Gap schemes found their way into the RPO world. But they require a different approach than the initial wave of inside zone. Learn how to stress the defense from four top offensive minds.
The first wave of RPO saw the inside zone, and zone runs in general, as the run portion of the RPO. They were simple, allowed for every gap to be accounted for in blocking responsibilities, and fit well for many spread offenses. It was, and still is, the easiest way to use RPO. But with the trend towards more 11, 12, and 21 personnel groups, it didn’t take long for Gap Scheme RPOs to find their way into the RPO world.
Gap schemes do require a different approach though. In gap schemes, the pullers essentially move the gaps to a location in a formation. The movement of the pullers induces linebackers to move to fit those gaps which makes it attractive for RPO.
North Alabama Head Coach Brent Dearmon describes the understanding necessary for the QB in his execution of the Gap Scheme RPO by identifying what he calls the “Hot Gap”.
As he explains, “You can’t serve two masters.” In other words, each player can only be responsible for one gap.
With this understanding, the QB can avoid being hit while executing a Gap Scheme RPO. It gives the offense a sound approach to using the gap scheme with RPO. Coach Dearmon explains it in this video:
This helpful coaching point allows an offense to remain sound with the gap scheme as a run in the RPO. The other approach, which gives the offense a hat on a hat, is utilizing a QB run with the RPO.
Let’s take a look at three well-designed QB Gap Scheme RPOs.
1) QB Power RPO
2021 National Champion Ferris State is at the top of NCAA D2 offensive rankings every year, featuring a strong QB running game.
In general, the QB run game balances numbers, but why not provide the QB with safe options and numbers advantages by putting that run into an RPO.
That’s exactly what Ferris State likes to do, and OL Coach/Run Game Coordinator Sam Parker explains it here:
2) QB Counter with Screen
A simple way to stress the defense from 20 personnel is to motion one of the backs out and swing him for a screen. The motion puts numbers to the perimeter, causing the defense to bump and move the linebackers away from their run fits.
It creates a simple read for the QB and opens up the running lane inside if the defense doesn’t honor the swing screen on the perimeter. Olivet Offensive Coordinator Calvin Renfroe explains it here:
3) QB Counter with TE Pop
Coach Eric Marty has created a tight end driven offense, which he utilizes to shred defenses. Behind this high-powered offense, he’s climbed from JUCO to the FCS and now to the professional level in the USFL as the Michigan Panthers OC. One of his concepts that puts extreme stress on Quarters coverage is the QB Counter RPO with TE Pop Pass.
This concept creates big play potential. The QB run immediately creates a plus-one without the fit. The Mike has to fit as well. His guard key pulls left, and if he goes, then the Y is open in a void on the pop. Coach Marty explains:
RPO continues to evolve in every type of offense. For teams who like to run the QB, it’s a great way to stress a defense with the extra hat that can be devoted to run and pass attachments that take advantage of leverage, early triggers on fits, and numbers advantages given by defenses trying to stack the box.