In the last chapter, Tubby Raymond laid out how to categorize defenses and label their parts. Basically, there are 3-deep and 4-deep defenses, and they all have a force player and a contain player, the two defenders he suggests focusing on.
In this chapter, Raymond uses those basic defenses to show the reader how offensive plays can be called to force a defense out of position, attack all parts of the field, and react to the inevitable defensive reactions.
But this is by no means a step-by-step manual for calling offenses.
The following suggestions for attack are made not to restrict your thinking to a narrow program of personal concepts, but rather in an attempt to demonstrate the way we would study a defense and develop a game plan. Just remember, any play that moves the ball is a good one and the unexpected is still the best call.
In the run game, the ball can go one of three basic directions: outside, off-tackle, or up the middle. In the bulk of this chapter, Raymond gives examples of how to call run plays in all three directions in multiple ways against 3-deep and 4-deep defenses.
Attacking the Flank of the Four-Deep
He suggests looking outside of the wingback first to see if the defense has matched strength on strength. If they haven’t, then we get to work.
If 4 to the wing flank is off the line of scrimmage, you have 3 outflanked. Block down on him with your wing... If 3 is soft, blow him out with the power... If he is reading your tight end, encourage him to seal down as your tight end blocks down. This will make him vulnerable to your wing. They should not be able to stop this attack until 4 comes to the line of scrimmage or the fifth man supports, i.e., both comer and safety.
Basically, the offensive play caller can make life hell for the EMLOS until the cornerback decides to come down and help. By doing so, the defense has probably rotated toward the wingback and is now more vulnerable to the other side. Then the play caller can use motion to send the wingback to the left, adding offensive strength to the side the defense just removed strength from.
Raymond goes on to offer play suggestions for reduced fronts (when the DL slides toward the TE) and when the safety and corner swap run responsibilities, all while reiterating that the play caller should “continue to collect information.” Noticing the responses of the defense in these plays will lead to better play calls off-tackle, up the middle, and even in the passing game.
Attacking Off Tackle of the Four-Deep
Raymond starts the off tackle plan by picking on the 3-defender some more. His reaction to motion out of the backfield will determine the aiming point of the pulling guard’s block.
You can see this pretty clearly in Auburn’s offense, but with the H-back’s block.
Auburn’s use of the option also accomplishes the same thing. If the quarterback is a threat to run outside and the DE widens to take that away, the running back probably has a good running lane inside.
Attacking the Middle of the Four-Deep
Remember, in a four-deep defense there should be five defenders over the top of the five offensive linemen. That sounds like a stalemate, but think about it. There are actually six gaps between and to the outside of those linemen and the defense can’t cover them all (assuming they’re playing gaps). Somebody is responsible for two gaps.
Raymond suggests starting off assuming the big nose tackle is the one responsible for two gaps, the ones on either side of the center. So one way to run up the middle is to just have the OL block the man in front of them and let the ball carrier read the nose tackle. If he goes left, the ball carrier goes right and vice versa.
Though it’s not exactly zone blocking up front, allowing the running back to make reads while running toward the line is a key component of the Inside Zone Auburn runs so much.
Raymond goes through the same exercise with the 3-deep defenses, but I won’t get into the details of it here. Instead, let’s move on to the next section, the passing game.
The Passing Game
After breaking down the little details to look for when running the ball, Raymond turns his attention to the passing game.
Throwing must be a share of your total offensive concept. It should not be regarded as an offense within itself but a well-integrated aspect of your attack. It is not only a method of moving the ball but a technique for controlling defensive men.
This would be good advice for former “spread guru” Gus Malzahn to remember. It might just be me, but the running and passing games looked so disjointed last year. Anyway...
Raymond points out that the best way to attack a defense through the air is through vertical and horizontal stretches. That’s what basically every Auburn passing concept I covered last summer does.
Well, if that isn’t Little Rock (the NCAA concept).
And that’s just a basic curl-flat combo.
Raymond lists four ways a receiver can get open.
(1) having a wide out beat a defender with exceptional speed (this, of course, may be difficult) breaking outside of the perimeter;
This is basically Malzahn’s version of the Go route. If a corner is caught napping or looking in the backfield, the receiver should fly past him and make him pay.
(2) moving through a seam between two or more defenders;
This comes up especially against Cover 2 defenses where a tight end or inside receiver can split the two deep safeties who are covering zones near the sidelines.
(3) employing two receivers in an area creating an either/or situation;
This is a more general way of describing the vertical and horizontal stretches. Basically, one defender can not cover two receivers. This can be easily seen with the Smash concept.
(4) running away from coverage.
I’m not to sure what Raymond’s going for on that last one, but it could be something like the Mesh or Snag concepts where one receiver rubs a defender off another receiver, allowing the second one to get away from his defender.
Passing Against Four-Deep/Three-Deep
Raymond finishes out the chapter giving more play calling suggestions when facing the four-deep and three-deep defenses, but with the passing game this time. You can tell he means it when he says the passing game is a “should not be regarded as an offense within itself but a well-integrated aspect of your attack.”
The first use of our passing game should be to limit 5's support of the flank and force his concern with the problem of the corner coverage... The deep threat should create a cushion when your spread receiver breaks outside of the defensive perimeter. You may throw to the wide out from several series. The situation and flow of the defense will assist you in that selection. Force 4 to become concerned about his support and throw into the flat.
Obviously, the passing game’s initial function is to make the secondary back off the run.
As Raymond describes individual plays and adjustments, the receiver responsibilities are filled with stuff like this,
If the coverage is four-deep "man," all of your receivers will shorten their patterns and run away from coverage at right angles.
If the secondary rolls up to your spread receiver, or is in 200 instead of inverting, your "out" cut automatically becomes a "weave." The wing or dive man will run flare, seam, or flat. Read 4 and throw to the open man. They are running as a pair to create an opening.
That’s a lot of on-the-fly reading and reacting to the defense, something the Run ‘n’ Shoot was famous for, and something Malzahn’s offenses have always implemented.
There’s a lot of detail in these last two sections, but I won’t dig into too much here. Just know that Raymond had plenty of strategies in the passing game for getting defenses out of alignment and putting dual-responsibility defenders in a tough spot. As Malzahn moves back to being a football coach instead of a CEO this season, this chapter is one I really hope he revisits and takes to heart.