Tony DeMeo

We not Me

One principle that we indoctrinate in our players is the power of synergy. The outcome of everyone working in combination can be far greater than operating as an individual. This collective ego and belief in “we not me” is vital to our success as a football team but also is the foundation of our success in the backfield. Primarily, we are in three back personnel, utilizing a true tailback and two slot backs. The hub of our offense is the gun triple option. The play and scheme allows for the tailback, quarterback, or slot back to be the ball carrier based on the defensive reaction, but only one can carry the ball. The role of every other back, as a blocker and in carrying out their fakes to the fullest, is critical to making the play go. Running an option system helps to instill this collective mindset in our backfield. The reads of the quarterback determine the ball carrier and the effort of each back allows for the success of the play. Every back in our system knows that for us to be most effective, they must not only be ball carriers but carry out great fakes, find work after fakes, and be tenacious blockers. We have tremendously skilled runners in our backfield (seven backs averaging over five yards per carry) but they also contribute and have a huge effect on our success by making plays without the ball in their hands. That is our focus in the backfield, to be playmakers with AND without the ball. This selfless, collective ego must be taught, coached, and demanded and the gun triple option is a great teaching tool to enhance the “we not me” attitude that we strive for as football coaches.

In order to reinforce the power of synergy to your players, you must have a system in place to reward the behaviors and actions that further this principle. Here at the University of Charleston, we not only grade our player’s performance in terms of assignment and execution, but also grade their effort on every play. Each position group on our team has certain criteria that will earn them effort points during the game. This system allows us another opportunity to teach and enhance synergy. Our players come to fully understand that their effort will lead to the success of their teammates and ultimately, the team. This is a way to tangibly measure everyone’s contribution to the team on every play. At the running back position, 70% of what we reward in terms of effort points can be achieved without the ball in their hands. Our backs know that their value is not limited to their touches, yardage output or touchdowns scored, but instead the focus is to make each other better every play, to make the team more successful, by making plays without the ball. Our backs are aware that when they have a big run, there were offensive linemen that did their job, the quarterback made the correct read, and the other back’s blocks, allowed them the opportunity for success. Our guys take great pride in making plays without the ball and helping the other backs achieve a greater success than they could achieve on their own.

We also hand out a weekly award to the running backs. The award has nothing to do with yards, touchdowns, receptions, first downs, broken tackles, but instead is awarded to the back with the most knockdown blocks in the game. The running backs are well aware that when defenders are on the ground, big plays happen. Therefore, to reward the running back who is making the big block so his teammate can have more success is another opportunity, for us as coaches, to reinforce the importance of synergy, team, we not me. This is the only weekly award given to our running backs and it is solely based on making plays without the ball and making your fellow running backs more successful. Our backs compete, strive, and take great pride in winning the award and in doing so exemplify the “we not me” attitude that we feel is absolutely necessary to be successful as a team.

Steve Shuster
Running Backs
Coach-University of Charleston