|You really have five WR's on the field at one time!!!!!|
A post on the Huey board about this very topic intrigued me enough to write a post about an offense that I do have some association with. Now, I was just the defensive coordinator (who stole a playbook when I left) at the time, but I always paid attention to what my cohorts on the opposite side of the ball were doing. The Five Wide Offense (FWO) was a very interesting concept at the time we were running it (late 90's early 2000's), because almost everybody we faced was a run the football, grind it out type of offense. When I first joined the staff, we had a stud QB who could really zing the pigskin around, plus a very good group of WR's (we had 2 that signed D-1AA scholarships and the other 2 went D-III and NAIA). Our OL, was suspect for most of the time, and we were not very good at running the football. By the time I left, the offense had morphed into more of the traditional "spread to run" or "spread option" as our QB was more of a runner, and our receivers were not all that good.
What intrigued me about the offense was the setup and layout of the offense and just how simple it was for the players to understand. I'm going to take you through and look at the basics of the offense from the ground up. Now, most people think FWO and think "Oh, you're just in Empty all the time, you're gonna get kilt!". Well, that's not necessarily the truth. As a matter of fact, from what I remember, we were in 2x2 and 3x1 a majority of the time. Five wide, does not mean Empty, it means you are using five WR's on the field at any given moment. The formations just put these five receivers in various positions that can create a mismatch or alignment problem for a defense.
|That kind of empty makes me sad...|
The OL when I was a part of this offense was never very good, especially at run blocking. We had a lot of finesse guys, or what I would call "tight ends that couldn't catch". The OL was set up very similarly to that of a flexbone OL in that the center was one of the better OL, but maybe not a tremendously athletic OL. The guards were whatever you had leftover after selecting the tackles and the center. The tackles were lanky, rangy guys that could match up with speedy DE's or OLB's that would blitz off the edge. Obviously the best OL was saved for protecting the blind side of the QB.
In the diagrams below you will see the positions, and they are the X, A, W, Z, and B. The W is purely a possession guy. He does not have to be a speed demon, but is probably your best pure route runner of all five. The Z is a "wild card" type guy. He's a slot that can run the ball, but is good when matching up against underneath coverage guys. Don't sacrifice on athleticism here. The B and the A are almost universal in that they are basically RB's that can catch. These guys need to be able to run and catch the ball. They are by far the most versatile athletes within the offense. The X is the stud, speed burner you have that can give defenses one-on-one match up problems. He's by far your fastest receiver and probably the second best route runner you have.
I was fortunate enough to go through a couple of types of QB's in this offense. Our first QB was your prototypical passer. He was big (6'4" 200 lbs) and had a cannon on the left side of his body (yep, he was a Southpaw). The second QB was more of a runner, or scrambler who was only 5'9" tall and about 175 pounds. This guy would have been a great triple option QB, but he could also throw the hell out of the football. The offense was made to fit around both of these guys, but some essential traits were still needed. The QB obviously had to be a leader, but physically he had to be able to throw the football and throw it well. There are some throws in this offense, that some of our younger QB's couldn't make. They had to be developed to do so, and if you don't have the time to do that, then this is not your cup of tea. The QB must also be able to make some plays with his feet, but he DOES NOT have to be RGIII either. He just needs to be able to move and slide around in the pocket as you are usually only going to have five blockers. He also needs to be able to get rid of the football QUICKLY. With only five blockers, you end up seeing a lot of blitzes, and the QB has to see this and adjust to whoever is the hot route.
Formations and Alignment
There were four basic formations to the offense, and they were all named for weather events. The alignments were very simple, if no direction calls were given, the W, the Z and the B would all align to the wide side of the field. The X and the A only had to know where the W, Z and B were, because the X and the A would align on the opposite side of the offense. If a direction call was tagged to the formation (example: Hurricane Left), then the W, Z and B all went to the call side, and the X and the A simply aligned on the opposite side. This made alignment very simple for the players to pick up and to be honest, we very rarely ran out of left handed formations. Here are the basic four formations:
The run game varied over the years I was there from a more traditional inside zone and outside zone scheme to more QB iso and power runs, zone read, traps and jet sweeps in the later years. I really think the sky is the limit when it comes to what you can do in the run game in this offense. In the early years our bread and butter play was simply the draw to either the A or the B. This was very good to us because of just how much we threw the football (our OC was a Spurrier guy, so we averaged about 70% passing to 30% running when I first got on campus). Later, our bread and butter became the jet sweep and a QB trap play off of jet action. Since our QB was such a threat to run the football, teams couldn't just attack and take away the sweep, because it would leave the middle of the defense vulnerable to QB trap. QB draw also became a good play for us as well. Anyhow, the run game is pretty much what you want out of it. As mentioned earlier, we were 70-30 pass to run in my first two years there. The last two years I was there, we moved to almost 50-50 and were quite balanced really.
The passing game, at that time, was unlike any I'd ever seen. I had always been a part of a route tree, or mirrored route concept system. This concept system was unlike any I'd ever seen, however, it is eerily similar to what you are seeing nowadays in NCAA football and the NFL. The first season I was there, our OC numbered the concepts zero through nine. Midway through the season he was calling them things like "Middle" and "Wheelies" and the numbers were thrown by the wayside. Later, he simply named all of his concepts, and as you can see some of them were pretty strange, but our kids understood them and we rarely had busted assignments due to guys not knowing what to do. Here is the route concept tree from the Thunder formation.
Shoot was our bread and butter pass play. We gained more yards and scored more touchdowns off this one concept than any other in our playbook. The routes as they were named going from right to left are Post (W), Slant (Z), Swing (B), Shoot (A), and Takeoff (X). As a side note, these are not what I called these routes, these are the names taken directly from the playbook.
Smash easily was our second or third favorite route concept. The routes are Slant, Corner, Takeoff, Corner, Hitch. In this diagram, the A and B would probably have widened out behind the tackles in order to get a better release to run their routes.
Middle was a route concept that was later developed into a good sprintout concept. The routes are Post-in, Wheel, Post, Swing, Slant. We did not run this much as a drop back concept, but as I stated earned large dividends when sprinting out to the strong side of the formation to this concept (which I will explain later).
Oreo was one that was run some with our pure passer, but not much. Later with the running QB we sprinted to the strong side to this look for some good gains. The routes that go with the Oreo concept are Out, Takeoff, Comeback, Post and Out.
Now comes the really good part, and that's how these routes translated from formation to formation. Our Shoot concept was our favorite and that is the one I will focus on for the next post. I'm also going to talk about how we adapted to our running QB by giving him a pass/run option in the sprintout game and pass protection. Stay tuned for more on the FWO!