Defenses have slowly but surely adapted to the “RPO” world we currently play in. Having the ability to continually keep a defense on their toes is always at the forefront of our offensive game plan.
By Phil Hamilton
Saint Vincent College (PA)
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Adaptability is so important in today’s fast-moving society. It is also vital on the football field. Defenses have slowly but surely adapted to the “RPO” world we currently play in. Having the ability to continually keep a defense on their toes is always at the forefront of our offensive game plan. RPOs and Play-Action Passes are an integral part of our system. Because of this, adapting and enhancing the run game, while incorporating passes off of it, has been imperative. With the idea of keeping a defense aggressive, using pullers is effective.
Essential Coaching Points:
The first essential coaching point of any RPO or Play Action Pass is ball-handling. When we start this process in practice, our quarterbacks must understand the importance of making everything look exactly like run. Defensive players, at their core, are just like dogs; if you show them a piece of meat, they will run to it. The quarterback must treat every RPO or Play Action Pass as if we are handing the ball off. When it comes to the RPOs, we stress the importance of riding the ball hip to hip. This gives the quarterback ample time to make his read, for the defensive player to react, and for him to make an educated decision on what to do with the football. When the quarterback gets a pull read, we want to stress being “violent” with the football. Rip the ball up into a perfect stance and let it rip! If he hands the ball off, we stress the same things--carry out your fake!
The second essential coaching point is the demeanor of the offensive line. Just as the QB does, the OL must treat RPOs and Play Action Passes just as we would any run play. With the leeway that they receive to push up to three yards downfield, they have plenty of room to block for the run while keeping their boundaries in the back of their mind. Coming off the ball with aggression is key.
The third essential coaching point is the demeanor of the running back. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the running back must treat these types of plays like he is getting the ball. In the RPO game, the running back has a very good chance to receive a hand-off, so whether he does or not, we want him to go through his read process; carry out the fake as if you have the football. If the RB attacks his aiming point and cuts off his blocks, he is always able to get reps at reading the run game, even if he does not have the football. With all fakes, if we are able to take one defensive player out of the play, the job has been accomplished.
Pin and Pull Concept:
Pin & Pull is a great way to get our big guys blocking smaller guys. It takes some athleticism for the OL, but it also gives our running backs a way to get into open space quickly. Being able to incorporate run/pass options off of Pin & Pull has helped us tremendously. There are several ways we can do it. We always want to identify an aggressive defensive player. Whatever level we are attacking, we want the defense to return to their core identity: aggression. With their aggressive nature, we gain numbers in the passing game. If they are coached to take a more passive approach, we will have favorable numbers in the run game. Pullers tend to emphasize run and bring out that aggression, especially when multiple guys are pulling.
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- What he tells the quarterback if he is presented with a “grey read,” a defender that can muddy the read in an RPO mesh.
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Using pullers in the RPO game does give a defense the extra “shove” towards aggressiveness. It is an effective way to open windows at multiple levels. Whether you use pin and pull, or some sort of counter and power, pullers can give a strong run indicator for a defensive player. One of our top priorities is to incorporate most or all of our run concepts into RPO or Play Action. If our guys follow the process, our educated decisions are going to give us numbers in either the run game or the passing game.
Meet Coach Hamilton: Phil Hamilton is beginning his first year at his alma mater, Saint Vincent College. He was a member of the inaugural recruiting class at Saint Vincent as a player in 2006, becoming the first quarterback in modern school history. He has made multiple stops so far in his coaching career: five years at Stevenson University as the quarterback's coach, one year at Greensburg Central Catholic HS (PA) as offensive coordinator, and the last three years at Clarion University of PA as offensive coordinator.