This article was written by Keith Grabowski, offensive coordinator at Baldwin Wallace University. You can follow him on twitter at @CoachKGrabowski, and see his monthly columns at American Football Monthly, where he posts new articles on the first and third Tuesdays of each month.
I had the privilege of growing up the son of a football coach. Much of what I learned that has turned into the foundation of my coaching philosophy began developing in those early years. Obviously, my X’s and O’s have continued to develop long after my youth, but one play that has stuck with me as I worked my way through the coaching ranks is a play from the 1970’s that my dad and the head coach he worked for called “824 Draw.”
It’s been a play that has kept drives moving for me as I’ve coached youth football, junior high, and high school. I have even used it at the college level. For teams that run any type of sprint out, this is a great constraint play that you need to add. It’s a play we’ve used everywhere on the field, even the goal line.
My favorite set to run this from is a twins formation with the quarterback under center, but through the years, I have adapted this to other formations and shotgun. This is a play that is only run to the quarterback’s throwing side. For a right-handed quarterback, we have only run it to the right. It really has to do with the mechanics and sleight of hand that the quarterback must execute.
Receivers and Tight End. A few keys for the receivers are that they should execute a sprint out combination that they normally run at full speed, and they should continue running their routes after the quarterback executes the hand off. The backside receiver or tight end should be running something that takes him across to the sprint out side and influences the corner and the safety to run with him.
The backfield action should look like your sprint out protection. If you use a tailback he should be attacking the edge very aggressively trying to engage an edge blitzer quickly.
The right guard and right tackle must protect the B-gap and not allow a rusher into it. The guard can allow an up field rush to his left, or he needs to engage and drive the defensive tackle past the b-gap. The right tackle must ensure that the defensive end doesn’t spike into the b-gap. Movement either way is fine as long as there is displacement away from the b-gap.
The Fullback. The fullback will step up into the b-gap about a yard behind the line of scrimmage. He will stop at a 45 degree angle and form a pocket with his right arm.
The Quarterback. The quarterback will open as he does on a sprint out to the right, with the ball in the carriage position (points up and down). He will slide the ball across his body into the fullback’s pocket as he passes him. This takes some practice repetitions between the fullback and quarterback to get the timing and rhythm, because he needs to stay on the move and not check his feet as he is making the exchange. It should be a very smooth exchange. Please note, he is not sticking the ball through into the fullback’s belly like a typical wrap around draw. He is putting it in the pocket with the points up and down as he stays on the move. It really is a sleight of hand trick as mentioned before. The typical wrap around into a belly pocket forces the quarterback to turn his shoulders, giving the defense a key that the exchange has happened.
After the exchange. Obviously the exchange is critical, but what the fullback and the quarterback do after the exchange is just as important. Let’s start with the quarterback. His right hand must immediately come back to the carriage position after the exchange giving the illusion to any defender on the backside that he still has the ball . He should continue on an angle that goes backwards from the line of scrimmage, and never turn to attack the line of scrimmage. If he turns he shows the defense he doesn’t have the ball. He must continue on a full sprint towards the sideline simulating an escape.
The fullback must show poise and composure as he sits there with the ball cradled. He can slowly move it to a more secure position. Any herky-jerky type of movement can bring attention to himself. He should know that he may be run into or even thrown out of the way by a defender. He should not panic, but rather count one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand before he turns and runs back towards the left.
I have seen the umpire make the tackle on this play as he is moving into position and not seeing the fullback with the ball. As a coach, you definitely want to notify officials about this play so you don’t have an inadvertent whistle or a confused official, who has also lost the ball, making a tackle.
This is a play that we have had a lot of fun running. We always get a laugh when we fool our defense in practice, and when watching game film as defenders run past. Years ago in a JV high school game we ran this play five or six times, fooling the same defensive tackle again and again. The best reaction was on the last time when the defender yelled out loud, “Oh @#$!!* they got me again.” Our sideline erupted in laughter as the play continued on.
Here are some video clips of the play.
Don’t feel that this is a play that you have to limit to only one call per game, or that once it’s on video for your opponents you can’t go back to it. This is a play that I’ve called up to six times in a game, and we would use week after week. It’s a constraint to use when the defense is flowing hard with your sprint out. As long as the QB’s sleight of hand and the fullback’s technique are done correctly, they will continue to fool the defense.
This is such a good play that you shouldn’t be surprised if other teams in your conference adopt it. It happened back when my father was coaching in the 70′s and 80′s. Eventually, over half of their conference was running this play. The same thing happened in the high school conference I was coaching in the early 2000′s. This was a play I saw four of the eight conference teams run by the third season we had been running it. As long as the weaknesses in the defense are there — which is usually because the main play, the sprint-out, is working — so too will the constraint plays keep working.
Keith Grabowski is the offensive coordinator at Baldwin Wallace University. He is doing a free webinar on July 10, 7p.m. at Glazier Clinics. The topic is The Wildcat Package: Using a “Wildcat” QB to Create Advantages, Including Runs & Passes from the Wildcat Package.