Running the football is the most basic type of play in football. The simple trap and sweep plays were the organized plays football had and are still run today by nearly any team that straps it up. Vince Lombardi said that “Football will first and foremost, always be a running game.” I prefer to borrow a golf cliché, you pass for show, run for dough.
I’ve never had a lot of trouble running the ball. Its always been natural, I see cutbacks well and I’m pretty adept at reading blocks before the play. Running plays are usually easier to understand in the play art than passing plays. Rushing the football is really a battle to get more guys to the point of attack than the defense can. The more obvious nature of a running play does not mean there isn’t a system to it.
Looking back to Parts 1 and 2 of this series, your running system needs to be predicated by your team philosophy, players and the formations you use. You can’t have a power running game with Dave Meggett out of the shotgun, and its just a waste to try and run outside with Earl Campbell and legends at center and tackle.
The first thing you need to do as a play-caller is find your base run package. It’s a simple process but you need to pick a single formation type (I, Ace w/ TE, Shotgun Spread ect…) and find a basic power play (Trap, Iso, Dive), an outside run (Sweep, Stretch, Zone or Pitch) and then a Counter based off the same action. Its very important that you basic counter play is the counter play to one of your other basic run plays. This means that if you run the zone blocking as your basic run play to the outside, you need to use “Counter Trey” as you counter, as the steps and action mimic that of the zone. If you use a Pitch play, you need to use the pitch counter play. If you use the FB dive, the double counter needs to be your counter play. The counter is useless if it doesn’t mimic your basic run plays action.
The importance of this basic run package can’t be overstated. These plays are you 3rd and 2….2nd and 7…or when you need to run out the clock with a minute left. You need to practice these plays….a lot. You need to be able to get a gain out of them vs any defense…3-4…Bear…4-3 or 4-4. You need to run them to see where you blockers go and who they pick up against any defense thrown at you so you can adjust your ball carriers course so that they are always effective. Practice is crucial.
A balanced, or pass oriented offense will only need one basic rushing “series as you should be good enough at these plays to run them multiple times without hitch. A run heavy offense will likely need two separate basic series that you can run at any time. If you are using “Trap, Sweep, Counter” you may want to try “Iso, Pitch, Pitch Counter” or “Dive, Zone, Zone cut” as your 2nd series. You will need to practice all 6 plays frequently
The next step takes a bit longer, and a bit more practice but will make your run game nearly impossible to stop. Now that you have a basic rushing package you need to create specialty packages for each individual defense. The same plays that work against the 3-4 aren’t likely to work against the 4-4. If you play someone that uses the Bear defense you going to need a separate package against that as well. Even the Nickle defense changes a lot of blocking rules because of where the linebackers play.
I operate primarily out of Ace and my favorite play is the zone stretch. However, that doesn’t work nearly as well against the 3-4. The lineman usually miss a LB so I typically end up cutting that up for a short gain and the counter play tends to miss the backside LB who knifes in and gets me for a loss a bit too much. That is why I have the I formation in my playbook. I don’t run it very often at all against 4-3 or 4-4, but I find that I need the lead blocker to pickup the linebacker that the lineman miss. I also like the quicker hitting FB dive play on 3rd and 1 instead of the slightly slower Ace formations dive (FBs play at 4 yards instead of 7).
Similarly, if someone plays bear against me I’ll use the “F Wings” formation, as well as my “Ace Pairs”. The “F Wings” has 4 TE and “Ace Paris” has two TE on one side. I’ll then go to toss plays with the guard pulling as the TE let me seal the edge better and I still have a lead blocker. I don’t like these plays against the 3-4 as much because LBs can sneak past my TE, but the extra lineman the Bear presents make them easy blocks for stacked TE.s.
The running game is the most basic form of football offense. Creating a simple basic series that all play off each other will make your offense harder to predict as you can attack three flanks from the same look Having a basic series prepared for each individual defense will keep your rushing game from bogging down if the defense gives you a different look, you will know what works.