By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
Case 1: Optimizing Skill Sets of Players and Building Formation Packages
Editor’s Note: This research report is comprised of three individual cases. All three cases can be found on this page along with all video and diagrams.
Why play with one back if you can play with two? It’s a simple question that perhaps drove coaches to start building two-back personnel groupings into their offense. After all, one dynamic back can pose serious threats to defenses, so two can be catastrophic for the defense. The two-back structure is certainly nothing new. Perhaps it originated in the single wing offense at the turn of the century and was further cultivated by the flex bone and Wing T artists who have been using it for years. But what has made it even more popular has been the utilization of that F/H/Y player who, as an “off the ball” player, can be distributed in several different ways.
There is no doubting the popularity of this grouping. It was the most well-read topic among all our research this off-season, so we figured why not present an in-depth report on how coaches are using 20 personnel to drive their entire offensive outfit? And whom else could we get to chair this report than Texas A&M University offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone? Coach Mazzone has made a living- a very good living- by devising his entire offensive system around this grouping.
So, before we present our findings, it’s important to note that although our research is catered to 20 personnel groupings there are certainly some synergies between this grouping and 11 personnel groupings. As we explore the skill set and prototype of that F/H player, we found that he can be a true back, a true blocker, a true receiver or an “all in one” type player. Finding him in your system or in your hallways can take effort, but once you do there are limitless possibilities for what you can do with him.
Advantages of 20 Personnel Groupings
Like most offensive concepts or personnel groupings, committing to utilizing 20 personnel groupings will take a full scale “buy in” to the system. While we realize that offensive coordinators can implement several different groupings during the game week, we wanted to work with contributors who “major” not “minor” in this grouping by using it at least 40 percent of their offensive snaps. We asked them why they use it. Their responses are below:
“To me the advantages are four-fold: it produces a six-man blocking surface without changing personnel, it produces the ability to build 2x2 or 3x1 formations quickly with motion, it creates match-up advantages with linebackers and it produces seven man pass protection against pressure teams.”- Noel Mazzone, offensive coordinator, Texas A&M University (45% of offensive system is based off 20 personnel groupings).
“I believe it gives you a couple of things. Number one, it gives the look like we are doing things completely different, but we are likely to get some speed match-ups on linebackers because teams are less likely to sub out into dime or nickel packages against the double A Back look. We have been more frequently using a tight end type body as the B gap that allows us to do many different formations, without changing our personnel. It really keeps the defense on their heels. It allows us to get a 6 man blocking surface with the B back, while continuing to run our RPO's and helps our QB not have to make the 100 percent correct decision on an RPO. Therefore we tell him when in doubt hand it off and we will have a 6 man blocking scheme to protect you.”- Dustin Beurer, offensive coordinator, Albion College (MI).
“20 personnel allows to you create an extra gap on either side of the offensive line. The H/F can insert into A, B, C, or D gap on either side of the football, as opposed to a hand down tight end who is only allowed to block the C or D on one side.”- Brent Dearmon, offensive coordinator, Arkansas Tech University (75% of offensive system is based off 20 personnel grouping).
“I like the flexibility of it especially when we use a ‘wing’ type player. Even with two backs in the shotgun we have good flexibility and it adds variety to our offense. You also get to see how the defense plans to attack these heavier, but flexible, formations. Will they add a hat to the box, near the box, play a different coverage, and maybe play man to one receiver side? It can open so many new doors for your offense.”- Kyle Ralph, New Palestine High School (IN).
“I like 20 personnel because it gives the offense control of the box. We want a six-man box. 20 personnel spreads the field out enough to give us a good look into what the defense is giving us. We have the versatility to run the ball with gap scheme run plays that utilize our fullback or get a favorable 1-on-1 or 2-on-2 passing match ups. We see a lot of 4-4 cover 1/3 defenses and running 20 personnel makes it easy for the QB to read the overhang defenders and know what to do with the ball.”- Dallan Rupp, New Plymouth High School (ID).
“We feel that this grouping adds a tougher running formation to combat heavy high school run boxes, but let's us still keep our spread offense identity we have had for nine years.”- Derek Pennington, head football coach, Zeeland East High School (MI).