By Mike Berry, Offensive Coordinator at Mechanicsburg High (Pa.)
At Mechanicsburg Area Senior High (MASH) in Mechanicsburg, Pa., we had spent the previous four seasons struggling to consistently produce offense and our record certainly showed it. A 5-35 record and on the program’s third head coach during that time period, I was moved up to being the Varsity Offensive Coordinator after spending the previous season as the Freshmen Head Coach, which was preceded by three seasons as an assistant coach on all levels.
There were a few things that had to change in the program in order for our offense to be successful. Most importantly, we had to be different from other programs in our division. We felt the answer to that was to go to the spread, mostly 10 personnel, no-huddle offense. Our personnel lent itself to more slots and receivers, as opposed to tight ends and fullbacks. We would make the defense cover all 53 ⅓ yards. This would allow for better chances of a 6 (or even 5!) man box versus 7 of our offensive players, giving us a number advantage. To take this thought process even further, we wanted to make the blocking scheme extremely easy for our offensive line, who had been struggling throughout previous years.
We settled on a marriage between two plays – Veer and Gut – to hang our hat on and allow us to attack most of the field out of the same look, while keeping things for the players simple.
With our offensive linemen, we use common covered/uncovered rules with the gap away from the call (MOMA – Man On/Man Away). So if the call is Veer Right and there is a man lined up on the first level on me or to the left of me, that’s my responsibility. If uncovered (no MOMA), the lineman can help with the nearest 1st level defender to the play side. It usually resulted in two combo blocks, which I loved. The call side C-Gap is our read gap for the QB.
The skilled position players to the back side of the play had access routes. We settled giving our players a decision based upon leverage of the nearest defender: five-yard hitch or vertical route. Certainly a better use of players out wide, as opposed to having them trying to go cut off a safety.
The skilled position players to the call side have our Bubble RPO. The most inside skilled position player had the bubble concept, which over time went from a true bubble to a more effective plant of the outside foot and back pedal at a 45-degree angle. Additional players on the call side would block with #1 having #1 defender from the sideline, #2 responsible for #2 defender from the sideline, etc. Defenders seven yards away from the line of scrimmage do not count in the counting. If we’re running Veer to a one receiver side, we’re going to give him an access route instead of the bubble.
In the backfield, the running back is aligned 1 yard out and 2 yards back off the quarterback’s play side shoulder. He goes downhill, aiming for the outside shoulder of the play side guard. One cut is usually allowed, especially if double teams have allowed for daylight.
Our quarterback has A LOT to process and you have to rep this in practice each week. Pre-snap should be a glance to the access side – if you like it, take it. Post-snap is reading the C-Gap to the nearest 2nd level apex defender in order to make the best read possible on the triple option (hand off, keep, or bubble).
Remember that one of our goals was to keep blocking assignments easy. So every offensive lineman had the same responsibilities (MOMA – uncovered help play side) except for our back side guard. He’s pulling to kick out the call side C-Gap. That does leave an opening, which makes our back side B-Gap the QB read gap (a nice little change up, especially if it’s occupied by an overanxious DT).
The skilled position players to the back side of the play have our Smoke RPO. We’ll have our receiver give a jab step and work his way back to the ball while any additional skilled position players out wide will block counting from the sideline in – #2 would block #1 defender from the sideline, #3 would block #2 defender from the sideline, etc. Again, we only count defenders within seven yards of the line of scrimmage. If there is only one receiver to the back side of the play, we’ll convert that to an access route.
The skilled position players to the call side have the access routes this time.
In the backfield, the running back takes a jab step with his outside foot, sells his shoulders, and comes back to take the hand off. This usually gets the linebackers a step or two away from the destination, which helps our OL. The back picks up the puller and reads how the kick out is going.
Again – lots of responsibility for the QB that we rep in practice. Pre-snap we’re checking the access routes first – if you like it, take it. We’re looking at the Smoke RPO pre-snap as well. Do we like the leverage of the defenders out wide? Finally, post-snap is purely a read on the back side B-Gap, looking for any overanxious DL or maybe a blitzing LB gunning for the RB. More times than not, we’re handing the ball off in the post snap decision.
The results have been favorable. In 2020, we ran our Veer (17% of our offensive snaps) and Gut (9%) with plenty of success, both when the play ended up as a run (64% of Veer/Gut calls) or a pass (36%). Spearheaded by excellent decision making that had been set up by a second year in the offense and many practice reps, we were able to obtain a 8-1 record, a division championship, and a state ranking.
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