Foreword and excerpt of RPO by Brent Eckley

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The term RPO (Run-Pass-Option) seems to have as many interpretations as there are coaches using it.  The main goals of this book are to:

  1. Give a background on one way to employ a spread offense.
  2. Introduce and define RPO as used in our offense.
  3. Present a few ways to use RPO’s in a spread offense and show the benefits of using RPO’s.
  4. Introduce the reader to the problems encountered with running RPO’s as well as present the answers to the presented problems.

It seems the RPO is the ‘next big’ thing in offensive football.  I’m sure it’s been used for generations under other names.  So like most ideas in football, the RPO is not new, but rather used in a new way.  As offensive and defensive coaches battle for who gets the chalk last, the RPO appears to be a very sound way to attack defenses, while giving the defense something new to prepare for.  Additionally, it appears to have some built in advantages for the offense that might keep it ahead of a well-coached, well-prepared defense.

The RPO in its simplest form includes a run play combined with a pass play.  There is a defined ‘read’ player that is a non-first level player.  This means any defender that is not a defensive lineman.  Generally speaking, the run play is blocked by front side linemen, while the back side linemen base block, to protect the quarterback from any type of defensive player run through.  The quarterback catches the snap, reads the designated player, and makes a simple choice of give, or throw.  This is based on the reaction of the ‘read’ player.

It is my hope that any coach could use this book as a resource to either benefit his offensive system, or to help the defensive coach prepare to defend this specific family of plays.


Run Pass Options

For the past 15 seasons, we have employed “read” concepts in our offense.  We read the back side or front side defensive end on our zone, man and gap schemes.  The natural progression for us in our offense was to begin reading second level players in our run game.  Our latest “wrinkle” has been to add in the ability to read a second level player.  Our thought process started with running draw with a stick concept out of a three receiver set.  We added in the adjustment of allowing our single receiver to run a man beating route, to have an answer for blitz.  Our final adjustment off of the “stick-draw” concept was to run the ball with the quarterback. When we do this, we free release the running back to the weak side, so we still have the man beating route by the single receiver, with a swing route by our back.  Our quarterback rule on this play is to look for two over three on our three receiver side.  If we get that look, then we read the number three defender.  If he opens, gains width and plays pass, we run the draw.  If he holds to the box, then we throw the stick concept.  If the defense is in a three over three look to our three receiver side, we assume the defense is in a man look, and we look for the one on one match up with our single receiver.

We followed this thought up with adding in our inside zone and dive run game scheme to the run pass concept.  A new wrinkle we came across was to run inside zone out of a two by two set and have the front side receivers run slants, while the back side receivers would run the quick screen concept.  We found that we could run a bubble screen with the number two receiver or run a now screen to the number one receiver, depending on field width.  So for our quarterback, we would first look to see if we leverage to throw the screen to the backside….


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