The Passing Game in Youth Football
The Passing Game in Youth Football
From day one, it’s important to begin your offensive game plan with staple formations. These basic formations will be the backbone of your offense. They shouldn’t change as instead, you can use shifts and motions built in these formations to change things up. But the basic principles of the formation should not change. The kids should know exactly where to go when you break the huddle. When it comes to where your kid’s lineup, the formation should tell them exactly where to go including their splits and alignment. For basic splits along the line, your guards and center should have a two feet space between them with tackles and tight ends about three feet away from each other.
For each formation, your backs should know where their alignment is off the ball and placement in the backfield. For simplicity, the call side of the formation should always be the direction where the tight end aligns. Opposite of this call, your split end will line up directly on the other side of the field in his split.
Beginning with your passing series installation, you must break down your passing plays into a series of numbers that dictate all of your plays. For example, 88-89 passes can be straight backdrops with cup protection in the pocket. 98-99 passes are sprint out passes, with an aggressive blocking scheme of fire off. Play action passes can be under the 100 series, where the first number called is the type of pass action and the second and third number tell you what direction the pass action is going, giving instruction to the fullback and tight end where to go (ie left or right).
300-310/500-510 series of passes get a little more complex. This sequence is for drop-back passes where you are looking to get four receivers involved in the offense quickly. 300 series is three a step drop back with the second number telling the quarterback where to begin his read (what direction). The third number doesn’t hold any significance. In the play Gun Ace Left 500 Curl, 5 tells the quarterback his depth in his drop back and the zero indicates to him to look right first. The quarterback can also audible to 600 or 700 protection series which will keep the tight end in for blocking purposes and have max protection.
When dialing up play-action passes, these plays should be developed from your most successful running plays. The best time to call these plays should be in situations where the defense is on their heels and is unsure of what is to come next or when they are loading up the box expecting a run. Any motion included in a successful running play should also be included when you’re calling a shot downfield in play action. Have a goal for how many times a game or quarter you want to call play action and just as you should for all of your plays, chart out your success rate against coverages and fronts you face.
Some offenses will be less complex than others to install but at this level of football your offense should be kept to the bare minimums. The passing offense and the basic principles that are included in it can be a difficult task for young players to grasp initially. Hold their hand through this process and make sure to be as clear and concise with your kids as possible as this will be the only way the will truly understand and comprehend the offense.
When drawing up your offense, it’s important to have a philosophy behind your specific system. In football, similarly to life, everything must be done with purpose. Lavell Edwards old BYU offense was based off of a timing system. Where drops, route depths, and protection schemes were designed so that the quarterback could throw the ball in a specific times interval. This is just an example of an idea but everything you include in your offense should be done with purpose and philosophy.
Make sure your kids know exactly what their position is, whether it’s a split end (X), flanker (Z), slot (H), tight end (Y), or whatever your decide. Designating receivers with these letters will help lining up and getting set much easier. Also, having your X and Y always opposite of each other will help your kids a lot when lining up. The offense you know the best is the best to run for your team. The more you become familiar with different offenses and systems, the more you can explore but in the beginning it’s very important to choose an offense you are familiar with and can teach to your kids with little roadblocks along the way.
I would say the more simple the offense, the greater chances for success are, especially at the lower levels of football. You want to make sure your quarterback doesn’t have to process a lot of extra information if he doesn’t have to. Do your best to walk him through these early stages of the offense, like identifying the strong and free safeties.
Every successful passing attack starts up front with the protection. In order to hit his intended target on each drop back, the quarterback must have adequate time to deliver the ball. Keep it simple stupid, the saying goes and nowhere else is it more true than in the passing game. Don’t use more than 5 passing plays in your offense. Each play will take time to install and teach to your kids so don’t get overly pass happy and try to install all of these passing plays to no avail. It’s important your kids be able to understand the basic passing routes in the route tree. Using this, you can insert the route tree into your offense so your kids know what their route is. Using short, quick passes with your backs will also take great pressure off your quarterback.
By: Matt Kerns