Developing an RPO Offense Part 4: Using Same Side Running Back Formations

Do you want to run a run pass option offense, but your quarterback isn’t exactly the dual threat type?  One of the best ways to get your RPO going is to use two backs.  And one of the most effective ways to run an RPO offense with two backs is with a same side alignment.  I’m going to detail three concepts that can take your RPO game to the next level, even if you don’t have that running QB that most coaches think you need to be run pass option.

The same side back alignment does two things for your offense that I really like.  For one, it always puts the QB’s eyes towards the two receiver side during the mesh, which is how he is able to pull and throw while making his post-snap read.  The second, and probably most important, is that this alignment allows you to run the ball to both sides of the formation while looking overloaded to one side.

Inside Zone

I’ve covered inside zone concepts in some of my previous posts (here and here).  But, the same side, two back inside zone is one of my favorite inside zone concepts.


The defense will have to declare its strength to the left side of our offensive formation.  This is perfect for running the inside zone because we want to run to the right side A gap.  The QB’s key coaching points are: pre-snap he will check the solo receiver side for the tagged route or he can hand signal the route he likes to the solo receiver.  If the pass is there pre-snap, he can go ahead and throw that.  Post-snap he will get his shoulders turned parallel to the sideline to mesh with the back.  His eyes should flip immediately to the overhang player, like so:

QB Mesh.gif

This is a key coaching point that many coaches ignore.  The mesh angle of the QB allows him to get his eyes flipped to his snap and pull out quickly if he decides to pull and throw.

If the overhang comes up to play run, the QB will pull out of the mesh and throw the ball to the #2 receiver.  The bubble screen is just an example of a concept you can run (and I’ve included that just for the sake of examples).  You can pick and choose your own quick game concept that best fits your offense or weekly game plan.

IZ H Slide.JPG

A variation of the same play is the H arrow.  Instead of kicking out the end, the H back will chip the outside shoulder of the end and get immediately into the flat.


Power is a base play in most offenses.  It’s a versatile scheme that can be used in multiple personnel groupings and in just about every formation.


The running back on this play will take a slide step towards the QB, making sure to keep his shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage.  He then follows the pulling guard who is wrapping for the play side linebacker.  As we discussed in our inverted power article, the guard should be wrapping with the intention of kicking the linebacker out, not wrapping.  Power should hit downhill and when the linebacker is wrapped it causes the back to have to bounce outside.

The QB’s coaching points are the same as on inside zone. Pre-snap he will check the solo receiver side for the tagged route or he can hand signal the route he likes to the solo receiver.  If the pass is there pre-snap, he can go ahead and throw that.  Post-snap he will get his shoulders turned parallel to the LOS and check the overhang player for pass/give.

Counter Trey

Counter Trey out of a same back formation is what makes it all work.  Without a counter to all of the strong side run game, defenses would load up to the heavy side of the formation.  But, this old school Joe Gibbs play that revolutionized football in the 1980s is one of the schemes that schools like Auburn and Ohio State use to make their run game deadly. Gibbs ran his Counter Trey from under center with a tight end and an H Back:


These days you see high schools, college teams, and even the pros (see my article on the Chiefs’ offense here) are using the shotgun counter trey to gash defenses.  The same side counter trey works with basically the same receiver action as the plays diagrammed above:

Counter Trey

The QB has the same pre-snap read to the solo receiver side.  He can read the cornerback for press, off, outside, or inside alignment to determine what route he likes for the solo receiver. If he decides to progress to the run portion of the play, he’s going to go through the same progression discussed above.  The running back is going to delay one quick count and then follow the H Back through the hole.  The H Back is looking to kick the play side linebacker, the same as the pulling guard would on power.  The play side defensive end is trapped by the backside guard.

One key coaching point for both a pulling guard or H Back wrapping on counter or power: make sure that they are slightly deeper in the backfield than the trap blocker.  The wrap blocker needs to eye the trapper to get up the field.  Often times the wrap blocker gets hung up because they are closer to the line of scrimmage than the trapper and are unable to get a tight wrap off the down blocks.  Being a little deeper than the trapper allows him to get his eyes on the play side linebacker and hug the down block to ensure the linebacker cannot run through the hole underneath him and force the bounce. Here’s an example of what the wrap should look like:

Counter Trey

The running back could have hit this a little more vertical if he waited on his H Back to kick the play side linebacker, but I’m sure their coaches weren’t complaining about the results of this play.

Ohio State his used this play from a variety of looks.  Oregon fans will remember Ezekiel Elliott gashing the Ducks’ defense during the national championship game with this play:

Counter Trey Fly Motion

There you have it.  A series of three plays that can hit the defense up the middle, off tackle to either side of the formation, attack the perimeter with quick passes to the solo receiver side, or through post snap quick passes to the two receiver side of the formation.  Obviously, there are many more plays that you can run from this formation.  For youth coaches, this series should be enough to keep your opponents on their toes.  For high school and college coaches, there are going to be a multitude of schemes that you can employ from this set.  I’ll be breaking down some more plays from this formation in the future.


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