Stack Offense: Where did it come from?

September 21, 2011 5 Comments

Like many of you I collect plays, playbooks and even articles that talk about or illustrate football. I have been doing this for over 20 years. In some cases I have collected film and notes that will help me to better understand a scheme, defense or special teams that someone is using.

Many coaches are going back to some form of a defense or offense that was shelved years ago. In some cases coaches are bringing out formations, plays or even philosophies that they had while they were in high school or college and with it success has been evident.

Unless you know about what you are facing, it will beat you till you research it. Coaches have been flocking to clinics to see, listen or ask questions concerning some new schemes but in some cases these same schemes are a modification of what has already been done before them.

In 1984 while an assistant at North Park College I discovered in the Chicago Sun Times a small diagram with a heading under it.  I guess they were running some contest or informational piece on coaches sharing their favorite plays and on this diagram was an intriguing formation.  It was called the “Stack Offense”.

Stack Offense Formation (Chicago Sun Times)

Stack Offense Formation (Chicago Sun Times, 1984)

I looked at it, studied it, put it away and then in spring of 1987 I found it and pulled it out again. I began to look at it not only as a pass formation but also as a run formation. What was unique about it was that it lined four receivers up in a straight line on either side with a single receiver on the opposite side.



This would force secondaries to shift to accommodate the abnormal positioning and defenses would have to go one on one on the single receiver side.  This would either cause the defense to substitute or use a linebacker to cover a pass which they may not be adequately trained for.

Over the years I have seen many different formations and some of them were effective and some were not. As John McKay wrote, you have to adapt your personnel to your offense (AFCA 2000). I also have read many articles by Joe Restic who even used the stack offense in the backfield alignment and straight across for the no back pass look.

No matter what you do to modify it or how much of it you use, it puts a strain on the defense. I first used it at Oak Park River Forest High School in 1987 and I have had it a part of my offense in some form ever since.

It is perfect if you don’t have a tight-end type player or you can use it to put that player who could be a tight-end one on one with a corner.

This formation alone has probably set up or lead to at least 5 scores per season over the last 12 years.

I have found it effective at the college and high school level. With all the bunch, twin, trips and even quad formations over the past few years, I still believe that stack formation is difficult to defend and plan for.

If you have a great receiver or a player who has decent speed the stack formation or offense can help to get them open. I have used the taller receiver who has average speed but above average hands as the single receiver and the slant or curl patterns have made it tough for defenses to counteract.

It is important that you use it as a compliment or if you use it as one of your foundational formations have something that adapts to it but looks different to the defense. This will force teams to practice what you do and spend more time trying to defend you then beat you.

Many defenses see the stack or multiple receiver sets and become outside conscious. It is important that you force the defense to move, either with motion, or switching sides so catch them in a mismatch especially inside. The draw, fullback dive and counter option dive (we call YOYO) have all been effective inside especially when defenses have overcompensated with the outside edge of our formation. It is important to note that defenses will also gamble and stunt when you have hurt them with this formation.

Some advantages to this offense which are good to note are:

  1. It is fun for the kids. You can take a heavy weight opponent and wear them down.  Once your players see even the small successes they will be sold on it.
  2. You don’t have to have big linemen to run this offense. Quickness helps but in this day and age when lightweight linemen are more common, this offense makes them effective.
  3. As mentioned before it forces teams to change some component of their defense and keeps them from using their strengths to beat you.
  4. You only need a few plays well practiced with lots of movement to cause the defense difficulty.
  5. You can use it as a compliment to what you have already or it can stand alone by itself.
  6. It is easy to put in and can be used to accent a top player isolating him one on one against the defense.
  7. It can be a run or a pass offense which can be confusing to defenses. If you have small backs or a small quarterback this is also good for them as well.

Good fakes, an active inside game and quickness to the corner will help them to be effective against anyone. Having great athletes helps but this offense can even make an average team with average speed look good and tough to play.

So you may see similar formations, variations of it — and even the real deal — but the stack offense can be a tough offense to defend and one that may end up on the shelf for a while but it won’t stay there for long.



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Tags: , , Bill Shepard, Features, Offense, Post Patterns
5 Comments to “Stack Offense: Where did it come from?”
  1. I love this formation so much I added it to my playbook THIS week. Thank you for posting something like this, it really is good to get our smaller, quicker kids involved in the offense.

  2. coach john says:

    the stack formation has already scored 3 TD’s in 2 games kids love it

  3. Damon D. Dukes says:

    when I was in high school, I remember a rival school running this formation, it seem like a good formation though.

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