BLUE – Hitch/Seam ConceptErick Streelman
BLUE – The Hitch Seam Concept – Is a great way to stretch the defense horizontally and vertically.
I have found the hitch seam concept to be a great alternative to 4 verticals. (In fact, a lot of times it becomes 4 verticals because the defense comes out in press coverage…more on this later). It utilizes some the same vertical stretch concepts, but it hits a little quicker. There are years when we have scrapped calling 4 verts because the hitch seam concept was so successful.
As you start to install your offense, let’s look at a couple coaching points for the hitch seam concept. But before we start, if you haven’t downloaded the Free Air Raid Playbook, click here to download it now.
WHEN TO CALL THE HITCH SEAM CONCEPT
I love this route against cover 3, cover 4, and soft man. If the CB is playing at 6-8 yards, you can throw the hitch all day long. But, in cover 3 and cover 4 schemes there is also a nice hole between the linebackers and the safeties that you can exploit with this route. That does not mean that you can’t throw this route against press man or cover 2. If you want to call it against a tight CB, you have to do one of two things. First, you can teach your QB’s and outside WR’s to convert to a fade vs. press. Or, you can just trust the progression, knowing that the hitch will most likely be covered so you will have to work the seams to the check down. Either way is fine and I have seen both strategies be successful. Personally, I like to convert to a fade. Its a simple rule. If we have BLUE called and the CB comes out in press, the QB and WR signal to each other with a little head or hip tap and convert to a fade.
COACHING POINTS ON THE HITCH SEAM CONCEPT
1) For the X and the Z, this route is all about leverage. Let’s assume that the CB is playing 4-8 yards off, because anything else we are going to convert. You need to stem the CB right off the ball. That means, wherever he is playing you, you need to establish a head up relationship by the time you are ready to sit down. In other words, if he is 2 yards inside, your first three steps should be inside so that you are square to him and have taken away his inside leverage. You also have to sell vertical. He has to think you are going to run by him so that he continues to get depth. At 6 yards, drop your head, patter your feet and turn inside. Expect the ball on your outside hip as soon as you turn around. If the QB is coming to you, he will throw this ball before you look.
2) The H and the Y have the most nuanced routes in this progression. Let’s start with ACE and talk about the seam route. The fist thing they need to do is identify coverage. If it is man, this route is just a 1 on 1 vertical battle. If it is zone, it’s a little bit more finesse and feel. This is where you have to do a great job with your scouting report. You should know your opponent’s tendencies and how they like to cover the slot. But, your guys should also know simple rules for identifying man coverage. It may sound complicated but it’s really not. If a linebacker runs with you, it’s man. If he bumps you and let’s you go, it’s zone. This is why practice reps are so important.
So, if it is man, the route is really easy, stem and shake and run up the field. The landmark is two yards outside the hash and the QB will bend him depending on the leverage of the defender. If it is zone, he is going to throttle down as soon as he crosses the linebackers. Usually an outside backer will try to bump him as he runs to his coverage responsibility. The window is somewhere between 7 and 12 yards. So, how do you teach this? I tell my guys to bust hard past the linebackers and then run 50% speed until they reach the safety. That will give the QB time to fit the ball into the open window.
*** Any time you tell a kid to run 50% speed he gets really excited so you have to make sure that he runs full speed past the backers. If he jogs to the window, the window will close. You have to sprint until you’re open and then throttle down.
In TRIPS, the same rules as ACE hold true for the H running the seam route. But, the Y’s job actually get’s easier. He runs a deep crossing route. His aiming point is 12-15 yards at the opposite hash mark. That should put him over the linebackers and under the safety. He does not need to worry about throttling down or reducing his speed because the crossing route takes more time to develop and the QB will have time to get him the ball in the open window. I tell the Y to look for the ball as soon as he crosses the Center.
3) The QB’s read in ACE is Hitch, Seam, Check Down. He reads from right to left, or left to right depending on the scouting report or the presnap alignment of the defense. It is a 0 step drop. If the Hitch has leverage or the defense is soft, he needs to decide presnap whether the Hitch is going to be open. I tell our QB’s to take a Yes, Yes, No approach. That means we anticipate he will be open and then go to our second read if the CB makes an adjustment. Assuming the X or Z wins, we will throw the ball to 6 yards at his outside butt cheek. Your QB will not have time to get the laces. Make sure you practice throwing without the laces so that he is comfortable with it. Remember, the WR is turning inside, but we are going to throw the ball at the outside butt cheek, so he can turn up field once he catches the ball.
If the Hitch is covered, the QB will immediately look to the playside seam. The type of throw will depend upon the coverage. Vs. Zone, the window will be between the backers and the safety. Vs. Man, the QB will deliver the ball over the outside shoulder of the H or Y. If the playside seam is covered in ACE, the QB will find his back and check the ball down.
***There is one exception to the progression on the hitch seam concept. In ACE Vs 1-Hi safety, I let my QB read seam to seam. We ignore the hitch and try to beat the safety with our eyes. If we look to the right seam and the safety doesn’t move, we throw it. If he moves, we come back to the left. If you get good at this route, you probably won’t see a lot of Single-Hi safety looks, but if you do, look to attack.
In trips, the read is Hitch, Seam, Seam and the rules are the same regarding the first two reads. If the seam is covered, the QB will go to the crosser, who is aiming for the opposite hash mark at 12 -15 yards. There are two windows for this throw. The first window is between the linebackers. The second window is between the backside linebacker and the Safety. That is usually where this throw hits, after the Y clears the outside backer and before he gets to the safety.
***On Paper, Cover 2 takes away the hitch seam concept because the CB is sitting in the flat to stop the hitch, and the two safeties are on the hashes to defend the seam routes. On one level that is OK because we have a lot of other routes that can beat Cover 2. But, you can also make a simple adjustment and kill the defense with BLUE. Vs a true Cover 2 team, I like to call Trips Right Blue X Post. The backside post by the X puts the safety on an island and makes him choose between the crosser and the X. You can change the Read Progression vs Cover 2 to Seam, Seam, Post.
Thanks again for reading this post. I really appreciate it!
Please comment if you have anything to add or any questions. Keep Chucking It!