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analyzing and attacking one-back offenses

analyzing and attacking one-back offenses

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Published by Michael Schearer

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Published by: Michael Schearer on Nov 16, 2008
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On behalf of Head Coach Ron

Randleman and the entire Sam Houston State University football family, we would like to thank the AFCA for the privilege to con- tribute to the 2003 A F C A Summer Manual. It is a tremendous honor to have the opportuni- ty to share our thoughts and ideas.

In the current landscape of college foot - ball, offensive attacks have become extremely dynamic. Offenses are employ- ing multiple looks and personalities to com- bat the variations of defensive schemes they face every Saturday. Although the offensive philosophies of our opponents change from week to week, some basic foundations are constant. No matter the style of offense utilized by an opponent, they will work with some form of a one- back attack. Today, many offenses exclu- sively base out of, or have the ability to, get to various one-back sets.

In becoming more dynamic and diverse, many teams we face today are extremely productive with a one-back offense. Most are built to gain various personnel mis- matches or to reduce the number of box players utilized by an attacking style defense. The multitude of formations, shifts and concepts a one-back offense can use create some distinct advantages and dis- advantages for the defense. To be suc- cessful, it is paramount that defenses understand the mindset of an opponent\u2019s one-back package and gear their efforts to minimizing their success. In this article I will discuss how we analyze and breakdown an opponent\u2019s one-back scheme. In addition, I will cover some multiple looks we employ in defending one-back offenses.


The first aspect to consider is what an offense is trying to achieve with their one- back package. What is their philosophy or mentality concerning their attack? Are they trying to spread the field to quickly get four or five receivers out in the route progres- sion? Are they attempting to spread the field and formations to deter or limit a defense\u2019s blitz package? Are they trying to spread the formation to create running lanes? Are they trying to create specific coverage or run-fit mismatches in order to generate explosive plays?

Most one-back oriented offenses employ most, if not all, of these philoso- phies to move the football at a rapid pace. However, being extremely multiple creates advantages and disadvantages for offens-

es as well. The obvious advantage is the ability to be very flexible and multiple each week. However, the disadvantage is that there is only so much time in preparation and only so many plays in a game to exe- cute the multitude of concepts.

Being extremely multiple is great, but when do they have time to efficiently install, consistently rep and call so many things on game day? Currently, in the collegiate set- ting, that is tough. To gain proficiency at the basic schemes in their package, offenses must focus their practice and game repeti- tion time on the basic facets they deem important. This allows them to get good at their desired concepts and schemes.

Therefore, as a defense, it is imperative that we address the base mentality of a one- back scheme and develop our plan of attack according to their strengths and weakness- es. Quite simply, determine what their strengths or tendencies are and attack what they are being most productive and eff i c i e n t with. Rather than spend valuable prepara- tion, meeting and practice time on what an o ffense does not deem important, we would like to use our time and efforts wisely.


In order to evaluate and determine a one- back offe n s e \u2019s mentality, we have devised a checklist system. Within the checklist, we analyze the various components of the offense and hope to gain a tremendous understanding of their basic focus and attack. The 30-point checklist is as follows:

1.What personnel groupings are being

used and what is the dynamic of each grouping? What are they trying to accom- plish with each grouping? Which players are most productive in each grouping?

2.How do they disguise their personnel

groupings? Are formations solely packaged within a personnel grouping or is there some crossover? If so, who are those crossover players?

3.How much shifting and motioning is

employed from each personnel grouping? How much do they place the formation into the boundary?

4.Do shifts or motions tip off certain
plays or route combinations? Does motion
by specific players tip off anything?
5.How good is their tight end? Is he
solely a run blocker or is he a legitimate
pass threat?
6.Does the tight end flex out in various
formations? If so, is he a legitimate vertical
threat or just a decoy?
7.If two tight ends are used, is there a

distinct difference in the players? Is one a frontside versus a back side player? What are their strengths and weaknesses? If three tight end sets are used, what are the characteristics of each player and in what situations are three tight ends being used?

8.Do they shift or motion a tight end to
create two back schemes or expand their
protection package?
9.If there is a runningback rotation, how

many runningbacks play in that rotation? Are the runningback\u2019s individual strengths or weaknesses specific to the play calling?

