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Football is its own language.
Sure, if you were to say “the back followed his blockers before bouncing it outside and juking a defender,” it’s not hard to get a sense of what’s going on. If you were to say “they ran inside zone against a four-man front, the OL was able to neutralize the DT and NT, move up to the linebackers, and the back cut outside once the safety committed to corralling him one on one,” the X’s and O’s on the chalkboard start to come to life.
Ian and I have put together a list of all the relevant terms to 2019 Texas’ offense, defense, strategy, and deployment. Use this as a resource and feel free to ask us about any other terms we might have overlooked.
RPO – RPO is an abbreviation for “run-pass option.” There are several iterations of the RPO, but the most important letter in that acronym is the O for “option.” Similar to the triple-option system where the QB is reading whether to pitch or to keep by reading an unblocked defender on the edge, in an RPO he must read whether to hand off to a back or throw it to a receiver based on what a defender off the ball does.
XWR – In Texas football lingo, the XWR normally lines up on the boundary (short) side of the field. Size, physicality and the ability to win one-on-one balls are necessary traits for the position since he’s in close proximity to the QB and the box, with straight-line speed and quickness important in so far as they allow the player to win those one-on-ones.
ZWR – The ZWR normally lines up on the outside aligned to the field (wide side). Size and quickness is important, but straight-line speed is the primary need for players in this position since they are playing in more open space. In addition, ZWR is important in the screen blocking game, since he’s often aligned next to the slot. Go routes, posts, slants, and digs are important routes for this position.
HWR – Not to be confused with a physical, fullback style “h-back,” the HWR is the slot receiver in the Texas offense. Before Lil’Jordan Humphrey, it was a RB/WR position that was typically home to the notorious “Percy Harvin types.” Humphrey modified how the position could be used mostly he was more of a flex TE using his 6-4 frame and lateral quickness to beat man coverage. Prospects at this position will be more in the Reggie Hemphill-Mapps, Joshua Moore, Jake Smith mold.
Y-TE – Texas calls the tight end position, the position Andrew Beck played in 2018, the Y. Inside the program, the members of this room are called Y-dogs. This player needs to be versatile to allow the offense to stay in a hybrid 11 personnel set. He needs to be able to act as a fullback on some downs, a tight end on others, and a slot receiver on others. When he can do all three the offense quickly create all kinds of formations that can attack defenses in different fashions without substituting and thus not allowing the defense to substitute into packages designed to handle the different stresses.
11 personnel – The preferred personnel package of Tom Herman’s offense. The first number designates how many running backs are on the field, while the second notes the amount of tight ends. If you see coaches on the sideline behind defensive signal-callers holding signs with 11, 12, 10 or any other number like that, it is to identify the personnel for the defense. The presence of a tight end requires the defense to have to account for an extra gap in the run game. Herman prefers his tight ends be able to play inside the tackles and offer the ability to split out in the passing game to occupy defenders from time to time.
10 personnel – For Texas, this can be referred to as a four wide receiver set. Texas ran this often in 2017 due to the lack of a tight end who could manage the responsibilities of the position.
20 personnel – This can mean a lot of different things, at the most basic level it means the offense has two running backs and zero tight ends on the field. That second RB could be a blocking fullback, a second true RB, or a RB/WR hybrid that can also flex out as a slot and help attack the perimeter. When Texas is in 20 personnel it’ll probably mean either that they are asking one of the two RBs to be a sort of FB and throwing lead blocks for the other or that they’re asking one of them to be a RB/WR hybrid that attacks the perimeter to clear out space inside for the other back.
21 personnel – Two RBs and one TE. The I-formation is the classic 21 personnel set but nowadays teams often use hybrid personnel in the spread that create different iterations. In one sense, Texas’ 2018 offense was a 21 personnel group since Lil’Jordan Humphrey was like a full-time flex TE and while TE Andrew Beck was almost like a fullback. The Oklahoma Sooners regularly use spread 21 personnel with a flex TE and a FB/TE in the box.
Inside zone – Bread and butter, Mama, what Tom Herman knows best. This is the staple run play between the tackles of the Longhorn offense. It’s a sort of mano a mano scheme with the OL all taking a zone step in the same direction and looking to control the defenders in their respective zone while utilizing double teams to clear out one or more DL. The goal is to control the line of scrimmage and create a push behind any or all double teams in order to generate a crease in between the tackles where there’s a push. This is downhill, smashmouth football.
Outside zone – Similar to inside zone except the OL take wider lateral steps and double teams don’t occur as often save for on the perimeter. The goal with this play is to attack off tackle on the edge with the wider, lateral steps aiming to spread the defense out and either win the edge or create a horizontal crease for the RB to cutback through. Texas primarily uses outside zone as a QB run play with the RB helping to set the edge for the QB.
