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Looking For a Boost in Your Offense?

Bucknell University uses the Mid-Line Option to get the ball in the hands of their playmakers and to add some punch to their offense.
by: Tim Camp
Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach
by: Brent Thompson
Quarterbacks/Fullbacks Coach, Bucknell University
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Why Mid-Line?

Our first season at Bucknell we had installed a spread option offense. We invested a lot of time into our base play: the triple option. As the season progressed we had been able to execute the triple with some moderate success. At the end of the 2003 season we had averaged just a little over six yards per attempt. We had run some mid-line in 2003 but were not majoring in it. We, as an offensive staff, knew that in order for us to compete on a yearly basis with the teams in the Patriot League we would have to develop a multi-faceted option attack.

We needed a play that looked similar to triple option but allowed us to get downhill faster and provide us with some options as to what we can do with the football. The mid-line forced teams to defend both the mid-line option and the triple option. It prevented the defense from turning it into a perimeter game. It allowed us to get the ball into the hands of our playmakers: the fullback and the quarterback. By the end of the 2004 season mid-line had replaced the triple option as a staple in our offense.

Quarterback / Fullback Mechanics

The quarterback and fullback mesh mechanics must be practiced everyday to prevent mistakes that can commonly occur when exchanging the football. The fullback will place his hand down eight feet from the heels of the quarterback (this is a starting point; you must make adjustments based upon the speed of your quarterback and fullback). This will allow for the maximum amount of read time possible for the quarterback. The fullback’s first step will be with the opposite foot from the direction that the play is being run. This will allow the quarterback to have an open pocket to work with when meshing with the fullback as well as keep him down the mid-line. The fullback’s first step will be straight ahead of him staying on the track for as long as possible. Prior to the snap the quarterback must mentally adjust his weight to his play side foot so that it will allow his backside foot to be easily slid out from under center. The quarterback’s first step will be a drop step with as much depth and width as possible with his opposite foot from the direction that the play is being run (See Diagram 1).

Diagram 1. Quarterback Steps

This step will allow the quarterback to pivot off of this foot in order to open up his hips and clear mid-line for the mesh with the fullback. The play side foot of the quarterback should come slightly off of the ground to allow for his hips to open. The play side foot should then come to rest within the framework of his body. This will allow the quarterback to be balanced while in the mesh. If the quarterback over rotates with his play side foot he will have to make up that distance when he tries to get out of the mesh. If the quarterback under rotates the play side foot he will be on the mid-line forcing the fullback off of the midline. As the quarterback begins his footwork he must begin forcing the ball back as far as he possible can. As soon as the second foot hits the ground the quarterback should be engaged in the mesh. As the quarterback forces the ball back he will naturally transfer his weight to his back foot. As he begins to ride the fullback he must then start to transfer his weight to his front foot. He will never allow the read to go beyond his front foot. Now that his weight has been transferred to his front foot he will be able to push off of it as the fullback clears the mesh in order to get his body back downhill. The quarterback must keep his eyes on the read key at all times and trust that he and the fullback will be in the correct position.

Pre Snap QB finds the read key (first defender from A-Gap out). The QB will then mentally distribute his weight to his play side foot. As the QB receives the ball he must reach back as far as possible gaining width and depth with his back side foot. Eyes must be on the read key. The play side foot of the QB must be able to move freely with the hips and the rest of the body. Eyes continue to be on the read key.

As the hips of the QB begin to open he must begin to force the football back as far as possible. Eyes remain on the read key. The QB must be in a balanced position. Both feet must be slightly wider than shoulder width apart. The football should still be on its way back. The QB must be reading the initial reaction of the read key. As the QB brings the football back behind his back hip he will slightly widen his base to prepare for the mesh with the fullback.The QB has transitioned his weight to his back foot. At this time the football must be behind the back hip to allow for maximum time to ride and decide.

As the QB rides the fullback he will begin to shift his weight back to his front foot. The decision to give or pull the football must be made at this time. Once the QB has made the decision he must slide his back hand out first and force the football into the pocket of the fullback. If the QB pulls the football he must disconnect with the fullback violently (so the fullback knows the ball has been pulled).

The weight of the QB should be on his up field foot forcing him to step with his back foot as the fullback clears the mid-line. If the QB pulls the football he should begin to find the running lane in the B-gap.

The Quarterback Reads

The read key in the mid-line scheme will be the first defender from the A-gap out. We will check the play to the widest inside technique to allow for a clean read for the quarterback. The read in the mid-line must be very quick because you are reading a defender who is in close proximity to the mesh. The quarterback approaches the read thinking that if there is any reaction by the read key toward the fullback I will pull the ball. If it is a grey read in mid-line he will always pull it. Here are a few of the possible reads that the quarterback will encounter (Diagrams 2-6).

Diagram 2. Down the line:
The read key charges flat down
the LOS to take the FB.(Pull)

Diagram 3. Squeeze Read: The read
key closes down toward the
FB but does not turn his shoulders. (Give)

Diagram 4. Squat Read: The read key
squats at the LOS trying to read mesh.
He wants to play both FB & QB. (Give)

Diagram 5. Contact Read: The read key
engages the "veer guard" to keep
him off of the L.B. (Pull)

Diagram 6. Up-Field Read: The read key
crosses the LOS into the
backfield for the QB. (Give)

Mid-line Blocking Schemes

(See Diagrams 7-10)

The blocking schemes in the mid-line are based off rules and techniques. The play side tackle will attack the inside number of the first defender from a five technique out. He will try to expand the B-gap as much as possible to try to create a run lane for the quarterback. The play side guard, if covered, will veer release the first LB head up to inside. He will never chase any LB to the outside. If he is uncovered, he will release vertically for the first LB head up to inside, never chasing outside. If the center is covered he will base the nose taking him whatever direction that he wants to go. His block will dictate the direction the fullback will cut. If the center is uncovered he will step to backside A-gap securing the quarterbacks backside. If nothing shows in backside A-gap the center will then work up to the back side linebacker. The backside guard will step to the backside A-gap as well. If the backside guard has a defender on his inside he must help the center secure A-gap before working to the second level for the backside linebacker. The backside tackle will secure backside B-gap. He must cut off a defender that is aligned in the B-gap and keep it clean for the cut back.
Diagram 7. Mid-Line to the 4-4

Diagram 8. Mid-Line to the 4-3

Diagram 9. Mid-Line to the 50

Diagram 10. Mid-Line to the 46

The playside Bison back must insert for the first linebacker from a dead Mike linebacker out. He will be blocking for the quarterback. The backside Bison back will go in motion and try to be at the heels of the fullback when the ball is snapped. This will allow him to insert behind the playside Bison back looking for the defender head up to outside. The fullback will run his mid-line path with a soft fold technique in the mesh. He must stay on the mid-line for as long as possible. With a zero technique nose guard he will get an action key based upon the direction the center is blocking the nose guard. The fullback will execute his mid-line mechanics. If the QB pulls the football from the fullback he will look to get down hill into the B-Gap. The play side wide receiver will release fast off the line of scrimmage working towards the inside half of the defender forcing him to the outside. The backside wide receiver will release flat trying to work to the backside shoulder of the defender cutting him off.

The mid-line option play is a great scheme that not only fits into the spread option offense but it can be adapted to fit into an “I” back offense as well. It is a play that you must commit some practice time to in order to have success running it.


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