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MATCH QUARTERS from the UNDER FRONT

Match Quarters has become highly prevalent in defensive football world over the past decade.  And for good reason! It works!  It is an outstanding way to combat the ever increasing number of spread offenses you will see from week to week.  2read, MQ, quarters read, match quarters, whatever you want to call it, the principals remain the same.  This article will focus on running the concept from an under front. Specifically, a 3-4 under which I simply call “Shade”.

BASE PHILOSOPHY of “SHADE”

We will stop the run! First and foremost. We will not allow people to move the ball by running it, we will make necessary adjustments to ensure this from week to week.  Basing out of the shade will give multiple looks to the offense and allow us to easily incorporate stunts and pressures when warranted.

I call it shade because it tells the front they will be shading the OL instead of aligning head up. (heads) While in shade, the strength will always be called to the passing strength.  the only rule breaker to this is if you get a TE and wing on the same side, then the strength MUST go to the TE/wing combo.

Our secondary will play a base coverage called “Palms” (same as rest of America). In this we can align to any formation and still be sound vs the run and the pass.  Every day as a team, we will tackle, and we will run “block destruction” drills.

GOOD ENOUGH for BELICHICK, GOOD ENOUGH for ME

Run Defense

  • Set the edge, turn the ball back inside to pursuit
  • Attack at correct angles
  • NEVER GIVE UP CONTAIN
  • Force Player will force ball inside then shed block and make play
    • Push back the LOS
  • Must teach players to defeat blocks
  • If QB can run, somebody MUST BE A 2 GAP PLAYER
  • Backside set edge for reverse, boot, counter and cutbacks
  • Every week emphasize setting the edge
  • Run through tackles, never leave feet

Pass Defense

  • Collapse pocket to get to QB
  • Push up middle, don’t want QB stepping up
  • A rusher deeper than the QB is the worst position in football to be in
  • A good pass rush helps the coverage more than 4 all stars in the secondary will

ALIGNMENT

  • Weak Tackle/End aligns 4i and steps hard inside eyes on guard
  • Strong Tackl/End aligns 5tech and plays squeeze
  • Nose aligns playside shade on the center
  • Sting will be a loose 9 or tight 9 to heads on the TE or 5 tech depending on the call
  • Ram will be a loose 9 or tight 9 to heads on the TE

Here is a look at the shade alignment vs some common offensive sets:

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PALMS OVERVIEW

Quarters Read. Corners and safeties read number the number 2 receiver.  To a TE the safety becomes run support.  Corners Toes at 6 yards with inside leverage, his read steps are backpedal weave.  Safeties toes at 9 to 12 yards.  Safeties are a PASS FIRST defender and backpedal on the snap.

  • Corner and safety will read number 2 to their side.
  • To 3 x1 the read man remains number 2 in slide and moves to number 3 in roger/lucy. This is a concept called “mini” we will save this for another article.  The easiest adjustment to 3×1 is to simply slide into cover 3 with your secondary.
  • To a single receiver side with no 3×1 alert, the corner and safety will default to cover 2.

RULES FOR PALMS

The rules for Palms Coverage are relatively simply in concept.  The number 2 receiver can only do 1 of 4 different things.

  • Number 2 goes out
    • Corner takes number 2 and safety plays over the top
  • Number 2 goes in
    • Both safety and corner back pedal into quarters
      • Safeties eyes go to QB and he is going to end up robbing any deep middle route by the opposite number 2
    • Number 2 goes vertical
      • Both safety and corner back pedal into quarters
    • Number 2 blocks/cracks
      • Corner will spike inside for run support
      • Safety gets over top in case of bubble/go or play action, then rallies for run support. He still PASS FIRST

Here is a look at Palms vs some common 2×1 and 2×2 route combinations:

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depending on the scout that week will determine when the corner comes off.  To be safe… tell them “when in doubt, stay deep!”

CLOSING

Like most things, people tend to over complicate it.  Pattern match coverages are no different.  It really is that simple.  Repetition is key.  Once your players are confident in what they are doing.. they can play fast.  When they can play fast, good things happen!  Stay tuned for an article on the “MINI” coverage mentioned previously! Be sure join the email list so you can be updated anytime an article posts!  Follow me on twitter here @TheCoachVogt

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Using WingT “Same As” Plays in the Spread!

The WingT offense is known for its series method of running plays that all look the same.  Often called “Same As” plays or “Smoke and Mirrors” by WingT aficionados.  This can obviously cause a lot of problems for a defense.  By making two or three plays look exactly the same.  You know you are doing it right when you hear the fans yelling “RUN A DIFFERENT PLAY!” but you have run several different plays in row without a repeat call.  Hopefully the defense thinks its all the same too! What you are doing, is forcing the defense to play assignment football WITHOUT having to run option. This is what creates those second and third level cutbacks that the WingT is famous for.  I am a big proponent of the zone running scheme, especially the Wide Zone from sets using tight ends and multiple backs.  HOWEVER, my roots are WingT and I will always fall back to it in times of need.  Angles win… period.

As far as the Spread Offense goes… I have never really bought into it because I think you gotta have a DUDE at QB to be good at it. That being said, I have run Spread before and think that it has definitely changed the landscape of football forever!  No one can deny the impact the Spread has had on football.  (I think the perimeter screens are the major factor in this btw…)

Recently I have being doing a lot of research into the Spread Offense. Not into schemes or pass routes or formations… but into the ideologies of the Spread and what makes the Spread Guy tick.  I have been researching what philosophical approaches coaches are taking when running the Spread Offense.  What I found made me kinda sit back, but was not surprising when I thought about it in context. Just about EVERY SINGLE ideology of the Spread is an echo of the WingT.  Lets take a look at them:

  • Both want five on five in the tackle box
    • Both use formations to do this
    • Both have plays that will make the defense pay if they don’t do this
  • Both will attack the perimeter ruthlessly
  • Both want to put defenders into conflicts
  • Both want to create numbers advantages on the flanks
  • Both want to create leverage for blockers
  • Both use sequential “If/Then” concepts
  • Both use options as change ups to create big plays
    • Traditional or RPO
  • Both look to influence secondary defenders for “go ahead” scores
  • Both use misdirection frequently

The Spread is like the defiant son of the WingT.  The influence is clearly there, but enough difference to allow him to say “I AM NOT THE SAME”.  But in reality, the two are not that different.  There is however ONE thing that spread seams to be missing.  And that is, the “Smoke and Mirrors”.   The same as plays!  What this article will focus on is incorporating a “Same As” series in a Spread attack.

