By Mike Kuchar
At this point in the RPO evolution, most defensive coordinators know how to defend mesh with run action away. But when the run action is presented right in the face of defenders and the quarterback opens to them, they have a hard time adjusting to routes thrown over the top of them. Understanding this helps get the quarterback's eyes in the right spot. So, when defenses are fitting away from the back- as many defenses do- that’s when the QB has to use opposite-side footwork in the RPO component. X&O Labs studied how four programs teach and drill opposite side (or flip) footwork in the RPO game.
Boundary Choice RPO System:
Source: David Weeks, Wide Receivers Coach, Fordham University (NY)
QB/RB Mesh: “Tight Mesh Alignment”
When you watch Fordham’s offense on film, one of the things that jumps out is how tight the back is to the quarterback. The back is usually less than a foot away with his toes on the QB’s heels.
It was something that Coach Weeks learned at UCF under Coach Heupel. The closer distances help the quarterback get his eyes on his read when the RPO is away from the back. Coach Weeks teaches the quarterback two base fundamentals on his mesh mechanics based on if the RPO is two his throwing arm or away from this throwing arm.
- If the QB’s throwing arm is away from RPO- he just re-adjusts his feet into the ground, plants on his insteps and delivers the football.
- If the QB throwing arm is to the RPO, he’s taught a “pop” technique, which means he flip hips to deliver the ball.
Regardless of his positioning, one thing is certain, the QB cannot drift with his footwork, it’s something that is worked continuously in mesh drills. He cannot get any depth or drift on RPO’s. So, in order to do so, he takes a quarter turn and get his eyes away from the back on his read. “Basically, we tell him to pick up foot closest to back and put it down,” said Coach Weeks. “It’s a 45-degree turn. Now he can get his eyes over there. We want to get his hips to a 45 and get his feet to a 45. It’s a front hip to back hip ride on the mesh.”