Inside the Playbook: The Power of the Spread Offense

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

In this post we take a look at how Michigan still utilizes a power blocking scheme within their spread offense.

Regardless of how much Michigan decides to spread the field, at the end of the day this is going to be a power running team. By that, I mean they are predominately going to use a power O blocking scheme to pick up yards in the run game. In this article we are going to look briefly at the traditional power O run play, and then look at how Michigan runs it to both sides of the formation out of the gun, as well as how this makes life difficult for defenses.

Power O
Here is a look at your typical Power O blocking scheme from an I-formation. The two keys are the kick out block by the first back (a U-back or a FB, here, a FB) and the pulling opposite ("O") guard to the playside hole.

Power_o_medium

Inverted Veer
Believe it or not, the inverted veer is really a Power O blocking play. Many know that you can run the same blocking scheme with the inverted veer up front, down to the pulling guard, but it works because the "kick out" block is accomplished by kicking out the DE by optioning off of him. Literally, just like you'd run power, if the DE stays out then he's blocked out (nominally, if there is indecision in the inverted veer, the QB keeps).

Slide1_medium

On the other hand, if the DE crashes down, he is essentially blocked in. In this instance, by giving to the RB, it's similar to the FB passing the EMOL, turning, and sealing him inside and giving the RB the edge.

Slide2_medium

Slide4_medium

QB Power
Run more with Denard in the backfield, Michigan went to QB power toward the RB's initial alignment. Denard being a better between the tackles runner because of his low stature and ability to pick his way low through holes would allow the coaching staff to run QB power straight up.

Slide3_medium

QB Counter Power
Gardner is a bit different in his running style in that he has a long stride not as conducive with picking his way through traffic. Rather, he is better suited using misdirection to throw the opposing defense off the trail. In this sense, Michigan uses inverted veer action in the backfield to run a counter Power with the QB back toward where the RB was initially aligned. This tends to look like a read option play, but it isn't as you can see from the pulling guard tackle.

Slide4_medium

This is a longer developing play and a bit less downhill, but it also manages to "block" the back end a bit better and set up the defenders so that they are in an easier position to block. In fact, this is the same exact blocking scheme as a normal counter power, complete with the pulling tackle.

Spread_offense_power_o_medium

Defending Power
A problem arises with this though, and it is that the same key is evident for every single one of these plays: the backside guard. Each of these are power O, and if the backside LB is able to shoot gaps, or if the frontside LB is able to see the pull coming they can meet the play in the hole and mix it up. That is why it is important that Michigan can mix it up a bit still. Read option, veer option, speed option, these sorts of plays give opposite keys. Instead of down blocking, most of these plays will rely on zone blocking. Michigan will want to use these plays, not as primary run plays, but to slow the LBs down and at least make them respect a play before reacting to it.

Conclusions
This is another way for Michigan to give a different look but to maintain its identity. By primarily running inverted veer and QB Counter Power, it allows the offensive line to establish one thing to do best. It allows Michigan to have a go to play but allow that play to come from a multitude of different looks. And it allows them to attack both sides of the formation equally and with just as real of a threat, which is a huge bonus running from the gun.

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