My favorite method for running a reverse to a wide (or slot) receiver

This method is very simple. I like it because it is not a reverse in the sense of being a true “trick” play, but instead you can actually count the blockers and evaluate your numbers at the point of attack and the associated leverage and numbers at the point of attack. The points are simple:

  • Fake an inside run to the side the reverse is going to, so the runningback can both fake a run and become a lead blocker to block an edge rusher.
  • Have the quarterback front out away from the side the reverse is going to.
  • The quarterback either fakes a quick swing or bubble pass or a true speed option away from the side the reverse is going to. Some kind of motion helps this; either “bullet” motion by a second runningback in the backfield or a slot receiver in “orbit” motion behind the quarterback, again in each case away from the side the reverse is going to.
  • The reverse player, the slot receiver, takes a narrow split and immediately begins his path towards the quarterback. His aiming point is two yards behind the quarterback. By taking the narrow split he can get to the opposite side quickly. The crease is often not all the way around end but instead just outside of it.

Gus Malzahn is the first I saw using the play, as shown below. Gus used it with orbit motion and a speed option look:

The above clip took place in Auburn’s spring game. In the first part of the video below, Gus shows how they used this very play to attack Alabama to the boundary side, as Saban and Kirby Smart have a strong tendency to bring a lot of “field pressure” — blitzes to the wide side of the field.

But Gus isn’t the only one I’ve seen use it. Dana Holgorsen has used it with much success the last few seasons, both at Oklahoma State and at West Virginia. In the first clip, Tavon Austin scores on an 80 yard touchdown run — in a blizzard — against Rutgers. In this circumstance, it is a great play in terrible weather conditions as it freezes Rutgers’ defensive players while West Virginia’s best athlete, Austin, gets the ball at full speed with blockers in front of him.

It also worked at Oklahoma State against Baylor, when Justin Blackmon similarly took this same play the distance. If the video doesn’t start at the right spot, you can flip forward to the 2:22 second mark:

Finally, below I’ve included a diagram, though the clips above contain all the information needed to show why it’s both a great, but also a very sound, play. I don’t look at this as a trick play; it’s just part of the arsenal.

  • Troy Coll

    One of Auburn’s best play-action looks in 2010 was off reverse motion. In addition to pulling defenders closer to the LOS, it also widens passing lanes horizontally in the middle of the field and  up the sidelines. 

    The way you’ve got this play drawn up, it’s got a lot more substance than your basic slice motion (which we see quite a bit in the NFL), which really just constrains backside pursuit.

  • What kind of blocking do they have for the OLine?  I’m thinking inside zone to the backside, with the playside tackle knowing he might have to block some rats who sniffed the play.

  • Troy Coll

    That’s what it looks like the teams in the clip above are using. Between the fake to the HB, the orbit motion and/or pump fake from the QB, you’re asking a lot of your defense to hold their ground and let the play develop before they react. 

  • Alex Ganske

    I like what Michigan State did/does with Keshawn Martin the last few years in running Power playaction out of the I and giving him a handoff playside.  The pulling guard pulls all the way around the edge to the perimeter and the fullback leaks out to the edge as well to get 2 blockers at the point of attack while the running back and the rest of the line fake Power to freeze the attention of the defense in the middle.

    The best example I was able to find is the first play of the video linked below (against Minnesota).  Tough to see the whole thing.  If anybody has a better link to them running this, please feel free to share.

  • Jake H


  • Jake H

    I think I’ve seen USC use this with Rober

  • smartfootball

    That’s a good play. More like a WR sweep with the power fake up the middle, but interesting stuff. 

  • William Chad Peterson

    Like a lot of stuff, this is just Paul Johnson’s offense out of shotgun.  Because the back isn’t diving into the middle, he can get out and block.  But the fake isn’t as good either and people reading the fake are being drawn to the play.

  • NoHuddleAirRaidForTheWin

    I’m with you on people being drawn to the play. I like this play better with the run being faked one way and the reverse going the opposite direction. You could also do a run fake and Rocket Toss off of this.

  • Michigan did this in 2009 (minus the fake inside run) and scored…against Eastern Michigan…and never used it again. Ugh.

  • bmoy51

    Urban Meyer always loved the play.  He used it most around the edge of the red zone when he had Percy Harvin at Florida.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run it again frequently in Columbus. 

  • coachcort

    Great article once again… I clipped this video from the Chik Fil A Bowl… Same concept Auburn fakes the bubble backside…  Check out the handoff

  • coachcort

    Great Article as always.  Clipped this from the Chik Fil A bowl when they played virginia…

  • coachcort

    Great article as always!  I clipped this from the Chik Fil A bowl.  Same concept, i like the handoff!

  • Tracer Bullet

    If this is a reverse, then what happens in an end around? Shouldn’t the ball “reverse” field in a reverse?

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