Terminology: Bootleg

12 Jan

A bootleg is schizophrenic or something.
For starters, it’s a misdirection play.  The Quarterback fakes a hand off in one direction then rolls out to the other.
It’s also a play-action pass in that it starts out looking like a running play.  The run fake does two things: it confuses the defense and it slows down any pass rush.
And, lastly, it’s an option play — sort of.  Depending upon how the defense’s backside reacts to the Quarterback’s sudden appearance with the ball, the Quarterback has the option to either run or pass.
The defense, in this case, is specifically the force defender.  He’s the lone wolf in a defense’s perimeter who’s entrusted with “forcing” a ballcarrier back into the pursuit. 
When he sees the Quarterback with the ball to his side of the field, he has two choices: he can lay back and protect against the pass, in which case the Quarterback can run.  Or he can rush the Quarterback who will then throw to the open receiver.  When executed properly, a bootleg is basically a no-win situation for the defense.

Now bootlegs can be run and blocked in different ways, but a typical bootleg will have the backside Guard (G) pull across the formation to block the defender at the end of the line with contain responsibility, like in the illustration below. 

The contain defender has one primary job: keep the ballcarrier bottled up in the backfield.   Blocking him allows the Quarterback to get outside, into the perimeter where he can read the few defenders there and react accordingly. 
Like in the photo above, a typical bootleg will also have three receivers stacked at different depths to the side of the field to which the Quarterback is rolling, giving him options at different levels.

The key to any bootleg, though, is the running play upon which it is based.  It has to be working for the defense to be fooled by the run fake, especially if the offense proposes to run a type of bootleg called a “naked”.
A naked simply means that the Quarterback has no protection.  The contain defender – usually a Defensive End – is not blocked because the offense anticipates that he will overreact to flow away from him and give up contain by pursuing in the direction of the fake.

Once he recognizes that the play is a bootleg, it’s generally too late for him to retrace his steps and prevent the Quarterback from getting beyond the edge of the formation.
Nakeds are commonly run by spread offenses that use zone blocking up front to execute their run fake.  They don’t pull the backside Guard be-cause the offense wants to maintain the illusion of a run play.
If the illusion works, the contain defender will be easy to spot.  He’ll be the player putting on the brakes and trying rapidly to change direction.  If it doesn’t, then Quarterback probably gets sacked.
Besides your basic “boot” and “naked”, there are three other kinds of bootlegs.  Each is defined by how they block the contain defender and, in the case of two, the force defender as well.  They are the Pin Play, the Pin-O Play, and the Waggle.
The Pin Play is run to the Tight End side of the formation.  He’s kept in to block or “pin” the contain defender inside.
The Pin-O does the same thing but it also brings the “offside” Guard — another term for the backside, hence the tag “O” — to block the force defender.
The Waggle, however, comes to us from the Delaware Wing-T playbook.  It is run to the weakside of a formation and has both Guards pulling to block in front of the Quarterback, like in the diagram below.

This explains why some Offensive Coordinators’ consider a waggle to be a bootleg that is run to the weakside — the side without a TE — while a “bootleg” is run to the strongside or towards the TE.


Single Wing: A Season in Review

10 Jan

By Adam Wesoloski
November 2, 2010
The 2009 season brought a new coaching opportunity for me. Previously I was coaching Junior Pee Wee level football in a local Pop Warner organization. In 2009 our town wanted to reboot their youth tackle program which included the 5th and 6th grades. My son was a 5th grader in the district so I took one of the 5th grade head coaching positions. There were three 5th grade teams and two 6th grade teams that played games against outside competition. Each team played a six game schedule but we were not members of a league so we played an independent schedule against teams that had open dates in their schedules. This is was quite a challenge because just about every game we played with different rules. In addition 5 of our 6 games were versus 5th and 6th grade combination teams.

The season went better than I expected. We went 5-1 and outside of one game we were undersized compared to our competition. Only five of our 24 players had any tackle football experience so we had our work cut out for us to put together a fundamental sound team that could compete with the bigger, older teams.

There were rules that we played with but for the purposes of this article these two are the ones that are relevant to the offense:

1. No more than 2 players are allowed outside the tackles on one side of the ball. This includes any motion.

2. “Crack-back” blocks are not allowed. Blocks intentionally aimed at blindsiding a player are not allowed.

In 2008 we had a very powerful and dynamic single wing offense that I wanted to continue with in 2009. However I did need to trim the formations down to accommodate the rules. We went from 8 formations in 2008 to five in 2009. Our tight end position was another tackle that we always lined up on the right side. The BB, WB and SE were the players that lined up in different combinations to make our formations.

