By Brett Dudley
Offensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach
Antioch (CA) High School
Editor's Note: Brett Dudley currently serves as the Offensive Coordinator at Antioch HS in the Bay Area. He has coached football for 6 years and was recently promoted to Varsity Offensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach making him the youngest OC in school history.
Over the past few years, we have run a variety of screens with much effectiveness. Specifically, we run your classic quick screens bubbles, and jailbreaks in addition to a slow and solid screen (shown later in the Insiders version). And while I like each of these for their own reasons, I truly believe that is our offensive line play that has made these screens so effective. Anyone can throw the ball into space and win with a superior athlete, but when the lineman are able to get involved in a consistent and structured way the likelihood of success from year to year is greatly increase.
The key to our success and buy-in by the linemen is the simplicity of our scheme. Here are some of the ways that we develop this concept:
- Every screen is essentially blocked the same way. The only variation is how they "set-up" the play with their initial movements.
- The concept is flexible and works against any front, coverage, and blitz if executed properly.
- The fact that it is a single concept increases the amount of reps that we get on the concept.
- All five line positions have the exact same steps, path, and rules. So if guys get moved around up front due to injury, grade problems, or position change, it doesn't change their assignment as long as they know the rules.
Base Blocking Rules for the Screen Pass
Before I get into the nuance of the "set-ups" for each screen, I wanted to lay the foundation of our concept by looking at the rules that we use in our blocking concept.
Rule #1: All five linemen release on all of our receiver screens. For back screens, like our Slow Screen, we have both tackles high wall defensive ends and only release the interior linemen.
Rule #2: After the set-up for a particular screen, all releasing lineman open up to the playside and run flat down the line of scrimmage for a minimum of 10 yards.
I cannot stress enough how important it is for them to run flat down the line of scrimmage. Experience has taught us that it is so much easier for our linemen to adjust their path by working flat as compared to coming up field then trying to get back flat.
Rule #3: We never pass up color if someone crosses your path you pick them up. This is what allows us to release all 5, and not have to worry about penetration or end getting hands up to stop the screen. If anyone comes up the field then they will run right into one of our OL who is running flat down the LOS and we will rip and run right through him.
It is key that the players understand that they don’t get out of their assignment when the encounter someone running through. Instead, I teach them to work through him like a reach block and continue down field. This has effectively stops the defenders penetration still promotes our player getting out to his original assignment.
Rule #4: As a rules based running team, we felt it only made sense to stick with that concept in the screen game as well. To do that, we have instituted our "Out, Up, In" Rule that works as follows:
- Out: As the player releases down the line of scrimmage, he looks "out" (to the sideline we are running towards) for any unoccupied color. If we see any defenders from the outside/flat area that are unblocked then they continue to collision that players and work to execute a reach block.
- Up: Now if we see all of the "out" defenders accounted for the player transitions into the "Uup" phase of the concept. At this point, the lineman turns his head and shoulder up the field (facing the goal line) and looks for backers or safeties who are coming up the field in pursuit.
- In: Lastly, if there are no unblocked players to the outside or up the field, the player turns his eyes "in" (Opposite sideline of play direction). This allows him to find players who are pursuing from the backside, like scraping backers and trailing ends.
The advantage of this concept is how it adapts to any defensive call or look. This is, of course, useful since you cannot always predict the defense before the play. Sometimes our receivers won’t know who they are blocking until the ball is snapped, so by teaching my entire the linemen a concept as opposed to a man, they are able to account for any possible unblocked defenders on that side of the field.
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- The diagrams of the "Out, Up, and In" scheme as part of 5 different schemes
- Detailed breakdown of the backfield and receiver responsibilities for his 5 more productive screens
- Countless tips to coaching quarterbacks and receivers play in the screen game
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Another advantage is that this system can account for players who get caught up on the line of scrimmage. Again, I don't know which linemen will get a clean easy release on a given snap, that's why they are all taught to run flat. Sometimes tackle gets caught up with end, keeping him occupied. And we will get guard blocking out, center blocking up, and backside guard and tackle blocking in.
Varied Releases in the Screen Pass
With those rules in place, we can ensure that all of the screens end the same way with the same techniques. The only difference between the concepts that we run, from a lineman's perspective, is the release that they take to get into their "Out, Up, In" path. Below I have gone into more detail on how we have adapted these releases to best match our offensive style and concepts.
Quick and Bubble Screens
On any bubble or quick screen, we go right now! As soon as it is snapped our lineman bucket, rip through and try to run flat down line of scrimmage, executing our blocking concept. When done correctly, the lineman will see that all the "out" defenders accounted for by receivers. This allows them to quickly turn "up" and eventually "in." There have been some times where my left tackle was so quick getting out there, that at times my #3 WR would bubble, catch the ball, and just get right on the tackle’s back, literally like a human shield, and follow him down the field. Of course not all players can make this happen, but when you have a left tackle that can get out and run it can become a huge weapon.
The key here is that the lineman doesn’t assume that the "out" guys are blocked. They need to be quick with their eyes to check and see if help is needed and then quickly transition upfield when things are blocked correctly. An additional advantage to this concept is that the playside tackle is automatically running outward with authority putting him in the path of any wide defender who is trying to jump the throwing lane and knock down the pass. In this case, the tackle will execute the reach block as the rules dictate eliminating the threat of a tipped ball or worse yet, a pick six.
On our playaction screens, our players take 2-3 zone steps to the opposite direction before releasing into their screen assignments. For example, if we are running a play-action screen to the left, the entire line takes 2-3 zone steps to the right, then turns and uses above screen technique to the left. The key here is tying the concept into our base run game to present a realistic play-action look and to encourage the defensive flow to start away from where the play is going.
Jail Break and Slow Interior Screens
On our jailbreak, we have the entire line execute their vertical or 90s Pass Set for four steps before working into their screen assignments. We teach that as they hit their forth step they need to swing/whiff and then club the defender past us so that we can help the screen develop. Again, we have to be great actors here to make the entire defense buy that we are taking our full drop and preparing for a time consuming pass play (deep or crossing concept).
With slower interior screens, the guards and center use exactly the same technique as the jailbreak. The tackles, on the other hand, continue with their vertical set and work to "high wall" the defensive end.
I really don't think it can get any more simple than that. We have a base set of rules used for all screens, and the only that that changes is the first couple steps. I truly feel this is the easiest way to run screens. We didn't have any stud lineman, in fact it was a below average group overall, however we found that this system gave us a better chance to succeed than many of our running and passing concepts. I have no doubt that the success was at least in part due to the simplicity and flexibility of the scheme we used.
As with anything, the best way for them to "feel" what out, up, in means is live reps in practice. They will begin to see receivers in position to block certain guys, and see who they have to pick up. If you dedicate 10 minutes a day to screens (5 for drills, 5 for live screen) you will get pretty darn good at an amazing offensive weapon.
It's Your Turn...
Do you and your team use a similar concept to teach screens or do you have another effective way that fits your offense? Either way, we want to hear about it. Share your comments and questions in the space below.