Thursday, March 19, 2015

Football Fundamentals: The Many Iterations of Power O

Lots of people talk about the multiplicity afforded by a zone scheme. It can be run from a single back set or it can be run with several backs; it can be run in a straight forward way or with various tags; it can go to the strong side or the Weakside of the formation; and you can incorporate a couple of these aspects into a read based scheme. But the Power O scheme is really no different. Power O, at its heart, can feature any of the facets described above but maintain its principles. In this article, we are going to look at the many ways that Power O can be incorporated into an offense.


Blocking Power O with 21 Personnel
Basic (Strongside/Closed) Power O
When you think of Power O, you probably think of a strongside run with 21 personnel, down-blocks and doubles on the front side and a kick block from a FB. Seven man front or eight man front, you don’t have to be terribly concerned. Power O works because it seals a defense away from the play and adds multiple blockers at the point of attack.

Here's video of Wisconsin running standard, strongside Power O. Note that the SAM steps up to the LOS after the snap, so the pulling OG, rather than sealing him inside, uses the defenders momentum to push him outside.

And similar video of current Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh utilizing Power O while at Stanford

Weakside (Open) Power O
What is lost on many teams is the fact that you can run Power O to the Weakside just as well as you can the strong side (commonly referred to as “Stutter” or “Weakside Kick”). The main difficulty comes from the fact that the “kick” defender is a bit closer to the FB, making the angle of the FB a bit more difficult and bringing the backside A gap one gap closer to the play. Because of those things, many teams prefer to run Weakside Power O with a counter step to improve the angle and to hold the backside of the defense.

Here is Minnesota running Power O without the use of a TE (open side of the formation). You'll note how the angle the FB has to take to kick the playside DE changes.

Blocking Power O from Single-Back Sets
Power O with an H-Back
From a single back set, utilizing an H-back rather than a FB doesn’t differ for a standard Power O run scheme. Run toward the H-Back, the H-back will kick, similar to a FB. Run away from an H-back and he’ll seal the backside of the play, similar to a backside TE.

Using the H-back as a kick blocker has advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that he can get into his block quicker, forming a natural gap between the kick block and the down blocks that are associated with many schemes that don’t use a pulling lineman. This is essentially the same concept that comes when running something like Iso or an off-guard lead, but it pushes it to off-tackle (and, of course, still features the pulling backside OG). On the downside, the H-back doesn’t have nearly the momentum as a FB does. The defensive EMOL isn’t forced to think because he’s “passed up” on the LOS, but instead is engaged immediately.

Utilizing the H-back as a kick blocker works great against smaller, quicker DEs that are often able to constrict the hole by beating the FB to the spot; the H-back block gets there immediately. However, against stronger DEs it often struggles, as many TEs (or H-backs) aren’t strong enough to get push without the added advantage of the run up and delay due to having to think the situation out.

Single-Back Power O
Just as is done with an H-back, Power O can also be run out of a single-back set (often referred to as “Stutter” or “Wrap”). In this case, the offensive EMOL, or the playside OT, will act as the kick blocker. Similarly, if it is 11 personnel, the TE can be used as the kick blocker if the run is to the strongside.

Here's Nebraska Head Coach Mike Riley utilizing a single-back Power O scheme while at Oregon State.

Altering Power “O”
Tackle Power
Many zone teams, particularly ones that utilize stretch zone, don’t have OGs that at a high level pulling. If your best athletes and best linemen are at OT, you might want to run Power O by pulling the backside OT, often called Tackle Power (or referred to as “Dart” or “Wrap”). Many defenses work by reading through the OGs to the backfield. But utilizing down blocks playside all the way to the backside OG, every read for the LB is initially similar to stretch zone. Include a counter step, which also works to get the RB behind the OT, and this is a very dangerous play for defenses that over react.

Here's former Michigan OC Al Borges utilizing the Dart scheme to pull his more experienced OT (note that the OT gets way too much depth on his pull, which hurts the play at the point of attack).

Power H/F
Rather than pulling a backside guard, you can disregard pulling an offensive lineman all together and utilize a back for the same purpose. This is a “1st back kick” philosophy. Whichever back is closer to the playside will provide the kick block, while the 2nd back pulls through the gap and blocks the playside LB. You don’t have the power of being able to drive a LB out of the hole like you do when pulling a lineman, but you tend to be quicker to the hole, “pull” a guy with a better view of his target, and you don’t have to rely on a bit of a lesser athlete to pull across the formation and find his block.