We told our split ends that on every run play their job was to block the safety in the middle of the defense. We hoped that we’d get a two for one block if the split end was able take the corner back with him when he blocked the safety.


No Huddle
My method of calling plays is pretty simple. I shout out the formation (Color) and then use hand signals to call the play – series (Power, Half, Wing) and point of attack (1-5). We practice this method in practice from the very start of camp. Additional signals we used were “Pass”, “Ghost” and “No Play”.

Multiple Off-Tackle Approach
We focused on an off-tackle attack since it was very difficult to sweep against our opponents who had large defensive ends and we lacked blazing speed. We used a steady diet of straight power plays mixed in with half spin counters and wingback counter plays to either side of the formation. We had three different modes to attack off-tackle.



2009 wing-2-4

Power Series
Our bread-and-butter plays were the Power plays. TB and FB power off-tackle plays were the staple to the offense. Our best two running backs played TB and FB. We wanted them to share the bulk of the workload carrying the football.  We blocked the power off-tackle play differently than we did in 2008.

In 2009 we had our WB return to a more traditional single wing block on the power off-tackle plays. In 2008 we adjusted his blocking to kick out the DE but in 2009 defenses were lined up in such a way where that block wasn’t going to work so we had him angle in and block the nearest play side linebacker. Consequently, in 2009, this changed the BB’s to the traditional kick-out block on the end man on the line of scrimmage.



We had a left-handed fullback which allowed us to use him to run the football to the left side as well as use our sweep pass to that side as well. Our tailback was right-handed and we mirrored all plays to the right and left. We also used the short snap to our blocking back to execute our “Ghost” plays.

Half Spin Counter Series
After successfully using an abbreviated version of this series in 2008, I wanted to install the sweep plays and to use the series more in 2009. The sweep plays have the back receiving the football half spin and he gives the ball to the other running back where as the half spin counter fakes the hand off and the back who received the snaps keeps the ball and runs off-tackle. Our longest gains in 2009 came from the half spin counter series. We had great, consistent success with the off-tackle counters and had more success running the sweep plays to the left more than to the right.


Wingback Series
We had two capable wingbacks that could block, run and catch as well. We use the same line blocking for the two WB counter off-tackle plays as we do for the half spin counter off-tackle plays with the exception that the deep back not handling the football leads through the hole with the BB. These plays take a bit longer to execute compared to the half spin counter plays but it another way to attack off-tackle and get more players involved in the offense.

2009 wing-2-4

Ghost Plays
Our interior play was a BB “Ghost” play. It was a short snap to the BB while the TB, FB and sometimes the WB executed faking in the backfield. We could fake plays from the Power series, Half Spin Counter series as well as Wingback series. Unfortunately our interior plays never gained a great deal of yardage but was a nice deceptive play to include our BB in the rushing attack.


Our 2009 team was not as explosive scoring compared to my 2008 team. However, we were very good at sustaining drives, picking up first downs, controlling the clock, and scoring enough points to win our games. We patiently exploited the off-tackle areas on the left and right sides to march down the football field. The system was set up as such that we were able to use nine different players to carry the football and score points throughout the season and have a positive, rewarding and winning experience.
If you would like a copy of the full playbook, please e-mail me: adam_wesoloski@yahoo.com.

Video: Trick Play

10 Jan

A variation of the Driscoll Middle School Trick Play…

Tools: Double-Goal Coaching Contract

10 Jan

In the spirit that there’s more than one way to achieve a common goal, we’re reprinting a coach’s contract that we found at the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) website. 
The idea behind the contract is that we, as coaches, should teach more than just football skills.  We agree.  We are very much instructors in the lessons of life and how we teach those lessons should be addressed.  That’s not a novel idea, but putting it into writing makes it more than just coachspeak at a meeting with parents.
The suggestions put forth in the contract are, in our opinion, perfectly suited for young players, especially those just starting out in the game.  We think, though, that with older players, like 12-14 year olds, some of the positive reinforcement methods need to be modified to suit the general personality and experience-levels of your team.   
Of course, you don’t have to agree with the good people at PCA but the fact remains that there are some good ideas in the contract which any coach can incorporate into his (or her) leadership style and practice plan — especially if your goal is to teach your kids to be better people as well as players. 
If you like this contract then by all means copy and paste this version and use it in your organization or go to the Positive Coaching Alliance website (www.positivecoach.org)  where you’ll find a printable copy under the “Free Tips” tab.
TO:  All Coaches

