Run and shoot offense

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The run and shoot offense is an offensive system for American football which emphasizes receiver motion and on-the-fly adjustments of receivers' routes in response to different defenses. It was conceived by former high school coach Glenn "Tiger" Ellison and refined and popularized by former Portland State offensive coordinator Mouse Davis.


The run and shoot system uses a formation consisting of one running back and usually four wide receivers, although some variants have substituted an athletic and bigger tight end to help block for the running game. This system makes extensive use of receiver motion (having a receiver suddenly change position by running left or right, parallel to the line of scrimmage, just before the ball is snapped), both to create advantageous mismatches with the opposing defensive players and to help reveal what coverage the defense is using.

The basic idea behind the run and shoot is a flexible offense that adjusts "on the fly," as the receivers are free to adjust their routes as they are running them in response to the defensive coverage employed. The quarterback, as a result, also has to read and react to the defense's coverages in a more improvised manner than with other offensive systems. As a result of the diagnosing of coverages, the system can be considered rather complex and usually requires highly intelligent players.

In the purest form of the offense, the proper complement would consist of two wide receivers lined up on the outside edges of the formation and two "slotbacks" (wide receivers who line up one step back from the line of scrimmage, so as not to be considered "covered" and thus ineligible) lined up just outside and behind the two offensive tackles.

Formation history[edit]

The original inventor of the run and shoot, Glenn "Tiger" Ellison, first started out with a formation that overloaded the left side of the offensive line for his scrambling quarterback. He called it "The Lonesome Polecat".[citation needed]

Many of the National Football League teams that used the run and shoot in the early 1990s used true wide receivers in all four receiving positions. The type of running back used varied from a smaller back who could catch passes to a big, bruising running back who could run with power. The frequent passing plays run out of this formation tend to spread out the defense's players. If repeated pass plays work, the defense is not as prepared for running plays; running the ball between the offensive tackles, or just off-tackle, is now possible and more likely to succeed.

At the collegiate level, the 1989 Houston Cougars football team demonstrated the scoring potential of the run and shoot offense as quarterback Andre Ware set 26 NCAA records and won the Heisman Trophy while the #14 ranked Cougars finished the season 9–2. The Cougars were disallowed from having its football games televised or playing in a Bowl Game that season due to NCAA sanctions imposed some years earlier. The following two seasons Houston quarterback David Klingler continued the success of the run and shoot throwing for 9,430 yards and 91 touchdowns, including 716 yards and 11 touchdown passes in a single game which were all records. Quarterbacks Ware and Klingler were both drafted in the NFL first round. The success of Houston's run and shoot offense along with the inability of its record setting quarterbacks to translate their success into the NFL lead to the label of their being "system quarterbacks".


Other variations of the above formation are similar to the way spread offenses like to set up their systems. Originally, the run and shoot was set up so that the quarterback would be positioned behind the center in a single back position, with the single running back lined up a few yards back. Later, during his tenure with the University of Hawaii, June Jones used quarterback Colt Brennan out of the shotgun. In this case the running back is offset to the right of the quarterback.

Another formation that can often be seen with the run and shoot is the trips formation, where three wide receivers are situated to the right or left side of the line of scrimmage. Most of the time, this formation will be created out of motion when the W or Y receiver moves to the opposite side of the formation.


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