The double smash pass concept with the runningback deep down the middle

One of the great all-time pass concepts is the “smash” concept, which I’ve previously discussed at length. In the concept, the outside receiver hitches up at five yards while an inside receiver runs a ten-to-twelve yard corner route over the top. This creates a “vertical stretch” on the corner, which is particularly potent against a two-deep Cover Two defense.

The smash is probably best installed with some kind of routes on the backside that attack the middle of the field, that way to keep the safety from overplaying the corner route. Many teams, however, teach the smash to both sides as a “mirrored” concept. This is good, but the problem can come when both safeties overplay the corner route.

But there is a counter. If a team’s safeties overplay the corner route on the smash, you hit them inside. You can have the outside receiver run a delay route back underneath and then upfield underneath the safety, but even better is simply to send someone unexpected into the vacated area: the runningback.

In the example, you can see Oklahoma State call this against a two-deep shell run by Texas A&M. They had overplayed the corner routes, so the variation was simple: throw it deep down the middle to the back in the vacated area. Were Texas A&M to have shown a blitz the quarterback would have checked out of the play (as there were only five protectors), but so long as they got a base two-deep look, the play was there. You can see the result in the video below, after the jump.

  • How long is the middle linebacker suppose to stay with the running back on that play? The week after the Ok State game, A&M was playing Arkansas, and the Razorbacks torched A&M over the middle the whole game. Jarius Wright ended up with almost 300 receiving yards and it seemed like every catch he ran a route up that split the safeties and had a linebacker about 5 yards behind him just chasing him. 

    I guess Petrino saw the same thing when he was studying game film 🙂

  • Anonymous

    This was actually a clip from OKST the prior year, but yeah Petrino murdered them. Petrino went no-backs a lot and put Wright in the slot and ran the exact same concept except Wright ran a true post rather than out of the backfield.

  • Gridironstuds

    Favorite play in NCAA ’10, ’11 and ’12

  • In the [two-deep Cover Two defense], how long is the linebacker suppose to stay with the receiver that is running deep down the middle?

  • Washington ran the same play against Cal for a 70 yard touchdown. You can see it at the 11:00 mark here.

  • Anonymous

    Good clip. Yeah, it’s a killer. I know a lot of teams will even put a good receiver at RB to hide him. I remember Leach putting Wes Welker at RB against Iowa in their bowl game back in 2002 to run the play (was trying to dig up this clip but couldn’t find it).

  • Aaron Avery

    the mike should carry the RB vertical.  Should cover him until whistle blows the play dead.  Thats why this is perfect because 99% of the time RB athleticism>Mike Athleticism.

  • Anonymous

    I have always felt that some form of this play was best call against any cover 2 team. Another strong option is Ohio to the field, smash to the boundary and back or slot down the pipe…nothing gets teams out of cover 2 faster.

    Illegal shift: depending on how many players the defense is playing in coverage and whether or not it is Tampa 2 or “Old fashioned” 2 the LB may sit in the seam/curls area (old way that A&M used) or drop to the famous deep hole that Derrick Brooks was so good at covering. Tampa 2 came largely as a result of teams attacking this area versus traditional cover 2 schemes…the problem still rests in match-ups though…if your slot/RB is faster than the LB you should have any easy big gain as the safeties cannot never be right.

  • Westes

    Forgive me, I’m new here (love the site) but what is the “Ohio”? I’m sure it’s a route combo of the twins to the wide side but I have never heard of it.

  • Homyrrh

    This is, beyond any dispute, the greatest play to have ever been included in any version of Madden or NCAA Football.

  • Steelers ran this for a touchdown in the red zone against the Titans this year in Week 5, out of empty with TE Heath Miller running the middle of the field route.

  • Anonymous

    I think Man Coverage with 1 Safety deep would be a good coverage for that formation. LB would still be responsible for the RB. Too often I see big passes completed in vacant Zones.

  • Matt

    The corner routes are still a pretty good option against man, of course if I’m a QB, I’d rather have them against a safety worried about the middle of the field.

  • Anonymous

    To be honest, I’m not sure what “Ohio” is either, though I have some guesses. Any insight?

  • Anonymous

    Interesting. You have a clip of this lying around anywhere? One thing the NFL guys do from this concept is put the tight-end or inside guy on some kind of double-move, often a “stick-nod” (burst five yards, dip the shoulder as if turning outside then burst to post). The NFL backers are better at jumping the quick routes so they use that aggressiveness against them. Exact same concept though.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with Matt — this is not a bad call versus Cover 1. Not only are the corners good routes against man, but the outside hitch routes turn into little option routes as they can sprint away from the man coverage. Also, if it’s Cover 1 robber you stay away from the robber or rat player.

    Cover 1 could be an issue because this only uses five man protection and takes some time to develop; if a blitzer shakes free (with Cover 1 they should only be able to blitz five) the defense can’t outnumber you but it can still be an issue. As I said above, the hot route is one of those outside hitch routes which have some freedom to get open.

    The thing I do not want to run this into is a true 3- deep 3-short zone blitz. The zone blitz has a good chance of busting my protection scheme with an overload or something and the corners and RB will all be covered. The hitches should be open but only short and to the sideline — and there’s a risk of the SCIF defender jumping it. As I said, given that it’s five-man pass pro it’s really not a great blitz call in general.

    But as shown, if you catch them in the right defense it’s deadly.

  • Zachary Cathey

    If you’re viewing it from behind the offense, the BEST defense imo would seem to be something like this:

    — the Nickel back (guy lined over the inside receiver) takes the short outside area (like the corner would in cover 2)
    — the right corner bails deep to cover 1/3
    — the two safeties cover the other two thirds.
    — the other corner sits like he would normally in cover 2.

    I’m not sure what you would call this and I guess it might make the inside receiver hot when the NB leaves (assuming one of the underneath LBs doesn’t get there) but it seems like it would work.

  • Anonymous

    It’s just a rotated Cover 3. As I said above, three-deep is a good defense against this play. If there’s no blitz and you can protect you should be able to find the hitch guys in an open spot to move the chains, but that’s why I said I wouldn’t want this versus a zone blitz because I might not be able to protect long enough to find those guys.

  • MajorTexasFan
  • That’s the right play. See also this link for some screenshots of the play and me arguing in the comments section (NewsToTom) about who’s responsible.

  • David Kilpatrick-White

    The common term, at least at several clinics I have attended and thought I viewed it here, for a vertical from wide guy and angle/speed out from the slot…same bind on the  Cover 2 CB…but pulls undisciplined $$ away from the middle quicker; allowing QB to make his read faster.