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The Promotion & Instruction of Youth Football
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Youth Football Online

The I-formation is one of the best offenses in football. It is easy to implement and it works on all age levels of football. It is an offense that is used on the youth football level, all the way up to the professional level. The I-Formation Offense will give you a structured attack and a team identity. Here’s a great I-Formation Offense Coaching Guide for Youth Football.

I-Formation Offense Coaching Guide for Youth Football

I-Formation Offense Coaching Guide for Youth Football

I-Formation Offense Strengths

Key features of the I-formation offense include:

1. Running Back Alignment: The running back / tailback lines up directly behind the quarterback, a few yards away from the line of scrimmage. This positioning allows the running back to have a good view of the play as it develops and provides versatility for running or receiving plays. It will also force the defense to have to defend both sides of the formation.

2. Fullback Placement: In the classic I-formation, a fullback lines up between the quarterback and the running back / tailback. The fullback’s role is often that of a lead blocker for the running back, creating openings in the defensive line for them to run through. You can also utilize FB quick dives, traps and flat passing routes.

3. Tight Ends and Wide Receivers: The I-formation typically includes tight ends and one to two wide receivers. These players can contribute to both running and passing plays, adding flexibility to the offense.

4. Balanced Formation: The I-formation provides a balanced look with players spread relatively evenly across the field. This balance can help keep the defense guessing about whether the offense will run or pass. It will also force the defense to have to respect both sides of the formation. If you don’t have a lot of running backs, the I-formation is the way to go.

5. Playbook Variety: The I-formation can be used for a variety of offensive plays. It’s particularly effective for running plays due to the strong blocking provided by the fullback and offensive line. However, it also allows for great play-action passes. This formation will give you a structured system of plays. Great plays out of this formation are Power, Counter, Trap, Dive, Toss, Waggle and Power Pass.

6. Power Running: The I-formation is often associated with power running plays, where the running back follows the fullback and blockers through a specific gap in the defensive line (ISO). Off-tackle plays like Power and ISO are great out of this formation.

7. Time Management: The I-formation can be effective for controlling the clock and maintaining possession of the ball, as it allows for sustained drives with a combination of runs and short passes.

It’s important to note that while the I-formation has been a staple in football, offensive strategies have evolved over time. Modern offenses often incorporate multiple formations and styles to keep defenses off balance.

The I-formation’s popularity has waned somewhat due to the rise of spread offenses and passing-focused schemes, but it still has a place in certain game situations and for teams that prioritize a strong running game. You can also implement some spread looks while maintaining your true I-formation running back alignment. See the I-Formation Offense Coaching Guide for Youth Football formations below.


Base Formation 

Base I-Formation












The Base I-formation is the most common of the formations. It’s what’s considered the traditional I-formation. This formation is great because you have a fullback, Tight-end and a Tailback which will give you a really good run threat. It also features two receivers, one is on the football (opposite of TE (WR)), and one is off the ball. This will give you a good passing threat and the ability to have blockers out on the edge on sweep plays. There are several great passing concepts that can be executed to the (FL) and (TE) side as well.

Spread Formation 

spread i formation













This is a what we call the spread I-formation (Twins Right). It puts the run strength to one side (to the TE side) and a pass strength to the other side. This formation will also force the defense to take a defender out of the box. The two receivers will give you blockers out on the edge. The twin set will also allow you to attack the defense with multiple passing concepts.

Power I

Power I

This is one of my favorite formations in this offense. This offense features two fullbacks (or one FB and one H back as shown) with the TB behind them. This formation will allow you to get multiple blockers at the point of attack. Plays like Power, Blast, and Counter hit really nice out of this formation. There are several great play-action passing concepts that can be executed out of this formation- particularly Power Pass, which is a high-low concept (TE runs a deep corner route, the H runs into the flat).

