Find out how Coach Blankenship has made the bubble a staple in his potent offense with various new techniques and concepts.
By Lee Blankenship
Head Football Coach
Beggs High School, Beggs OK
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Let me start by saying that I believe that every good football program has to have an identity. As a staff you must buy in, and sell out to it. Just as importantly, you have to sell your identity to your players. In my experience, this is more important than the actual scheme itself. When you can get your coaches and players to believe that what you are doing is the best in the country, when they believe that nobody’s playbook is better than yours, when they are convinced that what you are doing gives them the greatest opportunity to be successful, then you can expect to win a lot of football games. Whether your offensive identity is the 5 wide “air raid” or Wishbone “ground and pound,” the first defense that you must attack is that of your players’ confidence in your system. This cannot be emphasized enough. You must find a way to get your players to believe in you, and in what you are teaching. I firmly believe that one of the main reasons for our success here at Beggs is the fact that our players believe in what we do.
Here at Beggs, we believe in using the bubble as a staple in our offense. The bubble route is the building block of almost everything that we do. In practically every play that we run, the bubble route plays a part. We throw the bubble screen 8+ times per game, use the bubble to open up seams in our run game, and we use the route in several of the concepts in our pass game. The goal is for us to force our opponents to constantly be aware of the threat of the Bubble Screen, which dictates how many defenders are in the box.
Before getting into scheme, I want to discuss the fine mechanics of the bubble route and throw. As coaches, it is so easy to get caught up in scheme alone, neglecting to teach the fine points needed to execute the scheme successfully. I had a barn built this summer. It wouldn’t have made much since to give the builders the plans, without quickly providing the needed tools and materials to get the job done. Likewise, it doesn’t make a lot of coaching sense to provide the young athlete with a good scheme alone. We must give them the tools needed to effectively execute the scheme.
Fine Mechanics of the Bubble:
When getting set in his stance, the slot should always start with his inside foot up, as in the picture below.
When the ball is snapped, we teach our slot receivers to Lateral Run – cross inside foot (up foot) over outside foot. Player should keep his knee high on the crossover step. His shoulders should remain square to the line of scrimmage, arms pumping just as if he were running forward. Eyes should stay on the QB. We teach our players to run laterally, straight down the line. He is already lined up off of the line of scrimmage; therefore, we don’t want to give up any more ground than that. I disagree with teaching players to loop backwards when they run the bubble. Firstly, they are losing ground in an attempt to gain ground. It is easier to lateral run than it is to backpedal loop. Secondly, they are creating a much more difficult throw for the QB. Notice in the picture below that our slot receiver never gives up ground. He is actually catching the football just behind the line of scrimmage. Thirdly, they are not stretching the field as quickly, making it easier for the outside linebacker to rally to make the tackle. (We will talk about this in much more depth later on.) We perfect the lateral run throughout our off-season, and work it every day during the season.
Using Motions & Formations to Dictate Numbers
One thing that we make a living on is using formations and motions to dictate how many defenders our opponents put in the box. Because our players execute the same assignment on both our bubble and zone play, we give our quarterback the freedom to let his pre-snap read determine where the ball will go.
One example of a way we manipulate numbers is with the use of motions. Any time you motion players across the formation, defenses must adjust. Some linebackers will bump out, some won’t. If they are trying to play a zone coverage in the back end and a LB doesn’t bump out, the numbers are in favor of throwing the bubble. If a LB does bump out to defend the bubble, the number advantage in usually in the box, in which case we will hand off the Zone play.
Using the Bubble to Open Up the Downfield Pass Game
We are committed to throwing the bubble. Therefore, teams sell out to stopping our bubble. There is no doubt that, each week, our opponent’s linebackers and secondary players are coached to identify and rally to the bubble. They work at defeating the blocks of our Receivers, and tackling in the open field for our bubble. This opens up great opportunities for us to throw the football down the field.
We like to take shots right after a turnover, or in a second and short situation. During the course of a game, as we establish our bubble game, one thing that we keep an eye on is the opposing safety. When we catch the safety coming down hard to attack the bubble, we know that it is time to call the Bubble-Go play. For the Bubble-Go play, we teach our QB to pump the bubble, with his eyes on the Safety. If the safety freezes, or steps downhill at all, then he will throw the streak to our Y. We tell our QB “If he’s even, he’s leavin.’” If the Safety gets depth to cover the Y-Streak, then we work the Stalk-Go down to the Bubble-Wheel route that our T is running. Another coaching point is to make sure the T understands the importance of selling the bubble before turning up field for the wheel route.
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- Why he feels having a run action to the bubble side is more effective.
- Why he teaches the QB to use the earhole of the receiver as an aiming point.
- How he ties the bubble into his outside zone run scheme, putting force defenders in run/pass conflict.
- How using the Stack formation produces a run/pass option for the QB.
- Variants of the Bubble Concept such as the Bubble Stick and Bubble Go schemes
- Plus game film of these concepts in action and more…
The bubble route, if used effectively, puts an enormous amount of stress on a defense. It can open up the run game as well as the down field passing game. It is simple to install, as it does not require an extra blocking scheme for your offensive line to learn. Furthermore, it can easily be attached to virtually any run play in your offense, as it is a behind the line of scrimmage throw. By posing the threat of the bubble, there are unlimited ways to use motions and formations to give you numerical advantages against any defense. It is the perfect compliment to any spread or multiple formation offense.
Meet Coach Blankenship: Lee Blankenship is the head football coach at Beggs High School in Beggs, OK. He took his first head-coaching job at age 25, making him the youngest head 11-man football coach in the state of Oklahoma. In his first season as a head coach his team won the district championship, going undefeated for the first time in school history. This season, Blankenship’s team recorded a 10-3 record, winning a bi-District championship and making it to the Oklahoma Class 3-A State Quarterfinals for just the 8th time in school history. His 2013 squad boasted two 1,500+ rushers, and four 500+ yard receivers. Blankenship’s Quarterbacks have passed for a combined 7,764 yards in the last 3 seasons. In his college days, Blankenship was a Quarterback at the University of Oklahoma under the tutelage of Josh Heupel.