4th and 1 in Youth Football, What’s the Right Call?

Like many of you I watched my fair share of College سایت بت مجیک Bowl games this year. While as a youth football coach, you can’t take what the college kids do and apply it directly to your youth football teams because of the obvious factors, the age and athleticism of the players, practice time etc etc. But what you can do is try to figure out what tactics, strategies, schemes and methods can be applied with the given restraints of youth football.

One of the things that caught my attention was the number of 4th and short situations in the games I watched, short meaning 1 yard, more or less. The announcers were often battling each other as to what the correct call should be. As announcers often do, they played “pretend coach” and tried to make their case for a play to be run. In the Connecticut-Wake Forest game, UCONN was on the Wake Forest one. One announcer was asking for a quarterback sneak, his premise was that the sneak was the right call since the quarterback could hit it into the line quickly, not theatened by any deep penetration.

The other announcer was saying the quarterback wouldn’t have enough momentum, this announcer was imploring that Connecticut give the ball on an inside handoff to the running back. What this announcer wanted to see was a running back with a full head of steam as the back made his try for endzone glory. The same was the case in the Florida State-Kentucky game, same scenario, FSU is on the Kentucky 1, 4th down. One announcer is pleading for the sneak, the other the tailback run. In both instances, the quarterback gave a deep handoff to a running back that was not only stopped short of the goal line, but short of the original line of scrimmage.

Pluses and MinusesBoth announcers were right in their analysis, the quarterback sneak gets you to the point of attack quicker and negates penetration due to how quickly it hits, but the quarterback is in so tight he has very little momentum to take him into the endzone. On the other hand, the deep handoff gives the back lots of time to gain momentum, but that same time frame used by him to gain momentum works against him as defenders now use that same time to penetrate, come off blocks and penetrate into the backfield. In the Connecticut game the quarterback reversed out, seated the ball and then gave the ball to a back that was lined up 7 yards from the line of scrimmage. The back had to “gain” 7 yards before he even broke even, sure he had lots of momentum, but he was tackled for a 1 yard loss.

How does this apply to youth football? We have 4th and 1’s and 3rd and shorts too. We love the quick hitter of the quarterback sneak while we also like the handoff to the downhill running back. But Geez I hate the handoff here, the quarterback has to get a clean snap, seat the ball, then make a clean handoff, often reversing out of his stance to give to a running back that is often 5-7 yards from the line of scrimmage. But, Geez I hate the sneak too, my quarterback getting stoned by a defensive tackle or blitzing linebacker because he has no momentum.

Why not get the best of both worlds, the quick hitter of the sneak along with the momentum of the deep handoff? That’s one of the reasons I love the Single Wing Offense for youth football. Set the “quarterback” and running back just 2 yards from the line of scrimmage in the shortest of short “shotgun” snaps. On the base fullback wedge play that we like in these situations, the fullback takes the snap and runs right behind the apex of our snowplow wedge that at its apex puts the strength of 7 players on one poor defender, with the fullback running right behind this mass of humanity. If you’ve not seen this football play it is a sight to behold, see it in the play clips thumbnail on the main page of this website. I’ve never in 8 seasons seen this play lose yardage by a first team unit. Our “quarterback” on this play fakes a sweep to take pressure off the edges and take linebackers out of the play, but that really isn’t necessary when needing just one yard. The best of both worlds in one football play.

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