There are various defenses used in youth football today. Most youth coaches rely on what they played back in High School or often what they feel the most comfortable coaching. What that means to most of us coaching youth football is most of us will see lots of 5-3 looks or 5-2 with a monster, 6-2’s or even 6-3’s with no real safety. Today we even see a good number of 4-4 guys that really play it more like a 6 man front or even a few 3-5 teams that like to blitz a lot every play to make it more of a 5 or 6 man front.
One look we saw early on this past season from several teams was a 6-3 look. While we won’t go into the details of the alignment and techniques of each player, what was unique about this defense was the play of their corners. The corners were aligned about 12 yards deep and well outside our tight ends. They were playing deep half zone, cover 2. The two outside linebackers were over our tackles with the middle backer just to the strong side of our center. The middle backer was playing at about 6 yards and the other two backers at a depth of about 4 yards.
Obviously both of these teams were trying to stuff our strong side running game. We noticed that anytime the linebackers read run through backfield action, they filled aggressively. When there was an immediate pass read, the middle backer dropped off into a deep third middle zone type read, just looking to swipe any errant pass. Both of these teams had their stud playing the middle backer position.
The “Florida” Solution
At first this defense did seem to give us a few problems, we weren’t getting our normal 7 yards off-tackle. Instead, we had to put together near perfect drives, settling for 3-4 yard gains every time. That all changed once we ran the 16 Pass, this post is primarily meant for those that have the playbook and are running the system For those of you not running the system, this football play doesn’t look much different than the jump pass Tim Tebow has thrown so many times to wide open receivers at the University of Florida in his last two seasons. It comes right out of Urban Meyers playbook, but unlike many college football plays, this is one your youth football players can execute. Maybe you’ve seen Florida throw this one on TV, with the Quarterback moving towards the line of scrimmage and the off-tackle hole at the snap, bringing the backers in and then just dumping the ball to the tight end.
Tight End Technique
The tight end can take his normal down block first step to give a run blocking read to the linebackers, then step into a very short seam pass route of 6-7 yards. Or if the linebackers are playing very aggressively he doesn’t even need to take that down block step, he can run right to the seam.
The linebackers can either play aggressive on the run or stay back for the pass, they can’t have both. Even at age 7-9 we completed 11 of these passes for touchdowns in 2008. If the defense decides to move that corner in closer and spy your tight end, the corner now is a very nice candidate for a sweep play, or better yet a “Mouse” Series pass. Your motioning wingback now can run freely up the sidelines while the corner runs with the tight end, again with the same quarterback action that draws the linebackers in. Or you could use a similar approach with your strong side tight end and wingback without motion. If they try and run the defensive end with the shallow receiver those are easy yards on a keep to the outside by your quarterback. In fact while this is a very simple and safe pass to complete, you rarely even have to complete those passes to get the linebackers to start sitting back again.
Exploiting Weakness in Youth Football
Every defense has strengths and weaknesses. When you are coaching youth football, you have to figure out where those chinks in the amour are and exploit them. The 16 pass is the perfect play to exploit this type of defense. Many youth football coaches don’t like to throw the ball very much, I empathize with you. I see too many youth football teams with 20% completion rates, throwing far too many interceptions and taking sacks. But most of those passes are being thrown on passing downs and very very few of them actually look like running plays. Less than 20% of these pass attempts are in even in the high completion target zone of the 5-7 yard variety.
The facts are you can bludgeon weak teams and even teams that are better than you with the Sainted Six or even the Six and maybe some great misdirection from the Mouse or Spinner Series. But for those great teams that really have you outmanned, they have to respect the fact that you MIGHT be able to complete a big pass play on them. Again, that doesn’t mean you have to complete these passes, you just have to instill fear that you can.
Throwing for Effect
Heck I know one youth football coach that didn’t have a single player on his team that could catch the football, in spite of this coaches very best efforts. But early on in every game, sometimes on the very first offensive snap, he would have his quarterback throw the ball as far as he could over the far outside shoulder of his wingback. The sole goal of this play was to instill fear in the defenders that this team MIGHT pass. This same coach never did throw a second pass in any game that season.
Now I’ve never had a team that was that weak passing, but it does illustrate a valid point. When you play the best teams you have to instill at least a fear of a completion. If you have the players and your running game is running like a well oiled machine, perfecting play action passes off of your base series is a must. That’s why they are in your playbook.