THE BUCK SERIES

The Spread stuff is coming, I promise!  Before we get into that we need to look at the WingT for a second to show where the concepts come from.  When you here the phrase “Same As” or “Smoke and Mirrors” most coaches familiar with the WingT think about the Buck series first.  This series consists of the Buck Sweep, Trap, and Waggle.  All of which look the same.  For this article we will not cover all the little nuances of Bucky but instead will briefly go over Bucky and Trap to give some perspective.

Bucky

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For the Buck Sweep the whole front side from tackle to wing, will be gap blocking.  That means the blockers are going to take the first man inside of them.  If no man is inside of them, they will go to backer.  This is where the rule “gap down backer” comes from.  The play side guard will “bell pull” to clear any garbage and kick out the first man outside the wing back (TE if no wing). The center will reach play side.  The backside guard will “bell pull” to clear any garbage and then wrap around the wing backs block to pick up the play side linebacker.  The backside tackle will release down field to get the play side third level defender. The backside wing is the ball carrier and goes into high motion and replaces the fullbacks heels to get the ball.

Now here is where the smoke and mirrors happens.  The full back will fake the Trap and run through backside A gap replacing the centers back leg and run down the field like he has the ball.  As soon as the defense is not checking the fullback, now you can go to Trap!

Trap

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The Trap, or Influence Trap as some call it is designed to make the defense pay for over playing the Buck Sweep. This works because both guards are pulling still, and the wing now fakes the Buck Sweep!  Here are the differences.  Both Tackles now have nearest LB. the play side wing will have safety and the center will now block back to replace where the full back was going on Buck Sweep. The play side three tech that has been fighting across face all game now sees the guard pull as steps outside to fight the gap block, he thinks is coming and widens the lane for the ball carrier.

The key for both plays is that anyone not getting ball pretends with conviction that they do have it! This means on Bucky the fullback sells the fake and on Trap, the wing back does.  The QB will be faking waggle pass on both.

“SAME AS” IN THE SPREAD

For the spread variant of this, we will be focusing on Counter and Trap.  I have two reasons for choosing counter as the first play in the series:

  1. While if you are under center, I feel you cannot use the counter as a “hang your hat” play, I feel that it is different for the spread. Counter is one of the few plays that I feel hits faster from the gun, then it does from under center.
  2. Gap is Gap is Gap. Gap scheme is easier to teach, and angles make easier blocks.  You can run multiple Gap Schemes and Gap is still Gap.

Counter

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On the counter the front side blockers from Tackle to center have gap.  They will block the first man inside of them to backer if nobody is inside of them.  The caveat is that the center must gap all the way to B gap!  This is important in case there is a backside three tech.  The backside guard will pull down the line replacing the gapping front side blockers and kick out he first man on the line of scrimmage. The backside tackle will pull slightly deeper than the guard and wrap up inside of his kick out to pickup the play side linebacker.  He pulls on a deeper path just in case the guard gets wrong armed by the DE. This will allow him to wrap around the guard if he gets spilled.  The play side three tech is typically going to be gapped by the tackle.  But if he is a War Daddy, I would suggest doubling him to the backside backer.

Handling the backside defensive end can be done in several ways. You can read him, you can put the back on the opposite side and have the back block the end while the QB keeps it, you can base him with an H, or you can base him with the tackle and have an H be the wrapper. The good thing about basing the DE is, now you can tag in some RPOs if that’s your thing.

Obviously there are a million ways to dress up the counter!  You have motions and inverted reads.  You can block counter one way and run jet sweep the opposite way. Can pair it with quick screens and options.  As long as nothing changes for the OL… your good to go.

Trap

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Now for the “Same As”.  With the Trap you have a play that looks just like Counter, but will hit in the I gap instead of the B/C gap. For the trap the center will still block back to replace the puller.  the play side tackle will block the nearest linebacker and the play side guard will block the backside linebacker. Now, because the Trap does not hit near as fast from the gun as under center, you must account for the backside defensive end.  You can do this in the same manners as you do on counter, including reading the DE.

Tackle Trap

If you really want to sell the counter you can block the trap like this:

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The play side guard will by pass the three tech to the defensive end to influence him wide and the tackle will now be trapping the three tech!  You can also do the same thing with an H back.

CLOSING

Many offenses can benefit by using the ideologies of the WingT. The spread already uses so many.  By adding in some “Same As”, you can keep the defense guessing make them think you are running the same play over and over, when in fact… you are running different plays entirely! When you add in the reads and RPOs that go with the spread, you can really keep the defense on its heals, and your ball carriers in the end zone!  Make sure to subscribe to my emailer list so you can be updated anytime a new article posts! Follow me on twitter here: @TheCoachVogt and be sure to check out the NEW STORE for Books, Apparel and Merchandise!

 

 

BUILDING AN AERIAL ATTACK AROUND THE WIDE ZONE: Guest Post by Chad Weeks

About Coach Weeks.

Coach Chad Weeks is the Offensive Coordinator at Mosley High School in Lynn Haven FL. I first met Coach Weeks via twitter and we started having in depth discussions about the Wide Zone.  Very quickly he showed a strong aptitude for understanding football schemes as a whole.  Operating predominately out of 12 personnel, in two years time his offense would become what may be the best High School Wide Zone team I have ever seen.  Below is a guest post about building an effective play action attack in conjunction with the Wide Zone!

BUILDING AN AERIAL ATTACK AROUND THE WIDE ZONE

wzpic

INTRODUCTION

2 years ago, I came across some tweets by Coach Vogt talking about the “most consistent play in football”. Immediately I was drawn to the consistency of the play and was sold by Alex Gibbs’ proclamation of no-negatives. In the time since, I have built my offensive philosophy around Wide Zone and the mantra that Gibbs preaches in his clinic talks…if you are gonna run it, you better be willing to commit to it and cut out the rest of the fluff that seems to fill all of our playbooks at one point or another.

This article will not be covering the in’s and out’s of Wide Zone. This has been done in great detail in Coach Vogt’s eBook Installing The Wide Zone which is one of the finest manuals for running a football play I’ve ever read. This book is a complete guide to installing, applying and running the Wide Zone play. The book covers the philosophical applications, coaching points, drills and briefly looks at the many change ups that can be added.

