Base Personnel: Quarterback and three running backs
Additional Personnel: Two wide receivers, two tight ends or one wide receiver and one tight end
Suggested Players: Rex Burkhead, AmeerAbdullah, a third back, Quincy Enunwa/Kenny Bell, Kyler Reed/Ben Cotton
Last week, I touched on the 30 Package, or “Diamond,”and a few of Nebraska’s options to replace recent transfer Aaron Green. As was mentioned in that article, this set was first featured by Dana Holgersen during his time as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State.
Lined up four to five yards back, the quarterback is surround by three backs. Since the defense must account for the four playmakers in the backfield, the formation creates man-on-man match ups for the two wide receivers. For Holgersen and the Cowboys, the Diamond helped strip coverage away from wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
For Nebraska, the run game has capitalized on tight bunching of the defensive front seven with pulling linemen and runs to the outside. Rather than force the play between the tackles, the Huskers have used sweeps, pitches and option plays to get outside the hash marks and utilize extra backfield blockers.
In the limited use of the Diamond in passing situations, the offense has primarily capitalized off play action. However, teams like Oklahoma and Stanford have used the formation with passes to the running backs out of the backfield. With versatile backs like Burkhead and Abdullah, there’s no reason Nebraska can’t do the same.
Utilizing The Diamond
Rather than examining multiple sets possible in the Diamond formation, we’re going to take separate looks at passing and rushing options from this package.
Despite having the bulk of the playmakers in the backfield, Nebraska’s 30 Package offers a large number of pass plays. Since the two wide receivers are in single coverage, they provide excellent downfield targets. All the while, the running backs can release from the backfield and into routes.
These routes can either come at the snap of the ball or on a delay, providing quick pass protection and check-downs.
In the first play, I designate one of the running backs for pass protection. Note one of the benefits of this package: The symmetry and ability to flip the play. If Taylor Martinez were to read a blitz from the left side of the line, the backs to his sides can easily switch assignments.
Since no personnel move, Martinez can make that particular read and adjustment without ever indicating a change to the defense. The second aspect of the first option is the routes of the backs.
The running back’s route (indicated in red) would settle him approximately five yards in front of the line of scrimmage. This would place him just underneath the linebacker coverage, offering a great “dump” option for Martinez should he be flushed from the pocket.
In blue, the running back is on a simple wheel route. The significance of the wheel route is its effectiveness versus coverage. With the wide receiver running a streak, he will take both the corner and the safety. This leaves a linebacker to cover a back such as Abdullah out of the backfield– a daunting task for most Big Ten linebackers.
The second play is intended to be more of a downfield pass, with one back to the right of Martinez with another flanking him, releasing at the snap. The routes in red and blue would be run to the wide side of the field providing spacing between the two backs and the wide receiver.
Ideally, the back on the red route would fade back towards the center of the field while the back on the blue route would take the sideline. On a downfield pass like this, separation is key.
Very few running plays are off limits out of the Diamond. Consider the first option: With larger running backs like Mike Marrow and Imani Cross or even fullbacks, the Diamond can be used as an effective power running formation.
The placement around the quarterback allows the running backs to get a step into natural, downhill running. With a wide receiver spread out, a back on Martinez’ left could have as many as three blockers in a run to the short side of the field.
Option two shows a handful of options for Nebraska’s backs. With a simple audible, Martinez could go from running an option play to the right (red) to the other side (blue). Should he read a weak spot, he could audible to a run right at the defensive line.
In summary: not only is the Diamond a scary formation for a defense to see, but the options are so varied that an offense with enough talent and discipline can gut the opposition all game long with both standard play calls and audibles.