Utilizing Shifts & Motions in Situational Football

Feb 6, 2018 | Offense, Trades, Shifts and Motions, Formation Structures

By Brian White
Offensive Coordinator
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (IN)
Twitter: @CoachWhite_RHIT




Our offense is based on playing fast. We want to snap the ball as quickly as possible as often as possible. In a play fast offense, success breeds success, meaning that first downs must be achieved in order to keep up the pace and continue to snap the ball quickly. For example, we find it ineffective to use a Green Word, or 1-word play call, after an incomplete pass or rush for a short gain. Another issue that all play fast offenses must addresses is how to attack the defense during a four-minute drive. Our staff has found out the hard way that continuing to play fast while protecting a late lead can sometimes allow the opposition to get back into the game. On the other hand, the unfamiliar mechanic of calling plays from huddle and approaching the line of scrimmage deep into the play clock can disrupt the rhythm and execution of your own offense.

With these two thoughts in mind, a major addition to our offensive package this season was the use of shifts and motions. This package allowed us to still line up quickly and give the threat of snapping the ball then rapidly changing the picture that the defense sees. One of the major benefits of this pre-snap movement was the amount of communication that the defense was forced to make. This mimicked the effects that playing fast on a defense, by giving them a very short period of time to diagnose the formation, then the new formation, and make their calls and adjustments.

We also found that the use of shift and motion was effective in disguising some of our top plays.  Through self-scout, we found some major down and distance and formation tendencies. The use of shifts and motions helped us runs plays that our offense is comfortable executing while not allowing the defense to lock in on their call. This is especially useful on 3rd down calls.


All of our shifts start in an empty formation. This causes a defense to get out of the call that they wanted to play and forces them to make their empty check. In addition to the formation signal, the movement (shift or shift with motion) will be signaled as well as the play. All formations, shifts, motions and plays are identified by a single signal; so the combination of formation, movement and play is accomplished with a minimal amount of signs.

In our base offense, we align with a RB in the backfield, left and right side outside receivers, a slot WR to the field and a Superback that adjusts his alignment to the formation called. When shifting, we will call one of our one-word empty formations then signal the shift in. All players know to end up aligning in their base alignment, with the Superback adjusting to the new formation. The RB will motion into the backfield in an alignment based on the play called. We want to place the most stress on the defense by having our Superback align opposite where the shift will bring him. Many defenses that we see like to make their formation strength call to the location of our Superback. Having him cross the formation results in the maximum amount of defensive communication and personnel movement.


In our regular offensive procedure we will use a “repeat” word to execute the same exact play from the same formation immediately after the whistle ends the previous play. We will use this after an explosive play in an attempt to get the same result, assuming that they defense will either have to make the same defensive call or not even be ready to play. If we “repeat” a play that includes a shift and motion, the shift and motion should be repeated as well, as the second play is an exact duplicate in the first.