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.

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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.