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Five Principles of the West Coast Offense


KDawg

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For those of you who don't know, I'm entering my fourth year as a high school football coach after an achilles injury ended my hopes of walking on at a D3 college to play outside linebacker/safety.

I'm currently an offensive coordinator at the modified level, but I've called the plays for varsity and jv in passing tournaments and I'm an offensive assistant on varsity.

I have been studying the West Coast Offense extensively. I want to use it in my playbook, I've always been a fan of it. By pure coincedence, the Redskins are too using a West Coast system now.

I've seen so many people that are very misinformed on the west coast offense.

There are Five MAJOR principles to the West Coast Offense.

Protecting the Quarterback:

The offensive line must know their assignments and be aware of the blitz. Oftentimes, the WCO utilizes a 5 receiver attack, meaning you'll only see five guys blocking plenty. If the defense sends more guys than you have available to block, the quarterback and receiver must both be able to hot route successfully.

Timing the Pass:

Route depth must time out with the drop of the quarterback. The WCO is a timing offense. If the receiver comes into his break too early, the defense is still probably in position to make a play. If the QB holds on to the ball too long or drops too slowly, he screws the timing up.

Using Multiple Receivers:

The WCO utilizes a primary and secondary receiver to flood an area and in the case of a zone, make the defender pick a receiver to cover, or in the case of man defense one receiver clears the other.

The backs are often used to distract the undercoverage (the backers or up safeties). If the backs catch enough passes, the backers will creep up on them and try to jump a route, freeing up your other options.

Reading the Coverage:

Quarterbacks reads are generally fairly simple. The West Coast Offense purposely keeps reads simpler in order to give the QB an advantage and stop them from being tentative when throwing the football. They have a variety of reads that I won't get in to for the sake of keeping things fairly simple :)

Practicing the Fundamentals:

It's all well and good if you know all the principles, but if you aren't practicing all of them and working on timing with your receivers, it means nothing. Practice, practice, practice.

I admit, although I have been studying, I don't know everything about the west coast offense, but I do know enough to know that alot of the stuff people here assume it to be is false. But that's okay, not everyone is a complete loser like myself :)

Hope this helps out a little with some of you. If you have something to add or want to discuss anything, feel free. :)

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Actually that was VERY helpful, KDAWG. Since I'm not a big fan of it, I've never really looked at the West Coast Offense, and your comments made it nice and simple to understand.

Who knows, if it really IS as simple as you indicate maybe Jason Campbell CAN actually learn it and use it effectively.

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Actually that was VERY helpful, KDAWG. Since I'm not a big fan of it, I've never really looked at the West Coast Offense, and your comments made it nice and simple to understand.

Who knows, if it really IS as simple as you indicate maybe Jason Campbell CAN actually learn it and use it effectively.

I don't know exactly what Zorn is doing with it, I know he has his own variation, and despite all the people here that claim they know exactly what it is, we really don't :)

The idea is to make it easier on a QB, absolutely. Like I said, there can be up to five receivers, and most of the time you'll see five on passing routes. There is always a primary receiver and a dump off receiver, and for the most part they are often in the same vicinity on the football field. But if the defense shuts them down, the reads get a bit tougher. The 3rd option is oftentimes difficult to complete due to the fact that the QB took so long to read the first two, so now the pass rush is coming. That's where the backs come in (if they aren't the primary receiver).

To most of us, it would be incredibly difficult. To an NFL QB, it shouldn't be all that bad, especially when compared to Saunders monstrosity of an offense.

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Good post, KD. Broke things down well for the rest of us. Personally I think we're going to see a hybrid WCO from the Skins this year. I'm not the first person to suggest this up here; I base my opinion on JZ's recognition of the best part of Joe Gibbs offensive strategy: ball control = time of possession = wear your opps' D down.

I am reasonably certain that's why he's so adamant about his QB's forcing the tempo in TC and during the HOF game as well. It doesn't give the defense any time to re-group, and precious little time to sub guys in and out. Zorn is smart enough to recognize his personnel strengths and tweak things in the base WCO here and there to his advantage.

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Yeah, that's great clarification. I remember when I was growing up and I would ask people, "what does west coast offense mean?" I actually had one person tell me that meant the commentators were talking about San Francisco's offense.

