Pass to Set Up the Run?

I’m certainly a ‘run-to-set-up-the-pass’ type of coach. I want to run the ball first, and use the pass as a big play.

In our fourth and final possession yesterday, we did the opposite. In the preceding 30 plays of the scrimmage, we’d thrown just once. For this series, we started off with our Option Run Pass Option, better known by it’s acronym Oprah.


This version of Oprah we call ‘Oprah Fat’ because it has a dive fake. (There is another version that works off speed option called Oprah Skinny.) Here’s a drawing of Oprah Fat against the defense we were playing yesterday.


Look for the wheel route first, then split end drag

The safeties were playing so close to the linebackers that we really didn’t treat them as safeties. We just called them extra outside linebackers.  #10 in the video was C1. Watch it again, to see how he is caught in between, then goes ahead and rushes the passer. (Been there with you kid – play action is built to suck guys up, and when you’ve only seen one pass in the last 30 plays, you just about can’t help coming up.)

The key to the play is the down block by the ‘trail’ back on the #2 man, typically a DE. I thought that this play would probably work to start the series, so wasn’t really surprised by its success. What I hadn’t considered was how it would impact the option on the very next play. (This was an alternating every 10 plays type scrimmage, running each play from the 25 yard line.) Watch #10 this time, stay with first the SE, then the A back. By the time he reads run, we’re eight yards down the field we have eight yards of space between him and the ball carrier. Then he goes to the pitch man.


Here’s a drawing of how it is supposed to work – but if C1 comes really hard, he can beat the A back block.

ISV - Dive Read Tackle #4, Pitch Read End #2

The lesson I learned yesterday is that your play action can set up your play, just as easily as your play sets up your play action.

Posted in Coaches, X's and O's | Comments Off on Pass to Set Up the Run?

Olathe District Schools Turf Field Usage

Sorry Youth Option Football fans for the brief local issue below. This is my only WordPress blog, and it had a better on-line petition tool than blogspot.

Our school district last year installed really sweet artificial turf fields on the main practice fields at each of our four local high schools. The only problem is, they also installed gates and locks.

So what used to be available space for youth sports programs is now space for rent. And not many kid football teams are ready to fork over the $51.50 per hour that the district wants.

This isn’t Armageddon or anything. A few of us just don’t think the fields at our public schools are really being utilized as well as they might. A school board member asked me to gather the names of some of those like-minded folks, so the petition below is the result.

To qualify as a petition signer, believe what the petition says and be an Olathe School District taxpayer. That’s it.

When you sign the petition, an e-mail is generated and sent to you, to confirm your e-mail address. I’m not giving the e-mail addresses to the school board or anybody – but just letting them know that these are real people signing this, not spammers or bots. Sorry that’s a necessary step, but I will only give them the names of confirmed folks.


This petition is now closed.

End date: Aug 25, 2011

Signatures collected: 77

77 signatures
Posted in General | Comments Off on Olathe District Schools Turf Field Usage

Life as a Noseguard Just Got Better

The NFHS (National Federation of State High School Association) is the body that writes the various high school sport rules that most states follow. They’ve made a change for football in 2011 that will make things a little safer, especially for defensive linemen.

In the past, a chop block was a “delayed” block at the thigh knees or below on an opponent that was already engaged with the blocker’s teammate. The classic example involved the center pass blocking a nose tackle. The left guard, after setting for a pass block and checking for blitz, would then turn his attention to the nose, already working against the center. If the guard attacked below the waist of the nose tackle at that point in time, it was a 15 yard penalty for chop blocking.

But if the center and guard were instead double-team blocking for a running play, things were quite different.  If the guard shot out to cut the knees of the nose tackle even if the nose had already engaged the center it was not considered a chop block, because the guard’s block was initiated simultaneous to the center’s block.

This type of blocking was known as a form of ‘high/low’ blocking, and was not illegal in high school football last year. It was a controversial style of blocking, and some (I hope most) coaches refused to teach it… but it wasn’t illegal. As of 2011, this type of block will now fit the definition of a chop block, and should draw a flag.

You can read the NFHS statement about the change here: Chop Block Rule Redefined in High School Football, but a chop block is now defined to be

“a combination block by two or more teammates against an opponent other than the runner, with or without delay, where one of the blocks is low (at the knee or below) and one of the blocks is high (above the knee).”