Free Playbook (whiteboard videos and play diagrams): Power I Formation Playbook

Double Tight-end with a Wing Back

double tight-end with a wing back formation












This is our favorite formation out of all the formations. This formation features two TEs and a WB. The WB and TE flank will present several issues for the defense. It’s a difficult look to align against- as it gives an extra gap for the defense to account for and it also presents a strong passing threat. If teams adjust to the TE / WB side, you still have a strong side opposite with the other TE. This is a very difficult formation to defend and we highly recommend utilizing this formation.

Download Playbook: I-Formation Playbook 

I-Formation Offense Weaknesses / Limitations

While the I-formation offense has its strengths, it’s also important to consider its potential drawbacks and limitations:

1. Predictability: The I-formation is often associated with running plays, and this predictability can make it easier for the defense to anticipate and counter the offense’s intentions. Over time, opponents might key in on the formation and be better prepared to defend against the run. Besides Counter, there isn’t much in regard to deception.

2. Passing Limitations: While the I-formation can accommodate passing plays, it may not be as effective for teams that heavily rely on a passing-oriented offense. The positioning of the running back and fullback can make it challenging to execute complex passing routes and deep throws. There are a lot of single and two receiver route combination- so not a lot of options.

3. Limited Versatility: Modern football places a premium on versatility and adaptability. The I-formation’s emphasis on power running and play-action passes might limit a team’s ability to quickly adjust its offensive approach based on changing game situations. Particularly, hurry up offense situations. You probably should have some sort of spread formation for you have to pass.

4. Personnel Requirements: Running the I-formation effectively requires skilled and specialized personnel, including a capable fullback, running back, and offensive line. Teams lacking the right players to execute these positions might struggle to maximize the formation’s potential. If you have multiple kids that can run the football, this offense might not make sense.

5. Defensive Recognition: Experienced defensive players can often read the I-formation’s cues and alignments to predict the play’s direction. This can lead to quicker reactions by the defense and potentially limit the success of running plays. Again, it lacks a lot of deception.

6. Vulnerability to Blitzes: The I-formation’s setup can make it more vulnerable to blitzing defenses. Defenses can exploit gaps in the offensive line, disrupt the blocking scheme, and pressure the quarterback more effectively.

7. Lack of Spread Elements: The I-formation doesn’t naturally lend itself to spread offense concepts. Teams looking to stretch the field horizontally and create mismatches through formations might find the I-formation limiting.

8. Time of Possession Emphasis: While controlling the clock can be an advantage, relying solely on time of possession might limit a team’s ability to quickly score points in high-scoring games or when trailing.

9. One-Back Focus: The I-formation typically features a single running back, which means that if that back is injured or fatigued, the offense’s effectiveness can be compromised. If you have multiple capable running backs this formation limits you.

10. Adaptation to Defensive Shifts: Skilled defensive coordinators can adjust their formations and strategies to counter the I-formation. If the defense shifts its alignment to counter the run, the offense might need to quickly adjust its approach.

Should you Install the I-Formation Offense?

Ultimately, whether the I-formation is a good fit for a team depends on its overall offensive philosophy, player strengths, and game plan. While the formation has its challenges, it can still be effective when used strategically and in combination with other offensive approaches. (A lot of this was already covered in the strengths section)

The decision to run the I-formation offense depends on a team’s strengths, personnel, and overall offensive strategy. The I-formation can be effective in various situations, but it’s particularly suited for teams that emphasize a strong running game and seek to control the clock. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether to run the I-formation offense:

1. Personnel: The I-formation requires a capable running back, fullback, and offensive line. Teams with talented runners who can make quick decisions and exploit running lanes can benefit from this formation.

2. Running Game Emphasis: If a team’s offensive philosophy revolves around a power running game, the I-formation can be a good fit. The fullback’s blocking and the alignment of players facilitate power running plays.

3. Play-Action Passes: The I-formation allows for effective play-action passes. Teams that want to use run fakes to open up passing lanes downfield can capitalize on this aspect of the formation.