RE: What We Expect of You
You are the most important person in our organization. You determine the kind of experience our athletes have with sports. We are committed to the principles of Positive Coaching. We expect our coaches to be “Double-Goal Coaches” who want to win and help players learn “life lessons” and positive character traits from sports.
The following is what we expect from you during the coming the season.
1.  Model and teach your players to honor the game.  Teach the elements of ROOTS – Respect for: Rules, Opponents, Officials, Teammates, and one’s Self.
• Appoint a parent to be “Culture Keeper” for the team.
• Hold a parent meeting and distribute Parent/Guardian Letter to parents to get them on board with Honoring the Game.
• Drill Honoring the Game in practice.
• Seize teachable moments to talk with players about Honoring the Game.
2.  Help players redefine what it means to be a “Winner” in terms of mastery, not just the scoreboard:
• Teach players the ELM Tree of Mastery (Effort, Learning, and bouncing back from Mistakes).
• Use a “Team Mistake Ritual” (like “Flushing Mistakes”) to help players quickly rebound from mistakes.
• Reward effort, not just good outcomes. Look to recognize players for unsuccessful effort.
• Encourage players to set “Effort Goals” that are tied to how hard they try.
• Use Targeted Symbolic Rewards to reinforce effort and team play.
3.  Fill your players’ Emotional Tanks.
• Use encouragement and positive reinforcement as your primary method of motivating.
• Strive to achieve the “Magic Ratio” of 5 positive reinforcements to each criticism/correction.
• Schedule “fun activities” for practices, so players will enjoy their sport.
• Use the “Buddy System” to teach players to fill each other’s Emotional Tanks.
• Use Player of the Day and Behavior Management Strategies to resource desirable behavior and win cooperation from your players.
• Learn to give “Kid-Friendly Criticism” so players will be able to hear it. Criticize in private, “Ask Permission,” use the Criticism Sandwich, avoid giving criticism in non-teachable moments.
4.  Have Conversations during Team Meetings with your players at every practice and every game.
• Review Honoring the Game, the ELM Tree and the Emotional Tank throughout the season.
• Remind players about these three concepts before and after every game.
• Ask questions and encourage players to speak and contribute during team meetings.
At the end of the season we will survey your players and their parents to give you feedback on how you did at implementing these Positive Coaching principles during the season. We will share the results with you. Thank you for all your time and effort!
Reprinted with permission from Positive Coaching Alliance.  All rights are reserved by them.  They can be visited at www.positivecoach.org.

Being a Coach’s Wife

10 Jan

by Sara Merritt
The Football Wife
July 24, 2009
It’s been asked of me, “What’s it like being a coach’s wife?”  It’s not THAT bad.  In fact, it’s kind of fun.  How many women can say that their husband’s job entertains (& stresses) them 11 Saturdays a year?
I feel like I’m the new breed of “Coach’s Wife” — I’m young, a new mother, independent.  I am supportive of my husband, but I also value my own interests.  I don’t let football rule my entire life — you won’t find me wearing our team’s football t-shirts around town or carrying a blinged-out football handbag.  I save my pom-poms for game day.  Know what I mean? 
You do have to make room for football in your life.  It’s your bread & butter.  Will your husband work long hours?  Yes.  Would you rather have him punch a clock or have a career that he’s passionate about?
Here is my advice…
FOOTBALL.  Embrace it.  Try not to learn too many of the rules — it ruins the fun.  Stop by practice.  Learn the kids’ names.  Meet their parents.  Let your own kids run wild in the end zone after the game.  Bake cookies for the staff.  Get involved.  Hug the mascot.  Eat dinner together — even if it’s at the office.  Be creative –try sewing, painting, or scrapbooking.  Get together with other wives.  Dress your baby in a cheerleading outfit.  Paint a paw print on her face.  Learn to mow the lawn.  Redecorate.  Plan after-the-game parties.  Enjoy control of the remote.  Netflix girlie movies.  Go to church on Sundays.  Make a treat basket for your Coach.  Invite the [players] over for dinner.  Hire players’ girlfriends [or the cheerleaders] to babysit your children.  Smile.  Keep your fingers crossed for a winning season.
Reprinted by permission of the author.  Originally published at http://thefootballwife.com.

Terminology: “Selling the Nine”

9 Jan
The nine is football’s most basic and most important pass route and, yet, it’s nothing more than a race to the end zone – or at least as far as the Quarterback can throw.
Selling the nine is convincing a defensive back that he’s in that race every time a receiver releases from the line of scrimmage.
The nine is basically a straight line.  As such, it’s the stem for many of the other routes a receiver can run.  By stem, we refer to another straight line, the one a receiver runs when he escapes the line of scrimmage and races to the breakpoint of his assigned route. 
If a receiver can fool a defensive back into thinking he’s going deep, then the underneath routes that break off the nine open up.  Separation – the goal of any receiver – becomes easier.
This example of a passing tree is fairly simple, but it shows how the “9” is strictly vertical and other routes break off it. Note how even-numbered routes work inside, and odd-numbered routes work outside. 