Most other people just would say it meant the team's offense throws short passes all the time. A little too simple of a statement.

One thing I asked myself from the beginning is, will Mike Sellers have a place this season? I saw him a good amount in the HoF game, but I'm concerned if we run a lot of two-TE sets to get Cooley and Davis out there.

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I don't think in this version of the WCO there is a Pri or Sec receiver. I remember a thread a couple months back that talked about Zorn or the Seahawks version. If you go back and look at there stats over the past 4 or 5 years catches are spread out fairly evenly.

Does anyone have clarification or remember that thread?

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I'm interested to see how a West Coast offense can work at the high school level, considering most high schools are run-dominant, if I'm not mistaken. Sounds pretty innovative if it can be successful.

Keep us posted on how it's looking!

Times have changed man highschool teams are running pro style offenses to get kids ready for college. Now a days kids are choosing colleges based on what type of offense or Defense they run so it will utilize there strengths and help them get drafted!

Gone are days of choosing party schools or colleges with the higher female to male ratios!:applause: :applause: :cheers:

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Originally Posted By Taiwan32

Thanks for the clarification KDawg... What defense is the best fit for the WCO? Would you recommend press coverage on the wide out wr's?

The beauty of the WCO is it adapts to defenses. If you're pressing me, I'm hot routing you. If you're playing off of me, I'm hitting quick screens. The hot route is INCREDIBLY important in the WCO.

I personally hate going against a disguised cover 2, if you want to know what I dislike most :)

The WCO is a low risk offense. There shouldn't be alot of turnovers when you run it (Case in point, look at the completion percentage and interceptions thrown in Sunday's preseason game) :)

Originally Posted By Higskin

Good analysis and understood a fair amount prior to your post. My question would be on the reads as mentioned. For example, does Campbell read primary, secondary, or long, intermediate, short or something else?

Primary, Secondary, Third, Fourth, Fifth :)

Originally Posted by BigRedskinDaddy

Good post, KD. Broke things down well for the rest of us. Personally I think we're going to see a hybrid WCO from the Skins this year. I'm not the first person to suggest this up here; I base my opinion on JZ's recognition of the best part of Joe Gibbs offensive strategy: ball control = time of possession = wear your opps' D down.

I am reasonably certain that's why he's so adamant about his QB's forcing the tempo in TC and during the HOF game as well. It doesn't give the defense any time to re-group, and precious little time to sub guys in and out. Zorn is smart enough to recognize his personnel strengths and tweak things in the base WCO here and there to his advantage.

See, the West Coast Offense IS a ball control offense. Keeping Gibbs' running game is added bonus to that front, but that's one of its purposes. Low risk offense that uses short, intermediate, long and playaction passes to move the chains and give a quarterback (and receivers, linemen and backs) confidence. Yes, there is big play potential in the WCO, but it really IS a ball control offense :)

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I don't think in this version of the WCO there is a Pri or Sec receiver. I remember a thread a couple months back that talked about Zorn or the Seahawks version. If you go back and look at there stats over the past 4 or 5 years catches are spread out fairly evenly.

Does anyone have clarification or remember that thread?

I'm not going to pretend like I know what Zorn is doing at all. But these are pretty much the main principles of the offense.

I'd imagine in a pro style, the primary/secondary receivers are dictated by coverage and a QBs reads rather than a pre-determined primary/secondary receiver. But again, I'm not quite sure. You'd have to ask Coach Zorn :)

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This year will be kind of a surprise for many Skins fans who's only exposure to the WCO has been playing against the Eagles 2 times a year.

The philosophy and how the plays are run are a bit different than what Gibbs ran or even Saunders' offense.

I am glad that the one constant will be Gibbs' running game.

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Thanks for the clarification KDawg... What defense is the best fit for the WCO? Would you recommend press coverage on the wide out wr's?

Since the passing is based on precise timing, pressing the receivers to disrupt the timing would make sense.

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Since the passing is based on precise timing, pressing the receivers to disrupt the timing would make sense.

Which is why the WCO generally employees large strong receivers in the slot/split end or very fast receivers in the slot/flanker positions.

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Which is why the WCO generally employees large strong receivers in the slot/split end or very fast receivers in the slot/flanker positions.