Let me unpack this a little. In the past, the language said that a chop block was

“a delayed block at the knees or below against an opponent who is in contact with a teammate of the blocker in the free blocking zone.”

Note that in the past, the requirements for a chop block were

  1. a delayed block at the knees or below
  2. thrown against an opponent that was in contact with a teammate of the blocker
  3. in the free blocking zone

In the new definition, we must have

  1. A combination block by two or more teammates against an opponent (other than the runner)
  2. with or without delay
  3. where one block is low (knees or below)
  4. and another block is high (above the knees)

The ‘in contact’ requirement of the old rule is gone. So NFHS appears to be telling officials, for a chop block there must be two or more guys throwing a block at the same defender.* If one of the blockers is pulling away and not engaging the defender himself, and is coincidentally contacted by that defender’s upper body, that doesn’t preclude a cut block in the free blocking zone by another blocker. In that case, the defender would actually be the one ‘blocking’ the pulling offensive player, and would not be protected by this rule. Who blocked whom becomes a defining factor.

*By the way, who fouls in the new definition? In the old rule, it was the blocker throwing the delayed block. In the new rule, is it BOTH guys? I suspect refs will name the low blocker as the guilty party.

Nevertheless, I think this is a good change, that should improve the safety of players. (In fact, I called for this change at the youth level two years ago, and am quite shocked that I’ve lived to see it happen.) The rule relieves umpires from having to determine whether a delay occurred between blocks. Now these officials can simply decide whether a combination block was both high and low. I’m anxious to see how umpires interpret various blocks and situations, and whether or not the new chop block rule is ever called.

Watch closely in games with very tight offensive line splits. When splits are tight, it is very easy for blocks to appear to happen with multiple adjacent opponents. That means that ANY cut block by an offensive player runs the risk of being a chop block, whether initiated at the snap or delayed. A defensive tackle can probably protect his knees simply by getting into the gap between two opponent’s upper bodies and sustaining contact or continuing to attempt to split them. Once he’s done that, I think most refs will determine that he can’t be legally cut.

It works both ways though! The offensive linemen are now more protected than previously. Watch Gap Air Mirror defenses and other goal line arrangements, like defending extra-point tries. Any defense that runs two ‘bear crawlers’ into an offensive lineman’s legs runs the risk of being called for a chop block. If the offensive blocker can get his hands on the upper body of ONE of those players, the other crawler can’t initiate contact at the blocker’s knees or below. If he does, that fits the definition of a a chop block, and should be a 15 yard penalty.*

* Many fans assume that blocking rules only apply to offensive players. This isn’t true. The rules of blocking also apply to defensive players, with a few exceptions for tackling the ball carrier or shedding blockers. So for example, blocks below the waist by defensive backs designed to ‘take out’ lead blockers have long been illegal in high school football, however seldom called.

The ‘wedge’ play that many double wing offenses like to run should be improved, because a defense won’t be able to crash into the offensive line’s legs if those linemen are already engaged.

So this is actually a pretty big change if the rule is enforced. I suppose that like many rule changes in sport, officials will have an adjustment period where they will miss a percentage of these fouls because they aren’t used to watching for them. There will also be some old timers who don’t like the new rule, and will turn a blind eye, believing that they have a better understanding of the ‘spirit’ of the rule or some other such nonsense.

Finally, just like the many wonderful plays I draw on my computer, we won’t really know how this will work until we start working with it on grass. But on balance, I believe this will be a good rule change, and I encourage coaches and refs to follow and enforce this new rule, and see how it works out for all of us.

Posted in Rules | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Life as a Noseguard Just Got Better

Block the Fulcrum To Run the Triple

Spread Trips Left Zone Triple

Read the front side DE for Give, Pitch on Will

I saw this diagram on the site The article that accompanies it was written by Mark Colyer of I’ve re-drawn it with my own less skillful drawing ability.

In youth football, we wouldn’t see many defenses like this. But it isn’t too difficult to imagine the Will as a defensive end in a 50 defense, the d end as a tackle and the tackle as a nose. The Mike might shift a little to the weak side in that scenario, but otherwise, it would be pretty similar. From there, it is just one step to a single safety 5-3,with the strong-side OLB moving into something like the strong safety’s position above. And of course, 4-4 and 6-2 are just different, tighter arrangements of the same sort of even front defense.

