Split Backs in the Run Game

Split backs in the spread offense is a great way to attack the defense in a balanced look in the run game and in the pass game. If you have two quality running backs in your offense then going 20 personnel and putting together a split back package is something you may want to strongly consider.

The reason why I like the split back look is because it allows you to get two running backs on the field at the same time with equal opportunity of touching the football. In our offense, we are an option football team out of 10 personnel, whether it’s in our zone schemes or gap schemes. When we jump to 20 personnel and get in a split back formation, it allows us to become a triple option team in the run game with some nice additional wrinkles in the pass game.

Here are a few plays that you can run using split backs in the spread offense.

Using Split Backs in Zone Schemes

Inside Zone Read

split backs inside zone read

For teams that run inside zone read out of other personnel groupings, this triple option is an easy addition when operating out of split backs. The read key stays the same, the blocking for inside zone read stays the same, and the footwork and path for the RB in the mesh point is the same as well. If the QB has the read for “keep” he will now rip and run with his eyes on the OLB. The back on the right will drop step behind the mesh point and begin to get in pitch relationship with the QB (no more than 5 yards and just behind QB’s near hip). If the OLB attacks the QB then he’ll quickly buzz his feet to come to a balanced position and make the pitch to his RB. However, if the alley is open, then the QB will tuck and take the ball on his own.

Inside Zone Slip

split backs inside zone read slip

This is another great option play out of split backs that can either be double option or triple option, depending on how you want to scheme up the perimeter blocking. The play in the example above is double option, as the QB will read the DE on inside zone. If the DE chases the back then the QB will rip and throw to the back slipping into the flat.

For coaches that like running triple option, the “A” can leave the OLB unblocked as he works upfield to the safety. If the QB has a keep read from the DE, he will now run out with the option to run or pass depending on his second read key which is the OLB.

Inside Zone Bash

split backs inside zone bash

Inside zone bash is a great run scheme if you have an athletic and physical QB who can run. This is a great look out of split backs because the backfield action can really stress the ILB’s horizontally with stretch/outside zone mesh point between the QB and RB. The QB will be reading the backside DE in the zone blocking scheme. If the DE is influenced outside because of stretch look in the backfield, the QB will rip and run inside zone with his aiming point at the opposite A gap. If the QB believes the DE is out-leveraged at the mesh point (sits in the hole, steps in) then the QB will give to the back who is running stretch/outside zone to the two WR side.

Power Read

split backs power read

Another great option out of split backs in the spread offense is the use of power read. There are several different ways that you can run power read, and the example above is probably the most basic way to run it out of split backs. This is a nice addition because you can use the “T” on the front side of the blocking if the “H” happens to get the ball from the mesh point. With this full flow action, you’re able to get numbers to the front side of the blocking scheme. This backfield action also sets up Q Counter which will be shown later in the article.

Power Read Dive

split backs power read dive

A nice wrinkle to power read is to switch the responsibilities between the QB and RB at the mesh point. This can be done by running power read “dive”. The dive tells the RB that he is going to dive same side, and the QB will now be running outside on the perimeter if he gets the read to keep. With this action, you’re able to run triple option out of it by belling the “T” behind the mesh point and getting in pitch relationship with the QB. The “A” will leave the OLB unblocked and look inside for ILB’s who are flowing over the top to the QB running the perimeter. If the QB gets the read key to keep, he will attack the OLB and either make the pitch to “T” or keep it for himself and run the alley, it all depends on how the OLB plays the option.

Power Read Toss Shovel

split backs power read toss shovel

Shovel option is one of my favorite wrinkles in the power read run scheme, and what better way than to do it out of split backs? In this example we use a toss option on the front side as the QB will take 1-2 shuffles with both hands on the ball ready to toss to his H if the DE is out-leverage by him. If the DE is influenced out by the action coming at him, the qb will put his left foot (when the play is going left) in the ground and pitch the ball forward to the “T” coming from the backside of the formation.

It’s important for the “T” to get into the LOS and follow that pulling guard who is headed for the frontside linebacker. If he receives the pitch, it should be right around the A-B gap on the front side of the play.

Counter Trey

split back counter trey

Another great option for your athletic QB to handle the football in the run game. I like this look because we run a heavy dose of power read which has similar action in the backfield, but it’s a full flow run scheme. The example of Counter Trey above is a split flow run scheme where the ball could either go right or left. If LB’s start to play overly aggressive to get over the top on power read, then it’s a great time to counter their aggressiveness with counter trey the other way.

The read key is the DE which is easily influenced to come up the field and stay outside with the stretch action in the backfield. If the DE widens or stays outside on that action, the QB will rip and run Counter Trey back the other way following his Tackle wrapping through the hole. If the DE squeezes down the LOS as the Tackle disappears from him, then the QB will give the ball to the running back on the stretch, which designed to hit outside on the perimeter.

Split Backs in the Run Game

Split backs is a great package anytime you have two running backs that need to touch the ball majority of the game. Split backs is so versatile that it fits most offensive schemes in the run game. Whether you emphasize in zone schemes or gap schemes, these are just a few different ways that you can attack the defense and give your best athletes the option of touching the ball on any given play.

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