Building the Flexbone Offensive Line

Building the Flexbone Offensive Line

GT Flexbone Offensive Line by HectorAlejandro
The Flexbone offensive line should be built from the inside out.

Flexbone offensive line play is predicated on technique, angles, and a high level of tenacity. With tenacity, in my opinion, being the most vital for success. These attributes become increasingly important when considering that many coaches choose the Flexbone (or other option offensive schemes) because they do not have a great deal of size and conventional ability in trenches. It isn’t a coincidence that the service academies run the option. Option football helps to reduce the need for a physically dominant offensive line and also offers a few other advantages for the boys in the trenches.

Flexbone Offensive Line Advantages

One advantage from an option perspective is removing the need to block one or more players at the points of attack. If done appropriately, as outlined on my option football theory page, this creates a fast break situation on the football field. With a triple option play (Inside Veer, Outside Veer, etc.) we get a 3-on-2 fast-break where the defense must defend three offensive players with only two defenders. On a double option play (Midline, Speed, etc.) it becomes a 2-on-1 situation  The offensive line no longer has to physically move the specified defenders all over the field. They are blocked by the quarterback’s read.

Leaving players unblocked effectively inserts one or more players into the blocking scheme. This gives the flexibility to get a double team on a key defender or to gain an extra block at the second or third level. Both of which are desirable outcomes when your offensive lineman are undersized. Option football also causes uncertainty in the defense on nearly every play. Uncertainty in the defense leads to slower reactions times, which again reduces the need for physically gifted players up front.

The Flexbone offensive line also takes larger than average splits to help create a horizontal stretch and widen running lanes. This further reduces the need to move defenders and allows for techniques that wall off defenders rather than pushing them large distances. Once again, this is ideal when dealing with smaller offensive lineman. Still, it is essential to develop the afore mentioned tenacity and nastiness in each of your starters. This is true for football players in general, but is essential for success in the Flexbone.

So with these factors in mind, here is how I try to build my offensive line with respect to physical ability and size.

Flexbone Offensive Line Attributes

When thinking about fitting the pieces together for a Flexbone offensive line, it is important to consider the defenses you will face on your schedule. For instance, if you are playing against a 50 front every week you might need to put a larger, stronger player at Center. Currently I see mostly 40 fronts, and therefore I implement a slightly different strategy. I want athletes with a strong work ethic and a desire to get the job done by any means possible.

I always try to build the Flexbone offensive line from the middle out. This means starting with the Center. In many coaching circles it is conventional wisdom to put your worst starter in this position. I have even heard some coaches say the only thing they need from their Center is to get the ball to the quarterback. I disagree with this and try to put my best athlete here.

My reasoning is simple. I ask this player to scoop to the Mike backer on nearly every play. The Mike backer is usually the opponents best player, or at least their best linebacker. I want to be able to get a body on him and win that battle as often as possible. This is essential for the Inside Veer, which is our most commonly called play.

Next I try to put my strongest and heaviest players at guard. They need to be able to get vertical movement at the point of attack and sometimes must block a 2 or a 3 technique on their own. Keep in mind that heaviest in this regard is relative. My guards still need to be able to run well and execute the scoop block effectively. Again, I want athletes.

Finally, I put my next two best athletes at tackle. I want these players to run well, execute the scoop, and execute the necessary blocking technique for our Rocket Toss play. Tackles in the Flexbone run the alley and need to block the force player in space. The defensive force player is usually an Outside Linebacker or Safety, so I want my tackles to have the ability to work in space. My tackles are often converted Fullbacks or TE’s.

Teaching Tenacity and Tempo

Once I get the type of athlete I want at each position, I strive to teach them to be physical and aggressive at all times. This is accomplished with high expectations on practice tempo and ball get off. I want my offensive line to be chomping at the bit for contact and movement.

Final Thoughts

Flexbone Offensive Line Stance
The Flexbone offensive lineman takes a heavy-handed stance and keeps his feet in a relatively narrow base.

Obviously, as coaches, we must work with what we have. The means the above recommendations may not be entirely feasible every year, but it is always important to base evaluations on the skills needed to execute the Flexbone. As I said, earlier, this may need to be adjusted to fit the schedule and the defensive schemes that will be faced on a weekly basis. Sometimes it is essential to adjust blocking schemes in order to put your players in position to be successful. This, in a sense, is the core of what we do as coaches. We are always looking for ways to help our players find a way. Some of the other things I work to develop are:

