Let’s Talk X’s & O’s: Run Pass Option

How the Run Pass Option (RPO) puts defenders on the horns of a dilemma!

The last of the four courses I recorded at the Arizona Cardinal’s Training Center for USA Football is entitled Run Pass Option (RPO).  We begin by recognizing that football is a cyclical game.  The “new” shoulder tackling we are now teaching is the same technique players used while wearing leather helmets.  The “new” RPO is the old option football.  The basis of the offense is to put a defending player in conflict. The conflict is ideally a confounding choice where either decision creates a  defensive vulnerability, and in a perfect world the defender’s dilemma results in confusion and indecision leaving your quarterback to decide between the best of 2 good alternatives.


The RPO is also not a new concept.  Teams have been giving the quarterback a Run or Pass Option in a pre-snap read at the line of scrimmage for more than 25 years with the Run or Bubble Screen Option.  Today’s RPO has evolved into a Post-Snap option and incorporates a downfield pass.  Both “old” and “new” lead to a number of concerns we address for the longevity of RPOs in football.

The Old RPO

2017-08-09 RPO 1

RPO Concerns:

  1. QB Post-Snap option read is expensive
  2. Illegal man downfield can almost always be called
  3. To avoid illegal man downfield or to allow for protection, the run blocking scheme must be altered
  4. If not altered, it is not a good pass protection screen, especially against the blitz
  5. Man coverage does not allow for a conflict player. You cannot throw and there is an unblocked player in the box

Today’s RPO

2017-08-09 RPO 2

The suggestion of using a Pin & Pull scheme to one side with the pass option to the other side is a recommendation to answer he aforementioned concerns:

Solving the Concerns:

  1. The Pin & Pull exchange is a lateral shuffle that allows for more time to read
  2. The pullers will not cross the line of scrimmage before 2 seconds.
  3. The scheme does not need to be altered for protection or illegal man downfield
  4. It is not a good pass protection scheme but it is better due to the change of launch point with the lateral shuffle exchange.
  5. Man coverage does not effect since it is an outside run away from the Pass side.

Pin & Pull RPO

2017-08-09 RPO 3

A next step in the evolution of RPOs is suggested with a QB Pin & Pull to the same side as the pass option with the similar solutions to the concerns:

The Next Step:

  1. Allowing the QB to be on the run provides ample time to decide to run or pass
  2. Ball is thrown long before pullers go downfield
  3. No change of scheme
  4. Great pass protection as it works as a Sprint Out protection.
  5. Man coverage is not an issue as it only makes the read easier to keep and the extra player is accounted for by pullers and the Running Back.

QB Pin & Pull RPO

2017-08-09 RPO 4

We conclude with offering another option…SPO or Screen Pass Option.  It is the philosophically the same but the conflict player is in a coverage conflict with a pass on one side or a RB screen on the other.

Screen Pass Option (SPO)

2017-08-09 RPO 5

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing a little more about my trip to Arizona and the chance to help other coaches through USA Football’s Coaches Academy. Summer OTAs continue and while August summer days are hot, the cool nights here in Vermont remind us the Fall football season is only short few weeks away. I hope many of the topics we’ve covered since last January have been helpful and i look forward to continuing the conversation through the Fall. Best wishes to you and yours in the upcoming season!

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss summer OTAs, coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

Know Your Team & Know Yourself!

Post Game Evaluation & Next Week

Continuing the conversation on my trip to Phoenix… We’ve been discussing the programs I recorded for USA Football at the Arizona Cardinal’s Training Center.

The third course produced is entitled Post Game Evaluation & Next Week.  We begin with a Sun Tzu quote, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”  What Sun Tzu did not consider over 2,000 years ago was knowing the enemy but not yourself.

The first step covered in video analysis is grading players.  We discuss grading players under four criteria on each play: Alignment, Assignment, Effort and Execution.  Each criteria is valued at a quarter of a point to determine a grade.  2017-08-02 Grading CriteriaDuring the grading process, we recognize the importance of providing positive reinforcement for desired outcomes through awards and recognition for individuals and position groups.


