Monday, January 25, 2016

Implementing RPO Concepts

Back about 15 years ago we started to experiment with RPO concepts. RPO stands simply for Run-Pass-Option. We were talking about how we would call a run and the defense would load the box. The corner over our single WR, however, was playing 8 yards off the ball with no underneath help. I really wish we had called a stop route.

Fast forward a couple of years and we were playing a team that was crowding the box again when we were in 2x2 sets. They were playing cover 3, with the OLB's playing 1x1 on our tackles. Below is a diagram that shows the defensive alignment.

We built in some uncovered rules, and told the QB to alert "BOZO" if the defense showed this alignment. We would rise up and throw to the #2 WR. Regardless of what the play call was, if the defense showed this look we would check BOZO. This worked well, and eventually the defense adjusted and started to cover our #2 receivers. 

During our off-season meetings we started to talk about building quick game concepts into the call. We began to tag our run concepts with a quick game concept. Once we saw the defense was not honoring our perimeter skill players, we would tag the quick game concept. If we tagged it, we were telling the quarterback to throw it. The QB would fake the run and throw the quick. This was great until we added the tag and the defense lined up to take the quick game concept away. Below shows the defense aligned to take away the bubble.
We told our quarterback, if we tag it, you throw it. Our bubble screen got hit in the mouth. This was not very good. At some point we saw a coach at a clinic mention they were having their quarterback make a pre-snap determination of whether he would throw or run based on defensive alignment. This, to me, was very intelligent. From here, our RPO system was born.

We would build in pass concepts to our runs, and if the defense lined up to take the run, we would throw the pass. If the defense lined up to take the pass away, run the ball. There is nothing magical about this approach. It was sound in principal and in practice. 

When we implemented this initially there were some growing pains. We learned we had to have specific criteria of when to throw and when to run. We had to determine how we would communicate our concepts. We had to train our quarterbacks to be able to make a good pre-snap determination. We also had to make sure we had the "right" guy at quarterback. We couldn't have a guy who was selfish. We had to have someone who would be able to make the right read because it was the right read.
Below is an example of a simple RPO concept off our inside zone read. 

Over the last few years we have greatly expanded our RPO package. Every run now has a pass. When we call the run we are calling the pass. This has greatly helped our offense to be more explosive and more balanced. It has forced the defense to defend the entire width of the field while having to remain gap sound. 

Perhaps the biggest benefit was the fact that we could get our skill players the ball in open space. The touches for our X and Z receivers increased tremendously. Below is an example of our inside zone read concept before we implemented our RPO concepts.
If our QB got a pull read we had to hope our #2 WR was able to block the OLB. If the OLB blitzed from depth or walked up late, our QB basically had to give the ball regardless of what the defensive end did. Our quarterback got hit in the mouth more than once. 

Once we added our RPO concept, if the OLB did not honor our #2 WR, we simply threw the tagged quick game concept. This allowed us to have a high percentage throw the protect the run. Below is a diagram of the same concept with the built in RPO.

If the outside linebacker aligned over our #2 WR, we would execute the run. If the OLB aligned inside our #2 WR, we would throw the quick concept. The QB would catch and throw. If we executed the run and got a pull read, we still had to deal with the backer. The QB would replace the read and get his eyes on the OLB. If the OLB widened, the QB would keep. If the OLB attacked him, he would throw the ball to the #1 WR, illustrated in the diagram below.

Essentially we were playing triple option football, just with a twist. And if you consider our pre-snap process, we would playing quadruple option football. The quarterback could throw the quick game pre-snap based on alignment. If you look to the tight end side, our Z WR is running a stop route. If the defense gave us the stop route, the QB could throw that as well based on pre-snap alignment.

This is just one example simple quick game concept that can be built into a base run play to give you a manageable RPO. You can implement this in a couple of days of practice time, and it will lead to some explosive plays. We now have a multitude of RPO concepts in our offense. 

A couple of questions I get are: Do we have lineman downfield? At times we do, but this is a concept thrown just behind the LOS, so we can have lineman downfield. Does our QB ever mess up the read? They do, but more often than not they are conservative on throwing the quick concept pre-snap. 

We complete this concept at a 98% completion rate, and we average over 6.8 yards every time we throw it. It is essentially a toss sweep to a good athlete. It has helped greatly to improve our run game as well.

After speaking at clinics on RPO concepts for several years, and helping several schools install RPO concepts into their offenses, I decided to write a book. It is available on both ibooks and on Windows and Android based systems through the Kindle App.

The book covers everything you need to implement RPO's into your offense. Whether you want to add RPO concepts to your entire run game, or you want to start with one or two simple concepts, this book will show you how to do so with confidence. I cover everything from pre-snap to 2nd and 3rd level post snap concepts and reads. The book is written with a very systematic process to installing RPO's. Regardless of your system, this book will give you a method and a plan.

The apple version on ibooks has video embedded. Their are clips of all of our RPO concepts. The Kindle version has everything but the video clips. Both books are chalk full of diagrams and explanation. The biggest thing is that this book is a manual with a very systematic process of installing RPO's into your system. 

Here is a link to the ibooks version: These iBooks are truly innovative as the video brings the concept to life. If you have an iPad or iPhone, or a Mac, this is the way to go. 

If you don't have an apple device, you can order the paperback version! It is available on Amazon!

Here is a link to the Kindle version for all Android and Windows devices: