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Youngstown's 'Dave' Play

by: Jim Tressel
Head Coach
by: John Klacik
Offensive Coordinator
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Over the past 12 years, fans and opponents of Youngstown State have come to understand that Penguin Football is tailback football. Our "Dave" play is one that can average four-plus yards on any down and can consistently gain the yardage needed for a first down when facing a short yardage or goal line situation.

During our championship years, we have called this play over 220 times a season. Because of its use and the nature of our offense, we must prepare two tailbacks while a third awaits in the wings. All sizes and types of tailbacks have successfully played the position. The key to their success as a ball carrier is their practice habits. They must allow their blockers to do their jobs. The tailback cannot rush the play.

Diagram 1

In simple terms, the blocking scheme is a down scheme. The tight end (TE), tackle and guard will look to double team anyone in the "B" or "C" gap (Diagram 1). The double team will attempt to drive the defender back off the ball and into the path of the backside linebacker, who should be scraping to the play. If the backside linebacker attempts to run underneath the double team, the inside blocker (postman), who has his eyes on the linebacker, will come off the double team and pick up the defender.

The center will block back, except when covered. If covered, he will first step square (to the backside), in case the nose angles away from the play, before blocking back. The backside guard will pull and block the frontside linebacker, turning up in the first opening outside the double team. The backside guard will execute a cutoff block to keep any defenders from tackling the tailback from behind.

The fullback's basic responsibility is to kick out the first defender outside of the tight end's down block, or "trap the hips of the tight end." Proper execution of his assignment begins with the fullback's stance. His heels are at a depth of five yards and he must have his head up in his stance because he needs to know who he is blocking prior to the snap of the ball.

The fullback will step toward the inside leg of the offensive tackle putting himself in a great inside-out position to execute a kick out block on the "D" gap defender. From this position, the fullback will continue to track for the inside number of the defender executing the block by placing his body between the defender and the ball carrier. The fullback will strike the defender with his near shoulder keeping his knees bent and body square (belly button to belly button) to the defender.

There will be times when the defender will attempt to defeat the block by throwing his far shoulder (wrong arm) into the blocker. When he does this, the fullback must block the far shoulder and knock him into the LOS, thereby allowing the pulling guard to get around the fullback's block and up on to the frontside linebacker.

The tailback will align with his heels at a depth of seven yards. His first step is a lateral lead step in which he will gain about a foot of ground towards the LOS. We consider this a pace step. It is not rushed and allows his blockers (fullback and pulling guard) to take the proper position in front of the tailback. The tailback's second step is at the offensive tackle, so he is now attacking the LOS at a 45-degree angle.

The quarterback's initial step is to reverse-pivot just short of the mid-line (6 o'clock). He will then take the ball and extend it as deep as possible to the tailback. The quarterback will then carry out a play action pass fake in the direction of the play.

The tailback will take the hand-off from the quarterback and position himself between the tailback and the fullback and the pulling guard. As was mentioned earlier, the tailback must be patient and control his speed thus allowing the blocks of the fullback and pulling guard to take place. If he rushes himself and gets too close to his blockers, he will want to leave the protection of the "cheeks" before he gets into the LOS.

The inexperienced "Dave" runner will often leave the cheeks just after getting the ball because he senses an opening just inside the double team block due to the fact the frontside LB has vacated the area. This attempt at cutting the play back will only lead to trouble since the backside LB will scrape unblocked into the opening. One of the few times we are not adamant about staying in the cheeks is in a situation where we need a yard or less. In that case, if you see a yard, take it. Yet, we firmly believe staying in the cheeks is the best course of action.

Diagram 2

In Diagram 2, you see a picture of blitz in both "C" and "D" gaps. The tight end will block the defensive end as he takes the "C" gap and the fullback will trap the hips of the tight end and kick out the "D" gap rusher. To properly execute tight end's block against this blitz pressure, it is essential to see the stunt take place. Therefore one's head must be up in his stance.

When faced with the "D" gap pressure the fullback will widen his course to the middle of the tight end, forcing the "D" gap defender to widen in order to maintain his outside leverage. If he were to take his normal course, he would allow the "D" gap rusher to squeeze the lane down, thus causing the block to take place deeper in the backfield and the tailback to be forced out of his crease before he can get to the LOS.

Diagram 3A

On other occasions defenses may play the reduced side of their defense to the tight end (see Diagram 3A), thus playing a "3" technique and "7" technique (inside shade on the tight end) to that side. If our tight end is a better player than the "7" technique, we will block down with the tight end on the "7" technique and kick out the next defender outside with the fullback. If we are unable to get any movement out of the tight end's block, we will have the tight end step into the "7" technique and gain his attention. The tight end will then release off the "7" technique and block the flat defender.

Diagram 3B

The fullback will now kick out the "7" technique, who will often not expect him since the "7" technique's initial attention is on the tight end (see Diagram 3B).

Diagram 4

Another change up that has become very effective is the "stick block." This adjustment is used whenever we get an "8" technique or wider on our tight end and the "B" gap defender is playing inside the offensive tackle (see Diagram 4).

In this case, all offensive linemen are executing their normal assignments except for the pulling (backside) guard. He must now pick up the backside linebacker instead of the frontside linebacker, who we will block with the fullback. This scheme has become very effective for us since a number of our opponents attempt to stop our load option plays by widening their defensive ends, and the play is more like an isolation as the tailback can get to the LOS a little quicker. If the defense were to place an additional defender outside of the "8" technique and the LOS, the fullback must see this from his stance and kick out the additional defender while the pulling guard will now look to block the front side linebacker.

Diagram 5

The Dave scheme can also be a very effective blocking scheme to the open end side especially against teams who shade in that direction (see Diagram 5). The rules are very similar to the open side with the only major difference being that the fullback will kick out the "C" gap defender instead of the "D" gap defender as he does to the tight end.

Although the fullback will run for the same landmark (inside leg of the offensive tackle) as he does when running to the tight end, the fullback will expect a tighter hole and must be prepared to execute his block sooner. Although the tailback's steps are the same to open side as those to the tight end, his aiming point is the "B" gap instead of the tail of the offensive tackle.

Diagram 6

We have found much success against stack teams (see Diagram 6) to the open end side, especially those lining up the defender on the center or in the "A" gap. This permits the guard to execute a more secure down block and allows the tackle an easier release to the backside LB. The pulling guard's block seems to be easier to execute because he is better able to see the Will linebacker since his initial alignment in the stack positions him in the tackle box area.

As has been described, the off-tackle power play (Dave) is a play that can be used in almost any situation. In fact, we have run it out of the shot gun in long yardage situations and have made the first down. It can be run from a multitude of formations and backfield sets, including the one back set. The only thing that changes in this situation is that you will need a motion man to act as the fullback and execute the kick out block.

In conclusion, the strength of the off-tackle (Dave) play is that it features the basic fundamentals of blocking and hard running. It can be a multi-purpose, high repetition play that forces the defense, including your own, to be physical and tackle well.

It requires defenses to establish a specific plan to take the play away. In doing so, it permits the offense to launch a counter-attack which takes advantage of the defense's tendencies. To our opponents, what may seem like a sophisticated offensive package is really one that focuses on executing the fundamentals of a few simple plays.


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