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Suggestions For Stopping A Great Running Back

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Hi, I've never played or coached flag football before, so I would really appreciate some advice. Our league is 8-9 year old, 5 on 5, can rush QB after 5 seconds, but not before (no blitzing). Qb can run after 5 seconds. Next Sunday we play against a team with a really fast running back. They hand-off the ball to him at least 50% of the time, (probably more), and he scores TDs almost every time he touches the ball. The team doesn't pass much (they don't have to). I was planning on using our 2-3 defense which has worked most of the season, but I'm not sure how it will work against this fast boy, and I am considering a change to a 3-2 defense or a 2-1-2. I would really appreciate some advice from anyone who has any experience playing against a very fast player. He usually runs a reverse and the majority of the time he gets the ball on a reverse, stops and turns the other way.

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Hi, I've never played or coached flag football before, so I would really appreciate some advice. Our league is 8-9 year old, 5 on 5, can rush QB after 5 seconds, but not before (no blitzing). Qb can run after 5 seconds. Next Sunday we play against a team with a really fast running back. They hand-off the ball to him at least 50% of the time, (probably more), and he scores TDs almost every time he touches the ball. The team doesn't pass much (they don't have to). I was planning on using our 2-3 defense which has worked most of the season, but I'm not sure how it will work against this fast boy, and I am considering a change to a 3-2 defense or a 2-1-2. I would really appreciate some advice from anyone who has any experience playing against a very fast player. He usually runs a reverse and the majority of the time he gets the ball on a reverse, stops and turns the other way.

If you know they are going to run, it should be easy to stop. The philosophy is going to be contain the runner and force him back inside. All players should be working towards that goal, your outside guys containing and your inside guys in pursuit. I would do the following:

Place one kid over the center at the los. His job is to follow the ball side to side and keep it in front of him. Speed isn't as important as his ability to read the play and his flag pulling. You're going to try to funnel most of the runs towards him so he needs to be ready to make lots of plays.

Place two kids left and right of the center, maybe 7-10 yards wide on either side (they should ignore the wideouts). These kids sit on the los and have the primary responsibility of keeping the running back from getting to the outside. This is very important. They must contain and force the run back towards the middle. If the run goes in the opposite direction they need to penetrate into the backfield, stay home and anticipate the run coming back towards them.

With the other two kids you can go two ways. Either split them as safeties or play one center safety and have one rusher. If I knew for sure it was going to be a run I'd probably go with the two safeties. If the other team didn't throw well and you suspected a pass I'd rush one.

A couple of things to keep in mind. If this team runs as much as you say, have your safeties flying in quickly for run support. If the outside defender can keep forcing back things to the inside it should be easy to clean up with the safeties and middle defender. If the team drops back to pass (and you know its not a run) your 3 defenders on the los will need to bail back into coverage. The defense I'm describing to you will tear apart runs but is very susceptible to outside quick passes. We played a team that ran this defense and we're a good passing team. We simply faked the handoff and threw the ball to the outside where our wideout was set up on the sideline just past the los. Easy pass and catch and lots of room to run. Also if your safeties are flying in for run support you could get burned over the top. Just keep those things in mind, you are going to make yourself susceptible to certain passes by focusing so much on the run.

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Place two kids left and right of the center, maybe 7-10 yards wide on either side (they should ignore the wideouts). These kids sit on the los and have the primary responsibility of keeping the running back from getting to the outside. This is very important. They must contain and force the run back towards the middle. If the run goes in the opposite direction they need to penetrate into the backfield, stay home and anticipate the run coming back towards them.

I agree with Orange here. Put 3 on the line and either have 2 safeties for a 3-2 defense or 1 rusher and 1 safety for a 3-1-1 defense. We just played a team in our championship game who had a kid like you describe. What we ended up doing is running the 3-1-1, but we spread the 3 on the line out a bit more, and had the rusher do more run contain than rushing, so it ended up being more of a 4-1 in reality.

Orange mentioned it above, but I wil reiterate, the easiest way to get burned by super fast kids like this is when your defense overpursues the running back leaving one side of the field open for the running back to cut back to.

MAKE SURE your kids stay in their zones.

Iterate over and over in practice to "box in" the runner, i.e. get in front of the runner to slow him down while other defenders attack from the sides to lock him in a box.

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Sounds like you got contain problems which is very common in your age group. To fix it simple. In whatever front you run your outside guys need to get staright up field to ball depth and then attack from the depth of the ball in and under control. When the running back gets the hand-off on the reverse he will see the first guy at ball depth attacking inwards under control. If he continues to run towards him your contain guy must string it out or force him to run inside where your help is. If he turns to run the opposite way you still got a contain guy coming down at ball depth under control and force him to run inside. So contain him by bracketing him in with your players getting to ball depth and force him to run inside where you have more help to stop him. Good luck!

