There is a reason that the Quarterback is the highest paid position on any successful professional football team and I had the privilege to see exactly why coaching in the CFL. We didn’t have one in training camp or maybe we didn’t even evaluate to choose the right one and it cost us our season. The QB has the ability to control or lose a game unlike any other player on the field. It’s amazing just how few good QB’s there are at any level, yet there are some keys to becoming a great QB that evidently only a few people truly understand and utilize.

In the War Room of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers we discussed so many attributes that we needed in a QB that the list was endless. Leadership, Winning Background, Rocket Arm, Accuracy, Intelligence, Athleticism, Work Ethic….

What amazes me was how many successful college QB’s literally bombed or didn’t even get a chance to prove themselves when they got to the professional level. Graham Harrell, Andre Ware, Tim Couch, Charlie Ward, Ken Dorsey, Danny Wuerffel, Tommie Frazier, Major Harris, Turner Gill just to name a few great College QB’s that just didn’t translate their college success to the next level. 

What does it really take to get to the top of the profession and be able to make a difference? Amazingly, I believe that I have been able to find many of the physical and mental attributes necessary to play this vital position from a series of conversations with a good friend of mine in Columbus, Ohio. My search for this information took me to John Westenhaver, who has literally studied the position at the highest level unlike anyone that I have ever met. Coach Westenhaver has an uncanny ability to watch a QB at a combine and predict his chance of success in a matter of moments as it relates to the professional game.

I will give you  some additional insights regarding this topic in the future.


The Triple Shoot Offense from Yesterday to Today

The Triple Shoot Offense started out as a pass-happy offense at Hofstra University (NY) in an attempt to compete versus scholarship schools during our Division III to I-AA transition. We were able to put up some gaudy numbers (42 ppg and 405 ypg passing) and a rather impressive winning percentage. At Emporia State University (KS) we realized that putting up the big numbers was not that big of a deal, what was more important was winning games. In order to do so, we researched and developed an explosive running game (Belly Series) to compliment the pass attack. The results speak for themselves, as we led the competitive MIAA in Rushing, Passing and scoring during the same season and were able to get our Superback to rush for nearly 2,000 yards or more three years in a row (Brian Shay broke Johnny Bailey’s all-time collegiate rushing record in this offense). Not only were our players able to achieve this in a team-oriented setting but our two inside receivers (Pobolish & Vito combined with Shay to garner over 15,000 yards during their careers together, the NCAA doesn’t keep records like that but we have yet to see career production like that in college football).

After making a go of it at the small college ranks, we tested the concept at the Division I level at the University of Wyoming. In a single season, we were able to go from last to first in total offense in the Mountain West Conference versus conference opponents. As my good friend Tony DeMeo (University of Charleston, WV Head Coach) said, “You put the Ferrari in the garage after that year.” I got out of running this offense for 3 years as I spent some quality time with Mike Leach (Texas Tech University).

After the stint with the Red Raiders, I took the head coaching position at Texas State University to once again coach this system. In a single season, we were able to go from one of the worst offenses in the Southland Conference to a single season finish of #1 in total offense and were ranked #7 in the nation with this balanced attack.

For the next 4 years I went into private business to develop regional football magazines. During this time, I also spent time reflecting on my career and the Triple Shoot Offense while consulting with coaches from high school to the professional ranks. On one visit to see my friend Hal Mumme, he made a statement that I should at least start to clinic the offense again and see if it would inspire me to coach again, I did and it worked.

When I got back into coaching at my alma mater (Capital University), we installed the Triple Shoot Offense for a season and then I departed to coach professional football in the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. As fate would happen, I took over the offense toward the last part of the season and installed portions of the TSO. Even though it was during the later part of the season, that installation went fairly well. In fact versus the BC Lions, the CFL version of the Belly Series exploded for a club rushing record as our Superback Fred Reid had a career game.

Here are some highlights of that historic game, check out some of the motions I was able to develop….

I am excited to coach the offense again, but this time at the high school level in North Carolina. The interesting part of that story, is that when my wife and I were vacationing in Asheville, a high school job opened up in the mountains and I just couldn’t pass up. This opportunity to enjoy the area, be with my children and get back to the roots of coaching the best game in the world to receptive young men is a dream come true. I am proud to be the head football coach of the Enka Jets and I look forward to this opportunity. For an insider’s perspective to what we are doing in our program; check out: Enka Jets Football!

Thanks for giving me the honor to clarify some areas of the Triple Shoot Offense. Good luck this season and if you want to reach me, please feel free to contact me at


Manny Matsakis


The Exotic plays are of two types, either a Screen to the Superback or a Convoy to one of our receivers. They are both set up with a pass protection simulation and we generally leak out three offensive linemen to block up field as the QB will influence the defense with his pass-action roll before throwing the ball to the back or the receiver.

Super Screen

This screen is a pass thrown to the back out of the backfield. Our line blocking is as follows: The front side tackle will influence the Defensive End for a 2-count before coming up field to block the first linebacker he sees inside. The play side guard will step to the direction of the screen and then release to block the support player while the Center will snap the ball and go down the line to block the first threat he sees, if there is no threat, he will turn around and block any defender that may be chasing down the screen.

