By Brent Dearmon (with Adam Hovorka)
Head Football Coach
Bethel College (TN)
Editor’s Note: We would like to congratulate Coach Brent Dearmon on his recent (January 2019) appointment as Senior Offensive Consultant at the University of Kansas under Head Coach Les Miles.
At Bethel College in 2018, we called 320 RPOs out of 798 plays. 40% of our offense was RPOs. We scored 55 points per game this season and averaged 7.4 yards per play on called RPOs. Twenty of our 85 touchdowns this season came from RPOs. We also have found safer ways to call RPOs. Early on in this "RPO" journey, our QB took some late hits because of a short edge or a missing gap in the gap scheme. Because of this, we have started running more RPOs from 12/21 personnel groupings to protect the backside of our QB more. This also eliminates two-sided reads for QBs. If you are trying to simplify RPOs for your young QB, this system is a great way to get started. Give your QB one post-snap read and allow him to play faster and smarter. Plus, having two good tight ends makes it easy to get wide receivers to block because they know that we can live in 12 personnel.
12/21 Personnel Advantage
The advent of odd structures have basically forced offenses into using heavier personnel. I like double tight sets against odd fronts for a variety of reasons. We have more gaps accounted for, and we keep the quarterback upright. In some of our schemes, you can often see the QB standing up with no one within five yards of him. Now what we’re starting to do is account for the D gap into the boundary with the tight end blocking rather than using a “gift” concept such as a fade or hitch route. With our hand-down tight-end blocking, we often get our tailback one-on-one with the non-run fitting boundary safety.
Before we get into plays, I want everyone to understand how we teach our QBs. The chart below discusses every RPO we install. Our QBs understand in which gaps they are protected, in which gaps they are reading, and in which gaps the protection is weak. Our QBs must understand when a gap is empty.
So, now we are taking the same RPO catalog we used with 10 and 11 personnel and have adjusted it to fit with 12/21 personnel groupings. Below I detail the more common RPOs we are using with this grouping and why it’s effective with heavier personnel groupings.
Inside Zone with Bubble Contour
The first RPO we put in is the Inside Zone combination with field Bubble.
In this concept the QB will learn the following:
- The offensive line and HBs will protect you from front side D gap to backside C gap.
- QB is responsible for the field D gap run fitter both pre and post-snap now. The QB will ride read the field D gap player. If the D gap player attaches hard to the run fit, he will pull and throw the field bubble. If D gap player blitzes and squeezes the back, abort the ride read and get depth to deal the bubble now.
The Advantage that 21/12 Personnel Grouping Gives
By using the double tight end formation, we have the D gap to the boundary to the C Gap to the field side accounted for. The QB knows we have everything blocked and he is responsible for D gap to the field. The QB is reading the Sam linebacker in the C gap who is just hopping around post-snap. It tells the QB to just run the ball.
The same effect can be accomplished with using an H back from across the formation. The boundary tight end takes care of the D gap fitter, which is the Cover 2 corner and the offensive line handles the rest of gaps to the backside linebacker. The QB will read the Sam linebacker to the field. You can see that backer is expanding, so the QB gives the ball and fakes throw.
We can run the same play with the boundary tight end handling the D gap player. In this case, the safety is in the run fit. The defense has no field D gap player, so that tells the QB he doesn’t have to ride anything, and he can go ahead and throw the bubble now.