Drexel Trussell: H-Back and Option

Coaches who run the inside veer as a base running scheme are faced with a difficult defensive scheme best known as the squeeze and scrape. This scheme uses the dive key to squeeze the veer blocking tackle allowing the inside linebacker to run free and regain defensive numbers on inside veer. The same can be done on the midline option and outside veer. There are numerous ways to combat this including, but not limited to, the zone dive, counter option, belly option (Down/Log scheme), and belly dive. However, many option teams are not physically able to live without the true dive read plays due to their ability to leave 2 playside defenders unblocked. This article is a “theoretical” way to combat this technique. I say theoretical because I have yet to coach this offense.

Many coaches have seen a rarely used change up (mainly by Navy and previously Army) where the tackle and the slotback swap responsibilities on inside veer. The back fills b-gap for the inside linebacker and the tackle arcs for force. For teams who read the hat and have linebackers deep off of the line of scrimmage, this is a very difficult play. However, slotbacks on linebackers and tackles on secondary are not the best of match-ups. Also, the timing can be muddy for the quarterback read when you have a slotback crossing the face of the read.

To improve this technique and expand upon it, I propose an “H-back based option offense”. Instead of running it from a 3 back offense, one back is replaced with an off-the-ball tight end type player who moves around the formation, whether through motion or formation. This player, depending on the formation, may be used as a traditional tight end who arcs for the force on inside veer, doubles down on outside veer, and rocks under or turns out on midline (double) option. In addition to that, he can be used as a traditional h-back power player, trapping, whamming, and double teaming at points of attack. Finally, and maybe most importantly, he can be used to swap assignments with offensive linemen. This is a 2 back offense that could be done from both the I-formation as well as split back formations. For simplicity, the rest of the article is written from the split back formation. The following are diagrams of formations and potential ways to formation and call plays from this system.

Base formation – balanced, pre-motion

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Balanced numbers with tight end (Right and left)

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Numerical system for motioning or formation’ing h-back

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Example: If you want a wide twins left formation with no motion, you could call “9 base”. If you want to motion to wide twins left formation from a base formation, you could call “19 base”. If you want a return motion to wide twins left formation, you could call “99 base”. This is mainly food for thought in order to limit the number of formations the players need to memorize.
Using this system, the squeeze and scrape/hat reading defensive linemen can be exploited. The following diagrams show traditional dive read plays followed by the tagged squeeze and scrape defeating scheme.


Traditional inside veer:

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Alternate inside veer:

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Traditional outside veer:

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 8.47.22 AM

Alternate outside veer:

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Traditional midline:

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 8.47.47 AM

Alternate midline:

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 8.47.53 AM

As you can see from the diagrams, these schemes re-open the dive read plays against teams who squeeze linemen. On inside veer, a 4 or 5 technique who reads hats will step out on the alternate blocking scheme, giving us a give with an iso block on the linebacker unimpeded. On outside veer, an 8 or 9 technique who reads hats will step out and give us a give read with an iso block on the linebacker. On midline, a 2 or 3 technique who reads hats will step out and give us a give read with an iso block on the linebacker.

How will teams defend this? I imagine they will begin pinching linemen trying to squeeze whoever shows up in their gaps. However, that makes the defense very vulnerable to zone-options or reach-based double option schemes (load option, speed option, etc.). Zone-based sweeps, quick pitches, and other perimeter running games would benefit. This would also make a 3 technique much easier to block on inside veer and a 5 technique easier to block on outside veer.

Other benefits include using the h-back in the power game and trap game. You can show an inside veer look but kick the 5 with H which looks similar to when the h-back will motion then arc for force on traditional inside veer. The 5 technique won’t know if H is going to leave him, kick him out, log him, or base him. You can use the h-back in the counter game (fill for pullers or be one of the pullers). Also, using the h-back to influence in the option game would be necessary since the secondary force as well as linebackers may read the h-back. For example, you may run load option by sending the h-back in A-gap and reaching the 3 technique (who is now easier to reach). You may also motion the h-back backside on inside veer or outside veer to pull the safety.

Some problems that I foresee include timing issues with h-back motion, lack of counter motion by h-back (flexbone has twirl motion – which allows you to keep your numbers on counter option), a need for tackles who can block the force run support (when the h-back veers inside for linebacker), and a 9 in the box base formation.