Two Simple Gap Schemes to Score More Touchdowns

Why Gap Schemes in the Spread Offense?

Gap schemes are a great way to create running lanes by using natural blocking angles on defensive linemen.  These blocking angles give the offensive line leverage to create open gaps or holes for running backs to run through.  When the offense has natural blocking angles, leverage, and possible double teams at the point of attack, it’s almost guaranteed a recipe for success. 

The two gap schemes I’ll be covering today are power read and counter trey.  When these plays are sequenced properly through the offensive coordinators play calling, it can be nearly impossible for the defense to read and react correctly, leading to explosive plays and more touchdowns.  

When running Power Read and Counter Trey, the QB will be optioning off of a defender key.  In this sequence of plays the defender key will be the DE or end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOL).  With the threat of the QB or RB running the football, the defense has to maintain gap integrity, which again can be difficult because of the leverage and double teams we gain from the angles we’re blocking them on. Not only does the defense have to maintain gap integrity, they also have to have disciplined eyes as these two run plays have elements of misdirection and deception in the backfield. 

Let’s take a look at how you can sequence Power Read and Counter Trey together for more explosive plays in your run game. 

Simple Gap Schemes for Your Offense

Power Read out of Trips

This is the basic and initial way we install Power Read.  In this example we have trips to the field and we are running power read to the field.  We are using our 3 WRs to try and pull numbers out of the box and to get an extra hat (#3 WR) blocking on the front side of the play if the running back happens to get the football.  This is a great start to play with the defense’s eye discipline, and stretch the front side defensive end horizontally to open up natural running lanes.

Here’s how we draw it up:

power read
LTYou are to protect the B gap. Step hard inside as soon as LG pulls and hinge to wall off the backside.
LGPull and wrap for the front side linebacker. Pull must stay tight on the double team from RG and RT. Do not block DE
Cblock down on the first defender to the backside
RGDeuce with the RT on the 3 technique with eyes on the backside linebacker. If backside linebacker gets downhill into the A gap, then fall off and take linebacker.
RTDeuce block with the 3 technique with eyes on the backside linebacker. Important to displace the down lineman vertically so backside linebacker cannot work over the top. If Backside linebacker tries to get over the top to the front side, then come off the deuce and take the LB
Qtoes at 5 yards and read the playside DE. You only get 1 shuffle to make your decision. If DE widens with the back, rip and run tight off the double team. If DE is outleveraged and works inside or squeezes the LOS, then give to the RB and carry out the fake.
THeels at 5 and run horizontal down the toes of the QB. Eyes are on the OLB and you are to work to the hash while reading the block on the OLB. Run to grass

Counter Trey off Power Read

After a few plays of attacking the defense with power read, it’s time to counter that action with Q Counter Trey. This is a great sequence of plays as we are going from full flow action to split flow action. Although we are pulling offensive linemen in different directions, the action in the backfield stays the same. This can mess with Linebackers eye discipline if they are reading the backfield rather than guards.

It’s important to note that if a defense doesn’t jump to 2 high or flood to trips, that counter trey must be ran out of 2×2 formation to have a WR in position to block an overhang/outside linebacker.

Here’s what it looks like:

Q Counter
LTDeuce block with the 3 technique with eyes on the backside linebacker. Important to displace the down lineman vertically so backside linebacker cannot work over the top. If Backside linebacker tries to get over the top to the front side, then come off the deuce and take the LB
LGDeuce with the RT on the 2i with eyes on the backside linebacker. If backside linebacker gets downhill into the A gap, then fall off and take linebacker.
Cblock down on the first defender to the backside
RGPull tight to the line of scrimmage and kick out the first defender to the outside. If DE wrong arms or squeezes hard down the line of scrimmage, then log block the DE and pin him inside for Tackle to wrap around.
RTPull with depth and read Guards block on the defensive end. If he kicks out, then quickly wrap inside and block front side linebacker. If Guard Logs then wrap around the block and look inside for first color
Qtoes at 5 yards and read the playside DE. You only get 1 shuffle to make your decision. If DE widens with the back, rip and run following the Right Tackle’s pull. If DE is outleveraged and works inside or squeezes the LOS, then give to the RB and carry out the fake.
THeels at 5 and run horizontal down the toes of the QB. Eyes are on the OLB and you are to work to the hash while reading the block on the OLB. Run to grass.

Other Variations to Sequencing These Gap Schemes

Power Read & Counter Trey with a Sniffer

Using a sniffer in the spread offense is also another great way to sequence Power Read and Counter Trey. This is another simple way to stress the defense horizontally with misdirection and deception in the backfield. There are a lot of moving parts for the defense to account for and it can be extremely difficult for high school linebackers to track the football in these simple variations.

