Friday, July 9, 2010

Motivating the 21st Century Athlete- Dr. Jeff Duke

For this post, I'm going to take a break from X's and O's and blog about something much more meaningful and important; something that can take your X's and O's and turn them into touchdowns. Yesterday I got a chance to attend a workshop sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and run by Dr. Jeff Duke. Dr. Duke is a professor at the University of Central Florida in their "Coaching" department. Yes, you can get a degree in coaching at UCF. If that would've been around when I was in school, it wouldn't have taken me 2 years do decide what I wanted to study. He was an assistant coach for Coach Bowden at Florida State University from "the late 70's to the early 90's" and currently serves as the QB and WR coach at a school near Orlando. We were very limited on time, so we didn't get to go through the entire workshop. However, he we covered two topics that can help get your football players and team to a new level individually and collectively; improving motivation and cohesion. Before getting into that, I'm going to give a couple notes Dr. Duke cited (and backed by research) regarding the importance of coaches.

1) 71% of kids do not have both of their biological parents living at home. You, a coach, are the father figure of a lot of these young men.
2) A coach will impact more young people in one year than the average person will in a lifetime.

The Coach's Dimensional Pyramid
In the presentation linked below, you will see the 3D coaching pyramid. In this pyramid, you will see three levels: fundamentals, psychology, and heart.

Level One- Fundamentals- Almost every coach out there is has level one taken care of. Most all of us are students of the game and can handle the tactical part coaching. We can all teach kids how to be faster, stronger, better conditioned, quicker, and more fundamentally sound in technique. 100% of the coaches in this world would be considered at least a level one coach.

Level Two- Psychology- This level focuses on things such as motivation, confidence, intensity, focus, emotions, mental imagery, goal setting and team cohesion. Only 15% of coaches in the world are considered to have mastered both the fundamentals and pyschology of coaching and are level two coaches.

Level Three-Heart- This level deals with the soul and the spirit of the athlete. Only 5% of coaches are estimated to be level three coaches.

If you can get yourself to be a level three coach, here some advantages listed by Dr. Duke:
1) athletes will learn the skills more quickly because they are more attentive
2) athletes will work harder
3) quicker injury recovery
4) more adaptable to new conditions (playing on the road will affect them less)
5) they have freedom to be creative because they don't fear failure
6) deeper relationships between coach and player

You can view the entire presentation on the 3D coaching model here.

Motivation: "pursue and persist"

95% of coaches in America have that athlete that shows up late, or doesn't show up at all. Things like this are obviously motivation issues. Getting to know the athlete and the family of the athlete will kill almost all motivation problems, according to Dr. Duke. Go visit the living rooms of every one of your athletes. Find out where they live, who they live with, their parents names, brothers and sisters names, etc. After this, you will have their parents in your corner and provide that home piece that is missing in the motivational puzzle. Obviously, this isn't a guarantee that the athlete will become very motivated. However, showing them you care about them enough to get to know them and having their parents on the side of the coach can provide huge dividends.

Peer Modeling:
When athletes are taught by their peers, retention goes up a significant amount. A higher level of cognitive learning takes place. The peer that is teaching also takes ownership and pride in the athlete he is teaching "getting it". Whenever you can incorporate peer modeling into workouts, practices, and team meetings the more fun your kids will have and the more they will retain and improve.

Cohesion: "A dynamic process that is reflected in the tendency of a group to come together in pursuit of it's goal."

Individual Social- the quality of the individual members relationship within the team

Group Social- the general quality of the relationship in the group

Ways to improve cohesion:
1) give out helmet stickers for "relationship" accomplishments such as: helping a teammate with homework, giving a teammate a ride home from practice, etc.
2) the put-up game- randomly have a team member say something positive about another team member's character or personality (not athleticism). "Justin, say something you like about Chris." Repeat for as many kids as you have time for.
3) "spotlight"- After every practice one person comes to the front and everyone on the team has to say something uplifting about that person. Again, the focus should be on that person's character and heart, not on how well they play a sport.

In closing, the central message of the day was that in order for us to go from being good coaches to great coaches is that we must capture the athletes heart. We must develop relationships that go deeper than the game of football. Only when the hearts of these athletes are captured and those meaningful relationships are developed, can your teams reach their maximum potential.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Using Sprintout to Pressure the Defense

The sprintout passing game helps protect your QB and helps to put maximum pressure on the perimeter of the defense. It helps protect your QB by varying the launch points, or where he releases the football. This makes it so defenses cannot just pin their ears back and rush a certain point in the pocket where the QB throws the football. They have to be aware of these changing launch points. For more information on moving the QB launch point and pocket, check out this video from Once the contain of the defense is broken, tremendous pressure is put on the playside defenders. It does this because the defenders need to be aware of the run threat the QB is posing. This wouldn't be the case if the QB was in a traditional pocket.

Other Advantages of Sprintout:
1) provides the QB with more of a chance to make something happen when receivers are covered
2) it provides the opportunity to neutralize excellent pass rushers by sprinting away from them
3) it shortens the throw for the QB, giving the defense less chance to make a play on the ball
4) it provides natural passing lanes and increased vision for the QB

Sprint out protection:
These basic protection rules, I got from this article an article on Sprintout and Half-Roll passing from

Backside Tackle: Turn and Hinge
Backside Guard: Turn and Hinge
Center: If covered or shade to callside, reach. If uncovered with no shade to callside, turn and hinge.
(Get depth as you turn and hinge)
Playside Guard: Reach, plug hole/backside
Playside Tackle: Reach (Note: On any reach block, if you are unable to reach, ride your man out to the sideline. Don't get beat outside trying to reach hopelessly. A man pushed out of bounds and kept on the LOS is just as effective.)

RB: Take two steps to callside, looking at outside rusher. Look for OLB or outside rusher to come shooting, block first color that shows. If none show, check middle and then backside. You are the QB's bodyguard. Step to rush, do not wait for him to get to the QB.


