Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Flexbone and the B back, the guy that makes it all go...

Going to do a couple of posts on the B back in the flexbone offense.  I get several questions via email and phone calls on the nuances of the Flexbone offense, and one question that comes up time and time again is the fullback position, or what most of us "die-hards" refer to as the B back.  This first post is going to be dedicated to what it is you are looking for in a B back and drills you can use in practice to facilitate your search. 

Prototypical B back
To be honest, at the high school level, it's hard to hammer things down into what many would consider a prototypical B back.  I guess, if all were equal, the B back would be the size of a traditional blocking fullback, but with the speed of a tailback.  Basically put, he would be the cliche that you most often hear during NFL and college games, "he's a tailback in a fullback's body". 

Yeah...this guy!

This is all fine and dandy if you are in college where you can recruit, however those of us at the high school level are not afforded the luxury of hand picking our players (well, most of us anyhow).  So, what are you looking for in your B back, especially when you cannot recruit him?  Here's the list:
  1. Physical Toughness: Yes I know, coaches use this "catch phrase" all too often, however with this position toughness is a MUST!  The B back in the Flexbone offense will get hit on every play, whether he has the ball or not.  The B back must be able to get up from every collision and be able and willing to go and do the exact same thing again.  A B back that cannot withstand this punishment will wither and not be as strong in the fourth quarter, when you need your B back the most.  Look for players who "take a licking and keep on ticking".  This is the first step in finding the right player to play B back in your offense.
  2. Quickness:  B backs must possess a great first step and be able to get off the ball quickly.  I have had B backs who turned right around on defense and played defensive end (DE) or defensive tackle (DT).  A quick get-off is a must for a B back as the base play (the inside veer) must be run with an explosive B back. 
  3. Tackle breaker: Sounds simple, but this is very important too.  The B back HAS to run through arm tackles.  If you have a back that goes down on first contact, regardless of his toughness or quickness, he is NOT a B back.  A B back that can run through contact is a MUST for a young triple option QB just learning the system, as there will be misreads.  If you don't want to be looking at second-and-ten, then find a B back that can run through tackles.
Ok, that's my list.  Many coaches' lists are longer, but remember you are looking at your team for a kid that fits a certain criteria.  The more attributes you add, the more you narrow your search down.  I figure if a kid is tough, quick and can run through arm tackles, we can use him.  Size is NEVER a qualification.  Since you cannot recruit, I don't feel that size is something you are looking for.  The first year I ever ran this offense I had two kids that played this B back position.  The starter was a body builder looking guy who was 5'9" and 198 pounds.  This young man was a state qualifier in weight lifting and a beast on the football field.  His backup was a little runt, at 5'6" and 150 pounds, however he was the most explosive kid on the football field and had what many scouts call "closing speed".  In our first year the starter rushed 159 times for 779 yards and 13 touchdowns.  The backup rushed for 565 yards on just 84 attempts and had 7 touchdowns.  We rotated them by series as both played defense as well, and they were tough to handle.  Both fit the above criteria.  I've had them come in all shapes and sizes with the smallest being the young man mentioned above and the two largest were 6'2" 200 pounds and 5'8" 225 pounds.  This is why I say size matters not, if the player is tough and can take a pounding, has a quick, explosive first step, and can run through tackles, play him at the B back position.

Finding the Right Man for the Job
Looking for the three qualifications listed above takes some doing, but it's not rocket science.  I'm going to take you through some drills we utilized to help us find our B backs during pre-season camp. 

  1. Circle of Life/Oklahoma/Eye Openers: What???  Yes I know, doesn't sound like a list of drills where you find a fullback does it?  Well, hear me out!  Circle of Life is a drill I stole from Urban Meyer at the University of Florida (he's used it everywhere he's been) and it involves circling the team up and pitting two players against each other.  The idea is to do whatever it takes within the game of football to get the opposing player out of the circle.  It's intense and the players love it.  What I look for here is guys that continually win, or want to keep going.  This is a tough character, because this drill will wear you down.  Oklahoma is no different.  The guys who continually want to go, love contact, and are tough.  These are the first qualification to being a good B back.  Eye Openers is the same thing, if you have a guy who wants to run the ball a lot in this drill, give him a look at B back, he might just surprise you.
  2. Short Sprints: I used the ten and 20 yard sprint to see who my quickest guys were.  Change of direction quickness drills don't measure what you need when looking for your B back, as most plays for the B back in the Flexbone offense are straight ahead.  Run these with a stopwatch on and see who your quickest 3 players are.  A tip is to put your backs in the linemen chutes so they have to stay low when coming out of their stance and still be quick.
  3. The Gauntlet: I've been fortunate to have one of these most everywhere I've been, but if you don't use your running backs to hold dummies and let the ball carrier run through them.  Have them try to knock him down with the pads when he runs through them.  If you have a gauntlet then run them through and look at these two factors:
    1. Overall speed through the drill- Time each back to help you with this, and go so far as recording this data.  This lets you know who runs within their pad level and has good tackle breaking ability.
    2. Movement through the drill- Some of my best B backs hit the gauntlet and never slowed down coming all the way through in what looked like one seamless motion.  This is your guy!  At worst he should stutter a moment upon contacting the gauntlet and be able to stay upright through the length of the drill.

These are just a few drills you can use to help find you a B back for your offense.  More often than not you find that if you are changing from a one back or pro style offense, one of these guys is your tailback.  Find AT LEAST two, preferably four of these guys, as they do take a pounding.  Rotate them to keep them fresh as well. 

In Addition
Lastly, a criteria I did not add to the first list, but is one everyone looks for in a good running back, and that is ball security.  The Flexbone offense requires a great deal of ball handling, and the B back must be able to carry the rock.  I did not add this to the original list because in my opinion, this is a qualification for any player who possess the football.  If you have a guy that fits all three criterion, but fumbles, he cannot play B back.  The B back is NOT a fumbler, and neither should ANY of your running backs be known as a fumbler. 

Mentally, I would add that most B backs I've had, are not selfish ball players.  They are usually guys that love playing the game for what the game is all about, running and hitting.  They usually care little about stats, and just want to play.  I know that's not a criteria, but as you find these players, this usually seems to be the trend.

The next post is going to be teaching the stance, and the start on the Flexbone's base play...the Inside Veer!