Using multiple formations can give you an immense advantage on offense. The goal on offense is to create leverage, numbers, green grass, and matchups. Every defense you face will have formations they don't align well to, or that you can find a favorable matchup. Most defenses are well versed at aligning to two back pro sets, doubles, and twins open. It helps to have a formation system that allows you to align in sets that defenses don't see as often.
When you align in multiple formations, you can create problems for the defense. They have to be able to identify your tight end or tight ends, your running backs, and your receivers. When those guys always line up in the same place, the defense can easily line up and make a strength call. When you change formations and move your personnel, the defense not only has to get lined up right, they have to get the strength call right and identify your personnel. They also have to make sure they have a force guy to each side, and be gap sound. If you have a dude, they have to have a plan for that guy.
Something very important that goes with this is being able to align in multiple formations from each personnel group. If you are in 11 personnel, you want to be able to align in more than just 11 personnel sets. We have always prided ourselves on being able to line up in everything from 3 backs to empty with each of our personnel groups. Having a simple system of communication makes it easy on your kids, but complex for the defense. Defensive coordinators often make calls based on which personnel group is in the game. We want to force them into bad calls, and make defensive coordinators more vanilla. Certain pressures they run can only be used against certain sets. We want to keep them guessing, and unsure of how we will line up.
The other aspect is that we are dealing with 16, 17, and 18 year-old young people. The more we can make them think, the slower and less confident they will play. We want to give them multiple factors to think about. We want them concerned with personnel, formations, and conflicting strength calls.
Four Advantages To Using Multiple Formations
1. Create plus one opportunities
In a plus one opportunity, we have one more gap than the defense has hats. We can force them to have to invert their secondary, or two gap a defender. We can also use formations to create a plus one on the perimeter. We can align in formations that force the defense to have to make choices. When we find a formation where we can have numbers and grass, we want to use that formation. Sometimes we will have numbers in the box to the tight end, sometimes we will have numbers away from the tight end. We also can use formations to have numbers on the perimeter. We want to have a plus one, and we are going to find formations to give us the best opportunity for that.
2. We can create conflicts within the strength call
Using nub sets, 2 TE sets, and sets with a sniffer can force the defense to have conflict within their strength call. Not everyone calls their strength the same way. When we scout an opponent, we want to know where they call the strength. Some teams call the strength to the most receivers. Other teams call the strength to the tight end. There are teams that have a run strength and a pass strength. Some defensive coordinators change the strength call based on 1 back or 2 backs in the backfield. By using multiple formations, particularly nub sets, we can create conflict for the defense calling the strength.
3. Leverage and Angles
We often find certain formations that give us the best leverage and angles for running certain plays. We define leverage as an advantage. That means we have an advantage at the point of attack over the defender assigned to that area. We use formations to create leverage opportunities, where we can have a better angle to run certain plays.
4. Create Matchup Problems
When you have a really good receiver, teams are going to find answers to take that receiver away. Using different formations where your best player moves around, forces defenses to have multiple answers. If they are going to bracket your best outside WR with the corner and safety, you want to be able to move your WR inside to a slot. You can find formations where teams are going to give you single coverage on your best wide out.
Formation Into The Boundary (FIB)
Before we look at formations, I want to talk to you about the importance of setting the formation into the boundary at times. There are teams that are going to make field/boundary calls. When you set the formation into the boundary, you are going to have a numeric advantage. This gives you an opportunity to create plays to stay on schedule, and to get back on schedule. Never be afraid to set your formation into the boundary against teams that are going to defend the field.
The other aspect of putting your formation into the field is how the defense will play coverage. They are going to play 3 receiver to the field different than they play three receivers into the boundary. They are more apt to rotate their coverage to favor three receivers to the field. When you put three receivers to the boundary, you are often going to have an uncovered receiver on the boundary side. As you go consider the importance of multiple formations, don't forget to look at setting your formations into the boundary during the course of your game planning.
Looking at Formations (3x1 Sets)
Let's look at a couple of formation examples and how they give you an advantage. I believe everyone should run a Trips Nub Set and a Trey Set. In a trips nub set, you have the tight end on the line with his hand down to one side, and three receivers to the side opposite the tight end. This forces the defense to have to line up to the tight end, while also accounting for three receivers away from the tight end. We find many teams have trouble aligning to Trips Nub.
In the figure above, the defense is using a 3-4 structure. They walk a linebacker up on the tight end and roll the corner back. The defense is one gap short unless they 2 gap the nose or move the front. If they move the front they have to borrow a secondary or perimeter player to add to the box.
When I was a defensive coordinator we adapted this to our defensive preparation!
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