Sunday, December 25, 2016

Our Evolution to RPO's

Over the last several years we have gone all-in on RPO concepts. RPO's are simply Run-Pass-Options, where you essentially call two plays in one. The play might be a run, or it might be a pass. You don't know until the ball is snapped. The offensive line and backfield will execute the run, while the receivers run a pass concept. The goal is to make the defense wrong no matter what they do.

Over the last 15 years I have had the opportunity to speak at clinics all over the country about offensive concepts. In the last 5 years coaches have wanted to learn about RPO concepts, and how you can adapt them to your offensive system. One of the questions I get asked is how did we get to this point?

Our evolution of RPO's began with trusting our quarterback to be able to make choices. This started with a system we learned from Jerry Campbell in the 90's called "option on me." Jerry came up and helped us install the option game from the ground up, and taught me how the quarterback can call best option at the line. We would simply call a formation and point to our quarterback. That meant the play was on him. He could call midline, load, or veer option based on defensive alignment. Our offense exploded after installing this in the late 90's.

The next step in our journey took us into the realm of packaged plays. With a packaged play you called a run and a pass, and the QB would look at the defense and determine based on alignment whether to execute the run or pass. If he chose to execute the run, he would communicate this with the offense. Typically he would verbalize the call to the line and signal the receivers. Everyone would execute the call.

One of our favorite calls when we were under center was a sprint out concept strong paired with inside zone. In the diagram below, the defense aligns in a Middle Open shell showing cover 2. This means we have numbers in the box. The quarterback would signal to the receivers and verbalize to the line that we are going to run the called run play. As you can see in the diagram, we have numbers for the run game. The Z and H will block the most dangerous secondary force support player.
We have 8 on 6 in the box. Because the defense is playing 5 over 3 with our splits, we are able to run the football in the box. 

If we had the same packaged concepts called and the defense adjusted to bring a 7th man in the box, we could execute the sprint out concept. This is illustrated below. 
When the defense brought the strong safety in the box, we knew we had to leave someone unblocked. Typically this would mean pushing our zone once gap to the frontside, leaving the backside end unlocked. With a packaged play, the quarterback would simply check to the pass called and the offense would execute the play. Below is a video clip of the sprint out strong. 

As you can see in the video, we were able to put the strong safety in conflict. He was in the box to play the run, but he also had to be a man defender on a pass play. We were able to take advantage with our tight end. The safety in the middle of the field cannot get over the top fast enough, and we were able to score. The quarterback looked at the defense and communicated with the offense that we would be running the sprint out pass. 

Our First RPO
One of the first true under center RPO's we installed was what we called BOZO. We ran it off inside zone. The #1 WR ran a 3 yard stop route while #2 ran a 1 yard stop route. The offensive line blocked inside zone. The QB would determine based on presnap alignment whether to throw or execute the run. If the defense left the inside backer inside the box, the QB would read inside to outside. If he linebacker was outside the box, the QB would give the ball. The offensive line is blocking inside zone. Below is a clip of this concept.
Trips Check 
The next step was having a three play package. We did this from trips, and we called it Trips Check. We would align in a trips formation and have 3 plays called. We would call Inside Zone Read with a hitch to the single and a bubble to the trips. We wanted the quarterback to open to the trips to mesh with the back. 
The QB would first look at the single WR side and find the 2nd defender.  We count 2nd level players within 7 yards of the LOS. If the corner is more than 7 yards off, we don't count him. In the diagram above, the corner is #1 and the LB in blue is #2. If the LB was in the box, the QB could throw the hitch route. If the LB was outside the box, the quarterback would go to his next presnap read to the trips side. The QB would find the 3rd defender to the trips side. If he is outside the box, run the ball. if he is inside the box, throw the bubble. In the diagram above, the quarterback sees the #2 linebacker to the single is outside the box. He doesn't want to throw the hitch based on presnap alignment. 

To the trips side he sees the #3 defender inside the box, so the QB knows he can throw the bubble. We have numbers with 3 on 2. If the quarterback were to execute the run we still have a body for  a body, but throwing the bubble gives us the best chance to be explosive. Initially we had the QB tell the OL when he was throwing with a one word code. We decided this was unnecessary.

With Trips Check, we felt like we had numbers regardless of how the defense lined up. If they bumped a linebacker out of the box to the trips side, we had numbers in the box.

If they aligned in an odd front and stayed in their 3-4 look, we had numbers in the box.
If they wanted to play us in a bear front and load the box, we had numbers on the perimeter.
We felt like we always had an answer. The offensive line would block inside zone read, and the skill players would execute the hitch to the single and the bubble to the trips. The quarterback would make a simple read and be able to take advantage of the defense. We could run any of our inside run concepts from this formation.

What this concept did was took a packaged play concept a step further. Instead of calling two plays and having the QB check to the right play, we built both plays into one call. This cut down on verbiage and helped us to play faster. 

Building A Pass Into Every Run
Our next evolution was simple. We would call our runs and build in passes. We did this through a simple set of rules. By building in a simple set of rules that were consistent every single run play, our players were able to play very fast without thinking. On our inside runs we would no longer have our receivers block for the run. Instead we would run a quick pass concept. 

Have you ever called a run, and come to the line of scrimmage to have the defense loading the box and leaving a receiver uncovered? Or, they have the corner playing 10 yards off your best receiver? Or, have you ever called a quick game concept like bubble, only to have the defense playing man press? 

What I am about to discuss gave us built in answers. We didn't ever want to have to run into a loaded box again. We wanted to be able to protect our run game. We also wanted to be able to have a built in way to throw the ball to our most explosive athletes in space if the defense was giving that to us. We wanted to do these things without adding new verbiage and without having to check a play at the line. 