Lead Power O
Power O H Lead
From either 22 or 21 personnel (with an H-back instead of Y-TE), Power O H Lead provides several advantages over a traditional Power O. The backside OG often times has pulling across the formation and getting out to block the SAM before he can crash down. The “H Lead” aspect allows the H back to take care of the SAM and for the pulling OG to work to the MIKE (who often has a more difficult read). This doesn’t somewhat mitigates the treat of a LB from a situation where he can “out-athlete” the OG (many OGs are told to get through the LOS as soon as they have a clear view and angle of the player they are assigned to block).

Likewise, it still has the benefits of utilizing a FB to kick the playside EMOL, which isn’t featured in a “1st man kick” playcall.

Power O Lead
Power O Lead (1st man kick) makes it so that the first back acts as the kick block and the second back, whether the H-back or the FB, lead blocks to the SAM. The pulling OG blocks the MIKE, similar to on Power O H Lead. Often times, this is a nice way to run to the “Weakside” or bring another extra blocker to the point of attack.

This video of Minnesota shows the H-back (Z-WR) acting as the kick block, while the FB leads into the hole.

Here's video of both Wisconsin running Power O to the weakside, using the FB as a kick blocker and the H-Back as a lead blocker.

Lead Power O
This is the same as Power O Lead, but it is a “2nd man kick” philosophy, with the first acting as a lead blocker on the SAM. This is less common, as it gives the defensive EMOL to the playside a better chance of squeezing the hole, making it harder to open up a gap. But it can be used. To the strongside it’s the same as Power O H Lead, to the Weakside, it can be used particularly if there is something to hold the playside DE such as an end-around threat combined with a counter step from the RB.

This is the same as the Wisconsin clip above, but instead with Michigan State running it.

Power O BOSS
This is a play that works just like Power O for the front seven, but utilizes a BOSS block to handle a safety coming down into a box. This is typically intended to bounce outside, but doesn't always (this means the idea of reading A gap to C gap for the RB should be adjusted accordingly).

Here, Minnesota runs it to the weakside of the formation, as the SS creeps up to match the H-back. There is potential for this play to bounce if the pulling OG can get across the formation to the WILL.

Crack Power O
Crack Power O serves as a nice way to show “Power O” but get to the outside. This is by utilizing a “Crack block” from a WR. In this section, we are talking about cracking the SAM LB and kicking the defensive EMOL. This make the initial point of attack the same as Power O, but it forms a natural cut for the RB to bounce the run outside.

Crack Power O Lead BOSS
Similar to Crack Power O, but now the crack block is on the playside DE. This provides an almost immediate bounce of the play. The H-back in this situation will Lead block to the SAM, sealing him inside, while the MIKE, still seeing Power O at the inception of the play, will work forward and is able to be blocked by the pulling OG. The FB can then exchange assignments and BOSS block a secondary player (in the event there isn’t a FB, Crack Power O Lead can also work as a play to bounce it, particularly for defenses that aren’t good at exchanging assignments off a crack block).

Incorporating a Read
Power Read
The Power Read (colloquially known as “Inverted Veer”) utilizing a frontside read as the kick blocker. Everything else remains the same as a standard Power O. Obviously, however, it is the QB that runs the traditional “Power O” runner, while the RB threatens the edge on a sweep play.

Here's OSU running Power Read where the QB keeps.

Lead Power Read
While it can be used with a Y-TE, most commonly this is a known adjustment for a team that utilizes an H-back. In that way, the H-back performs a lead block on the SAM (the backside OG pulls to the MIKE) and the read acts as the kick block.

Here's a link to a description of former 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh utilizing the Lead Power Read

Lead Read Power O
If your QB is having trouble reading the DE (whether the DE is closing on the mesh point too quickly for the QB to have a sufficient read or is simply too athletic for the QB), a viable way to help the QB is to move the read back to the 2nd level. The traditional Power Read utilizes the RB as an edge threat, often seeing the SAM bail to fill the alley and leverage the play back to the inside. This is a good way to take advantage of that.

Wrap Read
Wrap read is going to be the same play as the “Wrap” or “Tackle Power” play but with a read element. The most common way to run this is with the QB being the Power runner and treating the play more like a counter. In that way, the OT that is pulling naturally leaves the defender to read.