Sprinting right from under center:
The QB's first step should be at 6 o' clock to help him gain depth, he should then take 4-6 more steps (depending on how you protect, where you contain point is, how long the routes take to develop, etc) before sticking his right foot in the ground attacking the LOS. To clarify, the QB should stick his right foot in the ground on his 5th or 7th step. I recommend placing a cone where you want the QB to stick his foot in the ground and attack the LOS. Both a left handed and right handed QB should carry the ball on his right shoulder, which is away from the defense.

Sprinting right from the gun: Instead of 5 or 7 steps, the QB should stick his foot in the ground and attack downhill on his 3rd step. The first step should still be at 6 o'clock to provide depth and maintain consistency with the under center footwork.

Sprinting left from under center: Everything remains the same as sprinting right from under center for the first 5-7 steps, except the ball should now be held on the QB's left shoulder. Like I mentioned earlier, this carries the ball away from the defense. After sticking the left foot in the ground to attack the LOS, the QB should transfer the ball to his right shoulder to a good pre-pass position.

Sprinting left from the gun: same as sprinting right, only the QB transfers the ball from his left shoulder to his right after the 3rd step.

Other coaching points on the QB:

1) Because it is natural to have a forward lean when running, the QB should fight to stay vertical from the waist up in order to support his elbow to the get to right position on the throw.
2) When the QB cannot attack the LOS because he is threatened by defenders, sticking his right foot in the ground and extending on the throw is critical

Basic Sprint Out Concepts:

Curl-Flat- the right side of the picture below demonstrates a curl-flat concept

All Curl/All Hitch

Flood- the right side of the picture below demonstrates a traditional flood concept


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Quarters Coverage- What is it and what gives it fits?

Unfortunately, for offensive coaches like myself, the days of the spot dropping cover 4 are pretty much over. In it's place has come a new quarters concept, which allows for the defensive to cover less grass and more receivers. The quarters concept is based upon the safeties reading the release of the #2 receiver to their side. I would consider quarters to be part of the robber family of coverages, as the safeties are "robbing" depending on the route combo. You can read one of my earlier posts on robber coverage here. First, let's look at why defensive coaches tend to be playing more and more of this coverage.

  • It provides a 4-deep look to take away four verticals from the offense

  • Safeties can be heavily involved in the run game, providing 9 run defenders

  • There is not much adjustment to different formations and motion

  • It prevents the secondary from covering grass instead of receivers by a defender doubling another defender when his "zone" isn't threatened

  • It provides the same look pre-snap

  • It forces the offense to throw short and outside

  • Easy to get into other coverages from a similar look

In quarters, the safeties are reading the #2 reciever and reacting according to what they do. The #2 receiver can only do one of four things: block in the run game, release vertical, release inside, and release outside. Here are the general rules and reactions according to what the #2 receivers does.

  • #2 blocks in the run game- the safety to that side will fill his run fit

  • #2 release vertical (10 yards)- the safety will cover him man

  • #2 release inside- he will make an "IN" call to the LB's and help with #1 to his side

  • #2 release outside- he will double #1 inside and the OLB will cover #2 man

For diagrams of playing different concepts in quarters, visit here. Also on Chief, Washington (IL) head coach Darrell Crouch explains their quarters coverage in this video.

How to beat quarters coverage:

Quarters coverage begs offensives to throw to the flat for 5-6 yards at a time. Many, will make a cover 2 adjustment after the snap if they are getting hurt continuously with the quick game to the flat. However, speed outs, hitches, and other quick game concepts are great answers to quarters. If you're in a 3rd and medium or long, or a situation where you have to get the ball down the field there are some options.

Double moves by the outside receivers:

Because the corners have limited help in the flats, they are reading the #1 receivers for short breaking routes. This leaves them vulnerable to hitch and go and other double moves.

The "fishing" concept:

A concept created by Steve Axman, the fishing concept attempts to "bait" the safety into taking the #2 receiver on an anchor/curl route leaving a large area of field behind him uncovered. #1 runs a post, with basically man coverage. The following video isn't great because you cannot see the route development and the reaction of the secondary, but after the pass is thrown you can see the post coming very open and the safety covering the #2 receiver on an anchor route at about 12 yards.

"In and up routes":

At the 2:25 mark the Colts use an "in and up" concept to get into the end zone versus the Jets in the AFC championship game. Austin Collie, lined up as the #2 receiver releases inside and makes the top side safety think he is running a crossing route. By rule if the #2 receiver goes inside he helps with #1. Collie then turns his route vertical where the safety has vacated for a TD.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Midline Option

Wichita State in the late 1970's, was looking for an "equalizer" to help them be competitive with schools that were bigger, faster, and stronger. The staff there sat down and came up with what we know as the midline option. Of course true triple option teams such as Georgia Tech and Navy run the midline option, but it is starting to be implemented by more teams in both high school and college that would not be considered true option teams.

Advantages of the midline:

1) The tight mesh of the QB/FB serves as a means to freeze the linebackers to give the offensive linemen a half step advantage
2) Forces DTs to close one of two gaps
3) Collapses the defensive front
4) Allows option football to be ran to the short side of the field
5) Allows a dominate DT to be "read" instead of having to be blocked
6) Hits quickly
7) Minimizes chance of lost yardage play
8) Easiest of all the veer reads

How to block midline:

The following two diagrams show how midline is blocked versus a 4-2/4-4 look. For information on blocking midline versus odd fronts, visit the different links in the resources section at the bottom.

As you see in the diagram above, the QB is reading the 3 technique DT for a give or keep read. If the DT gives him a keep read, the QB will then key the SAM linebacker. He will pitch the ball to the back if the SAM closes inside.