Power – Double team the tackle, kick out the DE/OLB on the edge, and pull the backside guard between the kick out and the double team to serve as a lead blocker. Power is another classic downhill, smashmouth way to run the football. Before hiring Tom Herman, Urban Meyer built his offenses more around power but then Herman convinced him to lean more on inside zone.
Counter – Counter is generally the exact same concept as power but on “power” the offense typically uses a FB/TE to kick out the DE/OLB on the edge and pulls the guard to lead. In “counter” the pulling guard executes the kick out block and the TE/FB becomes the guy leading into the hole. There’s also the now ubiquitous “GT counter” where there’s no TE or FB involved and instead the backside guard pulls over to kick out and the backside tackle also pulls and he serves as the lead blocker.
Nickel – A personnel grouping with five defensive backs on the field at once.
Dime – A personnel grouping with six defensive backs on the field at once.
Mac – In Todd Orlando’s modified 3-4 defense, the Mac is the “mike,” or middle linebacker, or strong inside linebacker.
Rover – In Todd Orlando’s modified 3-4 defense, the Rover is the the “will,” or weakside linebacker, or weak inside linebacker. However, Orlando also uses this position in the pass-rush like old school 3-4 teams would use the outside linebacker. This position regularly gets called upon to serve as the fourth pass-rusher and will hunt for a path to the QB between the tackles.
B-Backer – Often called the Buck in other defenses, the B-Backer serves as a 3-4 outside linebacker to the boundary or to the weak side, determined by where the most receivers are. B-Backer plays up on the line but standing up and will often rush the edge or set it against the run. However, when Orlando brings the rover the B-backer will drop back and serves as more of a weakside linebacker. It’s a sort of DE/OLB hybrid position but with much more emphasis on linebacker tasks than Texas’ Buck had under previous defensive coaches.
F-backer/nickel – The F-backer is the outside linebacker who aligns to the field or towards the passing strength for Texas. Because it’s much more of a coverage position, Texas uses a nickel DB here but that player still has to help set the edge at times and at others he needs to be able to man up in coverage on a slot receiver.
Joker – In Texas’ dime or “lightning” package the B-backer position is replaced by another nickel/safety defender. That player may serve as a linebacker on the edge like a nickel or B-backer would or he may play as a robber or “Aztec” safety in the middle of the field. That alignment is maybe best described as a Tampa 2 middle linebacker if that player started plays at depth in the deep middle of the field.
Lightning package/3-2-6 – Texas’ typical dime package which utilizes three DL like the base defense, the mac and rover, and then plays a nickel and dime safety at the two OLB positions. The original Todd Orlando lightning package was a third down, pass-rushing set that utilized a DE inside at the nose tackle spot and then bumped the B-backer down to serve as a stand-up DE and replaced the B-backer with a safety. They still utilize that passing down defense.
Tite front – The preferred defensive front of the Todd Orlando defense. The tite front goes 4-0-4, meaning two 4i-technique DEs and a 0-technique nose tackle. The design of the tite front is to account for three out of the four gaps between the tackles so that the eight stand-up defenders can play off the ball or widen out with spread offenses. The technique of the DL is aggressive but they are primarily being used to fill interior gaps so that RBs have to run laterally where speedy defenders can run them down.
4i – 4i is a defensive end alignment where the DE puts his facemask on the inside eye of the offensive tackle. In Texas’ defense the 4i-technique DE plays the B-gap against the run and looks to get outside of the OT if it’s a pass-rushing situation unless he has the nickel or B-backer coming off the edge.
G front – A 4-2-5 defensive front designed to stop spread offenses that rely on the inside zone running play. The G front blends the traditional “over” and “under” fronts of yesteryear. The defense puts the 3-technique to the same side of the RB in the B-gap to fill the cutback and allow the DE outside him to play the QB on a zone-read play or else help contain the cutback. Opposite and across from the RB the nose tackle lines up in a 2i-technique on the inside eye of the guard to prevent him from getting a good run at the linebackers. The design is to encourage and then stuff the cutback that is common to inside zone teams.
0-Tech – A nose tackle who lines head up across the center. Texas plays with a 0-tech nose in their 4-0-4 “tite” front. He fills the A-gap behind where the center moves unless he gets a call to slant and take a particular gap.
1-Tech – 1-Tech is a defensive tackle alignment where the nose lines up to the outside shoulder of the center normally in a four-man front.
3-tech – 3-tech is a defensive tackle alignment where the DT lines up to the outside shoulder of either guard normally in a four-man front.
Here is Texas’ 11 personnel offense versus Texas’ “base nickel” defense.