By Rich Alercio
X&O Labs Offensive Line Researcher
When I was a high school football player in New Jersey, I played on an O-Line that had a Strong Side and a Pulling Side. Big, Strong, less mobile players played on the Strong Side while smaller, quicker players played on the Pulling Side. They would switch from Right side to Left side depending on the play and the direction of the play. It was a good idea in concept but was very confusing for us players, especially for me as a Center. I never knew which side was which or which way the play was going. I knew Power was run to the Strong Side and I had to block back for the Pulling Guard; but I was consumed with figuring out whether it was going right or left, before even snapping the ball. It was paralysis by analysis.
But the reason this concept is good in high school football is due to the diversity of body types on a starting offensive line. This applies to youth football and some small college football programs as well. You may have the 6-4, 290 pound Tackle who is not athletic on one side and a 6-1 190 pound Tackle on the other side whom is very athletic. You don’t want the big guy pulling as a lead blocker and clogging up the hole nor do you want the athletic guy drive blocking at the point of attack. The answer is to simple compartmentalize your offensive line.
Put your big, strong, drive blockers on the right side of your O-Line and the smaller, quicker blockers on the left side. Now run the schemes that best suit those players in those positions. Run your man schemes (Iso, Draw & Counter) to the right. This allows your best drive blockers to go 1-on-1 vs the defensive tackle and the defensive end. On the counter play, it also allows the athletic Tackle to pull as a lead blocker to the play side. Run your Zone schemes (Inside Zone, Mid Zone & Outside Zone/Toss) to the left side. This affords you the opportunity to run to the left with the smaller more athletic linemen (including the Tight End) in zone combination blocks. This also allows the running back to read their blocks and make cuts off of them. With the man schemes, there is a defined point of attack. Defenders need to be driven by or covered up by big, strong linemen. Zone schemes allow the running back to make cuts off of defensive flow. Linemen only need to stay on the defender who is laterally displacing himself.
Gap Schemes (Power, Counter Trey & Trap) offer some variability, but I would suggest running Power schemes to the left because it is a better Tight End play. The smaller linemen can double team and the bigger Guard pulls to lead on a very physical play. Run Counter Trey to the right. It is a better open end play. Both quick, more athletic linemen get to pull to the play side and may have to react to how the defense plays it. Trap should also be run to the right so the quicker Guard makes the pull.
Right Side: Man schemes, Counter schemes, Trap
Left Side: Zone schemes and Power schemes.
This procedure cuts down on practice time while it decreases uncertainty across the O-Line. No more paralysis by analysis. Assuming you have a right-handed quarterback you can go one step further and always put the Tight End on the left side. This allows the Left Tackle to always work with the Tight End and the Right Tackle to always be open end further cutting down on practice time and uncertainty. Since most Tight Ends are not devastating blockers, running Zone to them and Man schemes away from them never puts them in a situation of having to win a 1-on-1 drive block.
Placing the Tight End on the Left side has multiple other advantages. It allows you to play faster as an offense. The five offensive linemen never change positions. The Tight End is always left so the Split End is always to the right. Formations can be varied quickly by changing the receivers and backs off the Line of Scrimmage, but the seven on the line never change positions. In the passing game, the Tight End on the left allows him to cross the formation on Bootlegs, Waggles and Nakeds to the Right with the right-handed quarterback rolling to his right. In drop back protection, it allows the Tight End to stay in and help the Tackle versus the blindside rusher. It also makes the blindside rusher, most defense’s best rusher, contend with the double team of a Tight End or at the very least the release of a Tight End which gives the athletic Tackle an opportunity to get position in the protection.
How do you feel about compartmentalizing your offensive line? Is it a productive concept for your level? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments below and Coach Alercio will get back to you.
Compartmentalizing your oline is for small school settings. You are lucky to have 5 kids that can play Oline in a small school so put them in positions so that they can be successful and let them become a specialist at that position. As for back ups, let you next best athletic olineman learn both Right Guard and Tackle and have your next best big olineman learn both Left Guard and Tackle. Now you just have to find a guy who can snap the ball.
does this system not require you to have a specific back up player for each of your offensive line positions? it would seem difficult to do in a small school setting.