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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