Instead, I will focus on the pieces that go around the base play. The “answers” if you will, to the many different challenges defenses will deploy once they make the decision to take away the Wide Zone. This be done in 2 parts. Part 1 will discuss the keeper off of Wide Zone and part 2 will discuss the play action passing game off of the Wide Zone. 

PART 1 – THE KEEPER

The keeper goes by many names…keeper, naked, boot…it doesn’t matter what you call it, but a Wide Zone team had better have it and had better be good at it. The secret to it is in the acting and the mechanics involved. The best QB mechanics I’ve come across to date come from the National Football Academies Self Correct System DVDs. They utilize the Set, Show, Snap, Sell moniker to describe the mechanics and I have found it to be very effective. The video below shows the keeper mechanics for Tight Zone, when adjusting for Wide Zone Keeper, the QB and RB would simply need to widen the track and landmarks.

The second part of the acting is the offensive line. The biggest mistake that I hear from other coaches on this is to simply tell the OL to “block the play”. This is one of the many gross oversimplifications coaches use that do not respect the details of making the play successful; much like a barber being told “just a razor fade”, without any respect for the skill and precision required to obtain the perfection at such a difficult haircut.

For the keeper to truly effective the OL must get the linebackers to displace themselves by selling the run. To make this happen they must come off the ball fast and flat down the line of scrimmage, literally running horizontally picking up anything that crosses their path.

A crucial part of this play is the “slam” block (or whatever you want to call it, it honestly doesn’t matter) by the TE/H. The player must come off the ball flat and fast to protect the QB from a free shot. In the video below you can see what happens when he gets beat inside…which then causes the QB to be rushed into a bad throw.

There will come a time that you may come across a DE that is so well coached that he will not bite, no matter how much Wide Zone you show him. In this case you can either abandon the keeper (not the wise decision), or you can tag the blocking scheme to deal with him by pulling a guard. The illusion you are showing the linebackers is somewhat affected but the result is that you don’t let one defender take away a significant compliment to a base play of the offense.

boot

The next piece to think about is the route combination part of the keeper. This can become convoluted very quickly. We as coaches tend to make things more difficult than they should be. This page from the 2013 Auburn playbook says it all:

nakedrules

BASE NAKED RULES: To the side we are running the naked back to, we always have a receiver in the flats (1), a receiver climbing at 10 – 12 yards (2), a Deep 20 yard comeback* to the sidelines (3) and a backside home run post (4). The way we get people in these spots may vary, but we will almost always have 4 players at these different landmarks on the field.

*For high school adaptation I would adjust the comeback to 15 yards if the QB didn’t have the arm for the deeper throw.

Keeper 1

keeper2

The location of where these routes originate can vary, and there can of course be substitutions for the routes they use, but the general idea is that you want receivers in those locations at all times on keepers so that the QB knows instinctively where to go. Often times he is going to be under pursuit and will inevitably have to make a throw under duress, so it is crucial for him to know where his people will be without having to think.

PART 2 – THE SOLID PASS 

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Any play caller worth their salt knows that there comes a time when one must drop the hammer on the defense. The good ones know are able to find those moments and also dial up the right play to make it happen. In this article I will discuss the different play actions that compliment Wide Zone as a base play. Some are deep shots, some are simple constraints to instill hesitation in the defense.

PROTECTION

As all good play do, this starts up front. Our Wide Zone play action protection is a simple one. We take exactly the same tracks and steps as we would on Wide Zone for 3 steps. After that we begin retreating and sorting out the defenders as they come to us. The only person who this changes for is the person blocking the backside end. This can be the backside TE or a H-Back slicing across the formation, this person’s goal in life on this play is to not let the QB get hit in the back.

WZ PA Protection

WZ PA Protection with Slice

ROUTES

The routes we use for play action have a High-Low progression with someone running a deep route, an intermediate route, and a flat route . We call these plays because we want to take a shot, but things do not always go the way we planned them and the QB needs to have options if things don’t work out.

Up Rt Purple 38 Z-BlazeUp Rt X-Cross

CLOSING

Coach Vogt talking here:  This is about as good as a guide you can get for the play action game off the Wide Zone!  It is very apparent that Coach Weeks is very sharp and knows is stuff.  Incorporating these concepts into your offensive attack is a must! That goes if you are a Wide Zone team, and Inside Zone team or a gap scheme team.  You must make safeties pay for getting nosy, and you must keep DC’s out of the box by stretching the field vertically for touchdown strikes and explosive plays.  Lets face it, every weekend defensive staffs meet and they say two things: 1) we gotta stop the run, and 2) we cant get beat deep.  Adding these concepts to your attack will allow you to exploit the two biggest fears defensive coaches have!  Be sure to subscribe to the email list so you can be updated any time a new article posts! You can follow me on twitter here at @TheCoachVogt and you can follow Coach Weeks on twitter here at @weekschad 

2 Things Needed for Success in Coaching Football

Football is undoubtedly the greatest team sport on the planet! As we always preach to new coaches and to our players, it takes every single individual involved in the program to make it successful. From the equipment managers, parents, boosters to the starting QB and the Head Coach.  It takes everybody working together.  It is part of makes this such a great job.  The community that is built around a good football program is something that cannot be replicated in other sports or even other professions.  It is part of the reason we get into this profession. Along with the love of game and the desire to make a difference in the lives of young men.  However, if we want to have longevity in this profession, there several things that you need to be able to do, and traits that you should have.  This article will focus on two of them that I think are vitally important to a long career in this great field of work.  First, is the ability and desire to acquire new knowledge.  Second, is adaptability.

The Ability and Desire to Acquire New Knowledge

This is something that is a good quality to have with any venture in life. You must have the ability to go out and learn as much as possible, as often as possible.  But having the ability is not enough by itself.  You need to have the desire to as well.  Professional development is an ongoing thing.  It never ceases.  It would be highly beneficial for you to go out and learn as much as you can, about as many different systems as you can, both offensively and defensively. Become proficient in many different philosophies. This can help you understand your opponents as well as give you something to use when the time comes.

Remember, nobody has all the answers.  As soon as you get complacent. As soon as you think you know it all.  As soon as you think you’ve learned everything there is to know… that’s when you get beat.  THERE IS ALWAYS SOMEBODY SMARTER.  In one regard or another, there is going to be somebody that knows more than you about something eventually.  Don’t get beat because you got lazy in your own continued education of the sport.  Do your best to mitigate and minimize all chances of not having an answer by always striving to acquire and apply new information, which leads us right into our next trait.

Adaptability

You must have the ability to adapt.  What I mean by that is, you must be able to adapt the program to fit your talent levels. If you have a bunch of tall, lanky and thin bodies for your skill players, lining up and running the isolation 20 times a game might not be the best idea you’ve ever had…  but if that’s all you know, or worse, all you’ve cared to know, you won’t be able to adapt and experience success.  On the other side of that, if you have a bunch of undersized lineman, asking them to zone block and man block in a spread set where they have no edge help… that can be a disaster too.  So, you need to understand a wide range of systems so you can always put your kids in a situation to experience success and build confidence.  Same goes for the defensive side of the ball.  If you have a bunch of DB and LB type bodies on the field, forcing them into a 4 man front isn’t going to help you much.  Play to the strengths of your players.

Now, it is important that you understand that I AM NOT saying that you shouldn’t have a core set of principles that you believe in.  EVERYBODY should and in fact, needs to have that.  You need to have that one system that you believe in.  Having the ability to adapt within the system is even better.  But whatever the system, be it single wing or air raid or triple option, you need to have your “bread and butter”  I’ll use myself as an example.  It is my philosophy that I will always start off with basing out of the wingT.  My number one reason for this, the wingT’s naturally ability to adapt to all different talent levels.  From youth leagues to big leagues.  It uses angles and numbers to make blocking easier.  It gets your backs to the edge effectively regardless of talent level.  It uses 3 backs so you can use smoke and mirrors, ball fakes, and spread the ball around.  It provides success for teams that have little talent, but is great for teams that have a plethora of talent.  You see it in the NFL still, and clearly there is no lack of talent there.  So that is why I base my offense from those principles… but that doesn’t mean I will refuse to get into single back or shot gun to run zone and throw the ball if that’s what it will take to win.  I make it a point to understand as many systems as possible as many of you do as well.

Closing

Learning and Adaptability.  Is it the only two things you need? Of course not, but they can dang sure help you be a more successful coach!  Let me know in the comments or on twitter what are some things that you think are mandatory for long term success??? Give me a follow on twitter here @thecoachvogt and please subscribe with your email so you can be notified anytime a new article drops!   Speaking of learning new things, here are some opportunities to do just that with some informational material written by yours truly.

The Speed-T Offense V2”  “Installing the Wide Zone”  and  “Practical Fitness

Till next time,

Coach Vogt.

Utilizing the Rocket Toss

For some Wing-T teams (as well as some Spread-T teams), when it comes to attacking the edge the Rocket Toss is going to a better option than the Speed Sweep or the Buck Sweep.  Rocket will be better for teams that are undersized up front, play against defensive ends that are of a high caliber and for teams that will never get into any type of zone blocking.  Why is this so?  Well, in the Buck Sweep, the ball carrier is going to get the ball after a short high motion, after the QB has faked to the fullback.  He then will stretch the edge and must rely on the down block of a wing back on a defensive end.  As far as plays go for the Wing-T, it is rather slow hitting.  Not to mention all the moving parts like having two pulling guards on linebackers in space.  For Speed Sweep, the ball carrier is going to receive the football directly behind the center, and be on the edge in a few steps.  This is great for creating a stretch of the defense and opening up creases to cut up inside of.  With the Rocket Toss, the ball carrier is going to get the ball in full stride behind the play side wing back, that means there is no need to block any down lineman inside of your offensive tackle! When the ball carrier gets the ball, he is already on the edge, the only other play in football that can rival the way Rocket stretches the entire field is going to be the bubble pass.  The defense must defend the entire width of the field with rocket toss.  Best of all, the rocket motion matches up with belly, trap, counter, sally, the option series and all the play action passes!

Here is a look at some examples of the Rocket Toss in action:

While you can run the Speed Sweep and the Rocket in the same offense, it will be more beneficial to choose just one, and marry it.  So, that said, why would we choose to base the offense off the Rocket Toss in place of Speed Sweep or Buck Sweep?

  1. Undersized Offensive Line – The nature of the play means we can eliminate the need for blocking any down lineman inside of the tackle. In fact, offensive tackles will not have to block a five tech in the traditional sense either.  He will be racing the defensive lineman to the sideline and looking to turn up inside (we will detail this later). This means that we do not need to control bigger and more athletic defensive lineman, and we can use our smaller size to our advantage. It also takes the most common defensive technique (squeeze and scrape) and turns it into something that will hurt the defense!
  2. The Defense has to Cheat – you will find that in order for the defense to protect the flank, somebody is going to have to cheat. A DL will have to fly out on the snap, a linebacker will have to vacate the box or a safety will need to come flying down field.  All of these things open up other aspects of the offense allowing you to call the appropriate response.
  3. Stretches the Entire Field – there is only one other play that can stretch the entire field like the Rocket Toss does. This makes it extremely easy to identify which defenders are responsible for run support and contain.
  4. Extremely Easy to Teach – For the most part, the entire offense has just one rule, “Rip and Run”. This is a very easy technique to teach and only requires desire by the blockers.  They are going to “race” the defender to the sideline and rip up field once they get their hat on the play side number.

Rules for Rocket Toss

X: The wide receivers to the play side are going to be responsible for blocking the corner backs.  They will close the distance between themselves and the corner as quickly as possible.  Just before reaching the corner they will break down and “chatter” their feet so they can engage the corner without losing him in space.  This does not have to be a devastating block.  The blocker just needs to get on the corner and take him where he wants to go.  Once the defender picks a side, the receiver will drive his feet, forcing him on his path. If the wide receiver is on the backside of the play he will take a path to crack the safety, which will set up a downfield block for any possible cutbacks made by the ball carrier.

Y: Your Tight End will have the same rules and techniques as the wide receiver if he is split out.  If your Y is on the line, then he will use the same techniques as the play side tackle, or the backside offensive linemen, in accordance with the direction of the play call in relation to his alignment.

