By Jared Smith
Offensive Line Coach
Sioux Falls Roosevelt High School (SD)
RPOs are far from new at this point. X&O Labs has done a great job of spreading the word about these concepts since day one. That said, I believe that offensive line play within RPO schemes has not had as much attention as it should. This report will focus on how to coach offensive linemen that can be effective in an RPO heavy offense.
Every defensive coach that has played against a team that effectively runs RPO concepts has complained about linemen being illegally downfield. From Nick Saban to your biggest rival, they are constantly reminding refs to watch for linemen down field on every RPO. That is until they have the ball and their OC starts running them too!
When we first started using RPO plays a few years ago, we did have linemen down field occasionally. Sometimes there was even a flag thrown. We knew that if we were going to get better and avoid these penalties, we needed to make some adjustments to blocking schemes and improve how I coached the linemen. In addition, we added calls from our QB that have been very helpful in keeping that to a minimum. Now, it is very rare that we have a lineman illegally downfield on our RPOs which means that we are far less likely to have a big play brought back.
Throughout this report I will discuss how our program redesigned our RPO playbook to make things as easy as possible for our linemen. This will include choosing which run and pass schemes we use as well as how to pick a name and/or signal for each play. Each of these three steps started with the OL in mind.
Know the Rules
As a coach, it is your job to know the rules so you can teach your players correctly and to also use the rules to our advantage. Many of you witnessed the Baltimore Ravens hold every Cincinnati Bengal on punt coverage for 11 seconds to end their game last year. Whether that is unsportsmanlike conduct is a conversation for another day. What we do know is that the Ravens coaches know the rules and used that rule to their benefit at the appropriate time, just as they did in Super Bowl XLVII against the 49ers.
With that said, the NFHS rule book states the following;
“Rule: 2-28-2… The neutral zone may be expanded following the snap up to a maximum of 2 yards behind the defensive line of scrimmage, in the field of play, during any scrimmage down.“
By understanding that rule, we designed and stole RPO concepts that would help us succeed and we ditched any that made it tougher on our lineman. My linemen quickly adapted to the RPO plays because they’re all run schemes with which they are familiar.
Choosing the Run Scheme & Coaching Points
Our staff understands that the line is the most important piece to the success of every play. Most coaches believe if you can run the ball effectively it will open up all aspects of the passing game. With that said, we wanted each play to be as easy as possible for the lineman to execute so all of our RPOs start with a run concept that we already run proficiently.
We teach several run schemes and we want to be able to incorporate as many of them as our linemen feel comfortable with into our RPO arsenal. The run concepts that we decided to use include plays with tackles pulling such as counter trey and dart and quicker hitting run concepts like wedge, inside zone, QB Iso and short counter. From film study, we will decide which RPOs to use each week based on what we believe our opponent will show us defensively. We will also decide where the blocking scheme needs to be tweaked because of what the defense does well or poorly.