In this diagram, the QB's pitch key has changed from the SAM linebacker to the DE. As mentioned, this scheme takes advantage of an over aggressive OLB playing the QB. The pull and pitch on this play can be very "bang, bang", so repping the pull and pitch process with your QB is vital. At the 0:10 mark, you can see Navy running this exact scheme vs. Notre Dame.

Instead of using the remaining back as a pitch guy, some prefer to lead the back up on the outside linebacker/most dangerous defender instead of pitching off of him. This turns the play from a triple option to a double option. Here is a clip from The University of Charleston where instead of using the motion back as a pitch guy, he leads up for the QB carrying the ball.

The following two videos feature Muskegon (MI) High School and their midline game out of their spread pistol formations:

Midline resources:

Hinsdale (IL) coach Mike DiMatteo explains their midline option from the gun on

Quarterback Mechanics and Mesh for Midline Option by Jerry Campbell

Flexbone Option Website Midline Presentation

Saturday, May 22, 2010

R4- The New Age of Quarterback Reads and Recognition

How often as coaches have we said or thought, "how can this be that hard"? Or, "I don't understand why he can't see that"? I believe one common mistake we make as coaches is we always assume our kids understand what we're teaching, unless they express is some way that there is confusion. I assume most of you reading this blog coach football. We eat, sleep, and breath football. We often times forget that football probably isn't near as important to the kid you're coaching as it is to you. Things aren't as simple to the kids as they are to us. Also, we as coaches don't have to worry about the physical aspect of performance. It is a lot easier to see what is going on from the sidelines or the press box when you're not the one being rushed or blitzed.

I'm going to steal the example used by QB guru Darin Slack, that compares a typical quarterback's understanding to an iceberg. What the quarterback understands is symbolized by the part of the iceberg that is above the water. Now, let's look at what you, the coach, understands. That is symbolized by the entire iceberg, both what is above and below the water. How do we get our quarterbacks to understand the entire picture, see the entire iceberg?

There are a lot of things on the quarterback's plate: receiving the playcall from the sideline, relaying the playcall to the other 10 guys, checking to make sure everyone is aligned properly, checking the front, counting the safeties, checking the corners, looking for potential blitzers, mentally reviewing his technique and read on the forthcoming play, and all of this while keeping an eye on and beating the 25 second clock. That is a checklist of 10 things a QB is responsible for...PRE-SNAP. After the snap, the job is even more difficult as he's trying to drop, go through a progression, and make the proper throw while bullets are flying all around him. Without question, quarterback is the most challenging position on the field. In my opinion, it is the most demanding position in all of sports. All of these things are on our QBs' plate, and that doesn't take into account the physical performance aspect of the position.

Football is a gray game more often than it is a game of black and white. What do I mean by that? Well, let's say you are running a typical curl- flat concept to stretch an OLB. You tell the quarterback, "if the OLB drops throw the flat, if he runs to the flat throw the curl." Here's the problem with that logic; you are assuming there are only two things the OLB can do. What if the OLB hangs in the balance between the curl and the flat? Well coached defenders are very good at slow playing their responsibilities and making a "cloudy" read for the quarterback. Also, that school of thought doesn't consider if a robber technique safety or a deep dropping inside linebacker getting in the curl window. Let's say a robber technique safety jumps the curl and makes an interception. The kid comes over to the sideline and says, "coach, you told me if the OLB jumps the flat to throw the curl." He did what you as a coach told him to do. As coaches, we sometimes are guilty of making this game black and white when it is in fact a very gray game in the eyes of our quarterback.

Quarterbacking is indeed a different animal and a position unlike any other. It only makes sense for quarterbacks to be trained unlike any other position as well. Welcome, the R4 QB Expert System. The R4 system is a product of The Darin Slack Quarterback Academy and Jenks (OK) passing game coordinator Dub Maddox. Coach Maddox describes it as a "powerful system of QB reads, recognition and decision-management. A system that accelerates passing game progressions, defender keys, and disciplined footwork in any offensive scheme." Some people make the mistake of assuming this is an offensive system. That is definitely not the case, but it is a system that can take the offensive system you already have in place to a level you hadn't seen.

Here is a trailer video from Coach Slack's website that provides an overview of what R4 is and how it can help your program achieve the goals that are set:

Brian Blevins, the head coach at Kettering Fairmont High School in Ohio talks about how the R4 has taken his quarterback and passing offense to a whole new level.

Let me say, I am writing this endorsement for the R4 system not because I'm being asked to or because I'm trying to drive business to a friend. I wrote this because I believe in the system and believe it will help your quarterback reach a level of play he's never been to before. You can purchase the 3 DVD set R4 QB Expert System here and start training your quarterbacks on their reads and recognition in a new and effective way.

As always, check out Chief for lots of great videos and articles that will help improve your program.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dissecting the Inside Zone Read and Inside Veer

When some people hear the terms "zone read" the term "innovative" may come to mind. When some hear the terms "inside veer" they may think "archaic" or "outdated". However, when dissecting these two plays, they are very similar and even blocked exactly the same way in some instances.

Nevada, #1 rushing team in the FBS last year makes it's living off of the inside zone read. While Georgia Tech, the 2nd ranked rushing team in the FBS made a good chunk of its yardage off of inside veer. When breaking down these plays, they seem more like identical twin brothers than an than products of different generations. The inside veer has made a comeback in college football, as many spread teams are using variations of it to create a numbers and angles advantage for their offense. Both the inside zone read and inside veer feature one or two guys being "optioned", combo blocks, and both number and angle advantages at the point of attack.

The play in the following video shows Nevada's patented inside zone read out of the pistol. Missouri is playing what looks to be a shade nose or 1-tech and a 5-tech on the left side. The guard and center will combo the A-gap defender up to the backside linebacker and the tackle will release to the MIKE linebacker. Nevada gains an extra blocker on the perimeter by bringing the wing around to block the OLB in case of a pull read by the QB. You'll notice the DE closes on the dive like most coaches will teach in defending option football. The QB pulls the ball and is out on the perimeter, with a 1 to 1 blocker to defender ratio.

