In the last post we looked at reasons to run the Split-T. If we take a close look at these reasons we see they are really just the results of the offense. If the Split-T was only successful with great players, or wasn’t successful at all, there would be no inherent reason to stay with the system.
So the pertinent question is why?
What made the Split-T one of the most effective offenses of its day? Why are average players effective in the system even when playing against superior talent? Why does it produce a high average per play? Why are there more big plays? And finally, why do defenses struggle to defend it?
The answers lie in the mechanics of the Split-T and option football concepts in general. Faurot identified several mechanical aspects of his offense that he felt separated the Split-T from other systems.
- Line Splits
- Quarterback Path
- Center/QB Exchange
- Play Sequence
- Backfield Stance
- Ball Handling
- Position Requirements
Prior to the Split-T, most teams always went foot-to-foot with their offensive line. They might split the ends out a yard, or have one of their lineman take a small split to gain a blocking advantage. The Split-T was different. Every lineman takes a split. The guards always keep a split of 12-18 inches from the center and are free to vary it as necessary. Tackles and Ends will have varying splits depending on the front. Note: Diagrams from Don Faurot’s book Secrets of the Split T Formation.
Against a five-man front, as the diagram shows, the Split-T tackles will take a three-foot split in order to influence the defensive tackle to widen with him. The idea is to widen the DT to create a bigger hole. If the DT stays inside, the tackle reduces his split and the quarterback will call more perimeter plays. The tight end will take a 3-4 foot split to widen the defensive end and make him have to travel farther to disrupt the mesh point.
Against a six-man front the guards and tackles splits will stay the same but the tight ends might take a split of 2-6 feet. These splits allow the guards to block the defensive guard on perimeter plays. If the DG widens too much, there will be a huge hole for the quarterback to sneak through. The splits also allow the tackles to block the defensive tackles once again for both inside and perimeter plays. The tight ends are looking to widen the DE again, preventing him from quickly attacking the mesh point.
Against a 7-man front the guards and tackles both take one foot splits and the ends take a 3 foot split in order to keep a wide hole inside of the defensive tackle. Once again, if he does not go wide, then there is a leverage advantage to the outside for perimeter plays. The point to remember here for a split offensive line is the need to tighten up when defenders align to the inside. If a wide split is kept, the defensive lineman will shoot gaps and blow up the mesh point too quickly.
What we have seen above tells us that the line splits of the Split-T (hence the name) are an integral part making the offense work. It is through line splits that the defense is spread out and manipulated to give the offense with advantages needed for the option play to work properly. If the defense widens with bigger splits, they weaken their ability to defend inside and if they stay in tight they give up leverage for perimeter plays. We can start to see the foundations of Faurot’s option concept take shape.
In the next installment we will discuss the quarterback’s path for the Split-T. If you missed the first installment, follow the link below.