Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

Letting Your Tailback "Read" the Off-Tackle Play

Some coaches feel they can teach the tailback to “read” the off-tackle play, instead of just running the play as it is designed, to the off-tackle hole.
This is something I FIRMLY DISAGREE WITH.

Most youth football players prefer to run to wide open spaces, even when they do not have the speed to get to the wide open space before they are mercilessly tackled by the speedy linebacker from the other team. Your tailback has to be trained to run inside the kick-out block on the off-tackle play. This is not intuitive to him, he does not know that in the long run, running inside the kick-out block will get him and your team much more yardage than a bounced out “sweep” with no perimeter blocking.

Sure the off-tackle hole from the Single Wing can appear very crowded, you have lots of bodies flowing to the point of attack, but quite often the mess clears just as the tailback enters the fray. Even if the mass does not clear well, he has a much better chance of gaining yardage where the blocking is, than risking a negative yardage play with a “bounce sweep”. The worst thing that can happen for you is if your tailback “reads” it and gets a lucky gain on the play, his “reads” will now nearly always be to bounce these football plays to the outside, whether there is room there or not. This is human nature, and if your tailback ends up running it this way, you will have only yourself to blame.

Do not allow the kids to “read” the off-tackle play, it should be run off-tackle and there is almost always room there to run the play with a reasonable degree of success. If the tailback knows where he is going to run the ball, he is much more aggressive to the hole than when he is “reading” the play. We have never had an off-tackle run by a first team tailback go for negative yardage. If you watch film of my teams, you will see our tailback hitting that area at full speed with wreckless abandon. We have had a few sweeps that went for negative yardage, especially ones where we have no perimeter blocking, like how we block our off-tackle play. If I see the defense squeezing the off-tackle hole I will call a sweep, not my 9-10 year old first year player tailback calling the play by maiking decisons on his own if the play will be a sweep or an off-tackle run.

We do encourage the tailback to look to the outside once he runs inside the kick-out block, but not before.

A youth coach at a Glazier clinic I was teaching at asked me how I had my tailback “read” the off-tackle play. He taught his kids to “read” the play; for the record he had a losing record that year and I bet his poor off-tackle play had a lot to do with it. He seemed a bit surprised at my answer, I was surprised he was surprised because this is the way we have been running this football play for the last 6 seasons.

This has been another post into Dave Cisar’s Winning Youth Football Site

Copyright 2007 Cisar Management Services

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