  1. Hustling to the LOS – I want my players to sprint to the LOS on every play. They are setting the tone for the offense. Once the huddle is broken, they must sprint to the line and get set. This puts them in the right mind-set and, in my opinion, has a psychological effect on the defense.
  2. Aggressive Stance – We use an aggressive stance in the Flexbone. It closely resembles a defensive line stance and helps to build speed into the get off. I want my offensive linemen to have a small stagger, toe to instep, and about 60% of their weight on their down hand. The feet are no wider than their arm pits. I also teach high hips and allow a four-point stance if this is more comfortable for them.
  3. Get Off Speed – I want my players to have two steps in the ground before the Defensive Line even moves. I teach my linemen to move on the sound of the first letter of our cadence. We snap the ball on the word “GO” and I emphasize movement on the sound of the “G”. Along with this, we practice our footwork on a daily basis. We drill the first two steps of each of our blocking techniques constantly and I demand perfection. We also spend alot of time in the off-season on speed and agility work out of a bunched sprinters starting stance.
  4. Aggressiveness – I spend a lot of time in practice demanding aggressiveness and tenacity in EVERY drill. Players execute at full speed. If the rep is bad, they do it again. Every time.
  5. Finishing – I teach my players to execute through the echo of the whistle. Along with this, I utilize a variety of drills that emphasize finishing blocks and following through. We teach our players to “Finish through the throat.” The key is to teach your players that quitting is NEVER an option and that the play isn’t over until the echo of the whistle stops.

How do you build your offensive line? What criteria do you use when trying to put the pieces together to put your best offensive line on the field? Let me know your thoughts and techniques in the comments below.

 

 

8 Responses to Building the Flexbone Offensive Line

  1. Coach,

    I am wanting to transistion into a true beer attack. I have been doing a lot of double option from the gun over the past few seasons, but now, I want to go triple from under center. My toughest decision is Flexbone or Split Back. I hear that Flexbone is much more coaching intensive than Splitback. That is a concern because I am at a small school and limited coaching. Could you give me some feedback? Have you ever ran sbv? Why the flex? Can I go wrong with either?

    • Coach,

      I apologize for tardiness of this response. I’ve had an extremely busy fall. As to your questions I think there are some very key differences between the Flexbone and SBV. As such, determining which is best for your program is something that will take some reflection and assessment based on many factors including personality and goals, football philosophy, and the type of athletes available. Here as some thoughts on the different advantages and disadvantages of each system.

      Flexbone:

      The primary advantage, in my opinion, of the Flexbone is that it is a balanced 2×2 set with 4 quick release receivers. This provides the offense with greater flexibility in the passing game and negates any tendencies based on strength of formation. The 4 quick release receivers also allow you to stress the defense with 4 verticals. You also have the ability to run a true rocket toss play.

      Some Disadvantages of Flexbone are the need to motion when running the Triple. This can tip the defense on the direction of the play. The balance of the Formation can also cause issues with randomness in defensive alignment. The Flexbone also has more difficult angles on the dive phase which make it more difficult to run Outside Veer. Finally, you have to be aware that your B-Back will take a lot of abuse of the course of a season.

      SBV:

      The primary advantage of the SBV, in my opinion, is the relative ease of integrating power football concepts into your offense. Additionally, the Dive angles are better on both Inside and Outside Veer. Finally, you also get a potentially better blocker at the point of attack when running to the strength. A common problem with the Flexbone is having A-backs that can’t block a LB.

      The primary drawbacks of the SBV are not having the ability to release 4 receivers quickly (e.g. 4 verts) and not being able to run rocket as effectively. You also have to declare a strength, which can be exploited by the defense and give tendencies.

      Just some quick thoughts, however, check back soon for a full blog post on this topic. I will go into greater detail and probably come up with more key differences.

  2. Great stuff, coach. I’m going to an option attack this season, just not sure if it’s going to be flexbone or I-option. But I totally agree with your ideas on the line. Give me a tough, athletic 190-pounder who loves to hit people on the line over a heavier (240), slower non-agressive player any day.

    • Thanks coach! Agree with your comments on the tough athletic 190-pounder. In an option offense we want scrappy athletic kids up front. I certainly prefer the Flexbone, but I have seen many successful two-back systems as well. Plus, who can argue with the success Nebraska had with the I-Back option in the 90’s. I would love to hear your thoughts on on your decision making process.

  3. In college we ran the bone and our guards were always bigger than the tackles. Our tackles had to be quicker and block in space on force players. We used our bird dog steps on air, with bags, and with live players. We worked a lot of repetitions on our first two steps.

    • Its an effective strategy if you run an option offense. Did you play on the offensive line?

  4. Great article. It took the words right out of my mouth. Exactly the way I have tried to coach em up. Another important aspect in my opinion is cutting as much as possible when scooping the backside. I maybe wrong but i feel like it is a huge weapon to get into those 3 techs & shade defender’s head and keep em from playing full speed. I was surprised though that it was a hard for me to see it to my guys. They were very reluctant to cut at 1st. They felt it was “dirty”play. We never got a good at it as I would have liked, but that may be on me. Anyways it was a very good article coach. Keep em coming.

    • I coach my backside in a similar manner. I do not “cut” in the traditional sense though. I teach a scramble/crab block technique. I’ve found that if I teach them to cut, they cut and then kind of just lay there. I want them to get into the defender and keep moving. I haven’t run into any reluctance from my players, and don’t believe it is dirty play. Keep coaching them up and prioritize it in your fundamental period. The technique is, as you say, very valuable. Slows the defense down and is very effective in getting the block accomplished. Thanks for the kind words coach!