Inside the Playbook - A-Gap Power

 In this post, we're going to look at A-Gap Power. A-Gap Power itself is not new. As I detailed in "History and Evolution: Power O", what we know today as standard power was really the B/C gap constraint to the more traditionally Power Sweep. But by the late 70s and early 80s, you started to see variants of A-Gap Power schemes appear as teams wanted to protect their off tackle runs by showing a puller, but hitting inside. Teams like NDSU and Wyoming made a lot of hay off a specific type of A-gap Power, and as they've had success and their former coaches and disciples and knowledge have branched out all across football, you see this specific type of A-Gap Power arise elsewhere. This post is going to go over a few of the basics of A-Gap Power.


Let's first differentiate what is now traditional "C-Gap Power" from A-Gap Power.

Just because Power hits the A-Gap, doesn't make it A-Gap power. While what we know of today as standard Power is an A-to-B-to-C-to-D gap run, normally, it's going to hit around the C gap. That is just the nature of the play design, where the front side is focused on blocking down and sealing the backside by forming a wall, and then kicking out and pulling around to take the remaining two players to the playside to cut the defense in half. You build a wall and hit the crease:

This philosophy has made it easily adaptable, and today most team's have a form of Power within their offense. There are many ideas for defending power, but for the most part it comes with getting guys through, over, or under that wall to gain numbers back playside. As defenses begin to fast flow to account for the new gaps playside, they can leave themselves vulnerable behind it. Play action, counter, bootleg, false pulls all take advantage of that over-flow. A-Gap Power is another means - though more subtle - of doing the same. 

A-Gap Power hits A-Gap to A-Gap, or behind that fast flow. You are forcing the LBs to see the pull and miss-fit the play too far playside. As former Stanford Offensive Linemen  and highest rated OL in NCAA 2013 Sam Schwartzstein (with credit to Owen Riese and Peter Jennings)

So let's break down the four primary things that differentiate A-Gap Power and Traditional Power namely:

  1. Lateral Combo Block
  2. Frontside TE block
  3. FB Path
  4. Puller's Path/Target

Lateral Combo Block vs Vertical Combo Block

On both forms of Power, there is going to be some lateral movement on the combo. Power is rarely like an Inside Zone combo block that works directly North-South. But traditional power is much more focused on cutting off the backside flow. To improve the angles for this, the vast majority of the time, you want the outside person to displace the down defender onto the inside lineman (so for example, for a LT-LG combo block, the LT will push the DT inside the LG; the LG will become the "post" blocker and stay on the DT, while the LT then climbs for the backside LB). Sometimes it doesn't work that way, but that is the desired outcome by far. Now, I've talked in a few twitter clips that if the flow is coming fast, the combo shouldn't speed up to cut the LB off, let him overrun the play and then help him over run the play. That part is similar, but...

On A-Gap Power, that combo block is focused on getting lateral displacement, clearing out the A-gap of the down defender. That means the combo block will stay longer on the first level, it means the outside OL is going to help the inside OL even as that down defender is further inside. If a 3T is going to work back into the OT, the OG is going to leave and work down the LOS first, looking for the backside A-gap defender coming to him. If the playside A-Gap defender slants into the B gap, the OG will work directly to the backside LB and let the OT handle the new B-gap defender. All of this is because the angle to the backside of the defense is less important than standard power, it's more about clearing out the A-gap.

In other words, traditional power will see a playside Deuce Block (OT-OG combo block to backside LB) from a 4i-Technique to maybe a 2-Technique or maybe a 2i-Technique. A lateral combo block in A-Gap Power is going to be a combo block from a 3-Technique to a 0-Technique. We are clearing out the A-Gap by all means necessary. And so that we're clear, there is no working back to a 4i by the PSG. If the down defender is in a 4i, the OG is either going to help the Center on a NT with an Ace block, or he's going to work to the BSLB directly. Similarly, the OT will never work out to a C-gap defender. If a 4i loops outside, the OT is working to the backside LB. The first level combo's don't work outside, they stay going lateral and backside.

TE Block

With traditional Power, the attached TE is typically responsible for taking care of their inside gap up to the backside LB. If there is a 5-Technique, they will Trey Block (TE-OT combo) to the backside LB. If there is a 9-Technique and a 5-Technique, the OG-OT will combo to the Backside LB, the TE will down block to the MIKE (see: Power O vs Over Front)

There is no Trey block in A-Gap Power. Instead, the TE is going to kick out the first defender outside of him on the LOS, or arc/climb-and-seal to any overhang to keep them outside. There are instances of this on traditional power (namely, it's a tactic vs a 6-Technique

But this always happens with A-Gap Power. 

FB Path

Whereas on traditional Power, the FB is going to kickout the first defender outside the TE. Now, the FB is responsible for the first defender that appears in the C gap, or in other words, the first outside the PST (play side Tackle). If this is a 5-Technique, he is kicking out the 5-Technique. If there is no 5-Technique, he is going to lead up to the playside LB and make sure no one on the front side is able to collapse down on the play.

Opposite Guard - Fit Player

This really isn't all together different than traditional Power. We always write up on paper the wrapper leading up the playside LB. The reality is, if the playside LB is plugging fast into the C gap, the TE will block down on him and the wrapper will "fit" first off color. If first off color appears in the hole is a DL that some how got missed, the puller isn't going to bypass them just to get to their LB. What is different is how the backside guard will fit up. 

With traditional power, the guard is going to pull and traditionally turn up at the first clear path to that playside LB. Whether they square/skip pull or traditional pull, often times this is going to be outside the combo block, and the puller will keep sliding out a gap until that path is clear (to the point that if the kickout player "logs" the the EMOL, the pull will wrap even around that).

On A-Gap Power, the puller will not go beyond the B-Gap. Wherever you can work up, you are doing it in the A-Gap or B-gap and getting vertical. And now, rather than reading the defender to determine if your hat is going to be inside or outside the defender, on A-Gap power, the puller's helmet is always inside (to the backside of the play) the LB. Why? Because most teams teach Lever-Spill-Lever rules, meaning that LB is trying to spill the ball outside. A-Gap Power does not spill, it goes A-Gap to A-Gap. So the puller will always force the defense past the play so it can be hit behind it.

In the event color appears in the hole? Fine, work right through it into the LB. This is called "double bumping". We will help the single block on our path vertical. But the puller doesn't continue outside, it hits vertical.



 X's and O's Lab

One part I really like hearing Coach Fuchs talk about is the "timing" and "pace" of the combo block. You don't want that tackle engaging the down defender too quickly, you want that defender to feel like he's being single blocked. Then the tackle attacks the hip (never the core of the body because you don't want those shoulders turning). 

This is done by executing a "skate step" technique. This "skate step" sets the OT's path while ensuring his feet stay behind his hips, maintaining his power while not getting onto the down defender too quickly.

Lots of other great information in there.

A-Gap Variation


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