10.Are the runningbacks legitimate
receiving threats and what routes are they
productive with?
11.What is the quarterback\u2019s mobility or

durability? How sharp is the quarterback with checks? How well does he handle heat in his face?

12.What throws is the quarterback

capable of consistently making? Within for- mations and field zones, where is he dis- tributing the football? Where and why are his interceptions occurring?

13.How expansive or simplistic is their
base run package? Are there many draws,
traps, counter plays or options?
14.What is the run game from shotgun
formations? Who would they prefer to run
the football (quarterback or runningback)?
15.If boots or nakeds are utilized, are
they determined by field, hash, down and
distance or personnel tendencies?
16.What is their base protection

scheme? How many protections do they effectively utilize? How many players are they committing to their protections? Who or what is the weak link in their protection schemes? What has hurt or been ineffec- tive versus their protections?

17.What is their pressure control or
hot package? Who is hot by personnel or
18.Is speed option a productive part of
their package? Do they use it as a regular
call or is it utilized as a pressure check?
19.Is sprint out a productive part of their
package? Do they use it as a regular call or
is it utilized as a pressure check?
20.How extensive is their Screen pack-

age? Do they use it as a regular call or is it utilized as a pressure check? Who is catch- ing the screens and where?

21. Who is the \u201cGo to\u201d receiver in critical
situations? Where is he at by alignment,
formation and down & distance?
22. What is their red zone or goal line
mentality? Does it vary from their open-field
23.What is the extent of their empty
package and what route concepts are they
working the most?
24.Do they use bunch sets or motion to
create bunch sets? What are their basic
bunch concepts?
25.Do they use the various forms of a

no-huddle attack? What is the tempo of the no huddle? What is their signaling and communication procedure?

26.Where, how and why are they get-
ting explosive plays? Is it their effective-
ness or defensive ineffectiveness?
27.What is their level of patience with
the offense?
28.What has given them the most trou-
ble lately?
29.Can we create a different or confus -
ing look that will be effective?
30.What do we do best? What do we
need to do in order to be successful?

After careful film analysis, statistical break- down and the thoughts of our entire defensive staff, we feel that we are able to determine the basic tenets of each opponent\u2019s one-back attack. Consequently, we can address those aspects in game planning and practice repe- tition. The final two questions lead us into our defensive plan of attack.

Defensive Multiplicity

Just like an offense, we feel the need to be multiple and flexible to be effective. We must be able to adjust weekly, and during the course of a game, to combat a powerful offense. However, we do not want to sacri- fice simplicity and the fundamentals of good defensive football to do so. Therefore, we wanted to enhance our defensive package but still keep it simple so our players would still feel comfortable and familiar with it.

We wanted something that could effec- tively and soundly handle one-back offens - es and at the same time be very versatile and built upon some basic tenets of our defensive philosophy. We wanted simplicity within multiplicity. To do this, we adopted a 3-3 defensive front with a five-spoke sec- ondary. Although our base defensive pack- age works from a 4-2-5 concept, we felt that we could also utilize the 30 package as an effective and simplistic change up. In addition, it could present some radically dif- ferent looks opposite our base defense.

The adjustment of our base package was very simple. We simply walked our rush end off the football and placed him at

linebacker depth. After sliding our front weak and the linebackers over strong, we have a 3-3 front with or base secondary (Diagram 1). However, if the rush end was not capable of being an effective coverage player, we could substitute another line- backer or strong safety to fulfill his role.

Also, the defensive tackle must be athlet- ic enough to bounce out and play as an edge rusher at times. The 3-3-5 look, paired with constant pre-snap movement and sugaring of the linebackers and secondary, presented a multitude of options. Thus, we could utilize that flexibility to defend the defined strengths and attack the weaknesses. We developed four basic mentalities for our 30 package that we could build our game plan within. Those categories consisted of Rush, Pressure, Blitz and Bluff.


First, we could bring just one linebacker at any gap to create a four-man front and play anything in our base coverage pack- age. We were simply bringing the line- backer to any of our basic four-man front fits. His run or pass block-fits are exactly the same as a defensive lineman\u2019s block fits. However, he is playing the technique as a blitzer (Diagram 2, 3 and 4).

Diagram 1: Slide Adjustment to 3-3-5
Diagr am 2: Stack Sam B Cov 42
Diagr am 3: Stack Hatchett Cov 44

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