Tony DeMeo

RUNNING BACK RUN BLOCKING PROGRESSION

Here at the University of Charleston it is essential that all of our running backs be excellent blockers in order for our Gun Triple Option offense to be efficient and explosive. We refer to this offense as a “We not me” offense because of the way we spread the football around. In the 2008 season we finished 11th in Division II in rushing yards per game yet did not have an individual in the top 100 nationally. We had eight different players lead our team in rushing in different games throughout the season. There is no doubt that without our skill players buying into our system and embracing their roles as run blockers we never would have achieved this level of success.

The most important run blocking drill our running backs do everyday is our seal block, arc block and tailback wrap progression. This drill involves our tailback (dive back) and the playside slot on offense and two players on defense with hand shields (MLB and FS usually). The drill simulates a pull read or double option check on our base play, the shotgun triple option.

THE TAILBACK WRAP

When we make a double option check or get a pull read the tailback becomes responsible for either the MLB or playside LB depending on the defensive front. As soon as he feels the quarterback pull the ball he must work playside running through the contact of the handoff key and getting to his LB to throw a block. We teach our tailbacks to block through the LB’s outside number keeping his head between the defender and the perimeter where our QB is pushing the edge.

If we make a pre-snap check to double option our tailback has the same responsibility he would on a pull read. He will quickly flash fake the dive but keep his eyes on his LB the entire time. If his LB fills A or B gap the tailback must meet him at the line of scrimmage to prevent a blowup in the backfield. If his LB scrapes over the top the tailback wraps around the playside tackle’s reach block on the defensive end and blocks his LB, again with his aiming point being the LB’s outside number ensuring our QB can get the option out to the perimeter. If anotheroffensive players blocks the TB’s LB he should continue on his path and find work in the secondary.

SEAL BLOCK

In the Shotgun Triple Option the playside slots blocking assignment is determined by the defenses alignment. As he lines up he must identify both the handoff key and option key which will tell him who he is blocking. He will either be seal blocking an LB or arc/stalk blocking a defensive back. No matter who the slot is blocking there is always one constant, he must block for pitch. Blocking for pitch means the slot must position his head on the defenders outside number and never let that defender cross his face and set the edge. We have had countless big plays where our playside slot didn’t even make contact with his blocking assignment but simply forced the defender out of the play by maintaining proper body position and leverage.

Proper footwork is very important when executing a seal block and the first step his half the battle. On a seal block the slot must step down at a 45 degree angle “taking the air out of the handoff key.” By this we mean leaving virtually no daylight between the slot and the handoff key. Taking a vertical step or a rounded path can leave daylight and open a lane for a tight scraping LB to shoot through. The slot should aggressively attack the LB’s playside number keeping his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage. It is easy for a slot to turn his shoulders and feel like he is in good position to seal an LB but in reality the slot is making it easier for the LB to rip through his inside arm and defeat the seal block. We teach our slots to initiate contact square to the defender and as they begin the lose leverage to execute a “drop cut” by dipping their shoulder and ripping through the defenders playside leg.

ARC BLOCK

If our playside slot is not seal blocking on the triple option he will be arc blocking either a safety or corner. His first step should be a lateral step for width with his outside foot crossing over on his second step then taking a rounded, arcing, path to meet the defensive back. On arc blocks our slots must always block for pitch never allowing the defender to gain outside leverage. The slot must be somewhat football savvy and take a path towards where the defender is going and not where he is currently at. If he attacks the DB where he is starting the play he will be chasing the DB from the inside out. If his path is too flat and he gets too much width he will overrun the DB and open up a lane for the DB to blow up the option. Once the slot gets within the framework of the DB he should mirror the DB with his helmet lined up with the DB’s outside number. Because we are blocking for pitch, we tell our slots that any move the DB makes outside the slot must react fast to, while he can react a little slower to an inside move

The recurring theme in our entire run block progression is based on blocking for pitch and understanding leverage. We recruit small and quick slots to fit our offense and they are almost always blocking defenders larger than them so they always must take the correct angles and maintain proper body positioning. Our slots know that they absolutely cannot get beat over the top by a DB and often times forcing a DB to fishhook underneath the arc block can be every bit as effective as knocking a defender off his feet.