WR Stack Package Keeps Defenses Off-Balance

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By Mike Peck, Offensive Coordinator, Battle Ground High School (Wa.) & Quarterback Trainer, Roots Football Academy, Longview (Wa.)

At Battle Ground High School, we are primarily an Air Raid team at heart. Our offensive goal most often is to throw first and throw often.

Even with a pass-heavy offensive philosophy, however, we will always take what the defense is giving us. Offensively, we look heavily at the box and do everything we can to manipulate numbers to help the run game.

One of the ways we do this is through our WR stack formations. We utilize stack sets because it can easily put the opposing defense’s outside linebacker into conflict. Since we are a base-10 personnel team, the simplest way we’ve found to do this, is by utilizing a 2×2 stack or a 3×1 stack formation.

The two photos below (Photos A & B) illustrate the basic stack sets that we utilize.

2x2 Stack Formation

Photo A: 2×2 Stack Formation.

3x1 Stack Formation

Photo B: 3×1 Stack Formation.

Stack Alignment

No matter what type of stack it is, the No.1 wide receiver is the player who’s responsible to set the stack. His rule is to set up 2-to-3-yards inside of his normal alignment.

If the No.1 wide receiver’s normal alignment, for example, with the ball in the middle of the field, is the top of the numbers. Now the No.1 WR knows he must line up 2-to-3 yards farther inside.

The No. 2 wide receiver lines up directly behind the No.1 WR. If it’s a 3×1 stack formation, then the No. 3 wide receiver is instructed to line up directly behind No. 2.

We don’t spend a lot of time making sure the split is exact, we just want the WRs a little closer than normal. This is especially helpful to us when we have our inside runs packaged with a quick screen pass.

In those situations, the stack is still split far enough away so that the conflict defender (the outside linebacker) is forced to make a tough decision, and so that we can quickly get the ball out to a playmaker in open space.

Primary Packages From Stack Sets

Out of these stack sets, we utilize two primary offensive packages.

The first are what we call “packaged plays” or as they are now becoming known as, “run/pass options” (RPO’s). Most commonly, in our run/pass options, we’ll package inside-zone or power with quick screens outside.

The rule for our wide receivers – is that the deepest WR in the stack will be the player who is running the screen, which we call a “hold route.”

In a hold route, the wide receiver takes one step forward, and shows his shoulders and hands to the quarterback.

Whether it’s inside zone or power, the QB’s main pre-snap directive is to watch the outside linebacker as the conflict defender. This means that the QB literally looks to see if the outside linebacker is lined up closer to the tackle or closer to the WR.

Remember, we are a pass-first team philosophically. This means that if the outside linebacker is positioned closer to the box, or if he’s in an apex position, we instruct the QB to quickly secure the snap and throw to the screen.


If the QB can’t quite determine the outside linebacker’s exact position pre-snap, then we still give him the freedom to make the decision post-snap. If it’s a post-snap decision, he catches the snap and rides the running back while simultaneously reading the reaction of the outside linebacker.

While riding the RB and reading the outside linebacker (OLB), the QB’s reads and rules are as follows:

  • QB Rule 1: If the OLB comes downhill, the QB pulls up and throws.
  • QB Rule 2: If the OLB drops into coverage, the QB hands the ball off.

Our offense throws the quick screen so frequently, that many times, we will actually get the OLB lining up closer to the WR’s than the box. In this case, pre-snap, it is an instant “give-read” for the QB

Wide-Receiver Blocking Critical

A huge key for the success we’ve had in our quick-screen game stems from the blocking of our WRs.

Our program takes a lot of pride in our blocking. As a coaching staff, we’ve implemented a daily motto for skill position players that’s fun and has caught on that says, “If you want the rock – you’ve gotta block!”

As you can imagine, being a pass-heavy offense, we face some pretty crazy defensive looks when we begin to set up in our stacked-set formations.

The No. 1 WR’s rule is block the first threat. He must be thinking about the cornerback (CB) while his eyes are on OLB. If the CB drops off into a deep-zone look and OLB shows, the WR blocks the OLB.

(3x1 Stack Set) The No.1 WR Blocks The First Threat.

Photo C: (3×1 Stack Set) The No.1 WR Blocks The First Threat.

As shown in Photo C, the No. 1 WR is thinking about the CB, but is watching the OLB, in case the OLB shows first.

If we are in a 3×1 stack set, the same rule applies for the No. 1 WR, but the No. 2 WR is taught to work off of the No.1 and take out the next threat.

“Taking out the next threat” may sound like a hard concept to teach the No. 2 WR, but we have found that we’ve been able to teach it pretty quickly – like within a practice or two.

(3x1 Stack Set) Cornerback Shows First

Photo D: (3×1 Stack Set) Cornerback Shows First

As shown in Photo D, if the CB shows first, the No. 1 WR blocks him. The No. 2 WR then blocks the OLB. This creates a nice lane for the No.3 WR to catch a quick screen pass and gain good yardage.

On quick screens, WRs who catch the ball, are taught to secure the catch, take one step outside and look to get vertically upfield as fast as possible.

The quick screen game has been a hugely productive component to our offense over the years. Last season, we averaged a whopping, 7.5 yards per quick screen.

Mike Peck is the Offensive Coordinator for Battle Ground High School (Wa.). He is also a Quarterback Trainer & Coach at Roots Football Academy in Longview (Wa.).

Questions? E-mail Mike Peck at: peck.mike@battlegroundps.org

Follow Mike Peck on Twitter: @coachpeck11

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  1. Pingback: COUNTER WITH STICK: A Simple, Yet Extremely Effective RPO (Run Pass Option) | AFCA Weekly For Football Coaches

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