I don’t question whether this could work because of different defenses that you might see in youth football. To me, the more interesting question is, can this be a ‘bread and butter’ triple option?

I don’t think so.

I have a principle that I follow whenever we’re trying to run the triple, that says: If the fulcrum is close, we have to block him both inside and out. I prefer to design running plays, that if we execute correctly, will work for four yards.  But who’s the fulcrum player, and what do I mean by ‘close?’

The fulcrum, in the way that we count defenders, is the #3 man to the pitch side. For an explanation of the counting method that we use to teach our youth players, see this page here, but basically the #3 is the third guy from outside in, provided he is OFF the line of scrimmage. He has to be a linebacker or safety. He’s close if he’s a linebacker, or within four to five yards of the LOS.

When we run the triple we put pressure on the defense at three points. The inner-most point is the dive, the mid point is the keep, and the outer point is the pitch. The #3 man is almost always horizontally positioned, if he is unblocked, to make a tackle on either the dive or the keep, and can even run through to the pitch if we don’t have a good pitch relationship.

Here’s a drawing of the fulcrum, for an inside veer play:

The fulcrum, or pivot point for the defense, can threaten all three outcomes

In Coach Colyer’s Zone Option drawing, the fulcrum player is the Mike (middle linebacker M.) He’s the guy that can get to the pivot point the most readily. For that play, the pivot point is a bit further inside, because the dive can go clear to the other side of the field. And not surprisingly, if you put a count on it the way we count players, the MLB is indeed the #3 man.

There are four players that might block him. With zone read, there is zone blocking to the dive side. If Mike blitzes either A gap, our playside guard should catch him. If he tries to flow across the formation for the dive to the B gap, either our center or left guard will wall him off.

But what happens when the MLB and the defensive end decide to work together to eliminate this type of triple option? The dive read for the quarterback is the end. If the end crashes across, the read is keep, and the QB heads right to read Will as the pitch key.

Assume that Will bolts to the pitch back. The decision at that point is keep… but the middle linebacker has chosen to take responsibility for the quarterback. He may have done this as soon as he saw the motion on the backside.  I’m going to assume that the offensive tackle might be the guy we want to get in the way of the MLB… But the defensive tackle simply MUST be blocked. If he isn’t, then he’s going to get the dive back and the end is free to take the quarterback.

Yes, you can start exchanging keys. But I don’t think that is easily done in youth football. You’ve told all your interior linemen that this is a ‘zone’ play, so we probably need to stick with zone blocking. If the D tackle is in our way on our run, we will block him.

Note that our right tackle has a combination block – presumably if the D tackle goes outside, he’s got him all the way, and if he goes inside, our guard has him and the O tackle gets out to the Mike.

There are a couple of dilemmas for our offensive tackle. The first is that if the D tackle sits and reads, or steps straight through the B gap, our O tackle simply must block him, at least for a while. The 3-tech tackles we see in youth football are responsible first for that gap and then second for ball carrier pursuit. My guess is the D tackle would run to the mesh if we don’t block him, forcing us now to try to quickly read TWO defensive guys for the dive, and that’s usually a disaster. The second dilemma is that if the D tackle slants in, while yes our O tackle can get out to the Mike, will he really be able to get under him to keep him off the dive? Not many youth tackles I know could do that.

But lets assume that somehow we might be able to get around him for the dive.  I still get back around to this:  The blocking scheme doesn’t account very well for the MLB rolling to the quarterback. Every time I see an option play that doesn’t work, my first question on film is “Did we handle #3?” This version of the option doesn’t really have a good way to keep that #3 player from blowing up the keep portion of the triple.

I don’t mind the spread formation – but I normally think it is best to be balanced to run the triple. What you lose in potential numbers for bubble screens and zone flooding passing, you gain in an extra blocker.

But lets assume that coach is a wild spread guy, and really, really wants to run trips and shotgun with his triple. A whole lot of his offense revolves around that. Would there be a way to run a triple with trips to one side that DID block the fulcrum? I played around, and came up with this:


Spread Trips Left Zone Triple

Strong Safety is pitch key; Zone blocking from interior

In my version of a triple out of trips, we’re still zone blocking left with the center and two guards. The right tackle will bounce his man out, then cut off #3 on the backside. The left tackle will pull and trap block the unblocked lineman – first down outside the center.