Blocking Wing:  The blocking wing is the wingback on the play side of the formation.  He is responsible for getting his head outside of the first man outside of him.  He does not worry about anything inside of him.  If there is no defender outside of him, he will take a path to the safety.  If the play side linebacker crosses his trajectory while on his path, he will take him. (never pass up color)

Rocket Wing: The rocket wing is going to be your ball carrier.  On the “set” in the QB’s cadence, the wing will start his motion.  He will open and step directly at the fullbacks heels.  By the time the wing gets to the fullback he needs to be running at full speed.  The wing back CANNOT get any deeper than the fullbacks heels.  Once at his heels he needs to flatten his path out to be parallel with the line of scrimmage and running full speed. He should receive the ball when he is behind the play side wingback.  Once he has the football he will be racing to the edge and looking at the block of the wide receiver.  If the wide receiver turns the DB out, he will cut up the field and north.  If the DB is being pushed inside by the wide receiver, he will then get to the sideline outside of the defense.

Fullback:  The fullback will align with his heels at four yards behind the ball.  On the snap, we will block the backside defensive end.  It’s not that the backside end has a chance at the play, but rather it will set up the sally draw, the play action drop back and the keeper after the toss fake.  Also, due to the fact that you will be running belly a lot, teams may key the fullback, the fullback going backside may hold some of the pursuit on the toss.

QB: The quarterback will snap the ball when the rocket wing is directly behind the fullback.  If he snaps it too early, the wing back will not get the ball far enough out on the edge, so make sure the QB is patient and doesn’t snap the ball until the appropriate time.  Once the ball is snapped, he will take a half step back with his play side foot and then pivot hard to reverse out for the toss.  After he reverses out, he will step with his pivot foot directly at the wing back receiving the toss.  It is imperative that he QB keeps his arms strait and the hands never come higher than the waist.  If his elbows bend or his hands go higher than his waist the ball will go over the wing backs head, so keep on him about this and keep him disciplined.

Playside Tackle: The Play side tackle is going to do everything he can to get outside of the defensive end.  This is a “race” to the outside.his first step is going to be a lateral step that will open his shoulders and gain considerable ground.  Once the tackle has taken his third step he is going to try and rip up field with his inside arm.  This is a violent rip, he is trying to turn his shoulders back up field so he can block any scraping linebackers.  If the tackle cannot clear the defense end, he is going to lean into his rip and continue to race him outside.  If the tackle clears the defensive end, he is going to turn up field with his shoulders while still sprinting and looking inside with his eyes for scraping linebackers.

Playside Guard: You have two options that you can use for your play side guard.  First, you could give him the same rule as the play side tackle.  This could be better for a guard that cannot run that well.  If your guard can run, even just a little, I highly recommend pulling him to get an extra body at the point of attack.  The guard’s first step will open and gain ground and depth.  He will then be on a full sprint to get outside of the tackle.  Even though the tackle is “racing” to the sideline as well, you will find that the guard has little problem getting outside.  Once outside the guard will turn and sprint up field with his eyes inside looking for any defender in pursuit that is unblocked.

Center and Backside OL: The center and the backside offensive linemen have one rule, “Scoop”.  Scoop means that they will try and cut off any backside DL.  If there is a DL in the gap to the play side the OL will take a flat step down line and rip across the face of the defender.  The OL must lower his level to do this.  The OL’s entire body will have to turn to accomplish this.  The second step will also be gaining lateral ground but can also gain up field ground as well.  If the OL rips through clean, we will climb all the way up to the safety! If the rip is “dirty” meaning the DL is engaging him he will fight to rip clean and go to safety.  If the play side gap is empty, the backside lineman can go straight to the safety!  Take a path to cut off the safety. Coaching Point: Get to the safety by running full speed, but slow down once you get there, he is a DB, you’re an OL, don’t let him shake you in space.  Use the phrase, “8, 8ths to 7, 8ths” to illustrate the throttling down.

Rocket vs Odd and Even Fronts

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Against both the even and the odd fronts, the outside linebackers are going to be the key blocks.  If they are flying outside you should be able to cut up inside of him as the wing back washes him out.  If he is problematic for you, you can slow him down by getting into a nasty set, and cracking him.  We will cover this in the next section on change ups!

Change Ups

There are to very easy change ups to the rocket toss that are simple and effective in their implementation. For one the wide receiver will crack the safety, and the other, the wide receiver will crack the outside linebacker.

(Crack)

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Crack is the first change up.  The WR cracks the safety and the wing kicks the corner. All other players remain the same for the play.  This is a great play against aggressive safeties.

(Nasty)

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If you need to slow down some outside linebackers, getting into a formation with a nasty tag is a great way to do that.  The formation above is “Open Nasty”.  Any time you have toss called in a nasty set, the wide receiver knows that it is an automatic crack on the first linebacker inside of him.  This will set an edge and also make pursuit difficult for anybody inside of the crack block.

CLOSING

You should use the Rocket Toss in same manner as you would the Speed Sweep.  Stress the edge until the inside run game opens up.  Rocket pairs up nicely with all the base Wing-T and Flexbone plays!  Its biggest advantage may be the ease at which it can be installed. If you would like to know more about the Rocket Toss and other aspects of the Wing-T, then follow this link to “The Speed-T Offense: Vol 2” to learn everything that you need to know to run it effectively.  Make sure to subscribe to my email list so you can be updated anytime a new article posts, and follow me on twitter here @TheCoachVogt.

Offensive Line Technique for Wide Zone

The one question that I get asked the most when it comes to running the Wide Zone is without a doubt concerning the footwork and techniques used by the offensive linemen.  This makes a lot of sense, because if you cannot cover your basis up front, then it will not matter what you run as an offense scheme.  In this article we will cover the techniques used by the covered and uncovered linemen for the Wide Zone.

Covered Footwork and Technique

The steps and hand placement of the covered lineman to the play side will depend on the alignment of the defensive player, and whether or not the covered OL has help coming.  The 1st step must be lateral.  He cannot step up field or he will lose the fight. The width of that step is directly proportional to the alignment of the DL.  Tell that OL that he needs to take the step necessary to get his hat across the face of the defender.  We want the shoulders to stay as square as possible but understand that a wide alignment of the DL (like a widened 5 tech) will cause the blocker to naturally open his shoulders some to accommodate getting his head across, this also will prevent him from becoming over extended. A head up alignment might be a 2 to 4 inch step, while an outside shade might be 6 to 8 inches worth of step.