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Hi, I've never played or coached flag football before, so I would really appreciate some advice. Our league is 8-9 year old, 5 on 5, can rush QB after 5 seconds, but not before (no blitzing). Qb can run after 5 seconds. Next Sunday we play against a team with a really fast running back. They hand-off the ball to him at least 50% of the time, (probably more), and he scores TDs almost every time he touches the ball. The team doesn't pass much (they don't have to). I was planning on using our 2-3 defense which has worked most of the season, but I'm not sure how it will work against this fast boy, and I am considering a change to a 3-2 defense or a 2-1-2. I would really appreciate some advice from anyone who has any experience playing against a very fast player. He usually runs a reverse and the majority of the time he gets the ball on a reverse, stops and turns the other way.

If you know they are going to run, it should be easy to stop. The philosophy is going to be contain the runner and force him back inside. All players should be working towards that goal, your outside guys containing and your inside guys in pursuit. I would do the following:

Place one kid over the center at the los. His job is to follow the ball side to side and keep it in front of him. Speed isn't as important as his ability to read the play and his flag pulling. You're going to try to funnel most of the runs towards him so he needs to be ready to make lots of plays.

Place two kids left and right of the center, maybe 7-10 yards wide on either side (they should ignore the wideouts). These kids sit on the los and have the primary responsibility of keeping the running back from getting to the outside. This is very important. They must contain and force the run back towards the middle. If the run goes in the opposite direction they need to penetrate into the backfield, stay home and anticipate the run coming back towards them.

With the other two kids you can go two ways. Either split them as safeties or play one center safety and have one rusher. If I knew for sure it was going to be a run I'd probably go with the two safeties. If the other team didn't throw well and you suspected a pass I'd rush one.

A couple of things to keep in mind. If this team runs as much as you say, have your safeties flying in quickly for run support. If the outside defender can keep forcing back things to the inside it should be easy to clean up with the safeties and middle defender. If the team drops back to pass (and you know its not a run) your 3 defenders on the los will need to bail back into coverage. The defense I'm describing to you will tear apart runs but is very susceptible to outside quick passes. We played a team that ran this defense and we're a good passing team. We simply faked the handoff and threw the ball to the outside where our wideout was set up on the sideline just past the los. Easy pass and catch and lots of room to run. Also if your safeties are flying in for run support you could get burned over the top. Just keep those things in mind, you are going to make yourself susceptible to certain passes by focusing so much on the run.

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wow thanks for the advice, it was very, very helpful. I think we are going to go all out to stop their running game and force them to do what they are not used to doing - pass. If they burn us with the pass then we'll have to adjust. I think we'll be in pretty good shape if we can keep the ball out of their best players hand.

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Place two kids left and right of the center, maybe 7-10 yards wide on either side (they should ignore the wideouts). These kids sit on the los and have the primary responsibility of keeping the running back from getting to the outside. This is very important. They must contain and force the run back towards the middle. If the run goes in the opposite direction they need to penetrate into the backfield, stay home and anticipate the run coming back towards them.

I agree with Orange here. Put 3 on the line and either have 2 safeties for a 3-2 defense or 1 rusher and 1 safety for a 3-1-1 defense. We just played a team in our championship game who had a kid like you describe. What we ended up doing is running the 3-1-1, but we spread the 3 on the line out a bit more, and had the rusher do more run contain than rushing, so it ended up being more of a 4-1 in reality.

Orange mentioned it above, but I wil reiterate, the easiest way to get burned by super fast kids like this is when your defense overpursues the running back leaving one side of the field open for the running back to cut back to.

MAKE SURE your kids stay in their zones.

Iterate over and over in practice to "box in" the runner, i.e. get in front of the runner to slow him down while other defenders attack from the sides to lock him in a box.

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This is a good topic. If you are new to coaching, you will find that there will always be one or two teams that have a tremendous athlete who is far superior to the rest of the players on that team. I personally think it is bush-league when the coach gives it to that player the majority of the time, especially in recreational leagues. How is that any fun for the other players/parents on the team? Arrgh!

One season we were beat by a single player--he got the ball 80% of the time. We faced them a few games later. On the first play of that game, I sent ALL of my players to that kid (this is when we were 8vs8), of course he got the ball and we stopped him in the backfield. That sent a message. :-)

To that end, as others have said, players maintaining their zones is the first key. The other key is ensuring you put the proper personnel in place. We are 6vs6 and for the most part run a 2-2-2. However, when facing a team with a staunch RB, we run a 3-2-1. Keeping players in the "box" as stated here is very important. Most kids like to use the sideline as a crutch, and thus forcing the ball-carrier back in if he tries to bounce outside will really help give your defense a chance.

