Wednesday, February 27, 2013

4-Vertical: Not Just “Everybody Go Deep”

When football fanatics hear "vertical" or "streak route", they might think of the quarterback throwing deep to his receiver down the sideline. However, the 4-vertical concept actually attacks the safeties. The deep outside routes can still be thrown based upon matchup, but the concept is to throw to the route the free safety doesn’t go to.      

Texas Tech's last drive against Texas in 2008 was a good example of the 4-vertical. Although the Red Raiders called 4-verticals (or “six” in their playbook) on almost every play of the drive, they never connected on the seam routes or attempted a deep throw. Instead they hit the outside receivers on "fade stop" routes, including on Michael Crabtree's famous game winner. According to Mike Leach at the 2009 Angelo Coaching Clinic, Tech's technique tells the receiver to go deep, but if he can't get deep and if the defender is in press coverage with his back to the quarterback, the quarterback will rifle the ball to the back of the defender's head and let the receiver stop and make a play. 

The 4-vertical route combination carries some dynamic aspects, most notably the use of a "bender receiver”, or an inside receiver who will "bend" to a post route when the middle of the field is "open". For example, when the defense has two deep safeties on the hashes (rather than a single one down the middle) the slot receiver will stay on the seam route up the hashmark when there is a deep middle safety, as with Cover Three. The "bender" receiver is given a far more than complicated "seam read," which gives him a wider variety of options to get open against the deep coverage or to come underneath the safeties if they play too deep. Also, the outside receivers are given "streak reads” so they are not locked into just going deep. They can stop and come back to the ball if the defender plays them deep.
The 4-vertical is a staple of nearly every modern passing scheme. My hope is that this will give ideas to coaches who typically send four guys down field without specific plays or instruction. The video below should help convey the coaching points of the 4-vertical concept.

1 comment:

  1. Solid command of the Xs & Os creates the foundation for winning. I love reading about the research (and detailed effort) that goes into coaching. You must be a 'student of the game' to win the game!