This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
THE CHOICE ROUTE IN THE PASSING GAME
TRINITY HIGH SCHOOL, KY.
Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the St. Louis Coach of the Year Clinic, and even though I am from Missouri, it did not feel like home to me. Kentucky has been very good for me, and I feel more at home today. This is my second year at Trinity High School. The city of Louisville has welcomed my family and we feel at home here. I want to thank my athletic director Dennis Lampley for bringing me to Trinity. Dennis and I share many of the same philosophies related to coaching. First and foremost with philosophy is to win. If you do not win, you will not be up here. That is a philosophy that we share. Last week my offensive coordinator Andrew Coverdale mailed me a note that I thought was very interesting. It read, "If you do not like losing, WIN!" For you that have not been to Trinity High School, I can tell you it is a pleasure to work at a school that is so conducive to winning. We have a tremendous facility including a 7,000-foot weight room. It is well stocked, but that does not mean anything if you do not have athletes. We have a full time strength coach in Bob Maddox. We have about 200 kids that come out for football. We have a 17-person staff to work with. I welcome you to come visit us and watch film, or watch us work out, or just talk with our staff. You are welcome to come by and talk football. When I became a head coach five years ago I decided I would make a commitment to being a head coach. I sat down with my family and discussed the situation with them. I told them I did not know how long I would stay in coaching but I wanted to make a commitment to be successful. My family wanted to know what I meant by that. I said my hobbies are out the door. I used to hunt and fish. I do not do those things anymore. The
bottom line is that football is a 24-hour job and 365-days-a-year job for me. It is a business for me. Some of you may think that is crazy, but that is a commitment I made. I think you need that commitment to be successful. About the only hobby I have now is mowing the yard, and my son is old enough to do that now, so I do not have to do that any more. I do not worry about going hunting or fishing. I work on football. I know some of my assistants do not want to spend as much time on football as I do, but I expect the same type of commitment out of them. I can recall sitting down with Dennis Lampley in an interview two years ago. I sat down with Dennis and his son, Brad. We talked about the run and shoot, west coast, and the passing game offense. I talked about the passing game philosophy that I have. Brad asked me what I would do if I did not have a quarterback. I told him we did not have to have a quarterback that had a strong arm. I told him we could teach him to throw the ball on time and that we would be ok. He said what if you have a quarterback that cannot throw the ball on time. I assured him we could develop a quarterback that could throw on time. Dennis said it may be a problem because I am not sure if we have a quarterback. So two years ago when I came to Trinity High School and sat down to talk about our offense we did not know who would be the starting quarterback. We picked three players and dropped them back 5 yards and ran 10-yard out routes. The quarterback that could throw the ball accurately and on time and had enough knowledge to know when to throw the ball would be our starter. Our starter threw for 2700 yards and 27 TD's. You do not need a strong-arm quarterback to run our
offense. We were the AAA state runner up in 2000. The quarterback did not have a strong arm and was not a great athlete. He was 6'1" and weighed 170 pounds. He understood the system and he could throw the ball on time. The year before I came to Trinity High School I had a quarterback throw for 2800 yards. This year we had a better athlete at quarterback. He was only a sophomore but he threw for 3100 yards and 39 TD's. I know the offense worked with a kid that was not very athletic, and I know it worked with a kid that was very athletic. We all know if you have athletes, you will win 80 percent of your games. I am going to talk to you about the choice route and the west coast look at the play. I will show you the defenses we see. The defenses are pretty much vanilla. We premise our offense around the choice route. It is called choice because you have a choice on the outside. It is more or less a spring to the one receiver side. A lot of coaches ask me if it is a 5step drop. I tell them I do not know. They ask me if it is a rollout pass. I tell them I do not know. The quarterback throws the ball when the receiver is open. It may be on the fifth step and it may be on a roll, or it may be on the eighth step as he gets flushed. Ideally we would like to throw the pass on five steps. It is a route that is conducive to the 90-Step game, or 3-step game. We do use the three-step game down in the red zone. The play is conducive to multiple formations, which is the west coast end of the play. It is great with play-action passing, and the bootleg game. By the time you get through with the adjustments, you can get about 27 formations with this route. At times I will sit down with our offensive coordinator and suggest that we have been too complacent. "Here is the play, now give me 18 formations using this route." The key to the west coach passing game is this. Who is on the outside; who is in the middle; and who is on the inside? We do not have a passing tree. We do not call out to run pass 782. That is not our system. I do not think the quarterback can picture 782 in his mind.