One of the things we do (I give my former DC credit for this) is have our two ends step right onto the LOS and turn IN toward the QB once the ball is snapped. While it seems subtle, it does quite a few things: 1. It gives the players something to "do" once the ball is snapped, as oppossed with following other players or over-pursuing. 2. It gives them an advantage of seeing the play and re-acting accordingly. Again, they are instructed to step on the line, turn in, and wait for the play to develop before doing ANYTHING, and this really keeps them disciplined.

Let us know how you do. I also recommend milking the clock. Do everything you can to keep their offense off the field.

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This is a good topic. If you are new to coaching, you will find that there will always be one or two teams that have a tremendous athlete who is far superior to the rest of the players on that team. I personally think it is bush-league when the coach gives it to that player the majority of the time, especially in recreational leagues. How is that any fun for the other players/parents on the team? Arrgh!

One season we were beat by a single player--he got the ball 80% of the time. We faced them a few games later. On the first play of that game, I sent ALL of my players to that kid (this is when we were 8vs8), of course he got the ball and we stopped him in the backfield. That sent a message. :-)

To that end, as others have said, players maintaining their zones is the first key. The other key is ensuring you put the proper personnel in place. We are 6vs6 and for the most part run a 2-2-2. However, when facing a team with a staunch RB, we run a 3-2-1. Keeping players in the "box" as stated here is very important. Most kids like to use the sideline as a crutch, and thus forcing the ball-carrier back in if he tries to bounce outside will really help give your defense a chance.

One of the things we do (I give my former DC credit for this) is have our two ends step right onto the LOS and turn IN toward the QB once the ball is snapped. While it seems subtle, it does quite a few things: 1. It gives the players something to "do" once the ball is snapped, as oppossed with following other players or over-pursuing. 2. It gives them an advantage of seeing the play and re-acting accordingly. Again, they are instructed to step on the line, turn in, and wait for the play to develop before doing ANYTHING, and this really keeps them disciplined.

Let us know how you do. I also recommend milking the clock. Do everything you can to keep their offense off the field.

Yes, It's true what you say about one player getting the ball all the time. It's not fair to the other kids. I always try to spread the ball around. I actually talked to their coach about it, he's a pretty good guy, and he says the kids on his team want their star player to get the ball all the time, but i find that hard to believe. I have decided that we are going all out to stop him, even if it means we will be vulnerable on the pass. The hard thing will be to keep my players disciplined enough to box, and not just attack the runner. We practiced it today. I really like your suggestions about having the outside guys stepping up and turning in, and I will mention it to them before the game tomorrow. We had a lot of snow in the north east, so I'm not sure if we're playing tomoorow. The field is covered in snow. I think it will be a lot of fun for the kids, and I know they want to play, but the league coordinator may cancel on us. Will definitely keep everyone posted on how we do, and I do appreciate all the feedback. This forum has been great!!!

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Yes, It's true what you say about one player getting the ball all the time. It's not fair to the other kids. I always try to spread the ball around. I actually talked to their coach about it, he's a pretty good guy, and he says the kids on his team want their star player to get the ball all the time, but i find that hard to believe.
I find that very hard to believe also, I've found most kids want a chance to run with the ball. Kind of boring running dummy routes the entire game.

One suggestion, you could talk with the league director and ask them to implement a two touch unwritten rule. Point is for each team to try and get every kid two touches per game. I suggested that in our league a few seasons back and it works pretty well. It's not mandatory and the league isn't keeping track, it's based on the honor system. Ref comes out before each game and reminds us to spread the ball touches around. Seems to work.

I see the same thing in our rec basketball league. Teams will keep their better players in for a good chunk of the game and sub in the developing players when they have a lead. In fact, I watched a game last night where a team kept their 5' 8" center in for 14 consecutive minutes with no break, they have 10 kids on the team. We play 20 minute halves, so he pretty much played 70% of the first half. League director happened to be watching the game and told the coach he needed to sub the kid. Blows my mind that stuff like this goes on in these rec leagues.

One season we were beat by a single player--he got the ball 80% of the time. We faced them a few games later. On the first play of that game, I sent ALL of my players to that kid (this is when we were 8vs8), of course he got the ball and we stopped him in the backfield. That sent a message. :-)
Yep, and two things happen to these kids; when they get older a good coach will bench them for being a "one man team" or the other team will shut them down like you did.

