The Slot Fade may the one of football’s flavor of the month passing concepts. Makes sense: it’s versatile enough to attack any coverage and its vertical design promotes big play potential by getting the ball to an explosive athlete with a plenty of grass around him.
By Luke Dawson
Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers
Shiloh Christian School (AR)
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If you happened to watch any college football this year, specifically certain spread teams such as LSU, Oklahoma, or Clemson, you most certainly saw one of football’s newest favorite passing concepts - the slot fade. The country’s top college coaches like the concept for the same reasons you should: taking a vertical shot play to one of your best athletes in a lot of grass. The play is also very versatile and can be run against a variety of coverages.
When I arrived at Baptist Prep in 2018, the Eagles were riding a 27-game losing streak and running the double-slot triple option. It became clear early on that, although we were going to be in the gun, we were not going to be an air raid team by any means. We built an offensive identity on our downhill gap scheme run game. This past offseason we decided to make our vertical passing game a focus point to complement our 20/21 personnel run game, and the slot fade became an essential part of this vertical passing game.
Molding the Slot Fade to Your Personnel & Opponent
Some of you reading this will understand when I say this, but at Baptist Prep, we were not going to outrun any DB we would face from the WR position. This is what scared me the most as a play-caller about the slot fade concept. When you watch Oklahoma or LSU run the concept on TV, the dudes they are doing it with a look a little different than ours. We had WRs with good hands and could run decent routes, but we needed to find a way to stretch teams vertically with players that were not built to do so. We also knew that we were going to see almost exclusively 2-high (quarters or man) coverage shells the entire season.
Thus, the idea of an adjustable slot fade was formed. But before we get into the top-end adjustable portion of the route, we need to know the important coaching points about the first half of the route.
One of our worries with this concept, in the beginning, was the throw by the QB. We did not have a ton of arm strength and were worried this would make it a longer, more difficult throw than a typical slot fade. We found the opposite to be true. This "sloppy corner" was an easier throw than the normal slot fade. It was much easier to teach our QB to throw to this grass than for the deep seam. We taught the QB to throw this ball very similarly to how he would throw a typical corner route.
Our QB progression was the slot fade, then the underneath route by #1, then a “rush” route such as a swing or a crosser, or scramble.
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- How Coach Dawson adjusted the first half of the route to avoid contact and allow a cleaner release.
- The paramount coaching point in route technique that allows for vertical leverage and forces defenders to get hips turned.
- How Coach Dawson teaches the slot receiver to read the demeanor of the corner in adjusting his route.
- Variations of the route technique to occupy space based on the leverage of the defender.
- Plus, raw and narrated game film of this concept.
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The slot fade concept is one of the most effective plays to take a shot and stretch the defense vertically. However, the concept in its normal form is not perfect for every WR personnel, especially at the high school level and lower. With time and practice from the WRs and QBs, the route concept can be adjusted in-game to produce great results, regardless of WR personnel or coverage faced.
Meet Coach Luke Dawson: Coach Dawson began his career as a student assistant coach at Ouachita Baptist University (AR) working as a Defensive Analyst. He then served as Offensive Coordinator at Baptist Prep (AR) in 2018 and 2019, helping break a 27-game losing streak and putting together the best offensive unit at the school in six years. He has recently stepped into a new role as OC/WR coach at the 7-time state champions Shiloh Christian School (AR).