Texas coach switches to flexbone to counter size disadvantage

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor

Coaches have to find ways to scheme around disadvantages in size or speed. Installing schemes that suit your players’ collective skill set is something every coach should do in the offseason. Install a system that puts your players in the best position to succeed – even if your players are less talented than their opponents.

Houston Guy was in the midst of his second straight losing season at the start of his tenure as the Wall High (Texas) coach in 2008. He spent a Saturday afternoon after a Friday night loss lying on the couch and watching a Notre Dame-Navy game.

What he saw changed the course of his program for the next decade.

Guy watched an undersized Navy team hang with Notre Dame for the entire game, giving the Fighting Irish fits with a flexbone triple-option scheme. The flexbone is an option-based offense that Guy determined is a much better fit for his undersized team than the offense he had been running: the wishbone.

“We were 4-6, then 3-7, and I knew the wishbone wasn’t the offense we needed,” Guy said. “We needed something where we could read defensive players, and we didn’t have to block everybody. I wanted to play 11 on 9 instead of 11 on 11.”

Guy has been running the flexbone for the last 10 years, and the returns have been exceptional. It took about a year for his team to master the new offense, but since 2010, the Hawks have gone 105-17.

“We sold out for this offense, and it changed everything,” Guy said. “It wasn’t hard to convince the kids because what we had wasn’t working.”

Guy said the overhauled offense took shape in three steps.

Meet with coaches who have experience running the new system.

After watching the Navy defense shut down Notre Dame in 2008, Guy started placing calls to members of the Navy offensive staff. The sixth message he left was returned by the Navy offensive line coach. Guy picked the college coach’s brain to come up with ideas for his new offense.

Start small.

After the conversation with the Navy coach, Guy added one flexbone play – the outside veer – to the playbook for the next week’s game. The Hawks’ fullback ran for 200 yards, and Wall pulled off an upset over a district champion. “We installed the outside veer and ran it 42 times,” Guy said. “We thought we were option geniuses. We went into the next ballgame with the same play, and unfortunately the other team had an answer.”

Commit fully to the new scheme.

The biggest advantage of installing a unique scheme is that your team will practice it all season, and opponents will practice it for only one week. For that reason, it’s important to commit completely so that your players are getting as many reps as possible. “It’s an offense you have to sell out to,” Guy said. “Don’t dabble in it. You have to be triple-option and nothing else. We threw out our wishbone playbook.”

The Learning Curve

In 2010, the Hawks began a run of success with the flexbone unprecedented in school history – with an average of 12 wins per season. They advanced to their first state championship game in 2013, and also have appeared in the state semifinals twice, the state quarterfinals once and regional semifinals twice.

Wall has become the dominant Class 3A team in the San Angelo area, and along with Brock, the perennial favorite in Region I-3A Division I.

Guy is quick to note that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes collaboration with coaches at the youth and junior high levels so that they can teach the scheme before the players reach high school.

“We have parents that come up and learn the system so that they can teach it,” Guy said. “Then they start to implement it at the youth level. It’s a little more detailed at the junior high level. By high school, it becomes second nature to them.”

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Dan Guttenplan

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