Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Flexbone Nomenclature and Formations


The first part of learning any new offense is to understanding the nomenclature and terminology of the offense. This will allow for clear and concise communication when implementing the flexbone offense. All offensive players will have abbreviations for their position names. These abbreviations are shown below:

  • Offensive Linemen-
    • C= Center
    • G=Guard
    • T=Tackle
      • Players will also be abbreviated as to whether they are on the playside or backside of an offensive play.
        • PSG- Playside guard
        • PST- Playside tackle
        • BSG- Backside guard
        • BST- Backside tackle
  • Wide Receivers-
    • Y= The receiver to the call side of the formation
    • X= The receiver away from the call side of the formation
  •  Slots-
    •  Z= The slot to the call side of the formation
    •  A= The slot away from the call side of the formation
  •  Backfield-
    • QB= Quarterback
    • B= B back or Fullback


Offensive Linemen
The offensive line should be in a forward and aggressive stance. The majority of the player’s weight should be on the down hand, with the butt higher than the helmet. The down hand should be in front of the face mask of the offensive lineman. The Center will set the line, by aligning first. The center’s snap hand should extend in front of him the same as the other offensive linemen. The guards will align by placing the ear holes of their helmet on the belt line of the center, followed by the tackles that will put their toes even with the guard’s toes. As a general rule splits are to be 3 feet, however they can be enlarged or reduced by the following rules:

  • Narrowing the split- The only time and offensive lineman can reduce their split is if the lineman is on the backside of a play and having trouble scoop blocking. This should be done as a last resort, as it defeats the purpose of make them defend space.
  • Widening the split- On Read plays, if the handoff key is giving the Quarterback read problems, it may be necessary to widen out the handoff key by widening the split. It should be noted, that if the defender does not widen with the split, the original 3 feet should be used.

The alignment of the offensive lineman is very unique when compared to other offenses. The lineman should be as far off the ball as the officials will allow. The reasoning behind being so far off the ball is two-fold. First it allows the lineman to attack their targets with momentum and speed. Since most flexbone offensive lines are smaller and quicker than the competitions defensive line, speed and momentum are key advantages to blocking these larger defenders. The distance off of the ball also allows for cleaner releases by offensive linemen attempting to get to second level defenders. A majority of the time, flexbone offensive linemen will not be blocking defenders on the line of scrimmage, yet releasing inside or outside of the defensive linemen attempting to block a linebacker. Placing the offensive linemen as far off the line of scrimmage as possible, will aid in the offensive linemen getting to these second level defenders without the defensive linemen being able to disrupt these second level blocks.

Wide Receivers
The wide receivers, if the ball is in the middle of the field will align to the top of the numbers on their respective side of the formation as shown in Figure 2-1. When the ball is on a hash, the receiver to the wide side of the field will split the difference between the top of the numbers and the wide side hash mark as shown in Figure 2-1. The receiver to the short side of the field should align two yards inside the sideline. Receiver’s alignments may be altered when running a certain type of route, or if the blocking scheme being utilized calls for it, however the base alignment rule should be adhered to if at all possible.

Figure 2-1 Receiver alignments with the ball in the middle of the field and ball on a hash mark

Slot backs
The slots will align off of the offensive tackle’s alignment. Slots should be far enough off the offensive tackle’s rear end to be able to lean forward and touch the tackle’s outside hip. The slot’s inside foot should be directly behind the outside foot of the offensive tackle in front of him. This alignment is the basic alignment for slots and may be altered for various reasons. On passing downs, slots may widen as much as one yard outside the offensive tackle. Slots may also widen if they are having difficulty executing a particular blocking assignment due to traffic on the line of scrimmage. The slots can also move their alignment to directly behind the offensive tackle on plays that require no motion, or plays that have them blocking inside on a linebacker.

B Back
The B back will align directly behind the Quarterback with his down hand 2 yards from the heels of the Quarterback. This alignment may be altered due to the athletic ability of the B back. The key for the alignment of the B back is that the Quarterback is not waiting on the B back to hit the line of scrimmage on the triple option or midline option plays. If the speed of the play is too slow, then the B back needs to be moved forward. If the speed of the play is too fast for the Quarterback, move the B back away from the Quarterback’s heels. The base alignment of the B back should not vary more than one-half yard in either direction however.

