GUEST BLOG: A-Back Play by Scott Johnson


I'm happy to bring to you a Guest Blog by Scott Johnson on A-Back Play.  Scott Johnson is an Assistant Coach at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago, IL.  Scott was an option QB at Mount Carmel under Head Coach Frank Lenti.  Scott has won state championships at Mount Carmel as both a player and a coach.  Scott has great knowledge of the option game in Flexbone, Split Back Veer and Pistol systems.

A’s Make Plays!

It’s that simple.  Your QB and B-back will get their touches, but how good your offense will be is dependent upon your A-backs’ ability to make plays.  A-backs need to be your homerun hitters, but they must also be the ones that make the blocks that can turn a 4yd gain into 6 points.


While I know all coaches may not have access to the same equipment, there are a few things I feel are critical:

  • scrimmage line (the hose)
  • cones
  • agile bags
  • footballs (2-3)
  • hand shields (at least 3).

After ball security drills, and while QB/B-backs are working on mesh drill, the A-backs will work on motions and blocking.  In this blog, I will focus on how we rep Inside Veer (12/13).  


Stance & Alignment:

Inside foot should be back with toes aligned with heels of outside foot.

Feet should be slightly less than shoulder width.  This helps to be able to gain as much ground as possible with the first step.

Normal alignment should be about 2’x2’ of tackle’s outside leg.  I used to tell my A-backs that if you hold your arm at a 45 degree angle from your body and swipe down, you should almost be able to touch the tackle.


Tail motion (Inside Veer - 12/13):  

Have A-backs get in two lines on the scrimmage line.

We will work both 12 and 13 while the A-backs alternate lines.  (It is important that you have your A-backs learn how to play both sides and not just settle in to be a right or left A-back only.)

As the coach, use a cadence to get your A-backs in the habit of leaving on the proper cadence and not a whistle or some other verbal cue that would not be used in a game.  (Remember the pitch A-back should leave on the “R” in ready.  Down… Readeeee-Set-Hike)

1st step should be with inside foot gaining ground and aiming at the B’s hand (put a cone at 4yds).  Weight should be on the outside foot to start, with the big toe curled- this helps keep that outside foot in the ground to avoid false steps.

2nd step is at hand, then push off towards the heels of the B-back (put cone at 5yds)

Continue parallel to line of until the PST, then start to bend towards LOS in pitch phase.  It is important that you have your A-backs look in towards QB for pitch.  You can add a football to this drill to simulate the ball being pitched or have the next A-back in line hold up a number with their fingers to get the motion back.

Perimeter Blocking:

Inside Veer - 12/13 (vs. 7-man box and SWITCH call with WR):

When drilling this look, divide the A-backs into two groups: one group is the playside A-backs and the others will be the flat defenders (#3).  In this drill, we are working on a SWITCH block scenario where the CB is #3 and the Near Safety is the Near Deep Defender.  The PSA will Arc for #3 (CB) and the WR will block the NDD (Safety).


PSA should have weight on the inside foot.

On snap of the ball, PSA should open with the outside leg show that the toes are pointed to the sideline.  It is important that the bellybutton in perpendicular to the sideline.  We also want to get our eyes on #3 so we have time to adjust and take the correct path.

2nd step should be a crossover step towards the sideline

3rd step should be our plant step, then accelerate while keeping a wide path.  It is critical that we do not head up the field too quickly!  We want to get our head to the outside hip of #3.

We must reminder our players that we cannot rush getting out on our arc block!  If we get out too quickly, it makes it harder to sustain our blocks and it will limit our ability to hit the big plays.  The pace of our steps should be: Open…. Crossover…. Plant-Accelerate!  There must be a pause between open and crossover and plant-accelerate, sort of like counting one Mississippi.  Plant-Accelerate is fast, that is our key to go!


We want to be able to practice "what if" scenarios to prepare the A-backs for what they will encounter from a defender.  The run support player, #3, is not going to do what we expect every time.  When we do this drill, I put three cones out for the #3 defenders to aim at, each represents a different path that the defender can take (crashing down hard inside, a normal read and react path, and come up the field to force everything in path).  With the first two, we want to make sure we get to the outside hip ("circle the defender"), if the defender is doing everything he can to keep everything inside and not get hooked, we will use that to our advantage and kick him out to the sideline.

In this scenario, the CB might have fallen in with WR's path and has allowed himself to be "circled" by the A-back.

In this scenario, the CB is crashing, but his depth is still allowing us to circle him.

In this scenario, the CB is attempting to set the edge and become the primary force player.

Inside Veer - 12/13 Load (vs. 8-man box):

Whether it is against a 4-2 or a 3-3 stack look (assuming you are counting the stack LB as in the box), it is important to practice this look.  Because we see this a lot in Illinois, it was important for us to practice it more than just in PODS.  


1st PSA needs to take a load step with the inside foot instead of an arc release.  This means that we need to have our weight on our outside foot, big toed curled.  We tell the PSA to "take the change out of his pocket" when talking about his path around the Dive Read key (HOK, #1).

We want to avoid #1, and get our eyes on the PSLB/Stack LB on our second step.

If the PSLB/Stack comes towards the C gap or the PST cannot get to him, we must take him on to seal a running lane.  It is important that we work on getting a good base, our head to the outside hip of the defender, and drive our feet.

If the PSLB/Stack disappears inside, we must then redirect to get #3 (usually the FS).  The path is never the same, but it is important to emphasize getting back outside to give us a chance of cutting off #3.


To drill this, split the A-backs into three groups: PSAs, LBs, and FSs.  I will stand behind the PSAs and direct the LBs to go inside or to flow and the FS to go opposite.  We then rotate.

PSLB is flowing outside.  PSA blocks PSLB.  PST would bend and "chase the hip" of PSLB to get on path for FS.

PSLB has filled or been blocked by PST.  PSA will bend and chase hip to get on path to block FS.

PSLB flows outside and is blocked by PSA.  PST is no responsible for FS.

PSLB stunts inside or is blocked by PST.  PSA will bend and chase hip to get on path to block FS.

If you have any questions, feel free to send me a private message through the message board or you can send me an email