Here’s how you can sequence Power Read and Counter Trey when using a sniffer in the spread offense:

Power Read

Power Read with sniffer

This is a great design for your QB to get involved in the run game. Although the DE has a down block by the tackle in front of him, the arc block by the sniffer has a tendency to influence the DE to widen. The arc by the sniffer can create a huge running lane for the QB to run through if the DE does widen with that movement. If the DE doesn’t widen and sits at the LOS, then it’s a give for the QB and the RB is taking it outside with the Y arc’ing for the first color that shows up. Either way, the offense is able to get a hat on a hat while putting a defender in conflict with misdirection.

Counter Trey

Q Counter Read

Power Read Toss Shovel

Similar formation and action in the backfield makes this Q counter a great follow up to running power read successfully with a sniffer. Once you start recognizing linebackers flowing hard to the power read play, then you have the defense set up nicely to counter Power Read with Q Counter. If the DE squeezes the line of scrimmage, then QB gives to the back with Y as his “personal protector” on the arc block. If the DE widens with the Y’s arc, then Q will rip and run following the block of his tackle pulling.

Power Read Toss Shovel

This design breaks the tendency for back away and crossing face in the power read scheme. In this design, the back is set to the call side and the QB will be reading the DE with a toss option to the RB and a shovel option to the sniffer. He will take one shuffle parallel to the line of scrimmage to make this read. The QB will toss the ball to the RB if the DE sits or squeezes down the LOS. If the DE widens with the back, then QB will plant off his outside foot to execute the shovel pass to the Y. The Y needs to buy just a second at the snap of the ball to allow the guard to pull and the double team to displace the front side down linemen. He may take a quick step with his right foot or hop step to the right and then immediately run down the line of scrimmage staying tight to the double team performed by the Tackle and Guard.

Q Counter Trey Toss

Same formation and backfield action between QB and RB as the play above. This split flow action still attacks the DE with toss action. The read for the QB stays the same. Now, if the DE widens with the back, the QB will rip and run counter following his tackle pulling to the front side of the play. The only tweak to this play is arc’ing the sniffer to the same side of the counter for the outside linebacker. If you’re facing DE’s that have tendencies of widening with sniffer arc’ing, then this would be a good option as that movement will make it an easy kick out block for the backside guard.

Q Counter Toss

Power Read & Counter Trey with Jet Motion

If you use jet motion in the spread offense, then power read and counter trey will fit right in with this type of motion. It’s important to understand when and why you’re using the motion with these schemes. As a coordinator, I’m looking for how the back end of the defense is reacting to the motion. This is how I break it down when looking at it in a 2×2 formation:

If the defense doesn’t bounce to motion, or rotate safeties (overhang stays home when motion is away) then I need to continue with full flow action — Power Read

If the defense bounces with motion, or OLB rotates with motion away (doesn’t stay home) then I need to run counter back to where motion came from — Counter Trey.

Let’s take a look at these two gap schemes with jet motion

Power Read with Jet Motion

power read jet motion

Power read with jet motion is a great addition if you already run sweep with your slot receivers. Now you can get the same action but add a read option element to how you attack the defense.

The timing of this play is the most important piece of executing it correctly. To time it up correctly, it’s best to tell the QB that the ball has to be in his hands by the time motion gets to the near tackle. This will allow the QB to receive the snap, take 1 shuffle and still be in good relationship with the slot WR who is coming in fast motion. If it’s called up any later than that, then the QB is trying to reach for the WR running past and results are usually a fumble.

Same read rules apply; If DE widens, then QB rips and Runs right off the double team. If DE sits at the LOS then QB gives to WR on sweep with the running back lead blocking out front.

Counter Trey with Jet Motion

counter trey with jet motion

Is the defense over rotating with your motion? Time to mix it up and run counter back the other way to expose their area of weakness. RB will take one jab step outside and then get right back to the mesh point to follow the tackle wrapping through the hole.

There is no read to this play. The motion will hold off the DE and it will be an automatic give to the RB.

Power Read with Jet Motion out of Empty

power read jet motion empty

This is a simple way to run power read if you run empty sets. There is really nothing different other than how we line up offensively to attack the defense with the same, simple scheme. Getting into empty is also a good adjustment if your RB is having a hard time getting out in front to block from the backfield.

Q Counter Trey with Jet Motion out of Empty

q counter with jet motion out of empty

Ready to Dominate with These Simple Gap Schemes

You now have a basic install of using these simple gap schemes of power read and counter trey in the spread offense. You can get a lot of mileage out of these two gap schemes because of the deception in the backfield and the misdirection from full flow to split flow points of attack. Power Read and Counter Trey may look exactly the same in the backfield, but the schemes are attacking the defense in two different ways. That is a nightmare for defensive coordinators to try and prepare for. With these two gap schemes you’ll start seeing more explosive plays and more touchdowns in your run game.

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