Paul Johnson usin’ some shotgun

The word coming out of Georgia Tech spring practice is PJ is dabbling in some shotgun. I’m not surprised, especially because one of the biggest issues for Tech last year when they did want to pass was protecting Josh Nesbitt, and the report is that the Jackets “mostly threw” out of it. Indeed, Paul Johnson used some ‘gun back in the Hawai’i days. (H/t EDSBS.)

But don’t think that Paul Johnson can’t run his offense from the gun. As I’ve mentioned previously, it’s perfectly possible to run the same flexbone system from shotgun as from under center. One somewhat well known brand is the “Skee-gun” (or “Ski-gun”), named after Muskegon, MI high school. Below is video of their pistol shotgun based flexbone offense.


QB Keeps:

Give reads: (After the jump)

  • Jeffster

    IMO putting the QB in a shotgun is a natural evolution of the spread-option. Tons of advantages. More time to pass and it would make it much more difficult for a d-line to disrupt the option mesh. I’d love to see them try it.

  • herg

    It seems like it would be difficult for the QB to catch the snap and make that read in time to give or keep. How is this done/coached?

  • Dave

    I didn’t see any midline option in those cutups. Does the ski-gun have them?

    Any plans in the works for a full-length dissection of Oregon’s kinda-sorta midline?

  • Eric

    What is difficult about moving to the shotgun and running the flexbone, is the timing of the runs. The “B” back (the running back directly behind the quarterback) is further away from the line of scrimmage, going from 4-5 Yards back to anywhere from 7-10 Yards. It takes him longer to get to the hole once the ball is snapped. This changes the dynamic of the running game.

    The defensive ends have more time to read and react to who is carrying the ball. The play develops from further back in the backfield, so the defense’s vision is less impaired by the offensive line, and they also have more time to react. This changes blocking schemes for the offense, where they normally would try to combo block to the backside linebacker, now they must hold a count longer on the defensive lineman so he doesn’t crash down on the dive before releasing (which in turn gives the linebacker a extra step or two, unblocked).

    Georgia Techs line also uses a slightly unusual stance with there butts higher and feet closer together, which helps with driving forward past D-lineman to block 2nd level players on option plays, rather than focusing on side to side blocking like traditional “spread option/zone read” teams (This is also another reason why they are bad at pass protection). The O-line’s stance along with the close proximity of the “B” back allows for quick hitting plays that make the triple option so deadly.

    This is not to say it isn’t something worth investing time in. But it is a little more complex then just moving the QB back and running the same plays they ran from under center. It really comes down to what most coaches struggle with, do you want to take practice time away from your regular offensive plays to add in a new variation, or stick with what you have been doing. Personally I think they should add it in for obvious passing situations only (which for GT is 3rd and +10 if not more). It was painful to watch Nesbitt take his awkward reversing 7 step drop from under center and try make reads and throw. Which is why he normally just threw it to Thomas’ general direction and hoped for a catch.

  • Trey


    Reports said the B-Back was lined up adjacent to the QB.

    I think everything you said is pretty much spot on, starting with this experiment primarily being a passing formation. On his radio show Johnson has been consistently dismissive of the shotgun as a running formation, but he does believe it helps tremendously in the short passing game. That said, he was consulted heavily by Meyer and Mullen when constructing their spread-option and he certainly has some resources available to run from it if he wants to.

    Very observant about the line’s stance. The GT staff recruits and coaches the line for run-blocking first and pass-protection is clearly very secondary — a pretty good example of the inevitable tradeoffs you mention. In their usual formations they want 60% of the OL’s weight on their hands. I’m very curious what stance and splits they are using in this little shotgun experiment.

    GT is great at long passes off play action when the opposing D can be lulled to sleep defending the run. GT’s 10.6 yards per attempt in 2009 are the highest any team has posted in at least a decade, and PJ is overall #1 in yards/PA since 2003.

    But Tech has no answer at all when the run gets completely shut down, which is gonna happen occasionally when facing top notch D’s, as it did in the first half against Iowa.

    Some rudimentary form of high-percentage passing game would be a huge boost. I don’t think Tech can be great at that, as PJ can’t spend too much practice time dancing with the shotgun short-passing game without spurning the one that brung him.

    As the biggest PJ fan and apologist around, I’m excited to see this as it shows a willingness to adapt and gives me some hope that the Tech offense can become competent at throwing on the rare occasions when it really needs to, instead of just being hopelessly bad at it.

    If that happens I’d love to be privy to ACC DC’s thoughts. 🙂

  • TripleOption

    Watch Wofford; they run a ton of Veer and Lead out of the Gun (& Double Slot).

    2 Back Gun, one back…they run it all. I also remember Texas A&M running the Veer out of Gun a few years back against Texas and it was very effective.

  • Dennis

    Check out Tony Demeo. Long time triple option coach, was one of the first to break the bone and also was running shotgun triple option; not zone read, almost 10 years ago. Has published several books.

    The timing or perhaps a better word is the rhythm, both in regards to the mesh and also the blocking schemes is different in the shotgun.

