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utilizing the back in the one-back passing game

utilizing the back in the one-back passing game


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Published by: Michael Schearer on Nov 16, 2008
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n behalf of the entire Carroll College football staff, I would like to thank the AFCA for the opportunity

and privilege of contributing this article for the 2002 Summer Manual . During the past two seasons, Carroll College has advanced to the national semifinals of the NAIA. One of the reasons we feel we have been successful is the ability to get the ball to our runningbacks in our passing game. In our o ffense, the runningback position is invaluable. Our backs must be three dimensional: they must have the ability to block, run and catch the ball out of the backfield. Over the last two seasons our running backs have caught 115 passes, accounting for nearly 1,200 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns! One of our favorite routes is what we call “78 Read.” We feel that this route is good versus the blitz, man, three deep, or two deep schemes. This article will discuss the adjustments for each defensive scheme. We will run this route out of every formation and personnel group that we incorporate in our offensive system. However, for this article we will stick to our three wide receiver, one tight end set, or our “doubles” set (Diagram 1).


Diagram 1: 78 Read

landmark as before, but now he tries to “rub” the linebacker, forcing the linebacker underneath, creating a poor angle for him to cover the back. When the rub takes place, it enables us to throw the ball to the back, producing the mismatch that we are trying to establish, and allows us the opportunity for the big play. The slot receiver continues across the field in man coverage, as this area should be cleared out by our backside route combination. Our backside receivers both run fades, or go routes (Diagram 2A). This is very important when facing teams that try to switch pass responsibilities between the inside linebacker and the safety. We feel that anytime we can get our wide receiver matched up on the inside linebacker we should win that battle. When the quarterback sees the switch occur, he will go to the slot receiver right away. If the defense plays press-man with the corners rolled up, the quarterback may check to the backside fade if he likes the match-up. This is usually a game plan call based on personnel. Remember, against man coverage we want to take the high percentage throw to the runningback and let him make a play. Coaching Points: Get the ball to the back as often as you can versus man coverage. Also, the back’s route must be crisp and distinct. Work the receiver’s rub route daily; make the commitment to get the ball to the playmaker!

Utilizing the Back in the One-Back Passing Game

Nick Howlett Offensive Coordinator/ Quarterbacks Coach Carroll College Helena, Mont.

Diagram 2: 78 Read vs. Blitz

The outside receiver (X) is going to run the post hook, breaking to the post at 12 yards, and settling in the hole at 16 yards. The slot receiver’s landmark is the upfield hip of the first inside linebacker, at a depth of six to eight yards. The runningback is going to release just outside the offensive tackle, and break to the sideline between three and five yards. As the quarterback comes to the line and sees one safety in the window (the area between the hashes 10 to 12 yards deep), his post snap read becomes the playside/inside linebacker. We feel that the inside linebacker will give the quarterback an immediate post-snap coverage read. If the linebacker is on a stunt the quarterback must beat him with the throw by simply dumping the ball to the back (Diagram 2). In a man coverage scheme, the slot receiver has the same

Diagram 2a: 78 Read vs. Man Free with Switch

There are very few adjustments on the Read route when attacking Cover 3. The wide receivers’ landmarks will remain constant, but the slot will look to settle in the zone, rather than run across the field(Diagram 3). The X receiver now becomes a more viable target,

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2002 •

because we now have the curl-flat combination, with the runningback and the X receiver. At this point, we have put the flat defender in a bind. We are trying to work him laterally. This becomes a very simple curl flat read for the quarterback. Coaching Point: The runningback must recognize and understand the coverage. Against Cover 3 the back must expand the flat defender as quickly as possible, thus creating the coverage problem. It is imperative that the back runs his route at full speed. If the flat defender holds the curl too long we want to throw to our back at full speed, outflanking the defender. If the flat defender takes away the back, and the inside linebacker gets underneath the post-hook, the slot receiver must work back outside to replace the inside linebacker (Diagram 3A). The read progression for the quarterback is a simple one. Once the quarterback understands coverage rules, this route becomes virtually impossible to defend in Cover 3. If the defense tries to run the backside linebacker to the middle and take away the slot receiver, then the quarterback simply throws the backside seam to the tight end.

