Originally Published: November 2, 2010
Author: Adam Wesoloski
The 2009 season brought a new coaching opportunity for me. Previously I was coaching Junior Pee Wee level football in a local Pop Warner organization. In 2009 our town wanted to reboot their youth tackle program which included the 5th and 6th grades. My son was a 5th grader in the district so I took one of the 5th grade head coaching positions. There were three 5th grade teams and two 6th grade teams that played games against outside competition. Each team played a six game schedule but we were not members of a league so we played an independent schedule against teams that had open dates in their schedules. This is was quite a challenge because just about every game we played with different rules. In addition 5 of our 6 games were versus 5th and 6th grade combination teams.
The season went better than I expected. We went 5-1 and outside of one game we were undersized compared to our competition. Only five of our 24 players had any tackle football experience so we had our work cut out for us to put together a fundamental sound team that could compete with the bigger, older teams.
There were rules that we played with but for the purposes of this article these two are the ones that are relevant to the offense:
- No more than 2 players are allowed outside the tackles on one side of the ball. This includes any motion.
- “Crack-back” blocks are not allowed. Blocks intentionally aimed at blindsiding a player are not allowed.
In 2008 we had a very powerful and dynamic single wing offense that I wanted to continue with in 2009. However I did need to trim the formations down to accommodate the rules. We went from 8 formations in 2008 to five in 2009. Our tight end position was another tackle that we always lined up on the right side. The BB, WB and SE were the players that lined up in different combinations to make our formations.
We told our split ends that on every run play their job was to block the safety in the middle of the defense. We hoped that we’d get a two for one block if the split end was able take the corner back with him when he blocked the safety.
My method of calling plays is pretty simple. I shout out the formation (Color) and then use hand signals to call the play – series (Power, Half, Wing) and point of attack (1-5). We practice this method in practice from the very start of camp. Additional signals we used were “Pass”, “Ghost” and “No Play”.
Multiple Off-Tackle Approach
We focused on an off-tackle attack since it was very difficult to sweep against our opponents who had large defensive ends and we lacked blazing speed. Our attack included a steady diet of straight power plays mixed in with half spin counters and wingback counter plays to either side of the formation. We had three different modes to attack off-tackle.
Our bread-and-butter plays were the Power plays. TB and FB power off-tackle plays were the staple to the offense. Our best two running backs played TB and FB. We wanted them to share the bulk of the workload carrying the football. We blocked the power off-tackle play differently than we did in 2008.
For 2009 we had our WB return to a more traditional single wing block on the power off-tackle plays. In 2008 we adjusted his blocking to kick out the DE but in 2009 defenses were lined up in such a way where that block wasn’t going to work so we had him angle in and block the nearest play side linebacker. Consequently, in 2009, this changed the BB’s to the traditional kick-out block on the end man on the line of scrimmage.
We had a left-handed fullback which allowed us to use him to run the football to the left side as well as use our sweep pass to that side as well. Our tailback was right-handed and we mirrored all plays to the right and left. We also used the short snap to our blocking back to execute our “Ghost” plays.
Half Spin Counter Series
After successfully using an abbreviated version of this series in 2008, I wanted to install the sweep plays and to use the series more in 2009. The sweep plays have the back receiving the football half spin and he gives the ball to the other running back where as the half spin counter fakes the hand off and the back who received the snaps keeps the ball and runs off-tackle. Our longest gains in 2009 came from the half spin counter series. We had great, consistent success with the off-tackle counters and had more success running the sweep plays to the left more than to the right.
We had two capable wingbacks that could block, run and catch as well. We use the same line blocking for the two WB counter off-tackle plays as we do for the half spin counter off-tackle plays with the exception that the deep back not handling the football leads through the hole with the BB. These plays take a bit longer to execute compared to the half spin counter plays but it another way to attack off-tackle and get more players involved in the offense.
Our interior play was a BB “Ghost” play. It was a short snap to the BB while the TB, FB and sometimes the WB executed faking in the backfield. We could fake plays from the Power series, Half Spin Counter series as well as Wingback series. Unfortunately our interior plays never gained a great deal of yardage but was a nice deceptive play to include our BB in the rushing attack.
Our 2009 team was not as explosive scoring compared to my 2008 team. However, we were very good at sustaining drives, picking up first downs, controlling the clock, and scoring enough points to win our games. We patiently exploited the off-tackle areas on the left and right sides to march down the football field. The system was set up as such that we were able to use nine different players to carry the football and score points throughout the season and have a positive, rewarding and winning experience.