Defending RPOs Using Assignment Football

Jan 9, 2016 | Defense, Game Planning, Defending Specific Offensive Systems and Concepts

By Kyle Bakken
Defensive Coordinator
Concordia College (MN)
Twitter: @KCBakk31



ccWhen we prepare to defend (triple) option, we want to be gap and assignment sound. The majority of the time, we are preparing for zone read offenses that do not incorporate a pitch player. Our approach with the RPO is to take the zone read concept and apply the pitch player responsibility to the #2 or #3 WR.

Each week we face RPOs, we break down the opposing offense and design our calls /stunts and coverages against the give, pull and pitch (pass). In this clinic report, I will describe how we have defended a 2x2 set while playing a cover 2 and cover 3 concept to specifically defend common RPO concepts.

Note: For the purposes of this report, the term “pitch it” will also include the pass as it pertains to run pass option plays.

Defining the Give, Keep, and Pitch Threats/Responsibilities

When we are preparing for an RPO opponent, the first thing we look at is the formation and backfield set. In this example (Diagram #1), we see an 11 personnel set with both pistol and offset backfields.


We treat a pistol backfield as a balanced backfield with an option threat in either direction as the QB has the option to open either way. From there, we identify the bubble/pass threat side in the formation which will lock in the defenders keys based upon which way the QB opens. Against the pistol, the keys must be post snap and will be based upon which way the QB opens. We give our LB’s a QB “to” or QB “away” triggers out of a pistol set to help define for them responsibilities both to and away from the run threat. When the QB opens to a particular side, there will now be QB threat with a pull and pitch option to that side and the players will respond accordingly (Diagram #2).


When the QB opens away, the players know that they do not have a QB pull threat. (Diagram #3).


To study game film of this concept, click on the video video below: