Sunday, March 6, 2011

Simple Sprintout Passing for the Flexbone Offense-Part I

"We've got a sprinter...5' unkempt...portly..."

Most coaches know when they are defending a Flexbone offense they are going to have to stop the run.  Most Flexbone coaches will tell you, their passing games are very simple due to the amount of time it takes to coach the inside veer (ISV), midline, and some of the various other double options that come with the offense.  A good Flexbone passing game is one that is simple, utilizes quick routes, playaction, and my favorite, sprintout.  Why should you as a Flexbone coach utilize the sprintout game?  Well, let's take a look at that a little closer shall we?

The quarterback (QB) in the Flexbone is usually your best pure athlete on the field.  He needs to be a great runner, and manager of the game.  This offense relies heavily on the play of the QB.  Since most Flexbone QB's are very good runners the sprintout game makes sense.  The advantages are:
  • By moving the QB and the pocket, the blocking is less stressful on linemen who are used to run blocking.
  • By putting the QB, who is probably one of your best athletes on the field, on the run it allows him to attack the defense both through the air, and on the ground with the threat of the QB scrambling.
  • Most passing concepts into sprintout action are some type of flood concept.  Since most defenses play zone coverage against the Flexbone, this provides for ways to attack the soft spots in zone coverages.
  • Moving the QB and reducing the amount of the field he has to see or read leads to easier throws for a QB who is probably not as prolific a passer as the pro or spread style of QB.

Obviously there are some drawbacks to sprinting out when passing, but to be honest, they are negligible.  The sprintout passing game goes with the Flexbone offense like Buckwheat did with Alfalfa!  Now, if you start looking and digging into old playbooks, you will find a myriad of sprintout concepts.  What I wanted to do in this article was share with you the concepts that I utilized when coaching in this offense.  My sprintout passing game is not complicated, but very effective.


I sprinted into the Flexbone Trips formation over 85% of the time (data came from self-scouting).  Now, this is not a problem as I ran the Trips formation over 37% of the time when on offense (go here to read about utilizing the Trips formation in the Flexbone offense).  We would also motion into trips from either our base double slot formation, or from our Twins formation.  We wanted 2 receivers over to the sprintout side at all times, however you CAN sprintout into 1 receiver sets as well and really fool the defense, but that's for another post all together. 

Double Slot

Twins Formation


Let's talking about the blocking first.  Since you build a house from the ground up, the foundation of any offensive scheme is the offensive line (OL).  Our pass protection was simple, we called it "ass to the passer".  Most coaches know it as turn back or hinge protection.  Our offensive linemen, upon the snap, would take a zone step to the playside, punching and engaging any defender on their playside shoulder.  They would then drop their backside foot (foot away from the play) and "hinge", completely facing away from the direction the QB was going.  Each lineman was responsible for any defender in their backside gap.  If no defender showed, they "floated" or "drifted" into the backfield looking for any backside leakage or blitzer.  Simple, and very easy to coach, that was the game plan when it came to our pass protection scheme.

Hinge Protection

Continuing along the blocking topic, the edge of the offense is very important when sprinting out, and here is what we did to set the edge.  The inside slot, would execute a technique exactly the same as the offensive linemen.  He had the C gap defender.  If no defender showed, after a 2 count, he released on a shallow flat route (beginning in the backfield and working to a depth of no greater than 3 yards).  This allowed the QB to have a third option to throw to when sprinting out, and was a very easy throw.  If a C gap defender showed, the slot stayed on the block the duration of the play and did not release into the route.  The fullback (FB) would arc release flat and to the outside in the direction of the play and would attempt to hook any outside rusher.  If he could not hook him, he simply widened this defender, or as some coaches term it, he "kicked him out".  These two blocks are very critical in getting your QB to the "edge".

The QB would drop back from under center for a 3 step drop, opening to the side we were sprinting to.  This did two things, it allowed the rushers to get upfield, instead of lateral cutting down on their pursuit angles and basically "baiting" them into getting blocked.  Second it forced zone defenders into standard zone drop angles, again reducing their chance of flying over to the side being threatened by the sprintout.  Once his third step was in the ground, the QB then began to roll out to the sideline by pushing off his upfield foot at an angle working him not only deeper into the backfield, but now lateral to the sideline.  As the QB did this his eyes progressed down the field looking for his primary read.  Once the QB had cleared the FB's block (if it was a hook block) he then progressed to working downhill back to the line of scrimmage (LOS).  This allowed the QB to attack the LOS forcing underneath zone players to either abandon coverage and be at risk of having an open receiver, or sit back in coverage and be at risk of the QB running the football.  I did not over coach this technique either, I let the QB "feel" out the defense.  If he felt he could run, we simply told him "run to daylight".  I've heard some coaches tell their QB to work to the sideline if they choose to run the ball, however some of our biggest gains on these plays were when the QB actually cut back into the middle of the defense. 