In this clip, you see the inside zone read ran to the side of the 3-tech and 5-tech. The guard and tackle work a combo block, to get the 3-tech sealed and the guard releases on an inside track to the MIKE linebacker. Again, the DE takes his dive responsibility and Nevada is out on the perimeter with good numbers.

Now, let's take a look at one of the staple plays in Paul Johnson's flexbone repertoire, the inside veer. On the left side, Georgia appears to be playing a 3-tech and a 7-tech. Much like the second clip of Nevada's inside zone, you'll see a combo working from the 3-tech up to the MIKE linebacker. The DE is of course the man being optioned, just like in the inside zone read.

In the following clip, Georgia lines up with what looks like a head up zero technique. The center scoops the nose and the guard and tackle release up the field to the play side linebacker.

In this last clip, inside veer is ran to the 1-tech and the 5-tech. Just like in the first clip of Nevada's inside zone read, the guard will combo with the center on the 1-tech and work to the backside linebacker. The playside tackle releases to the OLB.

As you can see, the plays are blocked nearly identical at the point of attack, but differ depending on where the combos are taking place.

For insightful video on inside zone schemes, check out this
video and others at

For more information on installing inside veer as a part of your offense, check out the following sites:

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Getting The Ball To Your Playmakers On The Perimeter- Part 3- The Fly Sweep

In the last part of this series, we will look at the fly/jet sweep as a way of getting the ball in the hands of your playmakers. This concept uses the lateral motion rule to it's advantage in getting the ball to a player who already has momentum built up. The fly sweep is a concept that seems to be catching on at all levels, from youth football all the way up to the NFL. It's a simple means of getting the football to the perimeter of the defense to one of your best players. I could spend several posts talking about all the different way to run this play, but it is just my intent to provide you with a basic overview and provide some resources/video to learn more about the play.

When to run the fly sweep:

Like the bubble and tunnel screen, the fly sweep is a simple and sure fire way to get the football to a guy in space that can make something happen. Also, if you're hurting a team with your base run scheme between the tackles, most likely they will adjust to that by doing something such as pinching their DEs to take away the b-gap run game, etc. Running the fly sweep is a great way to take them out of that scenario and loosen up the core of the defense. Obviously, we want at least a stalemate or a man advantage when it comes to blockers vs. defenders on the perimeter.


When the fly sweep was first introduced, it seemed to be strictly an outside zone/reach scheme on the offensive line. However, since it's become popular, many have played with the blocking schemes to fit their offensive philosophy and scheme. For example, Bryon Hamilton at Foothill High School in California runs what he calls the "Shotgun Zone Fly Sweep"; which he created to fit how he wanted to block the fly sweep. It features a combination of both man and zone schemes. Coach Hamilton has based his entire offense around the fly sweep, and you can read more about it here. Below, I've provided some video to show you some different ways in which the fly sweep is blocked.

In the following two clips, Oregon is running what appears to be counter trey and inside zone away from the fly sweep and reading the DE on whether to give to the sweeper or have the QB keep the ball and run the counter or zone.

The University of Charleston, uses what appears to be a reach and overtake scheme towards the fly sweep. For a great drill to teach reach blocking, check out this video from

The following clip is a digital playbook from East Valley High School, created by coach Ayinde Bomani; which shows in detail how they block their fly sweep. They choose to block it using what appears to be outside zone rules.

Further reading/resources on the fly/jet sweep: Jets and Rockets Playbook

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Getting The Ball To Your Playmakers On The Perimeter- Part 2- The Tunnel Screen

Much like the bubble screen, which was the focus of Part 1 of this three part series, the tunnel screen is another simple and effective way to get the ball to your home run hitters. This screen is also called the jailbreak screen by many. At Liberty High School, the tunnel screen has been one of our most successful plays for us over the last 2 years.

When to throw:

Like I mentioned in the intro, this is a great play to get your explosive guys touches just to increase the probability of a big play. It can be thrown versus both man and zone coverage. It can be thrown versus a one high safety look, or a two shell look. The tunnel screen, like all screens, is one of the best blitz beaters out there. If you've got a good tunnel screen game, then a defensive coordinator is going to be very careful of when and when not to bring heavy pressure. Like the bubble screen, you want to make sure you have a numbers advantage on the perimeter to the play side.


I've seen the tunnel screen blocked a few different ways. Some teams release their playside tackle, while others don't. Some teams use a count system to identify who they are responsible for, while others just run to an area and pick up the most dangerous man. At Liberty High School, we use a count system to identify who each person will block. We will number from the sideline in to determine who each receiver and offensive linemen will block. The guy directly inside of the receiver catching the ball is responsible for #1, which in most cases will be the corner. The next guy to the inside will be responsible for #2, which is usually the force player. The next guy inside, will be responsible for #3, which is often an inside linebacker. The video below is a clip of Texas Tech's tunnel screen. You will notice that the #2 receiver is responsible for the corner. They chose to not release their tackle to keep the defensive end working up the field, so the guard is responsible for #2. The center is responsible for #3, which is the MIKE backer in this case. However, he follows the back on his fake and takes himself out of the play, so the center continues to climb to the safety.

You can play with the schemes according to how you see fit. For example, if we see that a corner is playing at 12 yards and bailing at the snap we will not count him and send the guy responsible for #1 to a safety or double on the force player.

The offensive line will pass set and count "one one thousand, two one thousand", then release up the field. A key coaching point on this is having them release to where their defender is going to be, not to where he is at the moment. The receivers involved in the blocking, will release up the field two steps to sell a dropback pass and then work to the defenders they are responsible to block. If there is a press or hard cover 2 corner, then a flat release is necessary.

We only release the play side of our offensive line, however some teams choose to release both sides in order to gain a decisive numbers advantage down the field. Texas Tech shows the full release of the offensive line in the video above.


