Spread Two-Back Power Play Without Two Backs (Part II)
By Vincent Giacalone, Offensive Line Coach
By utilizing the TE we are now hitting the play at least 1 gap wider. This means our RB’s are crossing the LOS farther away from the unblocked DE. This solves both of the aforementioned problems with the play. Some specific key coaching points:
Front side guard and tackle: This is much more of Gap-Down-Backer thought process than a double team. With the TE’s down block outside and the lack of misdirection in the backfield, the LB’s have a tendency to fast flow. Therefore, the uncovered offensive lineman will actually step through his gap and climb square for the backer.
Center: Usually in Power schemes the center is assigned to block back on a man away from the point of attack. However, in this play the center must block back on an area.
This allows him to pick up any line stunts (Tex or Exit) from the backside DT/DE. Making sure he is patient in his assignment is crucial.
Backside Guard: Whichever way you teach your Power pull, don’t change it for this play. We teach our guards to flat pull tight to the last down block, scrape paint of the TE’s back, and kick out the first defender that shows. In our offense if you, “Pull Left, Block with your Left Shoulder.”
Backside Tackle: In our pass protection we have our tackles vertical set on occasion. Instead of trying to teach them to Skip/Flat pull, we took something they already have practiced with and implemented it here. The footwork is outside foot straight back, inside foot straight back, and then crossover and run with the outside foot. In addition, we have them flash their hands to their chest with their heads back. This vertical set then pull has allowed us to slow down the backside tackle and clouded the read for the backside DE. In terms of the pull we teach our tackles to pull inside the guard’s kick out and hit the first thing that they see. Again, “Pull Left, Block with your Left Shoulder.”
Halfback: When the play started to take on a more Buck Sweep approach I went back to my CMU days and had the running backs square cut their path, the “5 Yard Highway.” For where we want the ball to hit the running back should take 4 to 5 flat steps after he receives the handoff from the QB, put his outside foot in the ground and get North/South as fast as he can. Again, with the pull of the backside tackle the running back needs to be patient. Also, remind them that this is not a cut back play, get vertical and get to the sideline.
Controlling the Backside
One of the detriments to this play is the work necessary to control the backside DE when he is not a C gap defender. This occurs because of his Zone Read responsibilities, blitzes, or stunts. For Valparaiso football, we utilize a few different techniques. For us the first thing we do is check the play. Pre-snap if our QB or Offensive Coordinator does not like the defense’s posture on the backside we will kill the play and run something else. This is something we practice all week, and have a specific answer lined up to take advantage of the defense.
The second thing we add to our Gap play is a Bubble or Smoke screen to the backside. This is a post-snap read for our QB. If the defense blitzes or rotates, he will pull the ball away from the HB and get it to one of our wide receivers. Again, if the defense is blitzing this should put our widest guys one-on-one with their widest guys. Lastly, we have used motion, most likely a wide receiver, or a fullback in the backfield, to come and block the backside DE if we feel the play is so good we do not want to throw or audible out of it. This leads to another whole layer of fakes, waggles, and play actions off this Gap action.
Obviously, we have not invented this play here at Valparaiso; I stole it from Oklahoma after watching them play on ESPN. Being a football coach is about the dissemination of information. If you have any questions, concerns, or complaints please feel free to reach out to me at Vinny.Giacalone@valpo.edu. I would be more than willing to share video or go more in depth with my thoughts on the Gap play.