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Author Information

Founder and Owner of the Flexbone Association. Since 2007 we have provided the tools necessary for teams to succeed running the Flexbone Association System. Over the last ten years over 200 teams have been instructed by the Flexbone Association. I've consulted with teams and or run camps everywhere from Belfair, WA to Key West, FL. The Flexbone Association strives daily to help coaches succeed with this time tested offense, I have been a football coach for 16 seasons, currently at Harrison High School in Kennesaw, GA I played at St. Mary's Springs High School in Fond du Lac, WI under legendary head coach Bob Hyland. I've been fortunate to be part of five state championship teams (1997,1998,2002,2011,2012). In 2011-2012 St. Mary's Springs led the state of Wisconsin in scoring and set consecutive school records for points scored, Psalm 27

The Southern Speed Factor – What to do on the Backside of Play-Action Pass

I used to coach this offense and run these camps, and we wouldn’t spend all that much time at all on the technique of the backside receiver on play-action pass. Usually the instruction consisted of, “just have him run a dig, you might throw it to him twice a season”. Since moving down south I’ve gained a greater appreciation for that backside receiver in the play-action passing game. That reason is southern speed!

We now spend more time with what that receiver will be doing on the backside because secondary players are faster down here than I’ve seen in Wisconsin. A prior article I wrote covered the one absolute must, that you have to have in your play-action passing arsenal. The majority of teams I see down here are two-high safety teams. The same holds true at the college level. If you coach in a smaller school in a more rural area, chances are you see a little more one-high safety defenses. The concepts I will cover here are more geared toward two high-safety teams, but depending on what that one-high safety does, chances are they will apply to that defense as well.

The most common defensive scheme to stop triple option out of a two high safety look is to run the safety in the alley to be #3 (See Below)

Safety in the Alley to Stop Pitch (Becoming #3) v. Triple Option


To run play-action passes against this playside scheme, you should first look to the post-wheel concept. If you are coaching at the college level, or playing the types of teams we play on Friday nights, you must also take into consideration what they are doing on the backside of the secondary. Working from playside to backside, first what is the backside safety doing, then what is the backside corner doing. 

There are four common techniques that can be played by the backside safety. Assuming he doesn’t commit an assignment error and totally blow his coverage responsibility. He can play deep middle (the defense inverted to cover-three) He can play the opposite hash, trying to take away the vertical route by the slot or the post route by the receiver. He can run flat , basically replacing the playside safety in the run defense, or he can come towards the ball playing the crossing route or cut-back. (See Below)

Four Common Backside Safety Reactions to Triple Option Action Away (Seen in Blue)


There is only one reaction from the backside safety that has the potential to take away the playside progression. That would be if the backside safety  sprints downfield to the point where the post would be caught. (See Below)

Safety Plays Deep Playside Hash


Any of the other three reactions, react up or in place to play counter, or to replace to playside hash safety on the opposite hash, or to have the entire secondary invert to cover three (puts the backside safety in the deep middle) will still allow the Quarterback and your team to throw the ball to the playside. If the backside safety has the ability to play the deep hash on the playside, then the backside of the route will come into play. The first two routes we would look at are either the backside post or the backside dig, depending on the ability of your receiver. If he is a guy that can really stretch the field you might want to look at tagging a post on the backside. A key coaching point on the backside post would be to, just like the playside post, is to keep him outside the hash. The ball has a much higher chance of being intercepted if it’s thrown between the hashes. If your receiver is not the type that can stretch the field, you should look at tagging a dig route first. The depth of the dig depends on the speed of the receiver. A good runner, can run a dig by getting to the post at 10 and crossing on the dig at 14, (see below)

Backside Receiver Options vs. Backside Safety Playing Deep Hash on Play-Action


If the backside safety is playing flat across. hanging on the hash or coming up slightly to play any counters, the post is the best backside option regardless of what’s happening on the playside, (see below)

Backside Post v. Backside Safety Playing the Hash or Flat Across


If the backside safety inverts to a cover three look, that cancels out the backside post, because running two posts against a deep middle defender become ineffective the deeper the routes are run downfield. The best route to run against an inverted cover three look is the dig.

Backside Dig v. Backside Safety Inverting to Cover Three


Finally the last consideration you need to make is how is the backside corner playing. I’ve listed above what route concepts will work against the safety’s play, but what can you do if the corner on the backside is significantly better than your receiver? What if he plays inside leverage when he sees action away? The only technique by the corner that should impact your backside receiver from running either a post or a dig is a corner who plays with inside leverage and will not allow the receiver to release inside. If the corner is significantly better than your receiver that will eliminate the vertical route as well. The only feasible route to be run by the backside receiver against a superior corner or a corner playing with inside leverage is a comeback.  It’s the only route that will allow him to get open in either of those circumstances. (see below)

Comeback Route Run by the Backside Receiver Against Corner Playing Inside Leverage


Many opponents will allow their backside corner to play the deep third until you complete  a few routes inside of him to the backside receiver. Once that happens they may adjust and either man him up or play inside leverage. This of course helps you in your counter game, especially counter option, because they may rotate #3 very late to counter option. Either way the defense is giving up something. These small route ideas on the backside of play-action pass will help your program. Especially if you are playing against the quality of corners we play against in the south. If you are running the entire Flexbone Association Academy System, you will be very hard to beat.

PhotoHal Yeager — The Birmingham News 

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