The Hitch Concept
Using the Quick Game to Win First Down
By Dan Ellis
W.C. East High School
Throwing the football is something we did this past season with enormous success. We threw it often and threw it well. However, it is not necessarily the number of attempts you try in a game, but it’s the efficiency with which your QB executes the passing game that matters. When you choose to call passing plays, completing the ball is of the utmost importance. The first play we install in the passing game is our Hitch Concept. The reason behind that is simple – if teams allow us to throw the hitch, we will take advantage of it all day. We tell our QB’s it’s a steal if they allow us to throw it consistently.
The Hitch Concept carries both a horizontal and vertical stretch. It has multiple coverage beaters imbedded. In this report, I will explain the concept, QB footwork and progressions and the different ways we have to run the play.
With the Hitch Concept, our goal is to get the ball out of the QBs hand as quickly as possible and to win first down. Like any offensive coordinator, we want to get into 2nd down and short and keep the playbook wide open. Short passing game on first down is a great way to do it, especially if defenses are playing the run with a middle closed coverage (Cover 1 or 3). Here is the basic concept(diagram 1):
- QB – Middle of Field Open (MOFO) – 5-step. Middle of Field Closed (MOFC) – 3-step.
- X – 5 step hitch (will convert against press/hard corner)
- Z – 5 step hitch (will convert against press/hard corner)
- A – Post to Get Open or Bender. If the MOFO (cover 0, 2, or 4), the A will run to the open space. If MOFC, the A will run a seam.
- H – Ball route
- Y – Seam
MOFC – Middle of Field Closed (Cover 1, 3) – Horizontal Stretch:
Against MOFC coverages, we are looking at a scheme that will horizontally stretch the defense (diagram 2).
With the middle of the field closed, the X and Z will be most likely running hitches and the A and Y will be running seems as shown in diagram 2 against cover 3. We teach the QB to take the most advantageous side because we have mirrored routes. In this case against cover 3 with the MOFC, we know that we can get the hitch. So whichever side the QB feels easiest to get the hitch, to work that side of the field (based on alignment OLB, depth of CB, etc.).
When the QB is under center, he will take a 3 step drop and his progression is as follows:
- Ball (back out of the backfield)
Again, we want the QB to throw the hitch unless it is taken away from us. On his first step from under center, we want the QB to keep his eyes down field and then to locate the WR on his second step, with the ball coming out on his third step.
If the OLB jumps the hitch immediately, the QB will locate the seam player and make that throw on the seam behind the OLB. This is NOT a deep throw. We teach the A/Y, with the MOFC, to look immediately after they pass the OLB for just this reason. If the ball is in the air too long down the seam, it gives the S and CB an opportunity to make a play on it.
If the OLB jumps the hitch, and the ILB gets under the seam route, the QB would then dump the ball to the H on his ball route as the outlet.
If down and distance dictates (ex. 2nd and short), we do allow the QB to make a seam read while taking a 5-step drop. In this situation, if we have a favorable down and distance on the field, we may take a chance to get a big play. The QB will use his eyes to control the S and attempt to hit one of the seams (A/Y). He should be controlling the safety with his eyes, by looking one way and throw the other. Again, this throw is a “stick ‘em” kind of throw, right off the 5th step. The QB needs to beat the ILB and the CB on the throw and the H would always be the dump if either seem was covered.
Hitch Concept Film: Dan Ellis’ W.C. East High School
MOFO – Middle of Field Open (Cover 0, 2, 4) – Vertical Stretch:
Against MOFO coverages, the hitch concept now will turn into a vertical scheme where we are going to try to attack the middle of the field (diagram 3).
If the QB comes to the line and sees MOFO, he knows that he will have the A bending on his Post to Get Open and probably two conversions on the outside by the X and Z if it is cover 2. The QB will be taking a 5-step drop as well. His progression is:
- A –Post to Get Open
- X – Conversion
- H – Ball route
The QB needs to be hitting the A from 16-22 yards, and no deeper. If the QB is making the throw deeper than that, he will bring the safety into the play. This throw is a 5-step and “stick ‘em” throw, too. If the QB cannot make the throw because the ILB is dropping underneath (like Tampa 2), then we tell him to immediately find the H in the vacated area. If the safety takes away the throw to the A, then the QB will look immediately to the X on his conversion.
Key coaching points – some players will want to run their Post to Get Open at the depth of a LB. They really need to push to 10 yards. Sometimes the A will come up short, but we really stress to get to 10.
3 x 1 Variations:
If we run this play out of a 3 x 1 look (diagram 4), the Y will be working to the opposite hash to have the proper spacing on the field. We tell him to work to 18 yards on the hash.
There are several different formations, both 2×2 and 3×1. Here are a few (diagram 5 & 6):
This last variation that we’ve used is something we use out of our bunch look (diagram 7). The only true difference is that we tell the Z, in bunch, to run a flat route. It’s a little different of a look, but the basic concept is same.
The hitch concept is one of the easiest concepts that we use. Our goal is to win on first down and to take what the defense gives us. This concept allows us to stretch the field both horizontally and vertically depending on the coverage we see. It’s a high percentage, 1st down throw and can get us into the down and distance situations where we can use our entire playbook.
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