By Dan Ellis
Great Valley High School (PA)
My goal as a high school coach is to limit the amount of thinking our players need to do on a play-by-play basis so we can maximize our talent and athleticism. I like to throw the football and I like to keep our QB safe, so our protection schemes are critical. However, I do not have enough practice time to invest in too many protections and still get everything repped that we need during a practice week. We do not feel we can afford to teach another 5 man protection on top of the other protections we use (slide, half-slide, roll, naked/boot). Therefore, we have made sure that we protect ourselves by building hot or sight adjustments into our play calls and use a version of our 6 man protection.
Our basic protection is half man/half slide protection, which has been talked about numerous times on XandOLabs.com by others. Below is our basic protection with the H reading inside out. Play side, the PSG has #1 down, the PST has #2 down. C has backside A and his general rule is that he cannot allow a slide side player to cross his face to the man side of the protection. The BSG has backside B, and BST has backside C. Even in this 6 man protection, the weakness is always 4 to a side. If both the SS and S blitz (or the M and W), we cannot protect and have to throw it hot.
Before I touch on the built in hot, we also use the same protection for our 5 man protection. The only difference is that we have a signal for the H to be a free release player from the back field. The H always has a route to run in regular 6 man protection if no blitzer shows, but with this tag he is automatically releasing. If we are in empty, it is assumed that he is free released by his alignment in an empty formation. Again, the coaching point here is that no receiver will have to adjust their routes and linemen will not have to learn or practice a new protection call. The center still has the same rule about a slide side defender crossing his face to the man side, he has to block him.
In each of our pass concepts (shown below), we always have a player that is running a short/quick route. When we teach them our route concepts, the only thing we say is if they see a blitzer as they run their route, be prepared for the ball. The offensive line will always block the protection called and do not need to make any calls to adjust. The QB is the thinker. He needs to know what is happening, be surprised if the blitz doesn’t come, and if it does, deliver the ball to the appropriate receiver.
Teaching the QB
The first thing the QB must know is what the secondary is doing. Alignment and eyes for the corners and safeties are great keys for him to read. If there are two high safeties at 10-12 yards and corners are off and looking at the QB, the QB knows there is little chance there will be a pressure bringing 4 to a side (Diagram 3).
If the corners are aligned in a man technique and the safeties are tight, he knows to be ready (Diagram 4). He may not know where the blitz is coming, but he knows to expect it. No safety is beyond 8 yards so a blitz is coming. We always stress that they need to cover the back with one of those LBs.