The Slot-T offense is well known for tight splits, condensed formations and a powerful inside run game.
However, when the defense packs in tight, this opens up a lot of opportunities for runs to the outside, and this is what the pitch play is designed to do.
Follow along as Coach Shawn Liotta explains how they coach this play.
Watch the video or keep reading to learn more.
Explaining the Pitch Play
Let’s say for example that we’ve been attacking inside between the tackles quite a bit and have forced the defense to respect the interior run game.That’s when we can use our pitch play to get the ball to the outside, which is the red area on the diagram we showed earlier. This isn’t something we use frequently, but it’s important to keep the opposing team on their toes.
The halfback is going to come in “Tom” motion (basically what a lot of people call orbit motion), who will run through the fullback's feet and stay about five yards wide waiting for the pitch.
We don’t want the ball to be pitched back in like a traditional toss play where the ball comes out right away.. Instead, the quarterback should open up and the fullback will give a fake to the dive straight up the middle.
The quarterback will carry out that fake and then chest pass the ball as wide as possible to the tailback. The halfback will take one step forward, which makes it look similar to his Iso block on the lead play, and then run as flat and wide as possible down the line of scrimmage. He should aim to reach the outside shoulder of the widest defensive player.
Remember, the opposing team may not have a player positioned very wide out here if they’ve been playing tight to stop the runs between the tackles.
If they do have defensive backs positioned wide out here, that’s a big advantage for the offense since you’ll really be playing eleven against eight or nine, which is huge when you run the ball as much as we do. If they're doing that, it means they have a free safety and two corners which you should be able to take advantage of.
The halfback will take one step forward then run flat, and laterally, while aiming for the outside shoulder of the widest defensive player. This forces that defender to make an angle tackle even if he gets close to you in the backfield, and we like that matchup. Everyone else on the line will "shot and scoop." This means they’ll "shot" out and then turn their body to the outside for the scoop block. Everyone else will use a "hard scoop" technique and run hard to work across the field.
Pitch Play Examples on Film
Let's take a look at a couple of "mirror" plays. Sometimes, perimeter blocking may not be great, but it’s important to get the pitch out wide and force the defense to account for the entire width of the field.
We already know we have an advantage just by looking at the alignment of the defense to our formation, and that the opposing team is trying to take away everything inside the box and the initial action. The initial dive fake also holds the linebackers and forces them to attack downhill.
(This is not a triple option play, but we don’t mind if the defense thinks it is.)
The reality is that the quarterback is not reading anyone, he's just chest passing the ball as wide as possible. There is nothing else to it, it's really simple. The halfback needs to do a good job catching the ball.
This play on the goal line is one where the halfback tries to do too much. Even if we don't block anyone on the perimeter, we should still score on this play here. Instead, our halfback tries to be too aggressive and doesn't run to the defender’s outside shoulder. We always teach them, It's important to take one step, run flat, and aim for two yards outside of the widest defensive player.
On this play he comes straight to the defender, instead of taking an inside path, which results in a holding call. This was on fourth and goal, and we can't afford to make mistakes like that in a critical situation.
We ended up in fourth and 15 and did not score, and ultimately wound up losing the game. The halfback could have literally walked into the end zone, but instead he failed to execute the play properly. We don't want to put ourselves in a position where we're trying to do too much and making mistakes that cost us the game, so we like to use this one as a teaching clip of what not to do.
When we call the pitch play we’re aiming for 5-7 yards per attempt. If we can hit that metric it opens up a lot of things inside for us.
It’s just like any other offense you run, and for us in the passing game, if we're able to sting them a couple of times, we’ll see a different defensive alignment.
We also have another wrinkle where we will run the same pitch play on the goal line but just tell the QB to keep it. We like this down in this part of the field since the QB run game gives you a +1 and that’s even more valuable when you’re just inches away from the goal line.
See our full series on the Slot-T Offense