History and Evolution: Power O - Part III - The Modern Era of Power Diversity


Part I - The Power Series Origins

Part II - Off Tackle Power Earns the Name Power

Retaining the Power Series

While "Power" began to be defined as the Off-Tackle Power O variant in the 1980s, most offenses, including the split back dominated West Coast Offenses, retained much of the Power Series plays within their playbook, albeit under different names. This made use of multiple backs to alter the backfield flow, changing the kick blocker, lead blockers, or sending someone elsewhere altogether.

The Way Forward for Power Sweep

18/19 BOB (Big-on-Big, Back-on-Backer) is the classic Power Sweep

1982 San Francisco 49ers Playbook

This is effectively the same thing as Buck Sweep, a popular Wing T play within the 1970s. And certainly, that existed in the 1975 Delaware Wing T playbook

1975 Delaware Wing T Playbook

And would remain a fixture as the Wing T was adapted for the modern game.

2010 Auburn Offensive Playbook

As off-tackle Power became more of a base play, teams also started incorporating a "Bounce" version of standard Power to get outside on teams that started to try to condense on the kick block.

1995 Florida Offensive Playbook

2000 St Louis Rams Offensive Playbook

While this is likely a standard Power O call, the defensive EMOL along with the standard pull and depth naturally allow this play to bounce outside.

Bluff and the Origins of Modern Counter

16/17 A Bluff is an iteration off this Power Sweep, with the FB faking the block on the backer and the PSG kicking him, in a Down Scheme type play. But importantly, it retains the kick block, and the wrap block.

1982 San Francisco 49ers Playbook

This looks similar to the way some teams currently run Down G with a backside pull. Here it is with a Center pull instead of a BSG

The intention today is not to cover the Counter OT and Counter OF/OH of the world, but it is nearly impossible, because:

1989 Alabama Offensive Playbook

Right, they are cousins. By the 1990s, most playbooks included both, but that wasn't originally the case. Many option teams (and the utilization of zone blocking had come about by now for many of those teams) rarely pulled OL. But they still did incorporate trap blocking as a changeup. Thus, your off-tackle Power in those systems now largely relied on a kick block from a BSG and a lead from a FB (or in this case, no lead)

1968 Houston Veer Playbook

Counter until that time had largely been based on misdirection within the backfield, including with a play fake. This cousin of Power largely changed that. Counter OT started like most counters of the day, with backfield misdirection and a playfake.

This could be a fake to the FB and a sweep to the Tailback (or Wing coming back the other way)

1983 Nebraska Offensive Playbook

Or could be a fake to the Tailback and a counter with the FB, holdovers from the split back era with a modern off tackle Power O setup

1985 UConn Offensive Playbook

In the mid-80s, the zone revolution came about, and teams like the Joe Gibbs Washington football team. This allowed the use of FBs, but also 12 personnel with wings to seal the backside. 

1992 Washington Redskins Playbook

And while the backside began to prove difficult to block, Counter OF came about, utilizing the same two plays to kick and wrap as Power, but inverting their responsibilities.

1994 Penn State Offensive Playbook

A Gap Power

The other item that zone/option teams were used to is Fold blocks as an interior changeup to their base schemes. This resulted in an A-Gap Variation of Power existing in many playbooks.

90/91 O Is a form of A-Gap Power, with the playside OL kicking out the defense and the BSG wrapping to the MIKE.

1982 San Francisco 49ers Playbook

Also seen within Nebraska's Option playbook of the era

1983 Nebraska Offensive Playbook

This received new life when North Dakota State began heavily utilizing A-Gap Power

Dealing with a 6-Technique

A head-up defender on the TE has historically caused a lot of issues for Power. Too tight to kick, not far enough inside to get a good combo and drive inside. Arcing the TE is a key way of messing with the TE. The arc often causes the 6-technique to naturally widen, as if getting into a pass rush or protecting the reach block.

14/15 HB O is a Y-arc variant of Power O, which became a common way of blocking a 6-technique defender. The arc block generally widening the player for the kick, and allowing the TE to handle the overhang.

1997 Buffalo Bills Offensive Playbook

1982 San Francisco 49ers Playbook

16/17 BIM (as seen above, but this time with a Y-arc) has s potential double-team on the C-gap defender with the PST and FB, with the Y-arcing outside the play and the PSLB getting logged by the puller.

