Implementing RB Isolations in the Pass Game

Apr 9, 2018 | Offense, Pass Game Mechanics, Running Backs, 11 Personnel Concepts, Position Groups, Personnel

By Philip Vigil
Pass Game Coordinator/Recruiting Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach
Fort Hays State University (KS)
Twitter: @PhilipVigil


Any good offensive mind will tell you that finding mismatches on the football field will give you a clear advantage. Here at Fort Hays State University we have found success using this motto by getting our running backs matched up with either linebackers or safeties. There are several concepts that we use to get our running backs out of protection and into a route, but one of our best has been a Spacing concept that includes a running back Wheel Route. We have run this concept for the past 3 years and it has become a staple for our offense with answers for every coverage. We have been able to modify the concept by using different formations, motions, and protections to disguise what we are doing and to keep the defense guessing.


Coordinator Coaching Points

  • We will only call this play on a hash. We have found that this concept is not as good when ran in the middle of the field. This also makes the landmarks for the route runners consistent throughout the game and therefore removes excess thinking.
  • We will use 5 and 6-man protection for this concept. We usually only use 6-man protection if we are facing a heavy blitzing team. By doing this we will allow the QB extra time to get the ball downfield to the RB.
  • Once you get good at this concept defenses will begin to key on your RB when your RB is aligned towards the boundary. We have found it helpful to move our RB right before the snap.

Coaching the Routes

  • Snag Route (#1 WR to concept side)
    • Align at the bottom of the numbers.
    • Press vertical for 2 steps then work inside at 45 degrees to find a window at 6 yards.
    • If you pass a defender on your way inside then sit down immediately and get your eyes to the quarterback.
    • If you see man coverage pre-snap run your route to sit directly in front of the defender who is covering the running back. This essentially becomes a “rub route” for us in man coverage.  We coach them not to make contact with the defender, but to merely get in the way.  If we get the defender in man coverage on the running back to work under our #1 wide receiver on the Snag route, then we should be able to outrun them creating a big play.
  • Wheel Route (RB to concept side)
    • As the running back is running his route he needs to be able to read the defense.
    • We simply teach that if there is an over the top defender to sit his route down and get his eyes to the quarterback.
    • If there is no over the top defender, then he needs to run the wheel route and expect the football.
    • Aiming point on the wheel route is the bottom of the numbers assuming the play is run from the hash. If the running back is able to get vertical by his landmark this should give the quarterback the room to complete the ball down the field on the outside shoulder much like vertical throws to outside wide receivers.
    • There are times in man coverage where the defender who is in man coverage on the running back works over the top of our #1 WR. In this instance the quarterback should throw a back-shoulder ball to protect the running back.
    • Coach your running back to get his eyes back to the quarterback as soon as he has made his read on whether to run the wheel or sit his route down. We drill this in practice during individual time. A coach will be the defender who can play Man Coverage or Zone Coverage and make the running back make a decision. It will take practice, but once the running back gets a feel for the concept it will be difficult for defenses to stop it.
    • I will also drill the QB to key the defender (a coach in practice) that is in man coverage on the running back. If he is taking a flat angle the ball should be thrown down the field, if the defender is taking a deep angle the ball will be a back shoulder throw to protect not only the running back but also the football.