Friday, August 13, 2010

The Ohio State Offensive Playbook Part II: The Sprint Draw Series

The second play grouping I want to cover is the sprint draw (also known as lead draw) and sprint draw play pass.  This play has long been a staple of pro-style offenses, but has been relatively under-utilized by Tressel's offenses, given the amount of I formation OSU has run.  However, the sprint draw and its accompanying play-action pass were more prevalent this spring and I expect it will likewise become a bigger part of the OSU arsenal this fall.  The reason is two-fold:  a) an offensive line well built to run-block this play; and b) as discussed below, the options the sprint draw play pass gives you in the passing game, particularly delivering the ball down the deep middle.

Sprint Draw

The Sprint Draw is traditionally a man or area blocking scheme, though it can be run with a zone scheme.  Below is a basic diagram of the play.  (Courtesy of Smart Football).    

And here from 'Husker Playbook':

Teams vary in how much they have their offensive line set for pass block, depending on how devoted they are to showing pass..  Here are the general line rules for the play from 'Shakin' the Southland':    

FST- Lead/base blocks End, could have help inside from the Guard (a "smash" call). If he slants (pinches inside to the center), then the tackle down blocks him. If he stays outside, the tackle may turn him out.
FSG-If covered, slides and base blocks the DT. If uncovered, he lead blocks the DE with the FST. If the Nose is shaded to his A-gap (1-tech), he will combo with the Center.
Center-If covered, takes the Nose Guard or Shade DT base. If uncovered, smash/combo blocks with the BSG on his man.
BSG-If covered, base. If uncovered, combo block with the Center on the Shade or Nose.
BST-Stays put, cuts off the backside pursuit.
 In so doing, the tackles are going to pass set, and allow the defensive ends to come upfield, letting the defenders' aggressiveness take them out of the play.  The key point is that on the playside defensive tackle, the two linemen are going to double and combo block through to the backside linebacker.  Against a 4-3 under, that will be the Guard-Center on the playside NG, against a 4-3 over, it will be the Guard-Tackle against the '3' technique.

As to the backs,

  • Although this is not always the case, the play is best when the fullback is assigned to ISO on the first inside LBer from the playside Guard over.  He is blocking this play just like a traditional ISO, taking the LBer head-on
  • The TB is going to take two shuffle steps, taking the ball as deep as possible.  He is then going to read the playside double-team through to the FB.  The TB's goal is to make the ISO'd LBer wrong no matter what by reading the FB's block and cutting off his backside.
  • The QB is going to open up (as opposed to Dave or ISO where he reverse pivots) showing pass.  He is then going to deliver the ball deep to the TB and set up to play-pass.
  The benefits of the play are multi-fold:

  • The sprint draw takes advantage of a strong, athletic offensive line that can control the line of scrimmage (See Cowboys, Dallas).
  • The play allows a tailback to get the ball deep to use his vision and cut based off the line's blocks.
  • From the I-formation, the play can be run to equal benefit to the strong or weak side.
  • Sprint Draw, as discussed below, is a perfect complement to the sprint-draw pass, which allows the QB to get a deep drop while providing the offensive line the benefit of the play fake, so that they do not have to hold their blocks on a 7-step drop. 
As noted, Ohio State ran this play more this spring than they did all last fall, previewing a play that will likely become a bigger part of the repertoire this year.

Sprint Draw Pass

Part of the reason for the sprint draw's increasing prevalence is the passing play it sets up.  The sprint draw pass was increasingly utilized by the Buckeyes last year and became more prevalent in spring.  This play-pass has also long been a pro-formation staple, perhaps most famously utilized in the college game by Steve Spurrier's 'fun 'n' gun' offense.    

The beauty of the play is that it looks identical to the sprint draw run and allows the QB to get a deep drop.  Yet it simultaneously holds the defensive front with the run fake, making the offensive line job's easier than with a 7-step drop back pass.  The offensive line blocks identically to the sprint draw play.  The backs also run sprint draw, with the QB again opening up, prominently extending the ball out for the ball fake, then pulling the ball away from the tailback and setting up to pass. 