Here's Michigan running it as a read play against PSU

Power Read BOSS
This is a way of providing a BOSS block for the RB in the Power Read architecture. This prevents teams from running exchange schemes or DB blitzes off the edge and cleans up those alley filling defenders with a FB lead block on the edge. In this way, it simplifies the read for the QB, who now doesn’t have to worry about reading beyond his read.

Here's OSU running the Power Read against Indiana. Note that Indiana has all sorts of issues here and the front side is actually completely blocked even without the read element. But note that the H-back is aiming to block the alley fill defender (he is peaking inside first, showing that this probably isn't a BOSS block as is typically seen with a FB, but because of the lack of numbers for Indiana he eventually handles the DB coming off the edge).

Crack Power Read BOSS
Again, the same as previously designed, but this utilizes a Crack block on the SAM and prevents him from scraping across to follow the RB working outside. A FB can then act as a lead blocker on the exchange defender (or alley filling defender) such that the nominal play is to give the ball to the RB to the outside. Of course, the Power Read is still an option as well.

Here's Wisconsin running this read. Note that the crack blocker is looking for the player to come to him, while the FB works to the first defender flashing outside.

Power Read Lead BOSS
In general, this utilizes an H-Back to lead to the SAM leveland has a FB take care of the alley filling defender. This is supposed to help, regardless of the read, that the point of attack is well blocked.

Here's Michigan getting exactly what they wanted only to trip over their own feet.

Other Games
There are other options to put reads to the outside that don’t at all alter the Power Read portion of the play. In this way, you perform something akin to a BOSS block by having some sort of outside option. Former Nebraska OC and current Ohio State co-OC Tim Beck utilized both a speed option betweenthe RB and a flanker as well as a bubble screen option within the Power Read architecture.

Running From Gun/Split Backs
Away From Alignment
The standard way to run power from shotgun or from a split back look is to run it away from the RB’s initial alignment. His initial alignment actually puts him in a good position relative to the pulling OG. This can utilize pretty much any of the designs discussed above, whether two back, single back, or what have you.

Here's previous Michigan OC Doug Nussmeier utilizing a single back Power O scheme away from the alignment.

Here's Minnesota running it better with a Jet Sweep look

Toward Alignment
A common counter that teams are going to is to run standard power, but have the RB get even with the QB’s face before working back toward his initial alignment. This allows the offense to utilize a blocking scheme that is unaltered from a standard play, but introduces a counter element to get defensive flow.

Here's a too-close up view of MSU running Power O back toward the alignment against Oregon

We’ll get into more elements and variations for running Power O in the future, but what this article demonstrates is that, at heart, you can run the same play in a wide variety of ways to utilize different looks for the defense, get different amounts of players to the point of attack, and still run Power the way it was intended. More and more teams are reverting back to running man/gap blocking schemes after several years of zone blocking schemes being the primary blocking schemes for more and more teams. Being able to add variety within the same architecture makes Power O a powerful play to incorporate in any offense.

Below is a great video that shows many multiple ways of incorporating Power O. Most of them are from shotgun, but you see it run to and away from alignment and from pistol, you see it from the Wildcat formation, you see it run with the QB with the RB performing the kick block, you see it used to create a shovel pass. You see the way the RB footwork can change based on open or closed formation and initial alignment. Power O blocking can be used in so many ways, from speed option from 10 personnel to a Full House 23 personnel. It works. The video below shows this well (and has tons of Urban Meyer clips from his time at Florida).

And this video shows the variety of ways Wisconsin uses the same basic blocking scheme under center in a variety of ways to threaten the defense.


  1. After reading this I was thinking about base plays. Lets say a team has power as there base play. Would their playcalling not revolve around getting the power play to work by, using different blocking schemes (like listed above) to fix problems presented by the defense when stopping power?

    Example thought process: Trying to run power but it is getting stopped by DE who is too big for FB. So instead of a new play they just run power out of singleback to put the TE on the DE who is a better matchup.

    Would that be a sound approach to playcalling?

  2. Absolutely. As a play caller, you want to be able to do something well, and force the defense to react to it. By forcing the defense to react to it, you can then attack in other ways that you may not execute as well. But what if you're struggling for some reason to establish that base? The example you gave was a very good DE, and you are exactly right. You can go to a single back Power O, and block with a TE. You can run a weakside single back Power O and kick with an OT. You can option that DE. You can run Counter F and kick out the DE with a pulling G. All these are similar to your base, but in ways give you a different matchup that may allow you to establish what it is you want to do.