The A-11 offense is an offensive scheme that has been used in some levels of amateur American football. In this offense, a loophole in the rules governing kicking formations is used to disguise which offensive players would be eligible to receive a pass for any given play. It was designed by Kurt Bryan and Steve Humphries of Piedmont High School in California.
The scheme was used at the high school level for two seasons before the national governing body of high school football, the National Federation of State High School Associations, closed the scrimmage kick loophole in February 2009, effectively banning important facets of the offense.
The A-11 offense was the basis of the A11FL, a planned professional football league which was scheduled to play its first season in 2015. However, after announcing franchises and scheduling "showcase games" in early 2014, the league folded before taking the field.
The most striking characteristic of the A-11 is its use of an "Emory & Henry"-style spread formation, with the players on the line of scrimmage spread across the field as if they were wide receivers. In conventional formations (including the Emory & Henry), five of these players are offensive linemen. In the A-11, however, players who play any position may be stationed across the line.
This was possible because, at the time the A-11 offense was created, a loophole existed in the high school rule books that allowed teams in a "scrimmage kick" (i.e., a punt or field goal) formation to be exempted from numbering requirements. Instead of including five offensive linemen who wear uniform numbers in a specific range and who are obviously ineligible to receive a pass, any player wearing any number can be used anywhere on the field. Since there were no restrictions concerning when the "scrimmage kick" exemption could be used or not used, the A-11 offense could be used on every down.
To use the scrimmage kick formation exemption, the player who receives the snap (presumably the kicker or placeholder) must stand at least seven yards behind the line of scrimmage. The A-11 places the quarterback in that position, which becomes a deep shotgun formation. This has the effect of reducing the need for offensive line protection since defensive players have more ground to cover before reaching the passer. The offense also places an additional passing back (similar to the wildcat offense) in the backfield next to the quarterback, creating the potential for either one to run or pass the ball.
The A-11 still must abide by rules which cap the number of eligible receivers at five (maximum six if the quarterback hands the ball off or laterals to an ineligible receiver who then passes the ball). However, it is unclear which players will be eligible until just before the snap, making pass coverage more difficult; the eligible numbered players could interchange between eligible and ineligible positions after each play. The use of eligible numbers on every player on the field, coupled with the deep position of the quarterback, forces more of the defense personnel to go into "pass defense" mode and puts less focus on run defense or pass rushing.
Legality at various levels
As mentioned, the A-11 offense was designed by a high school coach who used a "loophole" in the rules concerning allowable formations to design an every-down offense. As more schools began using the A-11, others called the system "an unsporting act" and "outside of the spirit of the rule code." Consequently, high school associations in North Carolina, West Virginia, Louisiana, and the District of Columbia banned the use of the A-11 for the 2008 season.
In February 2009, the National Federation of State High School Associations rules committee voted 46–2 to close the loophole allowing the linemen-free formations featured in the A-11. The system's creators petitioned the California Interscholastic Federation to allow use of the offense over the next three seasons on an experimental basis, but the appeal was denied. The scheme's creators have since made adjustments and run the new version of the A-11 offense for the entire 2009 season. It now abides by all numbering requirements at every level of football, without any numbers exchanged between plays. The ineligible numbered "anchors," like any ineligible receiver, can neither receive forward passes nor advance downfield before a forward pass is thrown across the line of scrimmage, but can catch lateral and backward passes, take handoffs, advance downfield prior to a screen pass to an eligible receiver, or even throw the ball if it is given to them. Since the adjusted version of the A-11 offense abides by the numbering requirements, it is similar to the older Emory & Henry offense; as such, unlike the previous version, it is legal in most levels of football.
The scrimmage kick formation is allowed on fourth downs under NCAA rules and on conversion attempts, and a few situations which define a scrimmage kick formation with an additional requirement that "it is obvious that a kick may be attempted." It is otherwise not allowed for most normal plays, making the A-11 impossible to use on an every-down basis.
The offense is not currently legal in the NFL. The main problem is the league's rules concerning the required jersey numbers of players at different positions. Players who usually play at positions that are usually ineligible to receive a pass must declare themselves as eligible receivers to the referee if they will be lining up at an eligible position in a formation. The referee then announces their eligibility before the play, negating the surprise factor of not knowing which players may go out for a pass. The Emory & Henry formation and two-quarterback system are both legal, though they are rarely used.
In Canadian football, there is no scrimmage kick exemption in the CFL, and persons who wish to change position from an eligible to an ineligible receiver (or vice versa) must physically change their uniform to a number that reflects their eligibility, and must seek permission from the official to do so.
Furthermore, until the end of the 2008 season the Canadian Football League rulebooks dictated that a designated quarterback must take all snaps, which made the two-quarterback system used by the A-11 (as well as offenses such as the Wildcat) illegal in the CFL. On June 8, 2009 the CFL listened to suggestions from fans and removed this rule, mainly so that the Wildcat formation could be used for the 2009 season and all succeeding seasons.
At most levels of youth football, the A-11 remains as legal as their use and/or application of high school rules.
Though there is no way to implement the A-11 in six-man football due to all players already being eligible receivers under those rules, the concepts of A-11 could theoretically be expanded into nine-man, eight-man and indoor variants of the game, all of which have ineligible players. However, like in youth football, the extent of how much an A-9 or A-8 offense is used in those levels is unknown, and it is nonexistent in indoor football.
The A11FL was a proposed professional spring outdoor football league founded with input from the creators of the A-11 offense, Kurt Bryan and Steve Humphries, that will utilize the A-11 offense exclusively. The A11FL was planned to debut in May 2014 with two "Showcase Games" to be broadcast on ESPN. However, in April 2014, these two showcase games were cancelled, and the league's remaining founders eventually abandoned the premise before its first game, which is scheduled for March 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to A-11 offense.|
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- Players Wanted: New Football League Based on Crazy Piedmont High Offense | KQED News Fix
- New A11 pro football league will have Bay Area team | Other Sports | San Francisco | San Francisco Examiner
- ESPN2 to Televise A11FL Games « ESPN MediaZone ESPN MediaZone