Passing from the Diamond

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Established October 31, 1996
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Last updated: 04/29/2013 11:37 AM
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Football Recruiting
Understanding Urban: Passing from the Diamond Formation
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 under Urban Meyer.)

Our past two columns on the Diamond formation run game focused on the three-back set from the shotgun and how the balanced from that set can cause various problems for opposing defenses.

Recently, we have seen some diamond offensive attacks gouging defenses with the ground game. Because of the successful rushing attacks, defensive coaches will undoubtedly look for new ways to stop the ground game, which should allow some offenses to counter by shredding defensive coverages by putting the ball in the air.

The Diamond formation creates some one-on-one match-ups on the perimeter that may render Tom Herman wringing his hands like a mad scientist. One-on-one match-ups are a key ingredient for the quick passing game, so Urban Meyer and Tom Herman will employ some play-action concepts in the formation in an effort to get the ball into the hands of play-makers like Corey Brown and Devin Smith.

Incoming freshmen Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall and Corey Smith should also find this scheme suited uniquely to their skill set as well.

While the Diamond is still a relatively novel idea – Wing-T enthusiasts would argue otherwise – the passing possibilities are numerous. Those possibilities can also be broken down into three key, albeit simplistic, categories:

  • Power Pass: Designed to put pressure on the perimeter of the defense while taking advantage of the gap scheme used mainly in the power game.
  • Iso Pass: Based off the isolation run scheme with the designated purpose of getting behind the interior of the second level defenders (over the top of the linebackers).
  • Boots/Nakeds: Specifically designated for those offensive coordinators who are blessed with more athletic quarterbacks. Do you think Meyer and Herman would like to utilize a scheme that opens the door for Braxton Miller to become a true duel threat run/pass option on the perimeter?

How Might the Power Pass Work?

A productive pass game can be had via play-action from the Diamond set by faking power or lead run plays. One such play might look like this: The play-side receiver can run a post-corner route or some other route designed to get relatively deep. Meanwhile, the play-side running back would start initially on a path towards a kick-out block on the defensive end just as he would on a run play such as lead to sell the run. At the final moment he should release into the flat area.

The power/lead action will freeze the defense, as any good defense is first committed to stopping the run; especially the off-tackle play. By forcing the defense to check run first, the offense has gained a two-on-one advantage in the passing area. 

The play-side receiver has gone deep to the corner, while the back is in the flat. The offense has essentially created a Smash Concept. To further stress the defense, the backside receiver may run a post looking for a void in the middle of the football field.  

The void occurs if/when the free safety moves out to help cover the post-corner route.  With the corner covering deep – as he should in Cover 3 – there is no one in front of the back to cover the flat. The OLB will be in trail mode as he was initially frozen by the play-action. This play is a nice Cover 3 beater.

How Does Iso Pass Work?

This particular concept is play-action off the isolation fake using double tights. The playside TE runs a simple corner route, the lead halfback releases into the flat, while the backside TE runs a drag route which will bring him into the play side landscape.

While the play was essentially a 1-man route with the play side TE, the backside drag and the back flat release converts it into a 3-man route. Again, the play-action serves to freeze the backers allowing tactical advantage for the various routes.

How Do The Boots and Nakeds Work?

Again, utilizing the play-action to freeze defenders. This is the one Ohio State may utilize quite a bit. Capitalizing off the famous zone-read run concepts, the scheme employs option routes. Option routes are predetermined choices for receivers based on the coverage they're seeing. 

  • The play-side receiver (X) runs a comeback at 15 yards, but against Cover 2 he will run a vertical. The Z should run a direct post occupying the safety. Against Cover 2, he has the option to break off his route into a dig working his way into QB’s passing window. The fullback will sell run then release into flat route. Tailback will sell jet-sweep and carrying defenders with him toward the sideline. Third back should fake inside zone-read then bend toward the play side, away from where the QB is booting.

The Naked concept operates similarly to the Boot in that the offense is still working off Zone Read.

  • As the Z receiver releases into a vertical route, the X receiver should get into a post route to split the safeties if the defense is in Cover 2. If they’re in Cover 3, run the route to get over top the free safety. The tight end must get the cleanest release possible and start into a crossing route that levels no deeper than 12 yards.
  • The left back will chip block and get to the flats. The middle back (A) will fake the outside zone before getting into a deep wheel route. Now comes the fun part for the offense. A quarterback like Braxton Miller will execute the fake zone then get into his naked boot where his progression is rather simple:  If he has green grass in front of him, tuck it and run. Otherwise peek the vertical, then the flats, finally back to the crosser.

The play-action passing game from the Diamond Formation certainly allows the Ohio State coaching staff to maximize the abilities of their various weapons, while also forcing the defense to declare strength and stay put for at least a second or two. As if simply running zone-read didn't present enough headaches to defenses last year, this new scheme may make some teams wave the white flag.

Related Articles:

Diamond Package Part II “Blur”
The Diamond Formation Part I
Buckeyes May Put Pistol In the Pocket
Blocking the Outside Zone/Stretch
Blocking Inside Zone

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