Coach’s Opinion: How to Best Utilize your QUARTERBACK

Coach Tony DeMeo Advice for the Coaches, Coach's Opinion Leave a Comment

One of the most common questions I get on the clinic circuit is: “What do you do if you don’t have a running quarterback?” Of course I would like to have a quarterback that throws like Montana and runs like Jim Brown but somehow those guys are kind of rare. So a key ingredient to a successful offense is to adapt it to the personnel you have.

I have witnessed many coaches go to an option-style attack when they have a running QB or an “Air Raid” or “run and shoot offense” when they have an exceptional passer. I’ve also seen coaches try to install a Wing-T playbook because they did not have a talented quarterback. Some of these coaches have actually had some success with this method. However, the problem is they never accumulate “banked reps” which is the key to building skill.

Craig Strobeck

Marcus Mariota could do it all…

So even though adapting to your quarterback is very important, the rest of the unit will suffer by going from a “flexbone” offense to an Air Raid offense and vice-versa. This is because all the reps your offense had at the previous offense are now thrown out of the window and you are starting at square one all over again.

O.K., so what is the answer? Do you keep slinging the ball around the field with a quarterback who couldn’t hit the ocean from a boat? Do you just insist on scheme over ability? How do you adapt and adjust to maximize the ability of all your players?

The way to have the ability to adapt and adjust is to have a flexible offense. This is one of the reasons I am such a big believer in the Triple Gun offense. The option can adapt to any style of quarterback. During my first year at the University of Charleston, I inherited a big, strong quarterback that never ran the option in his life. He was a drop-back QB. He wasn’t a great runner but he was smart. UC had won only a total of five games total in the previous two years.

We adapted the Gun Triple emphasizing the give and the pitch and we threw the ball more frequently using our quick game almost as a run. UC went 8-3 in our first year, the biggest turnaround in conference history without an option quarterback. Our quarterback had a great year and set several school passing records. The ability to have a comprehensive passing attack while being able to run the option from the shotgun makes it simple to adapt your style of attack regardless of your personnel.

After two years our starting QB was a 5’7” quick running quarterback. We adapted our offense to fit his talents without changing the rest offensive unit’s skill set or techniques. So everyone benefited from “banked reps” and our offense continued to grow and become more productive. The 5’7″ QB set the conference pass efficiency record twice the second time an astonishing 189. He also accounted for 89 touchdowns in his three years as a starting quarterback.

My last year we had a true freshman burst on the scene and we gradually brought him along and he started the last three games of the season. In one game he came off the bench in the second quarter while we were trailing 14-0 and he led us to a 44-34 victory. In that game he became the first player in conference history to rush and throw for over 200 yards in the same game.

John Giustina

Junior quarterback Akili Smith slowly grew into the starting role for Oregon over the 1997 season

How did he develop so fast? We did what he could do while working on the other aspects of his game. We used his strengths and compensated for his weaknesses. We stayed away from complicated audible packages and simplified his triple reads. The passing game was also trimmed to use a handful of concepts that he was comfortable with and we emphasized his escapes if he was in doubt. Ball security is always the first priority (see meaningful stats).

As you can see the exact same offense was successful with three very distinct types of quarterbacks that created three different styles of the same offense. So even though we adapted to the quarterback’s abilities all the rest of the offensive unit kept using the same techniques and continued to benefit from their “banked reps.”

The difference between the Triple Gun and other system offenses like the pure flexbone or the Air Raid and “run and shoot” is that it is multi-dimensional, thus it’s a more flexible attack that can adapt to the personnel. If you’re running The Air Raid offense and don’t have a passing QB — you better have a great punter. If you’re running the flexbone and your QB is not a good runner, you are also in some trouble. The same is true if your QB goes down with an injury. It’s easier to have a capable back-up with the Triple Gun because you can use the part of the menu best suited for that particular QB.

Another advantage of being a multi-dimensional offense is it gives you the ability to exploit a weakness. A team may have a cornerback playing with two broken legs but if you can’t throw the ball, it doesn’t matter. Or a team may be a terrible run defense but if you have zip for a running attack no one will ever know. A weakness is only a weakness if you can exploit it.

Our menu includes six main areas

Tony DeMeo and his Team.

1. The hub of the offense is the Gun Triple – based on your QB’s run ability you can adapt the reads (keep unless or pitch unless). This play is a complete run game in itself thus giving you more time to develop your pass game.
2. The Quick Game – it doesn’t take Joe Montana to throw a hitch route. The quick game is a great compliment to the Gun Triple and spreads a defense..
3. The Power Game – QB ISO and base give. (See the article updating the ISO HTTP:// )
4. The Play Action Pass Game – another obvious compliment to the Gun Triple. This can be devastating with a talented passer but any QB can be an effective passer throwing to wide open receivers.
5. The Counter & Jet Sweep Game – the Jet Sweep is a great way to get outside without using your QB. The Half Reverse exploits an aggressive defense without using the QB to get outside.
6. The Drop-back Game – you need this part of the Offense even if you don’t have a talented passer. Having the “QB draw escape” is a great weapon for a running QB.

This simple six prong attack builds flexibility in your offense while developing consistency. You get all the benefit of banked reps while having the capability to adapting the offense to the skills of your quarterback.

Coach Tony DeMeo
Charleston, West Virginia

Top Photo by Craig Strobeck

For more coaching insight from Coach Tony DeMeo, be sure to visit 

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