The Quarterback will align under center in all of the flexbone offense’s formations. The Quarterback should have his feet shoulder width or slightly narrower and be in a balanced stance.


There are a variety of formations within the flexbone offense. The base formation is called exactly that, “base”. All formations are directional, meaning they are tagged with a right or left call. This call, tells the players where to align based on the formation called. In the base formation, the Y, Z and the B all go to the call side, with the A and the X going to the opposite sides as shown in Figure 2-2.

Figure 2-2 Base Formation

            The next formation is an unbalanced formation entitled Over. The Over formation, shown in Figure 2-3, tells the X receiver to go over to the Y’s side. All players align normally as they would in the Base formation, however, the X receiver will split the difference between the offensive tackle and the Y’s alignment. The X will be on the line of scrimmage and is an ineligible receiver.

Figure 2-3 Over Formation

            Trips is a formation that has three eligible receiver’s being on one side of the offense. In the Trips formation, shown in Figure 2-4, the Y and the X align as they would in the Base formation. The Z back is aligned in what is called a flex alignment. When a slot is in a flexed alignment, they will align off the ball in a two-point receiver stance, halfway between the offensive tackle and the wide receiver. The A back, will move across the formation and will align in a normal slot alignment off the call side offensive tackle.

Figure 2-4 Trips Formation

            Tight is a formation with reduced splits by the wide receivers. When Tight is called, both the Y and the X will align two yards outside of the nearest offensive tackle as shown in Figure 2-5. The Y and the X should remain in their normal, upright, two-point receiver’s stance.

Figure 2-5 Tight Formation

            Flex is a two-by-two formation that has both slots in flexed alignments. The A and the Z, as shown in Figure 2-6, should align in flexed alignment and be in an upright receiver’s stance.

Figure 2-6 Flex Formation

            Empty, as shown in Figure 2-7, is a formation that has no backs in the backfield. By rule, the B back will go to the call side, putting him at a flexed slot position in between the Z back and the Y receiver. All other players align as they do in the Base formation.

Figure 2-7 Empty Formation

            Tackles, is a goal line and short yardage type of formation that utilizes a tackles over unbalanced look. Tackles, as shown in Figure 2-8, may require for the substitutions of some players such as the X receiver. The tackle, opposite of the call, will go to the call side and become the outside tackle. For instance, if the call is Tackles right, as shown in Figure 2-8, the left offensive tackle will move outside the right offensive tackle and assume his normal stance for an offensive tackle. The X receiver will move down and align three feet from the offensive guard, with his toes even with the guards. The X receiver will be in a two-point stance, and will be thought of more as a tight end, than a receiver in this formation. The A and the Z align as they would in the Base formation, as does the Y receiver.

Figure 2-8 Tackles Formation

Formation Tags
Tags can be utilized to alter some alignments in the flexbone offense. These tags are flex, tight, and on. Flex tells the slot to the call to align in a flex alignment as shown in Figure 2-9. The call in the huddle would have been Base Right, Flex. All players, except for the Z back align as they would in the Base formation. The Z back, since he is the slot to the call side, aligns in a flex alignment.

Figure 2-9 Base Right Flex

            Tight, is exactly the same as flex, only this is for the receiver to the call side. If the call was Base Right Tight, shown in Figure 2-10, then the Y receiver would assume a tight alignment, aligning two yards outside the offensive tackle, to the call side.

Figure 2-10 Base Right Tight

            On is a call for the slot backs. On does just what it says, it puts the called slot onto the line of scrimmage. Two common formations to do this out of are Over A on, as shown in Figure 2-11, and Over Z on, as shown in Figure 2-12. When a slot is called on the line of scrimmage, he maintains his normal stance, however he moves to three feet outside the offensive tackle, and puts his toes even with the toes of the offensive tackle’s toes.

