Author: Ted Seay
Originally Published: June 2, 2008

This article is dedicated to coaches who never stop looking for ways to do things better. Recently, I was able to combine two concepts together into something which I believe could be the most effective direct-snap running game from spread formations yet invented.

Until fairly recently I was not impressed with the run games that most spread shotgun offenses featured, as I have noted repeatedly in previous versions of my under-center Wild Bunch playbook. 

That changed when I learned about Dr. John Ward’s creation, the Half-Spin Counter (HSC) series. His semi-spread Single Wing attack has benefited hugely from his combination of the old Washington Redskins Counter Gap play in one direction and a sweep play in the other direction, where the ball is hidden from the defense long enough to cause confusion about the path of the ball — is it heading off-tackle one way, or around end the other?

I’ve blended the HSC backfield action, with its simple step-and-twist by the player receiving the direct snap, and the Fly Sweep series I have been using for years from under center in the Wild Bunch, into something I think is simple, powerful, and a much better basis for a shotgun spread ground game than the normal Option, Dart, Draw & Zone (ODDZ) attack that so many spread teams rely on these days.

The HSC-Fly attack is simpler to teach, involves no reads by any of your backs, and is far more deceptive than the ODDZ system. In particular, it adds much better deception to the shotgun Fly series than is possible from a spread offense where the Fly hand-off takes place forward, in full view of the defense.

First, a diagram showing how I name the various positions:

THE 10 SERIES: H Fly Motion, F Half-Spin

There is no substitute for total effort in faking, especially in the Fly Sweep series. Coach Mark Speckman of Willamette College in Oregon could not be clearer on this point — ANYONE can be a great faker, all it takes is hard work, repetition, and commitment. If anyone questions the reason for working so hard on good faking, just tell them that a perfect fake is worth AT LEAST two perfect blocks. Isn’t it easier to get defenders to take themselves out of the play from time to time than to have to physically drive them out of the play, down after down?

Marrying the Fly series to Half-Spin Counter action means the backfield provides no clues to the defense about the eventual destination of the ball. It also means, however, that all the plays in the series must be repped to perfection. Not only the 11 Green Light Sweep by H, but the 16 Counter play by the F back require exact timing and execution. The play-action passes by the QB (10 Y Stick is an example of what is possible) are less exacting in their timing, but H and F should always carry out their Fly fakes on every 10 series play where they are not carrying the ball themselves. In addition, H should make a point of accelerating into every fake he carries out in this series, since defenders are hard-wired to respond to acceleration.

The key to a successful Fly Sweep is to block defenders, on or off the LOS, from over the Tackle to outside. Inside the Tackle, linemen should either release for the second or third levels, or else (as shown above with the Bunch Guard) pull and kick out the force defender out wide to give the sweeper a block off of which he can cut. This will happen in cases where there are four defenders outside the playside Tackle.

Y and Z are responsible for two of the widest defenders — in the case above, for numbers 2 and 3 counting in from the sideline, while the Bunch Guard handles #1. Because the closest defender to his outside – #4 – is on the LOS, the Bunch Tackle must Reach that man just long enough for the sweeper to get outside — roughly one second.

The F back takes the snap while stepping forward with his Bunch-side foot just over the midline, simultaneously pivoting on his back foot and turning his shoulders toward the approaching sweeper while keeping his eyes fixed on the Spread Tackle’s butt. (If any defender comes screaming off the Spread Tackle’s backside, we will attack him with the F back after the hand-off.) The F back holds the ball out so H can Reach and Take it cleanly.

H goes in Fly motion and will be behind Spread Tackle’s outside leg, and just deeper than the QB, when the ball is snapped. He will Reach and Take the ball from the F back, then head for the hashmarks, numbers, and sideline. This is not a cutback play — he should not think about cutting back unless the designated blocker (Bunch Guard, in the case above) completely whiffs on his block on the cornerback. F back follows through with his fake of 16 Counter.

Once defenders start flowing with the Fly Sweep, we can counter back against the grain with the classic Washington Redskins Counter play. Here the F back will take his HSC steps, but keep the ball pinned tightly to his back hip as H performs a Reach-Take Fake and accelerates into his Fly Sweep fake. F, meanwhile, pushes off with his back foot and follows Bunch Tackle into the hole.

Line blocking will vary depending on the front we’re facing, but there are four different ways to block it. “Counter Gap” means everyone from Spread Tackle to the Center is blocking down at a “severe angle”; that is, at 30 degrees to the line of scrimmage. Bunch Guard pulls and kicks out the first wrong color that shows outside of Spread Tackle, while Bunch Tackle “runs the funnel,” looking for the first wrong color inside or deeper than Spread Tackle.

“Counter Trey” calls for a double team by the TE and Tackle; but since there is no TE on the Spread side of the formation, this call can only be used with 24 Counter (below).

“Counter Deuce,” illustrated above, involves a double team by the Spread Tackle and Spread Guard; finally, “Counter Ace” involves a double team by the Spread Guard and Center. If “Counter Ace” is called, the Spread Tackle will severe-angle block for the first wrong color that shows over the top of the double team. Y and Z help seal off the backside of the play; if you call this at the right time, the defenders closest to them will be out wide chasing H’s Fly Sweep fake anyway.

Play action off of the HSC/Fly backfield action, but this time the QB gets the direct snap and drops to pass. X runs Choice routes (a Run & Shoot that alters X’s route based on the defender’s leverage).

Y Stick attacks the void in underneath coverage in the Hook/Curl zone. H turns his Fly fake into a Swing route, looking for the ball as soon as he breaks outside; Y runs a Stick, breaking outside at +6, while Z runs a landmark Fade (actually more like a 45 degree Slant Out route) that puts him about 16 yards wide of Bunch Tackle and at about +10-12 when the ball is thrown. From a quick 3-step drop, QB’s read is the first underneath defender inside the playside Cornerback.

QB is thinking Stick — the Swing pattern becomes a reaction if the defender takes the Stick away. Alternately, experienced QB’s can look the “read” defender into the Swing route and come back to the Stick.

VERSUS ZONE: The Bunch-side flat defender is QB’s read. If he hangs and takes away Y’s Stick, throw the Swing immediately to give H space to run to. If he jumps the Swing, Y will have lots of space to make the catch. Hit his downfield number with the ball to let him spin and head straight downfield in the same motion.

VERSUS MAN: H’s play fake complicates his man’s job enormously — there are too many bodies to run through to cover the Swing with any reliability. Switching won’t work, either — notice all three patterns are breaking outside, leaving an inside switcher with nothing but air to cover. Bumping coverage is probably the best solution, but we probably have a speed mismatch somewhere, most likely Z’s Fade — if QB can hold the ball and wait, we can hit a big play.

Next time we’ll look at the 20 SERIES: Z Fly Motion, QB Half-Spin and the passing game.