RPOs have become more popular and are continuing to move throughout all levels of football. It has gotten to the point that it seemed like all of the announcers calling college and pro games mentioned the word RPO at least 10 times a game. While these plays are a great way for the offensive coordinator to be the last one holding the pen, it’s important that they are simple enough for the players to understand and execute.
Simple RPOs Attached to Zone (SMACK RPO)
In our system we rely on the Quarterback to ensure that the Sam linebacker can not enter into the box in our 11 Personnel sets. We use our Smack RPO as a simple way to make sure we keep our numbers advantage and don’t put our Offensive Line in a bad position.
On our Smack RPO our Tight End needs to be lined up off the line of scrimmage. He can be lined up on either side of the formation, but we have found it tends to be better if he is to the side we are running the pass routes to which is to our two receiver side.
Our Offensive Line will just be blocking Inside Zone, their rules stay consistent as they work to give our Running Back a crease through either the front side or backside A Gap. In our system the Tight End is responsible for the Backside C Gap player. This stays consistent in our Smack RPO but his technique is a little different. Because there is a chance that the Quarterback might be throwing the ball, he needs to get a complete block on this defender. This is different from our normal Inside Zone because on that play we tell him he only needs to block the defenders inside shoulder.
On the outside our receivers are going to run a Go and an Out route. We tell the guy running the out route that we want him to attack the sideline quickly so that it forces the Sam to make a choice. Meanwhile our outside receiver is going to take off like it is a deep shot and try to push the Cornerback as deep as possible. Because he knows he is not a receiver option on this play he wants to keep the Cornerback running as deep as he can. As soon as the Cornerback plants his foot to come upfield and make the tackle the receiver is going to block him.
The Quarterback is going to put the ball back into the mesh and put his eyes on the Sam Linebacker. His rule is to give the ball to the Running Back unless the Sam can make the tackle. While this rule does result in us giving the ball a little more than we would like, we always believe that we should error on the side of giving as opposed to forcing a throw.
We love this RPO because it is very simple for everyone on our team. We are not adding any new concepts or schemes. There are a few new skills that we need to learn, but these are used throughout our offense so these skills have a very high return on time invested.
Simple RPO Attached to Zone | Unbalanced Zone with Smack RPO
Football at all levels is a game of copycats. As one trend picks up steam you can see other coaches taking the principles, adapting them to their offense, and then using them in their attack. One of the biggest trends that was growing last season and the start of this year is the use of Unbalanced Formations to attack the defense.
At its heart, any unbalanced formation is a formation that puts the majority of offensive players on one side of the field. But to truly be considered an unbalanced formation there needs to be 4 offensive players on the line of scrimmage to one side and two to the other. This can be accomplished in a variety of different ways, but it stresses the defense to adapt and adjust their rules since most defenses are built to stop balanced offenses.
See Also: Running Inside Zone with a TE
The formation that has become most popular has two receivers out wide with the outside receiver on the line. On that same side there is a Tight End on the line and a Wing off the line. If the Running Back is in a Pistol set this puts 6 offensive players on the strong side and two on the weak side.
The defense has a difficult choice in this scenario. If they keep their base rules and keep a balanced defense, they will be heavily outnumbered to the strong side. If they shift their defenders over to match the numbers on the strong side the defenders are now responsible for defending an area that they are not used to defending. Not to mention, it leaves the weak side vulnerable to attack.
This is a great way to use our Smack RPO without any additional teaching to our players. The only thing that changes is that our QB is now reading the $ because most defenses will put the Sam on the line. If they don’t put the Sam on the line we can just run our Outside Zone play with the leverage and numbers advantage that we have.
See Also: Inside & Outside Zone Playbook
One of the more interesting things about watching football trends develop is how different coaches adapt and use the principles in their offense. Many zone based teams used this unbalanced formation to run Outside Zone to the strong side and then counter back to the weak side with a Zone Read type of look. Other Gap teams use plays like Buck Sweep to attack the strong side while getting to the backside with Trap or Counter.
Regardless how the coordinator decides to exploit the defensive adjustments, unbalanced formations are a trend that is continuing to grow across all levels of football.