That is my philosophy. That is a memory route. We just have one number. They must know from memory the route. They have to know outside, middle, and inside. Also, they have to know front side and back side. It may sound complicated, but it is not. It is our system and they must learn the system. I think the choice route is an excellent shortyardage route. It is a mid-range route and I think you can go up on top real quick with the pass. The scheme we run the play from does not really matter. The thing that makes the play good is because we teach the kids how to run the routes. I will discuss this first before I start showing schemes. Our base is four wide. We may not open the game in this set, but it is our base. That is the way we teach it from in the very beginning. We start with the X and Z Receivers. The X end is going to run a 10-yard out route, unless we make a different call. It is a 10-yard out route that we want him to catch the ball at 8 yards. If it is 3rd and 12 yards to go, we will call, "Choice - Get the Sticks." The receiver knows to go to a spot where he can get the 12 yards. It is that simple. If we run an out route, we are not going to convert the route just because we get pressed. We feel the corner will end up in one of three areas. If you are stemming, that is even better because you are moving, and that creates an advantage for us. When you are moving, you have to move twice to get back into position to cover the receiver. We read your stem and react to the moves. If we are pressed, we are still going to run our out route. That is how much confidence we have in the play as long as our quarterback and receiver are on the same page. The play is called much like you would call a preread option play. The X end runs the out until we tell him different. There are games we will allow the receiver to make a choice with the
quarterback. We do that a number of ways. It can be called from the coaching staff. We can have the receiver tap his helmet. He can switch his stance, looking at the quarterback and making eye contact. If he does not look at the quarterback, the quarterback knows he is going to run the out route. There are a lot of ways to signal the quarterback. If we give him a choice, we only give him three routes. He may run an out, slant, or a go route. We have more than those three, but going into a game we never gave him more than three routes. The offensive coordinator relays the play to me and I relay it to the quarterback. I will call out, "Choice route - stay in it." It is like a pitcher and catcher where the pitcher waves the catcher off. If we call "Stay in it," we do not want the quarterback to change the call. The way we teach the play is to get the defense on the inside hip. We may not get the corner on the inside hip, which means we are going to come off the route. But we have several techniques to get the defense to move inside. We may have to cut our split down to get the alignment we want but the quarterback and receiver see the same thing. The quarterback takes five steps. He must be ready to throw on time. I do not have the running back blocking right or left in the protection because we do not know the protection. We will not know the protection until we get to the line of scrimmage. A lot of time, the play calling is very lengthy. That may be the down side of the west coast offense.
Here is a typical play for us. It is our basic choice with open trips. "Right-Out-Z6-H-Flat-Choice." That may sound long to you. But when you know the system you know we are telling all the receivers what to do. In those words I just gave you include the protection we want to use on this play. We may move the backs around, or we may slide the line left or right, or we may cup block. Let me talk about the drag route by the H back on the left side. It is important to split 3 yards from the offensive tackle. This is very crucial. This puts the defensive end in a tough position. It gives the H back enough room to escape to run the route. I have the basic route set up how we would run the play against man coverage. We tell the H back to release off the ball, come up and drum roll with the feet, stick the foot, and run away. If we faced zone coverage we would change the route. We would settle in the runway if it closes. We settle in the first window, and then he slides to the next window. It is much like a basketball slide to get there. That is all the drag is. If we face man, we tell him to keep running. If it is zone, we want him to look to settle in the windows. Next is the inside route for the Y receiver. It is the middle route. It is the most important route. I would like to tell you I developed some of this on our own but it did not happen that way. I did bring this play with me when I came from Kansas City. When I was coaching at Blue Springs, I had a quarterback that broke six or seven national records when he was a senior. We knew he was special because the University of Houston was recruiting him when John Jenkins was at Houston Jack Pardee. They would not give us much information when we talked with them. We sent them tapes on our quarterback. He invited us to visit in Houston. He was a lot more willing to share information with us after he saw our quarterback. We spent a total of 10 days with them in Houston. John Jenkins brought in Mouse Davis and I got to sit with those two coaches and listen to them discuss the passing game. I learned more in 10 days than I did in 10 years before that. That is where I got this route. This route is the read route. This play makes us
BASIC CHOICE - OPEN TRIPS