The wide receivers (WR's) to the play side would simply run the called or tagged routes.  The backside receiver always ran what we called a sail route working to a depth of 10 to 12 yards and coming flat across the field.  Over the years I have utilized several route concepts, but there are three in particular that were very successful for me that I will share with you here.



The Smash concept is nothing new to football, the Flexbone, or any Run-and-Shoot style of offense.  As a matter of fact, you can watch film of a lot high school football teams and see Smash game show it's ugly head on any give Friday night.  Our concept was simple, the outside receiver to the sprintout side ran the deep hitch route.  Now we didn't get complex with it, around 10 yards and sit down.  If the defender is inside of you, work outside, and if he's outside work inside.  I'm no Mike Leach, and I hope you weren't expecting that, especially from a guy who ran the Flexbone!  The inside receiver pushed to a 10 yard depth and would break on a steep angle working over the top of the hitch route putting the corner to that side in a considerable bind.  The QB read "high to low" for us.  If the corner bailed out, we looked to the hitch, if the hitch was covered look to the delay route by the inside slot.  If all three were covered, run the ball.  That simple folks!  Of my three favorite concepts, Smash was the least run of all 3.



I found this concept in Georgia Tech's playbook a few years back and was kicking myself for not running it more!  In the Gambler route concept, the outside receiver will take the top off the coverage by running a takeoff route.  The slot will run what some term a "Whip" route, or a "Pigtail" route.  The Whip route is very critical in the Gambler concept.  If the flat defender squeezes down inside, the receiver is to ride him down inside until the defender has opened his hips and is running with the receiver.  Once this happens, the slot will plant and turn to face the QB, and then work to gain ground getting depth away from the LOS.  It is very critical that this route not be run flat, as it will work too close to the delay route being run by the inside slot.  If the flat defender does not bite, the slot will settle in the curl and then work lateral to the QB, maintaining inside leverage on the flat defender.  This concept of "sitting down" in the void is two-fold.  First, it keeps the slot in an open hole in the zone coverage, thereby making the throw by the QB easier.  Second, if the QB decides to run the ball, the slot is in perfect position to not only block the flat defender, but LEVEL the flat defender!  Gambler is a very good concept to run vs. Cover 2 teams and 2 read teams that key the #2 receiver with their corners.  The corner will see the WR disappear inside and will think he has no immediate threat to the flat and will then run with #1's route.  This creates a very large void into the flat zone.  This is also a good concept against teams that send the playside LB to contain the QB (especially the 4-2/4-4 or 5-2 teams).   These teams will ask the backside LB to roll over and work hook to curl, which is not a bad concept, but poorly timed zone drops can lead to the Whip route being open in the curl zone.


The favorite!

The Comeback concept got so many first downs for me in my two-minute offense we termed it "money".  This route concept is literally like stealing.  The only teams I have seen defend this, currently have a safety playing for the University of Miami!  Comeback is just like it says, one of the routes, either inside or outside is going to be a comeback route.  We tagged which receiver would run the route, but an amazing 88% of the time it was the outside reciever.  The outside receiver would push to a depth of 16 to 18 yards or until he felt he had the corner running with him at full speed.  The WR would then drop his hips, plant on his inside foot, and work back to the LOS.  Once he had worked back 5 yards from his break point the WR would then flatten out to the sidelines.  We told our WR's, if it was third down, work back toward the first down marker and settle one yard beyond the marker.  The slot receiver would run a takeoff route and would squeeze toward the sideline if we were facing a middle of the field open (MOFO) concept.  This put the safety in a bind when facing Cover 2 teams that liked to have the corner trail the outside receiver and "sit" on the comeback route.  If we were playing a middle of the field closed defense (MOFC) then the slot attempted to run his route directly down the seam or splitting the difference between the corner and the safety.  Again, this put both the corner and the safety in a bind when trying to get to this route. 

We did have the ability to mix some things in where we tagged the inside receiver to run the comeback route and the outside reciever would then run the takeoff.  This combination can be very effective against quarters coverage schemes where the corner is man on the #1 reciever and gets run off, and the safety has all of #2 vertical.  With a route pushing to 16 yards of depth that safety is going to lock on man to man, with inside leverage.  The safety is out leveraged to defend the comeback route by the inside receiver.  The fact that there were no other routes attacking the flats had the curl/flat defender held inside most of the time and created a huge void in the flat area. 

Z comeback

All of these concepts are easily installed and repped.  I did not get anywhere near as complicated as those guys with the first name "Mouse" or last name Mumme, however the concepts were effective enough to put the defense in a considerable bind when attempting to defend our offense.

Part I of this article focused on protection, routes and scheme.  The second part is going to focus on the throwback screen and sprint draw concepts that will leave the defense defenseless!!!  Keep tuned in for more!