Every offense needs some sort of misdirection run play, and for Ferris State, it all starts with the GT Counter.
As we'll see in this article, it's not just the misdirection element that they love, it's also the ability to create angles and new threats for the read option run game.
Ferris State has one of the most unique and exciting offenses in college football today, and it's one of the biggest reasons they won the National Championship in Division 2 this season.
Coach Sam Parker, Ferris State offensive line coach and run game coordinator, has put together an incredible 6-part presentation on how they teach and install their unique spread offensive scheme.
See more on the Ferris State Offense here.
Ferris State GT Counter Read - Play #1
On this play we get a good look of one way Ferris State likes to add the threat of the triple option to what they do with the GT Counter scheme. This is something they love to do from their inside zone blocking scheme, but it can be just as dangerous when running gap schemes as well.
This first play goes for a huge run, and would’ve scored if the running back hadn’t tripped over his own feet late.
The two pullers are getting depth off the ball, and creating separation and depth between them and the other offensive linemen who are already actively engaged in blocks to their side of the play. One of the worst mistakes a puller can make on this play is to not get enough depth and run into one of the other three guys blocking, since those guys are pulling and don’t have to worry about an immediate threat. As he says, there’s no reason to be that close to anyone up front so that you’re at risk of running into them and blowing up the play before it really begins.
There’s no reason why the pullers have to crowd those guys to the frontside of the play, plus this also creates better angles and easier blocks for those guys as well.
The other important different between running a read from zone and a read from the GT counter is the difference in aiming points for the back, which means there is a bigger margin for error on the give.
In plain English what this means is that if the defense is trying to take away the give, they cannot try to “muddy” the read. The defensive end MUST crash hard down the line and make it obvious, otherwise he has very little chance of getting to the ball carrier after the handoff, because the ball is hitting so much wider than on the inside zone scheme.
In this example, the way the defensive end plays it would be more likely to force a keep from the quarterback if the offense was running zone instead of counter. However since the ball is hitting much further to the opposite side of the line on this counter play, that defensive end has much more ground to cover to make the play, and thus the quarterback can get away with handing it off much more often than against the same look on the inside zone read.
To the play side, the pulling guard turns the block on the defensive end from a trap at first into a “log”. Coach Parker always talks about going from a “trap to a log” when running this play, and the guard does a good job of showing what that means. His first intention is to trap the defender, but if he doesn’t feel like he gets inside of the defender enough to kick him out, he starts running his feet and tries to either take him vertical or just wash him down away from where the back is heading and off of the second puller’s path.
The second puller, the right tackle in this example actually does something he’s not really supposed to do, which is block two people, but it works out well. Coach Parker does not like it when his players try to block two people all alone, because then you usually end up blocking no one. This time is different however, and because both defenders are so close together, he’s able to get a piece of both of them and help spring the back for a huge gain.
Ferris State GT Counter Read - Play #2
Now on this version of the play, the offense is bringing the pitch man on counter motion to the backfield. Ferris State’s coaching staff works hard to make sure that they’re creating different looks out of their run game, presenting different threats and lining up the blockers and pitch men in different spots to keep the defense off balance.
(The full video goes into much more detail about this)
By bringing the #3 receiver into the backfield just before the snap and then reversing him out on the counter pitch path, you’re asking the defense to do a lot of communicating just before and just after the ball is snapped. This offense does a lot with the trips formation, including even putting the formation into the boundary at times to play games with the defense.
The ball is handed off because of the vertical upfield rush of the defensive end, and the defensive end to the opposite side comes hard up the field as well, creating an easy block for the pulling guard.
The defense (Valdosta State) does a great job of fitting the run and stuffing it, but because the offensive line also executes their assignments correctly this play picks up two yards against a well-coached defense.
This play is not all homerun threats, but when executed properly it can be very effective even against a defense the reacts quickly and plays well.
Ferris State GT Counter Read - Play #3
One of the most consistent themes you’ll come across when studying this offense is the way they like to line up in 11 personnel looks with 10 personnel, putting a slot receiver into an H-back alignment. We’ve already seen on the first play how they can use that guy in the H-back or sniffer spot to become a pitch threat in the option game, and on this play they do it again.
At the snap, the “H-back” retreats into a pitch phase position to the side of the read, and creates enough space to stretch out the pitch read, giving the QB room inside to keep the ball. After that, he uses his natural speed and acceleration to turn on another gear, and Ferris State picks up a touchdown.
Keep in mind that this is a run against an 8-man box. You have a four-down front, two linebackers, and two safeties, all within the tackle box. If this ball is handed off, it’s probably not going very far. However, since they’ve added a read element to this play, that allows the offense to have answers, and manufacture space for one of their best athletes in a situation where you have a lot of defenders packed in tight to the box.
You may not have a dynamic, speedy guy at the QB position like Ferris State, but if you have someone with even average athletic talent but makes great decisions, these are plays that can still generate 10-15 yard chunks for you.
Watch more clips from this presentation from Ferris State Offensive Line Coach and Run Game Coordinator Sam Parker as he breaks down the Ferris State Offense HERE.