Inside the Playbook - Ohio State Sequencing with Throwback

I talked previously about how teams sequence the throw back into their run and boot game. By threatening run, boot, and throwback, you maintain a threat over the full field. In the Buckeye's opening game against Minnesota in 2021, they actually started attacking Minnesota with the throwback plays before even really delving into the boot action. Seeing how Minnesota reacted to the stretch action and boot action, Ohio State felt that they could win their matchups with their WRs in a space.

Let's take a look at how OSU attacked three of the four levels in their throw back game.

RB Rail, TE Delay

An inversion of the standard "Leak" concept. What I like about this is that the initial alert is the RB running the rail. I've often talked about how the most forgotten person on the field is the player that just received the fake handoff. Defenses naturally eliminate that player as an eligible receiver, and as such, he often becomes the most dangerous person on the field.

But the TE delay also allows the offense to really sell to boot action, by letting the TE run his initial zone track and pin the defense inside, prior to leaking across the field on a drag route. This whole picture creates a fairly easy high-low read for the QB, and results in a nice gain.

From a formation/motion standpoint, there are also a couple other intricacies worth noting here. OSU starts off in what looks like an unbalanced quad look. This will often induce a check from the defense as it is a unique alignment, often with someone covered presnap. There is a TV angle that shows that the outside WR is off the LOS, but notice how the outside WR, slot, and #3 initially are at different levels, which can give the appearance that the TE is actually covered here.

The motion across the formation, and on-line, makes it a legal formation and balanced. But there is limited time to communicate the initial call, if Minnesota would choose to, before the ball is snapped. This lack of ability to communicate, especially on a play like a throw back, can make executing assignments very challenging.

And you see that. The safety blitzes. The CB carries the single-side WR on the post, and then it's favorable matchups for OSU with their RB and TE against LBs who were initially threatened by weak run action through the LOS (though you can see they are not trying to hard sell the run action, that's because they want the defense to really focus on rotating to the boot action), and then a roll out.

Deep Over

This one is a more pure iteration of leak, with a deep over replacing the TE leak path. But, at the end of the day, it is double post pulling the defense to the roll side of the play, with the deep over attacking the deep opposite third of the field.

Some other aspects that stand out about this play include the TE short motion from a wide position to a wing position. First, this should help determine if you're facing man coverage or zone, which is more critical given this isn't a pure TE leak route, but instead a deep over. TE leak is pretty immune, because the TE gets lost in coverage either way. The X-Over is less likely to get lost, so it likely will draw the QB's eyes to one of the post throws first (or at least get there quicker).

The short motion also has the benefit of being a pretty decent run tell. That short crack motion is common, especially for a gap scheme, which OSU also sells by pulling a guard.

The short motion is also a natural way to end up in a condensed set to that side of the field. Generally what that means is that the X is going to have inside leverage against his defender, making him likely to get separation even if they face man coverage.


This is the Buckeye's way of attacking the third of four throw back zones: deep middle. Traditionally, you think throw back, and you think opposite side of the field. But as noted in my previous post on sequencing, one of the ways defenses help reduce open grass vs the roll out is to have the deep safety work forward to support any crossers. This can leave open area behind them that can be exploited.

This play is nothing like Leak, but instead takes advantage of the overall center of gravity of the QB rolling and routes leaning into what looks like a traditional roll out distribution (flood, smash, etc.).

I think the key nuance here is that the F-WR does not oversell the corner route. Why? It's about getting to the middle of the field (MOF) fast. It's open. He doesn't need to waste time selling the corner route and having something happen, he just wants to lean his body to the corner to get the safety leaning, and then attack the middle of the field and gain separation.

Here, if the throw back isn't open, the deep come back and the dig become options for the QB to hit.


Here's an additional throwback vs Georgia


Without even heavily featuring a roll out game, OSU went to the throw back with huge success. Minnesota, thinking that OSU may try to simplify things for their new QB with rollouts, was overly aggressive in trying to close down space. The result, the Buckeye's extremely talented receivers were able to operate in space and make big, explosive plays in the throw back game.

Elsewhere - LINK


Popular posts from this blog

Football Fundamentals: Twins Passing Concepts

Football Fundamentals: The Tite Front Defense

Football Fundamentals: 2x2 and Mirrored Passing Concepts