Screen Pass Options (SPOs) provide your quarterback with a frontside pass option opposite the side of your screen.
By Rich Alercio
Head Football Coach/Athletic Director
St. Johnsbury High School (VT)
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Screen Pass Options (SPOs) provide your quarterback with a frontside pass option opposite the side of your screen. Like RPOs, SPOs identify the conflict player. The strongside inside linebacker (Sam) is the most difficult defender to account for in screen blocking. We identify him as the conflict player. If he hangs in the box to play screen, we throw the frontside pass. If he expands to the frontside pass, he is no longer a threat to the screen.
Unlike RPOs, SPOs allow the QB up to 2 seconds to make a Post-Snap read. Moreover, there are no concerns of a QB/RB exchange, no changes to the blocking scheme, concerns of an illegal man downfield or blitzes with man coverage.
Although RPOs are all the rage in offensive football at every level, we have been running SPOs long before the term conflict player was ever used. In 2001, while I was the offensive coordinator at The College of New Jersey, we were faced with a 3rd & 6 at Midfield. We called Trips Right Boot Screen Left with every intention of the quarterback booting to the right and throwing a screen pass to the back on the left. For some reason, he threw to the Tight End on the frontside who got 9 yards and a first down. After the series, I asked our quarterback, “Why did you throw the ball to the Tight End”. He replied, “He was wide open.” That was a V-8 moment. From that point on, we always gave our quarterback a frontside pass option before throwing any screen.
On our drop-back SPO we run Stick, a pass we already have in our offense and a route combination most teams use for their RPOs. We run it out of 3x1 Open and Tight. We run our Boot SPOs out of 2x2 and 3x1 with a Tight End on the front-side. All routes and protections are the same if we call Stick or the Stick SPO and Boot or the Boot SPO. The only tag we will make is to have the screen-side WR Crack, if we do not want him to run the route associated with the pass or if we feel we need him to make a block at the point of attack.
Our SPOs are 2-Count 3-Man Screens. In both our drop-back and boot screens, the offensive line will block the protection called for a 2-count. We block slide protection on drop-back and man protection with a pulling guard on boot. After the 2-count, 3 offensive linemen will depart down the line of scrimmage to the end of the box then go out, up and in. In drop--back, it is the Guard, Center & Guard (see diagram 1). Since the screen side guard is pulling to the boot-side on our boot protection, the 3 linemen going to the screen are the tackle, center, and guard (see diagram 2). The other two linemen maintain their block.
Our screens are always run opposite the side of the pass concept. In our dropback Stick Screen, we will run it with the running back aligned to the front side or backside in the formation. When we call it with the running back on the front side, we call it a Slip Screen (See Diagram 5). When we run it with the running back aligned on the screen side, we call it a Slow Screen (See Diagram 6). The running back is instructed to go to the screen when the offensive lineman depart. Slip and Slow Screens are caught on the run, but the boot screen is a setup screen (See Diagram 7) with the back opening up with his inside leg. Coaching point for the running back on the boot screen is to ensure that he has a line of vision to the quarterback and that he does not set up directly in line with the rush of a defensive lineman.
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This SPO concept helped our quarterback throw for 3,500 yards and 36 touchdowns on his way to being named the Vermont Gatorade Player of the Year. It is easy to install, read and execute but difficult for the opposition to defend. Once your base passing game is installed, consider putting a Screen Option off of it. For more information on Coach Alercio’s offensive line teaching methodology, click here https://olineskills.com/
Coach Alercio will be holding his annual offensive line clinic this off-season both in New Jersey and in Vermont. More information on the clinic can be found below:
Meet Coach Alercio: Now in his 6th year as the Head Football Coach and Assistant Athletic Director, Rich Alercio has taken the Hilltoppers to three state championship appearances in the past four years. Highlighted by an undefeated 2018 State Championship season. Prior to coming to St. Johnsbury, Alercio was named the first Head Football Coach in the history of Castleton State College. In only their second year, the Spartans had a winning record and finished second in their conference. During that second season at Castleton, Alercio’s offense ranked in the top 10 nationally in five statistical categories. Alercio began his career at West Chester University as a Graduate Assistant coach. In his first year, they won the conference championship and went to the national playoffs. Two years later he moved to East Stroudsburg University as an assistant coach helping them win their conference championship and appear in the national playoffs. Most of his career was spent at The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State College) where he served as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. During his 15 years there, the Lions set nineteen individual and team records in rushing, passing and scoring, made six post-season appearances, won five conference championships and finished three seasons ranked in the nation. Alercio lives in Vermont with his wife of 23 years, Kim. Their oldest son, Jake, is a senior baseball player at Fairleigh Dickenson University. Middle son, Shane, is a freshman football player at the University of New England in their inaugural season. The youngest son, Trey, is a junior wide receiver and cornerback for the Hilltoppers.