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.
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.
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.