How To Run The Spread Offense In Football


By popular demand, we present our first edition spread offense playbook for coaches and players.  This playbook offers over 70 pages of in depth running and passing plays out of the popular spread offense in football.
With many shot gun run offenses reading the defensive line across, we decided to take a look at moving the QB read to the second level linebackers and hybrid safeties out of a trips formation.
Within the last two years, offensive coaches at the college and high school levels are now playing a nasty trick on defensive coordinators, it's called 'pick the d-linemen to read', causing defenses to go back to the grease boards and meeting rooms to counter the offense.
One of my favorite plays when possessing a dual threat quarterback out of the spread offense is the QB wrap or 'gut' play.
If run correctly, the Sprint Out is an effective and essential weapon in a high school offense. Unfortunately, it is usually run incorrectly. Perhaps this is because coaches don’t see it run in the NFL and rarely see it in major college football. However, the reasons you don’t see it run in the NFL are the very reasons it is so effective in high school football.
I've talked a lot in previous posts how the spread offense, especially the single wing formation when the quarterback is running the ball gives an offense a mathematical advantage, as opposed to running the the power out of a conventional set with the quarterback handing off the ball to a running-back.
In the spread offense, wide receiver or slot motion can be used to open up the running game. This article will cover three types of motion, motion to a Pistol set, motion to a two-back set, and speed sweep motion. Many of these plays use motion to provide different types of zone read style reads and they are all easy to flip.
One of my favorite play-action looks in the spread offense is the bootleg.  The concept of the play is simple and you can run multiple variations of the play without changing the core concepts.
One of my favorite plays in the spread offense is the Jailbreak Screen.  It is an integral part of the offensive system that we run.  To me, there is never a bad time to call this play.
One of the best attributes of the spread offense is that its formations limit the amount of defensive fronts by forcing them to walk out linebackers to cover receivers.  This simplifies pass blocking, a bit, because there are only so many things the defense can do without leaving players unaccounted for.  It also allows other aspects of the passing game to "assist" the linemen, such as a quick passing attack and easier "hot" reads.
In the majority of spread offenses at the collegiate level, the zone read is a cornerstone of the offense.  What do you do if you don’t have the personnel to be successful with a zone run game?   I have found that the tackle trap is a great alternative to the zone read.
One of the big advantages of the spread offense is to use the quick passing game (i.e., slants, stops, speed ins, sticks) as well as other routes and combinations to exploit the defense.
We're probably all familiar with using a passing tree to describe the routes to be run on a given pass play.  Often in the spread offense, numbers aren't enough.
While developing a spread-type offense, I found myself rather unsatisfied with the motion calls I found while looking into what other coaches were doing.  All the motions I had found in research seemed position and formation specific, not allowing the flexibility I was looking for.
You can hear about it everyday from fans with even the most basic knowledge of the game of football.  It is something that some spread offense coaches meticulously strive for, despite the fact that there are no points awarded for it, and some of the most successful coaches at any level completely disregard it.  “It” is balance in play calling.
A commonly mistaken concept in today’s youth is the running back’s role as an athlete that runs or catches the football 40+ times a game.  While this may very well be the case, there are often 30+ times a game where the running back must be called upon to do something else – BLOCK!
The running back in today’s spread offenses is meant to be more than just a running threat; he must also be a threat out of the backfield and spread out wide as a receiving weapon as well.  This gives the quarterback another viable option in the passing game and will likely give the defense different problems that may alter what they do, which is the whole point.
Today’s discussion will revolve solely around handling the zone blitz in the run game. This has been a very popular topic and I have seen a number of ways people go about handling the blitz. For this discussion we will focus our conversation on the Zone running scheme out of a 2 by 2 formation versus various zone blitzes.
When you think of the spread offense, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it running the ball using the zone read, triple option, and quarterback 'single wing' type plays like West Virginia and Oregon (with Dennis Dixon)? Is it throwing the ball all over the field both vertically and horizontally like Hawaii? it a balanced mix of rushing the football and passing the football like Florida?

The zone read is considered by most shot-run spread offense coaches as the 'bread and butter' run play of this offensive system. It's comparable to the buck sweep in the 'Wing-T' or the ISO in the 'I formation'.

Lets breakdown two important areas of the zone read that make it so effective:

            1) The Quarterback 'cancelling out' the backside (DE or OLB) line of scrimmage threat

            2) Counting the 'numbers' in the box and favoring blocking angles

As a coach at the high school level who ran The Spread Offense and hearing from different college coaches who run it at clinics, two very simple components need to be executed properly in order to run this offense.

            1) The Center Shot-Gun Snap

            2) The Bubble Screen QB Throw

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