By Matt Rosati
Head Football Coach
Perry High School (OH)
In the game of football, every revolutionary concept that has success leads to extremely creative coaches researching and scheming ways to beat it. In the past five years, RPOs have impacted the game at all levels. As so many great defensive minds have found ways to disrupt many RPO concepts, the RPO world is evolving and taking another step forward.
Like many RPO centric offenses, our program at Perry High School has been able to take our best run plays and package them with our most efficient pass concepts. In 2015, we established ten RPO concepts into our offense and our scoring average went from 29 points per game (PPG) in 2014 to 40 PPG in 2015. We continued to implement more RPO concepts and our average increased to 41 PPG in 2016 and 48 PPG in 2017 through the use of 32 one-word RPO concepts in a no-huddle format. To take this to the next level, we have taken some of our base RPO concepts and have implemented a variety of trick plays into the system.
Ninety percent of our offensive schemes incorporate RPOs. We only have two passing concepts that do not have a run option (vertical route and mesh route concepts). We have found that one of the best ways that teams are defending our normal RPOs is not necessarily related to great defensive schemes but more so by using the rules of the game against us. Many teams discuss the rules with the officials prior to the game to induce more illegal man downfield infractions. On most Friday nights, I witness opposing coaches bend the ear of the officials about our linemen being downfield on every pass play.
While the opposing coaches were often right, the flag was very seldom dropped. That said, I am seeing that trend change. We have utilized an RPO system for three seasons and our number of penalties for illegal man downfield have jumped from three (out of 606 plays) in 2015, seven (out of 781 plays) in 2016, and thirteen (out of 716 plays) in 2017. In three years, twenty-three illegal man downfield calls have been issued out of a total of 2105 plays. Painfully, of the twenty-three penalties, eight resulted in a touchdown being called back.
Let me be clear. There is no argument. We were guilty all twenty-three times. The fact of the matter is that even though we were hardly penalized for it, the officials were looking to make the call now more than ever before. With that in mind, we had to make a decision. Our options are:
- Hope the officials don’t call it
- Stop running RPOs
- Do a better job of coaching and adjust to what was stopping us at an annoyingly high rate?
We choose to go with the third option and examined how our guys were getting too far down field and made some necessary adjustments. The self-analysis led us to a new concept in the RPO scheme that will keep us a step ahead of the defensive adjustments.
One Word Offense
Prior to going to our RPO philosophy, our players were versed in the traditional odd and even number schemes, with odds going left and even going right. Most of these systems implement a back numbering system (1 QB, 2 FB, 3 TB, 4 SB) so a play call like “24” would be the full back running the ball through the four hole (B-gap on the right). When we went to the one word RPO system, we kept the odd and even direction concept utilizing the second number but the major change we made was that the first number now dictated which defender we were going to read. This gave a greater flexibility to the play type and formation. Here is how it worked:
1 = Reading backside DE
2= Reading backside Inside LB
3 = Reading frontside DE
4= Reading frontside Outside LB
5 = Must run (no pass option)
0/1 = Full Inside Zone
2/3 = Guard wrap
4/5 = Power
6/7 = Counter
8/9 = Full Outside Zone
For example, the play could be called is “10.” The first number denotes that we are reading a defensive lineman and the second number gives the direction of the play as well as the run scheme. In this case, it means the offensive line will zone block to the right leaving the EMOLOS as the read key to the left. We then essentially create a story surrounding the call. For a 10 call, I simply asked the players the name of the prettiest girl they knew because she is a “10.” After the players would argue, they would agree on a name: Wanda. Wanda now became the RPO one-word call. The naming becomes a mnemonic device to help the players remember the call.