1982 San Francisco 49ers Playbook

Misdirection Maintained

Lag O is a form of A gap, single back Power with split flow in the backfield, which is an early form of Dart. Mostly throughout the 80s and 90s, teams retained various forms of split flow to prevent defenses from being able to identify the direction of the run immediately at the snap.

1983 San Francisco 49ers Offensive Playbook

1998 Wisconsin Playbook

Single Back Power

While the answer seems obvious now, given all the Power Solid and Split flow versions of power you see above, early spread teams largely struggled with figuring out how to block Power within their framework. Some went straight to the modern answer.

1998 Washington Huskies Offensive Playbook

Others attempted to avoid the pull in favor of the trap, as we saw with early zone based teams, which Air Raid largely maintained as a primary blocking scheme (note: the F here doesn't matter if he's aligned in the slot or backfield)

1999 Oklahoma Offensive Playbook

Another favorite of the time was Dart

2000 Northwestern Offensive Playbook

And some teams started to realize pass setting the playside kickout was easiest

2002 Kansas State Offensive Playbook

The Patriots included it in their Jab series, which allowed them to pull either the BSG or BST, depending on the defensive alignment

2004 New England Patriots Offensive Playbook

And now teams run it out of both 11 and 10 personnel

2014 Ohio State Playbook

In 11 personnel, teams were trying to think of ways of dealing with a 6-technique again, this time without the benefit of a backfield kick blocker. A TE vs a DE can be a bad matchup, and result in not expanding laterally, or often without combo help from the OT if there is someone in the 4i-techinque. The solution is a different sort of BIM block, with an Off-Y combo blocking with the PSG to the BSLB while the PST kicks out.

2014 Ohio State Offensive Playbook

Maintaining Multi-Back Offense

Dating back to the 80s, teams that went to split backs wanted to maintain some of the numbers advantages they received from the 3-RB T-formation. This led to plays such as BOB Trey O, which was Power O with both backside OL pulling.

1992 Raiders Offensive Playbook

The use of multiple TEs or motion WRs also allowed to add blockers to the play

2014 San Francisco Offensive Playbook

I've written two articles on Wisconsin utilizing just this (Link 1, Link 2).

In a more modern sense, this has involved the Q Run game, utilizing the RB as an additional blocker.

2014 San Francisco 49ers Offensive Playbook

Teams have also learned to utilize WRs or TEs on the Shovel pass to make use of Power blocking.

2004 Utah Offensive Playbook

Read Option
A major way teams have tried to "add blockers" despite going spread is a return to the read option game, an interesting twist from using Power as a constraint to the T-formation era option game.

People knew they wanted to utilize Power blocking within a read scheme, but originally struggled to figure out how
2007 AFCA "The Power Play"

Around this time at TCU, they developed what became known as Power Read.

2014 Ohio State Playbook

Here it is utilizing a WR to get into 2-back and have a Lead Power Read

2014 Ohio State Offensive Playbook

Which in turn made use of a lot of the ways to add second blockers to the misdirection and option game (Y-Arc, Lead, etc.) along with Dart. Thus, we came largely full circle to the original T-Formation stuff.

2019 Penn State Offense

To avoid tipping to the defense that runs are opposite alignment, another way to effectively run Power Read is with Power Toss, which runs it back to the RB alignment

A few other read iterations are the following:

USA Football For More

And now it is largely used within the RPO game, both for screens (already seen when Auburn was doing it in 2010), and for the downfield attack

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Ultimately, Nick Saban had this to say about it:

Other Wrinkles


 Pulling the Center rather than the BSG based on defensive formation

Power has withstood the test of time. It has lived on in various iterations but has remained a part of football for nearly 100 years.  It is versatile, adaptable, and dependable. It is, indeed, "God's Play"

And here's a backside cut against the pull, with Power Scissors


Smart Football - Evolution of Inverted Veer

Smart Football - Explanation and Cut-Ups of the Power O

Grantland - Why Power Running Works

Football Study Hall - The Modern Power Run

Inside the Pylon - Three Power Run Schemes

Concerning Sports - Baylor's History with the Power Run Game

The Spread Offense - How to Run Single Back Power

Run The Power - Why Weak Power is Great