Isolating the X in Trips

May 25, 2014 | Offense, Pass Game

By Curt Fitzpatrick

Head Coach

Morrisville State




headshot 2 fitzpatrickEditor's Note:  Coach Fitzpatrick is entering his 2nd season at the healm of Morrisville State.  Prior to that, Coach Fitzpatrick  served  as the Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach for the Utica College football program since 2007.  During that time, Fitzpatrick’s balanced, no-huddle offense has elevated the Pioneers to become one of the top offenses in the Empire 8 conference and propelled the Pioneers to shatter school records in various offensive categories year after year. The 2012 season proved to be the Pioneer offense’s most prolific to date as they led the Empire 8 conference in several offensive categories, including: Points per Game (34.2), Yards per Game (465.0), Passing Yards per Game (340.2), Completion Percentage (66.2%), First Downs per Game (24.3), and 3rd Down Conversion Percentage (50%).  All of those categories broke school records as well, in addition to breaking school records for Pass Completions (274), Passing TDs (33), Pass Efficiency Rating (156.2), and Total Offense per Play (6.3 yds/play).


Note:  The article below was written during Coach Fitzpatrick's last year on staff at Utica College.  



On behalf of our Head Coach Blaise Faggiano and the rest of the staff here at Utica College, I’d like to thank X&O labs for giving me the opportunity to contribute this clinic report.  I read X&O labs on a regular basis, and look forward to getting the weekly emails outlining each week’s new topics.  For me, the information that is shared on X&O labs has helped me become a better coach and helped us become a better football program as a whole.  For this clinic report, I would like to share our pass game philosophy as it relates to 3x1 formations, specifically some ideas that we use to attack and utilize the single receiver side.

Before I get started, I think it is important to first understand what we believe in as our passing game philosophy.  Everything that we do, both run and pass, must fit into our offensive philosophies.  Here is what we believe in as it relates to our passing game: 

Utica Passing Game Philosophy:

  1. Be a high completion percentage team.  That’s where our philosophy starts.  I tell our quarterbacks on meeting number one of spring practice, and reiterate it at the start of training camp each year, that their number one role on our football team is to get completions.  Those completions can come many different ways, but the ball must get into the hands of our playmakers as much as possible. Our goal is for our completion percentage to be at 70%.  We track that number after every practice and every game to see where we’re at.  Last season we completed 66.2% of our passes.
  2. Attack multiple coverage looks with the same play.  When it comes to the passing game, I don’t want our QBs to have to check in and out of plays based on the coverage look.  We try to give them answers to all coverage looks within the same play.  This reduces pre-snap stress and lets the QB see and react, rather than overthink.
  3. Utilize the same route concepts out of multiple formations.  This is a common theme for many of coaches out there.  Utilizing the same concepts and just changing the formation (or the use of motion/shifts) allows the teaching to remain consistent.  Any time that you can run one concept that looks like two different plays to a defense, that’s a great thing.  Also, doing so helps the QB to develop consistency and confidence in making reads, eventually leading to him getting the ball out faster and more efficiently.
  4. Have balance.  For us, this means getting the ball to lots of different people.  The QB’s favorite receiver has to be the one that is open.  While we do find ways to get the ball to our studs every game, we won’t force the ball to our stud when the defense is intent on taking him away.  Passing the ball, especially out of a 3x1 formation, is a numbers game.  If they devote too many defenders to take away one player there are going to be big-time opportunities elsewhere on any given play.

For the first part of this report, I will refer to 3x1 formations with a single detached WR receiver on the backside (Trips Open).  Later on, I will discuss briefly 3x1 with a nub-side TE on the backside (Trips Closed).  In a Trips Open set, the first thing that we do is make sure that our best player, our show pony, is playing the single WR (X).  We want our best guy playing the X because it clears up the defense for the QB.  Putting your best guy all by himself on the backside forces the defense to tip their hand as to how they plan to defend him.  Are they going to leave him 1 on 1 with the CB?  Are they going to soften the CB and have an overhang LB/S in the flat underneath?  Are they going to play with a hard CB and give Safety help over the top?  Determining how many defenders they have designated to defend the X WR is where we start in most of our 3x1 progressions.  We call this “Free Access.”