Regardless of how small the step we always need to GAIN GROUND! Ground needs to be covered.  Always be vocal about this, they need to hear you say it all the time. Picking the foot up and putting it back down, or worse bringing it backwards will result in the OL being beat by the DL in almost every occasion, no matter what scheme you are running.  On that 1st step the OL will also load his hands.  Loading the hands means the OL will pull his elbows back with his thumbs turned out.  Having the thumbs turned out forces the elbows in tight where we want them.  Remember this 1st step CANNOT be up field.

While the 1st step provides leverage and get off, the 2nd steps provides hat and hand placement and the lateral drive of the block.  The 2nd step is a hard, aggressive up field step that will split the crotch of the defender.  It needs to be violent, and right in between the legs of the DL. I use the coaching cue of “knee him the balls!”  They need to understand that the ferocity of this step is paramount to it being successful.  The 2nd step is when contact with the defender is made.  The hat and hands will strike at the same time.  The hat goes to the outside shoulder of the defender. The hands will now deliver a violent punch (thumbs out).  We do not extend this punch, we want to stay tight to the defender. The play side hand will strike the play side armpit and the backside hand strikes under the breast plate like an upper cut to the sternum and the OL will work the outside half of the defender.

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The 3rd step will again gain ground and work towards the outside half of the defender.  The hat of the OL is to remain on the outside half of the defender, HOWEVER!  Here is a big misconception of the wide zone.  We are not trying to reach the defensive lineman and capture his outside shoulder.  We put our hat on the outside to get the lineman to fight outside and help us create lateral movement. By the time the OL takes his 3rd step the DL will either have committed outside or have been pushed outside by the OL that is doubling.  Once the DL has been forced or has committed outside the OL will straighten out his backside hand and RUN as fast as he can and take the DL on his path.  He needs to keep the back hand locked to prevent the DL from trying to throw him by when the RB makes his cut. Coaching Points: the DL belongs to the covered man unless he makes an inside move on the snap.  It is the job of the combination to force him outside so the covered OL can take him on his path. By the 3rd step the OL should be running the DL towards the sideline. 

If the covered OL does not have help coming from the OL inside of him (meaning the adjacent OL is also covered) then the technique changes slightly.  The hat, hands and footwork remain the same.  We still want hat outside, but now it becomes more of a drive block down the middle of the defender, with the back hand in the backside armpit instead up in the sternum (thumbs still turned out).  This will take away from some of the lateral get off and movement, but we must protect against an inside move by the defender (see below).  Taking the outside half can put the OT in a situation to fail, so we line him up down the middle once contact is made.

(pic below is bad juju….  use the technique described above to eliminate this.)

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Every single day you need to start practice with a drill called Stance and Starts.  This can be your 1st drill in individual period, but I prefer to do it as a pre-practice drill.  The Drill reinforces foot, hat and hand placement and once taught, the drill should be done rapid fire, as quickly as possible.  Start off by having all the OL line up on the goal line and get into a proper stance: Feet set at shoulder width or just inside the shoulders, toes pointed in, flat backs eyes up.  Balanced stances, you should be able to kick their hands out from under them without them having to take a step forward.  This is actually important!  If they have too much weight forward, they cannot step laterally and will step forward and lose.  It’s just physics.  Make them hold this stance in 15 to 30 second increments.  You can use this time to speak to them about anything you need as well.  After the stance hold, have them partner up on the goal line facing each other.  One side will be dummies, the other side will be blockers. (see below)

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Here is how you will operate the drill. You will use this cadence: “hand down, set hut, hand down, set hut, hand down, set hut”. This is done fast.  Make them work.  The presence of the dummies is to provide landmarks for the blockers. The dummies will start off head up.  The blockers will take one step (lateral) to the right and load hands (thumbs out) with head outside of the dummy.  Do this over and over again until satisfied.  Then move to 2 steps.  1 lateral, 1 splitting the crotch. On the 2nd step the blocker delivers the hat hand strike on the outside half of the defender with all the proper land marks for the hands (thumbs out).  Do this over and over again until satisfied. You then will work overtakes, the blockers will overtake the adjacent man’s dummy.  Like this:

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Force them to sprint back to the start point, you want to keep that “hand down, set hut” cadence going.  Once satisfied have the dummies and blockers flip and do the same thing.  Once finished with the new blockers flip back to the originals and go to the left.  The whole thing should take 5-10 minutes.  It gets shorter as the OL learns how the drill works and can operate without much instruction.  Coaching Points: if I catch one of the blockers using improper footwork or hand placement on this drill it is because they are being lazy, I make both the blocker and dummy do up-downs. The blocker for being lazy and the dummy for allowing his teammate to cheat the drill and not get better.  The dummies also operate as coaches, if they see improper feet, hands or hat, they must correct it.

1 Knee Reach Drill: The 1 knee reach is designed to emphasize the lateral drive of the reach block.  You will set the drill up in two lines. It will look like this:

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The lines will work in opposite directions, one blocker at time so you can watch each block.  You will use the same cadence as the Stance and Start Drill.  Left side will go, then right side will go.  The blocker will get down on his outside knee and drive off his inside foot to take a lateral step and get on the outside half of the defender.  Make sure the blocker loads hands (thumbs out) on first step and splits the crotch and strikes on the 2nd.  You will quickly see which of your lineman are weak in the hips and legs with this drill.  Really stress getting that head outside, and getting on half the man.  Do not blow the block dead until you have the pair running sideways! By the blockers 3rd step he should be working to straighten the back and sprint that dummy to the sideline.

The dummy will be in a 2 point stance in head up alignment to start, take a short outside step on contact and work outside trying to act like a defender fighting the reach block.  Once the block is whistled dead, the dummy will go to the back of the opposite line and the blocker will become a dummy.  Make the new dummy sprint back.  He should be back and set before the block going the other way is finished.  You CANNOT wait on them to stroll back, it will kill your reps.  Every drill you do will be at a high tempo.  If you need to slow down for teaching purposes, then do so.  Once you have adequate reps with head up alignment then move the dummies to outside shades.  Coaching Points: always spend the most time on what you will see that week.  No point in working the shit out of head up alignment if they will be in shades on Friday. 

Reach Drill: The Reach Drill is essentially the same exact drill as the 1 Knee Reach.  The only difference is that now, the blockers are in normal 3 point stances.  Spend the majority of your reach work in 3 point stances.  You use the 1 knee reach when your OL is having footwork issues, such as stepping backwards, or not gaining ground laterally on the 1st step.

