Understanding Urban: Follow the Leader
By Ken Pryor
(Editor’s Note: Ken Pryor is an offensive coordinator who works with the wide receivers at North Point High School in Waldorf, Md. He has been a long-time contributor to The-Ozone, and has been asked to help us better understand Ohio State’s new offense since Urban Meyer was hired back in November.)
As I have searched and researched Urban Meyer’s offensive philosophy, and how it might translate to what we will see at Ohio State, I came across an interesting nugget of information.
The spread offense utilized by Meyer and his coaching staff is primarily structured around five passing concepts:
- All Go
- Follow Pivot.
One play in particular caught my eye initially, so I will expound upon it in this latest literary offering in the Understanding Urban series.
The play, commonly known as ‘Follow Pivot,’ is a real beauty in the football world. As is the case in any spread attack, it stretches the defense horizontally, then takes advantage of the major void in the middle created by the five-wide receiver formation.
‘Follow Pivot’ is primarily used as a way to defeat ‘Quarters Coverage,’ or 4 Deep coverage. Quarters Coverage, simply put, sends four defensive backs (2 corners & 2 safeties) straight back into deep zone coverage. Each man divides the field evenly. The corners are responsible for the sideline-to-hash areas, while the safeties split the middle area between the two hashes.
Each player in the secondary is asked to control 25 percent of the deep zone area, or a quarter of the field, thus the name ‘quarters coverage.’ However, Follow Pivot also works well when defenses roll their coverage to the field.
From a concept perspective, the play puts the free safety in a highly stressful “high-low” predicament. Meanwhile, a middle-triangle (read) off the two weak-side linebackers (or weak-side and middle LBs) can be exploited.
Per the diagram below, the Post is run from the boundary, whereas the Follow route will come from the field. The reasoning behind this stems from the fact that teams will almost always rotate their coverage to the field (which would disrupt the aforementioned Triangle).
Moreover, we see a lot of ‘Quarters Coverage” with the strong safety playing inside technique on the No. 2 receiver to the field side. This makes it difficult for that receiver to run the Post. Therefore, the situation must be created where the offense can isolate the free safety for the quarterback’s high-low read, and now the Post and Follow routes can win.
From the empty formation, as shown above, the two inside receivers (those closest to the ball on each side of the line of scrimmage) will run Pivot routes. Their main function is to attract the two LB’s closest to the Post or replace those LB’s, should they drift into coverage or go into dog mode by rushing the passer. Those two LB’s are also the same defenders that the offense wants to occupy in order to get the Follow route open.
(Coaching point: The Pivot route receivers are instructed to sit and replace the LB they are aiming for if he rushes the QB or drops into coverage. They will only work toward the outside if they are covered, as this will open up a huge throwing lane over the middle for the Follow route. Lastly, the outside receiver to the field runs a Curl, which will serve as a safety valve of sorts should the QB have to scramble that way.)
The video below shows a beautiful sequencing of the Follow Pivot. Watch as the middle of the field comes open as the slot receivers influence the linebackers. The Follow route is wide open for the taking.
In the empty set (no running backs) formation, as shown in the video, we see a five-man protection scheme. Protection for this play can slide away from the post route, which allows the quarterback to look that way first while also allowing him vision on any front-side pressure.
By looking that way first, the quarterback put eyes on the post receiver. Remember, the safety is reading the eyes of the quarterback, and he will want to lend support on what he thinks will be the deepest route (aka the “high” portion of the “high-low” concept we discussed earlier).
Once he bails to lend deep help, the follow route (aka the “low” part of the high-low scheme) comes open. If the safety reacts in the opposite manner, by sitting on the follow route, coaches feel the post receiver (usually a guy with great speed) can eat up the cushion made available by the zoning cornerback.
With the corner dropping straight back, the post receiver can gain inside leverage on his route. If he does, the quarterback should be throwing over the top of the frozen safety for the bomb.
It’s really quite simple: Read the free safety. If he bails deep, throw underneath. If he sits, then go over top to the post.
Just like taking candy from a baby.
I envision Ohio State running this play with a guy like Devin Smith running the Post and Philly Brown running the Follow route, while Jordan Hall and Jake Stoneburner execute the Pivot routes.
I could even see the sure-handed Stoneburner run the Follow route, with Philly running one of the Pivots. Incoming freshman Ricquan Southward or veteran slot receiver Chris Fields could run the backside curl as a safety valve.
(Cue my ‘Lost in Space’ Dr. Smith voice) Oh, the possibilities are endless! It will be superb!