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….