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The Reverse – Not a Miracle Football Play For Most Youth Football Teams
Miracle Football Plays – The reverse is not a silver bullet
Most of us think of reverse games as where the flow moves outward in one direction and then a transfer occurs to a wing, slot, or end going in the opposite direction to the initial flow. These long-developing reverse or bypass games work well against undisciplined youth football teams. At younger ages like 6-7 where most teams and players are unruly they often work against everyone else. But the rule of thumb is that the better trained the team you are playing against, the less likely the reverse is to work. If your opponent has blazing speed and your team is slow, the reverse is unlikely to be anything other than a negative yardage play, as the defense has the speed to overcome an initial misstep.
In the past 6 seasons, teams that have faced us that have run reverse plays have only had one try for 10+ yards and none have gone for touchdowns. I guess 80% of reverse plays run against my defense go for negative yardage. Our defense is designed to stop sweeps and setbacks and we only place our most patient and disciplined players on the defensive end and of course we “fit and freeze” the representation of setbacks and bootlegs.
Before calling a reverse play in youth football, you need to consider whether the team you are playing is disciplined or not, if so, the reverse is a terrible play call. You need to spot the defensive end and the corner at the back of your head sweep plays to determine that. Why anyone would have bothered to try and backhand against us is beyond me, because if they had looked at those touches they would have seen the game had no chance.
In youth football many of these inverted type plays are also run “naked”, they have no header blockers and rely on all 11 defenders to be tricked into the play to make it work. When a single player is not fooled, the play is negative and if your ball carrier fumbles in the space behind the line of scrimmage, there is a chance for a big play from the defense. The reverse plays in our playbook are very fast hitters, they are executed very close to the line of scrimmage and have 3 header blockers. We often average over 15 yards per carry with this play and rarely have negative yardage plays.
To make this play work consistently for us, we only need to fool 3-4 defenders as we draw linemen and have a running back in the lead to get power play advantages at the attacking point. The flow looks like a sweep to the opposite side, the game side looks like a power play with 3 blockers in the lead. Back when I was playing junior football 100 years ago, we were doing an inverted wing that we were even blocking as a trap, it was a backbreaker. A trap scheme for backhands works well, but the worst-designed and best-performing backhand games are bareback games.
Many junior football coaches do the reverse too soon. The complementary game must be set up and run a group to ensure that the flow moves away from the reverse. In a memorable match, a “Select” team ran the reverse 7 times against us. The first was run on the 3rd snap of the game, for negative yardage. Of the other 6, only one opted for a positive yardage and even that one for a very small gain. I guess this very successful youth football team was used to this game and rather than checking their keys they just thought it would work against any defence.
Another reason many reverse football games go for a negative distance is that the depth of play between the transfer ball carrier and the ball carrier is often 5-6-7-8 yards deep and most use an external transfer. When the inverted back has to run at an angle that is behind the player from whom it receives the transfer, it naturally has to bank deep to get the transfer and continues along this path deeper into the backfield before it can increase the game. The deeper it goes, the more likely you are to have a big game of negative yardage. In youth football, we prefer an inside transfer on reverse plays to drive the runner forward to the line of scrimmage and keep them shallow. This reduces the risk of backlash and gets the runner back up much faster.
In youth football, the reverse can be a very dangerous play for the defense, but when performed incorrectly, too often, too deep or bare, it can also be a very dangerous play for the attack.
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