Running Plays to Install Into Your Offense

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A few basic runs will help get your team where it needs to be. Tom Merton - Getty Images

It's nearly impossible to succeed at any level of football without having an effective running game. A strong ground game allows you to control the clock, wear down the defense, and succeed in short-yardage situations.

There are several different types of running plays and multiple variations on those runs. The possibilities seem endless but developing a running game needn’t be mind-boggling. Just start with the basics – practice, practice, practice!

– and go from there. Have a few basic runs in your arsenal and you’ll be fine.

Here is a list of the running plays your team should be practicing. 

1. The Dive/Blast: This is the most standard carry you see in any offense. Generally, the running back takes a handoff and is led by a block from the fullback. The fullback creates a hole between the guard and the tackle and the running back powers inside, lowering his head or shoulder to brace for contact. This is a good short-yardage play.

2. The Draw: This is an effective call when you have a good passing offense. In this play, the quarterback drops back, pretending as though the team is running a passing play. When the defensive backs drop back and the d-linemen start their pass rush, the quarterback hands the ball off to the running back, who should find some space straight up the middle (as the offensive linemen will push the defenders outside), if the ruse succeeds.

3. The Counter: Another exercise in trickery, this play uses misdirection to create a hole in the offensive line. The quarterback fakes a toss to a player running in one direction (parallel to the line of scrimmage) and then hands it to a running back or fullback running toward the middle of the line.

Ideally, the runner will find space in between the center and either guard.

4. The Sweep: If you're lucky enough to have a speedy team, the sweep will be your best friend. In this play, both guards pull off of their blocking assignments and run outside toward the direction of the sweep. The running back takes the ball outside (best to run it toward the open side of the field) and runs behind blocks from the pulling guards and the fullback. This is a great running play to get big yards on.

5. The Off-Tackle: On the other hand, if you're a team that's not as fast, the off-tackle running play will be a great installment in your offense. This is a strong-side run, meaning that the runner is moving toward the tight end or where the extra blocker is. The goal of this play is for your running back to find the hole created by your tackle and tight end. The runner can choose to take the ball outside of the tight end or outside the tackle. It's essential that your fullback lay a block on the outside linebacker in the play.

6. The Reverse: This is somewhat of a trick play that's meant to punish teams that over pursue ball carriers or don't remain disciplined in their assignments. The quarterback hands the ball to the running back on a play that looks to be a sweep.

The wide receiver on that side runs behind the line of scrimmage and receives a handoff from the running back. If the defense falls for it, they will be in hot pursuit of the running back when your receiver gets the ball, giving him a wide-open field to run with. Be careful though! A botched reverse may result in a big loss of yardage.

There are many more running plays you can add into your playbook, but the best thing you can do as a coach is have your team master these basic six first.