June 3, 2010 • Football

Utilizing the Pistol-Flex Quadruple Option

The Pistol Flex is an offensive philosophy and formation that is a hybrid of two very popular college offensive strategies: the flexbone and the pistol. The base formation is called “Pistol-Flex Tight.”

In this formation, the two tight ends are set very tight beside the tackles while the quarterback is placed exactly three yards behind the center in shotgun formation. The tailback is lined up three yards directly behind the QB while the two wing backs are lined up in a 1-by-1 set with the TEs (the wings are one yard behind and one yard “out” from the TEs).

While this formation may be considered more of a “run-first” type of strategy, because the wing backs are both situated very close to the line of scrimmage (LOS), this formation can also become a potent passing set with potentially four pass receivers located very close to the LOS. We have devised a legitimate quadruple-option play from the base formation of the Pistol Flex.

Running The Pistol-Flex Quadruple Option

The play begins like they all do in our offense — with the QB making a pre-snap read. This allows him to “cheat” to a certain extent so that he has an idea of what to expect from the defensive set appearing before him on each play.

On the quadruple-option play, the QB approaches the line of scrimmage and immediately finds his three read keys: the dive key, corner-pass key and the pitch key. It is imperative that everyone on the offense is on the same page as the QB, so that all 11 players know who the read keys are before the snap.

The QB must put the appropriate wing back in motion at precisely the right time for this play to be properly executed.

Quadruple OptionDIAGRAM 1: Pistol-Flex Quadruple Option. On the snap, the QB and fullback go into their “mesh” as the QB makes his read on the first down lineman in the “B” gap to the outside — in this case it is the defensive tackle. This is the QB’s first read.

The pre-snap thought of the QB for the dive option is to give the ball to the FB every time unless the dive key comes down both “hard and flat” on the FB. In other words, if the dive-key defender goes up the field, slow-plays the QB or “sits” on the LOS, the QB must give the ball to the FB every time.

On the other hand, if the dive key comes down the LOS “hard” and has his outside shoulder turned toward the FB, the QB is taught to “pull” the ball from the
belly of the FB and take it down the LOS toward the pitch key.

Assuming a pull is performed after reading the dive key, the QB now takes the ball down the LOS aggressively toward the pitch key, which is the next defender outside the dive key (in this case, it’s the defensive end). It is at this point that the QB makes his second read — the corner-pass key.

The corner-pass key is the defender who the TE normally blocks on a true triple-option running play. In this case, the outside linebacker is the read key. If this defender decides to play the run, the QB throws the corner pass to the TE. If the defender plays the tight end on the corner-pass pattern, the QB keeps the ball and continues to attack the inside leg of the pitch key (in this scenario the pitch key is the DE).

The QB’s thought process while reading the pitch key defender is that he keeps the ball and scores a touchdown every time unless the pitch-key defender turns his outside shoulder toward the QB. If that shoulder does turn toward the QB, then he pitches the ball to the wing back (as shown in Diagram 1), who then turns up the field on the perimeter.

Tactical Note

In the case of a “hot stunt” by the pitch key in which the pitch defender plays the QB immediately from the beginning of the play and virtually attacks the QB with all due diligence, the QB should disengage from the mesh early and immediately pitch the ball to the trailing pitch man.

If this is not performed properly, then either of two things might result: either the play will be blown up immediately by the on-rushing dive and pitch keys, which will end the play abruptly; or the QB will have little time to make his read on the pitch key and, as a result, may get drilled by the pitch-key defender.

Why It Works
The beauty of this play is that the offense does not have to block three defensive players. There is a constant struggle between the offense and defense to gain an advantage by outnumbering your opponent on the play side.

This play allows the offense to leave three defenders unblocked at the point of attack, which allows for double-team blocks and blocks on the second level.

For questions regarding the performance of this play, please contact Paul Markowski at [email protected].

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