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Jim Svoboda Offensive Coordinator Northwest Missouri State University Maryville, Mo.
ost football coaches would agree that facing an offense which employs a multitude of personnel groups, formations, shifts, and motion is a challenge to defend. When a defense doesn’t have to game plan for an array of looks, it has most of its arsenal at its disposal without having to make a significant number of adjustments. In addition, a defense can more soundly scheme an offense without having to complicate their own defensive package. In light of the fact that defensive success relies in large part on its ability to anticipate, recognize, and react to a play, it seems plausible that finding ways to delay or impede that process would be an advantage for the offense. Presenting multiple formations, shifts, and motions are methods to effectively accomplish this. However, the challenge offensively lies in creating a system that follows a logical sequence which is simple for the players yet is virtually unlimited in its possibilities. Cultivating a multiple-look offense is much more than contriving a number of cleaver formations with creative shifts and motions. Done properly, a multiple offense is born out of some basic concepts and grows much like branches sprouting from the trunk of a tree. The pieces must fit with the overall puzzle if it is to be understandable for the players. The “exceptions” must be minimal. To avoid becoming handcuffed by his own terminology, a coach must first take a hard look at his play calling and formation calling systems. Understandably, this is often the last aspect of the offense a coach wants to tinker with because it is typically the one constant that has remained year in and year out. Yet without a “build on” approach, a coach attempting to become more multiple is left with a hopeless array of “exceptions to the rules,” making his system increasingly confusing and complicated. In addition, it is essential to choose a core group of plays and schemes that can be used out of many looks and subsequently built upon.
down on the number or schemes that are available. In terms of the running game, some versatile plays are: draw, isolation, short trap, tackle trap, counter trap, inside zone, outside zone, speed option, and trap option. Relative to pass protection schemes, keep in mind that these should be untied to the formations from a lineman’s perspective. Who they are responsible for against the various fronts should stay constant. Along with some basic run and pass schemes, it’s equally important to establish some basic ways to run reverses, screen passes, play actions, and bootlegs that can be used out of your different looks. Once a coach determines his basic schemes, he can then be creative with different offensive configurations to accomplish the goal of appearing complex yet keeping it fairly simple for the offensive line. Utilize some type of self-scouting sys tem to alleviate tendencies Without a doubt, the biggest threat to an offense, unless you are sure you have better players than your opponents, is becoming predictable. Employing multiple formations can be a tremendous asset towards obscuring tendencies or it can be a major liability if left unattended. Offensive coaches should always be concerned about tendencies but using multiple formations requires extra caution. Unless a coach scouts his own offense from a defensive perspective, trouble looms ahead because he will naturally be more confident calling certain plays out of certain looks that have worked well in the past. The key here is to strive for efficiency among your runs, passes and exotics within each personnel group and formation. Do not take for granted this occurring just because you have some measure of overall balance in your offense. The beauty of self-scout is that you can know what your defensive opponent knows. If used properly this knowledge can be a very effective weapon because you can deliberately cross up a defensive tenKey Concepts for a Multiple Offense dency chart. Keep the offensive line schemes as sim To effectively utilize self-scout informaple as possible tion, it is important to script plays in The margin for error is smaller and the advance. Scripting will force you to call cerdecision making time is shorter for the tain plays out of certain looks. But do not offensive lineman. Simply put, the linemen wait until the day before the game to script must be certain where they are going and your plays. Through film study and selfwhom they are blocking prior to the snap. It scout, build a master play list early in the is critical then that most line schemes can week, complete with the personnel groups, be utilized with most of the formations that formations, shifts, and motions that you are employed. This should naturally cut feel will be effective against your opponent.
• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •
The plays you use in practice should be taken directly from your master play list so you can execute these plays in the specific manner in which they will be used in the game. Furthermore, it is a good idea to script opening plays for the game taken directly from you master play list as well as plays for certain game situations like third downs and red zone. A well thought out master play list done early in the week is a tedious, time-consuming task. However, if you have confidence in your planning and are disciplined to stay within the script, it will pay big dividends on game day. Use multiple looks and the corre sponding defensive adjustments to your advantage. When you employ multiple looks, a defense will often give you a specific alignment versus a specific formation or personnel group. Similarly, a defense may adjust a certain way versus a particular shift or motion. When this occurs you have an edge on the defense because they have become predictable. But be prepared to take advantage of it when you know what to expect. If, for example, you determine that a defense checks to cover three versus flanker motion to slot, consider your best options against cover three. Or consider an offensive shift that causes no defensive adjustment. In this case you may have created a numbers or leverage advantage for a certain type of run. Sending a runningback in motion is an effective way to get mismatches for your wide receivers. But be ready to exploit it if you can get their best cover guy on your runningback. Another approach is to exploit a defense that overcompensates for a particular formation. Again, have a plan to counter this. There lies within each look you present, a number of possibilities if you analyze, scheme, exploit, and counter. Most defensive coordinators today base their calls on the personnel groups that enter the game. In order to make their calls in a timely manner, they will often key the number of tight ends or wide receivers on the field or whether or not a fullback is in the game. A simple way to limit the possible number of defensive calls is to run a few plays where you spread the field out with traditional two-back or multiple tight end personnel groups. Or you might periodically leave your fullback in your one-back personnel groups. Whatever the case, it can have a dramatic effect on a defensive coordinator’s thinking if he’s not sure if you will
align in a two-back, one-back, or no-back look. Typically we have experienced a defense devising some automatic checks by formation or devising a limited number of universal blitzes. In either case, once we have determined what those limited number of schemes are they usually will not have other schemes to access. Again, they have become predictable. Ideally, the more you can predict from a defense through film study, the more prepared you will be on game day. However, you may be limited by what the offenses are running on the films available to you. Once more, the idea of scripting some specific offensive looks early in the game will allow you to make educated decisions during the course of the game. Know how to deal with the blitz. Being creative with your offensive looks can be very effective and fun, but if you don’t know how to deal with the blitz, you will be in for some very long days. Of course, you can limit the possible number of blitzes you might see by showing some carefully contrived formations in previously played games. It is important in your preparation to set aside some time in the practice schedule to work specifically on blitz pickup while both running and passing the football. This will breed confidence in the offensive unit. You want to get to the point where your players are not surprised by the blitz. The goal should be to develop a mentality on offense that you actually want the defense to blitz because it can create great opportunities when you beat it. In facing teams that blitz often, take the approach with your offense that while a defense may at times make you look bad, big plays are lurking because there are inherent risks with blitzing. And, if this tactic does not work for a defense, they often don’t have any bullets left. The key is for your players to stay positive, focused and in rhythm. Give special attention to the one-back and no-back alignments in your package. You must have answers for the blitz in these scenarios. It’s much easier for the defense to out-number you on a side simply because you’ll have only five or six potential blockers. Have checks or sight adjustments ready for these looks. Finally, at the risk of being redundant, scripting a variety of looks for early in the game can give you valuable clues as to a defense’s approach for your game. Use the “build-on” approach to call formations.
