Guest Blog: Installation Progression in the Flexbone Offense by Scott Dieterich
Bio and Background on our guest blogger, Scott Dieterich:
Current OC at Parkview Baptist High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- I have been running flexbone offense for 20 years.
- We have won 5 State Titles and 3 runner-ups with several other deep runs in the play-offs in Louisiana during that time of running flexbone.
- I Primarily coach QB/FB’s but have also coached all skill positions as well as in the secondary & heavily involved with special teams
- Blessed by my wonderful family: my wife Joana and (2) daughters (Mazie & Mary Scott)
- Born & raised in South Louisiana, played & started for 4 years at FCS school McNeese State in southwest Louisiana.
- Colossians 3:23
In beginning this article, I’d like to extend appreciation to Coach Mark Kleinpeter for starting flexbonenation.com a few years back and also to Coach Matt McLeod for continuing the work on this excellent source of valuable information for flexbone coaches.
If you are reading this article I will assume that you are well-versed into the “why’s” of this offense. I have been running the flexbone offense for about 20 years and I have been fortunate to be a part of the successful “turnaround” process of (3) down programs with this offense being a primary factor in the turn-around of each program. I am writing this as though you are relatively new to the offense or possibly making a change to the flexbone offense, whether you’re at the same school or a new school. If you’ve installed this offense before or have been running it for many years then I hope you can at least find a “nugget” or two of good info that can help you out. Obviously there are many variables that can affect the install process for coaches such as when a coach gets hired, spring football or not, summer football practice or not, as well as the availability of players and coaches etc.
NOTE: This is the way we like to install the offense every off-season; it is not necessarily the best way and it certainly isn’t the only way, but has been successful for us in our situation at Parkview Baptist High School.
Before any actual play, drill, or technique “install” in the offense matters, the “belief” in this offense must be established. This is obviously a topic in itself, but I can’t stress the importance enough that the coaching staff doesn’t just “BUY IN” to this offense but they actually “BELIEVE” in it. There is no greater destructive force to an offense than the coaches who are asked to coach in it but don’t actually believe in it. As an offensive coordinator I whole-heartedly would rather have fewer coaches coaching, than risk having even (1) coach who isn’t a believer in this offense. In today’s common football culture of spread-happy and selfish “me-me-me” mentality, it takes a “committed coach” not an “obligated coach” to be successful in the flexbone.
PERSONNEL PLACEMENT (COACHES & PLAYERS)
There are many different ways to organize your offensive coaching staff. I have found that the more you can break your coaching positions up, the more efficient you can be. For example: If you can split up the QB & Fullbacks positions to (2) different coaches than the more specific eyes & details can be coached; but any combination of positions coaching can be accomplished. I would like to suggest using group “pods” in practice to emphasize specific play segments & skills and to get more reps. NOTE: Once the coaching staff is set in place, it is critical that everyone gets on the “same page” of the details of the offense. Once the actual play & technique install begins with the players, the coaching points & verbiage must be consistent among the staff to help with installation.
Before we install plays it makes sense that we must first place the players in a position. Every offense has demands that it requires or looks for from each position. Below is a brief description of what we like to look for at each position: (One of the many beauties of the flexbone offense is that most of the skills players are asked to have can be developed).
QB: The man! Probably the same guy you would want to run any offense for you. I won’t get into all of the qualities that we want in a QB, but the main things I look for are:
1. THE INTANGIBLES - “it” factor – there shouldn’t be any doubt that this guy should be your QB.
2. TOUGH (MENTALLY & PHYSICALLY) – must be able to take a hit and still be tough running the ball play after play; he must also be able to overcome missed reads & mistakes but still separate one read from the next without getting rattled (“selective amnesia”).
3. DECISIVE – this is a decision-based offense both pre-snap & post-snap; we must have a guy that is willing and able to do this.
4. ABILITY – QB’s come in all shapes & sizes, but he needs to have enough physical ability to be effective at this position; he must also have enough “football IQ or savvy” to also be effective at the position.
A-BACKS: I don’t call this position “A-Back”, but I know most flex coaches do. This is the most versatile position on the football team. These players have to be as smart as the QB in many aspects but also possess many other physical traits. At times he must be an Inside & Perimeter blocker; An Inside & Perimeter Ball-Carrier; A pass receiver & a pass protector; and he must have a good understanding of the offense since motions & many play adjustments travel thru this position. I like to say that this position must be really good at a lot of things but not necessarily great at any of them.
FULLBACK: I know most call this a B-Back, but to me this has always been a “fullback”! Tough runner (primarily inside but if he’s a perimeter threat then that’s even better as well as if he’s a receiving threat). Also primarily an interior blocker for pass pro & isolation & check or fill blocks for a pulling lineman. Not nearly as high of a football IQ as A-Backs is needed here.
WR’s: The better the athlete here, then the more of a receiving threat he is – this guy will see mostly 1 on 1 coverage. But without a doubt, we must find guys that are “willing & able” to be great perimeter & edge blockers. This is an easy position mentally. NOTE: the coach of this position must go overboard to emphasize & praise good blocking with these players since everything they see in today’s world with WR’s is stat-related (catches, yards, & td’s).
O-LINE: In general, we want to be strong in the middle & more athletic on the edge.
CENTER: As good of a blocker as we have that is usually quicker than the Guards. The easiest position mentally for us on the O-Line.
GUARDS: Our best drive-blockers – especially since they are covered much of the time. The more athletic they are as a puller the better, but the emphasis here is drive blocking. The 2nd easiest position on our O-Line mentally.