the passing team that we are. The bottom line in the run and shoot is this: "Where you are on defense, we aren't." That is the premise of the offense. As the Y receiver releases, we do not want contact with the under defender. We tell him to escape contact. If we do get contact, we tell the receiver to shove him into the route. We are not just interested in beating the underneath defender. We want to escape him. The defender we are concerned with as we sprint away is the free safety. We want to remove the free safety from the middle of the field, hopefully. If we do not remove him, we are still ok. He reads his landmark at 12 yards. We say 10 yards is too shallow, and 14 yards is possibly too deep. As the Y receiver escapes the underneath defender, he eyeballs the free safety. If the safety goes high, then we are going to speed break the route and get in the vision of the quarterback. Here are the coaching points on the route. If the receiver gets lazy and does not take it flat, he will only do it one time. In our 7-on-7 drills, we tell our free safety to take away the Y receiver’s key so he will quit running a poor route. If the receiver gets too high, he loses his key. When he comes back to the huddle, there is no sympathy for him from me. If the safety is playing high, we run a speed-break route and get into the vision of the quarterback. Keep in mind we are only sprinting to a point inside our offensive tackle. Let's talk about the route if the free safety is removed. I will show you play action in a minute where we can make that safety move. We tell the Y receiver he has 2-and-2 yards within which to work. He is working 2 yards inside the hash mark and 2 yards outside the hash mark. That is his window. He can open his hips slightly. He is running the seam-read route. He wants to get the outside hand up so the quarterback can see him. We want to throw the ball deep. Here is the progression on the read. The seam route is the number one progression read, the Y seam is number two, and the H receiver on the drag is number three. The backside receiver is the fourth receiver. Is he probably going to get the
ball? The answer is no. If the backside receiver does not run his route properly the safety could drift over and make the play on the seam route. His rule is this. If we get soft coverage he wants to sit down at 8 yards. The hash mark rule is this. He cannot cross the hash mark to the inside. We do not want him in the way of the seam route. We have hit the backside receiver for big plays in the last two years when the quarterback gets flushed and is scrambling to find an open receiver. Nothing changes when we run the 90 game with the play, except the routes are cut in half. The out route now becomes a 5- or 6-yards route. The drag route is run in a hurry, the seam route is run at 7 yards, and the go read route breaks off at 5 to 6 yards. If they have seven rushers coming after us, we pop the pass in a hurry because they have no free safety in the middle of the field. It is a great 90-action pass.
PLAY ACTION "CHOICE" - OPEN TRIPS Now I will show you how the west coach phase of the play comes into play and how we get into multiple formations. We have enough personnel groups to run just about any formation. We have so many of them we break it down where we have so many per game. This is what we call our 11 personnel. It means we have 1 tight end in the game, 1 back, and 3 wide receivers in the game. Realistically, not a lot changes here except the fact that we had a different type of athlete running the drag route. He is bigger and more aggressive. He is meaner than hell. He is looking to hunt defenders to hit. We would like for him to get open.
BASIC "CHOICE" - TE TRIPS We do see a different defensive front with the tight end on the field. If the defense does not put another defender in the box, we are going to think about running the football. Realistically, nothing changes on the play. As intelligent as our young quarterback is, as a sophomore he did not know what each player was running on the route. But he did know he had a player on the out, on the drag, and a receiver on the go read, and a receiver on the backside that is going to sit down to the outside. He may not know who is going to run the routes, but he knows that someone is going to run the route. That is the west coast end of the play. He may not know who is going to be in those areas, but he does know there is going to be a body there for the route. If we get a two-safety look, nothing changes at all, except we need to find the near safety as opposed to a one-safety look. We see that look often. To switch things up, we can run from the wing formation look. This is not much of a change but it is enough to get defenders to turn their head. We may have a better route runner at H back than we have at the Y position. The same situation is true if you have four wide outs and you have a small back in the H back position, he may not be physical enough to run the drag route inside. We may want to substitute a larger player in the H position. In the west coast offense you must know who is running the different routes. That is what that offense is all about. This means the Y receiver has to learn to run those different routes.
MIDDLE & INSIDE SWITCH - WING SET I want to give a lot of credit to our assistant for their job on teaching these routes. We have meetings before practice on offense everyday. We are out of school at 2:40 pm. We start meetings at 3:00 pm and end at 3:20 pm. Then the players go out and walk through what we are going to run that day. We also have a meeting on game day. We cover it on the overhead projector with them. They cover this in the classroom, and then go out on the field and walk through our script of plays that we are going to open the game with. We script the first 15 plays. Our players feel real confident in what we are going to do in the game. It is using different people to get different match-ups in the game. Another set that I like is from the two-back set. One reason I like this set is because we do not have to change personnel groupings on this set or the wing set. However, we may want to make a change in personnel if we feel we need to make a change. The one thing that makes it tough is that the H back must learn eight different positions on the field. He must be a special athlete. He must know what to do from a slot, out, outside, wing, wide, wider, under, and over. We know that is a lot of positions to learn. It takes a lot of reps to learn this, but it is not really that difficult to learn. It is a system.
