Red - all slant

Before I even start talking about the all slant route, I am going to give credit to the best receiver coach that ever worked for me, Mykel Terry.  He has gone on to bigger and better things and is now a very successful OC.   On the surface this is a very simple route, but there is a ton of nuance and Mykel was able to reveal some stuff that I never considered.

Thanks Coach Terry, you’re the man!

So, let me start with our major problem when we first started running this route. I had a ton of success with this route in college and I had a ton of success with it when I first started coaching and we were running a West Coast system that was primarily under center. But, when we switched to the gun, we had such a tough time completing this route consistently.  It should be one of the easiest throws in the offense, but we were not giving our QB a chance to succeed because of the way we were teaching our slant route. When Mykel joined the staff everything changed!

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The first key to the completing the slant route is patience.  Your receivers need to stay patient.  If they rush this route, if they sprint off the ball, if they run it full speed, it will not work.  This was what I did not understand when I first started coaching this route.  I was raised old school.  We always sprint.  We always run full speed.  When we come off the ball every route looks the same.  That approach will not work if you are running the slant out of the gun.  It’s a major theme of Win With The Pass. We have to think differently.  If your slot receiver sprints off the ball and tries to run a slant, the linebacker will undercut the route by the time the QB is ready to throw the ball.  The outside receivers will be 6-8 yards downfield and the windows will be closed.

Instead, teach your guys to get open late…be covered early and get open late.  This is actually much easier against press man courage.  If the defender is bumping, there are a number of techniques your guys can use to release off the jam.  Most of these take about 1 second and will allow the slant to open up at the right time.  But, against soft zone or soft man, the temptation is to sprint off the ball, which closes the gap on the defender and kills any chance to QB has to get the WR the ball in open window.  In this case, it’s OK to come off the ball at 50% or even 25%.  Have your guys mix it up so not every slant route looks the same, but they need to come off the ball slowly.  Once they get to three steps, then they can break and pick it up to full speed.

The next coaching point is to keep it fat.  There is a tendency to make this route skinny because making it fat brings you closer to inside defenders.  Most kids will run it at 30-45 degrees or less, but you really want a 45- 60 degree initial cut.  Once the ball is delivered, then you can get skinny and break up the seam.  This is a subtle coaching point, but by breaking this route fat you create more visible windows for the QB and you avoid linebackers undercutting the throw.

Here is a clip of Ohio State running the Double Slant concept.  This is a clinic on how to effectively run RED.  Let’s coach up their Y and Z.  As you watch the clip, pay attention to the nuance.  Watch their patience off the line and watch their initial cuts and how those angles become skinnier as the ball is in the air.


Watch it again.  How did they do?

First off, they are both patient off the ball.  Neither is sprinting.  I really like the Y’s release.  He almost stands up and walks his first step.  Far be it for me to question Urban Meyer, but I would actually like to see the Z a bit slower and more patient off the ball.  He doesn’t catch the ball until the 5th step out of his break and the window is almost gone.  The Sam Backer chases the Y for two steps and is still almost able to recover to the Z because he is a bit too fast off the line.   I would like to see the ball delivered on the 2nd or 3rd step out of the break.  The QB can’t go much more quickly, which means the Z still needs to be a bit more patient.

Coaching point #2 – Angle. The Z’s initial break is perfect.  He sticks it at about 45 -50 degrees and then bends it skinnier as the ball is in the air so he can split the defenders and run after the catch.  The Y’s angle is not great.  By breaking too skinny he actually lets the backside safety get involved in his route.  He should be fatter initially and then get skinny once the ball is in the air to split the backer and the safety.

Overall, this is very well executed by OSU, but these little nuances would improve the timing and make the windows bigger.


The QB progression here is really simple.  Inside Slant, Outside Slant.  Basically, he is reading the outside linebacker or the flat defender.  Scroll back up and watch the clip one more time.  This time focus on the QB and Sam backer.

I am positive that every QB in your offense can make this read.  The QB’s eyes start right. He is simply reading the Sam Backer.  When the Y breaks his slant and the Sam follows him, the QB knows that the Z is open.  If the Sam would have buzzed to the flat like a traditional cover 3 or cover 4, the QB would have thrown the inside slant.

There are a couple ways to teach this.  I either say, “Key the outside backer, ” or “Throw away from coverage.” You just need to get your QB to understand that he is going to do the opposite of what the Sam Backer does.  You have to practice it.  I love to play the outside backer role in practice when we run RED vs air.  I just stand over the slot receiver and either follow him or buzz to the flat.  My QB has to make the decision based on what I do. This is central to my belief about high school football.  If you don’t practice reads, you can’t expect your guys to execute reads on Friday!  If we think we can complete RED on Friday night, we will throw it 30 times in practice during the week.

One last point for the QB on this play.  This is the case with all the Quick Game routes in this offense.  RED is a 0 step route.  Watch OSU’s QB one more time.  He doesn’t get depth.  He simply squares his shoulders and feet, takes a quick bounce step, and delivers the ball.  This is what I mean when I say 0 step.  Get your feet ready to throw as quickly as possible without gaining depth.  This is so hard for high school kids to understand.  They want to get separation from the lineman and tend to resist the formation of a pocket.  But, if the QB wastes time getting depth on this route, it will kill the timing and all the windows will close.  Coach this hard.  Its easy to let your guys get away with gaining a yard or two of depth in their 0 step drop.  Trust me, I’ve failed here before.   0 step means 0 depth.

In summary…teach your QB’s to be quick and your WR’s to be patient and you will start completing a lot of slant routes.

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Comment and let me know if you have any tips or tricks regarding the slant route.  Thanks guys, Keep Chucking It!