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Decoding Langsdorf: Nebraska’s Counter Trap Part 2

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Time to diagram the off-speed pitch of the Nebraska offense

David McGee

Now that the theory of the open-side Counter Trap has been properly fleshed out, we’ll examine the individual blocking techniques and assignments for the offensive line rather than just through the straw of the FST’s responsibility.

As discussed in Part I, the blocking rules for the offensive line is to block gaps, not people, much like the premise of zone blocking. (In zone blocking the OL blocks any threat in their outside gap, in gap blocking the OL blocks any threat in their inside gap). This is done to build a wall away from the point of attack (POA) and make the defense pay for their over pursuit to the opposite side.

Before we begin with the blocking rules for offensive line, it is imperative to understand the principles in which this particular play is governed. The offensive line will operate off of the principle of whether there is a Guard Bubble (A gap defender) or a Tackle Bubble (B gap defender) aligned as the first down defender on the frontside of the play. The FST will make a red/white call at the line of scrimmage, from which everything will flow forth. Red denotes a Tackle bubble, whereas white denotes a Guard bubble.

In the event that the FST is faced with a 2-man surface, with a defender aligned over him and another on his outside shoulder, with no TE help, the FST will make a “Mug” call and will stretch the down linemen aligned over him for the trapper. This is done to widen out the defender aligned over him, making it easier for the pulling guard to execute his kick-out block, in addition to the fact that the FST does not have good leverage based on the natural angles of the alignment to work the 4 tech down the line of scrimmage on a solo block.

If the frontside of the offensive line is in a red situation, the FST will work in conjunction with the FSG on a Doctor call. A Doctor call is a call to alert the adjacent uncovered linemen to help you pick up a possible inside gap stunt. This can be used on either the frontside or the backside of the play in the event of gap exchange and movements. On Doctor, the inside lineman, in this case the FSG, will work underneath of the block with eyes on his A gap to account for a possible MIKE run-thru. Should the inside gap stunt from the down defender occur, the FST will chip and climb to the MIKE, or the #2 playside linebacker, who often times will be flowing directly into the block. If an offensive line struggles with the footwork and hand placement of the combination blocks, along with the timing of them, quasi-combo blocks can be used when a Doctor call is made where the uncovered lineman merely chips the down defender for his covered linemate while climbing to the second level.

For the frontside of the offensive line on Counter, these are the main calls and adjustments that will occur vs various defensive alignments. Now that they’ve been properly fleshed out, we’ll move along to the center position and his responsibilities on the play.

On Counter, the center will execute three different line calls if uncovered and one call if covered on the play. When the center is uncovered he will either execute a seal, slap, or back call. If covered against a Bear front will no other help, he will execute a solo block. Before jumping into outlining the three uncovered calls, I’ll take a moment to clearly define what each of them are, since there is some overlap between them.

Seal: The center alerts the frontside guard that the center must block back and the FSG must cover the man over the center or shaded to the frontside.

Slap: Double team call for the center and frontside guard to block the nose up to the BSLB.

Back: Call that alerts the rest of the OL that the center is uncovered and covering backside for the pulling guard.

Oly: Call that is used when the center and both guards are all covered and will not have any help from another blocker. Typically used against a Bear front.

​Now that the frontside of the play has been detailed, it’s time for the real stars of this show, the pullers. As defined in Part I of the Counter Trap write-up, the pullers are the backside guard and the backside H-Back or fullback. On Counter, the backside guard (BSG) will always look to pull and kick-out (trap) the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOL) by targeting his inside shoulder, as the focal point of the block. The BSG can also pull and kick the primary force defender, should EMOL be blocked by a wing player, as depicted in the Ace Double Wing diagram in Counter Trap Part I. By pulling to the left, the BSG will target the left shoulder (inside shoulder) of the EMOL in an attempt to leverage the EMOL out of his gap integrity. On plays where the BSG pulls right, he will target the EMOL’s right shoulder. Pull left, hit left. Pull right, hit right. In the event that the EMOL squeezes too far down inside in response to the down block by the FST and/or is exceedingly difficult to kick-out, the BSG should only resort to logging the EMOL as a last resort. Logging the EMOL is done by targeting his outside shoulder in an attempt to force a hook block and allow the ball carrier to get outside of the block to the perimeter.

​The wrapper, as described in the past article as a fullback or an H-Back, pulls and wraps up to the number one playside linebacker. Much like the assignment for the BSG is to pull and kick the EMOL or the primary force player, the wrapper’s assignment can also differ based on defensive structure and response.

If the FSDE begins to squeeze too far down in response to the FST’s down block for the trapper to kick, or the defense begins to utilize gap exchanges, the trapper and wrapper will execute a responsibility exchange where the trapper logs the FSDE who has stepped down and the wrapper climbs at a flatter angle and kicks the scraping FSLB. The log is executed through targeting the outside shoulder just like on a zone reach block.

Because the wrapper is blocking a second level player in the #1 playside linebacker, the wrapper must be able to get out of his stance and run to beat the linebacker to the point of attack (POA) after the initial misdirection distorts the flow of the linebacker. Because the pull necessitates quickness and speed, it is imperative that the frontside of the offensive line not allow any penetration. Penetration throws off the pullers from being able to the hug the LOS as tightly as possible on his pull. If penetration occurs from the frontside down defenders, the wrapper should insert into the first opening in the LOS that he sees and block any defender in that opening, thus not allowing an unblocked defender to cross his face, while also giving the tailback a possible avenue of cutback. Generally speaking, the wrapper should always block any unblocked defender he may come across while pulling to wrap.

​Lastly, the assignment for the backside tackle (BST) is pretty simple. However, simple does imply that the BST’s job is “easy.” The job for the BST is to assist the center in the center’s task of blocking back on the 3 technique defensive tackle. Because of the wide alignment of the 3 tech, this is one of the toughest blocks to execute in football. Working in conjunction with one another, the center will block back while looking to prevent any over the top roll-out or the 3 tech following the guard to the POA, as they are coached to do when they read pull. Both of these instances are cases of the 3 tech moving toward the center. However, the metrics of time and space do not allow for the center to proficiently account for another response from the 3 tech, upfield penetration.

​Should the 3 tech penetrate straight upfield, the BST is there to close off any opening for the penetration and to keep the 3 tech subdued just long enough for the center to get into the fit for the block. This is done through the BST taking flat step toward the 3 tech and using a forearm flipper to chip the 3. Upon straightening out the 3 tech for the center, the BST will pivot off of his lead foot and turn to the backside of the play to cut-off any backside pursuit.

​If the 3 tech slants toward the BST, the BST will simply overtake the block and the center will work backside to block any backside pursuit. Conversely, if the 3 should slant inside toward the center, the BST will still execute this step and hinge movement.

​The final player involved in this play, the backside TE (BSTE) aligned on the LOS will hinge both on Guard bubble and Tackle bubble alignments.

​If any of you are still out there reading, thank you for sticking with me on this lengthy install of the offensive line calls for the Counter play, as your patience will be rewarded in Part III, with two endzone shots of Nebraska’s Counter Trap series. GBR!