Remember to stress the difference in the 1st step in relation to the alignment of the defender.  The 2nd step splits the crotch and you get the hat and hand strike (thumbs outside).  By the 3rd step the OL needs to start working on straightening that back hand to torque the defender outside and RUN!  2 things should be repeatedly heard by your OL. “RUN!” and “GAIN GROUND!”  In live situations, improper hand or hat placement can be overcome by these 2 things.   Optimally of course you want it perfect, but when the bullets are live, you don’t get do overs.  So they will at least have pretty good chance if they are running and gaining ground! You need that lateral movement. Of course it’s great if you get some vertical push, but the lateral push is a MUST.  The key to establishing this is the uncovered offensive lineman.

Uncovered Footwork and Technique

The footwork of the uncovered lineman will remain the same no matter the alignment of the defensive lineman.  He will take a flat, open step directly at the adjacent lineman that he is in combination with.  He MUST gain significant lateral ground bringing his body with his step. He MUST open his hips and shoulders to do this. He must NOT step up field on the step.  The aim point for the uncovered OL is the nose of the adjacent OL.  His 2nd step will aimed directly at the nose of the adjacent OL.  This the path that must be taken in order to overtake any inside move by the defensive lineman. (example below)

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The goal of the uncovered OL is to get his hat across the face of the DL on an inside move by the DL.  If this does not happen by the 3rd step of the uncovered OL he will shove the DL onto the lap of the covered lineman and climb to the 2nd level for a linebacker.  The uncovered OL will initially make these fundamental flaws when installing the wide zone.

  • Taking a lateral step instead of a flat step
    • This takes repetition and demonstration. A good way to show the “why” is to have a DL take one step and the OL take one step so the OL can see where the hat of the DL is and understand it will be impossible for him to get his own hat across.  Then have them do the same thing, this time with correct footwork to show the difference.  Make sure in the stance and start drills you are vigilant about taking the proper 1st and 2nd
  • Shuffling instead of turning and running
    • The disdain that offensive lineman have for running is usually the cause of them being offensive lineman. Shuffling is easier than turning their bodies and running.  You must make them do this over and over again.  If you see that they are shuffling instead of running it needs to be addressed and fixed immediately every time. A drill to help with this is the 5 man sled fit.  The OL will line up leaving the last dummy on the sled uncovered.  Each OL will take uncovered footwork and fit on the dummy that is one man over and hold it there for the coach to check.  The last man on the line will go to the back of the line and the next guy will fill in so each OL gets 5 reps in a row before resting.  Make sure they fit on the outside half of the dummy. Once satisfied, switch directions.

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Another good drill for this is the 2 man fit and run.  2 OL will start fitted up to a DL and will RUN him sideways until the uncovered man can push him outside. This drill is more for demonstrative purposes to show the importance of running.  By running often times a combo can take the down guy and sit him in the laps of scraping LBs.  If the DL can’t or won’t run with the combo your offense will have the edge!  When you capture the flanks good things happen.  This is true in all combative sports and is strived for in military tactics.  You will repeatedly smash the football into B and C gaps until the defense jumps inside or can’t run anymore and you will get big plays on the perimeter.

  • Going straight into a 2nd level climb instead of combo blocking the down guy
    • You must stress the importance of taking care of the down guy 1st at any cost. Even at the cost of leaving an LB unblocked.  The down guy will get you for a loss.  The LB will have to make a tackle in space, we at least have a chance there.  The job of the uncovered lineman is to take 3 steps on track so he can shove the DL outside and then climb.  The 3 step minimum takes care of any inside move by the DL.  If he has not made his inside move by his 3rd step he is not going to do so.  After the 3rd step he will climb to the 2nd level

The uncovered OL will see 3 possible scenarios: an inside move in which he will overtake, an outside move in which he will push (if he can, the DL make disappear outside) then climb, and a sit/read technique by the DL in which he will push, then climb.  The 2nd level climb is so the uncovered OL can block the linebacker that is flowing with the play. Coaching Points: Good linebackers always go underneath.  They are better athletes than your OL will ever be.  They will make him look like a fool in space.  The OL must take a path that forces the LB to bubble over the top.  Your uncovered OL will also never chase a linebacker over the top of the combo, rather he will turn back for the next LB. (see below)

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The reason for this rule is under the circumstances in which the uncovered OL is the climber the ball is going to cut back!  The LB that ran over the top of the combo has just run himself out of the play.  The ball carrier will hit this behind him.  If the LB plays disciplined and stays in his gap, the OL will block him on his track and make him bubble over the top. Remember that good LBs always go underneath the block and make a play.  Force that guy over top.  The track of the OL should reflect this.  Once the OL is in a climb phase he will slow down to 7/8 speed and take a 45 degree path while squaring his shoulders.  Once contact is made he will accelerate his feet and finish the block. We aim right between the numbers of the LB.  We do not want to give him the opportunity to slice under us and make a tackle by aiming at his outside shoulder.  By doing this we can ensure that the ball carrier will get an extra few yards even if the LB makes the tackle.  This happens because the LB had to lose ground in order to avoid us.  Of course, we would much rather make contact and block his ass.

Closing

As far as the individual lineman goes, this covers the techniques needed for the successful running of the Wide Zone.  If you would like more information about this scheme such as combination techniques, change ups, leveraging defenders and play action passes, you will need to go grab a copy of “Installing the Wide Zone“.  Make sure you sign up for my email list so you can be notified any time a new article posts and follow me on twitter at @thecoachvogt.

Teaching the Reach Block

The Reach Block.  Out of any skill utilized by an offensive lineman, this one may have the biggest factor on the success of the run game.  If you can consistently capture the edge of a defensive front, you are in great position to control the game and create explosive plays in the run game.  However, in today’s era of wide open offenses whose run games consist of inside zone and power, is the reach block still relevant?  The answer is, of course it is!  After all, a zone block is a reach block modified to allow the back to make reads.  Capturing the edge of a defensive front will ALWAYS be a sound strategy for attacking a defense from peewee ball to the big leagues!

The Reach Block can be classified into three main categories.  The stretch block, the traditional reach block and the rip and run.  All three, allow an opportunity for the flank to be captured, with an emphasis on a desired location for the ball carrier to aim for as a primary attack point.  Let’s take a look at each one, and which offense can incorporate it into their general schemes.