The Superback must really sell this play by engaging the Defensive End momentarily before settling up in a passing lane behind the line of scrimmage. Our QB will either shovel the ball to him or pop it over the top of a defender depending on the rush of the defensive line.


Our Convoy has been successful because the action of the QB is rolling away from the direction that he ultimately throws towards. The blocking scheme for Convoy works in the following manner: Our backside tackle will use a draw technique on the Defensive End and stay on him all the way in order to clear out a passing lane backside. The backside Guard will step to the direction of the QB roll and then release backside to block the support player. Our Center steps to the side of the QB’s roll and then releases backside to block the first linebacker he sees on the backside. The front side Guard will step to the QB roll before releasing backside to get the first man he sees, if there is no threat, he will turn in to block anyone that may be chasing down the receiver carrying the ball.

A convoy receiver will take two steps up field before coming behind the line of scrimmage and down the line into the passing lane for the QB. He will catch the ball and get up field to gain yardage through his linemen’s blocks.

Next Up: The Triple Shoot Offense from Yesterday to Today...

Passing Attack

The drop-back passing game is initiated by our QB taking his drop to the inside hip of the play side Tackle (6 yards deep) while receivers are running route adjustments based on the coverage they are going against. We throw the ball out of a normal snap formation or a shotgun alignment. Throws are made to the receivers based either on “looks” or “reads”. A “look” is a progression from one receiver to the next, based on who should be open in sequential order. A “read” is the process of a QB reading the reaction of a specific defensive player (depending on the scheme that has been called), which in turn he will throw off of that defender’s movement.

Our drop back passes are all scheme-based as opposed to receiver’s running a passing tree. When a scheme is in synchronicity receivers will break on their adjustments as they are moving on the stem of their routes. An interesting note is that when our QB is on his 3rd step the receivers are on their 5th. Basically, just add two steps for the receiver and when the QB can throw the ball when his back foot lands, the timing is a thing of beauty and the defense can rarely recover to make a play the ball. Our receivers are trained to know what coverage they are facing by the time they are into the third step of their route. In the past, we would make a pre-snap determination of the type of coverage and execute routes accordingly. The benefit of our current system is that it is impossible to disguise coverage this late into the play. Regarding coverage recognition, this is taught by quickly assessing which family of coverage the defense is playing and then “feeling” our way to the appropriate break point. This sounds much more difficult than it really is and we have developed specific drills that make this as easy as playing sandlot football.

Pass Schemes

There are six primary passing schemes which all “route adjust” based on the coverage we are facing. We can run many of these out of Even or Trips formations and we can even motion to Trips to change-up the look we give defenses. The base schemes are called, Slide, Scat, Choice, Hook, Curl and Outside. Each scheme is named after the route run by the outside play side receiver. In every practice, we work on every scheme versus all coverage adjustments. “Tiger” Ellison once told me, “If you can’t practice the whole offense in a single session, you are doing too much.” Since the day he told me this in 1989 I have followed his advice to never add something without taking something away.

To write about all these schemes and adjustments would take a book or a lengthy instructional video. To give you a taste of the offense, let me share with you the top two schemes we most enjoy running, Slide & Choice! Slide has evolved from what “Tiger” Ellison called the Frontside Gangster and Choice comes from what was originally called the Backside Gangster.


The Slide scheme is the basis for all the passing game, in that we use this as a drill to teach 80% of our passing attack. The reason for this is that the route adjustments in Slide are executed at some point in the other schemes to a great degree as the QB rolls to the three-receiver side of the formation.

It all begins with the Slide route (In trips) versus a Nickel look (Cover 3 or Man-free). This route starts off with an outside release for 3 steps and from that point the receiver will read the coverage of the defender over him (Cornerback). If the defender bails out, the receiver will execute a Post on his 7th step. If he is playing a man look, the receiver will proceed to run a fade on this man to beat his man deep.

The  #2 receiver will run a bubble route around the numbers on the field, making sure to look inside at the QB at a distance of 1 yard behind the line of scrimmage. The #3 receiver then executes a Pick route. The Pick route is designed to get over top of the outside linebacker that is covering the inside receiver. As he gets over the top of that linebacker, the receiver gets to a depth of 12-14 yards before he applies his “downfield zone rule”. The “downfield zone rule” is applied on the free safety in the following manner, “if the man in the zone is high over the top, the receiver will raise his outside arm and set it down to find the passing lane to the QB”. “If the man in the zone crosses the face of the receiver, the receiver will then run a thin post and expect to score.”

The QB will read the Slide route and throw it if it is open, if not, he can then check to the bubble and finally look to the Pick route, which has had the time to get open.


The Choice scheme is the way that we attack the single receiver side of the formation. The QB starts a roll toward the single receiver and the key to this route is that the stepping pattern of the QB must match up precisely with that of the receiver. The single receiver will release off the line of scrimmage and read the man over him (Cornerback) on the receiver’s 5th step. On that 5th step, if the man over him has bailed out he will run a “speed cut” Out on his 7th step. If the receiver has closed the cushion and the cornerback is outside leverage on the receiver, he will run a post and if he is inside leverage he will adjust his route to a fade.