The receiver's steps can be played with to fit the timing of both the quarterback and the blocking. We teach the receiver to take one hard step up the field, and then work back to the quarterback while also gradually working downhill towards the line of scrimmage. You can see this in the video above, but the receiver has to stop his momentum toward the LOS because the ball is thrown to his back shoulder instead of his upfield shoulder. Again, you can play with the angle and the receivers steps to fit your scheme.


Because this is a delayed screen, you have a lot of freedom in what you want your quarterback and backfield to do before the QB delivers the ball. We've done many different things, to provide a variety of looks and to maximize deception. One of the things we did was have the QB from the gun take 3 steps, while looking the safeties and linebackers to the other side of the field, then delivering the ball on the upfield shoulder of the receiver on the third step. If under center, we would take a 5-step drop and deliver to the receiver on the 5th step. Another thing we've done is fake to the back coming across, which is done in the clip above. Finally, one element we added this past season was a half sprintout or roll to the opposite side and then throwing back to the receiver. This helped to get flow going the other way, before delivering the ball. Like I mentioned above, the timing of the screen allows you a lot of freedom to fit your backfield action into your offensive philosophy. The videos below will show you some variety in of backfield action. One important coaching point for the QB is to throw the ball to the receiver's upfield shoulder so he does not have to slow his momentum to catch the ball. This could be the difference between a 12 yard gain and a huge play. In the video above, if the ball was thrown on the upfield shoulder of the receiver it would have increased the chances of getting by the safety that makes the tackle.


In the videos below, you will see some different ways to run the tunnel screen.

Please check out for great videos and articles that will provide you with awesome insight for all aspects of the game.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Getting The Ball To Your Playmakers On The Perimeter- Part 1- The Bubble Screen

When it comes to getting the ball on the perimeter to your playmakers, the bubble screen is as good as it gets. If you're a coach that charts touches to make sure you're getting your explosive players enough opportunities, this play provides a very easy method of getting the guys you want the football in space. In the past five or so years, this play has become a vital scheme in almost all spread offenses.

When to throw?

The bubble screen is generally thrown to an inside receiver that is lined up off of the ball, when the offense has a numbers advantage to a certain side on the perimeter. This play takes advantage of an outside linebacker that is cheating in the box to gain a numbers advantage in the box for the defense. In the diagram below, the offense considers themselves to have an advantage because of the outside linebacker to the trips side could still be considered an in-box defender.


Generally, the bubble is blocked using an outside zone, reach, or cut technique from the offensive line. The ball is out of the quarterback's hand so quickly that the offensive line's objective should just be to keep the defensive ends from shooting upfield quickly to hinder the throw or keep them from being able to run flat and possibly make a play on the ball. On the perimeter, a simple stalk technique works and the receiver can read the blocks. If it provides better angles, cracks and cross blocking can be done as well. Another way it to reach the outside shoulder of the defenders, turn them inside and have the receiver look to get up the sideline.


There are different techniques used to put the receiver in good position to run after the catch. I will explain the technique that we use at Liberty High School. The slot receiver (whether it is #2, #3, or #4) should align with his inside foot up and the objective on his first step is to gain more depth than width. Depth is important because we want the receiver to be catching the ball while running towards the line of scrimmage. Using the clock analogy, a good step for him would be to take his back foot to the 5 or 7 o'clock mark depending which side he is on. The receivers second step would be parallel to the line of scrimmage, and on his third step he would turn his head and look for the football while working back towards the line of scrimmage at roughly a 45 degree angle (halfway between parallel and perpendicular) to the line of scrimmage. The ball should be to him on his fourth or fifth step. In the videos below, you will see two different techniques used that are also very effective.


Contrary to the tunnel screen (which will be addressed in the next post) where you see different fakes by the QB and different backfield action, the bubble does not leave a lot of room for creativity by the QB because of the ball needing to be in the hands of the receiver quickly. In the second video below, you will see some fakes to a back to get flow going away from the play and to improve the angles of the blocks. The quarterback should aim to put the football on the 12-18 inches in front of the receiver running towards the line of scrimmage.

Shotgun or Under Center?

The bubble works effectively both under center and in the shotgun. Both provide an advantage the other one does not. Under center, the ball is able to get to and out of the quarterback's hand quicker than in the gun. However, in the gun you are throwing the ball forward to the receiver instead of risking a fumble by throwing it backwards. Not completing the pass simply results in an incomplete pass instead of a backwards lateral, which is a live ball.


In the videos below, you will see clips of the bubble screen at both the high school and the college level. Many of the coaching points discussed above can be seen, however these teams do some different things as well.

Thanks to Brethren Christian High School in Huntington Beach, CA for the video of their bubble screen game.

My alma mater, the University of Missouri also utilizes the bubble screen as a big part of their offense. The video below has several clips of their bubble screen in their bowl game vs. Navy.

Further and complete reading on the bubble screen:

Robert E. Lee High School(TX) Bubble Screen Passing Package

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Robber" Coverage- What is it?

This is my first entry as a featured blogger for Coach Nate Albaugh has lots of great stuff on his site and I'm glad to be associated with a site such as that dedicated to helping football coaches.

The term "robber" means different things to different coaches. Some coaches play a form of cover 2 robber, while "robber" to others is a man-free scheme designed to spy a QB that is a running threat. In this post, I'm going to focus on cover 2 robber. This defense was designed to stifle the 2-back power run game by getting nine defenders involved in stopping the run. Like all coverages, it has some vulnerability but when defending a 2-back, run heavy offense there is nothing better.

Other advantages of Robber:
1. Able to get FS to both sides of the ball.
2. Able to get control of #2 deep on any vertical routes.
3. Lets inside LB play run because #2 is always controlled vertically to TE side.
4. Able to use 5 DB’s as a base package, which gives better team speed.
5. It looks like cover 3, cover 1, and cover 0 pre-snap.