The Defensive End is the dive key (#4 man) and the strong safety (#2 man) is the pitch key. The fulcrum is the Sam linebacker, and we block him to protect both the dive and the keep/pitch.

Here’s the play against a more typical 5-3 defense that we see often in youth football.

#3 Man is still MLB with a 5-3 - Sam widens for triple, making him #2.

It was very interesting to contemplate using this type of play against a youth 5-3. As you can see, the Sam linebacker is #2 and the pitch key, while the End remains #4 and the dive key. The really cool thing about the spread is that it actually makes the MLB the #3 man. They are so spread out that the MLB is #3 on both sides of the formation.

Per my previous comments, as the #3 man the MLB can put pressure on all three phases of the option, especially the dive and keep. You can see though, that in this case we can get to him from both inside and outside. Only if he leaves to pursue the dive should our slot receiver bounce out to the safety.

The harder thing about a youth defensive formation is that extra man on the nose. But if they move their OLB out to hedge against the trips, even if they don’t move the MLB over to compensate, I think this could be a decent play. When you use the A back as the dive back, and the B back as the pitch key, you’ve added another wrinkle that can pay big dividends. And I think, even for a trips / spread oriented team, this could be a pretty effective triple option.

Posted in X's and O's | Comments Off on Block the Fulcrum To Run the Triple

What Price Winning?

What’s it worth to win?

Evidently, thousands.

The report speaks for itself, and if you haven’t already viewed it, I encourage you to watch it all the way through. Even the uncomfortable parts.

I wanted to turn away when the coach was confronted about his participation in this stuff. It’s hard to take, because I admire and enjoy the company of all youth football coaches that have fun with kids, and help them, and teach the game.

But inside, a big part of you wants to win. We all know that having the best players helps you win more games. So where do you draw the line?

I think it is pretty easy for most of us to say that we wouldn’t go there. But would we invite a kid, happily playing another sport, to give football a try instead? A lot of us would. Would we spend some of our hard-earned money on a book, or software, or a DVD to help us become better as coaches? Absolutely. Football is a great sport, and a fun hobby for us as youth coaches.

But just because you’d recruit a kid away from soccer, or spend your coffee money on a DVD, it doesn’t have to mean that you have put winning above everything else. And I think that’s the key difference.

To maintain that difference though, you CAN’T make winning the most important thing.

You just can’t. If you do, you’re sliding down a very slippery slope.

Here’s an example, that isn’t nearly as dramatic as the video above.  Let’s agree that my club is pretty successful at getting sponsors, at least compared to other groups in our league. Last year we raised about $3,500 to benefit 70 kids and their families. I spent about four hours total raising that money.

With three full days of effort, could I raise $21,000? That would probably cover every expense and then some, for every kid. My recruiting message might improve with “Free Tackle Football,” don’t you think? Could I take that message to competing leagues that border my area, and recruit other football athletes into our program?

My league will be happy to let those players come in. There are paid professionals administering our league, and they’re competing for recreational dollars, just like every other league.

Could I write a book about raising sponsorship money, and using that money to recruit athletes to your youth football team? Could the money I raise from selling that book be reinvested in my club and various money-making operations in support of more winning, and more recruiting?

And when I start winning my youth league with players that I recruited from neighboring cities, that didn’t have to pay a dime to play, how will the other coaches in my league react? Will I be banned? Will other leagues form that are more ‘open’ to out-of-area players?  Will poaching from other teams and leagues soon become the accepted norm?

Will parents team-shop for the best deal, or coach or team that wins the most? Will they look for the greatest likelihood of national recognition? Will they seek out a coach that promises them a better opportunity at a college scholarship? Will they only sign on with paid coaches?

I think we already know the answer. ALL of it happens – and more, including now drug money and gambling pressure.

The point it though, that NONE of this happens, if winning isn’t paramount. If winning is secondary at best, then as a coach, parent, and player you are free to focus on other things – like having fun, and getting better at football. You enjoy a hobby, your children, and a fun activity. You get great personal satisfaction from seeing the achievements of kids.

Youth coaches that try to win at all costs aren’t working for the kids. They’re working for themselves. The NCAA and NFL have jobs for guys that are that committed, but not many youth coaches get to that level.

