Originally Published: February 8, 2010
Author: Ted Seay

Q&A Part One: The Run Game

DS: Ted Seay, you’ve recently released an “A” formation PowerPoint presentation titled The “A” Formation: Simplified & Updated. This follows a previous “A” PowerPoint in 2007 and a Word document a year or two before that. I understand your interest in the “A”, but why so many versions?

TS: You’re right, Adam, I’ve been guilty of writing about the “A” formation and then coming out with revisions for almost a decade now. The interest is pretty easy to explain – I’d never seen anything like the “A” in the books I’ve seen from the golden age of direct snap football, and I think “A” inventor Steve Owen was several decades ahead of his time. The “A” features a half-spin speed-sweep series from a formation which is unbalanced one way on the line and the other way with the backfield – it was just light years ahead of anything in its day (1938-1952), and still stands up very well compared to modern shotgun and Pistol variations.

DS: But why a new version now?

TS: Two major reasons – I’ve been getting a lot of feedback regarding the “A” based on downloads from Internet sites like Scribd and the late, lamented Savefile, and many of them asked two questions:  do you have to use the unusual line splits in the original Owen version to make the “A” work, and can you feature a tailback-style runner at the deep back position rather than the fullback type that the original formation (and my earlier documents) called for? The new PowerPoint is my way of demonstrating that the answer to both questions is “yes.”

DS: It looks as though the unusual splits have been made more standard.

TS: In the interest of simplification, I’ve suggested changing the line splits to a uniform width across the board – at the high school level and above, two feet between linemen and three feet between the Quick Guard and the Tight End; below that, I’d use one-foot splits with older youth players, down to six inch or even foot-to-foot splits with the “bobbleheads.”

Personally, I prefer the three-foot splits between some linemen and the toe-to-toe splits for the middle three linemen that Owen used, but – it does complicate the offense’s job, because there is no way of predicting beforehand how defenses will align to those splits. Going with regular splits makes the job of coaching the offense much easier.

The second major reason for a new PowerPoint is that the new splits and the use of a faster back at the deep position have led me to incorporate a play I’ve become extremely interested in into the offense – the A-gap power play that the NY Giants and the University of Minnesota have featured for the past several years. It’s easy to block, and provides multiple points of attack – you get the ball to the tailback deep in the backfield and let him run to daylight. Even without any deception or misdirection added to the Power play, you will often see linebackers over-running the POA because it is a true “run-to-daylight” play à la Vince Lombardi.

Once you add the threat of an effective speed sweep to the Power play, though, all bets are off – the defense will focus on the Sweep threat and the entire area from the backside A gap to the playside C gap will open right up. The A-gap Power play gives you both the ability to attack underneath the Sweep threat and to counter back against the Sweep grain, all without changing blocking schemes.

DS: The blocking for the Power play does look familiar, I must say…

TS: Yes, that’s Doctor John Ward’s Severe Angle Blocking (SAB) in use, to keep the assignments as simple as possible for the line, and to provide the tailback with clear reads on where the holes will develop. With the immediate threat of the Sweep to the Strong side, the ability of the Power play to hit five different holes once the defense starts flowing outside to stop the Sweep, and the QB Booting to the Quick side of the formation, away from Sweep action, you make it impossible for the defense to do what it wants to do – swarm to the ball and gang-tackle.

DS: I notice there is also a chance for the Blocking Back to shine.

TS: That’s right, I’ve included a direct snap to the Blocking Back with the same half-spin speed sweep action behind it.  For older players, I think this play is best run with trap blocking. For teams younger than 12 or so, though, I would suggest Wedge blocking the same play and having the Blocking Back fold in behind the Center as he runs – with Trap blocking, he basically hits straight ahead.

DS: That’s a very small running game – only four plays.

TS: Correct, but with both the Sweep and the Power play at your command, and a Boot threat away from both of those, you can keep defenses guessing and force them to play very strict assignment football. Once you cut down on pursuit, you have won most of the battle against modern defenses.

The name of the run series is actually a bit misleading, by the way. The motion by the Wingback threatens the Sweep on every play in the series, but in fact the core play of the series is the Power. Defenses have to learn to both pursue the fast Sweep and not over-pursue, or else they leave themselves vulnerable to the Power play across five different offensive gaps. Nor do you need to wait for specific adjustments by the defense in order to run the Power – you can test the waters all throughout the game, because the play is so fundamentally sound and so perfectly packaged with the Sweep and Boot threats on each flank.

DS: Before we transition to the passing game proper, how about play action from the half-spin series?

TS: I’ve taken the old Y Cross package from Lavelle Edwards’ days at BYU when he had Doug Scoville and Norm Chow working for him – now that was a talented staff!

Y Cross is a great package that fits in well with the run threat. The Wingback’s Sweep path gets converted into a Swing route, the Split End gets an opportunity to run right by the defense (and the QB will peek at him quickly to see if there’s been a coverage breakdown before he checks his other reads), and the Tight End has a Crossing route that will take him about 5 yards deep by the time he reaches the Outside Tackle’s original position – he should be no deeper than 12-15 yards by the time he gets to the sideline.

After his peek at the SE, the QB will come down to the other two receivers in the triangle distribution – the shallow WB and the crossing TE. The WB’s Swing route is the blitz protection built into the play – if a defender crashes into the QB’s path as he rolls, he can hit the WB for easy yards. The TE will come open slightly later, but is almost impossible to cover for some reason – the Cross is almost always open in this package.

Part Two