Then we focused on self-scouting…understanding yourself.  We discuss breaking down offensive Run, Pass and Screen tendencies by Formation, Down & Distance, Field Position, Field/Boundary, Right/Left and Personnel.  We then shares ways to set up and break those tendencies in the next week’s game plan.

The conversation continues with determining mean, median and mode 2017-08-02 Statistical Analysisaverages and efficiency percentages for run plays to determine when, where and if they should be included in next week’s game plan.  We do the same for pass plays based on efficiency percentage, completion percentage, yards per completion and yards per attempt.

Next up we discuss analyzing game data to determine how much practice time should be dedicated to each play and situation.  You need to spend more practice time on the play you call 12 times per game than the one called only twice.  focus on success magnifying glassWe then analyzed game data to determine how much practice time should be committed to the following situations:  Redzone, Goalline, Coming Out, 2-Minute, 4-Minute, On Schedule, 3rd Downs, 2nd & Short, 2nd and Long and 4th Down.

We conclude the conversation with suggestions for adjustments needed due to injury and depth issues and the progression of offense during the season.  Advice is given on keeping your installation simple during training camp then building on as you get into the season.  Focus on technical before tactical.

Given all the technical specifics, don’t overlook the importance of confidence, focus, and understanding derived from such an effort. Help your players understand the “why” behind all this work, and it will reinforce confidence in their teammates, coaches, and most importantly themselves. Napoleon is quoted as saying “The moral is to the physical, as three is to one…” Do the work, underpin success, and build belief in your program!

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss summer OTAs, coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

Building Teams & Leading Teammates

(Photo by Paul Hayes)Continuing the conversation on my recent trip to Phoenix…

The second of the four courses we produced with USA Football at the Arizona Cardinal’s Training Center was entitled Leadership and Team Building.

If we really step back and take a look at our coaching roles in the lives of our student athletes, developing young men and women of character, ethics, and morals and reinforcing their potential to contribute to society after they hang up the helmet and cleats is really our greatest mission. We help shape character traits so our athletes can be leaders both on and off the field.

We begin our discussion of leadership by quoting three of our past presidents…

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things.  He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”  President Ronald Reagan

“Leadership is the ability to decide what is to be done, and then get others to want to do it.”   President Dwight D. Eisenhower

“A leader is a person who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do, and like it.”   President Harry S. Truman

2017-07-25 Presidents

All of our presidents agree that leadership is about getting others involved to get the task accomplished. All would likely agree leadership is, and should be treated as a privilege. Given the privilege to lead, one should consider two key concepts: Deference versus Respect.

We recognize there are significant differences between Respect and Deference.  Deference is a reverent and considerate attitude towards someone because of their position (principal, athletic director, coach), but Respect is a feeling of deep admiration for someone because of their abilities, qualities or achievements.  In a nutshell, deference is given; but respect is earned. As coaches, we’re given a whistle, clipboard, and the authority to run the team, but the deference our athletes, parents, faculty, and community offer only goes so far. Every single day, through our words, actions, and decisions, we earn, cultivate, and maintain the respect of those very same people. In doing so, we model behaviors we hope our players will want to emulate. We must be ever mindful of our example, and understand all the hard work poured into earning respect can be destroyed in seconds.

2017-07-25 leading-multiple-generationsThen we focused on understanding the millennial generation we now coach. Generations are shaped by the circumstances and philosophies surrounding their upbringing.  If you are a Baby Boomer, you were likely shaped by the prosperity of the Post War Years and the Civil Rights Movement and raised by a working dad and stay at home mom.  If you are used to coaching Generation X who were shaped by the Cold War and raised as latch key kids with two working parents. You may not understand today’s generation without taking a step back and considering the view from their perspective. The Millennial generation are shaped by the events of 9/11 and the War on Terror.  Many of them spent their early childhood in daycare and are now raised by helicopter parents. Their goals and aspirations are shaped by their experiences, and as leaders, we need to understand how those factors affect perspective and motivations if we are to help them maximize their potential and performance.