Coach, if your price to win is ANY price, then you are paying too much. And sadly, so are your players and their parents.

Posted in Coaches | Comments Off on What Price Winning?

If You Choose, You Lose

Flexbone Association, a web site that I follow, just published a small blurb in advance of some camps they’re running. The article is here… …and the blurb says, in part:

  • As a coach, you decide WHO gets the ball — as a coach you show the ball carriers how to carry the ball.

Flexbone Association is a terrific site for information, and undoubtedly filled with outstanding stuff for flex option coaches. I’d love to go to a camp of theirs some day, and pick some really experienced brains.

But for me – if you choose, you lose.

I have no problem with the latter part of the statement. We do need to teach ball carriers how to carry the ball. But along about the time our players were in the fourth grade, I found that the more often COACH chose who would carry the ball, the more often things didn’t work out the way that I’d hoped.

For our Option (ISV), Midline, Midline Lead, Veer (OSV), Speed, Counter Quick, and Iso Option, it is our quarterback who decides, on the fly, which player will carry the ball.

For many other running plays, I decide who gets the ball. And sometimes I even make good choices. But I’m not a great guesser. What seems to work best is if I happen to pick the right option play, and then let our QB choose the ball carrier.

Another site that I follow is, which I highly recommend to any thinking football fan. They have a variety of measurements that incorporate “successful plays” for an offense. In college football, their criteria is 50% of necessary yardage on 1st down, 70% on 2nd down, and 100% on 3rd down. Read more here.

I modified that for our youth teams, because we rarely punt. We are predisposed to ‘go for it’ on 4th down, in all but clock-killing situations. So because our youth teams have four downs to make a first, rather than just three, my criteria is less demanding.

I measure a successful offensive play as 40% of the necessary yardage on first down, then 33% of the necessary yardage on second down, 50% of remaining yardage on third down, and 100% on fourth down. The yardage to gain for success is always rounded up to the next whole yard. So if we have 2nd down and seven yards to go, three yards or more is a successful play. Anything less is a failure.

You might wonder, rationally, why not 25% on first down? The other percentages would still all fit, it’s true. But I believe that being more aggressive, and demanding a better achievement on first down creates a better offense. If we become too conservative, and for example, just try to run dive or lead plays for 2.5 yards per crack, the margin of error is too fine. Eventually we have a failure, and become more likely to fail than if we’d been pushing for four yards or better on first down. For a similar reason, FootballOutsiders sets 50% as the success criteria for college first down plays. FO is more aggressive than I am on 2nd down – but again, their criteria is applied in a world where a fourth down punt or field goal is routine. In eight games we punted only four times in 2010, and didn’t attempt a field goal.

What I found was that when I CHOOSE the ball carrier, our play success rate was 42%. When I called an option play, where two or more ball carrier options were possible outcomes, our success rate was 49.23%. Our overall success rate was 46.42%.

For whatever its worth, we ran option plays 60.2% of the time, and non-option plays 39.8% of the time. This ratio of Option over Non-Option plays has been increasing every year, and I expect it to be highest this season, for sixth grade.

Lest you think this is small potatoes, the 46.42% is comparable to a top 25 college team for 2010.  Ohio State was 22nd in the country with a success ratio of 46.4%.  Auburn, that won the national championship, was 52.3%. Oregon, national runners-up with their crazy hurry-up spread, ran successful plays 47.6% of the time.

Looking at primarily option teams, Navy, for example, was 47.3% successful. Georgia Tech was 43.3%; Air Force was 47.1%; and Army was 44.8%. It would certainly be interesting to know whether those teams experienced a similar disparity between option and non-option play success.

So for our offense, the more that we practice, rely, and trust the option play, the more success we have. And the less often I choose the ball carrier, the better.

Posted in Statistics | Comments Off on If You Choose, You Lose


Basic Counting, First Option, and Second Option are on-line. Use the links at the top.

What would you like to learn? Basic Counting is how we count players, First Option is about Inside Veer, Second Option is about Midline, Third Option will be Outside Veer, and Fourth Option will be about Speed Option.

But once you’ve seen all those, you may have questions about how we attack particular defenses, our other plays, drills, techniques… I dunno all of the stuff you might want to know. But if you think of a question, leave a comment or drop me a note.

