X’s and O’s: Install an Explosive Play-Action Passing Game

By Brett Dudley

Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator

Antioch High (Calif)

Twitter: @CoachBDud

Website: CoachBDud.com

Antioch (Calif.) is known for running the ball, rushing for over 8,000 yards the last two years. However, it has been our play-action game that has given us the most explosive plays on offense. This season we broke our single-season passing record, throwing for over 2,300 yards. The majority of this came on play-action. We try to put defenders in conflict by making our pass plays and run plays look similar. We will aggressively run-block all of our play-action concepts, and on many of them we will fully block power (pulling a guard) to further influence the defense.

The core concepts we run off of play-action are:

  • Naked
  • Power Pass
  • Slant/Seam
  • Double Posts
  • Fake Crack

The route concept is a pretty traditional bootleg concept. We bring our fullback across the formation into the flat. We drag the backside tight end. We run a GO route with the playside wide receiver, and a post on the backside.

We will run this off of both power and stretch action. What I think makes the play work well is there is no real difference in how we block “power left” and how we block “power left naked”. We fully run block it with the offensive line so we get the same aggressive defensive reaction we get on power. The most important part of the play is the fullback. He HAS to go through the defensive end’s outside shoulder. He cannot take the easy way out underneath. We’ve found that if he goes under the defensive end, we get sacked; if he goes through his outside shoulder, we are able to avoid the sack. Most of the time, we hit the fullback or the tight end on this play. Often a 5-yard pass turns into a big play.


Power Pass

We have two primary route concepts we use with power pass. We usually use a 3-level flood concept. The wide receiver runs a go, tight end runs a deep out, and fullback chips the defensive end and runs a flat. We also have a variation where we will throw our double posts concept (more on this later). Again we full run-block the play the same as our power scheme, only now we have the backside tackle block the backside defensive end to protect the quarterback’s backside.


In this scheme, as well as our double posts scheme, we run it with a “token RB fake”. Our running back will give a quick fake, then pick up in protection. We will full or half slide the offensive line.

We primarily work this concept from our double-tight set to stress the defense. We present the defense with eight gaps on the line of scrimmage. This typically makes defenses adjust to put eight in the box which gives us one high safety to cover the entire middle of the field. We work a token play-action fake to the running back and release both tight ends down the seams (hash mark is their landmark). We often have one tight end uncovered. It stresses the coverage the same way four verticals does, but the heavier formation improves the run fake. Wide receivers run slants to attack the open space vacated if two high safeties cover our tight ends or outside linebackers carry them vertically. This has been our best play in terms of yards-per-attempt.

Double Posts

We work this concept off of power-pass and our token play-fake. We run this from a two-wide receiver surface. Our slot is taught to push to 10 and cross the safety’s face no matter what. This gives him the entire field to work into grass and speeds up the read on the safety. The outside wide receiver will run a 14-yard skinny post. It is a safety read for the quarterback. We usually maximum protect this concept to take a shot.


Fake Crack

One thing that makes us unique is the blocking ability and general toughness of our wide receivers. Our coaches do an amazing job of getting effort and physicality from them. We ask our wide receivers to block safeties and linebackers more than any team I have seen in our area. This sets them up for opportunities to fake crack blocks and run by guys vertically. My favorite shot is to have a wide receiver fake crack on an aggressive safety, then burst past him vertically. If the safety and corner are fooled on the run-fake, it is a home run. This play won our rivalry game and league championship in the 2015 season.


These concepts helped us protect against certain defenders being too aggressive in our run game and proved to be incredibly explosive. The most important part of our play action pass game is how we aggressively block them as runs. By showing full power-action on naked and power-pass, as well as firing out with low pads and attacking on our token fake full-slide schemes, we give the same look as our run plays. This allows our guys, especially our tight ends and fullbacks to run right past linebackers and safeties and turn easy, high-percentage passes, into huge explosive gains.

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