The Shovel Option is back!

I’m about to go all Carl Azuz (@CarlAzuzCNN) and drop some puns about how coaches are digging up old plays. It’s a diamond in the rough I think you guys will really dig. OK OK enough. Take a look at the shovel option and some wrinkles with a little modern history thrown in.

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When I was a kid, the Shovel pass was some stupid crap Dan Marino would flick as hard as he could and half the time it was incomplete and a few times I even saw guys that were 300 pounds intercept it for a pick 6 (possibly vs the Jets even).

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Above, this is the more classic shovel pass, no pulling guard and no option.


Flash forward to Urban Meyer’s two years in Utah with Alex Smith. Meyer used his shovel option a lot at Utah in 2-back sets (not always 20 personnel, sometimes that Harvin-like wing back would motion into the backfield). I loved this play and even have a post about it from my early blog days– drawn on a bar napkin!

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This iteration is speed option as the first read with shovel as the 2nd read. If the DE attacks the pitchman or QB, the QB flicks underneath. The BSG wraps around to protect the shovel pass back.

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At Florida, with the signing of (serial killer) Aaron Hernandez, Meyer starting using the Tight End in the shovel game. He still has speed option as read 1, and the BSG wrapping for protection, but now the shovel is for an inline TE. Extra sneaky of Coach Meyer and so much harder to notice for Linebackers keying on backfield reads.

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Urban hasn’t totally abandoned the shovel concept, here he flicks one to Elliott for a short gain in a more traditional shovel concept. He’s still pulling his backside guard but there’s no speed option read with it.

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Now on to 2016… the Pitt Shovel game has been a thing of beauty this season. With a guy like James Conner attracting so much attention, it’s easy to find ways to work H-Backs and slots into the run game.

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A nice look above off of power read. The QB reads the free release LB, if that LB attacks the RB upfield (as he does) the QB will pitch underneath.

Fast forward to the Clemson upset…

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Above, check out the Pitt Panthers using Urban’s old speed-shovel-option to perfection. Remember the read is speed to shovel so if the DE plays the QB or pitch he’ll flick underneath.

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Here is a play-action pass off the shovel leaking Conner up the field on a wheel route with a nice slant/rub from the WR. The OG pulling for the power look should have kicked that DE but Peterman stands and delivers a perfect ball.

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Even on this bad read vs UVA, Pitt manages to score the TD on shovel option.