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Film Room: Breaking down the dart play

Hopefully Enos brings this gem to Coral Gables

Miami v Virginia Tech Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

Back in January, I took a look at the Dan Enos offense from his time at CMU, Alabama and Arkansas. One play that I featured in the piece was dart. Dart is one of my favorite plays and I intend to use two variations of dart this season as an offensive coordinator.

Dart is a fairly simple play that should be ran to the 1-technique (shade off of the center) and is a “read option” as the quarterback does have a read key. The offensive tackle needs to use speed in the pulling game especially with teams widening their splits.

An offense has to be designed with intention. I set my intention as an O.C. on picking on two players: the defensive ends and the flat defenders. I like to run plays that put both of those players in conflict so that you’re not just grab-bagging your scheme or play calling. You have a purpose for each play, formation, motion, and RPO as well as passing concept.

Picking on the defensive end is easy. An O.C. will gap-hinge him on base zone, through block and read him on inside zone read, kick him with the H-Back on split zone, and then pull in front of him on dart and swing-dart. The dart play picks on the back side defensive end (as does swing-dart) and compliments modern pass protection and zone blocking schemes.

The basics of dart

Above, you can see the basic play art from the “dart” play that Dan Enos ran at Alabama. Dart is a nice change up from a traditional zone blocking scheme. Zone schemes like to run at the 3-technique (defensive tackle on the outside shoulder of the guard), while dart is ran to the nose tackle (1-technique or 2i technique).

The play side offensive tackle (PSOT) will base block the play side defensive end (PSDE) and turn him out. This cuts the PSDE off from making a play on the back who should be running underneath the PSOT’s butt. The play side guard and center will “combo” or double team the 1 technique (or 2i in the play above).

The back side guard’s sole responsibility is to keep anyone out of the back side a-gap, whether that’s a blitzer or the 3-technique like in the image above. The back side offensive tackle will pull and serve as a lead blocker on the play side inside linebacker, much like on the traditional power play. The difference is it cuts off inside blitz or run through pressure from the weak side linebacker and tackles are more mobile than guards in today’s modern offenses (we’ll cover that under “Why I like dart”).

The running back’s path is the play side guard’s left butt cheek, while also following his lead block from the pulling BSOT. If all goes as planned, this play is a solid five yard gain. The quarterback will read the back side defensive end. If the defensive end “squeezes” (comes down the line of scrimmage, shoulders turned, and plays the running back) the QB pulls the ball and keeps. If the defensive end “sits” (plays contain for the QB) the quarterback gives to the running back.

Why I like dart

Dart is a great run play for a variety of reasons. I like any play that’s easy to teach and the rules are simple- and I feel that way about dart. There isn’t a ton of new technique to teach anyone. The PSOT takes a lead step at his defender, the PSG and center are combo blocking which is easy to teach and a fairly basic double lead step. The BSG is scooping their gap and ensuring no run throughs from linebackers or slanting defensive tackles while the back side tackle has the most to learn.

However one of the benefits is that in modern “zone” systems the guards are typically bigger players who eat up space while the tackles are lankier, more athletic types that have to play in space against the elite pass rushers. Unlike Power which requires a quicker guard, dart requires the tackle to have mobility which they should have when so many teams are man-to-man pass blocking using the vertical pass set model and drive-catch method.

I also like dart because the QB read is the same as on inside zone read. Your QB is still reading the back side defensive end and reading him for the same read, it’s not flipped like on inverted veer which causes a ton of teaching of not only footwork but the new read and the ensuing scrape exchanges and line twists to confuse the read.

It also comes built in with a nice pass-run option, which Enos used at Alabama with swing-draw and hopefully swing-dart at Miami.

Dart-Swing, a modern “Pass-Run Option”

Swing-dart would be a great compliment to not only the dart play but also swing-draw which Miami has ran with Malik Rosier in 2017 and 2018 and Alabama ran in 2018. Bama actually used swing-draw with Jalen Hurts for the go-ahead touchdown in the SEC Championship Game in 2018.

Swing-dart works a lot like the Swing G-T counter play I wrote about which was used at Oklahoma with Baker Mayfield in 2017. On swing-dart, if the defense covers the swing route the QB will flip his hips and keep behind the pulling tackle. The QB essentially takes the RB’s responsibility of being the inside threat while the RB takes the quarterback’s responsibility of being the outside threat.

Dart at The U

Dan Enos has done a great job of coaching up his quarterbacks and using the personnel available in a variety of ways to maximize scoring opportunities. Coach Enos had Jalen Hurts playing his best football, Tua Tagovailoa playing elite football, and the Alabama offense was clicking for much of the season.

Manny Diaz seems to want to deploy an offensive system that’s modern and takes advantage of mobile quarterbacks. That’s why Tate Martell was brought down to Coral Gables and Enos was hired to get the most “pro style” out of dual-threat candidates like he did in Tuscaloosa.

Coaches Diaz and Enos are going to run a modern offense and dart plus swing-dart fit into that mold. The 1990’s scheme is out and trendsetting football is in down at Miami (hence the GIF). Deejay Dallas should be able to run dart smoothly and with his soft hands can be the guy that catches the football out in space on the swing-dart. Cam’ron Davis (Harris?), Lorenzo Lingard, and Martell (or Perry or Williams or Weldon) will look smooth in this scheme.

I like the idea of DJ Scaife pulling around to wrap up to an inside linebacker and Tommy Kennedy had solid footwork out in space on screens on his tape and could wrap as well. Navaughn Donaldson and Corey Gaynor could make a vicious double-team duo on the inside, too. The entire offense will be predicated on Martell’s eligibility and what Enos can get out of Matocha and the three returning passers in the QB room.

Below you can watch Coach Mac from Play Fast Football draw up the dart play for his YouTube page.