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The Spin Offense: The Running Game (Part II)

The greatest offense you\'ve never heard of...
by: Mike Kuchar
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When Dale Weiner and his staff at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge (LA) developed the “spin offense” as their primary offense in 2001, there were three aspects that they felt needed to be accomplished in order to be successful: develop a base run package with complimentary play-action off of it; keep the defense on its toes by using misdirection and motion; and keep it simple enough so that the players and coaches can make adjustments on the fly.

Although the system is quite simple, because of complex appearance of the spin, Catholic high typically will have a defense of the week set up for them every time they take the field. “We haven’t seen the same type of defense two weeks in a row for the last four years. So keeping our concepts simple makes the most sense,” says Weiner.

The basis of the run game, according to Weiner, is find a way to incorporate zone and man blocking principles to his offensive line to eliminate confusion. While most teams either commit to running a gap/zone scheme or a man blocking scheme, like you would see from a Wing T, Weiner finds a way to implement both. Weiner does this by spending the majority of his spring practices and his summer workouts with his offensive line just walking through their blocking assignments against a 4-4, 4-3, 5-2 and 3-3 front. His zone schemes rely on the covered/uncovered principle; that is, if a lineman is covered on the snap of the ball, he will be responsible for handling the defensive lineman in front of him by attacking the outside number of the defender. If a lineman is uncovered at the snap of the ball, he will take a zone (lateral) step playside to prevent from any stunting toward him, then work up to linebacker level.

In the spin offense, every offensive lineman must learn to pull, including the TE in counter schemes, so Weiner and his staff will teach them what he calls the basics of pulling: working up field, using your playside shoulder and forearm to make the kickout block, and keeping your hat in the hole to avoid anyone crossing you face.

Game Planning the Run Game

When you’ve been coaching as long as Weiner has, having tutored the likes of Warrick Dunn, Travis Minor and Major Applewhite, you develop a natural instinct for play-calling which is why Weiner, also the offensive coordinator at Catholic HS, shies away from scripting plays. “I’ll have our base plays on wristbands that I’ll give them out to every one of our skill players. That way when I need to get a play in a hurry, I could just tell our QB the number of the play. For example, 2R could be spin sweep right or 1L could be spin blast left. I could get a general feel from the sideline for what defenses are trying to do to us by watching how they react to our plays,” he says. Weiner will go into the game with five runs out of the spin. He breaks them down into off-tackle schemes such as counter, power and blast and perimeter plays such as sweep and option. He’ll try to show all of them in the first couple of possessions just to see how defenses are making the adjustments.

“We want to know what teams are doing in the box. We start out in our traditional double slot set (See Diagram 1) which is an even set, so we have to see if they are overloading a particular side. Because we’re pretty balanced, most teams will adjust to the side the fullback is lined up on. In that case we will go opposite him,” says Weiner. The slot backs are 1.5 yards off the offensive tackle, so against a 4-4 defense, Weiner will check to see how those outside linebackers are aligned.

Diagram 1: Basic Set

Sometimes it could be as simple as picking your poison. “If I feel that the slots have outside leverage on the outside backers, we’ll run spin sweep all day because we can get a hook block on that kid. If they widen with the slot because we’re having success with the sweep then we’ll go to our inside run game,” says Weiner. Oftentimes, if teams play them balanced with no particular strength, Weiner will leave it up to his QB to call the sweep to the left or right at the line of scrimmage based on how many players they have on each side of the center.

Checking the depth of outside linebackers isn’t all that Weiner and his staff will look at when preparing their players. Since they face so many different defenses, he’ll often break from his double slot set and incorporate a tight end in the game to find out exactly how defenses will adjust. “The tight end always dictates the front of the defense. Defensively you can do whatever you want if a team doesn’t use one because it’s a balanced front. So we’ll use one in situations to see how they react,” says Weiner. When he goes to a tight end, he’ll be in a wing-slot set (See Diagram 2) similar to a traditional Wing T set. If the defense tends to overload the wing-slot side, he’ll run mis-direction such as a counter back to the tight end. Once the defense starts to make the adjustment to the tight end, he’ll stay with his base inside run package such as wham, which is an isolation play to the weakside.

Diagram 2. Wing-Slot Set

Inside Run Game

The spin offense inside run game revolves around two plays – the blast and the counter. Both plays are similar in nature because you will always have players that pull at the point of attack. But determining who pulls is the secret behind the scheme of the offense. For example, in the traditional spin blast, all of the offensive lineman, except for the backside guard, are working a gap/zone scheme; they are responsible for backside gap to backside linebacker. The backside guard pulls and hugs the double team at the B gap and walls off the first bad color he sees. The fullback kicks out the EMLOS (end man on line of scrimmage). The QB is the ballcarrier, taking the ball up through the B gap (See Diagram 3).