2017-07-25 indisputable laws of teamwork

The conversation continues with John Maxwell’s “17 Undisputable Laws of Teamwork.”  Discussing them in depth, we looked at how they apply to today’s football teams.  Next, we borrowed from a US Marine Corps discussion on team building. I’ve had the privilege of sharing firsthand how the Marine Corps builds a team we know as “The Few and The Proud…” turns out the very same process, tenets, and values they use are just as applicable in building a winning football team.  2017-07-25 Marines-the-few-the-proud-EGABoth a Marine Corps unit and a high school football team go through the phases of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.  Nobody trains teams like the Marines, and by studying their model, we can reinforce our coaching success.

We conclude the course by understanding the differences between team building and hazing and focus on the negative impact hazing and bullying can have on your team, your school and your career.

I believe leadership is a privilege. As coaches, we have a fleeting moment to have a positive impact on the lives of our student athletes. It’s critical we seize the opportunity, set a good example, and cultivate young leaders for our team, and for our future.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss summer OTAs, coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

Welcome Back!

Welcome back!

2017-07-19 USA Football and Az Cardinals

It was a great experience working with USA Football at the Arizona Cardinals Training Facility last week.  We arrived at the facility shortly after 8AM and after a brief orientation began shooting the four video courses for USA Football Coach Academy.

In the next four weeks, I will share some of the information covered in the courses beginning with Setting Target Outcomes.

2017-07-11 dart-targets

Using the term Target Outcomes in place of goals allows athletes to visualize the target they are aiming for and allows them to make adjustments when the target is missed.  We begin by discussing how we create a Shared Vision for your players, team and program.  Understand that a SHARED vision cannot be YOUR vision.  We discuss how soliciting the input of players and coaches creates “buy in” and commitment in determining the vision.  We complement Target Outcomes with Creating Performance Standards for the program, players, offense, defense, special teams and position groups so that everyone in the program understands expectations.

2017-07-11 check list

Then we discuss the importance of goal setting, why goals fail and why people don’t set them.  We share different types of goals: short-term, long-term, process and performance.  We note that goals should always be stated positively and not worded negatively.  For example: earn at least one first down on every offensive possession, rather than stating NO three and outs.  We addressed the step-by-step process of S.M.A.R.T. goal setting to see that goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound.  The course concludes with the importance of Monitoring Progress Towards Goals.  Tracking progress for starters and non-starters, veterans and rookies shows all players that you care about their progress.  Tracking also ensures that the goals stay relevant.  Lastly, it exposes any change in training needs.

After videotaping the first three courses, we took a lunch break and had an all-you-can-eat buffet in the Cardinal’s offensive lineman meeting room.  How ironic.

2017-07-19 AZ Lineman

At the conclusion of production, I got to enjoy downtown Tempe, even though the temperature hit 110 degrees. The next day, I received the dreaded travel news…your flight is cancelled and your being rerouted.  When life serves you lemons, make lemonade.  The change in travel plans allowed me the opportunity to visit Arizona State University to tour their football complex, athletic training room, strength & conditioning facility and arena.

Although I spent most of my last night in a Chicago airport on a layover, missed a night sleep and did not get home until 6AM, it was a great experience I hope to repeat with USA Football.

Additionally, I look forward to sharing more about the programs I recorded for USA Football’s Coaches Academy over the next few weeks. Like the Target Outcomes discussion mentioned above, I’m excited to share the other programs and look forward to hearing your ideas about team building, goals, measures of effectiveness as well as some more detailed discussions of X’s and O’s!

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss summer OTAs, coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

Road Trip: USA Football, Phoenix, AZ

2017-07-11 Road Trip

I am excited to be participating in USA Football’s Course Content Productions.  On Tuesday, July 11, I’m flying to Phoenix to produce four courses in the Arizona Cardinals Training Facility.

The first presentation will be on Setting Target Outcomes.  We will cover sharing a vision, creating position group performance standards, goal setting with SMART goals and monitoring progress toward goals.

2017-07-11 dart-targets

The next presentation is entitled Post Game Evaluations and Next Week.  It will cover grading your players, awards and recognition, analyzing data, self-scouting, setting up and breaking tendencies, adjusting for injuries and depth issues and progression of offense over the season.

2017-08-01 scouting Preps

The third course is Leadership & Team Building.  We will define what it is to be a leader, discuss understanding the millennial generation, the laws of teamwork, the four phases of Team building and the concerns of hazing and bullying.

