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n behalf of John Lyons and the offensive staff at Dartmouth College, Joe Leslie (offensive line), Scott Sallach (wide receivers), Adam Hollis (runningbacks) and Bill Polin (tight ends) it is an honor for me to contribute to the 2003 AFCA Summer Manual. This past season we were able to make some huge strides to reaching our goal of being the best offense in the country. We finished 10th in the country in total offense (416.6 per game) and eighth in passing offense (293.1 per game). Four of our six offensive skill players received all league recognition and our tight end was named first-team All American. We had two receivers finish in the Top 10 in receptions (fifth and eighth) and our quarterback set an Ivy League record for total offense (330.6 per game), while finishing third nationally in the same category. Our offensive success in 2002 was made possible by a strong commitment on the part of our players and coaching staff in the philosophy of the Dartmouth football program. Philosophy Here at Dartmouth College, our offensive philosophy is to be an attacking style offense. We want to keep the defense guessing, while we try to take advantage of their apprehension. We try to be as multiple as possible while also allowing our athletes the ability to master the finer techniques of the game. We hope to stay innovative and exciting enough to watch and attract great young talent, while never losing touch with the basic fundamentals of football. The result is the ability to have an offense which poses far more difficulty preparing for than implementing. There is no greater illustration of these principles than within our “NoBacks Package.” Implementation The first thing we look at when deciding what to implement in our No-Backs Package is to look at the capabilities of our personnel. We realize that every team is different and we do not think you can stretch every package to fit every team. Our No-Backs Package can be as large or as small as we want. The size and scope of the package will change year to year and week to week. The first great advantage we have in our No-Backs Package is that the majority of what we do is carry over from our one- and two-back sets. This allows us the flexibility
to use many different personnel groups because we do not need to teach all new plays. When we first introduce our no backs package it is from our base 21 personnel (two backs and one tight end). Since our two-back pass game is predicated on all five eligible receivers being part of the pattern we are confident our backs can contribute to our pass game success (our fullback caught 44 passes and was first team all league). In addition, when we remove them from the backfield they will still run the same complimentary route so there is no additional teaching. If their complimentary route is a flare from the backfield then it is the same when they are split out in their new alignment (Diagram 1 and Diagram 2).
Diagram 1: Pro Right Split All Slant
Diagram 2: Pro Right Slot All Slant
We will teach “the concepts” of our patterns to each of the eligible receivers. This enables the athlete to understand why we ask them to use certain techniques, get to particular depths on routes and the importance of precision in a potent passing attack. The more complete the understanding of the concepts is, the more flexibility we have to cross train players between positions. Our tight end this past season is a perfect example. He led all divisions for receiving tight ends and was eighth in total receptions in I-AA. At varying times he played fullback, split end, and flanker in our No-Backs Package. The simplicity of the system allows experienced players to be versatile, playing multiple positions, while it also allows young players and less talented players to contribute by asking them to play certain positions and run the routes they feel com -
fortable running. We never want be in a position where we can not play the best players simply because they do not know the whole offense. On the other hand we do not want to completely limit our schemes just because some players are not as talented. In our system each player is being asked to do no more or less than what he knows and can do well. How They Will Defend Once we have implemented our scheme, we can begin to look at how the defense will prepare for what we have done. Being able to stay in 21 personnel (two back/one tight end) and split the backs out, makes it more difficult for the defense to use special defensive units, such as nickel and dime personnel vs. no backs. This can help us force the defense to rely on down and distance calls as opposed to personnel. By limiting defensive substitutions, we can create the match-ups we want by putting stress on the weaker defenders. It also allows us the ability to take advantage of schemes more vulnerable to what we do well. While we are in 21 personnel, teams who use more nickel and dime packages to stop our no backs pass game are susceptible to us lining up in more traditional sets leveling the playing field for our more complete players. The end result for defenses is that they are being stressed. They are torn between being too basic and easily read or too complicated and outside their own players’ grasp. This stress typically results in us getting definitive reads of what is being played against us. We have found that most teams look at no backs as a novelty and they generally have two base checks (one blitz and one zone) vs. 21 personnel. As a result, the quarterback can have a good idea of what the defense is going to play for coverage e.g. double safety, single safety, or no safety deep. These are the cues (two deep, one deep or man) he uses to bring him to his read. Because of this, I have found no back sets to be a great tool to use to teach quarterbacks about defenses. When watching film with the quarterbacks I start with our 3/2 “no back” cutups because the picture is clear when we talk about base coverage (double safety, single safety and no safety). This helps the quarterbacks to understand where the weaknesses to each of the cover concepts exist.