Figure 2-11 Over A On

Figure 2-12 Over Z On

            All these formations are designed to put the defense in conflict by either creating balanced or unbalanced situations. The use of formations is an important tactic that flexbone coaches can utilize to put their opponent’s defense in troublesome positions.

Aiming Points and Gap Designations

Figure 2-13 shows the gap designation and aiming point numbering used by many flexbone coaches. There is any number of thoughts here, so the reader can use their imagination, but the numbering and gap system I personally use is shown in figure 2-13.

Figure 2-13 Aiming Points and Gaps

The gaps are conventional, however the aiming points are something not many are familiar with.  Many offenses use "hole numbering" as a way to get their backs headed in the proper direction.  The flexbone is no different, however the use of these "aiming points" allows the backs to head to a certain fixed point along the offensive line that meshes better with the option nature of the offense.  As an example if running triple to the right, the B back's aiming point would be that of the middle of offensive guard, or a aiming point of 4.

When looking at gap designation, this is done to define defenders.  An example of this would be when running Rocket Toss, the offense is not going to block anyone from a C gap defender inside.  Both the aiming points and gaps, allow the offensive coach to communicate certain elements within the offense that will be discussed at length further in the posts to come.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Flexbone Offense-Philosophy, Myths and Things to Consider


Ok guys, here we go.  This will be the first installment on the flexbone offense.  I'm going to simply go step by step with things and keep building as we go.  Now some things to keep in mind are:

  1. I'm not Paul Johnson.  I don't claim to be, he has his system and it obviously works, but there are others out there that have just as good of option schemes.  Please don't turn your nose up because I don't call midline 10 and 11, or I don't call the tackles over formation "heavy".
  2. There are no magic bullets.  You are not going to read this, install the flexbone and win a state championship next season.  You might, who knows.  This is meant to be "technical reading".
  3. This is not a publication about a "Saturday offense".  No, I'm writing about an offense I took from college coaches, and manipulated and simplified for the high school game.  Take it for what it's worth.
Other than those tidbits, this should be informational and help you decide if the flexbone is right for you.  On another note some of my resources through the years have been:
  1. Tim Stower's book Coaching Football's Spread Offense If you are interested in the roots of the offense, and a basic "handbook" to the flexbone offense, I suggest you purchase this book.
  2. Tony DeMeo.  Learned a lot from DeMeo through the years such as leverage pitching, reads, and drills.  His shotgun version of the flexbone has been a killer in college football, and he is a big promoter of his "smart splits".
  3. Paul Johnson.  How can we leave out ol' PJ.  Great coach, innovator and proven winner.  Anytime you can hear him speak at a clinic...GO, he's an interesting dude.
  4. Ken Niumatalolo.  Great guy, inspirational speaker and is taking the triple option to new heights at Navy.  He, much like PJ, is a good speaker to go listen to at a clinic.
  5. Coach Iannuci's blog, The Three Back Option Football Spot.  Very informative coach, and very knowledgeable of the flexbone offense.  Before reading further, go bookmark his site.

