Coach of the year.