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By Scott Girolmo, Head Football Coach, Battlefield High School (VA)

Born out of creative necessity, the use of the unbalanced 5-man surface does two things: helps to maximize the stronger personnel within the OL and two helps protect weaker personnel by putting them in easier blocking scenarios.

By Scott Girolmo
Head Football Coach
Battlefield High School (VA)
Twitter: @CoachSGirolmo



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It is so fun for me to share this simple scheme with all the readers of X and O labs. I want to be sure to credit two coaches who were instrumental in helping to teach me small parts of using an unbalanced 5-man surface. The first is Thad Wells, and the second is Terry Hessbrook. I stole from both, and I am very grateful for their willingness to talk ball with me. They are brilliant coaches.


The Unbalanced 5-Man Surface

Born from a creative necessity, the use of the unbalanced 5-man surface can help to maximize the stronger personnel within your offensive line unit and help to protect the weaker personnel by putting them in easier blocking scenarios. This was one the initial draws for me, and I believe that it can be a weapon within what you already do in your 20/11 personnel offense with minimal disruption to your operating system.

I like to label this front differently than our normal balanced 5-man surface. The position breakdowns are as follows.

Diagram 1


The Quick Tackle – This is the short-side offensive lineman, and the place where I would put my best lineman. His alignment can be with a wider split if he can play in space. In our offense I like this player to be our quickest guy off the ball, because he will often be required to post a gap combo block and work his way off to the I.D. who is a quicker Linebacker scraping. In addition, some of our change-up plays require him to pull to the strong side, and a nimble-footed player allows us to run power back to the strength.

The Center – One of the advantages to using this front is that against ODD defenses it can often uncover him and allow him to block back and zone up. Admittedly this was one of my early attractions, as the “TITE” front and “OKIE” defenses with physical Nose Tackles were giving our weaker center’s a hard time.

The Inside Guard. – The inside guard plays to the strong side of the front, and can be a slower, less skilled lineman. He is protected heavily on both sides, and we find that against most defenses he spends his time blocking back. This is the first place you can hide a player who is not very good but must play out of necessity as you haven’t got many linemen, or he is the biggest of the bunch.

The Strong Guard – The Strong guard is the next best offensive lineman to the Quick Tackle for us. That is simply because we like to have him actively pulling in this scheme. We want a guy who can skip pull and navigate the surface to insert and get his hands on the play side inside linebacker. In addition, we like him to be able to identify when our strong tackle needs to cut because there are interior defenders threatening.

The Strong Tackle – The strong tackle position is the ultimate hiding spot. He is so far away from the ball that you can basically put anyone there. We have been best with this scheme when we have had a small, nimble guy who was great with the gap-hinge technique and could reach-cut off when we saw junk-fronts.


Unbalanced Surface in the Spread Power Offense

Incorporating the unbalanced surface in our spread power offense provided several awesome advantages that helped our already versatile 20/11 personnel run game. Due to the alignments of most defenses, and the likely adjustment to declare a new center, we can often get better angles for our A-Gap Power run game. Along those lines, one of the byproducts that I like personally as a coordinator is that the play hits so vertically because the mesh point is along the QBs mid-line. We vary the backfield sets quite a bit, but our favorite action to create is the running back crossing the face of the quarterback. The cross-face mesh influences the eyes of the linebackers and helps us to hold the ID in place for a count, so we can establish the point of attack combo and get our quick tackle off in time to seal him back side. To manipulate the front-side defenders, this short-edge is easier to sprint out to, provides a quick read for speed option and mid-line, and creates a better visual cone for the QB in our second and third level run pass options.



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  • The RPO variations used in the unbalanced formation against defenses that will overload the box to protect the run game.
  • The Free Access throw variations uses in the unbalanced formation that takes advantage of pre-snap alignment issues by the defense.
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  • Plus, game film on all these concepts.


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Born from a creative necessity, the use of the unbalanced 5-man surface can help to maximize the stronger personnel within your offensive line unit and help to protect the weaker personnel by putting them in easier blocking scenarios.



Meet Coach Scott Girolmo: Coach just finished his fourth season as a Head Football Coach at R.E. Lee HS (2A) in Staunton, VA, and recently accepted the Head Coaching position at Battlefield HS (6A) in Haymarket, VA. Girolmo was 32-18 in his first stint as a head coach, making the playoffs each year and guiding the Leemen to their first 3rd Round State Quarterfinal in 2015. Girolmo's tenure at R.E. Lee was punctuated by a State Championship appearance in 2017 a Shenandoah District Championship, and Region Coach of the Year Award. It was the Fighting Leemen's first ever appearance in a state championship game, and the offense set a school record with 611 points, over 40 pts/game and 6,400 yards. He is the lucky father of two children and husband to his wife Ashton. Coach Girolmo welcomes questions, and suggestions via e-mail at sgirolmo.wnec@gmail.com or twitter via @CoachSGirolmo





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