STRETCH BLOCK

The Stretch Block is probably the most utilized variant of the reach in football today.  The prevalence of zone schemes in all levels of football show the versatility of the stretch block.  The general idea is for the offensive lineman to take a flat step towards the play side, while keeping his shoulders as square as possible. How square the offensive lineman can keep his shoulders will depend on the alignment and ability of the defensive lineman.  Like all reach blocks, you want the helmet of the offensive lineman to cross the face of the defensive lineman.  Where exactly you want the helmet to target will depend on the scheme you are running.

For the Wide Zone play, also commonly called Stretch or just outside zone… (never say that to the wide zone disciples though lol)  You will have the offensive lineman target the play side armpit/shoulder of the play side defender.  The offensive lineman should take an aggressive lateral step to accomplish this block.  The second step will typically split the crotch of the defender and will also be the step in which contact is made with the defensive lineman.  While keeping his shoulders square the blocker will fight to keep his head outside the defenders head and run him in a lateral direction.  The great thing about stretch blocks is often the blockers are working in tandem with another blocker, so if the defender goes inside, or is easily reached, the adjacent lineman can over take him.  This is a take what the defense gives reach.  Most defenders are taught not to get reached, so they will fight outside, allowing for creases to open in the defense.  You will find that stretch blocks work best against defenses that are well coached and do a good job of playing technique.

For Inside Zone, the initial step is still a lateral step, but the blocker will target the play side number of the play side defender.  Just as with the Wide Zone, the second step should split the defenders crotch and will be the step in which contact is made.  As the name of the play would suggest, the ball is going to hit inside the tackles unless the defense is on a stunt and gives away the flank.  Here the emphasis is more on forcing the play side defenders OUT, so the ball can hit in the interior of the defensive front.

Examples of Stretch Blocking:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJmAv9f19Tw

TRADITIONAL REACH

The tradition reach block is frequently used by teams running speed sweep, speed option or a traditional toss out of the backfield.  The goal of the offensive lineman here is to capture the outside shoulder of the defender so the ball carrier can get outside.  The first step will be a hard lateral step that gains ground both laterally and vertically.  The step should be between 20 and 45 degrees depending how wide the defender is.  The second step will try to step on the play side toes of the defender with the back hand attacking the play side number.  Once contact is made, the blocker will try and turn his shoulders to pin the defender inside.  Every play side offensive lineman will be taking the same first step, this allows for any slants or stunts to be picked up by uncovered lineman, so they can then, use the same techniques as the covered lineman.

Examples of Traditional Reaching:

RIP AND RUN

The Rip and Run is most commonly seen by teams using a true Outside Zone scheme.  It looks like a mad rush by the offense to get to the edge of the defense.  I feel that the rip and run is best utilized by teams that run the rocket toss and the quick bubble/smoke screens. (not the read/RPO variants) The Rip and Run is probably my favorite reach scheme when I am not specializing in the Wide Zone.  It has been my experience that in order to stop the Rip and Run scheme, somebody on the defense has to cheat, which will open up your inside run game nicely.

For the Rip and Run, the first step of the blocker will be a hard open step that gains a good chuck of grass. The second step will try to get outside of the defenders play side foot. The blocker will then rip with his back arm and run as hard as he can in order to get outside of the defender.  If the blocker can clear the defender, he will then climb up-field and look inside for linebackers chasing the play.  By this point, the ball should be outside of the down lineman.  If the blocker cannot clear the defender, he will lean into his rip and continue to run the defender on his path.  This should be a “Race” to the sideline for the offensive lineman, a term that I borrowed from Coach Nate Albaugh.  Simply using the word “race” will help your blockers understand what you want accomplished here.  It should almost look like the offensive lineman are pulling, in fact some teams will indeed pull any lineman that are uncovered for a Rip and Run scheme.

Examples of Rip and Run:

TEACHING THE REACH BLOCK

Stance and Starts

The most important aspect of the reach block will always be the first step.  This the step that will get the offensive lineman’s head across the face of the defender and allow for proper placement of the second step.  The best way to drive this step into muscle memory is with a drill I call Stance and Starts.  The players will all line up facing the OL coach and get into a stance.  The players will use this drill to repeatedly take the first step and get back into a stance.  This is a high tempo drill.  The step that you will use will reflect what your primary reach scheme is.  So, if you are a Wide Zone team, they will take a hard lateral step. The OL coach will use a cadence of “hand down, set hut, hand down, set hut, hand down, set hut”.  You want as many reps as possible in each direction.  Your players will get lazy at first and try to use bad technique and miss reps, stop immediately and correct this before continuing.  Once you are satisfied with the steps in each direction, you can incorporate two steps, and eventually firing off the ball to put it all together.

Reach Drill

Here is where you can work the skills and technique needed for the individual blocks.  Again, what you emphasize, will be dictated by the specific scheme that your offense is utilizing.  Focus on what your team does.  Organize your offensive lineman into two single file lines facing the coach.  Then take two players and have them turn around and face the lines.  The lines will be your blockers, the two guy you have turned around, will be your dummy defenders.   The dummy guy will align based on what you will see that week from your opponent. You can have the dummy guy hold bags if you desire.  The two lines will be reaching in opposite directions, one, then the other.  The OL coach will stand in the middle facing the blockers so he can watch the first step and then hand placement and pad level of the blockers.

The idea here is to make the drill harder than what it will be in the game, and to reinforce the need for them to run their feet.  To do this the tempo will need to be high, and the dummy guy must work outside on the “hut” to force the blocker to run his feet to get his head outside.

Combo Drill (zone)

The Combo drill is a great drill for zone scheme teams.  You will set this up exactly the same as the Reach Drill, except you will have two blockers going the same direction to simulate a covered/uncovered tandem.  The covered man will use the appropriate zone technique, and the uncovered will attempt an overtake.  You can have the dummy guy work inside or outside now.  As the technique and skill of your blockers improves, you can start adding linebackers into this drill to simulate in game scenarios.

CLOSING

Whatever variant of the Reach Block your offense is utilizing, it is an essential skill for your offensive lineman to be able to accomplish.  Outflanking your opponent will always be a sound game plan.  This holds true in almost any sport, and in combat as well.  Spend the time necessary to develop this skill and your offense will reap the benefits, after all… a defense that cannot keep contain, is no defense at all!  Follow me on twitter here @thecoachvogt and be sure to subscribe to my email list to be updated any time a new article drops!