Here, courtesy of JWinslow of's 'Ask the Insider's' is video from OSU's fall practice.  At the 1:48 mark one get's a good line-level view of OSU's line and backs running the sprint draw action (though it is a bit different since they are running this from an 'unbalanced set').  Note how the backside pass-sets while the frontside comes out aggressively run-blocking.  Pryor opens up and delivers the play-fake before throwing into the flat.

Spurrier utilized this play to run a WR read route where the playside receiver would run a curl vs. cover-3 and a post-corner route vs. cover-2.  Ohio State, however, has embraced this play for different reasons.  First and foremost, OSU is utilizing the sprint draw pass to run the 'three verticals' route.  Here is Smart Football with the play's basic description and design:

In this play, here diagrammed from a base Pro-Set, the outside receivers will run post-corner routes, and the inside receiver, Y, will run a "middle-read" route, or "adjustable-8". The running backs will control the undercoverage with a shoot and a swing route. The outside receivers and the middle receiver have simple keys to help them adjust their routes based on the coverage and the leverage the defenders are using against them.

 The play is particularly effective against cover 2, because it is impossible for the two deep safeties to account for the three deep receivers, giving the offense a 3 on 2 advantage and making this play a coverage beater

This key actor in this play is the middle receiver.  Here again from Smart Football:

The middle-read receiver will take the fastest vertical release he can. He does NOT want to get slowed by the second level players. He will get a pre-snap and a post-snap look at the middle of the field. If the middle of the field is open (MOFO - cover 2, 0) he will go for it. If it is closed (MOFC - 1, 3, 4) he will run a square-in route.

He will take the fastest release and push to a depth of 10-12. If he reads MOFO he will stick his outside foot and head for the nearest upright. He wants to catch the ball at 18-22 yards, and is expecting to get hit after he catches it.

If he reads MOFC he will plant hard at 10-12 and will stick his outside foot and make a 90 degree cut. If he reads zone he will try to make eye contact with the QB and find the window between the linebackers to catch the football. If he reads man he will burst and sprint away from his defender.

With this in mind, one can see why the Buckeyes are now utilizing this play--it takes advantage of  Jake Stoneburner's receiving talents.  Similar to what the Indianapolis Colts like to do, Ohio State can hold the linebackers and safeties with the sprint draw fake and then hit Stoneburner on the skinny post.  OSU ran this play repeatedly during the Spring Game with Pryor throwing to Stoneburner.  In particular, this play caught my attention then:
Building on this, the most promising thing I saw in the Spring Game was a Pryor to Stoneburner connection on the 3-verticals route.  The defense was playing a cover-2 man under.  As described in the above article, Stoneburner read the cover 2 and broke to the post.  Pryor read this perfectly, stepped up into the pocket, and delivered a strike before Stoneburner broke on his cut.  It was very well executed and bodes well for OSU this year.
 The Sprint Draw 3-verticals pass play also gives OSU the ability to give the defense an unbalanced look and run the play virtually unchanged, as can be seen above in the fall practice clip.  A defense seeing an unbalanced look with naturally think run play, and the run fake will only further underscore that belief.  For the offense, the WR responsibilities are simply altered, with the inside receiver to the unbalanced twins side becoming the middle WR.  Below you can see this play against PSU and how PSU's safeties were held in place by the run fake.


Tressel and company have done a nice job recently mixing unbalanced looks with more 'open' spread and pro-style concepts, confusing defenses who are thinking run first.  This trend will likely continue this fall. 



  1. Good stuff. The more educated OSU fans are, perhaps they'll post fewer moronic comments. Maybe not.

  2. This stuff is extremely informative. Knowledge is power haha

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. To Steve, I like your thinking. However, the morons may be few, but they are vocal. Their collective lack of knowledge is in direct proportion to their volume and voracity.

    To BoulderBuck, excellent work as always, keep it coming please!

  5. IIRC, there was a 3 verticles play in the Rose Bowl that sounds an awful like the one you are describing to Sanzenbacher. It was run out of the shotgun though. Unfortunately he broke inside at the goal line and Pryor threw as if he was going to break outside. In your opinion, who messed up there?

    (it was at 6:45 in the 3rd qtr)

  6. I always love to watch college football every time the season comes but seeing those hard tackle makes me ouch!