When you watch college football these days, it seems that every team runs a spread offense in some form or fashion. Whether it be the Air Raid, the Pro Style Spread, or any of the spread option variants, head coaches and their offensive coordinators are following this path for good reason.
Spread offenses put defenses in multiple binds and making them uncomfortable my making them do things they don’t like to do like having to run all over the field to cover athletes. These coaches today are cooking up new ways to light up the scoreboards.
Perhaps the biggest trend and concept being used in these spread offenses is called the “Packaged Play”. A packaged play is simply two or more concepts within one play design. Technically this concept isn’t new since any option play is really multiple concepts rolled into one.
The packaged play however introduces a combination of at least one run concept and one pass concept. The purpose of this concept is the idea that a defense simply cannot cover everything at once.
Just the idea of having multiple plays within a play makes an offense look complex to a defense while being terribly simple to the offense is what this concept is all about.
Nowadays, teams might the run the same packaged play over and over again but different players might touch the ball within that drive. For instance, the QB might have the option to hand it off the RB, keep it on the Read, throw it to the hitch route, or throw it downfield to his Go route.
Well thankfully you can employ the same type of concept in NCAA Football 06. This type of play is called the PA Read.
The PA Read is available in every shotgun formation except for 5-wide. While every play is a little different, the same options are given to you: hand it off to the RB, throw it to any of the receivers, or just keep it yourself.
I want to show you some examples of how I use this concept in some of my favorite Gun formations. By the end of this post, hopefully I can convince you that the PA Read should be the foundation of your entire spread offense.
Before we break down actual plays, let me give you some things to think about regarding shotgun formations in general.
Perhaps the most important thing to understand about any play from the Shotgun is that all run plays are meant to ran horizontally and off tackle. Yes you can cut back between the tackles, especially against Zone but more often than not you will be running most of your play off-tackle.
This means that how the defensive line shifts is very important. If the line shifts to the side your RB is running to then chances are your play will get blown up. If they shift to the other side then you chances of making a big gain are high.
This is no different with any PA Read play. Since your first decision is to always give it to your RB, you need to be aware of how the defensive line shifts and what to do because of it.
Now that we have that taken care of, lets break down my reads for ever PA Read play.
- Is the defense in Man or Zone (you knew that was coming)?
- Give the ball to the RB depending on the line shift
- Follow your pass reads if your QB keeps the ball. Refer back to my passing series
I know this sounds very generic in terms of rules but it will make much more sense after we look at some examples.
Gun Normal PA Read
We will start with the PA Read from the Gun Normal Formation. I like to call this play from the left hash due to my receivers’ routes. My favorite zone route is the grass-side post by #7. It attacks any zone coverage. Both the 10-yard In route and the crossing route are great man beaters so you can already tell the routes alone make this a great play.
On this play the defense is in Zone coverage so I know my Post route will be my first route to look for.
BUT, what makes the PA Read so special is the ability to run from it as well. By looking at the defensive line, notice that they did not shift.
Running the ball against either Man or Zone coverage is effective in the PA Read. As long as the defensive line doesn’t shift to the run side, I will usually hand it off to the HB. You can also use the speed button more than usual, even against Zone, which I previously suggested not to.
In this case I decide to give the ball to my HB. Notice how my LT #70 has initially made a good block against an impact DE. WR #25 should distract the OLB, thus given me some grass to work with.
I’ve got the blocking I need and all I have to do is take on the CB. This should result in a good gain.
Here I decide to keep the ball. Since they are in Zone coverage, my first read is my grass-side post WR #7.
Also, don’t forget about your HB on when passing the ball. Even if you don’t hand him the ball, he is still an eligible receiver as is the case here.
On this play the defensive line shifts to my left thus making me a little nervous to give it to my HB. That impact DE can bust my play up in a hurry.
That is exactly what happened. My LT could not contain him which led to no gain on the play.
Against Man coverage, you seem to have even more possibilities. All four routes are viable here, especially if the safeties come up, leaving your Post route as the perfect weapon to hit them over the top.
On this play I decide to keep the ball. Notice how my HB has some separation from his defender. My best WR should get separation on his 10-yard In route too. Even the crossing route can get open too if my WR has enough speed to separate. A lot of options here for sure.
On this play I decided to give it to my HB. Against Man, the give to your HB can be deadly since the CBs follow your WRs thus giving you much room to work with. As long as your line does their job, you can gain some serious yardage.
With the CBs following the WRs, my HB has a ton of grass to work with.
Gun Spread PA Read
Here is another favorite PA Read of mine but from the Gun Spread formation. I like to run this play from the right hash. I have my lovely grass-side post on the left with a 5-yard In route beside it. I have my Go route on the right in case the safeties decide to come up along with a small flag route that is useless but can be hot routed to something else if need be.
Finally, you can’t forget your HB who if you keep the ball, you can throw it to him for huge gains depending on his speed and if his defender is fast enough to keep up with him, against Man of course.
On this play the defense is in Zone and there was no shifting by the DL but I decide to keep the ball anyway to see what opens up in the passing game. Here you’ll see my post route, WR #11, should get open down the middle of the field.
You will also notice my Go route (WR #7) is wide open here. If you have a great QB who can really sling it along with a WR who can catch it well, then this route can work well against Cover 2 Zone.
I decide to throw it to my Post route for a great gain. Again, it helps to have a QB with great accuracy and power to squeeze it in these tight windows.
Here is another great example of why spread coaches love the Spread Offense so much. By spreading the defense out, you force the defense to show their hand.
On this play the defense is in Man but the SS decides to double team WR #7 on the right. This means either the MLB or the FS will be defending my HB. As long as my OL do their job, then it is a no-brainer to hand it off to my HB and let him do his thing.
It turns out that the FS is responsible for my HB. The FS has no chance against my HB, especially since I fire up my speed button and will run for daylight.
As expected, my HB has a ton of grass ahead of him while my WRs take their CBs to the other side of the field which led to so much room to work with.
How to Recruit for the PA Read
If you ever plan on using a Gun Spread offense of any sort, there is no reason why you shouldn’t use the PA Read as your base play. There are plenty of college teams that run these packaged plays every single down in a drive so don’t feel hesitant to do the same.
These aren’t cheese plays and can be blown up in a hurry if you make the wrong reads and go up against some great athletes on defense.
But these plays can win you championships if you know what you’re doing and have the right personnel to do so.
If you want to really make the PA Read your bread and butter offense, then you need the right weapons to maximize its potential.
Here are my suggestions. I especially want to thank Art Briles at Baylor for this since they basically run this stuff 90% of the time and flourish with it.
QB: I believe a killer arm is a lot better than killer legs with this concept since half the play involves passing routes. Yes you can put a dual threat QB back there and just tuck it and run if no one is open, but I believe a QB with great Throw Power and Throw Accuracy should be your priority here. If you find a QB that has a great arm and is fast then congratulations, you’ve just found your future Heisman winner.
HB: Since all of your PA Reads are from the Gun formations, the running motion is geared toward you running off-tackle. I think it is best to prioritize speed here. Especially when going up against Man, you will be out running defenders more so than running through them. Against Zone, you can find holes between the tackles so don’t hesitate to tuck up in there and lay of your speed button when doing so. It is possible for big and strong HBs to work here too, just to break tackles (which is invaluable) so experiment here to see what you like best. It help if your HB can catch too since they can get open a lot with the PA Read.
FB: There are only two Gun formations that feature a FB that also have a PA Read play in them. Both feature the FB as a runner for those. If you plan on using two back sets, it is actually easier to just sub package to “Twin HB” and be done with it. Otherwise, you won’t be using these guys much at all.
Outside WR: It seems that all of your deep routes in all of the PA Read plays are on the outside so you can either put your speedsters on the outside or your huge WRs can go out there too. Speedsters can outrun some corners and big tall WRs can out jump any corner out there. I have had success with both so experiment with both to see what you like best. Great hands are a must too, for all receivers.
Inside WR: A lot of your routes from the PA Reads on the slots will be crossing and drag routes so it only makes sense to have speedsters who can catch here. You can also sub package in your great TE here too, especially in your 4-wide sets. Yes you can hot route your slots to Go routes but if you like to keep “Home Field Advantage” turned on then you want to limit your need for hot routes to begin with.
TE: There are some great routes here for TEs in these plays so it seems obvious to go after receiving TEs, especially if you sub package them in other sets.
OL: The great thing about the PA Read is that you can have a balanced offense without even trying. Because of this, I think it is best to just find the best offensive linemen possible. Both the bench press and squat are important, but I believe the X factor is their Awareness. This affects their pass blocking and such so you might as well have smart linemen to protect you.
Best Formations for the PA Read
Since I am always a believer in creating your own playbook, I want to give you, in my opinion, the best formations you can have in your playbook that feature great PA Read plays
- Gun Ace
- Gun Normal
- Gun Y-Trips
- Gun Trips Over
- Gun Spread
- Gun Trips
- Gun Bunch
- Gun Tight
Notice I only gave you eight formations. That is because some people like to leave one spot for a power formation or something else like I do since I am not a big fan of the Goal Line formation. Eight formations and Eight PA Reads are plenty enough to absolutely shred defenses with.
I know I’ve only covered two PA Reads but all of them work similarly.
Remember, the best way for the PA Reads to work is your running game and knowing when to give it to your HB. Your passing game stays the same, especially if you follow my passing principles.
Practice, practice, practice!
Experiment with all of the PA Read plays, play them on different hashes and see what you can find. You have so many options with these plays that the possibilities are endless.
Have fun with this concept and let me know in the comment section your experiences with it.