On the backside of Choice, the three receivers will spread the backside of the field. We run a Go route by the #1 receiver (up the sideline) the #2 receiver will run a “backside stretch” inside the hash mark and the #3 receiver will run a control route at a depth of 5 yards to find a passing lane to the QB.

The QB will read the front side of Choice and throw it if his man is open, if not, he will look backside to the Stretch, then the Go and finally to the Control.

The Choice scheme is a great way to spread the field with our receivers and get the ball into the open seams on the backside, especially if the front side is cloudy.

Next up: Exotics!

Here is the 2nd half of the Emporia State versus Central Missouri State! In this half of the game, Brian Shay and the ESU Offense exploded after setting everything up with the Play Passes in the first half… On a historic long run with the Belly play, Shays surpassed Johnny Bailey to become the all-time leading rusher in NCAA history to date.

Enjoy the Second Half:

In 1998 the Emporia State Hornets played the Central Missouri Mules in Warrensburg, Missouri. The stage was set, ESPN & Fox Sports were in attendance as our Superback (Brian Shay) was set to break the all-time NCAA rushing record of Johnny Bailey. Central Missouri’s defense was ranked in the Top 10 Nationally in virtually every category. Everybody was expecting Shay to run the ball and attack the record, but we started out the first half featuring the balance of the TSO. Play-Passes were a premium in this game and we threw the ball well with our Dash schemes. Here are the first half scoring drives from that game…..

The 2nd half will be featured next…

Play Passes

Until 1995, I thought that a “play action pass” was just a way to keep the defense off-balance by hitting them deep for a home run play. Then it all changed for me when Coach Walsh gave me his definition of the “Play Pass”. He said that a Play Pass is a tool that should be utilized often throughout one’s game plan and it is considered successful when the defense is put into a position where they are heavily keyed in on the a particular run play. The primary key to the Play Pass is that for the first three steps of the run series associated with it, the backfield and blocking must stay consistent with pad level & rhythm. He also told me that I should video tape our practice with a run & play pass period from a viewpoint where the offense is going toward the cameraman.

I knew we were coming along when we stopped the video at this point and we were not be able to tell if it was a run or a pass. Play Passes are called when the secondary is rolling or linebackers are so keyed-in to the run series that they disregard the potential of a pass over the top or into a voided zone.

Our base play passes are executed off of our top run series, the Belly series. We practice two primary play passes, one to the front side (Wheel) and one to the backside (Switch). Regarding play pass protection, we put the Superback on the front side linebacker as we fake the Pop Out play and all the other linemen are aggressive in their execution of selling the run play.

Even Wheel

The Wheel is run out of our Even (balanced) formation and this play is good versus Nickel or Dime coverage. The play begins with the inside receiver coming in motion, the QB will then ride the receiver on a Pop Out fake as he turns to the oncoming receiver. The action will continue with a fake to the Superback. The QB will then set up just outside the play-side Guard and throw the Wheel combination. The QB will look to throw the ball to the Post first, then to the Wheel up the boundary. Often times the Wheel is thrown to the back shoulder of the receiver.

Receivers will take their first 3 steps (as if stalk blocking) and then break into their routes. The outside play-side receiver will break on a Post (5th Step) while the inside receiver will run through the break point of the Post route.

Here are some video clips of the Wheel Play Pass Concept:

Load Switch

The Switch route is run out of one of our trips formations (Rip or Load) and this play is also good versus Nickel or Dime coverage. The play begins with the number 3 receiver backside coming in motion for the Pop Out fake. The QB will simulate the same action as he did in Wheel. This time he will look backside to the Stretch route, which is running up inside the backside hash mark.

The two backside receivers will run the Switch combination on the backside in the following manner. The outside receiver backside will come first and get inside the hash mark at a point 7 yards up field while the number 2 receiver will run through the point where the outside receiver crossed his face and he will continue up the sideline. The outside receiver is responsible to read the deep zone defender over him. If that man is a Cover 3 safety, that defender may run downhill to tackle the Pop Out and if he does that, the receiver will continue on a thin post. If he stays high over the top, then the receiver will break his route flat at a depth of 12 yards to get open underneath the free safety. The Cover 2 conversion is predicated on the action of the backside safety. If he rolls to Cover 3, then the receiver will apply his Cover 3 rules. If he stays on the hash mark, the receiver will break it flat at 12 yards.

The QB will look to the backside Stretch route adjustment first and then to the route up the boundary. The boundary route is often times a back shoulder throw.

Here are some video clips of the Switch Play Pass concept:

Play passes are often adjusted as we get through the season to take advantage of how defenses are geared up to slow down our Belly series. In a historic gave versus Central Missouri State University, the Emporia State Hornets were able to decimate the Mules with play passes in the first half and then in the second half our Superback went on to break the all-time collegiate rushing record. Our motto was to take what they gave us and because they were so keyed in on Brian Shay our QB and receivers (Vito – Pobolish & company) had great success in the first half…. More about that later….