    Here is a link to his website.

    He is an excellent offensive coach who has based his system on balance between the option running game and the ability to pass the ball.

  • Scott

    I’ve installed some of the Ski-Gun with our JV squad last fall. IMO it’s easier to coach for the QB, because the read is simplier. This is something most spread guys swear by when they run the IZ Read or Veer plays – it is now easier for the QB to read the DE during the mesh – and he’s now running downhill for the pitch phase, AND it increases your shots for quick play-action: the OL can truly run block while the QB pulls and throws a quick hitch or bubble – I KNOW I KNOW TRUST ME…

    They won’t get called for being downfield – they won’t get that far.

    In the CFL most teams use this sort of look (the SkiGun isn’t THAT new) – and run IZ Read off it with some playaction (a previous post here talked about the Quad-Read – Give/Keep with a Bubble or Fade route too).

    Its a natural evolution – the timing is a little slowere but there is a great counter off this with a BSG trap to the Rb adjacent to the QB:

    QB: simple dive mesh-ride-bring ball back to midline & hand off underneath
    FB: Dive fake… look sick and plunge
    RB: counter step away, come back to QB’s toes, recieve ball, cut up behind pulling G.

  • Hector

    When Georgia Tech ran shotgun plays on Monday, the “B-Back” was next to the QB.

  • Kevin

    Building off what Trey said above, there’s been a handful of reports (and at least one note article, although I can’t find it right now) that Urban Meyer had spent a couple of weekends up at Georgia Tech this offseason. Completely expected, as his daughter is at Tech (volleyball), but it wouldn’t be a shock if PJ and UM got together during some of that time.

  • David

    All this reminds me of an interview coach Johnson did with ESPN last year in which he mentions some differences about running the option from shotgun compared to under center.

  • To Kevin,

    Yes, here is a photo of Urban Meyer at Georgia Tech’s Campus Rec Center (CRC):

  • Dallas

    Any chance we might be seeing some 60 Go + 60 Choice from the shotgun? 😀

  • bigreds1989

    Yes there is midline out of the Ski-gun and it does not mess up the mesh or reads at all.

  • Kayle, Michigan

    Nevada started this, my high school just started using it so years back. They dont even you it any more.

  • Kayle, Michigan

    But This off. is very effective if used correctly.

  • bigreds1989

    Nevada made the “pistol” popular but they were not running a flexbone playbook out of it like we do at Muskegon. Also I am sure if you look back throught the history of football you will see some old single wing team having their tailback at that depth at some time.

  • roo

    Nevada may not have primarily run a flexbone playbook but I remember watching them run (but can’t find any vids of it) some triple option out of the pistol where the pitch man was a receiver who motioned into the backfield as the ball was snapped, if not identical to what’s shown in the vids then extremely similar. Now that Klenikas is at Arkansas they’ve been running it in spring practice too.

  • Matt

    I don’t have anything to add I’m just translating the French. It’s not entirely relevant to this thread but the links it provides are interesting:

    1. At this time of year, we pick up lots of information on the systems that NCAA teams are using in their spring camps. Two teams are seemingly leaving behind systems that have given them past success. For example, the Texas Longhorns are abandoning (LINK: abandonneraient) their spread offense to become a pro-style team, while the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, a team that practices the option in its purest form, are attempting variants of the option in the shotgun formation (LINK: variants).

    Also, here is an interesting site (LINK: lien) with an interview with Paul Johnson, the guru of the option, talking about the option under center versus the option out of the shotgun practiced by most teams that use the spread offense (Florida, West Virginia, Michigan, Oregon, Central Michigan, etc.)

    2. Superman Tebow is now an idol of the past for the Florida Gators. John Brantley is the new savior of Urban Meyer’s team. One thing is certain, it seems that the better release that Tebow acquired is conducive to taking under center snaps, as seen here (LINK: ici).

    3. Excellent article (LINK: article) in ESPN the Mag from April 19 on the mechanics of quarterbacks (Jimmy Clausen of the University of Notre Dame) and how to throw a perfect spiral.

    4. A new magazine is looking at the games in August already. Accrofoot performs this service in the form of a journal. They’re an excellent source of news for the Quebecois football community. I’m a little at odds with their slogan: the only amateur football review for Quebec.

    The quality of the team already in place promises success in the Quebecois football community. Good luck AccrofootMag.

  • CoachTSB

    The main reason they were tinkering with the Gun was to help the defense get a look. They said that they did not plan on using it for themselves. They put some stuff together for the Spring to assist the preperation of the defense.

  • gonsop

    Midline and the Passing game is now on youtube as well.

  • Daniel Tyler

    “What is difficult about moving to the shotgun and running the flexbone, is the timing of the runs. The “B” back (the running back directly behind the quarterback) is further away from the line of scrimmage, going from 4-5 Yards back to anywhere from 7-10 Yards. ”

    what if the team used the pistol formation instead, and had the b back lined up beside the qb?

  • GG Smith

    What are the QB’s reads on the tri option looks like he checks the end then corner/FS?!?!?!?