4. Balanced Attack: While the I-formation is associated with the running game, it can also accommodate passing plays. Teams that want to maintain a balanced offensive attack with the ability to run and pass effectively might find success with this formation.

5. Time of Possession: The I-formation can be used to control the clock and keep the opposing offense off the field. If a team wants to focus on maintaining possession and wearing down the defense, the I-formation can help accomplish that goal.

6. Defensive Matchups: Analyze the defensive strengths and weaknesses of opposing teams. If you identify vulnerabilities in their run defense, the I-formation could be an effective strategy.

7. Team Identity: Teams that value a physical, gritty style of play might find the I-formation aligning well with their overall identity and culture.

8. Quarterback Skillset: While the I-formation can work with various quarterback skillsets, having a quarterback who can effectively execute play-action passes and make quick decisions is advantageous.

9. Adaptability: Keep in mind that modern football involves adapting strategies based on game situations. Teams that can transition between different offensive formations and styles might use the I-formation situationally rather than exclusively.

Ultimately, the decision to run the I-formation offense should be based on a thorough assessment of the team’s strengths, weaknesses, and game plan. Coaches should tailor their offensive strategy to the players they have and the goals they want to achieve during games.

I-Formation Offense Coaching Guide for Youth Football | Plays and Formations

I-Formation Offense Plays

  • Power
  • Counter
  • Counter Pass
  • FB Dive
  • Bootleg Pass

The effectiveness of I-formation plays depends on various factors, including the team’s personnel, the defensive alignment, and the situation within the game. However, here are a few classic and commonly used I-formation plays that have proven successful over time.

Note: all of these plays shown below can be executed out of the formations featured above.

Power Run

This is a straightforward running play where the fullback leads the way as a blocker for the running back. The offensive line and fullback create a hole for the running back to exploit. The running back follows the fullback’s block through the designated gap in the defensive line.

Isolation Run


i formation offense iso play












Similar to the power run, this play involves the fullback blocking for the running back. However, in this play, the running back focuses on a specific gap, aiming to isolate and take on a single defender. The offensive line and fullback create the opening for the running back.

 Play-Action Pass

play-action pass












The I-formation is well-suited for play-action passes. The quarterback fakes a handoff to the running back, which can draw the linebackers and safeties closer to the line of scrimmage. This creates opportunities for downfield passes to tight ends, wide receivers, or even the fullback releasing into the open field.

Fullback Quick Dive

In this play, the running back / fullback takes a quick handoff and looks to quickly burst through the line of scrimmage. The fullback provides lead blocking, and the running back’s objective is to gain short-yardage in situations like third-and-short or goal-line situations.

Counter Run

The counter run is designed to deceive the defense. The running back initially takes a step as if going in one direction but then changes direction and runs behind the offensive line, where blockers are pulling to lead the way.

Bootleg Pass

boot pass out of the i-formation offense












This play is designed to take advantage of the defense’s focus on the running back and the power running game. The quarterback fakes a handoff to the running back and rolls out in the opposite direction, looking for open passing options.

Combining play-action with a pass to the Tight-end can catch the defense off guard. The Tight-end  initially acts as a blocker before releasing into the flat for a short pass from the quarterback. A lot of times the backside TE running the drag / over route will be open too.

I-Formation Offense Coaching Guide for Youth Football Conclusion

I-Formation Offense Resources & Plays:

Power I-Formation Plays and Playbook 

Strong ISO Play (to the TE side)

Waggle Play 

Power I-Formation Trap Play 

It’s important to note that the success of these plays depends on factors like the defensive alignment, the timing of execution, the skills of the players, and the element of surprise. Additionally, coaches often customize these plays based on their team’s strengths and the opponent’s tendencies.

Football is a dynamic game, and adapting strategies to the situation at hand is a key aspect of successful play-calling. We hope you enjoyed our I-Formation Offense Coaching Guide for Youth Football. If you have any questions please contact us!