Posted in General | Comments Off on Progress

All You Really Need

Then again, here’s all you really need to teach the game:


Posted in Teaching | Comments Off on All You Really Need

Site Plans

Updating this site will take a good sweet while. This is probably for the best, because if I wasn’t doing this late at night I’d be headed to the local sports bar to spend money I don’t have, or perusing web sites FAR more interesting than this one.  Like this one.

(Boys, we’re going to have to wait a few minutes while all the ADD coaches follow that link and a few others before they wind their way back here… All aboard again? OK.)

In fact, working on this at night will probably reduce my late night Internet movie viewing by 80% or more. You know… there are just SO many football videos on YouTube. What did you think I was talking about?

Across the top of this area I envision a menu that has some of the basic stuff that a coach might want to review when he first discovers YOF.  YOF is the shorthand name that I’ve given this dung heap, because programmers abbreviate everything.*  Pronounce it Y O F please, with each letter enunciated. Sure that’s three syllables, but Youth Option Football is five, so we’re saving 40%, and sounding much more sophisticated.

*The first programming project I ever worked on was a medical software package for doctor’s offices. We wrote it in Clipper (a compilable dBase dialect) and stored the project in a directory named MedPkg. So in the shop we called it The MedPackage. When it came time to name the thing in order to take it to market, I said just call it MedPackage. But no, no, no, we had to hire a consultant that we couldn’t afford who did a ‘marketing study’ and determined that Vision would be a great name. Vision was actually a very sucky name, and the company that wrote it went out of business and I lost my job. So if this site ever becomes, now you’ll know why.

I’m working on that top menu doo-hickey now. (If you’re not a programmer, a doo-hickey is an actual thingamajig. If you are a programmer, what the hell are you doing reading this site? Get back to work, java boy.)

By clicking the Home menu item, you’ll get to the current post. (A post, Coach Bubba, is the crap that I’m writing at that moment. Each new piece of crap is another post.) The Home area will be reserved for whatever I’m thinking about at the time, or have noticed that day. Many, many days can go by where I don’t notice a single thing. Or at least, that is what my wife says is happening – I wouldn’t know of course, thus sadly and irrefutably proving her point.

I did that Welcome! link just so you’d know exactly what manner of ill-advised wisdom and ideas you were probably going to find on this site. I mean, who the hell do I think I am, anyway?  See? You and I agree already.

Basic Counting runs through an awful lot of what I have to say, about football anyway. So when I write a post about why we double the #3 guy on so many option plays, you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about if you’ve read the page under that menu item.

I’m working now on the next menu item that will be called First Option. It’s just a description of the first option play that we teach. It will have two videos!

That will be followed by Second Option, Third Option, and finally Fourth Option. I realize this enumeration of option plays will also represent a sort of a quirky double entendre,  and for that, you are welcome. I do love me some of them there adionoetas. They’s cute.

Those are my ill-conceived plans for this site. If you find anything of value herein, please let me know where I screwed up, because the valuable crap I probably ought to try to sell.

Posted in General | Comments Off on Site Plans


This site is dedicated to youth football coaches everywhere. My hope is that this becomes a helpful site for youth coaches that want to teach option football.

Whether you’re running veer, wishbone, flex, pistol, I, or any other formation, I want this site to help you teach the option play. Triple, double, zone read, counter option, speed – whatever you call it, and however you do it, I want to explore it.

I think the option is one of the prettiest running plays in all of football. A well executed option play is breathtaking. There’s a ‘now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t’ quality to the play that makes fans gasp as the play happens.

You’ve heard it – that momentary, collective intake of breath by hundreds of fans at once? It happens when the running back gets the ball in space, just after a quarterback avoids a crashing defender and pitches the ball. The fast kid has the ball, and the fans are getting ready to yell. It is, literally… breathtaking.

If you feel as I do, that there isn’t a prettier play in football, and that you’d like to learn more about teaching it, then you and I should get ready to do this together. Over the coming months and years I will be posting anything and everything I see and hear about youth option football.

Most of the stuff on this site will be free. I may try to sell a few things too – we’ll see how that goes. But by and large I appreciate the time that you volunteer to teach football, and if anything I post adds to what you’re doing, then the mission is accomplished.

Stay tuned!

Posted in General | Comments Off on Dedication