"Fear the Veer!" The philosophy behind the flexbone offense is the triple option play. The triple option is three running plays in one. It is power, straight-ahead football, combined with finesse, turn-the-corner outside running game, all rolled into one. The flexbone offense is also balanced, forcing the defense to play balanced. The presence of four immediate vertical threats also commands the respect of opposing defenses. These facets, when combined make the flexbone offense one of the most difficult offenses to defend in modern-day football.
            Multiplicity through simplicity is another trademark of the flexbone offense. The flexbone and its plays change very little throughout. Blocking schemes are universal and can be slightly altered through the use of tags, allowing multiple plays to be run, with different variations. These variations keep defenses on their heels, playing timid and soft as they try to adapt and react on the run. The ability to run one play, with multiple ways to vary the play gives the coach the ability to dictate how the offense will attack the defense.
Series Based Offense
Series based offense is an offensive scheme based around a series or set of core plays or play. Series based offense is the heart and soul of many offenses available to coaches today. The flexbone is no different than any other series based offense in that it has a core play series, with other play series based on attacking what the defense is doing to take away the base series. This prevents the traditional grab bag coaching, or play calling coaches often fall prey to. Adhering to this style of offense is a must for any coach looking to install the flexbone.
Why the Flexbone?
The flexbone offense allows teams with inadequate or undersized players to compete on a level with teams far superior than themselves by utilizing the defense's brute strength and superior athleticism against itself. Typically flexbone offensive lines are smaller and quicker than traditional offensive lines, making finding players that fit the scheme much easier. The skill positions can also be lesser athletes, to a degree, than some other traditional offenses.
            This offense does not allow the defense to key on just one player, especially through the use of the triple option run game. Another advantage to the flexbone offense when coupled with the triple option is that the defense must defend three plays rolled into one, making the defense play assignment football. This advantage slows down the defense, putting them in a reactionary mode instead of being able to attack the offense.
            The blocking schemes utilized in the flexbone offense are universal, with little to no adaptation to various defenses. The simplified blocking scheme allows for less thinking on the line of scrimmage, and allows the offense to attack the defense. The blocking schemes have concrete rules, that have stood the test of time, and will handle even the craziest "defense of the week" that a coach may see throughout a football season.
            The flexbone offense utilizes a double slot, balanced, base formation, shown in Figure 1-1 that presents the defense with two glaring problems. The first is the ability to handle four immediate vertical threats in the passing game. The four vertical passing threats keep defenses from loading the box with eight and nine defenders to attempt to stop the run. Second, the balanced formation, forces the defense to play balanced or risk being caught with not enough men to one side of the offense or the other. Balancing keeps the defense from cheating and utilizing an overload to the field, or some other type of defensive overload to gain an advantage over the offense.

Figure 1-1 Base formation, balanced
             Lastly, the flexbone offense does not rely on specialization with the positions it uses. The only two positions on the field that require any specialization are the Quarterback, and the fullback, better known in the offense as the B back. This lack of specialization makes for interchangeable parts, allowing players to learn multiple positions. 
Common Myths and Misconceptions about the Flexbone Offense
As with many things in football, there are some common misconceptions about the flexbone offense.  Many of these are simply fallacies coaches who have coached against only one flexbone team have made up over the years.  Here are some of the common myths and descriptions of how these items are false and misleading.
To be successful, an offense must be balanced
The idea that having a team that runs for over 300 yards a game is a bad thing is absolutely preposterous.  Being able to run the football opens up the playaction passing game and allows the offense to hit the home-run when the defense is selling out to stop the run.  A few years back the district champion was a flexbone team that averaged 351.8 yards per game rushing, and a mere 21.1 yards per game passing.  This team went several rounds deep in the playoffs every year with statistics close to these.  The first year this particular team ran the flexbone they averaged 38 points per game, and only threw for two touchdowns during the regular season.  Their final record that year was ten wins and three losses; somehow balance does not seem all that important anymore.
            The other reason that this idea of balance is a fallacy is that the flexbone offense is based around a running play that is three plays mixed into one.  What better way to keep a defense guessing than by calling a play where the before the snap not even the Quarterback knows where the football is going.  The point here is, there is more than one way to keep a defense off balanced, other than simply by mixing the run and the pass. 
Flexbone teams cannot throw the football
This myth does contain some truth, but very little to be honest.  Yes, most flexbone teams are not known for their passing efficiency; however the basic offensive formation, as shown in Figure 1-1 is the same as the legendary Run-n-Shoot formation used in by many teams in the early 90's to put up large amounts of points in both college and professional football. 
            Yes, flexbone teams do not always do well in the drop back passing game.  The main reason for this is lack of practice time when it comes to pass protection.  Flexbone teams spend a large portion of their time involved in working on the run game, so this does not allow the offensive linemen to become comfortable in pass protection.  However, there are some ways that flexbone teams can pass and still be effective.
            The major pass play in the flexbone offense is that of playaction passing.  When a defense has been shredded in the run game, the usual tactic is to tighten the secondary in an attempt to get the run support in on the action quicker.  When the defense adjusts the secondary closer to the line of scrimmage, they run the risk of being out of position against playaction passes.  As will be shown later, the flexbone offense uses pass routes that mimic the blocking scheme to further put defenders in a quandary.  A timely playaction pass can be the knife to the juggler for an over aggressive defense trying to sell out to stop the run.