Diagram 3: 78 Read vs. Cover 3

Diagram 3a: 78 Read vs. Cover 3 Jump

Two high schemes are something that we see weekly. Our adjustments are again subtle, but effective. Whenever we put a receiver or runningback in the flat, we tell our outside receivers that they must get an outside release. We have stressed this to the point that even if our receiver gets pressed completely out of bounds, he has created the void necessary to get the ball to the runningback. Obviously, if the receiver can get a clean outside release the quarterback will fit the ball in between the corner and the safety. Once again, it is important that the runningback is

able to distinguish coverage and make the necessary adjustments. If the back reads Cover 2, with a squat corner, he will stop his route and look for the ball. Remember, the back wants to widen the flat defender in any Cover 3 scheme. However, versus Cover 2 he can look to hook up because he will usually not pull the safety any wider to open the outside receiver in Cover 2. The slot receiver will typically hold the middle linebacker creating a hole in the zone for the back to catch the ball. Again, the slot receiver’s landmark has not changed; he will still work to the upfield hip of the first inside linebacker. This landmark remains the same because the receiver has not determined whether it is Cover 2, or two-man. If the defense is playing a two-man scheme, the routes will stay the same as the man-free adjustments discussed earlier, with one exception. In a two-man scheme we will give the outside receiver the ability to run the skinny post if the safety remains flat-footed (Diagram 4). We will try to get the ball to the back as soon as possible versus Cover 2, unless we have the quick fade to the X receiver. We have found that quickly throwing the ball to the back makes the corner more aware of the runningback and opens the door for the “home run” ball to the outside receiver on the quick fade. Anytime the inside linebacker drops at “zero,” or straight back, the slot has the ability to sit directly in front of the linebacker, or continue to the next gap in the zone coverage. This is extremely effective against defenses that are using the outside linebacker to carry the No. 2 receiver, or tight end, on the vertical (Diagram 5). The backside routes do not change at all. We want to run vertical and stretch the backside as much as we can. The tight end will take the quickest release from the line, and once he is into his route he wants to gain width, pulling the safety off the hash. The quarterback will look front side as much as possible, rarely checking to the backside. The exception to this occurs when the quarterback likes the match up with the outside receiver and the corner, knowing that the tight end should hold the safety, creating a one on one. The read route has been very good to us. We feel that we can execute this scheme against any look or coverage the defense presents us. We feel very strongly about the contribution to our pass game that our runningbacks make. There are several reasons that we feel this way. We have found that we can throw to the backs with a higher percentage of completion, and still have big play potential. The big play arises not only from the mismatches created by throwing to the back, but

Diagram 4: 78 Read vs. Flat-Footed Safety

Diagram 5: 78 Read vs. Cover 2

also in the defense’s attempt to control our backs. We have been fortunate enough to hit some “home run” balls to the outside receivers because our runningbacks demand so much attention. The runningback routes are built in “hots,” and are great at defeating blitz schemes that defenses utilize. When playing defenses that are based on multiple blitzes and bring a tremendous amount of pressure we simply go to our “stay” protection and keep the tight end in. Runningbacks have become so versatile that defenses are loading the box to stop the run, and therefore, stop your playmaker. We feel that this is another way to get our playmakers the ball on the perimeter, and put pressure on the defense. Most of our backs’ routes are not difficult to teach. The route combinations are not complicated, but consist of easy to learn reads for the quarterbacks, and simple adjustments for the receivers. The majority of our route adjustments can be determined presnap, by both the receiver and by the quarterback. Our runningbacks have become a central part of our offense, particularly in the red zone. We see defenses trying to bring so much pressure, and wanting to play man-to-man defense, that the runningback is, often times, unaccounted for and left alone in the end zone! These are a few of the reasons that we will continue to utilize the back in the one-back passing game. Hopefully, some of the information presented here will be useful to you and directly impact the success of your teams! Again, I would like to thank the AFCA for this opportunity to share some ideas with you, and wish you the best of luck this fall. If there are any questions about the Read route, or anything else that we do, please, do not hesitate to contact us. Go Saints!

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2002 •

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