Bingo. Press coverage can work extremely well against it... If the other teams receivers are undersized for the offense. However, if you want to press and you have a receiver of any size that is able to get off the press well, a hot route is your best friend.

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See, the West Coast Offense IS a ball control offense. Keeping Gibbs' running game is added bonus to that front, but that's one of its purposes. Low risk offense that uses short, intermediate, long and playaction passes to move the chains and give a quarterback (and receivers, linemen and backs) confidence. Yes, there is big play potential in the WCO, but it really IS a ball control offense :)

You're right. A lot of WCO's use the short and intermediate routes LIKE running plays, however, to move the chains as you mentioned. I think this one will utilize most of Gibbs' basic run package more than short routes or check downs. I think it's the best of both worlds. As you said earlier, it adapts to defensive strategies, and this version should by hyper-adaptable. I have a hard time seeing any DC's getting the better of this unit for an entire half, much less a whole game, assuming it's executed fairly well.

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You're right. A lot of WCO's use the short and intermediate routes LIKE running plays, however, to move the chains as you mentioned. I think this one will utilize most of Gibbs' basic run package more than short routes or check downs. I think it's the best of both worlds. As you said earlier, it adapts to defensive strategies, and this version should by hyper-adaptable. I have a hard time seeing any DC's getting the better of this unit for an entire half, much less a whole game, assuming it's executed fairly well.

Moving the chains IS ball control. Why else would you want to move the chains?

If I throw long every play and score in three plays, I'm certainly not controlling the football.

If I go three and out or pick up one first down on a drive, I'm not controlling the football.

I want to nickle and dime you for first downs until a big play opens. Multiple first downs per possession are a definite goal for most WCO teams. Not that they'd argue with a few quick TDs :)

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Moving the chains IS ball control. Why else would you want to move the chains?

If I throw long every play and score in three plays, I'm certainly not controlling the football.

If I go three and out or pick up one first down on a drive, I'm not controlling the football.

I want to nickle and dime you for first downs until a big play opens. Multiple first downs per possession are a definite goal for most WCO teams. Not that they'd argue with a few quick TDs :)

I agree, brother. My point is that I believe Zorn will run the ball more often than a lot of base WCO's to move the chains. I don't care how it's accomplished, just keep racking up 1st downs and winning the field position battle even if you don't score, and eventually the defense will break down significantly enough that big play opps will arise. I'm sure he will mix it up with some short quick hitters on early downs, but I feel like he'll rely more on runs than he might have say in Seattle.

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One thing I asked myself from the beginning is, will Mike Sellers have a place this season? I saw him a good amount in the HoF game, but I'm concerned if we run a lot of two-TE sets to get Cooley and Davis out there.

Great write up, thanks.

An answer to this question is I previously read that the FB can be important and looked it up way back when.

Now depending on the "version" of the WCO and I guess the personnel of the team players it of course comes down to the play calling. I like our receivers better then Seattle's and I also like Sellers better then Seattle's FB's. (I know I am a homer), but Hasselbeck obviously has a better understaing then Campbell at this time and is more comfortable.

But the stats show Seattle's FB's touched the ball more the Sellers last year, so maybe Sellers will be more involved, who knows?

Seattle's FB's:

37 carries 165 yards and 1 TD.

48 receptions 385 yards

Sellers:

26 carries 78 yards 2 TD's.

17 receptions 117 1 TD.

85 touches to Sellers 43 touches.

I see no reason why Sellers will not get 50+ touches, while spreading the ball around. Just my 2 cents.

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I agree, brother. My point is that I believe Zorn will run the ball more often than a lot of base WCO's to move the chains. I don't care how it's accomplished, just keep racking up 1st downs and winning the field position battle even if you don't score, and eventually the defense will break down significantly enough that big play opps will arise. I'm sure he will mix it up with some short quick hitters on early downs, but I feel like he'll rely more on runs than he might have say in Seattle.

Now I gotcha. Absolutely. We're going to be running the football. :)

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My point is that I believe Zorn will run the ball more often than a lot of base WCO's to move the chains.

You might be right in the short run, especially if Campbell is slow to pick up the offense. But Jim Zorn's background is in the passing game. That's why he's here.

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