RUN-PASS OPTION 101: The Big Shot Play

By Todd Greenwell
Defensive Backs Coach
Louisville, Trinity High School, Kentucky

The world of the RPO is generally ball control with safe intermediate throws into open windows. If you are known to run RPO’s it is likely the defense will begin to creep safeties closer to the receivers and the line of scrimmage. This will allow the linebackers to play downhill and the safeties to rally to the ball or cover a pass completely. A way to attack this is with a run pass option using Jet motion to gain an advantage to one side of the ball. A common response to Jet motion is to spin a safety down, and rotate the other to the middle of the field creating a one high look. If this is the response, the offense is in position to try and exploit the rotation of the safety and throw behind him.

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In this example, the offense is going to align in a 2×2 formation with the running back set to the shortside. The Jet motion is being used simply as a decoy to try and influence the rotation of the safeties to what will become a three receiver side. Thus, prior to the snap the outside receiver on the short side will go in Jet Motion. Jet motion is 5/6 th full speed because he wants to be handed the football running near full speed. As the motion man approaches the quarterback the ball will be snapped. The motion man will make a flash fake as if he has the football and will continue across the formation before turning up field looking to block the edge. Also at the snap the running back will run a wide zone path after meshing with the quarterback. He will be looking to turn up field through a lane created by the edge blockers. The offense wishes to gain maximum numbers and maximum activation of the linebackers, so the guard on the side the jet motion began, will pull and attempt to wrap around the edge to block backside linebacker pursuit.

The quarterback will be reading the safety on the side of the jet motion. If he rotates to the middle of the field the quarterback will not handoff to the runningback but will make a ride and shuffle fake to keep linebackers low. He will pull, set his feet and throw a glance route to the single side receiver.

Because the safety is rotating to the middle, it is often advantageous to throw behind this rotation. It is slower for the safety to stop rotating and turn back to the receiver. The outside single receiver must still beat the corner back to the inside and stay away from safety by running as close to the hash as he can.

If the safety does not rotate then the offense has a good chance of having more blockers than defenders at the point of attack. Again, the vital aspect of an RPO is understanding how the defense is trying to stop the base run. If the offense can gain 4 yards running jet and buck sweeps, there will be no need to throw the football. In this example the offense is trying to predict the defensive response and then attack where it is most vulnerable. If the defense does not react as the offense predicted and gets another defender to the point of attack without rotating the safety, the offense must know who that defender is, and how to make him wrong on a subsequent snap. That is what the RPO brings to the offense, the best chance of getting a numerical advantage in the run or the pass.


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Michael Hoglund

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