Cover 2 robber is a form of invert cover 2, with the OLBs/outside safeties being the curl-flat players and the corners playing a deep half like safeties would be in traditional cover 2. The FS is the "robber", in which the coverage is named after. He will serve as the 9th defender in the run game or be a pass defender, depending on his run/pass read. The FS will read the #2 receiver to the "passing strength", if he goes vertical then he will run with him and play a man technique. If #2 runs to the flat, he will then look to "rob" any inside breaking route from #1 such as a curl or dig. If #2 runs an inside breaking route such as a shallow, the FS's eyes will look for a crosser from the other side or look to help with #1. An important key is not disrupt the routes, but to let them develop so the reads can be made with clarity.

If he gets a run read, then he will fly down into his run fit, providing that 9th defender in the run game. Of course, his fit can be any where in the run game that fits the scheme you're employing.

We could spend all day talking about alignment, run fits, coverage responsibilities and reads for the back 7 guys. However, I'm not a defensive coach and it is my intent to just provide a basic overview of this coverage. If you want to learn more, I recommend visiting Coach Huey's great site and interacting with the great resources on there, which is linked on the right side of the page. Also, the legendary Brophy has a blog post which features TCU's defensive playbook that outlines what they're teaching in their cover 2 robber. To access that, click here

The video below is from Virginia Tech's win in 2008 over Georgia Tech. Because of the run heavy triple option philosophy of Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech played a lot of cover 2 robber to get a 9th defender involved in the run game. You'll see the very first snap, the FS gets a run read and makes the tackle for a 2 yard gain. The second snap, the FS gets a pass read with #2 going vertical. There you see him run with #2 in a man technique. Throughout the video, you will see the FS making his reads and being heavily involved as a run game defender.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cover 2 and Cover 4

Cover 2 Beaters

The two places to beat cover 2 are in the "windows" anywhere from 16-22 yards on the sideline and in the middle of the field. Because there are only two safeties, the deep-zone responsibility of these defenders is much greater than cover 3 or cover 4.

Smash-the smash (also called "china") concept is a great route vs. traditional cover 2. It provides a vertical stretch or hi-low on the cornerback with the corner-hitch combo. You can make the smash either a key defender read with the corner being the key defender or it can be a high to low progression. It can be run as a 2 or 3 man concept. The following image shows the smash executed on the right side of the formation in a 2 man concept.

Three verticals- this can be a great cover 2 beater because the three vertical routes put tremendous stress on the two deep defenders. The safeties are responsible to cover 53 yards of field and can be taken advantage of. The below image shows a bread and butter play the Indianapolis Colts with both the TE trying to get inside of the safety over the top of them. You can only see half of the field in this image but the horizontal stretch on the safety is evident.

Double slants- arguably the best "quick game" concept vs. cover 2 is the double slant concept. The cover 2 corner is taught to funnel the #1 receiver inside to make the safeties job easier. This allows the leverage we need to throw the slant pattern. The OLB will close down and follow the slant by #2, thus opening up a nice window to get the ball to #1.

Cover 4 Beaters

Since cover 4 employs 4 deep defenders, it is difficult to get anything down the field. Cover 4 is most vulnerable in the flat, curl, and hook zones.

Stick concept- the stick is a 3 man concept that puts a horizontal stretch on the OLB in cover 4. The #1 will run a vertical route to run off the corner, the #2 will run the "stick", and the #3 (either a TE, slot, or RB) will run a arrow/flat. When running the stick, the receiver will work to a depth of 8 yards and then break inside or out, depending on where the coverage is. Texas made a living this year running this concept with Jordan Shipley running the stick.

Double Outs- using the same horizontal stretch as the stick concept, double outs puts a lot of pressure on the OLB as well. With a slightly decreased split, #1 and #2 will run a 4-yard speed out. The #2 receiver, will read the OLB and either continue or stop his movement toward the sideline depending on the movement of the OLB. You can also run this from a trips set, with the #1 receiver running vertical to get the corner to bail.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cover 1 and Cover 3 Beaters

After outlining how to identify all base coverages in my previous two posts, we now need to know how to attack them. Each coverage has both strengths and weaknesses, and defensive coaches will play these coverages according to what they are trying to take away from the offense.

Cover 3 Beaters:

Cover 3 is a very common coverage seen at the high school level. For one reason, it is hard to find corners that can lock up and play a lot of man coverage, or corners physical enough to be run defenders as cover 2 corners.

Four Verticals:

The easiest way to get a defense out of playing cover 3 is to hit them with the ever popular four vertical concept. This concept is exactly what it sounds, four guys running vertical. It provides a horizontal stretch on the FS with the two seams on the inside. The QB is taught to guide the safety with his eyes to one side and then throw to the opposite seam. Georgia Southern's Chris Hatcher explains the four vertical concept a little more in depth. Georgia Southern actually turns the outside receiver routes into 16 yard comebacks, but the same stretch on the free safety is taking place.


The curl-flat concept is a great combination as well to beat cover 3. It puts tremendous pressure on the on the flat defender, who is the OLB in cover 3. The OLB cannot be right in this situation, if he jumps the flat route then the curl window will open up nicely. If he hangs in the curl window, then the flat route will be there for the taking. The video clip below from Madden 10 shows a cover 3 defense, with the OLB jumping the flat route which results in a very wide window to throw the curl.

Quick game concepts:

Because of the bail technique of the corners in cover 3, it is very susceptible to quick game throws such as hitches and speed outs. The OLB has run responsibility as a force defender is cover 3, so the flats are there for the taking.

Cover 1 Beaters

Because cover 1 is a man coverage, looking for and game planning to get the ball your best athlete matched up on a questionable cover guy is a essential to beating cover 1.