While we exhibit literally dozens upon dozens of offensive alignments, in reality we start with only a few basic formations and use terms or “tags” to move our personnel around. Each position player has terms that apply to only him. Consequently, it isn’t necessary for all of the position players to know all of the terms to employ a multitude of formations. By limiting what each player has to know, the chances of confusion and misalignment are diminished. In terms of our formation calling sequence, we start with an announcement on the sideline of the personnel group assigned for the upcoming play. We then signal the formation to the position players (not the quarterback) in the huddle starting with the formation (including any “tags”) followed by shifts (if any) followed by motion (if any). One of the position players then announces the formation in the huddle. The quarterback then announces the play which was signaled to him by a second signal giver on the sideline, followed by the snap count. There are a couple of advantages to splitting up the formation calls and the play. First, the formations and plays in our system can get rather wordy so spitting it up cuts down on errors. Secondly, it naturally fits into a nohuddle scenario so in a sense, our regular offense and our two-minute offense are not much different. Don’t be apprehensive about signaling. Its probably simpler than you think and players will pick it up faster than you think. Just make sure you have a “dummy” or two on the sideline. Never underestimate those dirty defensive dogs. The following are the position designations, personnel groups and formations we employ at Northwest Missouri. Position Designations Q - Quarterback T - Second tight end A - Halfback U - Third tight end B - Fullback H - Third receiver Y - Tight end J - Fourth receiver Z - Flanker K - Fifth receiver X - Split end Two Back Personnel Groups Regular: A, B, Y, Z, X. Open: A, B, H, Z, Y Truck: A, B, Y T, Z Hoss: A, B, Y, T, U Two Back Formations Rip/Liz (“I”) Rome/Leo (“Split”) East/West (strong backs) Right/Left (weak backs)
• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •
• These formations apply to all two-back personnel groups. One Back/No Back Personnel Groups and One-Back Formations Groups Formations Ace: A, Y, T, Z, X……………..Ram/Lion Duce: A, Z, X, H, J……………Rocket/Laser Trey: A, Y, Z, X, H……………Ray/Lou Sonic: Z, X, H, J, K…….........Sonic Right/ Sonic Left Remember that it’s not necessary or even advisable to use a lot of personnel groups to get to multiple formations. A high school coach for example, may be fortunate to have one good tight end, a couple of good receivers and a couple of good running backs. Use the “build-on” approach to move them around. The following are examples of how we move position players around using “tags.” Keep in mind that the position players always go either to the formation call or opposite the call unless they hear a term that applies to them. The backs always align in the formation called unless they hear a term that applies to them as well (See Diagrams 1-3). Personnel: “Regular” Formation: “Rip”
them remember an alignment based solely on the play we run. Another way we have become more precise with our alignments is with our use of motion. We will give a player landmarks by expanding the use of our oddeven hole number systems (See Diagram 6).
In utilizing shifts the players will end up in the formation called in the huddle after the shift (See Diagrams 4 & 5). Personnel Group: “Regular” Formation: “Liz under jump”
An example of a call using motion might be: “Rome Z-9” (See Diagram 7).
“Jump” is a term that applies to “Y”. However, the other players may also shift, provided they end up in the formation called. Personnel Group: “Ace” Formation: “Ram lunge jump”
Personnel: “Regular” Formation: “Liz slot over”
“Slot” applies to “Z” only. “over” applies to “B” only. Personnel” “Truck” Formation: “Liz far flex” “Far” applies to “A” only. “Flex” applies to “Y” only.
• In this scenario we have actually called two shifts. “Lunge” applies to “T” and again “jump” applies to “Y”. We also have a term we simply call “Shift.” In using this call, we can start in a basic formation and shift to one of our more unique formations moving several players at once. Over the years we have gotten fairly intricate with our alignments adding terms seemingly each year. Our wide receivers for example, have their base alignments but we will move them a great deal by adding terms like near, close, squeeze, medium and so forth giving them more specific spots on the field rather than having
We can now call any player into motion and have them arrive at an exact location instead of using a generic term like “zoom” or “zip” which would require a player to memorize his arrival spot based on the play. Hopefully you can glean something from the article that will benefit you in refining your multiple offense. Like most offensive systems, ours has been an evolutionary process. While we have had a few original ideas over the years, our offense has been actualized by adopting the creative ideas of others. By having some fundamental concepts that never change, we have managed to incorporate many effective variations without sacrificing a great deal of execution. In many ways we’ve been limited only by our own imagination. Our experience has lead us to believe that players can pick-up more than you think they can. The result has been an offense that has been fun for the fans and players, and productive on the field. Hopefully you will have the same experience.
• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •
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