The progression is the same. We look for the seam read first, the go read is second, and the drag third. If the quarterback gets flushed, we do not want him looking for the drag at first. We are looking for 12 yards first on the play. You could run the wide receiver on the bunch from outside without motion. He would have to get to the drag faster. We tell the receiver to get from point A to point B as fast as you can. But, with short motion, it is a lot easier to settle down and find an open window. When we run the play action, the fake to the running back forces the linebacker to step up, and this gives the H back a window for the quarterback to get the ball to the receiver. It is not much of a fake but it is enough to give the receiver additional room to get to the open window. Another set that I like to run the play is from the counter-bootleg action. Our quarterback runs about a 4.7 for the forty. He is a tall kid, so we get him outside on the bootleg. You can run the play from anywhere on the field. You can run it from three wide or four wide. You can run the play from a lot of different personnel groupings. You can bring the guard out for protection for the quarterback. Sometimes we pull him out, and sometimes we do not pull him. It depends on the front we face. It is a great bootleg play.
MIDDLE & INSIDE SWITCH - TOW BACKS Here are the coaching points on the play. The H back must not give the quarterback a "no read." This means the H cannot hesitate on the route. If he is going to be wrong on the route we want him to be wrong at full speed. If he gives the quarterback a false read and we get the pass intercepted I am not going to blame the quarterback. I am going to get on the receiver. I do not think our quarterbacks are perfect, but I do not want the receiver giving a false read by not going full speed on the play. It is amazing how the H back can come off the ball and hide himself on the play. He has a rub with Y running the drag route. It is a good play. The next set we used on the play was from the bunch set. We used short motion on the play to set the bunch set. It is not really complicated once you know who is going to be on the inside, middle, and the drag. The whole idea on the bunch attack is to condense the pack down, and then explode out of the bunch. As the year went on, we got a lot better on this set.
CHOCIE - COUNTER BOOT - WING SET Another set that I like on the play is our isolation action. We do not run the isolation very much. It is a zone action isolation play. If you get a free safety that commits to the run, the H back can run
INSIDE and OUTSIDE SWITCH - SHORT MOTION
right by the safety man. There is no change on the read on the progression on the play.
CHOICE - FULL-FLO ISOLATION BOOT TWO BACKS We did something this year that we really liked. We got it from the Denver Broncos. On Wednesday night after practice, this is what we do. We review our game plan from Monday. On Monday we have a ton of stuff in the game plan. Tuesday is what we call frustration day. We throw so much at the players I am frustrated at the players after practice. The offensive coordinator is frustrated because we have too much in the game plan. This is what we want. We start throwing out some of the game plan on Tuesday. We polish on Wednesday and we may throw out a little more. Between the Wednesday night practice and Thursday morning, the offensive coordinator would write down the 15 plays he wanted to script for the game. I would write down the 15 plays that I wanted. We did not share these plays with each other until Thursday morning. It was amazing how many of the same plays we had on the scripts. I may say to Andrew, "I like your opening play better than my opening play." It may be the other way around. Most of the time we would agree on about nine of the fifteen plays most of the time. We both had a few plays that we wanted to do that were a little different, but most of the time we agreed on the game plan. We felt this made us a better football team. Let me give you an example of what I mean by our game plan. Let's say it is 3rd and 7 to go in the middle of the field. The script called for us to run the isolation pass. Andrew would come to me and
remind me of what Coach Shanahan of the Broncos said. "They expect you to throw the football." I told Andrew we were going to run the isolation play. We ran the isolation and gained 29 yards on the play. This is where the script can work for you. When we get into the red zone we come off the script. If we are in our backed-up offense, we are going to come off the script. If it is 3rd and 1 inch, we are not going to throw the fade. But I tell our receiver and backs to believe in what we call. To us there is no such thing as a bad play. If we call a fade route on 3rd and 1 inch to go, we expect the offense to complete the play. That is our offensive philosophy. Do we have any questions? You may ask how many formations we are going to go into a game with. It depends on how comfortable our kids feel with that route going into that game. It is one of our base routes. Last week the question was asked as to how many times we were going to run this play in a game. We may run it four or five times, but we are not going to give you the same look twice because that is the way the system works. Let me show these routes on the tapes. It has been a pleasure to visit with you. Thank you.