Sample Passing Tree

The deception succeeds because the nine is a defensive back’s worst nightmare.   “Don’t get beat deep” is the mantra he hears in his head each time a receiver lines up.
The way, then, a receiver deceives a defensive back is by being consistent.  Each time he runs a route that comes off the nine, he mimics the actions of a nine which derives its name from the passing trees found in offensive playbooks.  

History: “Mr. Inside, Mr. Outside”

9 Jan

Together they were the 1940’s version of the dynamic duo.  Individually they each earned a Heisman Trophy.  One in 1945; the other in 1946.  In their three years together at West Point, the Cadets didn’t lose a game, going 27-0-1, and winning back-to-back national championships.  One was a powerful, bulldozing fullback; the other, a fleet-footed and ankle-breaking halfback. To their teammates and coaches they were simply Felix “Doc” Blanchard and Glenn Davis. But to admiring football fans everywhere, they were better known as Mr. Inside, Mr. Outside.

Glenn Davis (L) and "Doc" Blanchard (R)

Their legend begins in high school where both were stellar athletes in a variety of sports.  Davis was a 13-letter sport star at Bonita High School in La Verne, California, while Doc starred at St. Stanislaus Prep in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.  Each arrived at West Point by way of happenstance.

Davis was recruited, given what recruiting was in the 40’s due to the war. But not until Head Coach Red Blaik learned of the multi-sport star from a note sent to him by a Dartmouth professor of dramatics. The note said, in part, “They say this kid is the fastest halfback ever seen out [in California]…I thought you might be interested in knowing about this boy.  His name is Glenn Davis.” 

Coach Blaik teaching the Single Wing

Blaik took an interest.  So did Davis and he did not disappoint.  The 5-9, 170 pound halfback with world-class speed became an instant sensation in 1943, ranking seventh in the nation in total offense as a plebe (freshman) and leading Army to a 7-2-1 record.  His prowess on the football field, however, did not prevent his dismissal from the academy in December of that year for failing mathematics.  Only after months of remedial work was he readmitted.

Felix “Doc” Blanchard took a circuitous route to West Point, earning an appointment in 1943 after having enlisted in the Army.  This event was preceeded by a year of freshman ball at North Carolina where, according to the team trainer’s, he knocked out “…two would-be tacklers on the same play.”

Imbued with a love for the game by a father who played college ball as well, Doc emerged as a rising star in Army’s 59-0 drubbing of mighty Notre Dame in 1944; a game in which it was noted in the New York Times that he was “…even more poisonous on the defense…” where he lined up as a linebacker. 

More telling of his impact on he game, however, was the telegram that Notre Dame Coach Ed McKeever wired back to South Bend that day: “Have just seen Superman in the flesh. He wears number 35 and goes by the name of Blanchard.”

Blanchard (35) about to shake a defender.

The thing about Blanchard, though, was his surprising speed for a 6 foot, 208 pound fullback. He could cover a 100 yards in 10 seconds.  Davis, meanwhile, clocked a 9.7 100 and had what was described as a “fifth gear’ in the open field.  In their first season together, Army went 9-0. 

The following year, 1945, the Cadets replicated their winning ways and Blanchard was awarded the Heisman.  He was the first junior to ever win the coveted trophy.  The runner-up was Davis who had also finished second the year before, in ‘44. 

Both years Army won the national championship.  Finally, in 1946, the elusive Davis won that which had eluded him as the Cadets finished 9-0-1 and split the national championship with Notre Dame, the team who had tied them, 0-0, in a memorable clash of titans.

For their careers, Davis scored 59 touchdowns and gained 4,129 yards either rushing or receiving.  His record for most yards gained per play — an average of 11.5 yards per carry in 1945 — still stands.  Doc finished his career with 38 touchdowns and 1,666 yards. 

Both played defense as well: Davis as a safety and Doc as a linebacker.  Together they combined for 97 touchdowns, the most scored by teammates in a career, until 2006, when the record was eclipsed by Reggie Bush and Lendale White of the USC Trojans with 99. 

Davis went on to play pro ball after a short tour with the Infantry and was elected a Pro Bowler, but a knee injury while filming the movie, ”The Spirit of West Point, in which Davis and Blanchard played  themselves, forced him to retire.  He became a promotional executive for The Los Angeles Times.

Blanchard also had a chance to play in the NFL but chose instead to become a jet pilot in the Air Force and flew combat missions in Korea and Vietnam.  He retired as a Colonel.  Both have passed on, but not from memory or from college football lore in which they will always be remembered alongside the greatest players of all time as Mr. Inside, Mr. Outside.