The flexbone offense and the option run game are synonymous with one another. However, most coaches refrain from running the option because they fear that the mesh and the pitch increase the rate of turnovers. They think it’s too risky. But many of these same coaches don’t hesitate to install pass-heavy schemes and throw the ball every play. They’re one and the same; it’s just about philosophy.
This article is taken directly from our video series: The Modern Flexbone Offense: The Complete Series.
Watch the video below or keep reading to learn more.
Overview of the Mesh and the Pitch
Like any aspect of the game, the mesh and the pitch must be repped daily to maintain comfort and confidence. The physical mechanics of the option must be established before any type of read is introduced. Flexbone playcaller Scott Dieterich, who has run the system for over 20 years and has won multiple state championships, emphasizes that the players must be able to feel what the mechanics are in an almost innate way. Dieterich goes as far as having his Quarterbacks do drills with their eyes closed.
Within the mechanics of the option, the Quarterback is the trigger man. He’s the player that executes the reads. However, the Quarterback is not the end-all-be-all when it comes to the success of the option. There are two other players–the Fullback on the dive and the Slotback on the pitch–who need to execute their jobs the right way. For the Fullback to do his job, he needs to find the proper crease in the line of scrimmage depending on the type of option being run (midline or veer). The Slotback is responsible for sustaining a 5-yard wide, 1-yard deep pitch relationship with the Quarterback at every moment during the pitch phase. With these other cogs in the option running smoothly, it makes the Quarterback’s job significantly easier.
Teaching the QB-FB Mesh
Dieterich makes it a point to teach the mesh from the endpoint first. By seeing and feeling the finished product, the Quarterback and the Fullback understand what needs to be done. It cuts down on install time and frustration. From that point on, the Quarterback and Fullback know what each drill is supposed to accomplish.
Ball security is first and foremost when it comes to the mesh. In addition to the physical aspects of ball security, there are mental components to it as well. The fundamental part is to keep four strong hands on the football. When there are four strong hands on the football, there is less of a chance of it popping out.
The mental aspect of the mesh comes into play when teaching the Quarterback how to treat the mesh: he controls the mesh while the Fullback reacts to his decision. There is no “if-then” thinking when it comes to making a read, which eliminates a lot of the hesitancy. Instead, Dieterich tells his Quarterbacks that they need to have a 1-way thought process when making a read. It’s common for a lot of option coaches to install the option with a “give unless” or a “pull unless” rule that allows the Quarterback to make more decisive decisions.
Quarterback Basic Mesh Fundamentals
The pre-snap process for the Quarterback begins and ends with the understanding who the dive key is. To have a successful mesh, the Quarterback has to know who he’s reading in the first phase of the option. Where is he lined up? What’s his demeanor? These are the questions that need to be asked before the ball is snapped.
Once the ball is snapped, the Quarterback’s first step, his eyes shooting to the dive key, and the extension of the ball all happen at the same time. It’s an efficient movement that occurs repeatedly before a game is every played. “The ball goes from butt to gut” reinforces the point that as soon as the Quarterback receives the snap, it is put into the Fullback’s belly.
Whether it’s a midline or veer mesh, the Quarterback has to extend the ball “flat on the table” to ensure a clean exchange. If the ball is going to miss the Fullback on the handoff, it needs to miss wide. This way the arms act as a shock absorber for the inevitable contact and the ball doens’t end up on the ground.
The mesh window is where a decision is made. As the ball travels from the Quarterback’s back hip to his front hip, he has to determine whether to give or pull the ball. Whichever decision is made needs to be strong and decisive.
Fullback Basic Mesh Fundamentals
Similar to the Quarterback, the Fullback’s pre-snap process starts with identifying the dive key. After that is done, he needs to properly identify the crease (or running lane) that he needs to hit post-snap. On his first step after the snap, he points his toe toward the create while sustaining his pre-snap pad level. His second step follows the first step while he makes a pocket for the ball with his arms at the meshpoint. By his third step, he turns into a track runner.
It’s important to establish the proper mindset at the meshpoint. The Fullback thinks give and reacts to the pull. On a give, he gets vertical and keeps both arms around the ball until he’s through the second level of the defense. On a pull, the Fullback has to run like he still has the ball to attract the attention of the defense.
Here is a list of common mistakes that can be addressed before they occur…
- Always seat the ball; don’t look at the Fullback during the mesh or else you’ll be late with the read
- Clear the midline and sink on the veer mesh
- Cannot step under yourself at the snap
- Focus on the crease; don’t put your eyes on the ball at the meshpoint
- React to the Quarterback’s decision instead of taking the ball