2017-07-11 team building

The last course is on RPOs (Run Pass Options).  We will discuss the history of this concept of taking advantage of the conflict player, the concerns that negatively effect the execution of the scheme, how to solve those concerns and how to take advantage of this concept with a Screen Pass Option.

Quads Y Over RPO


I look forward to telling you how the presentations went, discussing the material, and telling you about the interesting members of the coaching fraternity I meet upon my return.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss summer OTAs, coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!


Tips for Summer Training Success Part II

This week we tried to bring Part II of our Summer Training Series with another guest contribution from Coach Adrian Guyer, CSCS, USAW-2, CSAC. I can’t tell you how fortunate we are to have Coach Guyer’s knowledge, skills, abilities, and support. I’m confident it will pay off throughout the summer and into the Fall season!

While I’ve been a coach for several decades, I’m pretty new to the blogging space and after further consideration, the formatting, videos, and content on xiptraining.com do a better job than I can here of conveying the content.


You can read more, help yourself and help your team improve at www.xiptraining.com and review summer training tips from this article at https://www.xiptraining.com/single-post/2017/06/27/Summer-Training-Applications-for-Athletes-Part-2

I look forward to letting you all know how our OTAs and Coach Guyer’s strength and conditioning program support our development this summer.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss summer OTAs, coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!


Strength & Conditioning Follow Up!

As a follow-up to our previous blogs about hiring a qualified person to handle your Strength & Conditioning… Once you do, let them do their job!

I recently attended our state NSCA (National Strength & Conditioning Association) clinic.  One of the presenters shared some great information but also shared something troubling.  He informed us that his head football coach told him that he needed to accomplish three goals:

1) Increase the player’s bench press max. 

2) Increase their squat max. 

3) Make them look good getting off the bus. 

He accomplished those three goals, but then shared the team has only won seven games over the past three seasons…

It is great to increase your bench and squat and doing so will likely make you look better getting off the bus, but that does not necessarily translate into wins on the field.

2017-06-19 bench & squat

The job of a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist is not to turn your players in to power lifters or bodybuilders but rather to make them better football players. Your job as coach is to effectively communicate the goals you’ve established for your team, and to help your strength and conditioning coach help you, by adding a “purpose.” If your S&C Coach understand “the why,” behind your goals, he or she can make decisions along the way to reinforce your success.

The goals of our strength and conditioning program have little to do with the aforementioned goals.

Our goals are as follows:

  • Decrease injuries,
  • Increase Rate of Force Development (Acceleration)
  • Increase Rate of Force Acceptance (Deceleration)
  • Increase mobility
  • Increase Power (Work / Time)

The purpose of our program is to build healthy, resilient teammates who are faster, stronger, more powerful, and more confident in themselves and their teammates. With an understanding of both the goals and purpose, we’re better able to discuss the program plan, implementation, and measures of performance/success.

Note that we focus on Power rather than strength.  We have no interest in seeing our players take 4 seconds to put up “three plates” (315 lbs) on their bench press.  We would much rather see our players bench “two plates” (225 lbs) in less than 1 second after a 2 second eccentric contraction and a 1 second hold.  

If you are unable to get a CSCS to work with your program and you, like so many other football coaches, are thrust into the position of Strength & Conditioning Coach at your school, please get certified. (read more bout certification here: https://www.nsca.com/Certification/CSCS/)                                                 2016-06-19 CSCS Logo

If you do not have the time to study for 3-6 months and take the CSCS test, consider taking one or both of the following classes and receiving their certification:

  • USA Weightlifting Level 1
  • NSCA Essential Foundations of Coaching Lifts. 

Both will make you a better Strength Coach and reduce liability in the unfortunate event of a weight room related injury.

Thanks for the questions and compliments on last week’s blog. One thing to note, last week I included the link to Coach Guyer’s website (https://www.xiptraining.com/) but should have included a link to his version of the guest post which can be found here: https://www.xiptraining.com/single-post/2017/06/13/Tips-for-Summer-Training-Success-Part-1

As always, thanks for following us and participating in this journey!  Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss summer OTAs, coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time.