While some defensive coordinators have checks to one or two unbalanced looks, presenting up to nine in one contest can cause an abundant amount of alignment issues defensively. It’s an advantage that T.F. Riggs High School (SD) head coach Steve Steele uses on a weekly basis from his 11 and 12 personnel groupings. In this exclusive clinic report, Coach Steele details all of these nine formations including specific alignments and the run and pass concepts he uses to exploit how defenses adjust to them—and he does it all using hand signals. Read the report...
By Steve Steele
T.F. Riggs High School (SD)
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Game planning at the high school level is very different than it is for most colleges. In college, coaches have almost too much time during the week to game-plan every detail of a game. Conversely, high school coaches spend their days teaching classes and have a very limited supply of game-plan time. We see that as a difference that needs to be exploited.
Here at Riggs, we decided to make our standard offensive line set an overload, meaning 1 lineman on one side of the center, and 3 on the other. This was our way of forcing Defensive staffs to figure out an alignment and make certain choices that we would look at and select our plays off of. In our first year using this, we were not perfect, but we have decided to keep it for the long haul. Note, some of the defenses discussed may not seem entirely sound to you, but that is the point of the chaos we try to create with our formations. Here is a break down…
The Offensive Line
Having our offensive line always being in an overload meant that we needed to call them something different. Otherwise, it would be tough to figure out who was who with Guards and Tackles, so we came up with this as our set Offensive Line positions.
We had our Offensive Line keep between 2-3 foot splits for the most part. We adjusted for some special situations where we wanted tighter splits, but tried to keep them pretty wide to make defenders really have to choose their gap and technique. We did not huddle once this season, so we never had to actually setup a huddle. Our QB called the overload to help them flip when they needed to and was the one who set our tempo. A lot of times when we got in the groove we would try and move faster and push the pace. We weren’t a true tempo team, but really thrived on our ability to push the pace while adjusting to our different formations and limiting our substitutions. The names of our Offensive Linemen will be used throughout the rest of this article.
Causing Havoc for 3 Man Fronts
We used our 12 personnel package more against 3 man fronts or against teams where we felt we could control the Line of Scrimmage. Utilizing two Tight Ends usually makes things tough on 3 man fronts, but adding in the Overload can add some extra pressure and be more to think about for defensive staffs. Our QB was a pretty good runner this year, and actually led us in rushing. We used formations 7 and 8 to get him some good room to run, in addition to still being solid in our pass game.
The other thing that proved to be good versus 3 man fronts is most teams took the Nose Guard off of the Center and tried to shift their DL. Considering one of the biggest threats a 3 man front poses is the opportunity for the NT to dominate a Center, this was a standalone benefit of this. The other tricky part for these teams is gaps. No matter how they lineup, someone will have a free release to LB. If you can seal the gaps around that guy, then his defender can’t be right. By identifying that free man, you can then get the right play in to attack that gap.
If the defense would take their Nose off of our Center, we also found a lot of success in formation 3. It kept our Center free, and also our Outside Guard, free to run to LB. Then with our quad look they had their next choice, take a MLB out of the box to get 4 defenders to our Quads, or leave the box even. We were able to draw or dive our QB through the middle when they would vacate the box or hit some quick routes if they loaded the box. Formation 3 proved to be the most difficult for defenses to lineup against throughout the course of the season and caused lots of chaos!
Continue to the full-length version of this report…
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- How implementing the Quads (4x1) formation (with attached and detached tight end) proved to be the most effective innovation Coach Steele used this season.
- Why Coach Steele kept his faster back on the short edge of the formation, which allows him to get off the edge in routes.
- Why the alignment of the T and F ensured that the QB would make the right reads in mesh timing.
- The “what if” criteria that Coach Steele uses to exploit how defenses are aligning to these formations.
- Why all of his run game is predicated on safety location and which alleys were full or empty.
- Plus game film of all these formations.
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In summary, our offense here in Pierre was designed around the premise of doing something different, something new, and something that forces teams to make up new calls and spend time planning for. We wanted to take out the word normal from our vocabulary and find a way to put a new and exciting product on the field. We wanted to find a way to try and out-coach opponents before the game starts. The great thing about this scheme is that you don’t need five amazing Offensive Linemen to run this. If you have one that can hand the short edge by himself, you can run this scheme. It lets your best individual lineman play solo, and the rest always have someone to work with. It creates an edge that even slower athletes can get off, and good blocking angles for everyone. Finally, the most overlooked aspect is that it is something unique. It’s not something your players will see on TV, or your fans/parents. It’s something that your team can buy into and take pride into making their own. Kids enjoy playing in it, and your Nub Guard will be the new position all of the kids want to play (okay, maybe a stretch, but at least the one all the lineman want to be). It is something your team can be known for, and something you get to talk about before every game when the opposing newspaper talks about your goofy formations and crooked offensive line. But most importantly, it creates stress for opposing Defensive Coordinators. It forces them to make decisions before the game ever starts about how you are going to move the ball on them. It’s then down to you to take what they give you and continue making the game fun!
Meet Coach Steele: Steve Steele finished his 1st year as the Head Coach at T.F. Riggs High School in Pierre, SD where his Govs lost in the State Semi-Finals to eventual Champion Mitchell. Steele moved to Pierre from Madison, SD where he coached at Dakota State University the past 4 years (last 2 as Offensive Coordinator) and broke almost every Offensive School record. He was also published previously on XandOlabs.com with his report on Using Analytics to Guide Offensive Play Calling and is always looking to learn more and more about this great game. He lives in Pierre, SD with his wife Audrey.