            Another good passing play, for the flexbone offense, is the sprint out pass.  The sprint out pass is a pass that puts the Quarterback on the move from the snap.  The pass protection utilized in sprint out passing is much simpler and less stressful on the offensive line than that of traditional drop back pass protections.  Also, by putting the Quarterback, one of the offenses' best athletes on the move, puts the defense in conflict as to whether the Quarterback will throw the football or choose to keep the football.  Sprint out passing forces the defense to account for this run threat, thereby removing a defender from being able to drop back and defend a pass zone or cover a receiver man-to-man. 
A fast Quarterback is needed to run the option
Some of the best option Quarterbacks are not that particularly fast when it comes to running speed.  However, where these Quarterbacks are fast, is in the thought process that occurs in the reads of the triple option.  Yes, it does help if the Quarterback, when he decides to keep the football, is a threat to go all the way; however, this is not a requirement of the position.  What truly makes a deadly option Quarterback is quick thinking and reactionary skills that can be utilized in reading a defender. 
This would be an interesting choice at option QB!

Defenses are too fast for the option
Speed is one thing that hurt the triple option, but that was years ago.  Offenses have caught up to defenses and are also putting plenty of speed on the field as well.  The triple option is one of the best ways to neutralize a fast defense, because a defender cannot run to the football, until they know who has the football.  The triple option slows down the defense because the defense must first figure out who is carrying the football, and by the time they figure that out, it is usually too late. 
Some Things to Consider When Choosing the Flexbone Offense
There are some items, that a coach must weigh when looking into whether this is the offense for their team or not.  Choosing the right offense based on talent is very critical in determining the success a team will have.  The flexbone offense does have some requirements that a coach must think about.
            The first of these criterion are that more than one B back is needed.  The recommendation here is to have at least three and as many as five if possible.  The B back position is one that will take a beating.  The B back will be getting tackled on every triple option play that is called, and since the triple option is the heart and soul of the offense, the B back could be tackled as many as thirty times a game.  It does not matter whether the B back has the football either, if run properly the B back should be tackled on every triple option play.  Over time, this can wear down a player, so it is best to have suitable backups at the B back position, so that the starter can rest. 

            Similar to the B back, the Quarterback position is one that must have a suitable backup.  If possible there should be a minimum of three players that can play the Quarterback position on a flexbone team.  The Quarterback position will also see some punishment, although much less than the B back position.  Option Quarterbacks can be taught how to take hits, but it is inevitable that when a large portion of the offense is placed on the Quarterback, both running and throwing the football, injuries can occur.  Do not neglect the backups!  The backup Quarterbacks must know the reads and be able to fill in when and if the starter does go down with an injury.
            Since so much of the offense is based around the Quarterback and the B back, it is imperative that there be plenty of these types of players so that if an injury does occur, there is little to no loss in offensive efficiency. 
            Another, often overlooked item, that coaches must take into consideration is time.  Teams that choose to run the flexbone don't often see instant success.  The flexbone offense is an offense that only gets better the longer a coach runs it.  Many coaches, get out of the offense after having games with multiple turnovers, or seeing their Quarterback struggle with the reads.  Coaches also get frustrated by calling the same play, the triple option, over and over again with little to no success early on.  The reads in this offense are no different than any other reading offense in that these reads take time to develop.  This is especially true if coaching players with little option football background.  This offense is not for the faint of heart and takes a true dedication by the coach to master and teach.  However, once the offense is mastered and run to perfection, then it truly is a thing of beauty!   
            The flexbone is becoming more and more popular in both high school and college sports, especially with the recent storied success of Georgia Tech. University at the FBS Division in collegiate sports. There is something to be said about an offense that at any time can run three plays at once, attacking three different areas of the defense. Read em’ and Run!

 In the next post, I'll discuss the positions within the offense, their requirements and formations.