TACKLES: We like for these guys to be a little more athletic since many of their blocks are vs an edge player, on a backer or a safety, or in space such as pulling on rocket toss. Tackles don’t have to be smaller but many times they are lighter than the guards. Tackles need to be a little smarter in our offense due to more adjustments & schemes that affect this position.
TIGHT-END: This position can be accomplished through a few different thoughts – we have used a “True TE” (ideal but rare & hard to find), our 6th or 7th best O-Lineman (we put an eligible # on him just so defenses can’t cheat), or a big WR who can learn the TE rules & be effective blocking as a TE. Mentally this is an easy core position to learn.
PLAY & TECHNIQUE INSTALL
When installing plays & techniques, we try to downsize our position groups as much as possible in the off-season, but often times we do have to install with a larger group. We do want to learn play rules before actually running the play on the field. I also think it’s important to note that a few things need to be in place by this point or before actually installing a play. These things can be accomplished in a variety of ways (classroom, Hudl, walk-thru’ s, or all of the above).
1. Offensive terminology must already be set. Whether it’s numbers, words, or a combination of both, the players (& coaches!) must be talking the same language.
2. Defensive terminology & Defensive ID must be set. We never start to install a play without being able to at least reference defenders to our players – in the most basic sense OFFENSIVE FOOTBALL IS PLAYED vs 11 BAD GUYS, WE ALWAYS INSTALL & REP PLAYS IN CONTEXT vs 11 DEFENDERS AT ALL TIMES.
QB/CENTER CADENCE & EXCHANGE:
The most important part of any play. We will install this first and work it every day. All QB’s will master the rhythm of our cadence(s). We work all of our starting linemen at center as well as most of our back-ups. We never want an injury on the O-Line to keep us from being able to keep our 5 best available linemen in the game at all times.
QB/FB MESH (MID & TRIPLE):
This is obviously a complete topic within itself. I take a little different approach to installing the mesh with my QB’s & FB’s. Here are a few general concepts I use to install mesh. I won’t get into specific coaching points since schemes & coaching points certainly vary.
1. Start Backwards: Hook the QB/FB up in the mesh so they can feel what the final product should feel like.
2. Walk through the mesh so the players aren’t overwhelmed with details early & again so they can “feel” the correct way: I use a drill called “rocker drill” to accomplish this. (video)
3. Gradually separate players from the mesh so the QB/FB can feel what it’s like to enter the mesh and ultimately work to a full-speed mesh (still without reads).
4. Before introducing reads, make sure players are comfortable with the physical mesh.
5. Reads should be very easy & obvious to start off with.
6. NOTE: I always use a FB chute & QB/Center snap when working mesh.
As we get ready to install plays, we try to install fundamentals at each position in addition to the cadence, snap, & mesh. Alignment, Stance, Motion, footwork, & blocking fits being the main fundamentals early on.
PLAY INSTALL ORDER:
1. START WITH THE (2) TRIPLES: By starting with Triple Option & Mid-Triple you really make your players learn rules & techniques that will allow the remainder of our plays to install easier & quicker. These are our 2 most “expensive” plays but again by starting with these plays, it forces our players to understand fronts & defenders. NOTE: If a coach had to start extremely late or close to the start of the season then the (2) triple option plays may need to be brought along more slowly in order to focus on simpler plays to install. We install plays “conceptually” so that we can add wrinkles onto our main schemes easily as the season progresses.
2. OTHER BIG 3 CORE PLAYS & (1) PASS PRO: Mid-line Double, isolation series & rocket toss rounds off the Big 5 plays that most flex teams strive for as well as our most common pass protection that we use (since it’s basically isolation rules, it’s an easy install).
3. COMPLEMENTARY PLAYS & ADJUSTMENT SCHEMES: We will grow with the offense at the speed of the players (especially the QB).
4. FORMATIONS: For the players that are affected we install plays in ACE/SPREAD but quickly grow to other formations so the players learn their rule exceptions that are affected by formation changes.
ANSWERS TO TIME CHALLENGES
I’m sure all coaches reading this article will agree with and can relate to this statement: “I would love to do more install before fall camp BUT I don’t get enough if any time with the players due to “fill in the blank” (anything & everything). It seems like kids are busier and have more time demands than I can ever remember having when I was a kid. Due to technology and every kid in the civilized world having a computer and/or a smart phone, there are things as coaches that we can do to help fill in the gaps of time challenges: The obvious concern of a player using this tool exists, but if we can’t depend on them to learn what to do then we have bigger issues as a team.
1. Hudl Presentations that include play rules & diagrams & video samples
2. Voice over presentations to coach players from the video as though you were having a film session.
3. Video short precise segments of a coach explaining a play or some offensive concept on the board and then share on Hudl for players to view.
4. Video quizzes (timed & oral if possible) to check the progress of players
Whether it’s spring or fall preparation we will get as far as we can with install. There is always a fine line between “too much” & “not enough” offense; I believe it’s up to each coach to know where that line is based on their situation with players, time, & opponents. I firmly believe that an offense has the tougher job on the front end of preparing for a season by getting the offense installed, where the defense has a tougher job once the season starts in preparing for a different type of offense each week.
I appreciate Coach McLeod asking me to write this article for flexbonenation.com; it’s been a pleasure because it makes me evaluate what we are doing. If I can ever do anything to help you along these lines please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Scott Dieterich (Deter)
Parkview Baptist HS