Using the River and Lake Formations to Stress the Defense
One of the things that can drive defensive coaches crazy are odd formations, especially unbalanced formations. In previous articles we talked about the importance of defenses being able to align to formations and cover every gap. One thing that always gives defenses problems is aligning to unbalanced formations. As a defensive coach this creates problems, especially when it is done at tempo. When using the River and Lake Formations to stress the defense it is important that you go on first sound! Do not give the defense time to adjust!
Using the River and Lake Formations to Stress the Defense | Breakdown & Plays
The River and Lake Formations started for us one day when we were scouting an opponent. We realized that they would run a very vanilla defense if we shifted from a formation straight into a new formation and ran the play quickly. This gave us all of the added benefits of running up tempo but allowed us to keep our defense off the field.
The two major formations that we started to do this with were our River and Lake Formations. These formations tell all the skill players to lineup on either the right or the left side of the formation. If the Quarterback felt that the receivers had a numbers advantage at any time, he can hike the ball and throw it wide (if you’re a spread team). If the defense was able to align to the formation the Quarterback would yell “look” and the offense would get the signal and the play call. When the quarterback said shift the players then shift into the new formation and run the play on the first sound. The result is the defense is not able to adjust to the new formation and call in the correct blitz they want.
There are a few things that the coach has to be aware of when they do this. The first is that the speed in which they must get in the new formation and play. Most states now operate on a 40 second play clock. This means that you have 40 seconds from the previous play ends to run your play. If you get into the River or Lake formation right away this is plenty of time so long as you know the next formation and play you will run. It’s actually a great way to give yourself a couple of seconds to think about the next play call.
Another thing that the coach must be smart about is defining a numbers advantage. Wide Receivers are not known for their blocking ability so it’s important to factor in their strength to the equation. Every opponent and set of receivers are different, but it’s important to be clear with the Quarterback on when you want him to throw the ball out and when you would prefer he wait for the formation shift. You can add a check from the Quarterback to the coach if you do not feel comfortable with it, but this takes time and gives the defense time to adjust. Below we will discuss our Lake and River formation out of our Shotgun Wing T.
River and Lake Formations (how we do it)
Base Formation (before River or Lake call)
Here’s our base Shotgun Wing T Formation (split right). We call our left wingback 3 and our right wing back 4. Our off-set running back we call 2, our QB is labeled 1. If we were to go split left, the 2 and the SE will line up on the left and the TE would go to the right. If we want to go unbalanced we will call either River or Lake. As mentioned above, “RIVER” will tell all our backfield players to line up to the right. “LAKE” will tell all our backfield / skill players to line up to the left (River right / Lake left).
- ALL PLAYS WILL BE EXECUTED ON FIRST SOUND- THIS WILL NOT GIVE THE DEFENSE TIME TO ADJUST. THE QB MUST MAKE SURE EVERYONE IS SET FOR A COMPLETE SECOND BEFORE HE GETS THE BALL SNAPPED.
- If you want to go no huddle/tempo the OC will just yell Lake or River and that will tell the kids where they need to line up.
- If you are a spread team going River or Lake will just tell all the receivers to line up to one side- you can apply this to any formation you run.
When we get into our River Formation the 3, 4, SE, and TE all line up on the right. The 3 will come over to the right and line up stacked behind the TE, the 4 will widen. The SE comes to the right side and lines up on the ball. The TE also comes and lines up to the right. Keep in mind that the TE is not eligible because he is covered by the split-end.
River (18 Sweep)
Here’s a look at our River 18 Sweep (on first sound). We break the huddle very quickly, so that we don’t give the defense time to adjust and we run the play to where we have the numbers advantage. Most of the time defenses don’t shift. After you hit the defense with this a few times they will begin to over-shift. When they do that you can attack the weak side of the formation. On this play, our SE will crack the outside linebacker and the 4 will seal. The 3 will arch for the middle linebacker scrapping and our 2 will block the CB.
When we get into our Lake Formation the 3, 4, SE, and TE all line up to the left. The 4 will come over to the right and line up stacked behind the TE, the 3 will widen. The SE comes to the left side and lines up on the ball. The TE also comes and lines up to the left. Keep in mind that the TE is not eligible because he is covered by the split-end.
Lake 15 Power (on first sound)
Here’s a look at our Lake 15 Power. All our skilled position players line up to the left and we run Power on first sound. If you do not have a mobile QB just have a running back take the direct snap. On this play our 4 will kick out the defensive end the 2 will lead block through the hole. The 3 will arch release, making it look like Sweep. We usually start off by hitting the defense with Lake or River Sweep so the DE gets used to the WB trying to seal him. So after the DE gets yelled at because he allow himself to get sealed, we come inside of him with power. So many times the DE will actually widen with the 3 so that he doesn’t allow himself to get hooked. This gives the 4 a super easy kick-out block. Have a coach watch the defensive end and once he starts widening that’s when you gut them with this Power play.
The River and Lake Formations are simple adjustments that can add stress on the defense. While you do not need to practice them frequently, it’s important that you take at least 10 minutes a week of practice to work on the mechanics of getting into the formation, getting the into the new formation, and lining up quickly to get the next play snapped.