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POINT-COUNTERPOINT - Route Concepts vs. Defending Them

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© December, 2013


by David Purdum

Doane College Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Grant Mollring directs a balanced spread offense, predominantly out of two-by-two receiver sets and with their play-action passing game built off of the spread option. The Tigers lost their pocket passer midway through the 2013 season and turned to a converted wide receiver at quarterback. As a result, Mollring shifted to a sprint-out offense with more boots and roll-outs. In the passing game, Mollring features high-low route concepts, targets safeties and inside and outside linebackers.

“Out of our sprint-out package, we really like throwing the comeback,” Mollring told Gridiron Strategies.

“We throw some verticals off of that and our quarterback throws well on the run, and then building in the comeback off of that has been great for him.”

Illinois College Defensive Coordinator Ray DeFrisco runs a 4-2-5 with his over-hang outside linebacker (Sam) or hybrid defender set to the field. The Blueboys use cover 4 and cover 2. Against a mobile quarterback like Mollring’s, DeFrisco wants his defensive line to set an edge around the pocket to prevent the quarterback from escaping. The linebackers’ responsibility for the quarterback is determined by the offensive formation and what plays they’ve been successful with out of that formation.

“For instance, if the back-side drag is a big play for them when they’re getting outside the pocket, then we want to send our playside guy to the quarterback so the backside linebacker can turn and run toward the opposite hash to take away that drag,” explained DeFrisco.

Mollring and DeFrisco shared their insights on route concepts and defending them with Gridiron Strategies in this edition of Point-Counterpoint.
The Comeback

Mollring: We work that comeback with an outside release, and if the corner leverages outside, we’ll post-break it for two steps and then comeback at a 45-degree angle, trying to work the 16-yard mark and catching it back at 14 along the sidelines. That’s been a really good route for us.

DeFrisco: A defensive back, playing the comeback route, is running vertically with a receiver with his inside hand on the near hip and his eyes on the eyes of the wide receiver. Once (the receiver) starts to transition, his hips will sink and his eyes will transition to where he’s going. Those are our indicators of when our defensive back should sink his hips and almost mimic the wide receiver.
The Back Shoulder

Mollring: We threw the back shoulder route a lot more last season, when we had more of a pocket passer and a really outstanding wideout that was a deep-ball threat. So teams were playing really soft on him. We’d throw the back shoulder fade in the middle of the field and in the red zone. We tell our quarterbacks that we want to throw the ball at the defender’s helmet, if he’s inside leverage. If we’re in the middle of the field, we want to throw it at 14 yards. We also tell our quarterbacks that it’s the same throw as the comeback, but maybe with just a little more touch on it to let the defender adjust. We’re going to let the defender’s momentum take him up the field and let the wide receiver fall off and adjust to the ball. When we get down in the red zone, if you’re at the 10-yard line, we’re shooting for two yards into the end zone

Obviously, we want outside release if at all possible. We tell them their eyes better get back to the quarterback by about 12 yards and expect the ball to be coming with a little bit of heat on it. You’re going to reverse out of your route and be able to snag it. When we get to the goal line, it’s all about selling fade. You’ve got to get vertical. You’re going to look back about when you get to the one-yard line anyway. But the ball’s going to be getting on you at the negative-2. We want to sell fade and make them think we’re going to go over the top, then we want that guy to fall off and make that catch just inside the pylon.
 
DeFrisco: The key to defending the back shoulder is to man-turn instead of zone turn. Every time that route is wide open, if you look at the defensive back, he’s turned back toward the quarterback instead of the receiver. If we’re on the right side running vertically down the field, my right hand would be on the left hip of the defender. My eyes are through his eyes. Once he turns his shoulders back, that’s your indicator to turn back with him and turn into the man. So my left foot would plant, my left shoulder would turn and then my right hand would try to deflect the ball or intercept it.

The Slant

Mollring: We run a combination. Our inside slot receiver will run the slant and our outside X receiver will run what we call a hitch conversion against press-man. Our quarterback is reading the inside leverage guy, the inside force guy, and if we can get inside of him, we’re throwing the slant on a laser. Our inside slot receiver is always going to be off the line so we have a little more time to work. We’re going to run a six-yard hitch and always try to go wide in that area. We also try to get him to flip his hips, so then he’s going to run basically a short dig inside of six yards.

DeFrisco: Versus any slant-out variation or curl-flat concept or the easy, quick boundary concepts, we really try to pass them off as best we can. We feel that anytime we chase those routes, we end up picking ourselves. On this particular combination (slant-hitch), the outside linebacker would stay on the slant going in to the inside linebacker and eventually pass it off. They’re trying to clear you out. So if you run with it, that’s going to clear you out. We’re going to try to stay within our zone. Once you carry your zone into another zone, that’s when big plays or big windows open up.






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