The Philosophy Behind the Spread RPO

By Jeff Schaum
Former Head Coach of Creekside High (Fla.)
Twitter: @GigiIclou

One of the reasons we went to this style of offense was due to the availability (or lack thereof) of offensive linemen. The other was that it spread the defense out and made the number of people in the box which had to be accounted for by the blockers somewhat predictable. And finally because we can have an option read on every running play, which requires our opponents to work on their option responsibilities prior to playing us.

Having the QB “Read” the defensive end on the zone allows him to essentially become an “extra blocker,” simply by his assignment. In other words, by “Reading” the defensive end that gives us seven people in the box offensively (5 linemen, 1 RB and 1 QB) that must be accounted for by the defense.

Concepts of Base Offense

Our Base Offense consists of five Runs: Zone, Dive Option, Dart Option, Counter and Shovel; and seven Pass Concepts: Hitch, Slant, Out, Smash, Sail, Mesh, and Shallow Series. Our base play is the Inside Zone Read (which we call either 23 IZ or 24 IZ); it is “coupled” with a Bubble/Slice Screen, making the play a “Triple Option.” The 23/24 Zone is the first play we install and must become completely competent in both in spring and fall practices.

Zone Read – Playing The Numbers

The Zone Read is considered by most shotgun spread offense coaches as the ‘bread and butter’ run play of the Spread Option Offensive System. What is it that makes the Zone Read play so effective?

  1. The quarterback accounts for the backside defensive end, which is normally the end-man on the line of scrimmage threat. By the QB being accountable for the backside-DE that allows the five offensive linemen to block the remaining five or six in the box.
  2. By having the QB count the ‘people’ in the box during the pre-snap phase it allows him to put the offense in a ‘mismatch’ situation and get the offense into favorable blocking angles.

 Thoughts on Counting the Box

We don’t teach our QB to count the box for any other reason other than to be able to “flip” the offensive play called from one side to the other. We are Spread No Huddle, so that counting the box is my job.

We’re a Spread team that primarily utilizes a four-wide receiver, one-back alignment (10 personnel). So we simply equate the numbers in the box as such:

  • 5 in the box = Run, Zone Read
  • 6 in the box = Pass or Option Read
  • 7 in the box = Pass and Screens

*When we use Three Wide (20 personnel) with two RB also where:

  • 6 in the box = Zone Read Lead
  • 7 in the box = True Triple (Dive) Option

Play Installation


The first play we install in is the Inside Zone Read. The left defensive end is the quarterback’s responsibility. If the defense has six men in the box (we can either run or pass) that means that the five offensive linemen are responsible for the other five defenders. The POT has the B-gap defender or usually the PDE. The POG and Center are responsible for the A-gap defender, usually the DT and Mike LB. The Backside OG and OT are therefore responsible for the BDT and Will LB. The QB reads and is responsible for the Backside DE (see Diagram No. 2).

Versus a stunting defensive front, we keep things simple. Basically the POT blocks out on the PDE. The Right OG is responsible for the Playside B-gap; the Center is responsible for the Playside A-gap. The LG is responsible for the Backside A-gap, and the Left OT is responsible for the Backside B-gap. The QB still is responsible for the Backside DE.

The quarterback has to decide whether to keep the ball or hand it off to the FB at the mesh point, while the defensive end responsible for backside contain has to make one of two decisions:

If the QB reads the DE crashing (decision 1), he keeps it, if the QB reads decision 2, the QB hands it off to the running back (and carries out the QB run fake), thus ‘cancelling out’ or blocking in effect the backside end.

Coupled or combined with the Zone Read Concept on this play we have tied into it a Bubble/Slice Screen Option, which without any Motion is our third part (Triple) of our Read Option concept.

2)         BUBBLE/SLICE

When we are in our 2X2 alignments (Queens-Gun) our reads are very simple, if the defense puts seven in the box, we throw; and if they put Five in the box we run. What if they put six in the box? Then we can either, Run 22 IZ or throw the Bubble/Slice. The QB looks over to the sideline and we signal in which we want him to do.

When in Queens-Gun, whether to Bubble or Slice depends on the coverage: versus 3-Deep (see Diagram No. 7) we will run the Bubble and versus 2-Deep (see Diagram No. 8) we will run the Slice.

Vs. Cover 3 (Single High Safety)

Versus the 3-Deep look we usually face “6-in-the-box,” and we can either run the zone or throw the bubble. Depending upon the OLBs alignment we will game plan weekly which option we will utilize.

Vs. Cover 2 (Double Safeties)

Versus a Cover 2 look we have a “7-yard rule,” if the flat defender isn’t declared by alignment that he is the flat defender the X-receiver makes a “ME” call and runs the Slice while the TB aggressively blocks the Cornerback.

If we align in our 3X1 set (Trips-Gun-Pro) our Order of Choices become: 1) Throw the “quick” to the single receiver side; 2) Throw the Bubble Screen to the three receiver side; 3) run the Zone.

Without motioning either inside receiver this is our version of the Triple Option.

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