Offense of the future or just unfair?


Above: The Piedmont High School football team lines up against St. Mary’s in Piedmont, CA October 3, 2008. (Max Morse for The New York Times)

Here’s a very interesting from a story that ran in The New York Times last week (yes, I read the NY Times. I also read the Wall Street Journal).

The A-11 offense is a trip. It was created by a group of coaches in Piedmont who wanted to compete with the big boy schools. I read the story and I laughed because the offense bypasses so many loopholes.

Check out how it works (From The New York Times):

By placing one of the quarterbacks at least seven yards behind the line of scrimmage, and no one under center to receive the snap, the A-11 qualifies as a scrimmage kick formation — the alignments used for punts and extra points.

Thus interior linemen are granted an exception from having to wear jersey numbers 50 through 79. (The exception was intended to allow a team’s deep snapper not to have to switch to a lineman’s jersey if he was a back or an end.)

Any player wearing jersey numbers 1 through 49 and 80 through 99 is potentially eligible to receive a pass.

Piedmont’s basic A-11 formation calls for a center flanked by two guards, who are essentially tight ends. Two quarterbacks, or a quarterback and a running back, line up behind the center, with three receivers split to each side.

Under football rules, seven players must begin each play on the line of scrimmage and only five are permitted to run downfield to receive a pass — the two players at the end of the line and three situated behind the line.

The difficult task for a team defending against the A-11 is to quickly and accurately figure out who those five eligible receivers are.

Prior to each Piedmont play, only the center initially goes to the line of scrimmage. The two “guards” and the split receivers each stand one and a half yards off the line.

Then, just before the ball is snapped, Piedmont shifts into formation for the signaled play.

With this simple movement, the possibilities for eligible receivers become dizzying.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Piedmont High and Saddleback Valley Christian in Orange County are believed to be the only schools in the state to run the A-11 offense. Schools in at least five states are banned from using the formation. In North Carolina, the first attempt to run the A-11 will result in a 15-yard unsporting penalty and the second in disqualification of the head coach.

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