Utilizing Bunch Formation Plays
By Jim Shannon
The Bunch formation is one of my favorite formations to use in youth football. The formation itself creates a lot of problems for a defense, in terms of how they react and align to it. You can run and pass out of it from either side (strong/weak side), and the numbers almost always favor the offense. Our alignment is almost always the same, but we may vary our point man (Y), or flex out the backside TE, depending on what we want to accomplish. Here is a series of bunch formation plays:
Backside TE (X) – Skill kid. For us it was a WR type kid- who you need to find snaps for but isn’t a lineman type kid…. not a primary ball carrier
Bunch Point Man (Y) – Typically would be your FB or a TE kid. Some skill, can run and can block, and can catch the ball. Tough kid.
Inside Bunch Man (H) – I put our 2nd best ball carrier in this position. Someone who can run the ball and will also be the primary receiver in passes out of the bunch formation.
Outside Bunch Man (Z)– Skill kid. Maybe not a primary ball carrier, and someone who you’d be looking to integrate into the offense more and find snaps for.
RB- The best option to carry the ball for your team.
Traditional Bunch formation (Left). Y sets at 3 yards. Play is executed on ‘down, set, hit’ QB cadence.
Front side TE– Inside or arc release to front side LB (invite the DE up-field).
OL– Big on Big.
Y– Cutoff DE.
Z– Seal Corner.
H– Wait on the snap count…..on ‘Set’- start quick motion- clear QB by ‘hit’. Full speed toward DE aiming for his inside hip…..dig him out.
QB– Open toward 6 hole- hand ball off.
RB– Hit 6 hole inside H wham block, but outside TE down block.
48 Quick Toss
We follow the normal rules of a toss to the edge:
Y– Aligned 3-5 yards outside the play-side OT. Blocks down on the 1st man inside him—on or off the LOS. That’s very important. Typically they will stick a kid in the gap between the OT and Y. It’s a key block to stop any penetration, and the seal the edge.
Z– Aligned his Outside foot to Y’s Inside foot. Blocks down on the 1st man inside him–on or off the LOS. Typically will be an OLB. Attack his outside shoulder and seal him inside.
H– Aligned his Inside foot to Y’s outside foot. Opens his hips and pulls and kicks out the corner back. Attack his inside shoulder, get feet under control before contact and keep him outside.
Playside OT– Pulls around and follows H, but as H goes for corner, the OTs eyes remain inside out to stop the flow from the safety or ILB.
TB– Set heels at 5 yards behind QB. Weight should be on left foot, explode on the snap, open hips and take a 1st step at 45 (his aiming point is the outside leg of Z), 2nd step is a crossover step at which he should receive the ball, and the 3rd step should bring his body downhill so he is at full speed by the time he reaches the LOS. We teach our kids to follow the pulling OT, and follow his hash/numbers/sideline rule for outside runs.
QB- Reverse pivot and underhand toss the ball to the TB so he receives it on his 2nd step..
The offensive line blocks big on big playside and seal/cutoff backside.
We rep this with the QB and TB a lot in practice. It’s a ‘quick’ toss, so the point is to get the ball to TB quick and get downhill to gain positive yards. We also go on 1st sound as well, because by the time a youth defense adjusts to the bunch formation, and the kids execute the play properly, you can gain big yards. It’s a chunk run play for us.
Counter Running Game:
Counter (backside to the 1 receiver side)- which can really mess with a defense if they slide their LBs over to the bunch side and roll their safety over the top on Y. We run counter the normal way with backside OG/OT pulling and playside OL blocking down.
Normal bunch alignment (right)- Y sets at 3 yards outside OT
Frontside TE/OL– Down block (regardless if man is on) want to wash down the whole frontside.
Center– Big on Big or down.
OG– Pull kickout DE.
OT– Pull and seal pursuing LBS.
Y,H,Z- Hard inside cutoff- stop penetration.
TB- 2 counter steps right- cut back left- receive ball and follow OT through the hole… hash/numbers/sideline.
Alignment is traditional bunch formation (right) with Y setting up about 4 yards outside OT.
Backside TE– We are kicking out the DE. Most likely he will inside release to the front side LB. If the DE is head up or inside shade- arc release to the frontside LB.
Backside OL/C– Big on Big, or down to 2nd level if no one is on.
Playside G– Pull- kickout DE.
Playside OT– Cutoff DT, prevent penetration.
Y– Hard cutoff block inside- aim for his outside hip and wash him down. Prevent penetration.
Z– Kickout playside corner.
RB– Take Toss steps- show hands as if you are receiving toss.
QB– reverse pivot, and fake toss action- as the QB brings his hands down from the fake toss- slide ball in left hand- inside handoff to H.
H– On snap- swing hips open inside- watch pulling OG- maintain relationship, follow his path- take inside handoff from QB. When OG blocks DE cut inside his block- and follow hash/numbers/sideline rule
After handoff- QB, TB and Z should be maintaining relationship (naturally, you can run a fake H counter- QB keep with 2 lead blockers off of this).
Passing plays out of the bunch formation is tailor made for a youth team. Formations run out of bunch create natural rubs and mesh type plays that are typically man coverage beaters (which most youth teams play). They are also designed to be 3 step quick passes with minimal thinking by the QB.
One of our main passes is what we call ‘Rub’:
Y– Corner route- break off at about 8 yards. Attack the safety.
H-Shoot route- cross in front of Z- and continue to flat.
Z– Whip Route- rub off of H and continue to outside leg of Inside LB. Stick outside leg in the ground, turn inside toward the QB and continue to sideline.
Backside TE/OL– Slide Protection. In this instance we will slide Left.
RB-Replaces Y and blocks the DE. Need to attack his outside shoulder and make sure he doesn’t climb and disrupt the QB steps. Needs to be very aggressive.
QB– pseudo-sprint out. Come behind the RB (as he goes to block the DE)- set up 3 steps behind the OT. 1st read is Y- give him a quick look to see if they leave him uncovered. If Y is covered- deliver the ball to H. Throw to his outside shoulder so he can catch, tuck and turn upfield. H is usually always uncovered. The LB typically covers H but cant fight through the release of Y and Z to get outside fast enough to cover H. If the QB delivers a good ball, this is another chunk play.
This group of bunch formation plays are very explosive. Every single play will set another play up.