We came up with a simple set of rules. On an inside run the offensive line would block the called run. The receivers would execute their quick game rules. The rules were very simple.
1. If there is one of you, run a stop route at 5 yards.
2. If there are 2 of you, run "quick."
3. If there are 3 of you, run bubble.
That was it. Any inside run we called from any personnel group used those rules. We didn't need any tags to incorporate these rules. It was built into the call.

In addition to protecting our runs, this gave our skill players more touches in space. Even if we had a quarterback who struggled throwing the ball, we could complete high percentage passes. The first year we built this in we nearly doubled our passing yards with a running quarterback. Not only that, our running game improved because we were able to force defenses to unload the box. 

When we get into a 2x2 set and run inside zone read, we get the quick concept on both sides. The defense must align to stop the quick game or the quarterback will catch and throw. If the defense aligns to take away the quick game concept, we have numbers in the box. Below is an example of our inside zone read RPO from a 2x2 set. 
The defense essentially has to decide what they want to take away. If they take away our quick game, we should have numbers in the box. Below I talk you through this simple concept and talk you through three clips that will give you some insight into presnap RPO's. 

As you can see in the third clip, the quick game action holds the safety and slows him down in run support. We actually were running a quick game variation to the field where we tag a "sucker route" or quick and go. This helps to hold the safeties, allowing the back to gain extra yards. To the boundary side we are running a scissors concept reading the outside linebacker. 

I hope this gives you something you can use with your program. I love being able to build quick game passes into our run game concepts. Since we began doing this we have greatly increased our number of explosive plays. This helps your offense add some balance without an expensive investment. I have helped many schools install these simple RPO concepts, and they have found them to be very beneficial.

This barely scratches the surface with what we have done as far as RPO's. We now run them in multiple ways reading literally any 2nd and 3rd level defender! 

If you want to learn more about installing RPO's, I wrote a book called Installing Explosive RPO Concepts Into Any Offense. I wrote it for iBooks, which includes cut-ups to reinforce the application of these concepts. In the book I give you a systematic process for installing 2nd and 3rd level RPO's. Coaches at all level of football tell me this is a game changer! The book can be found for iBooks here:

The iBooks version can be viewed on any iPhone, Mac, or iPad. It is a game changer in book technology! This book will give you everything you need to build RPO's into your offense!

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

Follow me @coachvint on Twitter! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Book Review: Culture Defeats Strategy

Randy Jackson, the head football coach at Grapevine High School in Grapevine, Texas, wrote a new book on culture that is a must read for any coach who wants to improve his or her program. Coach Jackson has been a very successful football coach and has done a great job of turning around programs at every level in Texas.

The book had some actual actionable ideas that were beneficial to me as a coach and to our players. Coach Jackson talks about how they build mental toughness and drive competitiveness in their program. Everywhere he has been he has built programs that have beaten people they shouldn't beat. What intrigued me was watching them beat a couple of programs they had no business beating. Not just beating, but hammering them. They had a 145 pound kid toting the rock and an offensive line that looked like our freshmen team. But they flat out got after it.

The book gives you a specific process for how they divide their year to create culture. Coach Jackson has demystified culture and how it is built. He talks about practical application of concepts he has used to turn programs around by building mental toughness and accountability.

That's the thing about this stuff. There are a lot of people that talk about culture like it's a mystery. Culture is simply the attitudes and behavior attributes of a particular group, team, or organization. It exists whether you build it or you don't. Every day we are building a culture within our programs. You build a culture by design or by chance. It all starts with relationships, but it goes far beyond that. I visited a Tom Hermans practice at Houston and they talk heavily about culture. I read Urban Meyer's book Above the Line last spring and it was tremendous. Nick Saban and Pete Caroll have great books. What do they all have in common... Culture. They talk about having a process for building your culture. Randy Jackson gets the importance of culture.

I learned the hard way how culture mattered. We had 7 D1 kids back early in my career and went damn 5-5. It was a disappointing season because we had the talent to win it all. We had in fighting and leadership issues. We had selfishness. We had really talented kids that were mentally not tough. We researched in the off-season about motivation and building leadership. We visited a very good program and they talked about "culture." We had no clue what "culture" was. We made a few adjustments, set some new standards of performance, and held our guys accountable. We then dove in a little bit further the next year. It changed me as a coach. What it did do was allowed us to coach our kids harder than ever before and push them to new limits. The atmosphere around the locker room changed. Guys worked harder. They played harder. We won more.

That's the thing about culture. You may never use the word. What do you want your program to look like? How do you want your kids to perform on Friday night? How mentally tough do you want them to be? Answer those questions and design your program to produce that. That's what culture is about. That's the point of Randy Jackson's book. Your culture is more important than your strategy in determining your success. Your system doesn't matter if your guys don't play hard. Your talent level doesn't matter if you don't play hard. Your talent doesn't matter if your kids are selfish. That is why your culture is vital.

Coach Jackson's book will give you roadmap for building culture with your program. He gives you tools you can use immediately with your players to begin building a the culture you want within your own program.

I highly recommend this book! It will help make your program better! You can order it by going to

Shameless pitch for my own books...
A while back I published a couple of iBooks that can help your program with X's and O's. The first is on Installing RPO's into any offense. Here is a link to the iBooks version: The ibooks version includes explanations, diagrams, and video clips on multiple RPO Concepts. It will give you a simple process for implementing them into your offense. I wanted these books to be affordable, so they are priced to be easy on your pocket book!
If you don't have an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, you can order the Amazon version for the Kindle. It has everything except the embedded video. You can order it here:

I also wrote a book on Tempo. It will greatly help you build a multiple tempo system with simple communication that will allow your kids to play with confidence. It also had over an hour of video clips! You can order the ibooks version here:

Order the Amazon Kindle version here: