Every great magician gets by on one main principle: misdirection.
Offensive magicians in football do the same thing, only they don’t make rabbits disappear or saw women in half. They have to make defenses forget where the football is or anticipate it being somewhere else.
Last week, we talked about the spread offense and how it used “space and pace” to move down the field effectively. Not all options are alike, even if the guiding fundamentals are the same. For instance, the Slot T offense eschews space in favor of more variety in both formation and running options.
It’s almost counter-intuitive to think that an offense that sometimes features 11 men in the box could be so explosive, as the Vidor Pirates have proven to be this season. The Pirates are leading District 20-4A in points scored (119) and total yards of offense (464.5). They’re doing that thanks not to the pass, but to almost 1,300 yards rushing in just three games.
Considering the Pirates lost two very talented running backs last season, there has to be some explanation to how they have maintained this level of success.
First and foremost, give credit to the players. We can talk scheme all we want, but without the very talented quarterback Montana Quirante and others like Justin Moore or Thomas Novak, Vidor’s offense wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does. Having an experienced player like Quirante as the point man in this option attack means so much from an experience standpoint.
The reason for that is this system is based on deception with the ball. No matter how the formation works out, having a QB that can pull the ball back and execute a perfect fake handoff or a play-action pass is a huge advantage. When Vidor head coach Jeff Mathews was running the East team in the Southeast Texas Ford Dealers All-Star Classic, he lost almost all his quarterbacks who were supposed to be on the roster for various reasons.
At the time, he made the point that as much as he’d like to install his Slot T offense, the handoff is difficult to teach, much less in two days of practice. There’s a timing aspect to it, as well as hand placement and even footing that all play a role in whether the Slot T handoff can be made well.
The formation also helps the offense’s success. At times, there can be 11 players in or around the tackle box. We talked about the spread offense making its own space and bucking the trend of teams loading up the box. In this, Vidor sacrifices that field-spreading ability to give the quarterback plenty of options on who takes the ball.
It’s called the “Slot T” because there are usually two backs behind the quarterback and another lined up in a slot position near the tight end. Sometimes, there are two backs lined up in the slot with another lined up behind the quarterback.
Much like in the read option, having a formation that varied gives the quarterback plenty of options. Unlike the read option, this offense doesn’t need to run “options” to still use misdirection. Vidor may run a play with the slot back running a reverse, the tailback diving up the middle and the quarterback faking a pitch while handing off to the tailback.
That play wouldn’t be considered an option, because it’s not designed to give the QB a chance to give the ball to someone else. But, the QB definitely needs to be able to sell that pitch if the play up the middle is going to succeed.
If he can sell it, the third part of their success comes into play. To beat a team that runs an option attack, the opposing defense needs to be very disciplined. Each player up front will have an assignment, with a certain player tasked with staying on one offensive back. For instance, the defensive end usually has to cover the quarterback, with an outside linebacker assigned to the pitch man.
That can get confused, though, in the Slot T attack. The OLB may have pitch man, but is that the slot back running the reverse? Or is it the outside tailback who’s running off tackle? Or is it the inside tailback running up the middle? By varying plays and formations, the offense is able to keep a defense confused and off-balance.
When you add in that the kind of bulked-up option attack that Vidor runs isn’t as common in high school football right now, and teams are going to be very unfamiliar with it. That means the opposing coaching staff will need to instill that discipline and those assignments on different plays in a handful of practices.
Even if a defense can avoid getting confused and stay on its assignments, the kinds of athletes Vidor has may mean the play could succeed even when it’s played the right way defensively. That’s what makes the Vidor offense so effective and so hard to defend.
If you have questions for this piece, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org