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Clinic Talk: Terms and phrases used by offensive football coaches

With more and more coaches stepping into the world of announcing and the "Film Room," option during the National Championship game, I'm going to provide a glossary of terms commonly used on offense to clarify this coaching jargon. Here for SOTU we will discuss: schemes, personnel groups, and formations.

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The foundations of offensive football arise in the scheme the coach is trying to employ. As fans of the game we hear a lot of phrases like "pro style" or "spread" and we often wonder what the difference really is because during a Patriots game I see both. Personally, if I hear "pro style" I picture the I-Formation of the NFL and like two college teams and if I hear "spread" I picture Rich Rodriguez's offense at Arizona, but would you ever think of Georgia Tech's Flexbone as a spread offense? No? Why not? Both rarely use a Tight End, both have what could be labeled two receivers and two "slots" or "wings" (think Auburn or Percy Harvin's role at Florida). We can talk in's and out's of scheme all day but here are a few common schemes with examples.

Pro Style: Typically using a fullback (FB) and tight end (TE) but also varying formations and personnel groups. I would immediately think of the Patriots, USC with Matt Leinart at QB and Miami during the Dorsey era. Anything from 20-21-22 personnel to 10 and 11 as well.

Flexbone: This is the offense at Navy and Georgia Tech (and sometimes Army). The Flexbone is triple option based from 30 personnel (rarely a TE on the field) and uses the option and misdirection game.

Shotgun Spread Option: This is what I would think of with Rich Rodriguez, some seasons with Urban Meyer (Tebow, Pryor) Gus Malzahn at Auburn, and Baylor. These coaches use Empty sets, and 10 and 11 personnel to spread-to-run. Sometimes with wing-back type players in motion and sometimes with a pistol fullback.

Air Raid: Mike Leach at Washington State, Sonny Dykes at Cal, and Tony Franklin at Middle Tennessee State. These coaches like 10 and Empty personnel and want to throw short screens and slants instead of run the ball. They like to throw for big yardage and run their two famous passing plays "6" and "Mesh" 40 times per game.

Personnel Groups:

When Jon Gruden or another coach-turned-announcer talks personnel groups, what they mean is depicted in the table below. Offensive coaches love them to run players on and off quickly and use their talents that specialize in certain areas. Defensive coaches love them as a quick way to relay who the offense has on the field, so they know which defensive packages to adjust to the offense with.

When Reggie Bush would line up as a slot receiver, and you saw USC in a 3 WR 1 TE set, that would still be 21 personnel. Personnel groups aren't the formations, they're which players the Offensive Coordinator wants on the field at that time. Some coaches even may have more than one type of 21 personnel once H-Backs and split TE's (think Greg Olson) are involved. 30 personnel is commonly connected to the Flexbone or a Diamond formation (Auburn, Ohio State), while 0 would be the Air Raid guys with their 5 WR empty formations. 21 and 22 are common at Stanford and Michigan while 11 and 10 are common at Baylor, lastly with 20 being used by teams like Ohio State that use H-Backs (depends on how the coach labels him- TE or RB in their personnel groupings).


There's a limitless number of offensive formations that can be covered in the game of football, however we will stick to a base few that Mark Richt will more than likely use in his offense in 2016 since we are SOTU and a #Canes site and all.

I Formation - 21 Personnel

Doubles Formation - 11 Personnel

Now this one is tricky! Is that 3rd man in the backfield a TE, H-Back, extra FB? With his positioning, I would call him a TE/HB (as a Defensive Coordinator identifying my opponent's formations)

Tight Twins - 22 personnel

Contact me via twitter: @IMFB_Blog for questions.