We found that by devoting a handful of plays each game to the jet action with the original goal of challenging the perimeter, we were in turn able to dramatically influence the box, specifically in the zone read game.
By Braden Layer
Offensive Coordinator/QB coach
Bowdoin College (ME)
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Our offensive philosophy here at Bowdoin College is “Players, Formations, Plays,” and we are very purposeful on that order. We want to be able through motions, formations, or alignment changes, to isolate our best matchups or ensure numbers to where our offense can be successful. Furthermore, because the NESCAC has some strict limitations on practice time and the abilities to meet with players once the season has concluded, we must be very concise and clear with our installs each fall. If our goal is to play the best football player regardless of age, it doesn’t make any sense to design and implement an offense impossible for an 18-year-old freshman to walk on campus and digest. We want to run a few schemes well, and tweak or adjust those to fit our personnel best each year.
Over the course of the last 7 years as an offensive coach (Denison University, Sewanee, Allegheny, and now Bowdoin) in a pistol, spread-based offense, we have run many zone variations, and inside zone has always been one of our staples. Another huge piece of our offense has been centered on simple jet motion from our best perimeter threat. We used outside zone most often and were a true reach and run team. Our tailback was athletic enough to keep in pistol which was huge for our self-scout to eliminate tendencies. He blocked the first dirty-jersey in the alley, inside-out (aware not to cut back to the middle of the field).
When I got to Allegheny College as the offensive coordinator in 2017, our slot receiver was one of the most-feared athletes in the conference. A true burner, he possessed the ability to score any time he touched the football. Thus, his “influence” on a jet sweep was incredibly powerful. We found that by devoting a handful of plays each game to the jet action with the original goal of challenging the perimeter, we were in turn able to dramatically influence the box, specifically in the zone read game.
This became a great fit when we didn’t necessarily have a dominant H-back that could consistently handle DEs on zone/split zone, and our QB was limited in his keep ability on zone read. We needed a way to encourage a handoff while still feeling solid about our numbers and angles, and matching zone read with jet motion allowed us to do just that. We married two different components of our offense without installing any new techniques or major learning, keeping it simple.
Our base play-action off this jet motion was a simple levels concept. Though we could run this out of both 3x1 and 2x2, we will focus on the 2x2 look as it will mirror the run plays in the article.
The same motion/snap-timing rules apply. Our QB here gives a quick show to the jet man, nothing more than “Step-Step” footwork. We feel confident with this play based on how second/third level defenders are reacting to the motion more than a hard play-fake. Our QB knows that following the quick show, his eyes should work immediately to the “Gimmie.” That is our tailback in the flat, working to the sideline at a depth of 5 yards. He wants to attack immediately; NOT work up and then out. Put stress on the overhang player. If our QB sees the tailback has leverage, we take that throw. Always. If the overhang stays, or a safety rotates and plays the flat, our QB works to the second level, his drive route. Important to work a variety of reads with your guys on the drive route. On the playlist you will see a few clips with open space, thus our wideouts continue to chase, in addition to one where the wideout must settle in the open window before reaching the new defender.
Note: Our pulling guard works an extra 1-yard of depth to encourage a log block and allow our QB to more easily track the perimeter.
If we do not want to put the QB on the move or work a true play-action, our curl flat concept allows us to continue to utilize the jet sweep. We teach our curl routes as “cruise” routes, where the wide receivers have more freedom post-break. They are taught to work vertical until they clear the overhang player (usually 8-12 yards), then put a hard foot in the ground and use a speed turn. They have freedom to work inside to the hash, finding the open window at about 75% speed. Again, if they see green, they chase. On the backside, #1 has a cruise route and we will flare the tailback weak. The jet man simply becomes the flat player to the field via bubble post-snap. We a vertical route from #2 to the motion side, and cruise from #1 (curl-flat idea both sides). We are running this play again based on how the defense is reacting to the jet, so our quarterback is taught to read backside (unless game plan specific adjustments).
The last pass clip you will see is Post-Wheel with a slight re-tool of the snap timing.
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- The most effective snap point in pairing zone read with jet motion.
- The horizontal read concept used if defenses are reluctant to rotate or spin safeties.
- How to handle the “worst case scenario” of defenses rotating to 3-strong with leverage on the perimeter.
- Plus, game film of these concepts.
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I believe these various plays can complement your zone package and potentially add some new flexibility to your jet sweep install. It allows you to attack all areas of the field, and still feel comfortable and confident in the box without having to add bigger bodies in your zone game or rely on a QB that isn’t gifted with his legs. Please feel free to reach out/contact with me with any questions, comments, concerns. I certainly would love to hear from others on variations they like as well!
Meet Coach Braden Layer: Braden Layer joined the Bowdoin coaching staff in the spring of 2019. The 2019 Bowdoin offense featured the first 1st-Team All-NESCAC running back in school history and the Polar Bears led the conference in red-zone scoring percentage (82%). The team also scored the most PPG since 2015.
Layer served under new Polar Bear head coach B.J. Hammer at Allegheny College the previous two seasons. Layer oversaw one of the most potent offenses in program history as the squad averaged 30.7 points and over 420 yards/game in his two seasons. In 2018, Allegheny featured an extremely balanced attack, averaging 247.9 yards passing and 143.0 yards rushing per game in a 6-4 campaign. Prior to arriving at Allegheny in 2017, Layer spent the 2016 season coaching quarterbacks and wide receivers, while also serving as co-offensive coordinator, at Sewanee: The University of the South. He helped produce a pair of All-Southern Athletic Association receivers, as his unit produced the program’s most passing yards and passing touchdowns in over a decade. Before that, Layer spent two years on the Denison coaching staff, serving as passing game coordinator, wide receivers’ coach, and recruiting coordinator. Layer began his coaching career in 2013, working at Austin Peay as a defensive backs graduate assistant.