Diagram 3. Spin Blast/Regular Blocking

Weiner likes to run this play against a seven-man box, or a 4-3. When he sees that teams will start to bring eight players in the box to stop the run, he will simply make an adjustment by tagging the word “wham” onto the call. “Because it becomes impossible to block the backside linebacker in a four-linebacker set, you can’t block eight with seven, the backside guard will not pull. Instead, the offensive line will man block the front and the fullback will isolation block the frontside linebacker, with the QB taking the ball through the B gap” (See Diagram 4). The motion from the backside slot will hold the frontside linebacker from coming into the tackle box as an extra defender.

Diagram 4. Spin Wham Blast

The spin counter relies on the movement of the playside slot coming in motion, resulting in a usual shift of linebackers for fear of the spin sweep. When Weiner starts running the sweep play enough and starts to see the linebackers cheating, he’ll come back with the spin counter. Offensive lineman to the playside will work their gap/zone scheme just like blast, while the backside guard pulls to kickout the EMLOS. The backside tackle walls up inside the kickout block looking for the first bad color inside (See Diagram 5). This sounds like traditional counter blocking schemes, but Weiner will change up assignments by what he sees on the field. “Typically we like to pull both the backside guard and tackle on counter. But depending on how quick their defensive line is off the ball, we may have to pull just the guard or the tackle. It’s simple for our kids, they hear the word counter, and it could be tagged with a ‘stay’ call that just tells the FB to take the place of the backside tackle. When we play really quick teams that really go with full flow, we will call ‘spin counter zone’ and just zone the front opposite the call with the fullback kicking out the EMLOS” (See Diagram 6).

Diagram 5. Spin Counter

Diagram 6. Spin Zone Counter

Outside Run Game

If Weiner feels that he has a speed advantage against his opponent, he’ll run more of his outside schemes such as spin sweep and spin option. The spin sweep is the staple of the offense, and resembles what Wing T teams refer to as Jet sweep with the slot getting the ball in full motion around the corner. The difference is the slot never crosses the QB’s face to avoid problems with the mesh. Instead, his aiming point is the outside hip so he gets the ball at top speed. The offensive line will use their zone block principles except for the playside guard, who will be responsible for the force defender with the fullback (usually an outside linebacker or strong safety). The playside receiver will use a push crack technique at the middle safety leaving the fullback to block the strong cornerback (See Diagram 7). In order to prevent run-through from the linebackers, Weiner won’t pull anyone and will just call “spin sweep zone” with the entire offensive line blocking their zone scheme (See Diagram 8).

Diagram 7. Spin Sweep

Diagram 8. Spin Sweep Zone

The spin option scheme is also used with the same zone blocking schemes as the sweep; the only difference is that Weiner prefers to option off of the first threat that shows defensively- usually the force defender. The playside wide receiver will execute the same push crack technique at the middle safety (versus cover two it is the half-field safety) while the playside slot still attacks the inside shoulder of the corner. The fullback works with the playside tackle in sealing the frontside defensive end as the quarterback carries a double option read with the backside slot who comes in arc motion (See Diagram 9).

Diagram 9. Spin Option vs. 4-3

“With the option read, we’ll try as many times as possible to get motion away from the play. We want to eliminate as many guys as possible from the frontside. Plus at this level, motioning tends to get people uneasy,” says Weiner. As a changeup to the spin option blocking scheme, Weiner will make a “stem” call to the play. Stem tells the playside receiver to come in short motion and crack on the force player. The slot still leads out on the cornerback. Now, the option read becomes the first safety that shows (See Diagram 10).

Diagram 10. Spin Option: 'Stem'

Halftime Adjustments

The Catholic staff will carry a checklist with them in the press box to relay information back down to Weiner on the field. Weiner says that the phones are practically lifeless during the first half because all coaches are jotting down notes on what they see. It picks up with chatter of X’s and O’s during the second half after they get together at the half. According to Weiner, one of the biggest concerns he has is the front of the defense. “I have to know right away whether it’s an odd or even front. Are there three, four or five defensive lineman on the line of scrimmage. The front will dictate the coverage. If it’s an even front then we have to suspect it’s cover two or cover four. If it’s an odd front, you’re going to get cover 3 or man free coverage. Once we determine it’s an odd front, we’ll find the invert safety and run away from him all night,” says Weiner.

Another concern is how the defensive ends or force players are playing the spin option. Weiner believes it could be one of three ways. If those ends are running hard up the field, he’ll use misdirection such as the counter away to slow them down. If they’re playing tight to the line of scrimmage, he’ll try to outflank them and get to the perimeter using the spin sweep and if they’re flattening out using a feather technique, he’ll tell the QB to duck up inside on option.

The last thing that Weiner will try to pinpoint is a weak defender in the lineup. He admits that because teams try compensating for them, often times these players are tough to find. So he’ll be more specific in finding who likes to chase plays down, who is susceptible to being kicked out and which secondary player is biting up hard on the run. Because once the run game gets stalled, Weiner won’t hesitate to go over the top of coverage with a play-action pass. We’ll learn more about those schemes next month in Part Three of the Spin Offense: The Passing Game.


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