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Yes, It's true what you say about one player getting the ball all the time. It's not fair to the other kids. I always try to spread the ball around. I actually talked to their coach about it, he's a pretty good guy, and he says the kids on his team want their star player to get the ball all the time, but i find that hard to believe.
I find that very hard to believe also, I've found most kids want a chance to run with the ball. Kind of boring running dummy routes the entire game.

It always puts it into perspective when I have a player ask me after a game, "Did we win?" ;-) I'm very confident that on the car ride home, most kids think about what THEY did in the game as oppossed with if they won or lost, at least at this age.

When I see this (a coach dishing it to his best player over and over) it's quite often a new coach. A lot of new coaches feel as though they are under pressure to win by the parents. I've met many new coaches who feel they will be perceived as a failure if their team does not win.

Regarding the "two touch" rule, our league has a rule that a player cannot carry the ball three times in a row. This started a few seasons ago, but is very much buried in the rulebook, and a lot of coaches don't know it, and/or the refs don't know or keep up with it. I'd say that 100% of the teams I've faced since the rule was implemented have violated it. Only once did I say something when a coach gave it to the same player 9-10 times in a row (spanning almost two quarters). He was cool about it, he just didn't know.

On top of that, the parents all see it. Last season we faced a team that was doing it, and although we were winning it got to the point where a parent of one of my players shouted to the coach "why don't you give it to your other players?" The coach yelled back "Hey, I'm trying to win!" I think it's unhealthy when a coach feels that HE needs to win at the expense of getting his other players involved.

I am more tolerant with new coaches, as frankly they typically struggle in our league their first season and feel pressure to win, as I am with experienced coaches who should know better.

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Yes, It's true what you say about one player getting the ball all the time. It's not fair to the other kids. I always try to spread the ball around. I actually talked to their coach about it, he's a pretty good guy, and he says the kids on his team want their star player to get the ball all the time, but i find that hard to believe.
I find that very hard to believe also, I've found most kids want a chance to run with the ball. Kind of boring running dummy routes the entire game.

It always puts it into perspective when I have a player ask me after a game, "Did we win?" ;-) I'm very confident that on the car ride home, most kids think about what THEY did in the game as oppossed with if they won or lost, at least at this age.

When I see this (a coach dishing it to his best player over and over) it's quite often a new coach. A lot of new coaches feel as though they are under pressure to win by the parents. I've met many new coaches who feel they will be perceived as a failure if their team does not win.

Regarding the "two touch" rule, our league has a rule that a player cannot carry the ball three times in a row. This started a few seasons ago, but is very much buried in the rulebook, and a lot of coaches don't know it, and/or the refs don't know or keep up with it. I'd say that 100% of the teams I've faced since the rule was implemented have violated it. Only once did I say something when a coach gave it to the same player 9-10 times in a row (spanning almost two quarters). He was cool about it, he just didn't know.

On top of that, the parents all see it. Last season we faced a team that was doing it, and although we were winning it got to the point where a parent of one of my players shouted to the coach "why don't you give it to your other players?" The coach yelled back "Hey, I'm trying to win!" I think it's unhealthy when a coach feels that HE needs to win at the expense of getting his other players involved.

I am more tolerant with new coaches, as frankly they typically struggle in our league their first season and feel pressure to win, as I am with experienced coaches who should know better.

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Hi everyone. We played yesterday against the one dimensional team and we won big. We ran a 3 man front with two safeties. My ends did an awesome job at contain and we practically completely shut him down. He scored only two touchdowns and we won 45-20. Thanks again for all the advice.

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We have a coaches meeting before the season, and I always encourage the other coaches to use 1st and 2nd down to get the ball in the hands of the non-star players. I've always done this, as well as design plays at the goaline for the same kids. I have been able to get "every" kid in the endzone during the last two seasons. It is frustrating to have a coach use the "fast" kid on a sweep every play. My son is actually the fastest kid in the league and he only gets about 3 touches a game on offense - because he scores 90% of the time. If I do run into a 1 kid show team, I blitz my best player to the "ball carrier" from the strong side (right handers tend to run right). Keep your corners/DEs at the line and staying home for containment. Move your safety up and have him focus on the fast kid from the snap. Flat out "DARE" the other coach to throw it over the middle. Even if he does burn you, you have at least helped some poor kid on that team have some success other than the golden child. If you have the ends/corners stay home; it will slow the kid long enough that a trailing blitzer, scraping middle defender, and spying safety can bottle him up. AGAIN, if you force this coach to score another way, you have done a good thing for the kids on his team - so feel good about it win or loss.

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