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.