Smash or China:

The smash concept is a great concept vs. cover 1 because the FS is in the middle of the field and will have a difficult time getting over the top of the corner route to help out. Defensive coaches teach man technique corners to play inside leverage to take away the inside breaking routes, so that leaves them susceptible to sideline breaking routs such as corners (also known as a flag route) and comebacks. The corners can either be ran by #1 with a reduced split or by a #2 or #3 receiver, depending on the best matchup. You can do what you want with the receivers not running the corner. Against zone, the corner route is usually paired with a hitch in order to high/low the corner to that side. However, a better option vs. man would be to run something to beat man coverage such as a retrace or bench route.


Mesh is a man coverage killer. Using a "rub" concept, the objective is to screen or a pick in order to get someone open vs. man coverage. It is illegal to intentionally pick a man, however the mesh concept is set up to accomplish this legally. Two crossers will run across the field at a depth of 4-6 yards in opposite directions. One crosser will "set the mesh" and the two will slap hands as they continue crossing the field. This ensures there is no space for the defenders chasing the receivers to get through. The result is a play that usually results in one of the meshers springing wide open as he gets into the flat area. Texas Tech has made a lot of their money on the mesh, versus both man and zone. A clip from NCAA 09 demonstrates the mesh concept.


Another popular cover 1 beater is the fade/out concept. This concept is where the outside receivers run vertical after getting an outside release. The inside most receiver will then run a short out route, which he will be provided with a lot of run after the catch room because of the vacated defenders going with the outside vertical routes. The 2:25 mark of the video below shows some good footage of the fade/out concept run out of a trips set.

Double Slants:

Double slants are just what is sounds, where the two outside receivers are running slants. The slant is a great man beater. Defenders are taught to not let their man get inside of them, so a good outside release fake is required. Here Ohio State state is shown running the double slant concept vs. Oregon's cover 1 in the Rose Bowl.

These are obviously not the only ways to defeat cover 3 and cover 1, but just a few of the more popular concepts that pose problems for these coverages.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Identifying Coverages Based On Defensive Pre-Snap Alignment- Part II- MOFO Family

The middle of the field open family of coverages consists of 4 base coverages; cover 2, cover 2 man, cover 4, and cover 0. By the "middle of the field open", we mean that there is no safety directly in the middle of the field. There are either two safeties lined up just inside or just outside the hashes, or no deep safeties in the at all.

Cover 2

The following diagram shows the zone responsibilities for each defender in cover 2. As you notice, there are two deep safeties which would cue you that barring a rolled coverage (which I will explain in a future post), this narrows it down to one of three coverages which are: cover 2, cover 2 man, and cover 4.

The quarterback is able to determine that cover 2 is being played by the following defensive cues:

1) 2 deep safeties most aligned 12-14 yards depth, on or just outside the hash
2) corners will be at a depth of less than 4-6 yards with outside leverage on the #1 receiver with their eyes looking in

Some pre-snap shots of cover 2:

Cover 2 man

Cover 2 man still employs two deep safeties much like cover 2. However, it is a man concept underneath and the responsibilities of the safeties change. They are true "free" safeties now which read the QB's eyes and play over the top of all routes. When differentiating cover 2 and cover 2 man, looking at the eyes and leverage of the corners will be the determinate. The alignment from all the defenders is very similar except they will match the splits of the receivers.

Cover 4

Cover 4, also called "quarters" is another MOFO coverage concept. The following diagram shows typical alignment and responsibilities for a cover 4 concept.

Cover 4 is a little bit different beast, that it is a zone coverage that employs a lot of pattern matching and some man concepts. This is how a QB will determine quarters coverage:

1) two deep safeties, usually not quite as deep and aligned more narrow than cover 2 safeties
2) corners will be at a depth of 8-10 yards with outside leverage

Some pre-snap shots of quarters coverage:

Cover 0

Cover 0 is a coverage that employs zero deep safeties and is a popular coverage when offenses are deep in the red zone or other short yardage situations. It is a true man coverage with no safety help over the top. The following diagram outlines cover 0.

How a quarterback will be able to determine cover 0:

1) Safeties will be at a depth of less than 8 yards and lined up over the #2 receiver.
2) Corner depth will be less than 5 yards with inside leverage and eyes on #1 receiver

Pre-snap shots of Cover 0:

Like mentioned in the previous post, defensive coaches will attempt to disguise the coverages as much as possible to cloudy the picture for the QB. For example, lining corners up at a depth of 10 yards to give a cover 4 look and bringing them down at the snap in order to disguise cover 2 is a common move. There are also special coverages that teams are playing nowadays that break these guidelines I have outlined in the last two posts. Those coverages will be broken down in a future post.

A few things to remember and teach your QB to help him to identify coverages successfully pre-snap.
1) Safeties- how many? depth? width?
2) corners- depth? eyes? leverage?

By knowing how to answer these questions correctly and what these answers mean, your QB will be more confident and have a better idea of what he's going to be seeing post-snap.

Identifying Coverages Based On Defensive Pre-Snap Alignment- Part I- MOFC Family

Before we get into identifying coverages, we have to know a little bit about what the defense is trying to cover. The field is broken up into 9 different passing zones; three deep and six underneath zones. Zone coverages are designed for all of these areas to be covered. The diagram below shows you all 9 coverage zones.

On any passing down, a quarterback always has things to check pre-snap in regards to the alignment of the secondary. How the secondary is aligned can give us cues as to what coverage the defense will be playing post-snap. Having a good idea of the coverage being played gives the quarterback an idea of where he wants to go with the football before the ball has gotten into his hands.

When identifying coverages, the first indicator for the QB is looking at the number of deep safeties present. There can either be 0, 1, or 2 deep safeties. We refer to this as "middle of the field open" and "middle of the field closed" families of coverages. We'll first take a look at the MOFC (middle of the field closed) family of coverages.

Anytime there is just one safety between the goal posts, we call this middle of the field closed. That's because there is one safety in the middle of the field, closing down our throwing lanes. Here is an example of what this would look like.