(Diagram 3, Diagram 4 and Diagram 5.) It also provides a great look at post snap coverage rotations and how the back seven of two deep work together, making it easier for them to understand why the stretches we try to create within our own patterns are productive.
Diagram 3: Double Safety
Execution Easy as 1, 2, 3 Once we have implemented the package so our players fully understand what we are doing, and analyze the defense to fully understand what they are doing, we must execute the play. In order to ensure that we execute, we check to make sure our alignment has not forced a defensive misalignment. First, the quarterback will always check numbers either side of the formation to be sure the defense has covered out with enough defenders. This means the defense must have at least one defender for each receiver to that side. If they do not we will throw our bubble screen to that side (Diagram 6).
Diagram 4: Single Safety
Diagram 5: No Safety
We feel our No-Backs Package gives the quarterback a clear view of the defense’s intention. We believe when the field is spread by formation it is more difficult for the defense to disguise what they are doing. It forces the defense to get to their proper position quicker because we have already stretched the defense by alignment. The formation allows him a quicker read post snap because we do not have to wait for a stretch to be created between backs in the backfield and receivers on the perimeter. He can also see any safety rotations easier because we have forced them to defend sideline to sideline right now. We also believe that by forcing the defense to limit their schemes the quarterback can get a good idea of where to attack each team. Teams that do carry more than two adjustments run the risk of wasting practice time (In 2001 we ran 34 snaps of no backs one week and four snaps the next week.)
Second, he will check the leverage of the defense to see if we have them outflanked. If we have out leveraged the defense to either side, we will then throw our receiver screen to that side. Our general rule of what is enough leverage is when the defender is two or more yards inside the slot receiver (Diagram 7). How much we may need to out leverage the defense will vary based on our opponents ability. We discuss this variable week to week.
Diagram 7: Leverage
Third, if all receivers are covered and we do not out leverage the defense then the quarterback will check the number of defenders in the tackle box. If there are five defenders or less inside the tackle box, the quarterback will check to quarterback draw. This ensures that we will block every defender and we will only run draw vs. favorable conditions. We feel that by using the numbers count system we have an effective way to quick-
ly attack the flank or the interior from no backs depending on what the defense is giving us. In each situation if the quarterback is not completely comfortable with either screen or draw he may stay with the play call of three-step or five-step pass game. Conclusion As a result of this 1-2-3 process during the pre snap we ensure that we will execute. Our athletes are confident we will capitalize on any opportunities based on defensive alignment. (We gained four-plus yards 88 percent of the time on bubble
screen and 100 percent of the time on quarterback draw.) Therefore, when we run our three- or five-step pass game we are attacking a defensive scheme that we are confident we can read with plays that we are confident we understand. Ultimately, we have implemented a noback attack with little stress on our players and demands on our practice time while placing great stress on opposing players and time constraints on opponent practice time. Things to Consider • Be prepared. Although teams will gen-
erally have two schemes some will opt for the unorthodox approach. We have faced teams who have tried to bring six-man pressures every snap and we have also faced a team who dropped eleven men into coverage. Find out how teams are playing you early so you may make any minor adjustments. • Use motion and shifts if they provide an advantage. Do not motion and shift if the picture is clear for the quarterback when you align in it right away. • The athletes respond very favorably to the use of no backs and it keeps everyone involved.
Make plans now to attend the 2004 A F C A C o n v e n t i o n January 4-7 • Marriott’s Orlando World Center Orlando, Florida