I am all for simple. To many coaches try to dazzle with playbooks that look like copies of “War and Peace”. Sometimes you see these guys on the sideline with giant call sheets. I pose a question to you if your one of these guys. How can you expect your players to know your entire call system if you have to use a 2ft by 3ft call card on the sideline? My playbook, could fit on an index card, my call sheet, is in my head. Keeping it simple lets you think fast and lets your players play fast. I cover more on that here in “What’s Your System”. In this article I will explain a simple way to attack the defense using a systematic method, so you don’t have to call plays at random or on a script.
A wise man once said: “Only 2 things truly matter when attacking the defense”:
1-who are their best and worst players
Each unit: DL, LBs and DBs have a best and worst player. As a general rule, attack the worst and avoid the best. Use your formations to leverage these players in to areas of the field that you want them in.
2-where are they putting their guys
The defense is going to try to do two things numbers wise to you. They will either, try to balance up to all your formations, or they will tilt to take away numbers advantages. You can use multiple formations to try and gain these numbers and attack. To quote Sun Tsu “attack the enemy where they are not”
Attacking the worst and avoiding the best players is pretty self-explanatory. I don’t think I have to tell you its unwise to throw multiple routes at a 5-star defensive back, or to run at an SEC commit at 5tech. The rest of this article will focus on the numbers game, and how to identify where to attack.
THE BASIC APPROACH
In the picture above you can see that the formation and the field are divided into 2 zones. This is the most basic approach and to be honest, a lot times I can go an entire game and never have to get past this method. It is simple and there really is no true need to go beyond this unless the defense forces you too. When counting the defense its about how many do they have against yours. To the side that has a plus 1 advantage or more is where you need to go with the ball. If the defense is balanced up, then you attack the slugs and avoid the studs. Using balanced formations is an easy way to do this. Sometimes a defense will load the side away from their stud, but this is OK, because now you can double their stud and make his life hell.
In the pictures above you can see the addition of a Tight End creates extra run gaps. While still staying in a balanced formation. Employ the count to ID where to attack. Two coaching points here:
1-in Pro i, if the defense stays in a 2high shell, pound the rock until the cows come home.
2-in high school football, somewhere between 75% and 82% of the snaps are taken on the hash marks. Defenses frequently make the big mistake of leveraging the field instead of numbers. They will put more guys to the field and assume the sideline will be an extra defender. Often times it wont be till late in the 3rd or 4th quarter when the defense finally realizes we have been going at the boundary every snap. By then its usually to late. Sometimes they still wont change and will give you the boundary all night. Use this to your advantage and leverage your formations into the boundary.
THE QUADRANT APPROACH
Once you understand the basic halves attack you can break the field down into 4 quadrants. The quadrants are numbered even to the right and odd to the left. The first 2 are from center out the edge of the box. The next 2 are from the edge of the box to the sideline. When looking to attack the defense in this regard, look for the defense to be balanced in all 4 quadrants. If one of these quadrants is plus one, you know to attack that area. The plays you attack with are up to you, just get the rock over to that part of the field where you have the advantage in the numbers game. If the defense balances in all 4 quadrants attack the worst players, or do what I like to do and use “tilting” formations.
FORCING THE TILT
In the pictures above you can see examples of formations that should force the defense to tilt. If the defense does not tilt, you will have numbers to the strength. Again divide your field into quadrants. Attack where you have numbers. Tilting formations are extremely useful on the hashes! A lot of defenses will already try and leverage the field, now you further force them to put numbers out to the that side with your tilted formation, which will make the count very easy. Placing the tilt into the boundary can be devastating for defenses that rely on the sideline as the extra defender. I’ve seen multiple instances over the years where the defense will not tilt into the numbers if they are to the sideline. As far as I’m concerned this is a self-written death sentence by the defense. Have you ever seen those nature documentaries where army ants just overwhelm creatures hundreds of times there size with their numbers?
While far superior to the individual ant, the 5-star, SEC committed scorpion had no chance in hell….It’s the same concept. To further exploit the tilting advantage, you can employ unbalanced formations to gain leverage on the defense.
The formation above is simple, yet lethal. Make sure the backside tackle is your Tight End to provide a receiving threat to keep the defense honest. You can see in the picture that the quadrants have shifted to account for the unbalanced look. The area with the numbers advantage is where you should attack the defense. Employing trades, shifts and motions in this formation can cause chaos for the other side of the ball. Typically the defense will have issues in quadrants 4, 6 or 1 in this look. Unbalanced formations also provide multiple quick strike opportunities because the secondary has to have run gap assignments to be sound.
I always try to keep things simple. Complex for the sake of complex only slows things down in this game. I truly feel that this is how every offensive coordinator should attack a defense. Take what the defense is giving to you, make it a systematic approach. Don’t call plays off of a script, don’t call plays at random. You need to know where you are going to attack the defense and how manipulating with formations will effect your numbers. Angles and numbers will trump talent in most circumstances. Its up to us on the offensive side to force the defense to adjust. If they don’t adjust….well, have fun then Sir. Everyone will be thinking how smart you are, and you can smirk and think “I just know how to count, that’s all”. Please subscribe with your email so you can be updated whenever an article is released. Feel free to comment, and give me a follow on twitter @thecoachvogt.