Explaining football jargon


It’s come to my attention that I sometimes use football terms in my stories that aren’t regularly identified by the common football fan, and I wanted to rectify that. Knowledge is power, right?

First, let’s talk about the jet sweep or the fly sweep. The jet sweep was first made famous by the Florida Gators with wide receiver Percy Harvin coming in motion and taking a handoff from the quarterback, either Chris Leak or Tim Tebow, and beating the entire defense to the edge to pick up huge chunks of yardage. Well, to be fair it was actually Bob Stitt, a Division II coach at the Colorado School of Mines, in 2003 who came up with it, and air raid offenses designed by Dana Holgerson and Mike Leach brought it to big-time college football. But Harvin and the Gators executed it the best, and it suddenly became a staple everywhere, from high school to college to the pros.

However, in the past few years a new variation has emerged: the jet sweep flip. There’s only one difference between it and the original — rather than handing the ball off to the player in motion the quarterback does a short shovel pass to him instead. If it seems like no big deal, then let me explain why it’s a very big deal.

The big reason why teams are now using a shovel pass instead of handing it off is because if there’s a problem at the mesh point (where the quarterback hands the ball to the receiver) on a jet sweep, then it’s a fumble and the defense can recover it. But with using a short shovel pass of only a foot, the play is considered a pass. If the receiver bobbles and drops it, it’s an incomplete pass and there’s no risk of a turnover. It’s also faster to execute and counts as passing yardage rather than rushing.

The Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams used it last season in the NFL to great success, and West Marion began the season with it as a staple. Once electric playmaker Qavonte Swanigan went down in the opener against PCS with a knee injury, however, head coach Brad Duncan had to use it far less than he intended. Look for the Trojans to reintroduce it this season.

Quarteback Power

I’ve seen West Marion, Columbia, East Marion and Columbia Academy all run quarterback power at some point, and it’s usually run in short-yardage situations, such as two-point conversions. It’s a designed quarterback run out of shotgun between the guard and the tackle, while the guard on the opposite side pulls in front to take out the linebacker filling in the gap.

Speed Option

Columbia will sometimes break out what is called a speed option. There are all sorts of different option plays from the read option to the triple option — all four teams in the county use the read option — but I’ve only seen Columbia run the speed option. It’s where the quarterback attacks the end man on the line of scrimmage and based on what he does — plays the quarterback or the pitch man — he’ll either keep it or pitch it to the trailing running back.

Defensive Line Terminology

On the defensive line, there are all sorts of different positions beyond the simple terms of defensive tackle and defensive end. In a 4-3 scheme (four down linemen, three linebackers), teams shade their defensive tackles either between the center and guard (1-technique) or the guard and tackle (3-technique). The 1-technique is viewed as a run stopper, while the 3-technique is more of a penetrating pass rusher.

In a 50 front or 3-4 (three down linemen, four linebackers), different gaps are used. The nose guard lines up directly over the center (0-technique,) the defensive ends line up directly over the tackles as 5-techniques and the outside linebackers line up outside where a tight end would be as a 9-technique. Each gap is assigned a number and refer to either lining up directly across an offensive lineman or between linemen. The lower the number, the closer to the center the defender is.

Receiver Route Trees

Numbers are also used to describe the route tree a wide receiver runs. While most routes are referred to by name (slant, post, dig, corner, etc.), there is one route that is widely recognized by number: the 9-route. The 9-route is the last of the nine basic routes and is simply a go route where the receiver runs deep down the field in a straight line. A seam route is very similar to a go route, except it’s run out of the slot, the inside receiver in a three or four-receiver set, up the seam of the field. A dig route is just a deep in route, and a wheel route is where a receiver, usually a running back, acts like he is running out into the flat before bursting up the field to go deep.

Secondary Coverages

In the secondary, there are a lot of variations using, you guessed it, numbers. When you hear Cover 1, Cover 2, Cover 3, etc., the number is only referring to how many secondary players are playing a deep zone. In a Cover 1 defense, the cornerbacks, linebackers and strong safety are in man-to-man coverage, while the free safety plays zone coverage and can help on long passes anywhere on the field. While Cover 1 is a man concept, the rest of the coverages are zone concepts.

Cover 2 refers to both safeties playing deep zone coverage on their half of the field, while the cornerbacks play the flats. Linebackers play what is called a hook zone where they drop to roughly 10 yards from the line of scrimmage to disrupt curl and in routes.

Cover 3 can be played several ways, but the basic concept is the cornerbacks use a bail technique and cover their third of the field, and the free safety covers the deep middle. Cover 0, on the other hand, is strictly a man-to-man coverage with no safety help over the top. It is typically used when blitzing linebackers or safeties.

If you ever come across any other terms I use in my stories, feel free to give me a call or send me an email and I’ll be happy to explain it. 

Public Notices