Methodologies in Building Formation Packages

Nov 20, 2017 | Offense, Formation Structures

By Adam Hovorka
Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator
Schreiber High School (NY)
X&O Labs Contributing Writer


Games are won on match-ups, match-ups are created by leverage and leverage is created by formations. How offensive coordinators design their formation packages can not only accentuate top personnel but also take advantage of opponents’ deficiencies, either by personnel or scheme. But our research has found that there is a fine line between what’s effective and what is too much in building formation packages. All offensive coordinators want to protect their top concepts, but risk battling the limits of long-winded verbiage (both by words and signals), player retention and correlating word associations.

We reached out to nine contributors (both at the high school and college levels) and researched how they build their formation packages to out-leverage defenses and isolate their top personnel.  The contributor list is below:

Contributor List (In Alphabetical Order)

  • Johnny Cox (JC): Offensive Coordinator, University of North Carolina Pembroke (NC)
  • Rich Holzer (RH): Head Football Coach, Mount St. Joseph High School (MD)
  • Kyle Ralph (KR): Head Football Coach, New Palestine High School (IN)
  • Kyle Schmidt (KS): Head Football Coach, Archbishop Spalding High School (PA)
  • Jeff Smith (JS): Offensive Coordinator, Warrenton High School (MO)
  • Mike Stanley (MS): Head Football Coach, Carey High School (NY)
  • Ryan Turnage (RT): Head Football Coach, Lee Davis High School (VA)
  • Scott Walden (SW): Head Football Coach, East Texas Baptist University
  • Kevin Wallace (KW): Offensive Coordinator, Glenn High School (NC)

We asked our contributing list the following nine questions:

  1. In your opinion, what is the most important component to formation design and creation?
  2. How many total formations to you have roughly in your offensive system?
  3. Is there a word or signal length you limit yourself to in calling formations? If so, what is that length?
  4. Explain the correlation between how many formations you have in your system to how many formations you will enter each game week with. How is this predicated on defensive personnel or structure.
  5. Explain how to designate formation groupings in your system. For example, how do you differentiate 12 personnel formations vs. 10 personnel formations? Are they the same calls, different calls?
  6. How do you package your formations either by word associations or signal associations to make them easier to group. For example, does every 2x2 formation start with “D”, every 3x1 formation start with “T,” etc.
  7. For single back offenses: explain the communication you use to change the back’s alignment.
  8. For H/Y off offenses: explain the communication you use to change the H’s alignment. 


In your opinion, what is the most important component to formation design and creation?

JC: “Design it how teams are playing you based on your personnel.  Take advantage of match-ups within your personnel groupings.  It is also to force teams to play our close splits of our wide receivers. We also number our spots where number one is closest to the sideline enabling us to move players around.”

RH: “The most important thing is how the defense adjusts to the formation- stack, bunch or pistol formations. The second thing is the match-ups. Can we go empty? Can we do different things and get match-ups with speed advantages?  We evaluate the defense against teams similar to us and how they align.”