The two main coverages in the MOFC family of coverages are cover 3 and cover 1, also known as man-free. Cover 3 is a zone concept that employs three deep zone and four shallow zone defenders. Cover 1 or man-free is a man coverage. We will first look at cover 3.

Cover 3

Cover 3 consists of three deep zone defenders and four underneath zone defenders, assuming the defense does not blitz and underneath zone defender. Here are the responsibilities of the different defenders in cover 3, along with cover 3's strengths and weaknesses.

As you can see from the diagram all 9 zones are assigned for. However, the OLBs are responsible for covering 2 zones apiece. The curl and flat areas are often where cover 3 defenses can be taken advantage of. Also, the FS has a lot of area to cover in the middle of the field. There used to be a lot more cover 3 played than there is today. One reason for this, is because teams are taking advantage of the cover 3 FS by stretching him horizontally with a four vertical concept.

Here are a couple more looks at what cover 3 looks like pre-snap.

Cover 1 or man-free

The other coverage besides cover 3 that can be played with the middle of the field closed is cover 1 or man-free. This is a true man concept with the FS having no responsibilities except to read the QB's eyes and make a play on the ball.

Here is a diagram of cover 1, along with it's strength and weaknesses.

You'll notice each defender has no zone responsibilities, but is manned up on a receiver with the free safety being a true "free" safety in this sense.

The difference between cover 3 and cover 1 pre-snap:

We've gone through the two most popular coverages in the MOFC family. So, how would a quarterback tell the difference pre-snap after identifying the one safety in the middle of the field? I teach my QBs the acronym D.E.L., which stands for depth, eyes and leverage. They are to next check the depth, eyes, and the leverage of the corners. In cover 3, the corners will be head up or have outside leverage and play at a depth of 8-12 yards. Their eyes will be looking in the offensive backfield, as it is a true zone coverage. In cover 1, the depth can vary, but is usually played at less than 5 yards depth. Their leverage will be inside to to take away the slant pattern, and their eyes will be fixed on the man they are covering. If you noticed on the cover 3 pictures, the corners are playing deep with their eyes in the backfield.

Defensive coaches have made it a point of emphasis to not make it as easy and clear cut as this. They are lining up with 2 safeties and playing forms of cover 3, they are lining up with one safety and playing forms of cover 2. However, when seeing one deep safety there is a very good chance one of these two coverages outlined will be played.

Why do I coach?

While reading and interacting on the wonderful football coaching message board at, I've come across many coaches that are starting their own blogs in relation to this wonderful profession. I'm not sure just how good I will be at this, but I figured I'd give it a run.

First my very first blog post, I will answer the question: "Why have I chosen to become a football coach?"

In order to answer this question, I need to provide a little history about my life. I was always a very average athlete and high school football player. However, I have always been intrigued and even consumed by this great game. My Dad was a successful high school football coach before becoming a school administrator, and I'm sure my love of this game comes straight from him. We spent countless hours on the couch as I was growing up watching and analyzing football games. I would constantly ask questions on why things were being done the way they were.

I just completed my fifth year of coaching high school football, all as the quarterbacks coach. The experiences I've had coaching and interacting with young student athletes has been a very rewarding one to say the least. I can only hope that I've had as much impact on the young men I've gotten a chance to coach as they have had on me. I can't imagine any other profession offering the satisfaction that comes in coaching when you see a young man "get it". By this I mean, grasping a concept of coaching that will elevate their play and they see how this will increase their chances for success. I will admit, that my attitude and philosophy of coaching has changed quite a bit since entering the profession. When first starting out, the idea of being in control of young men and getting those kids to do things as I pleased was something that intrigued me about coaching. Look at me, I was the guy in control of my position group with the whistle around my neck and five kids at my mercy. I could tell them to jump and their response would be "how high?"

After a year or two in the profession, I realized coaching wasn't about bossing kids around and being in control, for me anyways. I realized it's not about getting on the whiteboard and showing these kids just how smart I was when it came to identifying coverages. My ultimate goal has changed to being a vehicle in which to help these kids achieve their goals, both on and off the football field. Darin Slack, who I feel is the best teacher of quarterback play on the planet once told me, "there is no greater thing a man can do than to serve his fellow man." I'm quite certain he wasn't the first one to say this, but I had never heard a football coach use words like that before. It sounded like something I would hear a minister say, not a football coach. I was used to quotes such as, Lombardi's "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing" in regards to football coaching philosophy.

We are all selfish people by nature. That's the way we are wired. We want what is best for us before we want what is best for others. I'm still driven by the thought of wearing a state championship ring on my right ring finger one day. I'm still driven by putting my wife and future family in a better position by making more money. I'm still driven by getting a job I love in a place I love. However, it is the relationship, positive impact, and the opportunity to serve these young men that I covet the most.

What I am about to write isn't a knock on any other sports. I played several sports as a kid, and encourage student-athletes to be well rounded and be multiple sport athletes. However, I believe football is a very special game. The most special game on the planet. I've read hundreds of quotes about football, in which many still stick in mind. However, the best quote I have ever come across regarding football was not said by a football coach. Dorothy Farnan, the English Department Chairman at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, NY says this about football...

"Football may me the best taught subject in American high schools because it may be the only subject that we haven't tried to make easy"

Life skills are taught and honed on the practice and game fields of America. Responsibility towards ones self, responsibility towards others, development of character, physical and mental toughness, self-discipline, sportsmanship, teamwork, integrity, and finally personal sacrifice for the good of something larger than yourself.

I've been fortunate to have been able to coach for two very good men and successful coaches in my five years, and learn a lot of football from them. The assistant coaches on the staff over the past five years have been tremendous resources as well. Being a football coach is an ongoing process. I don't feel that I will ever "arrive" and be to a point where I lose the desire to stop learning. This blog is just part of my ongoing process to become better at what I do, in order to serve young men and help them be successful both on and off the field.