3 Step Plan for Adapting RPOs for High School Varsity Programs Down to 9th Graders

Dec 14, 2019 | Offense, RPO Drills, RPO's

By Paul Hefty
Assistant Coach
State College High School (PA)
Instructor of Kinesiology, Penn State University



One of the challenges for all coaches is to take today’s new-exciting, but complex RPO concepts and find ways to simplify teaching, learning and processing for high school level players (and Coaches).  The dilemma is to take a major D1 offense or complex system and make it simple enough to use at not only the high school varsity level – but, with the 9th grade program – while still reaping the benefits of explosive plays and being turnover free.

First, research a system that is sophisticated, but simple in design, “Evolved Simplicity” = use only 1 blocking scheme for OLine (Zone-Veer) – Run or Pass.

Second, design a system to be flexible in that it can adjust and fit to the strength’s (talents) of personnel from year to year, week to week and game to game.

Third, use a scaffolding or chunking teaching progression. Scaffolding or chunking of teaching is a process of introducing information in a way where each future concept builds upon or simply expands the previous concept.


Step 1 – Simple

  1. Teach using 2x2 alignments
  2. Learn details of a quality RPO system without making changes to the core, so as to not lose the integrity of system as it evolves
  3. OLine uses a minimum number of blocking schemes


Step 2 – Flexible

  1. Use simple personnel terminology while each position has a natural twin
  2. Split-Zone RPO attacks all fronts and coverages (1 scheme for multiple plays)
  3. Split-Zone RPO has ability to make QB a runner, thrower or dual threat (play to strengths)


Step 3 – Scaffolding

  1. OLine uses only Split-Zone (Veer) blocking rule for every type of play
  2. Pre and Post-snap defensive recognition process that is used with all no huddle plays. This TRI-O process is used with both the OC (coaches) and QB (players) = all on the same page
  3. Limited communication to simplify processing for players (think and play FAST)




Step 1. SIMPLE:

We start by installing and teaching everything from a balanced 2x2 H-back set. This helps with learning our offensive principle #1 = NUMBERS. Both the OC (from the sideline) and QB can easily see if the defense is balanced or overloaded by using a three step, defensive recognition process of pointing @ 1 or 2 high safeties plus hanging backers (Mr 0’s) and last, the mike backer.

The other key point is that you can adjust the H-backs alignment pre-snap (using similar formation calls that again, only the H-back adjusts to). This is done with an offensive concept (blocking scheme) in mind, which allows the H-back to have the best leverage for each play. Applying offensive principle #2 = BLOCKING ANGLES. Both the OC and the QB want to call plays to put the OLine and H-back in the best possible blocking scheme based on blocking angles.

To keep communication with the no huddle – high tempo offense simple, 95% of the time we have the Slot align to the field (formation directional call) and the H-back into the boundary. This achieves a maximum horizontal stretch of the defense while helping the OC and QB to identify defenders easily. Applying offensive principle #3 = SPEED IN SPACE or FIELD. The players can anticipate this tendency, helping to simplify and create consistency for everyone. When, and if, you want to be a heavy 3x1 team when the football is on the hashes, you simply move 1 player (H-back) to the field. All other players align the same as they would in a 2x2 set. By minimizing the number of players who have to change – you have limited new learning. The key to keeping your system simple is to have the ability to use the same rules for both 2x2 and 3x1 sets. Only the nature of the defense should change. The goal for changing alignments should be to manipulate the defense, not changing things up just to do something different (method to the madness). Remember, less variables for the players means less to process (Less is More concept = SIMPLE).