Author: Adam Wesoloski
Originally Published: August 8, 2005
The following is a few excerpts form “The Smorgasbord Offense For Winning High School Football”
By Joe Blount
Englewood Cliffs, NJ
The term “Smorgasbord” originally coined by sports writers, trade-marks the multiple direct snap styles, all modified versions of the Short Punt, which have been incorporated into a single system and used effectively by the author. The terms “Short Punt” and “Smorgasbord” are used interchangeably throughout the book.
I want to say before discussing the advantages of the Smorgasbord offense that I have always been just a little bit prejudiced toward Short Punt and other direct snap styles of football. In eating, I have never been just a steak and potato man. I like to warm up with a soup or a salad, topping the main course off with a dessert, preferably fruit. I feel the same way about my football. If the attack is to be balanced, it must have great variety — power plays, first-rate passing game, deceptive runs and passes, screen and shovel passes, fake passes and runs and vice versa, along with a little hocus-pocus in the kicking game.
Blending of “Snap-Back” Styles
Gradually, as the years have gone by, I have practiced a bit of petit larceny from time to time adding to our offense some of the same savory hors d’oeuvres from both the “T” and Single Wing formations, plus a wrinkle or two from the Double Wing, “Y” and Spreads. In the late ’40’s and early ’50’s when the trend was going more and more toward the T-formation, it found us leaning even more solidly on the Short Punt. As younger coaches, those weaned exclusively on the “T”, replaced their veteran counterparts, it became evident that there were many advantages to be realized utilizing a variation of direct snap systems which were not commonly coached or studied. This, perhaps more than any other factor, has kept me tinkering with and modifying my original Short Punt.
Presents Defensive Problems
The Short Punt, with its man-in-motion, various backfield alignments and scatter stuff from the shotgun, presents a most unusual problem to coaches of T-formation teams. For one thing, their defensive way of thinking often becomes more or less stereotyped as a result of facing similar offenses week in and week out. Confronted with the multiple direct snap styles, they must either spend long hours studying and erecting new defenses or else reconcile their regular “T” defenses to meet the varied attack. They generally take the latter course. Very few coaches will set aside their normal practice procedures to spend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday defensing the Smorgasbord, an offense which they meet only once during the season.
If they are willing to sacrifice the time, a three-day period is hardly long enough to teach the solid low, penetrating type of charge that is so essential in contesting two-on-one or three-on-one blocking, to say nothing of the wedge. Opposing coaches prefer to kid themselves into believing that the Short Punt is old-fashioned and out-of-date and feel that their “T” defenses will hold up against such an archaic style of attack. I feel that you cannot contain a good Short Punt or Single Wing running team, with their ability to concentrate mean at the point of attack, with modern T-type defense.
Another factor that has kept me Short Punt-minded has been my thinking in regard to the forward pass. Many coaches consider the pass a frill or a weapon of last resort. I feel that the pass is equal to the run and as a result have made it an integral part of, rather than a mere adjunct to, our style of attack. I believe that Short Punt, as we use it, has decided advantages over all other formations, especially the “T”, with respect to the passing game. There are four major advantages which come to mind:
- It is very easy to get three, four or even five receivers out quickly.
- Operating from a balanced line and a strongly deployed backfield, it affords an excellent cup, straight back or right and left, which protects the passer quickly and effectively.
- Location of backs sets the stage for a deceptive shovel and lateral-passing game.
- The passer, five yards back, has a clear view of his receivers and does not have to turn his back on the target as the pattern materializes.
Deceptive Running Game
The Short Punt’s normal running game is deceptive, contrary to popular belief which views it only as a power and passing offense. The short-man, the quarterback, with his ball-handling ability, provides an outlet for spinner plays which tend to “freeze” the defense in place until the play starts to develop. The quarterback can fake or hand the ball quickly to either the fullback or tailback, and, behind fakes to these two backs, can “bootleg” or give the ball off to the blocking back coming around on reverses. The fullback is in good position to spin either to the tailback or blocking back, providing the latter is set out as a wing. When driving straight ahead, the fullback can flick the ball off to the quarterback who continues a course on around right end.
Short Punt’s running game, just like any other, is amplified when the coach takes time to perfect timing and faking in his backfield. The T-formation boys are not alone when they say, “It’s easier to fool ’em than block ’em; the same thing holds true with the Short Punt.
The most vulnerable point in any normal defense is the off-tackle hole. We do not know of any offense which can match Short Punt’s ability to amass power at this point. Moving to the right, the fullback and blocking back are in excellent position to kick-out on the defensive end while the offensive tackle and end are positioned well to double-team the defensive tackle. The quarterback and o-side guard present a two-on-one problem for the linebacker whose duty it is to fill the hole. The offensive advantage results in having six men to block three, a “majority” any way that you look at it.
Short Punt teams do not necessarily have to use the “flip-flop” technique to salt down an equal amount of power to the weak side of the formation. Operating from behind a balanced line, backfield symmetry probably affords an even stronger off-tackle play to the weak side. The quarterback and on-side guard kick-out on the defensive end; the offensive tackle and end act as a team to drive the defensive tackle down the line of scrimmage; and the fullback and blocking back clean out the hole. Again the offense has a “two-to-one” advantage, and it is increased when the off-side guard pulls.
Philosophy of the Sweep
Plays which strike to the outside can be broken down into two general categories, those based on power and those based on deception.
The starting point for building Short Punt’s running game is the power sweep. It is one of the most consistent plays in the overall attack and must be developed before off-tackle and straight-ahead plays can take on any measurable significance.
If a team can move the ball to the outside consistently, it will, in time, force the defense to widen its outer perimeter. As a result, defensive linemen will site back a little, at least mentally, and wait for the sweep to unfold. This makes the defense vulnerable to the quick cutback off-tackle and the bruising attack straight ahead.
In theory, the power sweep is not designed to “go all the way”; whereas, in contrast, the deceptive sweeps, patterned after other phases of the running and passing games, are projected to do just that…score.
Off-Tackle Plays Favored
An audit of game charts for the past three years reveals that our Short Punt teams have averaged nearly 67 offensive plays per game. This compares with the opposition’s 48 plays, indicating we have had the ball slightly over 58 per cent of the time.
On average we have punted or quick-kicked the ball four times per game, passed ten times and have had five plays nullified by either fumbles or penalties. This leaves an average of 48 running plays for each game.
Thirty-two per cent of the running plays (over 15 per game) have been off-tackle, attacking either side. Such being the case, one can easily draw the conclusion that the off-tackle play is the heart and soul of Short Punt football. There are two prime reasons for this:
- The balanced line and backfield symmetry of Short punt provides greater potential for amassing power off-tackle than any other formation.
- The most vulnerable point in any normal defense is off-tackle. The one-yard split between offensive tackle and end handicaps any normal defense in its attempt to fortify this area.
Anytime the opponent strengthens its defense at the off-tackle hole, it has weakened itself somewhere else. More than likely the defense becomes pregnable somewhere inside tackle or in the secondary. If this is the case, it becomes the duty of the quarterback to discover and direct the attack at the weakness of the defense.